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6 posts from September 2010

September 25, 2010


This is Michael's cat, Oliver.  He's an Egyptian Mau and he's one of the most interesting looking cats I've ever seen.  When he was a kitten, his fur was very pale gray and I often thought it had the slightest hint of purple!  As he's gotten older, his markings have become more distinct.  I love his "mask" and the way all of his features are outlined in black.     He's very inquisitive and social and extremely photogenic!   Look at those eyes!

20100926IMG_2522oliver the cat fixed

September 22, 2010

Black & White Wednesday: Treasure

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A few days ago, Gwen found some stray beer bottle caps in one of our kitchen drawers.  Not sure how they ended up in there but she couldn't have been happier with her find.  She put them in a plastic bag and brought them to me and said "I found treasure, Mommy!"

This morning, I was making up her bed and found her bag of treasure under her pillow. Weird.  Cute, but weird.  


For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

September 19, 2010


I'm really enjoying this black shower curtain backdrop!  

This time, it was Gwen's turn to be my model so I let her pick a shirt from my closet and some fancy necklaces then I washed her face and applied a bit of lip gloss to her chapped lips.  Finally, I asked her if she was ready and she exclaimed "Let's rock and roll!"  A couple of days ago, she was saying "Let's get this party started!"  Seriously, where does she get this?  Anyway, here are a few of my favorite photos from this photo shoot:

Gwen mommy shirt black background border
This one is probably my favorite of the day.  If she's in a good mood - and she usually is - it's impossible to take a bad photo of Gwen. 

My kids wear the usual styles and colors of kids clothing 99 percent of the time so dressing them in one of my fancy shirts makes for a slightly more elegant and interesting photo.  I doubt this photo have looked this pretty if she was wearing her pink and purple Hello Kitty shirt.  Since my shirts are much too large for them, they look more like dresses. I fold the extra fabric to the back and use safety pins secure it.  Best of all, dressing up is great fun for them so it puts them in a happy mood and happy girls are much better models!  :)

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I'm one of the contributing members over on We Picture {This} and this month's photo theme is "Laughter".  Since I'm not good about tagging my photos, there wasn't much chance that I'd be able to search through my vast archives for photos of my kids laughing even though I'm certain there are plenty of photos that would fit the theme.  In the end, it just seemed more efficient to take a brand new picture. 

It took a while but I finally did succeed.   Getting her to laugh wasn't really the problem because Gwenny is an amazingly joyful little girl.  The trick is catching the perfect moment when she's laughing whole-heartedly but still looks like she's happy and not crying.  You see, when Gwen is deep into a really good belly laugh, she looks like she's in excruciating pain.   I'll show you what I mean.

First, her happy laugh:

Gwen laughing ambrosia border Then, about 2 seconds later, her painful looking laugh:

Gwen laughing three frame

Doesn't she look like I'm standing on her foot? 

Gwen totally cracks me up!  Oh how I love this girl! 


September 14, 2010

Black & White Wednesday: Pearls

A few weeks ago, I bought a black shower curtain with the thought in mind that I'd use it as a backdrop for portraits.  I used thumb tacks to hang it on the wall in our guestroom. I also bought some inexpensive photography props - costume jewelry, colorful scarves, hair accessories, etc.  

20100913 IMG_1948maddy black background combined mink

Maddy didn't have to ponder her choices for very long.  She absolutely wanted to wear these pearls.  When I fastened them around her neck, her entire demeanor changed.  She must have felt like a real princess!

20100913 IMG_1948maddy black background combined

The black and white has a timeless, Kate Hepburn-esque, quality about it but I really I loved these in color.     

There's no story to tell here.  We took these photos specifically because I wanted to test out that black backdrop.  The lighting in the room left much to be desired so I dragged in one of my cheapo umbrella lights and flipped it around backwards so the light was diffused through the white umbrella.  I had to get it pretty close to her face and I still had trouble finding the right balance between aperture, shutter speed and exposure.  But, if your photo is well composed and in focus, you can fix just about everything else in Photoshop!

20100913 IMG_1934maddy black background musette and mink

Post processing makes such an amazing difference! After I 'fixed' the photos, I converted them to black and white using my favorite Florabella action "mink".  I always tweak it slightly and dial down the opacity.  You really need to do all of your edits before you convert to black and white.

20100913 IMG_1934maddy black background copy 3

One of the best tips anyone ever gave me about editing my photos was to slightly lighten the face.  I use curves and a mask and a very soft brush - opacity set to about 25.  I lightly sweep it over the face and hair of my subject then I invert the mask and remove the lightness from the eyes and lips. 

20100913 IMG_1933maddy black background mink

Another really valuable tip I got was to remember to wash my child's face before taking portraits.  It's so much faster and easier than trying to photoshop the mess off of their face later!  A little dab of lip gloss is essential too.  They hate it but it looks so pretty in the photos.  Especially since Gwen's lips are always chapped.

