12.30.2013

Monday's Musings - A New Year

A New Year is starting. 

I hope next year will be a little easier than last year. We buried my mom and hubby's dad two weeks apart. 

Then, my daughter got married. That was the highlight of the year for sure. But we had just buried my mom May 4 and my father-in-law on May 18. My daughter married June 2. Yes, it was bittersweet. 

One week later, my son had surgery. Two weeks after that, I had shoulder surgery. 

And now, I find myself on the cusp of shoulder surgery once again. My body doesn't seem to want to heal properly. At least I have a good surgeon. I'm thankful for that. 

By far, 2013 was a difficult year for me. 

But what amazes me is that I'm still standing. And it's not due to me. 

God has walked me through this valley. And He has provided comfort.

So once again, I find myself calling out to Him to get me through. To start the New Year out in His strength, not mine. 

I hope next year is easier. Who wants difficulties? No one I know. 

But I've learned that it's in the dark times when God's provision shows the most. 

My mom was a rock for me. I could, and did, talk to her and daddy about everything. Since my father-in-law was in hospice care, we knew his death was coming. And I talked to mom about it. She and I talked about her suffering. 

I have to say I'm so grateful for those conversations. 

Mom learned to lean in to God the more she suffered. She became more convinced He was in control, especially of her suffering.

And so, here I am, facing great physical pain. I'm honestly dreading it. I have to have this surgery to fix my shoulder. It won't be easy. But it is necessary. 

So, I'm realizing that if this pain draws me closer to God, then it's a good thing. 

I also want to end every year being closer to God than the last. 

That's been true for 2013. I'm closer to Him now than when I started. Even though the year involved great loss. And great joy. 

As I ponder next year, I hope once more that I grow closer to God. Through the ups and downs that will come. I just don't know what they are yet. But that's okay. I know someone who does. And He promises to never leave nor forsake me.  Deuteronomy 31:6

I'm clinging to that verse. 

What's facing you this year? Do you have a verse to cling to? 

My prayer is that you end 2014 closer to God and His love. 


Happy New Year! 

12.23.2013

Monday's Musing - Photographing Special Events

Well, this may not be a usual Monday's Musings, but since I've missed a couple of weeks of Friday Photo Tips, I thought I'd add them here in order to help you with the upcoming holidays. 

If you're blessed to have family around for Christmas or Hanukkah, I'd love to help you capture some special moments. And once again, every picture doesn't have to be ready for the National Geographic Contest. 

Recently, my daughter and son-in-law graduated college. Yay! It was a great graduation with a speaker who understood the value of short, sweet, and to the point. Even though it was short, his charge was powerful. Then, the students got to cross the stage and graduate. 


The president of the university hugged each and every student. Here is my son-in-law receiving his graduation hug. I like this shot because it shows the president and his personality. You get the feel of the ceremony and formality of the occasion. 



Here's my daughter heading back to her seat. Even though the lighting was tough, I love her profile. Again, this picture captures the "feel" of the event. 




After the ceremony was over, we headed to a little reception. But on the way, I took shots of them with family and professors. I had to take some shots on the fly. This is my husband congratulating our son-in-law. Notice there are people in the background. While I normally suggest trying to crop out others in the picture, there were so many people everywhere celebrating that it added to the mood of the moment. But, the focus of the photo is still my hubby and son-in-law.





Here are my two girls. Again, there are some people in the background. But that's okay. They're pretty blurred so they don't detract from my daughters.  






But as you're documenting an event, try and get overall shots. As we were walking, I got ahead of my daughter and hubby and took a shot of them walking. I loved how they were arm in arm. And their smiles. 

So as you take shots when you have family home, get some overall shots. Then move in closer. Take interesting shots of the presents, or lights, or food! Our memories fade in time, and you can use your camera to capture the mood and the people you want to remember. 


As we celebrate the birth of Christ and spend time with family, may you be blessed. 

Merry Christmas! 



Which shots do you like?

Tell me what interesting shots you've taken! 

Hope these tips help! 

Keep on clicking!

12.18.2013

Wordless Wednesday - Christmas



Welcome back! 

Sorry I missed my Friday Tips last week, but I should be back on schedule this week! 
So come back on Friday. :) 

In the meantime, enjoy these shots of my friend's home. 

It's beautifully decorated for the holidays. 

Link up below…

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!


Merry Christmas! Cookie cutter ornament.








12.10.2013

Wordless Wednesday - Nutcrackers



Welcome back for Wordless Wednesday!

Here are some of our Christmas Nutcrackers.

Join me on Friday for Photography Tips! 

Join LINKY below! 




12.09.2013

Monday's Musing - Holding on to God


Anyone who has lost a loved one knows how hard the first year after their death can be. The year is filled with "firsts". First birthday, first Christmas, first anniversary…the list goes on and on. 

