Still no master, but a whole lot closer...

I finished my Mastering Natural Light Indoors workshop a couple of weeks ago and holy moly was that class a game changer for me. I thought I knew how to best use the light in my house, but I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg. One of the biggest takeaways I learned was how to create and utilize light to better set the right mood for my photos. Take these two self portraits...


I'm making essentially the same expression in both, showing the same amount of skin, but the one on the left tells a completely different story than the one on the right. The one on the left is more thoughtful and serene thanks to the natural backlighting, but the one on the right is more moody and raw - that one was actually taken in our guest bathroom using my iPhone as the only light source. (I had the camera set on top of the back of the toilet, held the phone in one hand, and the wireless remote in the other.) The one on the right also utilizes Rembrandt lighting, characterized by the triangle under my eye on the shadowed side of my face. This is the lighting Rembrandt often used in his portraits and is surprisingly tricky to nail. You do not want to know how many almost Rembrandt triangle outtakes I have from this workshop. :)


Another HUGE thing for me was finally getting some sleeping pics of Emma. All my photographer friends have these amazingly adorable photos of their kids sleeping and Emma's just too light of a sleeper for me to attempt to go anywhere near her during her naps - much less try to take photos. But now that I was getting more comfortable shooting in low light, I foolishly bravely attempted the elusive Emma sleeping shot. The one on the left was my first attempt, and while I love her smooshy face - I wasn't crazy about how the light was hitting her. (I was using only my iPad as the light source.) So when I saw her sleeping in her signature "arms behind the head" position a few nights later, I knew I had to try again. Her little pursed lips in that one just kill me.


I also took advantage of the new blackout curtains in Emma's room (sidenote: why on earth did we wait so long to get those?!?) to control the light a bit better for some casual portraits.

The last big game changer for me was learning to use what I had around the house to create natural reflectors when there wasn't enough fill light...


I knew I wanted to attempt this shot, but when I got in the tub to test out the light (before I filled it up) I realized that the tub was just too deep for the light coming in through the window above the tub to adequately light my feet. So... I got creative:

Who needs to buy a reflector when you have a white sheet, thumb tacks, and duct tape? :) This set up allowed the window light to reflect back down onto my feet, giving me just the right amount of light and that cool reflection in the water.


This was my final assignment submission for the class. The assignment was to take a photo you never would have taken before you took the class, and this certainly qualified... as with the earlier photo, it was taken in our guest bathroom - a room I had never previously even thought to shoot in. And I used my iPhone as my sole light source, something I also never would have done (or at least not done well) before this class. I think the primary thing that makes this photo a first for me is that, despite being someone who for various reasons has ended up taking a stupid amount of self portraits, I had never once even thought to use split lighting (where half of my face is completely in the shadows and half is lit). I love the mood and visual interest it created.

So there you go! Another Clickin Moms workshop crossed off the list, and probably my last for a while. I really can't say enough good things about their classes, so if you're at all interested in photography I highly recommend them. There are classes for every level imaginable and you don't have to be a mom or even female to join in on the fun. :)

there's an app for that

My sister and I are regularly accused by our husbands of being obsessed with our iPhones. And maybe we are. But it's those brilliant little devices that enabled us to share a remarkable journey together over the past year. Perhaps I should start at the beginning...

She's the older sister, I'm the baby of the family. She made all the mistakes first, and I either learned from them or made the same ones but got away with it (mostly). :-) In all honesty, we weren't very close for much of our childhood and adolescence. We are polar opposites in so many ways, it was often very hard to find common ground. Thankfully, during our 20s we gradually found our way into a genuine friendship. That friendship has only gotten stronger in the past few years, and I can honestly say she's now the best friend I'd always hoped to have in a sister. So when she told me that she was pregnant (I was already pregnant with Emma at the time) and that our babies would only be 3 months apart, I was beyond thrilled. She'd been trying for a baby for over 2 years, and I have to admit it felt a little bittersweet when I got pregnant before her. We had daydreamed about being pregnant at the same time, what a blessing it would be for our family, and now it was actually happening! The only downside to all this was that my sister lives in Northern Virginia (where we grew up) and I live here in Portland... for as much as we were going to be able to share in the coming months, it was hard not to think about what we'd be missing - shopping trips, sharing maternity clothes, lazy Sundays laid up on the couch with our big bellies, being there for each other's births. But that's where technology really saved the day...

We texted and talked pretty regularly before we were pregnant, but our iPhones really got a workout these past 12 months. It felt like we were in constant communication... commiserating about aches and pains, drooling over cravings, sending pics of our nurseries and cute baby outfits, asking each other the stupid, irrational questions we felt silly asking our doctors. And when we weren't texting or talking, we were playing yet another round of Words with Friends, feeling bad for winning when the other was having a particularly rough day. It felt like we were sharing every moment of our pregnancies, even though we were on opposite sides of the country.

And when my nephew was finally making his big arrival last week our phones allowed me to be there for my sister even though I couldn't be there in person.

(We exchanged much more personal and intense texts and calls throughout her labor, but you get the idea.)

And it was on my phone that I saw little Zachary for the first time...

I can't help but think about how different (and suckier) our experience would have been even just a decade ago. I feel so grateful for the technology that my husband rolls his eyes at (despite being an iPhone owner himself), and for my beautiful, amazing sister. Our pregnancy journey has come to an end, but a whole new journey as mothers has just begun... and when you're up nursing at 3am, it's really nice to know your sister is also up nursing - and playing Words with Friends.