Category Archives: Photos

Why my failed 365 Project was really a success

Last year aside from my standing resolution to eat healthier and lose weight (pfft), I resolved to take at least one photo every day. This is known as the 365 Project, and people all over the Internetz and Flickr participate in it every year.

My motivation lasted longer than pretty much any other resolution I’ve ever made. I took a daily photo (skipping a few days here and there) until the middle of July. Even though I only made it halfway through the year, I learned so much. Here are a few things I took away from the project, and why I believe everyone with an interest in photography should attempt to do it.

It made me a better photographer.

When I look at the photos I took at the beginning of the year and the photos I take now, I am blown away at how much better my photos have gotten. At the beginning of the year, I used the terrible built-in flash on my camera for indoor photos, which washed everything out. Now I shoot in RAW, color correct photos in Photoshop, and I’ve learned better angles and techniques for getting the shots I want.

I learned that special occasions aren’t the only moments worth capturing.

I had two goals when I started the project: I wanted to take better pictures, and I wanted to take more pictures. Judah was 5 weeks old when I started the project. I felt like he was growing so quickly, and I wanted to create a permanent time capsule to remember him at each stage. Because I was always on the lookout for a daily photo, I learned to view everyday moments as photo-worthy. Some of my favorite pictures were taken on some of our most boring days around the house. But those are the moments that we most easily forget, I think. That’s why it’s so important to photograph them.

I learned not to force it.

Some of my least favorite photos were taken at the last minute when I said, “Oh, crap. I never took a photo today!” When you’re trying to take a photo each day, there will inevitably be days when nothing photo-worthy happens, or when you don’t feel well, or you’re just too busy to remember to pick up your camera. I don’t regret taking these last minute photos, because it doesn’t hurt to have them, but I learned not to waste my time forcing photo shoots if I’m not feeling inspired.

I learned the importance of editing, deleting, and organizing photos.

I already had a pretty good process in place for editing and organizing photos before I began the project, but when you’re processing 100-200 photos a week like I was at the beginning of the project, you realize just how important it is to delete the doubles and bad photos, edit the good ones, save them in an organized way, and back them up in multiple places.

If you’re dumping every photo you take into a folder on your hard drive, I urge you to resolve to stop doing that in the new year! You are killing your storage space with photos that aren’t worth keeping, making it harder to find the good photos, and the more time passes before organizing them, the harder it becomes to delete even bad photos. Every photographer takes five or ten or even twenty bad photos for every good one. Delete the photos that aren’t worth saving, and organize the ones that are!

I learned that the secret of taking good photos is taking a lot of photos.

I am the first to admit that I’m not a great photographer, especially when it comes to my wiggly baby who refuses to sit still. Most of my favorite photos were taken by holding down the button, and taking 10 photos in a row while Judah runs wild. At the end of many photo shoots, I was convinced that I didn’t have a single good photo. But when I went through and edited them, I was surprised to find a lot of good ones. If I hadn’t taken a million photos, I wouldn’t have gotten those good shots. I am not ashamed to admit that many of my best photos are taken totally by accident. My New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to take more good photos on purpose. For now, I’m just happy to have some of the shots that I took accidentally.

If you’ve never tried the 365 Project, you want to improve your photography skills, or just force yourself to take more photos, I definitely thing you should do it! You will be amazed at how much you learn, even if you end up quitting halfway through the year like me.

You can see all the photos I took this year here. I’ll also have my yearly slideshow ready sometime after the 1st. :)

Have you ever tried the 365 Project? What did you learn?

Happy holidays!

I didn’t mean to break for the holidays so soon, but I’ve been rushing around like a mad woman this week with last-minute Christmas preparations, and I just realized I haven’t had a chance to post at all. Doh.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to take an impromptu holiday break. I’ll be back after the New Year. In the meantime, enjoy a wonderful holiday with your families. Eat, drink, and be merry! And thank you for helping make this one of the best years of my life.

Happy Father’s Day

Since our son can’t talk (yet), I’ll speak for him.

Thanks for making him laugh harder than anyone else can.

Thanks for getting up early with him on the weekends so his mom can get some extra sleep.

Thanks for being so patient with him, no matter how unreasonable can be.

Thanks for providing the roof over his head, the clothes on his back, and the million other little luxuries he’s lucky to enjoy because of your hard work.

And thanks for giving him your pretty blue eyes — and the rest of your features while you were at it, because let’s face it, he’s basically your mini-me.

Happy Father’s Day!


I need to grow a green thumb pronto

One of the things I love most about our house is that it rests on about an acre of beautiful land. Unfortunately, we moved in a little late in the season to till and plant a garden, but you better believe I’ll have a mini farm back there next spring. Tony is looking forward to cutting down on the amount of grass he needs to cut, and I can’t wait to harvest fresh organic produce.

In the meantime, I put in a small raised herb and vegetable garden in the flower bed in front of the house. We planted red pepper, tomato, cucumber, sage, peppermint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and basil. It’s my first garden, so I wanted to keep it small and manageable. But I have much bigger plans for the future.

Everyone who has visited us has walked around the property and marveled at the plant life. Unfortunately, most of it is overgrown and woefully neglected. That’s one of the downsides of purchasing a renovated home. The seller bought it a year ago, completely renovated the interior, and let the acre of property grow unchecked. In some spots, our yard has turned into a rainforest.

