Monochrome for a Month

Going monochrome always changes my perspective with photography, even if it’s only for a day. I begin to *see* the world in lights, shadows, tones, shapes, and patterns, and it really improves my skills.

This year, I’ve decided to challenge myself to go monochrome for an entire month. And I’ve chosen the month of April because it’s no doubt one of the hardest months (for me, at least) to go monochrome. Everything is blooming and the sky is finally blue and the grass is finally green.

But I am eager to witness these spring changes without the distraction of color. In black and white, nature tells an entirely different story… Continue reading

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Lessons Learned at the Zoo

Winter here was a bust. Two snowfalls, neither amounting to much of anything. Goo got to use her brand-new sled only twice, and the only snowman she was able to build was no taller than her shin. Though she and Chris had a blast, the dry, brown winter has left me in desperate need of a vacation.

Still, our trip to Cedar Point isn’t for another few months, and money is tight. So we went to the zoo instead. Perhaps surrounding ourselves in exotic animals–despite the sixty degree temps–would jolt us back to life. Continue reading

DIY Pinhole Photography

A recent article written by Steven Dempsey showed up on my Twitter feed Saturday. I was drawn to the eerie quality of his work as I read about his passion for pinhole photography, which he achieves with a DIY lens he made with a body cap.

Not one to pass up an opportunity to destroy a camera accessory for the sake of art, I immediately sent my engineer husband the wikihow directions. He’d already taken apart my 50mm and removed the rings so I can use it better during freelensing, and he needed a new project. Continue reading

My Childhood Is the Color Blue

When I think about my childhood, I’m often consumed with images of blue skies and crisp mornings. While our parents worked, my brother and I spent our summer days at our great-grandma’s house. It was an adorable little thing with blue siding and white shutters. The backyard was wooded with oaks and mulberry trees, of which we’d pick clean, and the limbs above always seemed to be alive with birds, the cheerup cheerup of robins and cardinals in the morning and the scream of jays in the afternoon. Hummingbirds buzzed by to take sips of the nectar Grandma hung for them on the porch. And the grass below was always filled with treasures: the powdery blue shells of robins’ eggs, bird feathers, pine cones still sticky with sap, and more mulberries. My brother and I would stain our hands purple and red as we popped the ripest ones into our mouths.

And when I look back on it all, I see the color blue. Blue eggs and blue skies and blue flowers and blue birds and the blue siding of her quaint little house. Continue reading

Lifestyle Practice with the 50mm

It was a cold day yesterday. Nothing like the beautiful, spring-like weather we’ve been experiencing lately. Not wanting this flu thing to relapse (again), I spent most of the afternoon indoors. I’d thrown some chicken into the slow cooker earlier because I knew I wouldn’t feel like doing anything elaborate for dinner, and while I boiled some noodles to go with it, I figured I’d get some indoor practice with the new 50mm.

I never actually planned on sharing any of these, so I didn’t mind the “character” of our seriously lived-in house. The dead rose on the kitchen sink, the wilting flowers my husband gave me for our anniversary on the dining room table. Continue reading

The Flu and a Foggy Morning

I’ve been sick for a week. At first I thought it was the roller-coaster temperature changes, but in less than a day I became couch-ridden and I spent most of the week sneaking mom-aware naps during Studio Ghibli movies, and pouring cans of soup into a pan for lunch. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this sick. At this point I’m positive someone sneezed on me and gave me influenza.

I’m getting the shot from now on.

On one of my more delirious mornings I had to take Howl out and I was surprised by how foggy it was. It was also pretty mild for mid-February, and more spring-like than ever. The still, muted air smelled like damp earth, and there were drops of rain lingering on branches from the night before. Despite being feverish and feeling miles away from where I actually was, I grabbed my camera, and for a little while I forgot about being sick. Continue reading

A Morning Out with the 50mm

This snowless winter has me burned out. It’s cold and bitter and everything is brown. I discussed in my last post how this winter is affecting me emotionally.

BUT FINALLY we got lucky and received a Saturday that reached temps nearing the 67 degree mark. After dealing with the seemingly neverending ice-biome lifestyle, it was–and we dared to say it later on during our walk–a little too warm.

So, we decided to get out of the house as soon as we could and head to the nearest hiking ground to enjoy the dewy morning and the earthy breeze. It wasn’t spring, but I pretended it was only a thaw away. I ignored the brown everything and drunk up the sunshine like a teen on a summer afternoon.

And I brought the 50mm I’d been given on my birthday, the one I had yet to be given a chance to play with. Continue reading

How Winter Feels

Creativity starved, I brought out my camera, cranked the ISO to accommodate the dark and dreary morning, and pointed it at things. Goo was staring out the window when she noticed what I was doing and I snapped this before she had a chance to react. It’s hard to get candids of her these days, as she has grown to see my camera as just another one of my limbs and can’t resist making goofy faces. It’s possible she put one on at the last minute before I took this photo, but the shadows will never lift to reveal it. I kept the shutter speed high, despite the darkness of the room. I wanted to draw the light in from the outside and let it paint the rest of our surroundings.

