Wednesday, August 31, 2011


- So far, every day this week I've had three kiddos at home! I've watched Lizzy's cousins Payton and Logan, and also the kiddos of a friend. They have all been great--listened well, no major tantrums, etc...but can I just say that I have been TIRED at the end of the day, lol? On one hand, it's nice to know that when the time comes (more on this later), I could handle lots of kiddos running around! On the other hand, it's a bit of a challenge (but not in a bad way)for me to plan out my day a bit better--I'm finding that I have to be more intentional about planning when I'm going to work out, make dinner, etc.

-Oh, and have I mentioned that I'm in the process of painting the upper cabinets, which means that I essentially have no kitchen and no table? It is CRAZY, but hopefully the last coat went on last night, and J will hang them tonight.

-PS, if you missed it before, I joined Twitter! You can find me {here}.

-On to the above mentioned future babies thang--Justin told me the other day that his work is considering changing insurance again...I think this will be the fifth or sixth time they've changed in the last two years. I finally figure out one plan and what's covered, and BAM, it changes again. I understand why they've made the changes from a business perspective, but it's hard from a mom and budget perspective since sometimes we've gone from like a $30 co-pay to paying for half of everything out of pocket! But the thing that's REALLY stressing me out is that they are also considering paying the guys what the company pays for insurance and letting everyone buy their own private insurance...but the problem is that when I left my job, we looked into private insurance for me, and the rep said the chances that I would qualify were slim due to allergy shots, asthma, past surgeries, and the fact that I'll probably be considered overweight by the insurance company's standards (which are apparently even stricter than the BMI charts, which still don't tell the whole story). Needless to say, future baby talk has officially been completely tabled. And the whole scenario is stressing me out in a way that I haven't been stressed since I was working!

-We're just coming to the end of Beth Moore's Esther study. It's kind of a bittersweet thing for me--our church had never done a study like this before, and unfortunately, I don't think many of the people who were participating liked it, 'cause they've been dropping like flies. I do know that a lot of the people have mentioned that they don't like the homework, which is funny because that is my favorite part! I'm not always good at self-directed study--I need that direction and accountability that a group brings (our church doesn't have life groups or anything like that). I don't want to fall out of the habit of spending daily time in Bible Study, but I don't know what to do next. I've been wishing that I could facilitate some sort of study on this blog, but I'm not sure how that would work exactly, or even if anyone would be interested.

-Have a great Wednesday y'all!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Letter to Lizzy- Nineteen Months


Dear Lizzy,

This past month when we got back from our trip to Idaho, anytime we'd see someone that hadn't been on the trip with us, you'd run up to them and excitedly say, "Uh-oh! Jump Jump Jump! Pizza! Toast! Steve!" It took us a little while to figure out that you were giving them your own re-cap of the trip--Mom and Dad wakeboarded, and when we fell after jumping, you liked to say uh-oh. You also enjoyed pretending to make pizza out of the pea gravel on the beach. Most mornings, you had toast for breakfast, and on the way home, we spent the night at my uncle Steve's house. It cracked your dad and I up that the details of your re-cap were exactly the same every time--it was neat to hear you tell everyone what you remember as the "highlights" of the trip (obviously, the carousel was not one of them, judging from the side-eye you gave it)!


You love to clap, dance, and sing. Another thing that we were surprised about on our trip was that when we listed to the Raffi CD, you always knew which song would come next, and have started trying to sing-along to a lot of them. Right now, your favorites are Old McDonald, Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star (which you call Up-A-Sky), and Jesus Loves Me.

You've also entered into the "Self" phase--you do NOT want help of any kind, whether it's brushing your teeth, climbing some stairs, or opening a container of applesauce so you can eat it. You've recently learned the words "don't" and "stop", and tell them to me all the time in that context.

