Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Click Away in Seattle

Look at this, two posts in one week.  I'm on a roll here.  :)

Last year toward the end of the summer, I took my first photography class to learn how to shoot my DSLR in full manual, thanks to my sister-in-law, Deborah, who blazed the photography trail by connecting with an organization called The Photographer's Element.  That first four-week class was so much fun and I learned so much that I signed up to take another four-week class on composition.  I have really enjoyed taking pictures for years now and Paul is the one who really got us set up with a nice camera back in law school when we were doing so much traveling, but it wasn't until taking these classes that I realized what a fun hobby it is and how much there is to learn about what makes a good photograph and how to achieve one.

I'm definitely not much of a photographer and I have tons to learn and lots of practicing that I need to do, but I think I have come a long way in the past year.  And last October I learned about an organization called Clickin' Moms and their annual photography conference when they streamed 10 live classes from the conference while Deborah and I were in Yosemite.  We didn't get to watch those classes but we talked photography that whole week and took our cameras out trying to be really intentional about not only taking pictures of what we were doing and our kids, but actually taking interesting pictures.

When I'm looking through a viewfinder, and actually, even before I put the camera up to my eye, I'm now assessing things like the quality of the light, color and shapes and patterns, lines and space, emotion and meaning of the subject of my photo, etc.  Plus making choices about camera settings for background blur, where my focal point should be, how to frame my subject, and on and on.  There are so many different things to think about when shooting like this and I think it is the challenge and thought-process behind it that provides a lot of the reward for me.

Anyway, I decided last October that if it was at all possible, I was going to try to go to Click Away in 2016.  When they announced that it was going to be in Seattle, I knew I sort of had to do it.  I went all by myself, not really knowing anybody beforehand, but since I have really gone deep into this crazy hobby I have made some online friends and connected through FB with some Bay Area photographers who were looking for me at the airport since we arranged to go on the same flight.

Click Away was a total blast.  I feel like I learned so, so much from actually walking around photographing in the exact same light as really experienced professionals, getting to ask them questions (and hearing other people's questions), checking my settings against theirs and looking at the back of their camera screens to compare against what I was shooting - it was so different than an online class and I loved it for what a different experience it was.

I had 5 boutique classes that were small groups of about 25-30 women and 3 classes that were larger, lecture style classes in conference rooms at the hotel.  There were always lots of classes going on so I was able to pick and choose what interested me most and then I also got recordings of the live-streaming classes, which I haven't had a chance to watch yet but am looking forward to.  I did 1 outdoor observation & nature based class at the Seattle City Center which is a park area near the Space Needle.  Then I had 2 family photo shoot sessions - one in a park setting with trees, grass, etc. and the other over at Pike's Place Market in a more urban setting.  Unfortunately, I somehow deleted all of my images from one of those sessions, which is a bummer.  My other 2 boutique sessions were indoors in suites so that we could focus on indoor lighting and shadows, etc.

I don't know where Click Away will be next year and if I will be able to go again, but I absolutely loved the experience and I think it was so good for me to get away for a few days.  Paul took great care of the girls while I was gone and even took Friday off of work to take over my room-mom duties for Clara's Kindergarten class since it was their Jog-a-Thon.  I came home to flowers and a clean house and my loves who I missed a ton while I was gone.

Here are some of my favorite images that I took at Click Away.  This first set was from a class called "Uncovered Beauty" where we talked about observing shape and color and lines and really thinking and pausing before even putting our cameras up to our eyes so that we could be intentional in the photographs we were taking.

This next set of images is from an urban family photo session in the area around Pike's Place Market.  I love that we got to work with backlighting and some lower lighting in this session since we were moving around a lot.  I also got really lucky and avoided the rain that was off and on the whole time we were there.  Other sessions had to deal with the weather but it was always dry when I was outside.

That's our instructor, Elena Blair, in the middle in black.  

This next class was in the Presidential Suite where Obama has stayed (this was a big thing apparently) with Anna Larson in a class about using window lighting in small spaces.  The other women were good about rotating around each other so we could also practice taking pictures of our cute model family.  I loved both my indoor classes because it gave me ideas for how to take better pictures in my own home of my girls (something I have struggled with and consequently haven't posted many photos along those lines - something I plan to change).

My new friend Claudy & I practiced applying some of the lighting principals we were learning by modeling for each other.  Here is my image of here where I was trying to capture Rembrandt lighting (that little patch of light on her cheek on the shadowed side of her face is surprisingly tricky to achieve!).

And here is one she took of me that she sent to me afterwards:

My other indoor class was called "The Art of Darkness" with a photographer named Allison McSorley and she was maybe my favorite instructor of all.  I find darker images and deeper shadows really compelling and felt like I had a bunch of a-ha! moments while listening to her and getting to ask her my questions.  Our little models were hilarious and the youngest sister, who was 4, had me dying when she came over to me, smiled prettily, then pointed to my teeth and told me that she "liked my rings on my teeth".  