Little tiny patches of light here and there, like the curve of yin dark enough to show a sprinkle of stars. Continue reading

Goodbye Twenties, Hello Howl

My husband has always been a dog lover–just the touch of their cold noses is therapeutic for him–and his dream has always been to add a purebred husky to the family. Something about cuddling with a descendant of wolves–descendants who appreciate snow as much as he does–makes his green eyes glitter with stars.

When Goo was born, the dog lovers in our house increased. Goo is always excited to see dogs being walked down the street, and beams wider than the sun when we see them at the park. No matter the dog, Goo asks each owner that crosses her path if she can pet it, and she laughs her little head off when the dog responds with kisses.

So, for the last several months, I’ve been (secretly) throwing the idea around in my mind to add a dog to our little family. Continue reading

Woke Early and Made a Discovery

Goo normally wakes up around 8:30am, and then we go downstairs at around 9 for breakfast. Yesterday, however, Goo woke up at 8:00am and so we headed for the stairs at 8:30. As I was gathering my things–Kindle, phone, journal, etc.–Goo asked: “what’s that?” I entered the hall and followed her tiny little finger with my eyes. She was pointing at the wall, where the sunrise drifting through the blinds had created a pattern. Apparently, sometime between 8:30am and 9, the sun is in just the right spot to draw lines on the wall.

I said: “hey, want to take some cool pictures?”

“And then I can have cereal?”

“Yes. And then you can have cereal.”

Naturally, she made her silly faces, which I don’t mind because it’s just who she is. Most of the time I bite my tongue when I feel like asking her to “smile” or “look at me.”

Thirty minutes, I realized, was all it took for those lines to come and go. We’ve been missing them this entire time. It makes me wonder what else I haven’t discovered because I’m so fixed on routine, or because I’m busy with other things. Luckily, I have Goo’s curious eyes to show me things I’ve been overlooking for years.

Images © Lina Forrester

I Don’t Always Bring a Camera and That’s Okay

One thing I’ve been trying to work on is to live in the moment and to stop planning for that “someday…” I’ve always had a “big project” and when I don’t have a big project, I have a “big hobby” which is usually part of some “big project.” But I had an epiphany shortly before starting this blog: it’s okay to not have anything “big” going on. I don’t have to be immersed in a “what if” career. I don’t have to trudge toward a future that may never come to be. I don’t have to work on anything other than being a better me, a better mother and wife, a better person in general.

Still, that little voice in my head has been saying: you didn’t take pictures today. You didn’t blog. You’re slacking off.

In the past, that voice terrified me. If I didn’t work on my revision, or didn’t think a book plot was strong enough, or didn’t think my photography would ever “get there,” that little voice would tighten around my heart like a fist and squeeze. Anxiety attacks and feeling like a failure were part of my daily ritual. I was always irritable. I got lost in my own head.

But ever since I realized that “progress” comes in many forms, it’s been easier to brush the voice aside and widen my eyes at the vast, colorful, exciting world around me. I don’t always pull out my phone to take a picture of Goo at the park, and I don’t always take my camera with me on hikes, and that’s okay. Sometimes I just want to bring a book, or a journal. Sometimes, I really really just want my hands to be empty for a change. What a freeing feeling!

Leaving my camera behind has taught me a few things. I’ve learned that avoiding the shutter release gives me a newfound appreciation for the photos I go out of my way to take. I’ve learned that not carting around a giant DSLR and three lenses makes me about ten pounds lighter and allows me to hold more hands. Without a camera, I’m forced to take mental pictures instead of storing them onto an SD card so I can look at them later. By then the moment is gone, and I have to ask myself these days if I really enjoyed that moment, or if I just thought it would make a good picture.

No amount of cropping and sharpening can give me that moment back.

So, I don’t always snap selfies of us at the zoo. I don’t always have a good picture to show for our bike ride. I don’t always grab my camera when Goo starts making funny faces at the table. And that’s okay! Because it means I’m creating actual memories.

They’re blinks. They’re Haikus. They’re Polaroids. And they’re so fleeting that they could be already gone by the time I get the right aperture.

These two are the most important people in my life. They are everything to me. And not only do I want to have more hands-free mind-free experiences with them, I also don’t want to be behind a camera every single time they remember our best days.

Images © Lina Forrester

Continue reading

Dear Goo: Sorry I Haven’t Written in a While

When I found out I was pregnant, I started writing letters to you. You were, at the time, no bigger than a poppy seed. I’ll never forget when they gave me my first ultrasound and you bounced around like a little bean. Today, you shake the house when you leap from things. There is no couch too tall, no drop too high. You still can’t stop talking about the rollercoaster you rode during the Fourth of July fair. You’re just like Daddy. I swear he does a mental dance when he hears you babbling on about said rollercoaster.

