Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dress Up

I loved to to play dress up as a little girl.  And as a teen.  And as a college student.  And I may or may not have costume appropriate clothing in my closet now.  There's just something about putting on a different from every day kind of outfit and experimenting with a new hairstyle or makeup application that feels exciting and adventurous.  The Major assures me this is a girl thing, but I don't believe him.  You should see how he fusses over new uniform standards. 

One of the things I love the most about a new look or new costume is that you really do get to create your own reality.  You can imagine the personality the wearer of the look would present to the world.  You can insert yourself into the life that outfit would lead.  Or you can feel more fully yourself in a certain dress.

For my five year old niece Hailey, I think the latter is what inspires her costume choices.  She has a trunk full of them.  Everything you can imagine, her parents have procured at after Halloween closeout sales over the years.  Her collection of fire retardant fairy costumes and princess gowns is resplendent.  Not to mention her witches and pirates and super heroes and vampires.  The girl has a wide and varied desire to try on new personas.  But the one she continually returns to is that of princess. 

Whatever outfit she dons, she connects to her royal roots.  Vampire princess, pirate princess, Princess of the super hero guild.  The girl has got it figured out.  She can be whatever she wants to be and still maintain her true, core self.  She doesn't have to give up her royal sensibilities to have and be whatever she dreams of.  She's a princess at heart, and likely always will be.  But that won't hold her back from being a frog wrangler or fire fighter.

A few weeks ago, I made the  mistake of telling her she couldn't be both.  We were playing dress up and trying on different costumes.  She put on her pirate costume and informed me she was now the pirate princess.  I told her she couldn't be both.  That she could be a pirate or a princess, but not both.  She had to pick one, and since she was wearing a pirate costume that made the most sense.  She looked at me for a moment, her moss green eyes clouded with confusion, then said in a small voice,  "But I want to be both.  Why do I have to pick?" 

As I thought for a moment about how to explain to her why it was better to choose one thing, I realized I didn't have a good answer and that, really, I was just wrong.  So I reassured her that I was just being silly and that of course she could be whatever she wanted to be.  As she flung herself into my arms for a hug she shouted "And you can be whatever you want to be, too!"  Thanks for the reminder, Haily Bug.  Apparently, Aunt Jess doesn't have the market cornered on wisdom just yet.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


It's been a while since I went out to take pictures.  I've missed it, but I've had other things on my mind of late.  But yesterday, I couldn't take the confinement of winter a minute longer, so I packed up the Major and our beast into the car and headed to the park.  It was a brilliantly sunny day, with light blue skies and wispy clouds skittering across the sky.  I, of course, got no pictures of the sweeping, crisp views.  It was a macro kind of day for me, and the ice formations next to the walkways had my attention.  I figured I may as well embrace winter, at least photographically.  And the winter of my eye was stark and foreign.  It certainly fit my mood, anyway.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I May Have Mentioned This Before

We had a bit of a warm up this past week.  Temperatures rose to the mid 50s and things started to thaw.  Of course, the sun still  hid its shining face, but the warmth was enough to lighten my heart.  Now we're back down in the teens, and the sun is shining.  Go figure.  I am not usually one to wish winter away.  I appreciate the special kind of quiet the permeates the outdoors during our snow laden months.  Sounds are muffled yet crisp, and I love it.  But I'm ready for the lazy days of summer, which are not lazy at all.  I'm ready for the waterways to open back up, to watch life float by at the pace of the current.  I'm ready for the ducks to come back.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love This Girl

I'm in a family kind of mood lately.  I'm missing home and my nieces and nephews terribly.  I may have to plan a trip soon, but in the mean time, I'm comforting myself by sending them emails and looking at old pictures.  My oldest niece, in particular, is extremely photogenic.  She's going to be a real beauty when she grows up.  I'm in no hurry for those days. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Missing Grandpa

The Major's grandfather passed away just after Christmas this past year.  He's been gone only a little over a month, but it feels much longer than that.  I loved the relationship I had with him.  He was a kind man.  Strong and funny and faithful.  I learned so much from him and continue to find myself wanting to ask him questions about this or that.  He was a World War II veteran who rarely talked about his time in the war.  I think the horror of war in the South Pacific was more than he cared to remember or share.  He was a simple man.  A frugal man.  A loving man.  And as our life changes yet again, I find myself missing him more than usual.  He would love the direction our life is taking.  He would celebrate with us, and he would have a world of wisdom to share.  I miss grandpa.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Project 52 Week 4

I really like taking candid photos of people.  I think you learn so much more about them in a candid photo than you ever could in a posed shot.  People have a tendency to hide their insecurities and faults to the best of their ability when they know a camera is pointed at them.  A candid shot allows you to see the rough edges, the hidden beauty, a more real truth about the subject.