This past month, you've also started to make decisions to do things even though you know you're not supposed to. If I walk out of the room for a minute, you'll climb up onto the computer desk. I'll say, "Lizzy, are you supposed to be up at the desk?" and you'll respond, "No, no," very somberly. Usually I'll then tell you that you need to sit yourself in a time-out, which you do, but then get hysterical about--throwing yourself backwards onto the floor, biting yourself, screaming at the top of your lungs. I can understand now how some parents give up on the discipline game--its definitely easier just to forgo the timeout. But I think that you really thrive on consistency, and that it's important for your dad and I to be consistent about which circumstances warrant a timeout and also talking with you after the timeout is over, SuperNanny style. We don't always get it right, but we're trying.

{the lakehouse had a karaoke machine, which you thought was the coolest thing EVER}

My favorite new phrase from you this month? Undoubtedly, "I want Ferb."

I love you sweet girl, and I always will,

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Need Accesories Help...Badly!

If you've been reading this blog for long, you probably know that I'm basically allergic to everything. Christmas trees, grass, dust, pollen, 95% of flowers. For years, I was so allergic to metal that even the button on jeans gave me a huge rash, so I really never wore jewelry that wasn't pure silver. But recently, I've noticed that I'm able to wear earrings/necklaces for several hours at a time without breaking out into hives. And consequently, this month I'm on a quest to buff up my stash of accessories. I like to dress pretty basically, and I've increasingly come to believe that some well-thought accessories can make the difference between looking put together and looking sloppy.

This month, I'm planning to spend about $50 to update my accessories, but I need your help! Because I've never really done the whole accessories thing, my stash is pretty pathetic. I don't mean "pathetic" as in I have a ton of stuff but I don't really like it and want an excuse to buy more. By "pathetic", I mean pathetic. In fact, here is my accessories collection in its entirety:



{this is a ring}




Yep, that's it. I could definitely use some updating, but I don't really know where to start or how to get the most bang for my buck since I don't have a huge budget to work with. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE some suggestions if anyone is willing to help me shop (and feel free to show me your own etsy shop!). Here's what you should know:

-I don't like gold (save for white gold), but I can handle bronze a bit better.
-I have almost $100 in credit at Amazon, so buying there would be ideal, but not a necessity.
-I'd like at least one long necklace, at least one pashima-style scarf!

Any suggestions for me? Pretty please with chocolate sprinkles?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Best & Worst Of La Buena Vida | 7 Links Meme

I was recently tagged in a post by Leah about the 7 Links Meme--once I read what it was about, I loved it. See, as a photographer, I've noticed that my personal favorites from a session are often different than the client's favorites. I'm sure this is true for bloggers as well--that some of our favorite posts, the ones that we are most proud of, aren't always necessarily the ones that are most popular. Sometimes, they just get lost in the shuffle. The 7 Links Meme is an opportunity for bloggers to say, 'Hey, this is what's most important to ME. This is what I'm really all about.' I'm excited to give you a little sneak peek into my secret thoughts about this blog, and I can't wait to hear more about what some of YOU think as well!

What this is about:
To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.


1) Blogger is nominated to take part
2) Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.
- Your most beautiful post
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you

– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– The post that you are most proud of

3) Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part.

4) These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers
5) And so it goes on!
6) The site Trip Base be sharing the best posts from participating bloggers on their blog and everyday on Facebook and Twitter at #My7Links 

#1-Most Beautiful Post: {Blessed}
Although there are many posts that could have fallen into this category (such as this post written just two hours after Lizzy was born), this particular post about Justin's anniversary date night surprise immediately popped into mind. It was just so needed, and I am still so thankful for it.

#2-Most Popular Post: To this day, I still often receive emails about {Lizzy's Nursey Reveal} Post.



Although her room doesn't look quite like this anymore (furniture has been rearranged since she was using the curtains to climb out of her crib), it is still one of my favorite rooms in the house. I can't help but smile every time I walk in. I'm so blessed to have such amazing family and friends who helped me bring this to life!

