Playing with Presets


_MG_2998-xI have never been one to use presets. What are they? Well in processing photographs you will make different adjustments to enhance them. Or, let’s be honest, correct the mistakes you made when you took them. Presets are basically a button you can push that will make multiple adjustments recorded together. Just before I left on my trip I ran across a terrific Photography Bundle. For $99 you got numerous deals from different businesses and photographers. Among the deals were some presets. So as I am still new to Lightroom I decided to install them and play. I must admit I have been having some fun.

I am also starting to feel more comfortable with Lightroom. I am still very uncomfortable with the file management side of it, but that is to be expected. I know the more I use it the better it will be. So onward and upward as I plow through the thousands of photographs from England. These are from our day in Oxford with our cousin. He showed us some wonderful architecture, and we had a terrific time.


Reflections on messing up

Today was full of mixed feelings. Last Saturday I photographed the Kinship Family Fair. This year we added the opportunity for the families to have portraits taken. I will admit it was a little scary for me. 25 years ago I worked at Sears as a portrait photographer. I learned all the ins-and-outs of staging people for portraits. Well if you know me you know I hate taking those stuffy, stiff, posed things. I like to capture the real family.

Saturday I committed a number of cardinal sins. I didn’t go ahead and scope out the location to find the right place to take the pictures, I was unprepared with the equipment, and then totally messed up. I was so wrapped up in making the kids comfortable and getting the illusive smiles I kept forgetting to change my depth of field. So I would take a picture of two people close up, and then have to step back to fit in 6-8 people. Obviously they weren’t all in focus. So today I processed all of them, and was faced with this mess up, When you know what you did wrong, and could have easily fixed it, it nags at you with every picture.

At the end of the shoot I was in the room with the granddaughter of an old coworker, and my old boss. They were playing on the piano together and I snapped some shots of this beautiful child sitting at the keyboard. Then when her grandma came back I took some of them together, just wonderful.

The mixed feelings of today, I messed up. But I learned from it, and won’t make that mistake again. But I also know that I can capture that shot. The one that can pull at the heartstrings. Because even though the depth of field may be technically off, the faces are all there. I caught the smiles, and the families together. As oxford-2962xHubby said, they will probably never notice someone is a little fuzzier than the next person. And even if they do, they will be grateful for the gift of the photo of them together.

So back to life is full of lessons. Some good, some bad, some work out and some don’t. But it is how we accept the end results that tell our true spirit. That first step is hard to take, but when you do it opens doors.

I have taken a lot of first steps over the last year or so, and it has been a wonderful adventure. I continue to look forward to what is around the next corner.

2015 Kinship Family Fair

Yesterday was the 8th Annual Kinship Family Fair. Last year I photographed the event, and was asked to come back and do it again this year. I was thrilled to do it! This year we added the option for families to have portraits done. Many of these families just don’t have the ability to have portraits taken of them all together. For me it was a wonderful time, and so rewarding. Of course I had my favorite Grandma. She had to be in her 70’s, and walked with a cane. But yet she is raising 6 grandchildren all under 10 years old. The pictures are wonderful. Not posed studio shots, but shots of these 6 wonderful children surrounding there grandmother. The smiles were big, and the love they had for their Grandma just shone from them.


_MG_3960xThis year I had the wonderful experience of seeing children I remember from last year. How they have grown, and matured. But sadly there are the children who are struggling. Ones where you can read the sadness on their faces. Grandparents who are struggling also, and you can see it in the interaction of them with the children. You wish you could do more, but I console myself with the knowledge that I have done something that matters to them.

Shoes for the Shoeless were there again this year giving the kids a free pair of shoes. The kids also got a new back pack to start the school year with.



Catching up

It has been quite a week or so. Let me begin by explaining something. Last year my daughters and I joined in on the 100 Days of Happiness on Facebook. It was an interesting, and rewarding experience.  So before we left on our trip, the youngest decided she wanted to do it again so we could chronical our adventures. I must admit that all through the trip it was fine, but when I got home it became very hard to keep up with. I kept missing days, and struggled for things to write about. It wasn’t that there was no ‘happiness’. I know part of it was jet lag and trying to recuperate from the trip. It was also that I was simply busy trying to catch up with work and life in general. When you have been gone a month it takes time to get back into the swing of things.

The biggest adjustment was moving. What I mean is that while we were gone we were out and about all the time. I wore my Fitbit and clocked 2 to 3 times the steps that I had been doing at home. I came back weighing almost the same, but a size smaller in my clothes. I have been fighting trying to find a way to keep up that activity, and failing. Having gained that size back, but no additional weight. I haven’t given up. In fact Hubby and I are now regularly walking 20-30 minutes every morning we can.

