April 24, 2015

The Day I Realized I Was Being A Hypocrite - And Vowed To Stop

Normally, this time of year, I am busy lining up guest posts for my annual Summer Series. Which I have loved hosting on this site the past several years.

But I won't be doing so any more.

Why not? Because I realized I've been asking my fellow writers to do something I myself will not do - work for free.

When I was preparing to launch my new photography business, I reached out to a dear friend who is a graphic designer. Not to ask her for a favor, but to inquire about her rates. She asked what I had budgeted for logo development and what I was looking for, and we went from there.

It was a professional business transaction. She delivered what I had asked for, sent me an invoice, and I paid her.

Thing is, I can't afford to pay people to write for this blog. It doesn't generate enough income to sustain paying contributors. And I can't offer writers the promise of "exposure," because my stats don't support that. Nor would I want to approach anyone that way.

Each writer has to make the choice that works best. It's personal. Much has been written about the topic. I tried it. I wrote for some of the biggest sites on the Internet for, "exposure."

It didn't pan out. The return on the investment (of my time and talent) was not there. And so I quit. Today I only write for sites that pay me. In actual money. Because that is what my family needs. "Exposure" offers even less for my husband and child than it does me.

But it wasn't until I reached out to my friend who is the designer that it suddenly dawned on me - I can't in good conscious continue with my Summer Series. I can't ask other writers to share their words on this space if I can't pay them. It would be completely hypocritical.

It makes me sad. Because I am fortunate to know a lot of amazing writers. If you've followed my Summer Series in the past, you know this. And it has been popular. Last year, I had so many writers interested in participating I had to turn people away (which made me feel awful).

The original idea behind The Summer Series was that it would give me a break from writing during the one season when I don't have much time to do so. And offer fresh voices to my blog's readers, hopefully introducing them to writers they would follow over to their sites and continue to read.

It would also, of course, potentially introduce new readers to my blog who might stick around once I jumped back into posting regularly. And it successfully met those goals. Many times, the participants in my series would graciously invite me to guest post on their blogs as well, and I happily did so.

I was writing for free then. Regularly. Now that I am not, my perspective has changed. The way I interact with other writers needs to follow.

To those who have contributed to my series in the past, I am so grateful and honored you chose to share your voice in my little corner of the Internet. Thank you!

This space has been pretty quiet of late, and with the end of The Summer Series, that will likely continue. I write here when I can. You can find me more regularly over at Mom.me. And hopefully, soon, on some other sites.

With the launch of my photography business, you'll get to see more of my images in this space as well. But you won't see guest posts here until and unless I reach the point where I can offer to pay other writers for their time and talent. As I believe it should be...

April 15, 2015

Adventures in Editing - The Gleam In Her Eye

I recently purchased a new lens - the Canon 50mm 1.4. I shoot clients exclusively with prime lenses, and felt this would be a good fit for the type of photography I do.

This is a lens photographers either love or hate. There is no in between. Those who love it say if they could only have one lens, this would be it. So far, I am in Camp Love. But I have learned the lens is a bit tricky. You really have to spend some time with it to get to know its nuances and be able to get the best performance from it.

It is not a lens you can just put on the camera and be good to go. I've been playing around with it for a few weeks now, and have developed a good feel for it.

When you get it right? Your image is stunning. When you miss, you really miss. Turns out there really isn't any in between in that respect either.

Obviously, I'm not going to practice with a new lens on a client. So, my child gets to be the victim, I mean my subject. When she's in the mood. Which on this day, she was. She was just doing her thing, and I liked the look of the light and the way she was resting her face on her hand.

I asked if I could take a few shots and she said, "Yes." In the end, we looked at the images together. She pointed to this one and said, "I like it, Mommy. You can put your mark on it and post it to Facebook."

I really like it, too. Her personality shines through. I love the gleam in her eye, the smirk on her lips and the hint of the dimple on her cheek.

So, here's what I did with this image in Lightroom...

Right off the bat I went with my Greater Than Gatsby, "Dreamy" preset. I love what this preset does with color and skin tone, especially in children. And it adjusts exposure to keep the focus of the image on the face and eyes, where I want it to be.

I did some overall sharpening/noise reduction; a standard step in my post processing. Then I played around with white balance and settled on, "Tungsten." I applied a very slight vignette. Used the heal tool to remove a red spot from her cheek. And then added some additional sharpening around the eyes.

I have been shooting wide open with this lens to see what I can get away with. For this shot, I knew one eye would have a softer focus because her face is turned slighting from the camera. It was an effect I liked, but would not always necessarily choose.

This one? I'm printing and framing. And I know years from now it will be a favorite...

April 1, 2015

Zoology For Kids: A Review

My child is passionate about animals. She's a human encyclopedia, full of all kinds of fascinating facts about them. And loves to demonstrate she knows more than we do.

For a while, she wanted to be a zoologist when she grows up. At the moment, her focus in on becoming a zoo veterinarian. So when I found out about the book Zoology For Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, I knew I had to get a copy for her. The fact it has a Foreward written by the Kratt brothers sealed the deal.

My first impression of the book was that it is gorgeous. It is full of incredible animal photographs. It also has tons of interesting information about a wide variety of animals. I do wish it was a hardcover book. It feels a little flimsy, and with as much as we have been paging through it, I worry about how well it will hold up over time.

Photo credit: DC Wagner/Nyaminyami Photography, LLC

As a parent, my favorite part is the activities. There are 21 in all. SB is very keen to try out:
  • Conduct An Experiment: Keeping Warm
  • Construct A Food Chain
  • Eat A Bat Fruit Salad
  • Interview A Zoologist
  • Invent A New Species
  • Mold Tiger Teeth
  • Plan A Zoo Exhibit
  • Train Your Friends
Actually, she was enthusiastic about pretty much all of them. The tiger teeth activity was the one she was instantly excited about. Does that come as any surprise?

She wants to make those teeth RIGHT NOW! I'm not exactly sure what we will do with the mold once she's made it. I guess she will keep it in her room with all her other tiger things.

The book includes chapters on what it takes to be a zoologist or zoo veterinarian. What is involved and what an "average" day might look like for those professionals. It includes profiles and interviews with real people, as well as detailed information about the positions.

The book is targeted to kids age nine and up. But it was great for my six year old. She loves to delve deep into subjects, and devours any and all information she can get about animals. 

I'm not sure it would be a good fit for every six year old. My recommendation would be to check out the book online. If your child is in to animals and/or science, this would be a great addition to your home library.

I think it would work particularly well for home schooling families, or those looking for enrichment opportunities outside their child's normal school activities. We fall into the latter category.

We have only been able to skim the surface of all this book has to offer so far. I envision us digging deeper and having fun with the various activities over the summer.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for this review. However, all opinions expressed are my own. See full disclosure statement here.

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