#3-Most Controversial Post: {Let's Talk About Adoption}
I have a hard time with this one, because I know it hurt some feelings. It wasn't my intent to bash foster/adoptive parents--you all do a wonderful job, and I apologize if you felt that my post was unkind. That truly wasn't my intent--the heart of this post was simply to attempt to provide another point of view that I don't see often in blog-land, which is that I understand completely why DHS/CPS puts such an emphasis on placement with family over non-relative placement/adoption.

#4- Most Helpful Post: {Lens Flare/Backlit Tutorial}
Not one of my more popular posts, but I think it's one of the more thorough of all the tutorials I've done. Hopefully it's helpful!

#4-Post Whose Success Surprised Me: {Before I Chicken Out}
I don't think I've ever had as many comments on a post as I did when I posted 30-Day Progress photos from doing Insanity. I've been meaning to take some updated photos, but I feel like the progress kind of pales in comparison!

#5- Post That Didn't Get The Attention It Deserved: {The Power of the Cross}

I was REALLY excited about the idea of doing our own blog-land version of Cardboard Testimonials for Good Friday this past year, and thought that it would be really well received both in terms of participants and in terms of comments. I was a little bummed that more of my blog friends didn't participate this year, but that's okay! There's always next year, right ;)

#7- Post That You're Most Proud Of: {Thinking About Christmas}
I still stand by everything that I wrote here. Also, it's not every day that the author of Lord, Save Us From Your Followers comments on one of your blog posts!

I'd love to see the 7 Memes posts from:

A Day In Mollywood
My Crazy, Unpredictable Life
Girl Meets Life
The Domestic Wanabe

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mellow Yellow

For my birthday, one of the things that Justin got me was a set of extension tubes for my camera. I know that one of the main complaints when people switch over to a dslr from a point and shoot is that a dslr just doesn't handle macro shots that well. In the past, I've blogged about some work-arounds (such as turning your nifty fifty lens backwards and using a huge zoom to get the macro effect), and extension tubes are just another similar option. For less than $15, they're a good one, in my humble opinion. BUT, they do not work with auto-focus, so plan to shoot and focus on manual if you get them.

Here's my first time experimenting with the blooms from some star thistle weeds that my niece Shelby picked for me:





And with some petunias out front:




I'm still learning about how best to focus with this method, as well as which combos of lenses + tubes work best for different situations, but MAN, this is fun!

Monday, August 22, 2011

BQOTD: How often do you eat dessert?

Today's BQOTD: How often do you eat sweets/dessert of any kind--ice cream, cookies, brownies, candy, etc?

Do you eat something sweet every day? A couple of times a week? Through the day or only after dinner? Only when you have extra calories left at the end of the day? Whenever you really want it? Do you restrict how often you eat sweets, or just go with the flow?

Oh, and PS--I may be the last person in the world, but I joined Twitter! You can find me {here}. Do you do the whole Twitter thing? I'd love to know!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why I'm Quitting Crowdtap

Sigh. I hate that I'm now in a position to write this post.

Several months ago, I had my first unsatisfying experience with Crowdtap. Along with many others, I spoke out about it, and the situation was eventually rectified. I hoped that it was a fluke, because I know that a number of you have joined Crowdtap on my recommendation. And, I liked winning those $20 top awards (to date, I've cashed out over $125 at Amazon). For both of those reasons, I hoped that my experience was a one-time thing, due to some sort of miscommunication. However, I've now experienced the same situation twice more, and I just cannot sit by any longer and be a party to a company that engages in such deceptive business practices.

If you are a member of Crowdtap, you are already familiar with the "discussion" formats--essentially, you participate in a discussion to give a particular brand feedback, and then the "top contributors" (historically 1 in 25) win a prize of $10-$20.

