Posts Tagged ‘pictures’

Brooklyn Fair 2017

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

The very best part of the year in Connecticut has just started. The weather is gorgeous. There are so many fun things to do we can’t possibly do them all. We’re just two weekends away from The Best Weekend Of The Year. We can be out of the house 12 hours a day easily, so when we get home all the children are exhausted and go right to bed.

On the one hand, this is perfect. The United States Navy called in their claim on my husband, and we won’t be seeing him for a while. Operation Keep Them Busy is my only hope to avoid sad, crying children every day. It’s lucky that this drastic family change happened during a time of year full of activity and changes. It’s easier to adjust when you’re already adjusting to new classes, new teachers, new schools, new routines and plenty of fun.

On the other hand, participating in all that fun without a second set of adult hands is taxing mentally and physically. There’s no one to go with the kids on rides the babies can’t ride. There’s no one to watch the stroller while I run to the bathroom. There’s no one to help carry plates at a food festival. There’s no one to wear an exhausted toddler when I’m wearing a nursing baby. There’s no one else to drive when I’m super tired. There’s just no one else. We’re going to miss some of the annual events we “always” go to because my sanity is more important than doing everything.

To kick off the best part of the year, we went to the Brooklyn Fair and it was wildly successful. I basically said yes to everything, including throwing a ton of money at stupid carnival games because my kids love those cheap, gross, horrible, trash stuffed animals so much. We were there for almost 5 hours and I think I only threatened to abandon them once. Maybe twice for Lincoln. But they had a super good time and said I was the best mommy and I got to eat the cotton candy they forgot we bought so it was a good day.

 

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Fresh Air and Sunshine

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Our Disney Training Plan continues! We’ve walked these kids all over town, practiced wearing Linc and Finn in different carriers, worked to break in new shoes, discovered Evan’s new sandals give him blisters, tried different combinations of kids in the stroller, and caught a ton of Pokemon. Because it turns out PokemonGo is a really great incentive to get a reluctant 8-year-old out of the house. Our town has lots of pokestops and plenty of gyms, so if we’re willing to put in a couple miles it’s pretty much guaranteed something exciting will happen in the app. I am fine with this plan. My new sneakers have proven themselves to be both light-weight and comfortable, my portable phone charger works great, and my legs are showing some definite muscle definition. WHO KNEW walking was good for you? WHAT A TOTAL SURPRISE.

As a photographer, it kills me a little when we’re in an amazing location and my kids are in…not the best outfits for pictures. I want them to be comfortable and be allowed to express their own preferences. I also want to take pictures I can hang on my walls. But as far as real life goes, this is accurate.  No children wear spotless neutrals ALL the time.

The next time we went walking, I brought my film camera. I’m super excited to see how this exact same photo looks on Kodak 400. It’s hilarious that after all the money and time I’ve spent on digital photography I am most into my $26 film camera right now.

p.s. She doesn’t have a scrape on her forehead. It’s barbecue sauce. I didn’t ask any further questions.

I will never stop being amazed by how much happier I am when I’m getting a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine. I mean, I’m not ready to throw out my Zoloft quite yet, but my stress level being down means the whole house is calmer. I few more weeks and we’ll all like each other so much our Disney trip will be extra magical.

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My Photographic Eye

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

I read an incredibly interesting article the other day that analyzed the photos Melania Trump has posted publicly on her Twitter account.

(No this isn’t a political post. Yes, the article was pretty critical of Melania. Yes, I agreed with it. No, I don’t want to have a political discussion here.)

If you look beyond the actual subject of that post, the idea of learning how someone sees the world from how they capture it is fascinating. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a photographer, any time you stop long enough to take a picture you’re saying “This is how I see things, this is a moment I want to be preserved, this is my reality as I want it to be presented.” In this era of social media, photos are even more performative – you can crop or filter so your friends (or strangers) can see what you want them to see. You are making a lot of choices, whether they are conscious or not, and looking at those choices can be eye-opening.

Because I’ve been doing a 365 photo-a-day project for three years now, I have hundreds of everyday life photos to look at and analyze for patterns. Once I started thinking about my pictures (many of them not more than snapshots) as a body of work versus just individual photos, it became super clear that my photographic eye says a lot about what I value, what I want the world to see, and what I want to remember.