“That’s my girl,” he often mumbles under his breath with a twitch at the corner of his mouth.

It’s one of the reasons I’m really pushing Cedar Point this year. You went when you were a little over one-year-old, and you had a blast even then. It was neat to watch you nap in our hotel room to the rumbling sound of the coasters we could see from our window.

You took a picture with Snoopy. You rode the swing ride a thousand times. It poured rain on our second day and Daddy and I quickly pushed your stroller into the Starbucks, freezing and looking forward to a latte, only to learn their steamer was broken. We laughed, and as he shivered and nursed a frappuccino, I told him we would always remember that moment.

This year I plan on staying in the park until dusk so you can see the fireworks, yet another one of your favorite things. Don’t even get me started on the beach.

You’ve kept me so busy, with your acrobatics, your ballet, your pestering the cat, your constant growing–I told you to stop that–that I haven’t written to you since a few months after you were born. But I want to start writing to you again, because one day all three of us are going to look back on these letters and grin.So I suppose I should tell you where we are today. You turned four just a few weeks ago. FOUR. It never really occurred to me that you would one day be this old. You told me on your birthday “after four, I’m going to be five,” and I said “noooooo we’re not talking about that right now!”

You make up silly stories and tell me about your dreams. The other day, we braved the cold to put birdseed out on the porch and this is what you said:

“The birds are going to be like, ‘what’s that?’ and then they’re going to be like, ‘oh, that’s just my food.'”

Then you added: “They’re going to be like, ‘is that bugs? Nope, that’s just birdseed.'”

You now say cereal like I’ve taught you. Instead of see-yole, you say it the right way and you might think it’s weird to be proud of something like that (if I weren’t a parent, I would probably think it was weird too) but I am. I’m proud of a lot of stuff. But enough of that mushy nonsense.

Ballet is a hit, and so is the indoor playground at the mall. You and your auntie V are best friends–and I hope that continues–and your favorite food is (still) salad with extra cucumbers and ranch. One of your warm-weather pastimes is cooking soup in the birdbath outside. You’ve also used up all of your Instax film–oh yes you have–and your goofy faces are a hit with the family on Facebook.
You’re asleep right now–on Daddy’s side of the bed–so you aren’t aware yet of what’s on the way. Can’t wait to see your reaction to the thundersleet.

Spoke too soon, you’re awake now and asking for ce-REAL!

Until next time,

Mommy

P.S. I think this was your favorite moment of 2016:

All images © Lina Forrester

Ballerina

Goo started ballet a few weeks ago. She got a pink tutu on her birthday, a pair of split-soles to match, and on the evenings after class she shows us what she learned. She talks about it all the time. Her teacher says she’s “giggly.” It’s exciting to sit in the waiting room and listen to the music play in the other room. But it didn’t dawn on me until just a couple of days ago that I haven’t gotten out the DSLR to get some pictures.

Might not seem like a big deal, but she just turned four, and her doing ballet is something I always fantasized about while pregnant, and I feel like this is more than a new and fun thing for her to learn. It’s also a milestone. She’s gone from chubby and toddling, to long and limber, and for the first time I can actually *see* that she’s growing up right before my eyes.

I didn’t have a lot of time before her class, so I quickly got her dressed and put her in the nearest area of natural light. I was on the floor and shaking and changing lenses and standing on chairs and wobbling and freelensing. She was very good…probably because I bribed her with chocolate.

For the editing, instead of going black and white, I decided to go with (very faint) pink highlights and crushed blacks for a “filmy” look. I also lowered the vibrance to make the pink more subtle.

What I learned:

  • Always make sure your window is clean.
  • Keep an eye on frames and make sure they’re straight.
  • Keep an eye on wood floors and make sure the boards are straight.

All images © Lina Forrester

Hello, Bonjour, and All That Jazz

What better time to start a photography blog than on Friday the 13th, during a full moon cycle, as an ice storm approaches outside? I’m sure I’ll be at my back window with my camera when the thundersleet arrives.

I decided to start this blog because I’ve reached something of a milestone. I’m turning thirty in a few weeks (maybe less, I’ve stopped counting) and after spending my entire twenties pursuing a traditional career as an author, I’ve finally had enough of plotting, revising, writer’s block, and empty goals. This same “epiphany” happened around three years ago when Goo was 8 months old and I closed my writing program for two years.

But I still love to write, and I love photography. I’ve always toyed with combining the two. I think this will keep me in the present and remind me of the real legacy I’m creating. Because, if I’m being honest with myself, my books are not the greatest thing I will leave behind.

Life is short. It’s gotten even shorter, it seems, since Goo was born, and I can’t spend it working tirelessly on a dream that may never arrive. But I can celebrate life with this blog, and with this blog I can also celebrate my family, and myself.

Have a good Friday! To those stuck in this storm: stay safe and warm.