A few months ago, I blogged about two opportunities that I had participated in through Crowdtap--the Hawaiian Tropic House Party and the Playtex Sport Wipes Sample Share. In addition to holding the house party and giving out samples, I wrote up a review for the company, and also answered discussion questions for the company. I put quite a bit of thought and time into answering the questions to the best of my ability, because I wanted to win the Top Award, which was posted as being $50 for the top 1 in 25 for the Hawaiian Tropic House Party, and $20 for the top 1 in 25 for the Playtex Sports Wipes sample share. Both discussions have closed several months ago, and no winners had been announced. I asked repeatedly both on the Crowdtap website itself and on their Facebook page about winners, and received no response until today:

Hey Meredith,
The official awards structure for sampling and hosted party actions have just been finalized, and the top 1/25 contributors for those actions will each win an award of 2,500 points. These awards will be given out either today or tomorrow. Sorry for the confusing messaging and delay in awards!
Keep Tappin!

Essentially, now that those discussions are complete, Crowdtap has elected to change the prize for top award from money, to points (which essentially have no value and may not be redeemed towards an Amazon gift card). This is the THIRD instance of such bait and switch tactics that I've been aware of, and there may be more (I haven't seemed to qualify for many actions since I've started publicly questioning Crowdtap's practices--not sure whether or not that's a coincidence).

Look, if Crowdtap wanted to make changes to the way that they structure their awards, that's fine. Roll out an email to the members advising them of the changes and go forward from there--but those changes should absolutely not take place retroactively for completed discussions and actions to which a $20 or $50 prize was already posted. My time and participation were based on the commitment of Crowdtap to provide the prizes that they stated they'd provide, and I think it's a shady, deceptive business tactic to change the terms of the agreement after the discussion has closed (and now that I've observed it three times, it certainly does feel like a tactic rather than a miscommunication).

Think of it this way--let's pretend that as a photographer, I invite all my blog readers to look at my website and give me feedback. The feedback that I'm requesting is a detailed questionnaire and would take you quite a bit of time to complete, but I give the incentive that the one person who I think completes the questionnaire most thoughtfully will win a free family photo session. So you really take your time, fill out the questionnaire to the best of your abilities. Several weeks go by, and you never see a winner announced. You email several times, but receive no response, until one day, I respond back to you and say, "I've just now decided how exactly to structure the contest winnings--the top contributor will actually just receive a gold star next to their name on any comments that they make on my blog. I'll announce the winner today or tomorrow. Sorry for any misunderstanding!"

As a photographer, if I were to do that, people would be beyond pissed, and they should be, because it's outrageous behavior--I suckered people into giving me their time and opinions with the promise of one thing, and then once they had done so in good faith, I changed my end of the bargain. And yet, that's exactly what Crowdtap has attempted to do three times that I'm aware of.

Am I way off base here, or is this markedly shady? 

Five Minute Friday: New

It's been awhile since I've participated in Five Minute Friday at The Gypsy Mama, but I'm back at it again was needed. If you're unfamiliar with Five Minute Friday, it's simple as this--every Friday morning, she posts a prompt, and you write for five minutes, without worrying about forming completely coherent thoughts, without worrying about typos, or whether what you're writing is just write.

Yesterday, I came across a simple desk at the store for $30. I haven't really had a desk since college, at least, and I've mentioned in the past that I just couldn't think of a good layout that included a desk in our living room, but on a whim, I bought the desk, figuring that I'd find a way to make it work.

The living room arrangement isn't my favorite that we've ever had, but it is probably more functional in the long-run...and I do like having a desk. A new home for my laptop, my to-do list, and a few pens...maybe even a printer in the future! It's nice having everything in one spot--and since it isn't as easy just to pull the laptop onto my lap while we're lounging around or watching TV, I hope that maybe I'll be more intentional with my time on the computer too.