Here's a candid I shot last week.  I like the look of concentration on his face, the intensity you can see in his eyes.  His body language suggests he doesn't necessarily agree with what's being said.  He wants to say something he thinks he shouldn't.  Or he knows more than is being communicated and is literally keeping his mouth shut.  Of course, that's just my take.  What do you think? 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pictures of Strangers II

It was a gorgeous fall day in the park when I spotted this little sweetheart.  She was just full of giggly little girl energy and she made me smile.  She made me smile much.  So I asked her mama if I could photograph her and, miracle of miracles, she said yes!!!

I'd love to spontaneously photograph more kids, but I am always concerned about the creeper factor.  Ya know?  People are very wisely cautious of strangers with cameras and their kids, and it makes me sad that they have to be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Hate Being Cold

More than just about anything, I hate being cold.  Chilly, I can handle.  But bone aching, shiver enducing cold, I cannot stand.  And lucky me, it's -20F tonight with a windchill that makes it feel much colder.  As if that wasn't quite enough, our furnace has decided to not work right tonight.  It runs, then stops and we have to manually rest it to get it to run, then it stops again.  We've already had a repairman here once today, and it looks as if he may be making a return visit.  I am so ready to not be cold anymore.  Please, dear Lord, make it warmer.  I'd settle for a nice solid 0 degrees.  5 would be better.  If this keeps up, I may just get in the car (praying the cold hasn't killed the battery) and drive south until I hit water.  Actually, that sounds better and better.  I've never been to Florida.  I think I should go.  Now.

And you know what the irony of the whole situation is?  Just this past week I was admiring the snow and taking pictures upon pictures of it for my Project 52.  The theme this past week was "Shades of Gray" and with the colorless landscape and deep shadows and snow, that's exactly what they were.  They don't have snow in southern Florida.  And I'd miss it, because I really do love snow.  It's the bitter, too cold to snow, subzero temperatures that I can't handle.  Blah.

On a brighter note, the Packers are going to the Super Bowl.  Make of it what you will.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Need Some Inspiration

The theme for this week's Project 52 is "Shades of Gray".  I'm having a hard time coming up with anything.  I mean, it would be easy enough to take a picture and convert it to black and white and be done with it, but I'm really making an effort to be as creative as possible with these photo assignments, because otherwise, what's the point.

I tried to take some macro shots of snowflakes, but that didn't go very well, mostly because I don't yet have a true macro lens.  I may go for a creepy Alfred Hitchcock-esque kind of thing, with the crows that like to fly into the city at night.  We'll see.  In the mean time, here's a black and white portrait I took a few weeks ago. 

I like how on the right side of the picture, the shadows and light make one of those things that looks like a face from both perspectives.  Does that make sense?  What are those things called?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Theater

 I may be auditioning for a show tonight.  I am not convinced.  I haven't done a show in a few years, the last being a comedy improve show I was a part of.  Funny story, that.  I broke my ankle the evening before the show opened, and did the whole run on crutches, because not taking advantage of the comic gold opportunities of a cast and crutches would have been irresponsible.  Of course, I can't tell you exactly how it went as there was a lot of pain, and more importantly, pain killers involved.  But the pictures are great.

Now you're expecting that I'll share them, which I won't, because those were my pre-digital days and I don't own a scanner.  You'll just have to take my word on it.

I can't seem to make up my mind about whether or not I really want to audition.  I mean, I do.  But I am hesitant to commit so much of my time.  I might miss my shows.  Or my evening nap.  And then there's the choir thing that I've already committed to which has two rehearsals a week itself.  I just don't know.  But there's probably no harm in going to the audition, right?  I could just, you know, watch.  Feel it out a little. 

