February 29, 2012

A Little California Trivia

This is what it looks like right now all up and down Hwy 5 in the Central Valley of CA.
almond tree dip
Miles and miles and acres and acres of almond tree orchards. 500,000ish acres to be exactish.
The picture above is the last photo I took thru our front windshield. Too many (sad frowny face) bees splattered there.
The bee boxes (housing the bees necessary for pollination) are shown in the picture below.
And those "dirt piles" you see in the image below, next to the processing structures, are actually not dirt, but almond shells!!!
(for perspective, see the trees, also brown, in front of the piles)

80% of the world's supply of almonds is grown right here in CA's central valley. But nevermind that minor little detail; I was just happy to soak in all the visual blossom splendor ...

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February 27, 2012

The View: on the Way Up and the Way Back



The "in-between" view: at my Dad & Brother's annual business breakfast ... My brother made me promise not to throw any images over the great wide internets of him with his mouth open ... that's him: the little bitty dot up at the podium. Hey, Bro, showing that picture doesn't count ;-)

gpi breakfast



The way back included lots - and I do mean LOTS - of preemptive potty stops. I'm happy to report that this particular roadtrip included no vomit and no emergency potty stops. TMI, I know. But I want to be able to look back on this post sometime in the future and remember that we had at least one such roadtrip. :-}

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February 23, 2012

Quotes ... The February Version

I guess my blog isn't the only place where I can find favorite quotes of Kellers. Last week, early in the morning, I found this first quote arrayed on the coffee table. I emailed Big Dude with the attached photo and my eloquent query: "???" He replied that it wasn't from him and he didn't know the quote source, but thought it sounded vaguely Shakespearean (which is a distinct possibility, since MacBeth practice has begun at school).


Turns out it was Middle Dude's creation. Anyone want to guess the source?

Since then, a few other quotes have materialized (with proper attribution - I guess they didn't want me to be so befuddled).



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February 20, 2012

Crazy Abundant Flare + some Philosophy + Weaponry :: Aliso Viejo Lifestyle Photography

This lighting in this place at this time of day (+ a secret ingredient I'll show you at the end) is pretty much my lighting love trifecta. My Littlest Dude with his "daggers" is just the cherry on top. Speaking of his weaponry ... Little Dude's school feeds him and his fellow students a regular diet of "truth, beauty & goodness" and regularly adds a dollop of "love your neighbor as yourself". But boys will be boys, and these are the "daggers" he fashioned from leftover lunch/pizza tins. Of course.

aliso viejo lifestyle photographyIMG_2704Taliso viejo lifestyle photographeraliso viejo lifestyle photography2

The secret ingredient? Check out that incredibly bright spot of sun reflecting off the back wall of our porch (as shown in the last image). That natural reflector threw light back onto Littlest Dude's face and illuminated him despite all that incredibly bright backlighting behind him. Because he was illuminated from front and back, I didn't have to "blow out" the surrounding details and flare like I usually have to in order to light his face adequately. Natural reflectors: I highly recommend them. :-)

And stats: to help with flare definition, I removed my lens protector, stopped down the aperature (some pics are f/11, some are f/16), and shot with a zoom lens (24-70), mostly at the 24mm end.

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February 19, 2012

Making Family Photo Albums–Design Tips

Let’s Talk Album Design

Specifically Annual Family Photo Album design … or any album that you’re trying to fit A LOT of pictures into while still maintaining a clean design aesthetic.

Formerly, I yammered on and on about the importance of getting your photos off your hard drive and into a family album.  Today I want to talk briefly about good, simple, clean design principles that will help you put a lot of photos into a book in an aesthetically pleasing way.

So let’s look briefly at what doesn’t work best, first. Here are three not-so-good double page spreads from a couple of my earliest books:

These spreads (pictured above) have the following problems: no focal point, no “eye flow” (ie. your eye doesn’t know where to go first, next, last), no white space, too “busy”, and the two pages don’t look as if they were designed together (specifically, the pictures don’t “line up” from one page to the next). They just feel and look kind of chaotic.

So from these spreads that illustrate what NOT to do, here are my

3 Simple Rules for Good Design:

2. Design double page spreads together, not separately.
3. Have a focal point and a “flow” that your eyes can follow.

Let’s look at what that means in terms of putting photos together on a page.


Also from an early family photo album, this spread (above) is altogether different from the former ones. My eye knows exactly where to go, smoothly right across both pages. There’s calming-restful-abundant white space. The pictures line up. No chaos. Of course, there’s also only four pictures. How do these simple design rules work with LOTS of pictures? Next exhibit …

This layout has 10 pictures; one is clearly dominant. Your eye will go there first. There’s plenty of white space on the opposing page, where your eye will naturally go next and probably move in a clockwise motion thru the simple grid of 9 pictures.