I have thousands of photographs to go through that I took on the trip. The youngest wasn’t far behind me. But I got back to having to process them in Lightroom, which I am still learning. It isn’t the actual processing of the photos that is the problem. It is the file management of the program. I can see how it is wonderful for most people, but for me it really sucks. I have had an organized system for years, going back to when I first started in the 80’s. Having our own network in our house backing up is old news, and file organization has always been a priority and we have a system that works very well. Actually better than the Lightroom system. But in order to work in it I have to find a way to adjust, not easy. So I am taking online classes, learning all about it, and slowly getting through all the photos.

Then to top it all off it was colonoscopy time, yuck! Now I am going to go into a little detail here. I want to forewarn others so they don’t have to suffer as I did. Let me state first that this isn’t my first, so I am well aware of how it works. With a family member having colon cancer I had my first 10 years ago, and 5 years ago, and this past Tuesday would be my third. Anyone who has had one will tell you the prep is worse than the actual test. The first two times were bad, but you expect that. This time was a bit different. They have changed the prep to split it into two. Before you would drink all you prep in the evening, be able to empty out by midnight or so, and go the bed. You could get a good 5-6 hours sleep. But with the split prep you drink ½ at 5 in the evening, and I was done about 9pm. But then you have to get up 5-6 hours before your appointment and do the other ½. That meant setting the alarm for 3am, drinking 8 ozs every 15 mins four times, then waiting, and up and down until you empty out. I was still doing that when hooked up to the IV waiting to go in for the test! If we had lived farther away from the office I would have been in trouble! I was told the split prep was especially easier on older people’s system. But for me the stress of not getting any sleep, trying to stay awake to drink 32 ozs in the middle of the night, and laying there waiting for it to hit was far worse than any stress on my system. Also it took me longer to recover from it because I was so exhausted. The forewarning is that I could have opted not to split, I just didn’t know that. So that is why I decided to write about this. Ask your doctor.

The week has been full of other things as well. I am not using this as an excuse for not doing the 100 Days of Happiness entries, more an explanation. The biggest reason for me was not feeling the creativity to write. So, I go back to what I wrote about “Finding the Words”. I have grown and changed by the experiences and I am finding myself again. It is a pretty neat thing, but can also be frustrating. Life is change, and change is life. So we move forward, growing, changing, and enjoying what is around the next corner.


Oxford, England – Just around a corner . . .


Time With the Family

I am very blessed to have cousins I am close to in England. Our time there was spent with many of them. I rarely talk about people personally here, in respect for their privacy. So forgive my cryptic description of them. But there is something I want to share. My mother’s first cousin has a daughter. We connected as adults with our interest in the family tree in the late 1990’s. We spent many hours emailing, Instant Messaging, and writing. When I went to England with my Dad in 2005 I got to meet her, and her lovely family, face-to-face. On this return trip, ten years later, we met up again. The youngest and I spent 3 days with them. The thing I came away with was an understanding of what people see in us, as in Hubby and me with our children. And how lucky I am to have the family I have.

Cousins took us to the JFK Memorial and the Magna Carta in Runnymede

Cousins took us to the JFK Memorial and the Magna Carta in Runnymede

We are a close family. The fact that my 18 year old daughter and I could spend a month together traveling, and still be friends is proof of that. If anything we are closer and have a stronger relationship for it. Let me set the stage for our visit. My cousin is married and has three children, two boys 20 and 17, and a girl 13. These kids met me once 10 years ago, and of course have little memory of it if any. But these kids were there, and I mean ‘there’. Usually when you visit somewhere the kids will pay their respects, and disappear. Not these. They visited with us, joined us for meals, we ate together, talked, laughed. We went places with them, and the kids were happy to be there. We got home and we all sat and talked, shared, and had a blast together.

Look closely at the top left corner of the roof, the cat is on its perch, driving the dogs crazy!

Look closely at the top left corner of the roof, the cat is on its perch, driving the dogs crazy!

My point is, this rarely happens. But my kids are the same way. They hang around. I used to think others would be annoyed by the kids being there. But now I understand. I was thrilled to get to know these young cousins of mine. See who they are, and hear what they want to be. I left with a great love for all of them, and the knowledge that next time they will remember me, just as I will remember them. A very cool feeling 🙂

Dinner with the family

Dinner with the family, yummy!!

Finding the Words

I have been struggling since returning to the US with getting back into the normal routines of life. Part of me doesn’t want to. I want to keep exploring, learning, experiencing. I look back at my trip now and even though we were gone a month, there are still things I wish I/we had done. Opportunities missed.

It took me a while to be able to really look at all the photographs I took, and I still haven’t gone through all the youngest’s shots. I keep coming back to special moments and experiences. More to that special moment from the whole trip. That is what I will write about today.


The Glacier in Iceland. This day in total was the day that had the most impact on me. Part of me wants to say it was the best day, but in truth that isn’t the right word. That is one of the things that has prevented me from writing. I had many best moments. I spent wonderful times with many friends and family and would not want to belittle any one of those moments. They all gave me some of the most brilliant memories, and photographs, that I will treasure. But sometimes there is a day in your life that impacts you like no other.