I suck at making decisions.  Just like I couldn't decided which photo to share today, so you got this drivel instead.  Now, I have to choose one to share or I'll be disappointed in myself.

Here's me deciding.

  It's a charcoal chimney starter thingy for the grill.  And really, I only picked it to communicate to you how desperately I want grilled hamburgers right now.  And maybe a brat.  And macaroni salad.  With tuna.

I better go check on dinner. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

MCP Project 52, Update

The second week of Project 52 is wrapping up, and there were some incredible photos submitted this week.  I was so excited to see that one of my photos was featured on the website during the challenge wrap up!  I am on such a photography high at the moment.  Great shoot yesterday, featured photo today.  What will tomorrow bring?

Check out the other feature photos here: MCP Actions

And here's my photo that was featured, which was almost a discard for the challenge, but I decided to submit just yesterday morning.  Yay!


I did a photo shoot yesterday afternoon with the daughter of a good friend of mine.  It was just for fun, and for me to practice my portrait photography, but the pictures turned out so well.  I really love them, and I hope you do too!  It's almost embarrassing how excited I get when I actually manage to do something right with my camera.  Have I mentioned how much I love this hobby of mine?  Here are a few of my favorites.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pictures of Strangers

I often see people when I'm out and about that I'd love to photograph.  I've been challenging myself to ask them if they would sit for me, usually on the spot.  Capturing the beast in its natural environment, so to speak.  I still feel pretty uncomfortable doing this, but I'm getting better at it, and I'm collecting an interesting group of characters.  This is a gentleman I photographed this past fall.  It was an unusually warm day and the Major and I had taken the dog to the park for a walk.  I had been getting some good pictures of the two of them in our autumn surroundings when I saw this guy.  He was zipping around the park on his skateboard, just enjoying the day with a huge smile on his face.  I thought he had a nice look and decided to approach him for a photograph.  I think he got a kick out of posing for me.  I've found that when you show up with a big lens, people think you're a professional.  Shhh.  Don't tell.

For this photo, I edited it as I usually do, and loved the way it turned out.

But, as I continue to learn the ins and outs of Photoshop, I keep coming across effects that I want to try.  As you can probably guess, I learned how to use textures this week, which I have been playing with almost nonstop.  It's becoming a bit of a problem.  But I am glad to have another tool in my repertoire.  I like the finished product.  It's a fun texture, and I think it matches the mood of the original photo.  What do you think?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I got a little carried away with the theme for this week's Project 52 challenge.  I had all kinds of ideas, and couldn't settle on just one, so I went ahead a shot a few of them.  I used what I thought was my best photo for the challenge, but here are some others that I liked.

I like the perspective of this shot, but it didn't quite convey the starkness that I wanted for the theme.

I like the tones in this one.  Again, just not quite what I was looking for.

 At one point I considered doing "This Used To Be My Playground" as my challenge song, but decided that the pictures I got didn't communicate the wistfulness of the song the way I wanted them too.  The exposure was a little off, as well, so I was a bit limited with what I could do with them post production.  A more skilled user of photoshop might have fared better.  I do like these photos, but not for that song.

I have to say that  I am loving doing this project so far.  It's so much fun to try to creatively interpret the theme for the week.  Creative photography is an area that I really do need to work on.  I tend to be a pretty practical, straightforward kind of person, and I find that trait transferring to my photography.  I'm hoping that this project will  help me to develop a greater sense of whimsy in my photography.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Project 52/Week 2 "One Tin Soldier"

The theme for this week's photography challenge was "Illustrate a Song".  I chose "One Tin Solder".  I had a lot of fun playing with toy Army men and posing them around the backyard.  I imagine the neighbors officially think I'm bonkers, but it was worth it!

I love this picture for a number of reasons, but for me, the detail and focus in the figurine really stand out.  I think the photo captures the stark imagery and emotion that the song invokes.  The song has always been a favorite of mine.  I first learned it when I was singing with a Christian folk music band in high school.  We sometimes did contemporary music that was appropriate, which meant we sang several folk songs from the 60s and early 70s.  It was through that group that my passion for vocal performance was born.

I love the way a good song can let us feel a moment, a story or a universal truth in a new way.  "One Tin Soldier" is one of those songs.  It tells the story of two communities.  One in possession of a great treasure.  One covetous of that treasure.  As the song unfolds, we see the second community trying to forcibly take the treasure from the first, resulting in a terrible war that leaves one man alive.  One tin soldier.  And the treasure?  A message of hope for all men.