20100913 IMG_1933maddy black background fix

My biggest challenge is getting natural smiles.  I think it's one of the hardest things about photographing people.  I'm always trying to get my kids into a silly mood so their expressions are more spontaneous and honest but I have to admit that I'm really not very good at doing this because I'm usually preoccupied with camera settings.  I tried telling Maddy some goofy kid jokes but she's six and still doesn't quite understand how jokes work or why they're funny.    I'd love to hear some of your tips and tricks.  How do other people get their kids to look natural in front of the camera? 



For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

September 12, 2010

9/11 {my birthday}

My birthday was this weekend and, as usual, my kids were more excited about it than I was.  My birthday treat was a gourmet cupcake from Kara's Cupcakes in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. 

We each picked our own flavor:  I picked lemon, Daddy picked chocolate with caramel filling, Maddy picked carrot cake and Gwen picked pure decadent chocolate.  I think she has an animal attraction to Chocolate.  I can relate to this because this is precisely how I eat chocolate when nobody is looking. 

Gwen kara cupcake 50 ambrosia

I stopped getting excited about birthdays a very long time ago but my kids can't comprehend why I'd want to do that so they continue to insist that we hold an annual celebration of my graceful but steady descent into old age. 

Getting older sucks but I sure do love those homemade cards, big squeezy hugs and 800 calorie desserts!

This year, my present was a three hour Bay Cruise with my two favorite talk radio hosts and about 200 of their most loyal local listeners.    I've listened to these guys for four hours per day for the last five years so it was exciting to get to finally meet them in person even though it felt really weird to encounter them outside of my radio!

Joe donna jack
While we were on the Bay Cruise, Michael and Kelsey were watching the kids at a nearby hotel.  I told the girls that Mommy and Daddy were going on a date and Michael and Kelsey would babysit them at the hotel and Maddy remembered that we did this one time before.  She has an excellent memory and she was quick to recite details of that previous instance - casually including that, last time, she and her sister and her big brother and his girlfriend watched porno while Mommy and Daddy were away.  Yeah, that's what she said. 

Obviously it made me blink a few times while I tried to wrap my mind around this tidbit of information. I knew what I heard was impossible so I reverse-translated it into the language of a 6 year old child with a repaired cleft palate and a slight speech impediment and came up with the 'correct' pronunciation of porno:  Ponyo. 

They watched Ponyo while Mommy and Daddy were away.   

The whole thing took about 5 seconds and I burst into laughter and grabbed my cell phone and called Michael to share the joke with him.  Maddy had no idea what we all thought was so funny and there really was no way to explain the joke to her.  :)

After the Bay Cruise, we walked back to our Embarcadero hotel and the next morning we all walked from the hotel to Fisherman's Wharf.  The girls were on their bikes and Andrew and I were walking.  We weren't sure how successful we'd be but the girls did really great!  They're able to ride in heavy pedestrian traffic and remain steady and upright even at a semi-slow walking pace.  When it got really tight, we held onto their arm to steady them but most of the time, they were biking along at a comfortable speed and were very skilled at not running into anyone. 

Here's Gwen on Fisherman's Wharf posing with a big (new?) sculpture of a macaroni. 

San francisco-1714 a
We locked up the bikes and strolled through Fisherman's Wharf - pausing to check out the sea lions (there weren't many of them) then went into the Aquarium Of The Bay.  It's been at least three years since we did this so it was all new again for the girls.  Man, do they love this place!  It was really awesome and we even got a 50% discount with our SF Zoo membership.

San francisco-1644 jellyfish fix

No trip to the aquarium is complete without the jellyfish.

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The girls loved touching these colorful starfish and other squishy sea creatures.

San francisco-1657 strange fish sharpen
I know this one is weird looking!   I'm so glad he was willing to stop and pose for this pic!

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Maddy and Daddy in front of a HUGE school of little fish!

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We ate some amazingly awesome little mini donuts.  Oh gosh, these were good!  They were fresh and hot from the fryer and sprinkled with sugar and impossible to resist once you started popping them into your mouth!  At only 50 calories per doughnut, they weren't the worst thing we could eat on Fisherman's Wharf but since they let you refill the empty bag for just $2.50, we did some major damage anyway!   Thank goodness we can't get these closer to home! 

Next stop was Musee Mecanique, a collection of antique arcade machines that were almost as fascinating as they were freaky.  

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Maddy was seriously horrified by this one.  And when you deposited a quarter and pushed the button, the six foot tall monstrosity did a terrifying dance.   We all might need therapy.

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Daddy had to arm wrestle this red faced guy to win our release!

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About five hours after we started, we finally turned around and headed for the hotel.  All in all, we walked (kids rode bikes) all the way from the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero to Ghirardelli Square and back again (a four mile round trip).  They did great and we had a wonderful weekend!

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