Here are more examples of one dominant photo + a grid of photos surrounded by white space and/or copy (BTW, quick note about copy: put it towards the outside of the pages; don’t bury it between photos).

2011 4

Clearly, I utilize this simple form of layout often. The good news is: several of the consumer level book printers also utilize this design and make it available in their Drag-n-Drop pre-designed pages.
So what if you need to have lots and lots of photos – way more than 10 – on some spreads? In those instances, I tend to throw out the necessity of a focal point, and I just make one big grid or chaotic collage. I then redeem myself from breaking my own rules by making sure the page before & after are “calmer” pages, maybe even a huge double page spread of just one photo.

2011 5
2011 6

Another example … this is two single pages of two different evenings. Notice: I definitely designed the double page spread together. There is lots of white space. The eye naturally moves thru the photos from left to right.


So, let’s recap:




all bw

So, to summarize: it is possible to create an aesthetically pleasing family photo album, even when you’re showcasing a whole boatload of photos in it. Just remember that white space is awesome, double page spreads should be designed together, and, if possible, one photo should stand out from the rest (usually by being bigger).



He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 29:2

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February 16, 2012

Resources for Learning Photography

I occasionally get emails asking me about my own photography education and recommended sources for learning more. I thought it might be a good idea to compile my various responses in one FAQ-ish post.

What camera did you begin with? What intro dslr do you recommend?
The Canon Rebel is a great camera - that's what I learned on :-). We bought our Rebel xt way back in 2005. And it's still part of household arsenal of photography gear. My Middle Dude especially enjoys using it. FYI, the lens pictured below is Canon's 28-105mm, an affordable and much-to-be-preferred zoom lens to the 18-55mm kit lens.

faq post rebel

What's your favorite "beginner's" lens?
Cameras often come with a "kit lens" or two. These lenses are fine to learn on, but you'll soon start feeling the boundaries of what they *can't* do. When you're ready for a new lens, be sure to check out the 35mm f/2 lens or either of the 50mm lenses (f/1.4 or f/1.8) These fixed length lenses have wider (faster) apertures that allow you to play/experiment/learn more effectively than with the kit lens.

Where did you "learn" photography?
Mostly online. I found Pioneer Woman's blog soon after I got my Rebel. She oh-so-authoritatively (in the friendliest way possibly, grin) ordered me to turn off my flash. That was the beginning of everything for me. The point at which I turned off my flash was the moment when I was forced to learn how to manipulate available light. Manipulating available light quickly led me down the path of learning the great trifecta of camera settings (aperture, shutter speed & iso), ending ultimately in my preferring to shoot manual exposure nearly exclusively. No more green box for me!

Speaking of aperture, Pioneer Woman has an awesome series of tutorials exploring/explaining aperture and shutter speed.

I found HUGE amounts of inspiration on Flickr. There I discovered a plethora of photographic images/techniques/effects, as well as a community of enthusiastic photographers who are happy to share their methods, settings, gear data, etc.

For a tangible, in-my-hand, reference book regarding exposure, I very much appreciated Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

What software do you edit your pictures with?
99.5% of the time I edit my family images solely with Lightroom (free demo available here). And more often than not, I'm using One Willow's gorgeous presets. Any images that need skin touch up or cloning or textures make a side trip to Photoshop.

How did you learn Lightroom?
I firstly worked my way thru a Scott Kelby book (it was Lightroom 1, at the time). I then additionally watched about a bazillion instructional videos at Lynda.com (I got a free one month subscription with my purpose of PS CS3). I can't rave highly enough about Lynda.com. For $25 per one month period (or a slightly discounted $250 per year), you can watch unlimited numbers of very thorough educational videos on all sorts of different softwares. I learned oodles in just one month. When I wanted to learn an efficient workflow specifically for my photography sessions, I purchased Kevin Kubota's Lightroom workflow dvd set. If Photography Concentrate had been around when I was learning, I would have seriously considered their training course.  And, Julianne Kost's tutorials are superduper amazingly helpful.  And free.  Be sure to check them out.

Do you have resources that you recommend for learning photography?
Yes, I do! I adore I Heart Faces! It's a great website/community with oodles of tutorials, weekly themed contests, and tons of encouragement. They have a [free, supportive, HELPFUL!] photography community with boards where you can ask all sorts of questions and get answers from a variety of people.

I have some various tutorials on my own blog:
my miscellaneous photo tips

I haven't seen this particular video series, but I think Photography Concentrate puts together fantastic tutorials and makes things accessibly understandable. They have a video series that explains camera essentials.

Don't neglect checking out your local camera stores. They often offer half day camera classes.

xmas 2011 roadtrip front

What's in your camera bag?
I have a whole post (old, but updated) with all those details!

What do you make your collages with?
Lumapix's Fotofusion software (free demo available!)

snipit2 of fotofusion

There you have it. My FAQ-ish post of resources for new-ish photographers. I hope it's helpful :-).

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February 15, 2012