Perhaps this new desk will bring about some much needed changes in our life too--more time intentionally spent playing with sweet Lizzy girl throughout the day. More time spent wholly in the moment with my sweet husband at night, rather than  half listening to him and half browsing blogs. Here's hoping...hoping for something new.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How I Like My Kindle

At first, I wasn't sure what to think about the Kindle, or other e-readers like it. I mean, I love books themselves. I love everything about them. I love walking through the bookstore, browsing (have I mentioned that I absolutely and unashamedly DO judge books by their covers?). I just couldn't see how I would possibly love an e-reader more than I would love the real deal. But then, I saw a few reviews mention the idea that an e-reader doesn't have to completely replace reading "real" books, but is a handy tool in and of itself to use alongside real books. Duh.

At that point, a Kindle became something that I definitely wasn't opposed to, but I cast it out of my mind as something that might be fun, but just wasn't in our budget, like a Wii.

My parents surprised me with a Kindle for my birthday. It wasn't on my list at all, and they said they had no idea whether or not it was something that I even wanted, but basically that I'm a huge book nerd and they thought it would be a good fit. I was eager to try it up on our trip to Idaho, and try it I did. Here's a few things that I like about the Kindle, and also a few things that I wish were different:

Things I Like:
-The screen is glare-free, and uses a different kind of lettering than I'd seen on any sort of electronic previously. The matte finish really does make it feel like you're reading a "real" book.
-The Kindle was really nice and practical for the trip--especially since I had been reading the last Outlander book, which is just a monstrosity of a book. I keep a book in my purse all the time, but can't usually do that with the Outlander books...but with the Kindle I can. I can really see how the Kindle is a practical tool for anyone who travels frequently or commutes to work via bus or train.
-Lizzy can't pull out my bookmark! As soon as I turn the thing on, it defaults right to where I left off!

Things I Don't Like:
-Recently, I've gone to purchase a couple of books off of Amazon, and the paperback price will be $7.99, but the Kindle price will be $12.99. This ticks me off to no end...there is absolutely no reason that the price of an e-book should be MORE than the price of it's paperback counterpart. And in the end, Amazon loses out because I end up not purchasing the book at all, in either format.
-At this time, you cannot check out books from the library on the Kindle. Supposedly, Kindle users should be able to check out library books "later this year", but it isn't available yet. I think my love for the Kindle will increase dramatically once that functionality is available.
-Rather than page numbers, the Kindle displays what percentage of the book you've read. The only thing that's kind of irritating to me is that sometimes when you're reading a larger book like Outlander, it can say that you're 99% done. I'll think 'Oh, I'm almost there...I'll just finish it out,' but then two hours later, I'm still reading. 99% done can sometimes mean two pages, but sometimes it might mean 200.

Overall though, I really like the Kindle so far, and definitely agree that it has its place alongside "real" books, just not in place of them!

What do you think? Do you have an e-reader? Do you hate it? Love it? Do you want one desperately?

PS- This was not a paid review.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Ah, we're home. It sure is nice to be here, but it was also really nice to have spent the past (almost) week at my aunt and uncle's lake house in Cour d'alene, Idaho. I mean, who doesn't want to wake up to this view every morning?!


Overall, the trip was just a huge blessing. We drove up to Portland last Wednesday after J got off work, and my aunt and uncle were nice enough to let us spend the night at their house. The next day, we were able to meet up with my college roommate Lisa--she and her boyfriend Lars live in Norway now, so it was a happy coincidence that they were going to be in the Portland area the same time we were, and we met them for lunch.



Then, we continued on the looonnnggg drive to Idaho. But we made it, and even without a DVD player for Lizzy.



We both got to do a little wakeboarding...I had forgotten how much I absolutely love it. My heart is happy just thinking about it.


Justin even wakeboarded in his new jeans for that Life in Lee photo contest...we just thought it would be something a little fun and unique!


And Lizzy and I accidentally made the American flag with our clothes one night at dinner :)


{mom & dad}

Overall, it was just such a blessing to be able to go, and to spend some time together doing nothing and everything. But coming home? That's pretty amazing too...even though today just might require five or six cups of coffee to get back to the daily grind!

