Category Archives: Photography


Summer is our busiest season of the year. I can be a hermit from September to April, but May to August is when the adventure happens. A lot of adventure.

We went camping twice in May– both just state parks within a few hours of us. I still need to blog about the second trip, which was our very worst camping trip ever.

June was out to Colorado to pick up N and enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. 2015-06-30_0017

In July, we visited Aaron’s family in Missouri. I had a work trip in Wisconsin. Aaron and the kids drove out and met me in Illinois and then we headed East, stopping for a few hours in Chicago, very briefly at Cuyahoga National Park (Ohio), a quick morning swim at Lake Erie (Ohio), an overnight in the incredible darkest spot east of the Mississippi, Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania), and lastly at The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania before we reached our destination in Eastern Pennsylvania. Whew. I needed a nap.

Chicago was a lot of fun. Through the adoption community, I have a made a wonderful friend, Amanda. She invited us over to her apartment for Chicago style pizza. Then we took the train to her office, which has an incredible view of the Chicago skyline.

We had so much fun with her. We just want to come back another time when we have more than a few hours for a real tour. Amanda was an awesome host and tour guide!

The next day, we stopped at Lake Erie for a quick swim.

Aaron and I had been looking forward to going to Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania for months. It’s the only gold-rated (highest rated) dark sky park East of the Mississippi. They had an sky tour, where they used a laser pointer to talk about different constellations and we got to look through telescopes to see Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudier than we’d hope, but we still were able to enjoy it.

(There are more photos from Cherry Springs on my photography Facebook page.)

The next day, we made a quick stop by the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. We found it to be a little bit underwhelming.

Just a few more hours of driving + one tunnel (always exciting) and we reached our destination.

We are now semi-unpacked here for a few weeks, enjoying family time!

365 Photos

My Project 365 is finished. One photo, each day for a year, done.

I am somewhere in the mix of proud and relieved. I’m great at starting things, but I struggle to finish them. So, this feels like an accomplishment.

A lot of people said, “How do you complete a Project 365?” Of course, the instructions are simple: take a photo every day. But, the challenge is actually doing it every day for a year. I know, because I’ve started it before and stopped just a few months in.

However, completing it this time, I came away with two big things that I think made it possible to keep this up every day:

I took my camera everywhere. It was pretty much always in my bag. In the few times that I didn’t have my camera, I used my phone. I have photos in McDonalds and Target and the doctor’s office and a whole lot from the school playground. I definitely got a few odd looks. I even had one woman who works at my kids’ school tell me that she wondered why I always had my camera with me, until she mentioned it to Lena’s teacher, who knew about my blog. There were definitely funny looks or eye rolls throughout the project as I toted my camera everywhere, but perhaps a little hidden benefit of the project is that you stop caring what people think of you after awhile. 🙂

I didn’t try to take the perfect photo every day. Most days, I just tried to be done! This sounds silly, but I think if you do something every day for a year, you’re bound to learn something, probably quite a bit of somethings. But, you’re not always going to get it perfect or get what you want. I got sick twice in my first few months of the Project 365, once with the stomach flu and once with strep. What I was able to accomplish either time wasn’t impressive, but I’m glad I kept going. I think that it would have been easy to give up on those days, but I probably would have missed dozens of photos in future day if I had given up.

Some of you might be wondering what the point of this sort of project is. For some people, it’s the act of documenting every day. That is part of it for me. But, the larger part is that I want to improve my photography skills and the best way to do that is by lots of practice. Committing to take a photo a day will naturally cause improvement.

I made two goals for myself this year.

  • Practice composition, particularly in candid shots
  • Focus on getting images right SOOC (straight out of camera)

Let’s talk about how I did with those goals.

Practice composition, particularly in candid shots

This is still a bit challenging for me, but I feel like I’ve made some improvements in this area in the last year. It feels like baby steps over huge strides. I think I’ve gotten a lot better about “chopping limbs”, meaning that I cut off a foot or hand when it should have been included. I still find slowing down long enough to really focus on composition to be a challenge. I’m also starting a mentorship with another photographer and this is something that we will work on.

Focus on getting images right SOOC (straight out of camera)

This is one area when I feel like I’ve improved a lot. I shoot entirely in manual mode, for the complete control over my settings. I’m spending a lot less time editing than I was a year ago, doing basic corrections. I think it’s still a bit of a challenge sometimes to change my settings fast enough if I’m chasing kids around, but I think that’s just because my kids move fast!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the past year.  There are a ton and it was still hard to pick!


I love the way that these photos help me remember these moments. I also love how they remind me of what is important. Photography helps me see the beauty in moments I might have overlooked. 365 days of beautiful moments.

August Photo Recap

Each month, I share how I did the previous month with my 365 goals and also share upcoming goals for the next month. I’m down to my last month of my 365. WHEW.



August Goals

  • Reconnecting with friends
  • End of Summer Fun
  • Start of School
  • Saying Goodbye to Big L

So, how did I do?