I'm just going to throw this out there that if anybody who reads this is interested in learning about photography, I think that Clickin' Moms is pretty wonderful.  And I would definitely recommend taking at least one or two basic classes because you can learn so much!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Disneyland with the Horne Cousins

My sister Jennie has been planning a Disneyland vacation for her family for months.  I wasn't planning on going since we were doing Yosemite the week just after and I wasn't sure about taking Clara out of school for multiple days two weeks in a row, but when it came down to it I just couldn't not go.  So the day of my birthday, I drove to Anaheim and met up with Jennie, her family, and my parents and the next day we all went to Disneyland together (except Paul who had to stay home to work).  

It was such a wonderful trip.  The weather could not have been more perfect - mild but not chilly - and the crowds were manageable.  Certainly not the worst crowds I have experienced at Disneyland and given our pace and what we wanted to do with the girls we didn't have a hard time getting on the things we wanted to.  We were at the park before the gates opened at 8:30 and stayed until closing and didn't have any crying or hardly even any whining out of any of the girls.  We think a lot of that was because the cousins had so much fun just being together and talking to each other that even standing in lines was no big deal for them.

The first ride we did was Peter Pan's Adventure.  It was actually one of the longer lines we stood in for the day - probably about 30 minutes, maybe a little less - but because it was the first line it didn't seem too bad.  And the girls were completely distracted by the Evil Queen in a second story window above the Snow White ride across the way who kept popping out from behind the curtains to gaze coldly down at us.  The girls attention was rapt as they watched for her and then they would point and exclaim over and over.  It was the cutest.

Even Jennie's twins did great.  They were able to take naps in their stroller and they just toddled around.  They danced to music and were just generally happy little girls.  They, along with Rose, especially loved the Tiki Room, which was easily one of the top 2 or 3 favorite experiences of the day.  Rose's mind was totally blown in there and she kept throwing her arms around me to hug me (something she does when she is overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness) before turning to gaze again at those magical, enchanted birds and flowers and totems.

Adelaide is my goofy, fiery little niece and I am just obsessed with this girl.  And I think the feeling is mutual.  It is super flattering that she held my hand for a good part of the day and asked to ride with me on lots of the rides.  And the fact that Rose didn't get jealous of Adelaide holding my hand but would happily just hold the other hand and smile and jabber with her closest-in-age cousin speaks volumes.  I loved taking turns with each of my nieces and got to ride with all of them at some point, which was so fun.  And I loved that my girls got turns to go on rides with their aunt & uncle and grandpa & grandma as well.  So grateful for these relationships and bonds that we are able to develop.

The princesses at the Royal Hall were another big hit of the day.  They rotate throughout the day so you never really know who will be there but we lucked out and got our trifecta - Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel.  Easily, Snow White is Rose's favorite princess, and it is well-established that Ariel is Clara's favorite.  The girls had lovely conversations with each princess.  Clara had an apple that she offered to Snow White, assuring her that it wasn't poisoned.  Rose told each princess that she "liked her dress" and would gently stroke the fabric or point to their bows (or lack thereof in Ariel's case) and comment about them with a confident little "I like your bow!" that was distinct enough for them to understand her and respond.  It was the cutest.

When we tried taking a group photo with Snow White, Rose couldn't be bothered to turn around because she just wanted to bask in the presence of her favorite princess and kept embracing her around her legs with a contented, blissful expression on her little face.  Rose sings "Some day my prince will come...." and "I'm wishing for the one I love..." every single day and I have got to get it on video soon before she changes the way she does it.  

We didn't get to all of the rides, but with half our group not meeting height requirements, we weren't really planning on it.  We still got to Dumbo, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Matterhorn, Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Teacups, Alice In Wonderland, It's A Small World and some others that I think I'm forgetting.  

I discovered a new favorite Disneyland treat at the Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe where we ate lunch - these amazing raspberry macarons with raspberry cream.  They were so unbelievably good that once the parade got over, I asked my mom to get another to share with me since Rose was passed out in my arms and the twins were sleeping.  So while Jennie & Ryan took the big girls to Toon Town, we sat in the shade enjoying this wonderful creation while my arm fell asleep under the weight of Rose's head.

The next morning, before I headed out with the girls to drive home, we all did our first character breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel.  It's a Surf's Up theme and was really cute and fun.  The girls loved seeing the characters and there was a little dance party at the end that they all really got into.  Rose danced with Mickey and smiled from ear-to-ear.  And the food was delicious (but expensive).  I loved the chilaquiles and the banana french toast.

And that was our quick trip to the happiest place on earth!  So glad we got to do it with Jennie & her family.