Friday, August 12, 2011

BQOTD: Foods You Want To Love, But Hate

Almost everyone I know has a food (or several) that they wish they loved, but they actually just plain old' hate. Me? I have several:

-Eggs (I'm allergic)

What about y'all? Do you have any foods that you wish you loved but just don't?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

What if the scope of your entire world were a 12 foot by 12 foot room? Such is the case for Jack, the 5 year old narrator of Room by Emma Donoghue. To Jack, Room is simply a place where he and his mother live, eat, bathe, and learn. The idea that there might be life outside of Room simply hasn't occurred to Jack because he's never seen it.

To Jack's mother, the room in which she has been held captive for the past seven years has a very different connotation than it does to Jack. Ma longs to escape and to provide better for Jack--but what if her plans don't work...and sometimes even more frightening, what if they do?


I had been on the waitlist for Room at my local library for almost a year. Recently, I finally broke down and bought it with a gift card, because it appeared that there was STILL quite a long wait ahead of me. Room was one of the first books that I've actually purchased brand new in almost a year, so I was hoping that it would be worth it.

I suppose it was--it's a good book, and I'm glad to own it, though it isn't without flaws. However, like a lot of the books that I've read lately, I feel like the less you know going into in, the I'll refrain from saying a lot about the plot itself. That said, one of the more difficult things for me was not the plot at all, but getting used to the "voice" of the narrator, five-year-old Jack. Much of the book is made up of sentences like, “Ma leans out of Bed to switch on Lamp, he makes everything light up whoosh.” I confess--I have a hard time getting past random capitalization when I'm reading, and it is abundant in this book, as Jack tends to name every object that exists as if it were a proper pronoun.  

Still, that minor irritant aside, I thought that this book did a remarkable job with giving the reader "adult" information through the eyes of a child narrator--most often, the reader is given the opportunity to read between the lines rather than directly supplied information by the 5-year-old narrator that he probably wouldn't know or understand, and I appreciated that. 

I actually think this would be a perfect book for a book-club--even though it's not a personal favorite of mine, it does lend itself to conversation very well. Overall, it's worth a read!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your Diopter Is Showing.

If you have a dslr camera, have you ever adjusted the diopter? 

If the answer is no, and you have a hard time nailing exact focus while shooting in manual, check out this quick tip--it just might be a big help! The diopter is a little slide or knob that allows you to adjust what you see through the viewfinder if you don't have 20/20 vision. If you've never adjusted it (or sometimes if it just gets bumped), it can make it difficult to see--almost like watching TV with a pair of glasses from three prescriptions ago. Obviously, that can make it really hard to get your focus where you want it!

The diopter is usually located up by the viewfinder (on my Canon, it's just to the right of the viewfinder). The proper way to adjust the diopter is to look through the viewfinder towards a white wall, and adjust the diopter until the auto-focus points in your viewfinder look as sharp as possible, NOT to look at an object itself and adjust until it is sharp.

So I'm curious--have you ever adjusted your diopter before?

Table Rock--August 2011

This past Sunday morning (before everyone and their mother got God-awful sick), we headed out to climb Table Rock. Upper & Lower Table Rock are two amazing volcanic plateaus, and probably the most popular hiking spots in Southern Oregon--you can actually see one of the Table Rocks in the background of some of our sunset photos! Anyway, the Takelma Indian tribe used to live on the rocks, but during the gold rush, the settlers attempted to force them off the land and into reservations. Rumor has it that many of the Takelma actually jumped off the side of the rocks rather than leave their land.

Sometime in the 80's, it became a protected area (we have quite a few of those in Southern Oregon), and the Boy Scouts carved up several trails to the top--Upper Table Rock, which we did, is about 2.5 miles up and down.





Renee's mom Angel just recently moved here, and I am glad she came with us--it was her first time up to the top!




