Project 365: Day 30

Yay!  I made it through the whole first month of this project!!  My postings may have been late at times, but I did manage to actually take a picture everyday (usually I took closer to 100 pictures everyday).  Excited to keep this project going.  Hopefully my images will improve by the end of the year.


Project 365: Day 29

Happy Black Friday!  It's a tradition to go out bright and early (dark and early) on Friday morning with my mom and sisters so we can get a free Mickey Mouse snowglobe at JCPenny, some coffee, and then do some shopping.  This year Aaron got to come with us.  I have been trying to get over my shyness when it comes to taking pictures in public spaces, so I took a brave 10 pictures while we were out.  Except that putting all my energy into taking these pictures in the first place apparently left nothing for my brain to think about anything important like good composition (hello "Free ATMs" sign and leaning building).  Baby steps though.


Project 365: Day 28

Happy Thanksgiving!  I had the best of intentions for taking a great family photo today to show what I am most thankful for.  But unfortunately, that just didn't happen.  Instead I wound up grabbing my camera and shooting in the dark at the end of the day when I remembered that I needed to put the trash and recycling out.  This was the best of the 5 shots I took all day.


Project 365: Day 27

I know it's really hard to see, but this was one of the first light snows of the season.  It didn't snow for long and nothing stuck, but it was still wonderful for us anyway.

In Which I Finally Admit It To Myself

I'm giving up on piano.  Not in the sense that I'll never play again; I love sitting at the piano and working on music, and I'll still do that.  But in the sense that I have finally accepted the fact that I'm not going to be as good as I'd like to be.  For some reason this has not been an easy thing to admit to myself.  The fact of the matter though, is that I have invested a lot of time and effort and money into learning to play and learning about music (hello college degree).  And I really want to be a competent musician.  Not a world class performer, but you know, I think I should be able to successfully accompany a church choir at this point (I have accompanied church choirs in my past, but successfully?  no).  Or play through an intermediate piece of music without much practice.  But I can't.  I can play an early advanced piece with a few months of practice though.  It takes months, and that intermediate piece, that probably takes a few weeks.  Way longer than it should.  And still way harder than it should be.  The truly frustrating part is that my brain is light years ahead of my hands where music is concerned. I get music.  It makes sense to me.  I understand how it works, why it works, from the simple building blocks through the complex relationships.  I get it.  But my hands don't.  There's a huge disconnect between brain and hands when I look at a piece of music.  My brain says "ah, yes... let's go" and my hands fumble and stumble and shake, and it all falls apart.  Maybe I just don't have the physical coordination (which is unsurprising when I think about how terrible I am with sports).  I've thought for years that if I just kept at it and worked harder, longer, smarter, I'd break through "the wall" and become the musician I've thought was locked up inside me.  And maybe if I did, one day that would happen.  But that's just not doable in my current position in life.  I don't have hours and hours to dedicate solely to practicing.  And I don't really want to keep dedicating so much time to something that is obviously a big weakness and a source of frustration and admittedly, shame... if instead I could focus that energy on things that are more important or that I'm good at, or things that I could be good at.

So anyway, that's where I am on that.


Project 365: Day 26

A rainy, cold, dark night.


Project 365: Day 25

This was just a "let me see how these settings are" shot before I took the actual planned shot.  So I pointed the camera off at nothing and fired away.  But I kind of like it.  I'm collecting shots of pictures of my house with no people.  Kind of like still life or actually more like empty life pictures.  I think I may add this one to the mix.


Project 365: Day 24

I feel like most of my pictures lately have just been practicing and trying different things.  The result isn't as important right now as the process.  One day I'll be able to focus on the actual image more.  Despite how dark this is, I took it in a well it room at about noon today.  But when significantly underexposed it looks dark and moody.  I really wanted to do this same kind of shot on the stairs, but I messed up the timing with the way the light comes through my windows which caused me to miss the opportunity, so I'll have to try again another day.

Project 365: Day 23

I didn't take many pictures today.  But I did manage to get one of a beautiful sunset... while in the car (Matt was driving).