I was a bit worried going into Thanksgiving. The commercials for the Macy Day Parade made me cry. My father-in-law LOVED that parade. Especially the Rockettes. 

My big, loving family….
If the commercials made me cry, I wasn't sure how I'd get through the day. But as it turned out, I watched the Rockettes in the hotel lobby where we had just finished breakfast. My eyes misted, but no torrent of tears! 

Then, we headed over to Daddy's to be with my family. My siblings were there. And my nieces and nephews. The house was full of life. And noise!

Of course we missed Mom. She's left a big hole. But she would have wanted us to get together and have fun. Well, we did. The cousins played and played. The adults talked. Or tried to anyway over all the ruckus! 

But you know what the cool thing is? God was good. I made it through. Yes, I cried one night. But I made it. It was hard. But God was faithful. 

Now, Christmas is fast approaching. I know there will be tears. (Okay, I'm a cryer if you hadn't figured it out.) Like when I pulled out ornaments my mom had made for me. Yep. I cried. 

Again, it's okay to cry. But I'm not stopping there. I get my grief out and keep going. Remembering the good times.

And I know if God could get me through Thanksgiving, He can do the same for Christmas. I'm holding on to that. 

I'm praying that God will walk with you through whatever hilltop or valley you find yourself in. May you find Him faithful to walk with you. Guiding you in your life. 

I sure am grateful for His presence in my life. 

Mary


12.06.2013

Friday Photo Tip - Taking Family Pictures at a Special Event

Welcome back to Friday Photography tips! 

Today, I want to talk about how to take great family pictures at a special event or place. 

My family and I visited the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. You can't photograph inside, but you can on the outside. So these are from that visit.

Let's get started. 

I want to show you what a typical shot that people take. This is a very average shot, taken by *cough  cough* one of my kids, who shall remain nameless. 

What do you notice about it that makes it average? 

See how our faces are right in the middle of the photo? The lion had its head chopped off. While my husband's face and mine are right in the middle of the frame, there's a lot of clutter around us. It's hard to focus on one thing.

So, it was my turn to get behind the camera and take a family picture. 

I made sure to get the entire statue in the shot and crop out most of the clutter around them. And, I turned the camera to the "portrait" position, unlike the one above.

Even though the lighting was flat, I'm still happy with it. Why? Because I'd been to the Biltmore House once before, back in the 80's. My mom snapped a pictured of me and my siblings in front of that same lion….It means something to me. Not every shot has to be jaw dropping. Just the best it can be under the circumstances. 



When we first arrived, my youngest started sketching the house. So, I got behind him and caught both him and the mansion in my shot. It's a picture that will remind him in later years how much he liked to draw. Take some shots of "mundane" or "ordinary" life, but make them interesting. We tend to remember the big events of our life, but remembering the details or mundane is pretty cool, too. 






Here's what I call a "mood" shot. I walked up behind my family and just wanted to capture the moment. My daughter was on her cell phone…or mine, actually, prepping to take a picture. My youngest had started sketching and my other son was looking below. He had probably dropped something and was watching gravity work! 

Again, I was just capturing the moment with my family. 


Hubby and son having fun at Biltmore
This is a picture I love! My husband and son had started goofing around while I was taking their photo. I took multiple pictures and I love how you can see that they were having fun. Notice neither of them are looking at me. But you can see the fun in their smiles and laughter. 

Not every shot of a person has to be directly head on. Side shots or shots from behind can be special, too. 

But notice how little clutter there is in the picture. You can see the mountains in the background. I cropped out columns and railings to make the shot just about them. 

So when taking people pictures, focus in more on them. Like the pics of my family and husband and son together. 

But if you want to capture a mood shot, make sure to get enough information around them to make the picture make sense. Like getting my son's sketch pad in the photo with the Biltmore House in the background. 

Is there anything that stands out to you in the pictures? Or one that you like? 

As always, leave comments of anything you'd like to ask about and I may include that in a future post! 

Hope this tips helps!

Keep on clicking!

Mary




12.03.2013

Wordless Wednesday - Giving Thanks!

Welcome back!

Here are a few shots of my family's fun Thanksgiving. We were missing Mom, but it was great to be together!

Come back on Friday for Photography Tips!! 

Join Linky below! 








11.25.2013

Monday's Musings - Grieving while Giving Thanks

I didn't really want to write this post. 

It's time for Thanksgiving. It's supposed to be a happy, feel good holiday. One that makes us reflect on the blessings in our lives.

Being thankful for blessings is a wonderful thing. I'm thankful for so much.

Holidays can be very difficult though, when you're missing a loved one. Especially the first year after a death.

That's where I am.

And it's hitting on two fronts.

And it's harder than I imagined it would be.

I knew it was coming.

We lost my mom and father-in-law two weeks apart in May 2013.

11.15.2013

Photo Tip Friday - Using Different Angles

Welcome Back!

Today's tip is about changing your perspective when taking pictures. 