Climbing Table Rock 5 Times is actually on my 101 in 1001 List--and I'm happy to say that this time went MUCH better than it ever has in the past. Normally (pre-pregnancy), it's really a struggle for me in terms of my asthma, and the fact that I'm allergic to everything green that you see in the above photos. This time, I was out of breath, but not wheezing, which was awesome. I don't know whether it's Insanity or me growing out of my exercise-induced asthma, but I actually forgot to pick up my inhaler refill almost three months ago, and I could count on one hand the number of times I've wished I had it!

What a blessing to have stuff like this in Southern Oregon! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


- I feel so much better today. Thank GOD. Still, I haven't had the heart to try eating anything other than toast and applesauce.

-Lizzy is wearing a onesie today that says "An Inconvenient Poop". She earned it yesterday, and it makes me smile.

-These next two weeks? CRAAAZZZZYYYY packed. I apologize in advance if I'm a little MIA. My to-do list today? It's like 100 items long...but all I really want to do is go to Target and browse, lol!

-The Wiggles are not only incredibly annoying, but they are also incredibly catchy. I find myself singing their songs all the time, and then I'm like, "WHY?!" Please tell me I'm not alone.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Birthday to Remember...Or Maybe To Forget.

First of all, I'm just going to give a general warning that this post is gross--it includes puking, the stomach flu, poop, and just general suckiness. You have been warned.

So, on Sunday evening, Justin came down with what appeared to be the stomach flu. I went to bed HOPING that maybe it was just heat exhaustion from our hike on Sunday morning, but by about midnight it was apparent that it was either the flu or food poisoning, as I was in the thick of it too.

I (along with Justin, who even stayed home from work, which NEVER happens) spent my birthday either with the stomach flu or food poisoning...either way, I couldn't wait for the day to be over. It was just miserable. And poor Lizzy just wanted us to play with her so badly, but it was all we could do to lay on the couch.

Despite valiant efforts by my parents to make me feel a little better, including bringing over my birthday present anyway (a Kindle and some vintage turquoise Pyrex!), the day continued to go downhill quickly.

You see, sweet Justin laid Lizzy down for a nap not realizing that you can no longer lay her down in just her diaper. I went in to get her after several hours (she hadn't slept, but seemed to be playing happily in her crib), and she had taken off her diaper, and there was poop EVERYWHERE. All over her, all over the crib, everywhere. I couldn't help it--I puked. It was disgusting.

Lizzy said, "Mama, NO, NO!"

And then I sobbed. Full on, uncontrollable ugly-cry sobbed. Of all days--why on the day that even a commercial for food made me toss my cookies, why was that the day that I had to deal with poop smeared ALL OVER?! And on my birthday no less? It was just the suckiest of days. After I lost it, sweet Justin cleaned up the mess and gave Lizzy a bath.

We both still feel bad (I'm writing this Monday night), but have thus far managed to keep down a piece of toast and some ginger ale. We are both still dealing with fever/chills and extreme muscle ache and abdominal cramping though. Renee told me that poor Payton and Logan both threw up today too--we spent Saturday night and Sunday morning with them, so like I said, I'm not sure whether it's the flu or food poisoning, though none of us all ate the same thing while we were together, so I'm kinda leaning towards the former.

Either way, it was just a really shitty day. Literally.

Lens Flare/ Backlit Photo Tutorial

Several people asked if I could explain how to achieve the back-lit/sunflare look from the photos I posted of our tripod mini-session. I'm going to give it my best shot, but to be honest, this is one area of photography that I think instincts trump "rules". Further, every lens produces a different type of flare/sunburst, so my best advice is to spend quite a bit of time playing around with your own equipment.

Other than that, here are my tips:

1. Shoot either just before sunset or just after sunrise.
My preference is to shoot before sunset--I personally find that sunset often tends to give a warmer cast to the photos and sunrise tends to give a cooler effect.