Reconnecting with friends

After visiting my family for a long period of time this summer, it was nice to see our friends again! However, August was still a pretty jam-packed month and we didn’t spend a ton of time with friends. But, the few times and few friends we did see, were well documented instances. Like Busker Fest.



End of Summer Fun

Yes, we had it! We had so much fun this summer, and one of my favorite memories towards the end of the summer was our silly string fights. It was a great way to laugh as a family and have fun!

Start of School

August marked the start of the school year for us. I am continuing my tradition of having the kids pose by the gate for their first day of school. This is an easy way notice their growth!

Saying Goodbye to Big L

I took so many photos in Big L’s last few days with us. And, I’m glad to have all of them.


September Must-Capture List:

  • Gus’s start of school
  • My birthday 🙂

Project 365: July Update

I’m a bit late getting my July update for my Project 365 together. It’s hard to believe that I have just two months to go. July was a busy month and there were a couple of days where I realized that I almost missed taking a photo. One in particular where I didn’t pick up my camera all day! Oops. Fortunately, I did take a photo with my phone.

Here’s July’s photo calendar:


Here’s a review of my “Must Capture” list for July.

4th of July fun

I wish I had been able to enjoy the fireworks more (without Gus melting down and begging me to take him home, which I did), but I still think I did an okay job capturing this. Apart from Gus’s meltdown, we had a wonderful 4th of July and I’m really glad that Big L was here to experience it!

More Summer Fun

Yes, we had lots of summer fun, particularly with my sister’s family. So many wonderful memories were made.

Family Reunion #2/Family Traditions

I definitely feel like I got what I wanted for this one. This is one of those things that I want my kids to remember about their childhood. Connecting with extended family, having a blast running around a farm and doing all the things kids SHOULD do– catching frogs, climbing on hay bales, sneaking cookies behind their mom’s back.

Traveling Back Home

I did an okay job with this. Goodbyes are hard and the drive is long. I’m not quite sure what my original purpose was with this one, so good enough.

August Goals

  • Reconnecting with friends
  • End of Summer Fun
  • Start of School
  • Saying Goodbye to Big L

Looking forward to capturing another full month!

Photoshop Tutorial: School Year Composite

reedkindergartenThe school year composite photos have become a fun way for me to document the school year and show how my kids changed from August to May. The idea started for me last year, when Reed finished kindergarten. I had two nearly identical photos from his first day and his last day, and I was planning to put them side by side. Then, I wondered why I couldn’t just put these two Reeds side by side in the same photo.

A bit of time spent in Photoshop and it was complete!

Reed thought it was hilarious.

This year, I took both photos with the plan to do this again, and I had a couple of requests for a tutorial. So, here you go. 🙂



School Year Composite Photo:

  1. Pick your location. Someplace which you know will not change very much over the course of the school year. A front porch, or in our case, our fence.
  2. Place your child in front of their location and snap your photo. If you can, take the photo from a spot where you will remember to stand in 9 months. Take a good photo, with particular attention to the sharpness.
  3. Repeat step number two at the end of the school year. 🙂
  4. Edit your photos as similarly as possible. If you use Lightroom, use the “Develop Settings/Copy Settings” option to copy over all of the settings. Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 5.01.58 PM
  5.  Bring both photos into photoshop. Again, if you use Lightroom, you can do this using “Edit In/Edit In Adobe Photoshop”.
  6. Pick which photo you like the background better in. Go to the OTHER photo. For me, I usually prefer the end of year one.
  7. Use the selection tool to select your child, with a bit of margin on all sides. Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 9.20.27 PM
  8. Paste this onto the other photo. Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 9.19.05 PM
  9. Now, use the background (in my case the fence) to line your two photos up. You will probably need to use the “Free Transform”(⌘T on a Mac on CTRL-T on a PC). Things may not line up perfectly (note the rocks at the bottom of my image), but do your best. 
  10. Now, switch to the eraser tool. Make it pretty large, and start removing the extra background on your pasted layer. Do not bother getting too close to your subject. We’ll deal with that in a minute. Just remove any major excess. Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 9.21.48 PM
  11. Once you’ve removed the large chunks of background, switch to the background eraser tool (the eraser plus scissors). Now you will use this tool to go around your subject again, but get much closer this time. You may need to adjust to tolerance. Here I have mine set at 12%. Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 9.22.56 PM
  12. Now go back over it with the regular eraser and touch up any areas where the background eraser didn’t get everything you wanted.
  13. Zoom out to look at your photo. The composite part should be nearly done; do any final touch ups.
  14. Now, it’s time to add the text. I like to do this by adding a black rectangle with white text, like a chalkboard. Start with the rectangle shape tool and make your rectangle. Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 10.16.56 PM
  15. I like to adjust the opacity(in your layers section), for a softer look. In my final image, I have it set at 73%.
  16. Now, just type your text on. I like to use school-inspired fonts. Da Font is a good place to download free fonts. Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 11.55.43 PM
  17. All done!


If you are wondering about obtaining Lightroom and/or Photoshop, I highly recommend the Adobe Photoshop Photography Program, which gives you Lightroom and Photoshop for $10/mo.

Questions? Comments? Ready to give it a try?