I think the theme of this song is as relevant today as it was the day it was penned. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's the Little Things

Sunday mornings usually mean church for the Major and me.  I get up early and head in for choir rehearsal and meet up with him after church.  Though he's not a fan of sitting through services by himself, as I sit with the choir, he does so gladly because he knows that I love my choir.  That I delight in my choir.  But, in every other church choir I've sung in, the choir performed every other week, giving you an opportunity to sit with your family at least half the time.  Not so with our current church.  The choir is an integral part of the worship service, in a way that I've not experienced before.  I love the enthusiasm with which this particular church embraces its music ministry.  The only downside is that I miss worshiping with my husband.  But I take a great deal of comfort from seeing him in the congregation.  My heart lifts when we enter the church during the processional and I see him sitting in his favorite pew. 

I know this reaction has a lot to do with when I first started attending this church.  It was the fall of 2006 and the Major was in Iraq, serving his second tour in the middle east.  We had just moved to our new town and purchased our first home that summer.  We were still settling into the house and doing cosmetic renovations when he left.  It took me a while to adjust to being in a new town, in a new home, on my own.  I had great neighbors, though, who welcomed and supported me in those first months.  It was one of these neighbors who first invited me to attend church with her, telling me that I would love the music program and should consider joining the choir.  She was right, of course, and I did fall in love with both the church and the choir, and quickly found myself committing to choir rehearsals and Sunday services.

For the next year, I attended the church, by myself, every week.  I soon made friends and became involved in community missions projects.  I did a stint in the handbell choir (at which I suck), and helped with the children's choir.  My church activities helped to fill the time during my husband's absence.  I will be forever grateful for the support and encouragement I received there over the course of that year.  But every week as I attended services, even as his name was read during our morning prayers, I felt the Major's absence more keenly than I can say.  I longed for the day when he would be there with me, and of course, eventually he was.

On mornings like this morning, when I look out in the congregation and realize that he's not there, that he's decided to skip church, I'm reminded of those long months.  I'm reminded and yet feel the anticipation of his upcoming deployment, his third.  Of the Sunday mornings to come when I'll get up early and head out the door, knowing that he won't be joining me at coffee hour.  When his name will again be placed on the list of deployed soldiers who we pray for weekly.  And I stop myself for a moment to appreciate that when I walk through the door of our home this afternoon, he'll be there waiting for me.  Today my husband is home.  He's safe.  Such a seemingly small thing, but such an enormous blessing.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Project 1/52~ Week 1

I've thought about doing a project 365 for a while now, but doubt my ability to remain committed to it.  It's partly a time thing, and partly an interest thing.  So, instead, I'm stealing an idea from MCP Actions and attempting a project 1/52, which only requires me to take one photograph a week.  I think this is much more manageable!  Wish me luck!

So, week one has come to a close, and I did in fact go out and shoot some stuff this week.  Here's my week one offering...

I was riding in my husband's truck, returning from a trip to a neighboring town where we had had lunch together, when I spotted this tower at an abandoned factory along the road.  I was having a rough day.  We recently had a death in the family, my husband's grandfather, and the loss has been a more difficult adjustment than I anticipated.  My husband came home early that day to a crying mess of a wife.  He made all the right noises, and then suggested the impromptu trip in an attempt to cheer me up.  As we passed this abandoned structure, I knew I wanted to shoot it.  Something about the austere loneliness of the abandoned site really resonated with me.  I saw this aging, rusted out tower standing sentinel over an abandoned structure with peeling roof tiles and broken out windows and thought about how insidious decay can be.  Left unchecked, it destroys everything it touches.  Like the cancer that invaded Grandpa's body, moving slowly and deliberately to overwhelm what was once healthy tissue.  Of course, it's not a cancer that is melting away the integrity of this tower.  It's the ravages of nature.  Wind.  Rain.  Ice.  Left unchecked, they are breaking down the site to it's elemental level.  At times, I feel as if the natural world is always seeking to claim what man imposes upon it.  And then I remember that man is a product of the natural world, and find comfort in the fact that God reclaims his own.  In life and in death.