The most obvious fact about my photos is they are almost all of my children. I almost never photograph myself. I could make a list of my excuses for that, or I could look at it more analytically. My appearance in the photographic record isn’t a priority for me. I don’t want to remember what I looked like during these years. My body doesn’t need to take up space in the frame. It’s incredibly important to me that I witness my children’s lives, but not necessarily as a participant in their activities. This feels both sort of uncomfortable for me (I don’t want to be distant or emotionally separate) and accurate (I’m much more free-range than helicopter mom).  Also, from a practical standpoint, my live as a stay-at-home-mom revolves around my children, so obviously my work shows that.

The next pattern I saw right away is my love of capturing a small body in a big frame. I’ve chosen my equipment (mostly a 35mm lens) so I can focus on my subject while also including a lot of their environment.

When I think about how I framed these photos, I intentionally avoided other people in the frame (unless they were also my children) to make my subject stand out. I didn’t try to blur or compress the environment to the point where you couldn’t identify it – WHERE is an important part of the story. I took photos like these in every season, at home and away, with my subject aware of me and not. Children are small and the world is big. I want my kids to be confident and bold when faced with big things, unafraid of the world, so they remain the focus even though the environment could overpower them.

Another fairly obvious trend in my pictures is that I center my subjects.

 

There they are, right in the middle of the frame. The main focus. There is balance in this composition, and something very calming about a photo that tells you exactly what it’s about. It’s easy. When I think about these photos, I often took them during challenging times, when I didn’t have the energy to devote to seeing something artistic or unusual. Simplicity is something I often value.

Something I was actually surprised to see was my love of taking a photo from behind my subject. I think of my work as being full of faces, so I wasn’t expecting so many of these.

 

These photos are about seeing what my children see, looking at the world from their point of view. I often crouch down, sit on the floor, get low so I can capture their perspective. I want to learn about what catches their eye, what THEY view as important or noteworthy. I’m following along as they direct the show, ready to be supportive but not interferring. Without the emotion of their face, you have to infer feeling from their body language. When you’re raising kids, this feels true in everyday life as well; they often don’t – or can’t – tell you what they’re feeling, so you’re left to interpret what they need.

Something there is slightly less of but still often featured is taking photos of small pieces of my small people.

Fingers, toes, hair, eyes, hands. I love them. They are soft and unlined, a perfect example of how children are unbothered by the realities of life or age. The same way an elderly person’s hand speak to their lived experience, a child’s hands show innocence. Their eyes are clear and open, unguarded. They also are little pieces of where they come from – Caroline’s red hair comes from her father, Linc’s blue eyes are from me. These photos are more personal than any of the others. I do have to be physically close my children to take them, even if the small bodies are in motion and I have to be quick. They capture something so very fleeting – the split second before those feet grow bigger, run faster, carry the children away.

And finally, my neverending love of taking pictures of my kids while they sleep.

The sleeping photos fall into almost all of the previous categories – sometimes up close, sometimes lots of environment, etc – but I took them because of the sleeping so it deserved its own analysis. Children are loud and busy, capturing them at their most quiet and still is a treasure. While they are vulnerable, I watch over them. They feel safe in their home and with their family, which is why they so often fall asleep in places other than their own beds. Our home is comfortable, even if it’s not always magazine-worthy, with plenty of places to take a nap when you need it.

I really loved this exercise for myself, even if putting my emotions and inner thoughts into words was difficult. I appreciate my photographs more and I’m thrilled this record will exist (as a reminder, print your photos! I have both 2015 and 2016 books as hard copies of many of these, the rest are from 2017 and will go in a book in January).

Are there any trends you can recognize in your own photographic record? Go look at your Instagram feed or Facebook photos and see if there are patterns or constants that emerge. Or you can take some of this analysis and use it to inspire your own pictures. I’m definitely going to make an effort to take at least one self-portrait this spring.

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Twinkly Christmas Magic

Monday, December 19th, 2016

This was my first attempt at twinkle light bokeh photos, almost exactly 5 years ago. 

Here is the best one. It was a total accident because I had no idea how to use my camera.

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I took some more for our Christmas card in 2014, but for some reason I never blogged them?! That seems very unlike 2014 Suzanne. She blogged everything. Not like this lazy cow 2016 Suzanne who can’t even do once a week. But I’ve looked through every post from the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 and can’t find them.

For posterity, here’s the best one from that set:

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And this year, I attempted them with all FOUR of my children. Finnegan is still super skeptical of group shots and being held by his siblings. He is pretty sure that’s neglect, and I should rethink my life choices for allowing it.

