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.

March 30, 2015

An Open Letter To The Stranger Who Felt The Need To Tear Me Apart

We don't know one another. We've never met. We're not connected online. We have not interacted in any way. Our paths had never crossed until the other day.

That's when you tried to make me look bad to my employer. Attempted to discredit me and rip apart my work and my credentials.

Calling me "talentless," "delusional" and, "phony" is one thing. I don't expect everyone to appreciate my work. But making false accusations and attacking my character? That crosses the line.

I could turn this into a point-counterpoint post, detailing the many ways in which your claims were erroneous. But I don't feel the need. I know what is true and I stand by my work.

I don't do what I do for affirmation, or accolades, or even for money, although all are nice. I do what I do because I am called to create. I have to tell stories; my tools are a keyboard and a camera.

The only people who have to approve my words are my editors. And the only people who need to be delighted by my photographs are my clients. You are entitled to your opinion, as is everyone. But you will not discourage nor dissuade me.

If that was your goal, I'm afraid you have failed.

You didn't even hurt my feelings, if you want to know the truth. What I saw in your words was bitterness, resentment, and what could be interpreted as a tinge of jealousy. That is how you made yourself look, whether or not it is an accurate representation.

Through your words you appeared small, petty, and intolerant.

I don't know you or why you did what you did. All I know is you created an online account just so you could belittle me. You had to set up an account on the site in order to comment, something you had never done before that day.

Personally, I always look to see the good in people. I believe in giving others the benefit of the doubt. And I want to do that with you. I want to assume you were not trying to be cruel. That you did not think about how your words can impact others. That you were simply having a bad day and acted impulsively.

Yet your words demonstrate you took time with them. That you researched my background and experience and familiarized yourself with my work before crafting them.

I am part of many communities. Writers. Bloggers. Parents. For the most part I have found them to be incredibly supportive as well as inspirational. My experience has been positive.

I've been offered encouragement along the way. And some constructive criticism. But I've never had anyone malign me until you did.

Perhaps the photography community is a bit more cutthroat. I'm going to hope you are the exception to the rule.

So far, the photographers I've encountered have been wonderful. They have offered encouragement, insight and have been happy to discuss their profession with me. Even when we work in the same market and could potentially be competitors. Which is not the case with you, because you are across the country.

Yes, I know who and where you are. You used the same name in leaving your diatribe as you do professionally. It took all of five seconds for me to Google you and find your website, Facebook page, Instagram profile.

You are neither nameless nor faceless to me now. Learning you are a photographer put your words somewhat into perspective. Though I will never understand your motivation.

I don't know if anyone has ever made a concentrated effort to defame you. If so, I hope you ignored it, and continued to pursue your dreams. Nurture your passion. Practice your craft.

Because no one should ever be given the power to take those things away. And I most certainly will not grant it to you, just because you chose to use your keyboard to sling vitriol in my direction from 3,000 miles away.

March 23, 2015

Adventures In Editing: Blowing Bubbles

My daughter had Spring Break last week and we stayed home. It was a great opportunity to engage in some fun activities and play around with my camera! After a neighborhood egg hunt, she wanted to play in the back yard with the bubbles she had received.

I put my favorite lens on the camera - the 85mm 1.8 - and we headed out.

It was a warm day and the sun was out. We were in partial shade, not glaring sun this time. I got a number of great shots, but this was my favorite. Here's what I did after importing it into Lightroom:

Click on image to view larger

Since I had enjoyed the effect of the "Dreamy" preset I used before, the first thing I did was see how it would impact this image. And I loved it.

Next I did some overall sharpening and luminance smoothing (noise reduction). Although not much was needed. And I didn't have to sharpen around the eyes; they were already tack sharp. I also did not like the way the "Iris Enhance" tool I normally love changed the look of her eyes in this image. So I undid that change after I had made it.

I reduced the highlights somewhat so her hand in the foreground, which is in full sun, did not distract too much. Then I changed the white balance to, "Daylight" from, "As Shot." I really liked the sun kissed look that gave the image. Especially since my subject really was out in the sun.

I reduced the red hue a touch to try to bring down her flushed cheeks so they weren't the focus of the photograph. And increased the green hue to highlight her eyes and the beautiful background.

My daughter does have beads of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. But to me, that was part of the scene. So I did nothing to try to alter it.

I did try to to work with the triangle of light on her cheek because I didn't love the look of it. But anything I tried looked obvious and unnatural. This was a case of me shooting in the moment. I was not positioning or directing my child in any way in an attempt to control the light. I was simply working to capture a moment.

And that same light that hits her cheek also makes her hair glow and the bubbles incandescent. Those elements of the image are, to me, positive.

I like this image so much it is currently my desktop background.

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