Exhibit A: Piles and piles of yard waste behind the shed that’s dead underneath but sprouting plants and vines on top.

Exhibit B: Dead wood stacked next to the shed that we need to do something about before it attracts termites.

Exhibit C: Patch of weeds with flowers underneath. In the spring, there were daffodils here. I have no idea what other pretty plants would thrive if we could get rid of all this weedy growth.

Exhibit D: Honeysuckle plant that may eventually overtake our house if we don’t get it under control soon.

Exhibit E: Brambles and brush that’s possibly hiding a mulberry bush and who knows how many critters. Yikes.

One of the ambitious plans I discussed with my mom was the possibility of planting a mini orchard – a couple small apple trees and maybe a pear tree.

Both my parents and my in-laws have come to visit the house since we moved in, and we walked the yard with both of them to get their help identifying some of the plant life. They all assumed the four trees with tiny fruit growing on them were crab apple trees. I decided I’d probably take them down to make room for my mini orchard eventually.

This weekend, though, I discovered that the tiny fruit on those trees has continued to grow, and they appear to be growing into real, honest-to-goodness apples.

Exhibit F: Mysterious fruit-bearing trees.

I can’t find a reliable way to tell if they’re true apples or crab apples. They don’t seem as round as crab apples. I cut into one, and it looked exactly like an apple on the inside. It also tasted like a tart apple. It was tart, but definitely sweet, not bitter. I haven’t been able to find out whether crab apples look and taste like apples, but they already look bigger than most of the crab apples I’ve seen in pictures.

One thing I’ve read in several places is that the only difference between crab apples and true apples is that crab apples are less than 2 inches in diameter. Some of the fruit on these trees is already 2 inches or maybe a little bigger, so I have high hopes.

If they are apple trees, they’ve been allowed to grow much too tall (25 or 30 feet). They also haven’t been pruned in at least one growing season, possibly more, because the previous owners of our home before the renovation were an elderly couple that probably didn’t do too much yard work. It looks to me like it’s probably been several seasons since they were pruned.

I’m not sure what kind of fruit the trees will yield this year. There is a ton of fruit on them, and I fear I’ll end up with a million tiny, too-tart apples (or crab apples) instead of a smaller number of plump, delicious apples. The trees are also full of dead limbs and look like they could possibly be sick in some places, so I need to do more research to determine if the fruit is even safe to eat.

I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed by all of the plant life we’ve inherited on this property. It’s an embarrassment of riches for this wanna-be gardener, but I feel like I’ve inherited too much for a beginner to take on at once.

Any tips on how I can save these giant apple trees – or advice on how I can determine if they’re real apple trees at all? I’ve grown unreasonably attached to the idea that they may be apple trees, and I’d like to rescue them if they are. I just have no idea how to do it.

Also, if you have any tips on what I can do about the rest of this hot mess, I’d love to hear them!

2010 in review

This has definitely been the craziest year of my life. It wasn’t until I started compiling links for this post that I realized just how much has happened this year.

At the end of 2009, we booked tickets for our trip to Europe.

In January, we started putting together the details for the trip and planning to move. I also started training for my New Year’s resolution — running a half marathon. Pregnancy prevented me from reaching that goal, but I did become a real runner. We knew that we’d be starting a family very soon, so we took advantage of our last few months of freedom and booked a spontaneous cruise to the Bahamas.

In February, I realized that a tight budget can be a blessing. I also reflected on our accomplishments and considered how to stay relevant in my job even though I’d already turned in a resignation.

In March, we started looking for a subletter for our apartment. We went on a cruise to the Bahamas. I realized just how important a savings account can be. I also ran my first 5K.

In April, I discovered I was pregnant (but I didn’t announce it here yet). The pregnancy combined with our impending move pushed my stress level to the limit, but I reminded myself that there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. I got a lot of flack for my confession that we’re in no hurry to be debt free. And after three years, we packed up our apartment in North Carolina and headed home to Indiana.

In May, I announced my pregnancy! I didn’t post much else that month since we were gone for two weeks in Europe.

In June, I recapped our European vacation. I also complained a lot about pregnancy. Tony accepted a new job in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and we started planning to move again. I knew money would be tight, so I came up with a game plan to tighten our budget.

In July, we found an apartment and moved to Fort Wayne. We started shopping for baby stuff. We found out that our baby is a boy! We made a list of essential baby items. And I realized just how much of our home was purchased second hand.

In August, I struggled a lot with pregnancy. I started quite a bit of controversy with my post on luxury vs. necessity. We started making plans to pay for our baby’s education.

In September, I came up with our cloth diapering game plan. I transitioned to a work-at-home career. I examined the hidden costs of small-town life. And we were gifted with a boatload of baby clothes from Tony’s yard sale master grandmother.

In October, I reminded myself of everything I have to be thankful for. We also finished Judah’s nursery!

In November, I finally posted a self portrait of my huge pregnant self. I cleared up some common misconceptions about midwifery. I looked into our options for insurance (oh, thank GOD we don’t have to worry about this anymore). And we welcomed our baby boy!

And last month, I shared my birth story. I began adjusting to life with a baby. We also found out that we’re moving again, but this time it’s for a fantastic full-time teaching job.

Whew. Three moves, two big vacations, and a baby. Let’s hope 2011 is just as great, but a lot less stressful.