But capturing matching jams and twinkly lights is my favorite and I’m going to take this photos every year for as long as I have even one child who will cooperate.

This year’s jams were a gift from my friends at Gymboree, who are the best. Finding jams that fit ages infant to big kid isn’t always easy, but we’ll be able to match for years in gymmies.

(Also, I’m actually sort of horrified by how much bigger my children are. This is not ok. Why do they grow so fast?!)

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Here’s my quick 30-second list of tips if you want to take twinkle light photos yourself.

  1. White lights on white cord on a white background.
  2. The further away from the lights you can place the kids, the blurrier the lights will be.
  3. Set your DSLR camera on A or AP (so you control the aperture) and use the smallest number your lens allows.
  4. Use natural light (besides the Christmas lights) if possible, otherwise your photos will be really yellow.
  5. Don’t be afraid to crop after the fact – if the edge of your backdrop shows, just cut it out when you’re editing/looking at your pictures on the computer.

Let me know if you try, I LOVE this kind of pictures!

 

 

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Then Someone Hands You A Baby

Friday, November 18th, 2016

A lot of people told me that once you have three kids, adding any more is basically no big deal. You’re already outnumbered and have been practicing zone defense for a while. You probably already drive a minivan. You’re used to multi-tasking while being perpetually tired. The bigger ones can help with the smaller ones.

Although all of those circumstances are true for me, going from 3 to 4 has not been easy. At all. I’m getting my ass kicked a little bit. There’s a Jim Gaffigan bit where he talks about having five kids: “Imagine you’re drowning. Then someone hands you a baby.” I feel like four kids might be the point where I’m still treading water but seriously wondering why the shore is so, so far away.

When I went from one to two, Evan was still a toddler with no commitments. If everyone was tired and wanted to sleep in, we all slept in. When he napped, she napped, and then I could nap. He ate basically nothing but goldfish crackers and cups of milk. We owned 243% fewer toys that could be spread out over the entire house. It was still hard, because taking care of kids is hard, but it wasn’t daunting. By the time I went from two to three, both Evan and Caroline were in school, so although I had to get them up and out the door every day once that was done I just had one newborn to keep alive which I could do entirely from the couch. Linc and I could handle errands or chores or work thanks to babywearing and an infant who started sleeping 8+ hours a night around 6 weeks.

Now I have both big kids who have to be dressed and fed and packed and put on the bus; a toddler who wakes up too early, is trying to give up his nap, needs to be fed a constant stream of pb&j sandwiches; and then I also have a helpless baby who isn’t much of a fan of sleeping.

Being a stay at home mom has always been a weird mix of always having way too much to do and long, boring periods of nothing. There is always something or someone who needs to be cleaned, so my work is never really done. There is so much laundry it feels almost comical – how can we own so many things that constantly need to be washed?! It’s so much mindless work. I can’t trust Linc alone with Finn for very long, so I’m not taking as many showers as I probably should be. (I don’t think he’d hurt him on purpose, but sometimes he gets the urge to just SQUEEZE HIS HEAD BECAUSE HE’S SOOOOO CUTE and doesn’t know that’s not a good idea.) I am currently serving as a 24 hour buffet for the baby, so having to feed everyone else too seems ridiculous. Can’t they all just feed themselves with food that magically appears in our kitchen? I used to love cooking, now it’s tedious. The level of being touched-out has reached new heights – Finn is a very cuddly baby, especially at 2 am, but Linc is also a very cuddly toddler. There are So. Many. Diapers.

I know in my head that this is all super temporary. We missed a lot of our favorite October stuff this year because I was too tired to wrangle everyone out of the house, but there will be 18 more Octobers where I have at least one child at home to do fun fall things with me. Right now I need to choose the less stressful option, maybe let myself be more lazy than I’m usually comfortable with, perhaps do just a little less for the holidays so I don’t end up freaking out completely. I’m hoping my friends and family can grant me some grace for not being as thoughtful and timely with their gifts and thank you notes and baked goods and holiday cards.

One day, in a future I can’t quite imagine yet, having four children will be totally normal for me. It won’t take me 30 minutes to get everyone settled just so I can go do laundry for 5 minutes. I won’t constantly run out of food because I forget how much 6 people eat. I will sleep more than 3 hours in a row and it might even be in my bed instead of on the couch. There’s even a chance I will go to Target and won’t lose ANY of my kids. For now, I will keep my head above water however I can and not pretend I’m doing it very well.

I can, however, occasionally force them into photos.

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