Project 365: Day 22

Things I Pay Attention To (whether I want to or not)

You know how there are things that you never noticed until someone points it out... and then you see it everywhere.  And you can't go back to NOT noticing it.  Here are some of the things in my life that I never noticed, and probably never would have noticed, had someone not pointed them out to me.

MusicPart 1:  Okay, I notice a lot in music, because I studied for so long, so I'm not going to list everything.  But the only thing I can never turn off, and that I figure out in the back of my mind without even putting any real thought into is the meter of a song.  And if it's in anything other than common time, I will most definitely comment on it.  If you have ever listened to music with me and I point out how "hey, this song is in 3/4"  "or hey look a song in 6/8, that almost never happens with stuff on the radio" you've gotten a little glimpse of what my brain does to every song, every time.  Also, if there is ever a meter change or complex rhythm like a hemiola (believe it or not they happen even in pop music) I will get ridiculously excited.  I'm nerdy when it comes to these things.

Music Part 2: A specific melodic pattern that is used in improvisation a lot.  My jazz teacher (I only ever took one jazz class) made us memorize all these short licks and standard progressions that are frequently used.  I hear them all the time.  ALL THE TIME.  Actually I should credit this same teacher for training my brain to never stop critically listening to music.  I may have written about this before, but one day when we got to class (it was a super early class), he was playing a CD.  Class officially started, but he didn't say anything, just let the music play for a few more minutes.  Then he stopped the song before it was over and said "pop quiz-- what was the structure of that song and where in the structure did I stop it?"  Um, yeah I failed that because aside from the fact that my ears were hearing it, I wasn't actually paying any attention to it.  And also, he loved to do really random off the wall things like that: pop quizzes, make us play a song without music in all 12 keys on the spot, force us to use a metronome but shift the down beat we played to the upbeat of the metronome, also to play with a metronome--mute it in the middle of a passage while we keep playing--unmute the metronome--show us how sucky our internal beat is when we were way off.  It sucked.  But damn it if I didn't learn a lot in that class.  (also this is the same teacher who told me at the beginning of my final playing exam that I was a terrible pianist "but go ahead and finish the test anyway"... gee thanks!)  Okay, I got a little bit off topic... moving on.

Literature:  The approximation of "my foot found purchase" as it appears in nearly every novel ever written in the English language.  Well, not really.  A friend of mine pointed out this phrase after she read a book that I had suggested to her.  A book that I had read, and yet did not remember coming across that phrase.  She said the author used it a lot and she found it distracting because it's not a commonly used phrase.  And I swear 75% of the novels I've read since that have used a phrase about something finding or not finding purchase.  It's really comical at this point and I always smile and think of my friend whenever I come across it.  One of these days I'm going to work that phrase into a conversation.

Photography:  In a word... light.  In many more words... light in the morning, light in the afternoon, is it cloudy?  What kind of light comes into the house in which window at various times of day.  Look at that shadow.  Huh, look at how the trees on one side of the road seem to be a different color from the trees on the other side because of how the sunlight is hitting them.  I notice how much darker it is inside even though our house gets tons of natural light.  I notice how my eye sees so much better in different light situations than my camera.  It won't turn off.


Project 365: Day 21

I kind of took it easy with the camera today.  I got a few cute shots of the kids doing their thing, but I'm trying not to over do it with kid shots.  So here is my sharing picture.  I took this while looking for inspiration for my upcoming photo class assignment: one high key, one low key.  I could probably use this as is for the high key, but I'm going to try and do a few things on another to see if I can make it better and add a little to make it a bit more interesting, I just have to wait for more light.  But this is a good start, I see potential.  Hopefully I'm not wrong.


Project 365: Day 20

Dylan was busy this morning adding to his first opus.


Project 365: Day 19

My laundry has been piling up. I think it has something to do with my neglecting it in favor of other things... playing at the park with the kids, taking pictures for this project, taking pictures for my photo class, running, reading... all of which are wa-a-a-ay better than laundry.  But today I went to get Aaron dressed and he was out of shirts.  Completely out.  So I knew I had to get back on track and tackle some real world tasks.  I decided that maybe if I plan a picture of my folded and ready to be put away laundry, I'd actually wash it and fold it.  I think I basically bribed myself to clean my family's clothes.  Well, it worked.  I don't know that I love the picture, but my clothes are folded and put away, so in my mind it was a total success.  Don't be surprised if I throw up some photos of purging toys, washing dishes, and scrubbing floors in the future... apparently I'll actually get that done if I know I need it for a photo.