(Shot shortly after sunrise)

(Shot shortly before sunset)

Of course, there's quite a lot that you can do with coloring in post-processing...but when I have the flexibility to do so, I try to shoot at the time of day that will be more likely to give me the coloring that I'm looking for. Also, it's important to remember that the light will bounce off your surroundings--so a field with yellow weeds will give you a warmer image than shooting near a river or green trees. 

2. Position the sun behind your subject. 
This is one area of shooting for back-light that may take some practice. Sometimes, you'll want to shoot with the sun directly behind your subject. Sometimes, you'll want to shoot with the sun behind and to the left or right of your subject. 

(sun almost directly behind subject)

SecondBest (2)
(sun behind and to the right of the subject--produced mostly lens flare rather than the backlit sunburst)

3. Learn your camera settings.
In a lot of ways, shooting photos that are back-lit go against most of what your camera instinctively tries to do. Due to this, many people will tell you that you need to shoot in full manual in order to get proper back-lit photos. It is unquestionably helpful to shoot in manual mode because you'll have a much higher degree of control. HOWEVER, I shot all of our mini-session in P mode for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) the fact that we don't have a shutter remote, so Justin and I were both hopping up to do a quick re-focus and to hit the shutter button to start the self-timer. You don't have to be a pro to shoot amazing back-lit photos--even if you're still shooting in full auto, you can give this a try. Personally, I find that the most important thing is to have a fundamental knowledge of exposure and light coupled with a basic degree of knowledge about your camera (specifically including the different metering modes and what they do) in order to know how to troubleshoot if you start seeing silhouettes and other such things when you don't want to.

Now, if you are comfortable shooting in manual, one thing that you should know is that a higher f/stop will often produce more of a sunburst and more of the funky lens flair than a lower f/stop. In my experience, you can still get the sunburst at a lower f-stop, but it may not be quite as defined, or you may just have more of a "glow".

SecondBest (11)
F Stop: 10 | Shutter Speed: 1/160 | ISO: 200 | Exposure: +.3

F Stop: 5.6 | Shutter Speed 1/400 | ISO: 200 | Exposure: +.3

See how that first photos (with the higher f/stop) has quite a few more lens flares and the rays of the sunburst itself are a bit more defined? Yep, that's it. But again, remember that each lens will produce a different type of flare, so you may have to play around with shooting your specific lens both at high and low f/stops to see what your lens is capable of.

4. Either manually focus, or use your hand to temporarily block the sun in auto-focus.
In most instances, it is harder to nail your focus when you're shooting these types of photos. To some degree, I say embrace it. But either manually focusing or using your hand to block the sun while using auto-focus is a big help.

5. Shoot in RAW. 
When it comes to shooting back-lit photos, I always, always, ALWAYS recommend shooting in RAW. 

Check out this photo:

But here's what it looked like Straight Out Of The Camera:

Pretty washed out, no? But by shooting in RAW, I can bring back some of the shadows and contrast in post-processing. Here's what my sliders looked like upon opening up the image:

(you can click to enlarge if you want to see specifics)

First, I took up the shadows slider quite a bit, from 5 to 62:


Doing so brought back a lot of detail, but it was then a little too orange for my taste. I tweaked the exposure and temperature tabs just slightly and then bumped the shadows up just a hair more until I ended up with my final image:

Are you convinced to shoot in RAW yet? 

6. Be flexible. 
One of the fun parts of shooting these types of photos is that it's hard to know exactly how they'll turn out. I admit that sometimes I drive myself crazy trying to get that flare in exactly the right place that I imagined. Instead, try to go with the flow and be a little bit flexible--sometimes it's okay if you can't see the whole face, or if you WAY over-exposed. For me, the bottom line is whether or not that photo causes you to go weak in the knees--if it does, it's right, whether or not all the technical aspects are.

Did I miss anything friends?
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