I'm going to use one subject from different angles to show you how to change your thinking in taking pictures. 

So let's get started. 

We were able to visit Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina this summer. It was amazing!

This statue is covered in gold. Yes, real gold. 

I included the first shot to show you the context of where Dionysus by Edward McCaartan is. Notice the high, round shrubs? They surround the statue, but at a distance. 

There are usually others at the gardens at the same time so you have people to deal with as well when trying to take pictures.

I walked the entire way around Dionysus, looking for good shots

The second picture is from the side. Notice the pedestal he stands on.

And the third picture is from the back. 

Notice how the trees form a green background for the picture? It's nice, but still seemed a bit distracting to me.




So I moved around to try a different background and took the fourth picture with the sky.


I didn't like the shot as much as I thought I would.










Then, I took some closeups. 











It's amazing how the sculpture is so life like. You almost expect to hear a growl. 


And, by walking around the sculpture, you focus on a different aspect. 

The photos have a different feel to them. 











In this shot, I placed Dionysus on the left side and made sure to get the Alligator Bender by Nathaniel Choate in the shot. And just to the right of that sculpture is one more, further in the distance. 








So, which shots do you like the best and why? 

Please discuss what you like or what you would change.

As always, feel free to leave comments and questions below. 

Hope this tip helps! 

Keep on clicking! 

Mary





11.12.2013

Wordless Wednesday - Bitlmore House Part 2

Welcome Back to Wordless Wednesday!

Here are a few more shots of Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.

Come back on Fridays for Photography Tips!


Join Linky below!









11.11.2013

Monday's Musings - I Love You Mom

Hey Mom,

I miss you so much.

Your smile.

Your laughter.

Your encouragement.

Your steadfast faith.

Your quiet strength.

God did an amazing work in you.

I pray He can do that in me as well.

Life does go on. I miss you being a part of it. So does Daddy.

But I know you'd be the first to tell me not to stop living. So I'm learning to focus on the blessings that are in my life.

You taught me that.

And as you suffered with spinal fractures and migraines, you grew more convinced God was in control. I saw you live that. The more you suffered, the more you turned to God. The more you cried out to Him.

Thank you for that example. I'm crying out to Him as well to get through this valley of losing you and Pap Pap.

You finished your race well.

I want to live well. To live strong. To love God as you did.

Thank you for leaving behind a wonderful legacy.

A lasting impact.

Many miss you Mom. You were an amazing, amazing woman.

Just know that I will love you forever.

Mary



11.08.2013

Photo Tip Friday - Photograph Action or Sport Shots, Part 2

Welcome back! 

Today is the second part in a series on how to take action shots. 

You can read Part 1 here

Today's shots are complements of another of my sons. This is my youngest. 

Let's get started learning what we can from these photos. 

First of all, these pictures happened in no more than 2.5 seconds. I didn't have time to "prepare" for them. 

I was taking pictures with my family at the Biltmore House. All of the sudden I heard my son's footsteps behind me. I turned, with camera in hand and started shooting. 

Action shots happen fast.

Real fast. 

You'll notice the ISO is on 100. 

Last week, I showed you how changing the ISO to 800 or 1600 will result in clearer action shots. (Click here)

So why was I shooting pictures of my son running at 100?
Because that's what my camera was set on for the shots I was taking just prior to my son running downhill. If I had stopped to change the settings, the opportunity to get any shots would be gone. 

How did I compensate for such challenging circumstances? 

Well, I focused on my son, hit the button to take pictures as fast as my camera could (3fps) and I turned with him as he flew past me. 

First off, notice he stuck his tongue out at me in the first photo. :) Yep, that comes from my kids being on the other side of the camera for so long. Doesn't bother me at all. I think it just adds to the joy of the pictures! 

Then, notice how the background is blurred and he is fairly clear. At the ISO I was using, and my son's speed, I couldn't get him completely clear. 

But that's okay. 

You get a great sense of action. A sense of speed. Of motion. 

His feet aren't even touching the ground. 

I want you to understand that in photography, a creative eye and a different perspective mean a lot in taking a good shot. 

You don't have to get all the technical aspects "just right."

But as you learn the technical aspects of your camera, you can then take challenging situations like this and still come out with some great shots. 

By turning and following my son with my camera, I got great action shots that would have just been totally blurry otherwise.  

Learn to follow your subject for action shots to create pictures that convey motion through appropriate blurriness. 

So which of these is your favorite? I love picture #5. And #4.

As always, leave me questions or comments below. Or links to your shots!

Thanks for dropping by

I hope this tips helps. 

Keep on clicking!

Mary





11.06.2013

Wordless Wednesday - Biltmore House


Welcome back to Wordless Wednesday!  

These are a couple of shots from the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.

It was stunning. More to come. 

Drop back by on Friday for Part 2 of my Photo Tip Friday series on taking action shots! 






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