(I'm also adding this to my self portrait collection... no long rambling commentary on that this time though.)


Project 365: Day 18

My brother is letting me borrow his really nice wide angle lens.  I was really busy today though so I didn't get to try it out much, I just took a few quick snaps around the house to get an idea of what this thing is capable of.  I'm looking forward to playing with it some more this week.

This is kind of more of a practice shot.  I wanted to see how much of the family room I could fit into the shot (compared with my 50mm lens, which doesn't get much).  It's night, so this is using the room's light fixture, and I just propped the camera (with it's monster lens) on our TV stand, so it's a little crooked, and took a few shots of me with the kids on the couch.  The kids are giving me "smushie kisses."  Not the best as far as pictures are concerned, but it was a great moment to be in.


Self Portrait: Setting

So back to working on self portraits.  I'm really struggling with this.  I don't really like any of them so far.  But I keep trying.  I think the problem is that I don't really know what it is I'm trying to "get."  I don't have a vision for how this should work.  I just come up with an idea because I think it's different or worth trying out, take a few shots and hope one of them will be magical.  But usually they aren't.  Sad face.  I'm not sure at this point if I should keep trying, push through and hope I'll eventually realize what it is I'm trying to accomplish (and maybe how to accomplish it as well), or if I should give up, take a long break, wait for inspiration to strike me when I least expect it?  The connection between this lack of success and my own sense of self is not lost on me though.  I think that's why I feel the need to push on.  What I mean is that when I take a picture of other people, I'm happy with it, but of myself... not so much.  Part of it is the "picture taking" aspect (getting it in focus, good framing and composition, right exposure, etc), but a bigger part is the "self as subject" aspect (being comfortable and natural when I know the camera is on me so that something about "me" can show through).  So now I feel like this self portrait project has become a microcosm for some part of my own self esteem.  Maybe if I can get comfortable enough to take and accept a good picture of myself I will have conquered some of those self conscious demons I have (don't we all?)  At this point I think the only success I've had with trying to take a portrait of myself that's a good picture as well as vulnerable and revealing is the fact that I've had the courage to post any of this pictures on my blog at all (where people might see them... gasp).  Anyway, those are my random ramblings.

And now here are my most recent attempts.  Beautiful location, but I look very uncomfortable and awkward.  So overall they seem kind of blah.

I wanted to try a full body picture, but I couldn't really figure out a good standing position.  Like, what should I do with my hands?  Maybe hold a coffee mug in each (for you 30 Rock fans).

A more candid style shot... like I don't know the camera is there.  I just happen to be sitting on the soaking wet ground under this tree... totally natural.  

Project 365: Day 17

I was out early this morning working on an assignment for a photography class I'm taking and couldn't resist taking a few moments to shoot this thick fog.  I wish I could have pulled out a little more for this shot, but there were ugly neon orange fences on the other side of the trees and some yellow police style tape on the left fence, so that kind of guided me to frame this photo like this.  It looks kind of peaceful and lonely, which was how I was feeling, since I was out taking pictures for the first time since last fall by myself (without my kids running around).  It put me in a very different mind-set.  Much less frantic and rushed and hoping for a good quick shot, with one eye looking through the lens and the other keeping track of a curious toddler.  Much more deliberate, focused, and relaxed.  Almost meditative.

It was a nice little break first thing in the morning.


Project 365: Day 16

Grass sparkles with early morning dew.

What just happened?

So I just tried to upload my daily photo and something WEIRD happened.  Here's what I got:

what is going on with the color, especially that turquoise blue in the background, and the weird edges?????

And here's the photo I actually uploaded.  