From the day we landed in Iceland I fell in love with the place. It was their Independence Day, and we saw the celebration through the people. Reykjavik is a beautiful city, colorful, interesting, and very clean. We saw nothing negative, felt none, and that was the big thing. It was calm, happy, simple. The people didn’t reek stress like so many other big cities do. There were families walking together, children laughing, it was simply nice.

On the last day we decided to take one of the bus tours. There is so much to see, we just had to try. So we took a 10 hour tour and did cram in so much. There were places I would have loved to spend more time, but not at the cost of missing any others. And there is always next time. When I take Hubby and can experience it all over again.

_MG_1787xBut to share my most impactful moment that day on the tour. We arrived at the Glacier and it was just a very big hill with a lot of lose rocks. We just kept climbing, and climbing. The scene below us was mystical and beautiful at the same time. The moment was when we turned the corner to see the actual Glacier. I could literally hear the chorus sing as the heavens opened up. I froze in my steps, and just took it all in.


There were many people around, and you can see some of them actually climbing on the glacier. But it felt like I was there alone, I had tunnel vision. It was just so magnificent. Then I started to click the shutter, and capture the shots. I keep looking at them, and I can still feel how I felt then. That feeling of total amazement, words can’t describe, and all you can do is repeat over and over, wow, wow, wow!!


Loving Camden

So today I will add a caveat to my previous post on London. We were lucky to spend a couple of days in Camden, which is actually part of London. So I must clarify that my thoughts on London itself is only the main tourist area, not to the suburbs surrounding it. Camden is a borough of London. What character and fun we found there. We spent the night with a dear friend’s mother, and the next day with the cousins we met up with in New York City (read Visiting the Big City where we spent a day photographing the city, and will again this year). I have to share the things we saw and shared with these wonderful people. What makes a visit more special is seeing things through the eyes of the people who live there.

You see we spent a few quite hot days in Camden. The second day there was the highest temperature recorded, ever. In fact it was so hot that our cousin’s dog who we were staying with suffered heat stroke! We couldn’t go back to Hever as she was at the emergency vet all night. So with the help of the cousins we were with in Camden we found a quaint old Inn/Pub to spend the night. A little overpriced, and no a/c, but a good place to rest our heads after a long hot day.


Lost to Progress


“So poetry, which is in Oxford made An art, in London only is a trade.”
John Dryden

I have been reading quotes to try and find the one that fits my recent City of London experience. Having also spent some time in Oxford, this one by John Dryden seemed to fit. He died in 1700, but it still applies today. London is a city of business, be it trade or tourism. The fantasy of the history is long gone, and swallowed up by commerce and commercialism.

I don’t want what I write to come off as anti-London, because I am far from that. But after spending a month in England I saw both sides, and appreciate what has been preserved vs what has been given up in the name of progress.

When thinking of London the things that come to mind are the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben. All these things, and more, are the history of London. The Tower of London’s construction began as early as 1080, Buckingham Palace was built in the early-mid 1700’s, and Big Ben c. 1859. As a tourist you will listen to your guide giving you these facts and dates and marvel that the buildings are still there. But here is where you stop looking at it all through rose colored glasses.

london-2319xAs you look at this photograph you see the people sitting in the foreground. We are on a boat on the Thames getting ready to dock. Modern buildings to the left and skyscrapers tower overhead, but lost in the middle sits the Tower of London. In your mind you think “Tower”, and this is it. Looking small and dwarfed by the buildings around it.


When we started this boat trip we were at the Parliament building. A very large and grand structure. But it also hit me, all the people! All tourists. All there for one reason, to work their way down the list of places to see. To rush to one place, stand in line to pay an exorbitant entry fee, hurry through with all the other tourists, tick the box, and dash onto the next one on the list.

london-2260_cropxDotting the landscape were carts set up with overpriced London themed trinkets and souvenirs for sale. Lines everywhere, money flowing faster than the pints in the pubs. Personally I got more from watching a documentary on these buildings than from being there. We were part of it. We had our list. The soul and spirit of what was, just isn’t.


london-2237xWe went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. The crowd was insane! I stood next to a tour guide who told me she had never seen this many people there at this time of year. What isn’t shown in these photographs is that there were so many more people to the left, and right of They were lined up all the way around the Victoria Memorial and beyond.

london-2334x After our Lunch at the Tower, at one point I was so disgusted as I watched a man walk his family across the street. Through heavy traffic, with no apparent concern for their wellbeing, when there was a crosswalk just a few feet down the street.

It was at this point that I realized what was to come was the real England. The places I wanted to see, and take my youngest to see – Brighton, Oxford, Hever and everywhere else we went. The England of the history books, and the England of today. What has been preserved and cared about, and mostly the family and friends that live there. They are the heart and soul; what was missing during those days in London.