Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Best Work. . . So Far.

I finally did it. I made a little logo/watermark thingy for my photos.

I didn't do it for a long time because I felt silly. . . like I was pretending to be a real photographer.

So it's kind of a big step for me to say to myself and to the world, "I AM a real photographer."

No, I don't have a business. I'm just a gal with a camera who wants to create great art. . . even if I'm not quite there yet.

Here's a quick video that I've watched about a gazillion times. The guy in the video totally gets me.

I'm taking his words to heart and trying to do a huge volume of work. Lots of shooting and lots of editing with a class or two thrown in for good measure. I hope that in a couple of years, I'll look back and really be proud of how far I've come. 

I had a camera for years, but I took my first class this past year at age 51, so I figure it's never too late to start.

What about you?

Is there a dream your heart wants to pursue?

Little by Little

Ni Hao Yall

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

12 Photo Ideas for Soccer Moms

The secret is out. I want to be a photographer when I grow up. I am a soccer mom with a camera.

And I'm finding there are at least three main ingredients to great soccer shots.

First you need the technical know-how to shoot action. You need to know your way around your camera. You need a fast shutter speed. And you need to learn to use your auto focus to track a moving subject.

That one, my friends, is going to be the death of me. But since I spend about half my life at the soccer fields, I have a lot of time to practice. And I'm just going to practice, practice, practice, until I get it right.

All that said, this is not a post about technical skills.

Second, you need the right equipment. At the very least, you need a DSLR camera and a zoom lens.

But this is not a post about camera gear.

The last ingredient is often overlooked. To get great youth soccer pics, you need to come out of the box (soccer pun intended) and take interesting shots. That's what this post is all about.

Standing in the same place on the sidelines for the entire game and shooting the action from the side will result in boring soccer photos. Trust me. I know. My computer is full of boring soccer photos.

To get interesting soccer photos, you have to get moving.

Walk around and shoot from different angles. Sit down ( or even lie down, if you dare)  for better results.

And while you're on the move, try to get the following 12 shots. They'll infuse your regular soccer photos with variety and fresh perspective. They'll help you tell the story.

1. Tell the story from the beginning by shooting the arrival at the fields.

2.  Shoot the warm up drills.

3. Get the money shots during the warm up drills. Money shots are those frame-able action shots that make the player look like a superstar. The kind parents would pay real money for. Now while the kids do all these amazing moves in the real game, they are easy to miss, and often, other players run in front of your camera right as you press the shutter. The next three photos were shot during warm-ups.

4.  Don't forget the pre-game rituals. They help tell the story.

5. Get a shot from behind the net. How cool is that!

6. Get the ball in as many photos as possible. In soccer, the action is always where the ball is! Extra points for the ball in the air. 

6. Shoot the action from behind as they run away from you. This easy shot shows off the numbers on the backs of their jerseys.

7. Shoot water breaks.

8. Shoot the pep talks.

9. Shoot the celebration when they score.

10. Shake things up by shooting a portrait of a non-playing sibling with the action in the background. Siblings spend a lot of time at the fields. They are part of the story. (This is my adopted son, Wenxin. You can read his story here and find out more about older child adoption here.)

11. Shoot their feet. Soccer cleats are colorful and fun. Don't forget to zoom in for some close-ups of the ball at their feet.

12. Shoot the post game handshakes and high fives.

Soccer moms with cameras, what other "must have" shots should I add to this list?

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Friday, February 14, 2014

Continuing to Honor His Chinese Heritage

China. It's important to him and important to us. 

Still, we almost missed it.

Chinese New Year.

In the busy-ness of life, it's easy to overlook holidays I didn't grow up celebrating. We were out of town for a soccer tournament on Chinese New Year this year, so The Year of the Horse arrived unnoticed. There was zero fanfare that evening as we shared dinner at a Chick Fil A by the interstate. Red envelopes (for giving money to the kids) lay forgotten in a drawer back home.

On top of that, I almost forgot the annual Chinese New Year parade last weekend. Mike and Nathan were away on a campout, and Julia was spending the weekend with a friend. As I was getting ready for church, I remembered that the parade was on a Sunday in early February and quickly checked my computer.  

Yikes! It would start in a couple of hours.

We were able to go to church and then join our Asian-American community downtown, just in time for the first float.

Dragons. Mardi Gras beads. Lots of free candy.

A whole sea of folks who looked more like Wenxin than they looked like me.

And an Asian meal that was to die for.

It was a great day.

International adoption is a tricky dance. On the one hand, I want to honor his birth culture. 

But on the other hand, I don't want to constantly point out his differentness, making him essentially a life-long exchange student in our home.

I think what I'm shooting for is a little more nuanced. I want to see our family culture shift slightly and embrace more Chinese culture. It takes intentionality on my part, which means it doesn't always happen. But every time I make the effort -- like changing plans last minute to get Katherine and Wenxin to the parade last Sunday -- I'm reminded that it's worth it.

Recently, Nathan competed in The Ying Expo, a county wide science fair sponsored by Dr. Nelson Ying. At the Awards Ceremony, Nathan received second place in Computer Science. We were thrilled, and as we cheered and clapped, Wenxin had a question.

"Mom, where is Dr.Ying from?"

Back at home, we looked up Dr. Ying's bio online and learned that his family immigrated from China during The Cultural Revolution. They started a new life in America, building a successful business. Now, the senior Dr. Ying and his son (pictured above with Nathan) generously sponsor several science competitions in our area.

I was reminded that Wenxin needs role models who look like him.

Meeting successful Chinese Americans plants seeds of pride in his Chinese American heritage and  gives him a glimpse of what can happen with hard work and perseverance.


It will always be important, because my son in Chinese.

And my family is still evolving, learning to embrace that truth and discovering what it means for us.

Sharing today at The Long Road to China.