This is the actual picture I took... I couldn't get the exposure right... too much one way and the sky blew out, too much the other and the detail in the shadows was lost... so I opted for the silhouette look.
I guess blogger enhances photos and there's no way to turn it off in blogger.  Crap.  So in order to get the correct version I found a work around.  I uploaded this photo to my G+ account, which also auto enhanced it to get that same weird coloration.  Then I turned off the auto enhance, added it to my blogger photo album (which was automatically created when I opened my G+ account), and then came back here and got the photo through G+ instead of going to my computer's file.  I haven't really noticed the enhancements thus far, but I guess Blogger really wanted to reject this exposure so the changes were pretty drastic... it almost looks like a failed attempt at HDR.  I wonder if there's an easier way to go about this process?  Anyway, good to know for the future.  And now that this picture has bad vibes for me I'm going to go pick another one for today's entry.


Project 365: Day 14

Driving home during rush hour last night after visiting with my mom.  This was my first attempt at nighttime photography (never realized how much the car rumbles while you are stopped).  It also made sitting at this majorly long red light for 4 cycles a little more bearable.


Project 365: Day 13

A little snack during an errand run.


Project 365: Day 12

I'm bending the rules again a little bit.  Although I didn't really make any rules for this project, so I'm not sure why it feels that way, but it does.  I didn't actually take this photo today.  I took it last week.  But I'm posting it tonight because it's a film image that I just received tonight.  I figure I"m allowed to share it now since there's no physical way to share it otherwise (it takes a loooooooooong time to get the film images back... well, long in comparison to sticking my memory card into a USB slot at the end of the day).  I'd like to include my film images since I am really working on that format as well.  I just received 3 rolls... 1 of B&W 400 Trimax, and 2 Fujichrome 100 Provia color slides.  I am so happy with these images.  I think a few didn't turn out due to unrecoverable exposure, but otherwise the bulk of my shots worked!  Which makes me so happy because I am only letting myself shoot in manual, and without the instant feedback I have NO CLUE if I am actually anywhere near close to what I want.  I just have to trust that I have enough knowledge and practice (thank you digital camera) that I can take a good shot without a histogram or LCD screen to let me know otherwise.  It was so hard to pick just one picture to share today, but I went with this one for a couple reasons.  First, I love B&W images, I am tempted all the time to declare myself a black and white only photographer, but I just don't want to limit myself like that.  However, I do plan to start taking significantly more B&W pictures.  Second, this was taken at one of my favorite local areas, the Children's Garden at Ida Lee (I have used this location before for this project).  I love this archway created by the weeping juniper... it's beautiful.  And is definitely showing up in my christmas card this year.  And third, it's a picture of all three of the guys in my life.  Sure, they probably should have taken up a little more of the image, but I still like it as is (back of Aaron's head and all).


Project 365: Day 11

Our beloved Eve.  Sometimes I feel bad for how much Aaron bothers her when she's just trying to sleep in a sunny spot of the house (which he had just done while I was trying to get a picture of her), but then I remember that Aaron also feeds her 90% of his food, so I figure it all evens out in the end.


Project 365: Day 10

I'm cheating here a little bit.  It's supposed to be one picture a day, but I'm doing three this time.  These are actually the pictures I took for my photography class assignment.  We were supposed to take a picture of the same object at 3 different times of day.  I picked this !!super!!exciting!! rock.  Mostly because I could carry it with me and take a picture when I needed to.  But also because of the shadows I got in the middle of the day.

Morning light.  I took this as soon as the sun hit our yard (which was about 30 minutes after sunrise).  I love the yin-yang effect of the shadow and light on the top of the rock.
Noon light.  Dylan found this rock for me on one of our walks through the neighborhood.  He liked it because it looked like a phone (? to a 5 year old's imagination, I guess).  But it wasn't until I took this picture, at this time of day, from this angle, that I was able to uncover the true identity of this rock... he's a little smiley guy!

Sunset light.  Literally 2 seconds before the sun went down.  I actually wanted to reshoot because I just didn't find a great shot, but the sun was gone, so this was the best I got.  It's a lot softer and looks almost like a slipper.


Project 365: Day 9

Christmas came early for the kids.  Vovo and Grandpa got them a new toy to play with at their house.  Dylan and Aaron both love it!  I got a bunch of good pictures on them testing it out in the backyard, but I love that I got the family in the background here, along with a little bit of backlight on the boys.  I love backlight like crazy.


Project 365: Day 8

Aaron is such an independent little toddler.


Project 365: Day 7

Matt gives Dylan a chess lesson at the end of the day.  

Aaron at One: Digging in the Dirt

 The first couple of days this month were warm enough to spend most of the day outside.  Aaron has no problem finding ways to occupy himself.  His choice at this moment was digging, throwing, and playing in some pot dirt.  I think he liked it even more than he likes playing in mulch.
The idea was to move the dirt from one pot to the next, but he took it one step further by dumping the dirt from the second pot onto himself.

Little bits of dirt in his hair.

Look at all that fun!


Project 365: Day 6

Tonight we had one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, I was without my camera at the peak color (so instead I opted to just enjoy the moment), but I did manage to get a good sky shot shortly before the sun went down.  I love these clouds.


Project 365: Day 5

We spent this afternoon at Pumpkinville.  Somehow I ended up with one child who is very social and extroverted, and a second child who needs to be outside all the time (both are traits that I don't have).  Here is the latter child sharing crazy eyes with the lemurs.  I'm really thankful for fences and gates because if they didn't exist I'm pretty sure Aaron would have just climbed right in with all the animals.

November Running Update

So I'm obviously back into running.  I had to take a little break at that end of the summer because my left leg had pain pretty much everywhere.  I used the month of October to try and get close to back where I left off.  Except I haven't been running long distances.  Three miles at most.  Which at this point is all I can really handle anyway.  I still have a little lingering hip pain but overall I've been feeling much better, so I feel like I can really get back into it now.

So here are some of my end of October stats.

Longest distance:  3 miles, in about 35 minutes

Mile time:  9:06, which is my new PR.  I can hardly believe it!

Slow pace on treadmill:  4.5 mph
Comfortable to maintain for a while pace:  5.2 mph (not quite back to the 5.5-5.7 pace, but I'll get there)
Fast pace 7.5 for 2 minute "sprints" or 8 mph for 1.5 minute "sprints"

Goals going forward:
-Run a 5k in under 30 minutes
-Run a race every month between now and next summer (I'm hoping for a 5k this month, a 5k next month, and maybe a 10k on New Years Eve)
-Set a new mile PR of around 8:00.  Give myself a few months to get there :)

Also, somehow I have managed to get down to my lowest weight since I started grad school (which caused me to put on an unexplained 10 pounds before I even got pregnant).  I'm really hoping to maintain this weight through the holiday season.  But I know that will be tough since I love love love all the holiday food.  And i have no self control.  That's part of why I'd like to train for the 10k on New Years Eve, maybe that will help me burn off all the extra pie, and cookies, and goodies.


Project 365- Day 4

Took a few pictures at one of my favorite spots in Leesburg, the Children's Garden at Ida Lee.  Lots of beautiful plants and flowers to photograph and plenty of fun exploring for the kids.  Aaron never holds still, there's just too much to do and see  everywhere.  Rather than fight him and make everyone miserable, I'm learning to embrace these back of the head shots.


Dylan at Five: Cooking Dinner

We've been eating green beans pretty frequently lately.  Mostly because Dylan wants to help cook dinner and he really loves to cut the tips off the beans.  I probably need to find another easy-to-cut vegetable so we can add some variety.

Project 365: Day 3

We spent the morning at my parent's house.  In addition to coffee, pancakes, bacon, pumpkin pie, and copious amounts of whipped cream my brother managed to give Dylan another art lesson, while also giving me some photo tips ("it's dark in here…. use your flash").  I never use my flash because I never like the results, but with his guidance I threw a napkin over the flash to diffuse the light and got a much better picture.  I feel like this is where I should say that I hope that by the time I finish this project a year from now I'll be more comfortable with using a flash, but the truth is that I really have no interest in putting the effort or money into really learning how to use a flash.  At best I'm just hoping that I won't feel such an aversion to it.

Kurt Vonnegut on Becoming

I love this letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote in reply to a few high school kids that wrote to him.  It really resonates with me.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.

(the whole article can be found here:


Project 365: Day 2

We had such a fun day with the family today: t-ball game in the morning then spent the afternoon at various DC museums.  Dylan has a good time everywhere he goes.


Project 365: First Day!

A beautiful start to November.  Sunny, warm, deep blue skies, and beautiful shades of red-orange-yellow on the leaves.