Monarch Caterpillars make their chrysalises!

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The next big step for any Monarch caterpillar is to pupate!  That’s when it turns from a caterpillar into a chrysalis.  I was blessed to be around when one of the caterpillars pupated, but he was sneaky so I only managed to capture a before and after rather than a “during” …maybe next time.  (if you missed my earlier posts, you can see the caterpillars when they were tiny, and the caterpillars when they’d grown bigger).

For purposes of disclosure, I should mention that I rehung most of the chrysalises… they were either on tin foil that I secured to the twig, or tied up there with dental floss.  I did a bit of research beforehand so as to avoid damaging the creatures, don’t worry.  But I wanted to let you know because these photos have been photoshopped — to remove the unsightly dental floss, tin foil, etc.  I did my best to give an accurate rendering and not depart from reality.  Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to try the super glue method!

Anyways, enjoy these macro photographs of the Monarch caterpillar and Monarch chrysalises.  They are really amazing to look at close up… and I just today learned that you can tell whether a butterfly is male or female while it’s in its chrysalis.  There is a little seam at near those black dots at the top of the chrysalis.  Very interesting!  Maybe next time around I’ll know to photograph… 🙂  …hindsight is 20/20, huh?

monarch caterpillar pupating, monarch chrysalis chrysalises, nature photography macro photo
Some of the monarch caterpillars had already pupated, but one hadn’t yet.
monarch caterpillar pupating, nature photographer
This monarch caterpillar is in a “J” shape because it’s beginning to pupate. I learned (from my first grader’s book) that they make this “J” shape when they’re beginning to make the first transformation.
caterpillar pupating, monarch caterpillar, monarch chrysalis
Another photo of the caterpillar pupating with the chrysalises.
monarch chrysalises hanging on stick with pupating caterpillar, nature photographer michigan
As you can see, we had a number of chrysalises that formed at the same time.
pupating monarch caterpillar, nature macro photography
I really enjoyed getting to see this phase of the monarch butterfly life cycle. It’s not often that you get to observe the process from start to finish… usually those caterpillars are pretty sneaky and do their transforming when you’re not looking!
monarch caterpillar pupating, macro nature photography
I changed up the lighting a little bit for this one. Look at all the detail…. so amazing!
pupating monarch caterpillar, macro nature photo
Okay, this is the last one of the pupating caterpillar, I promise. We’ll move onto some close ups of the chrysalises next.
newly formed monarch chrysalis, just pupated, macro nature photography
That little guy from the previous photos? Well, I looked away for maybe ten minutes, and he (she?) had pupated. This is a VERY newly formed chrysalis. Once you scroll further down, you’ll see what I mean…
newly formed chrysalis, monarch chrysalis, macro nature photo
Another one of the newly pupated chrysalis. It’s so bumpy and shiny!
newly pupated monarch chrysalis, macro photography
It’s really tough to convey a sense of how shiny these things are, but I was finally able to manipulate my lighting just right to create this photo. Can you see the shape of the wings on the chrysalis? So cool!
monarch butterfly chrysalis, macro nature photo
Okay, now here’s a chrysalis that formed earlier. See how much smoother it is? You can still make out the shape of the butterfly wing, but it’s much more streamlined
monarch chrysalis, translucent
I took this photo because the little metallic flecks on the chrysalis are mesmerizing. Based on the research I did, people aren’t sure what those flecks are for. You can also see the semi-translucent nature of the chrysalis is in this photo as well.
monarch caterpillar pupated, macro nature photography
I thought this monarch chrysalis was very interesting. The caterpillar pupated on a leaf that had been resting on the “ground” of its hotel. I attached it to the stick so it could develop properly. But the reason I found it interesting is how you can still see part of the caterpillar outside the chrysallis. I really don’t know the technical term for this, my apologies.
monarch caterpillar pupated into chrysalis, macro chrysalis photo
Here’s another photo of the same chrysalis, it’s crazy detailed. I really found this to be amazing! If you can explain the science to me, I’d definitely be interested ;).
monarch caterpillar pupated chrysalis, macro chrysalis photo
Yes, one last one of the same chrysalis. I thought it was that interesting.
monarch chrysalis, nature photo macro photograph
Here’s a photo of a different monarch chrysalis from a different angle. You can’t really see the line of metallic flecks on this side. As I discovered later in their life cycle, this is the side of the chrysalis that will split open. Pretty neat.
monarch chrysalis, macro photograph
Another view of those cool metallic dots on the chrysalis. You can also see that part of the chrysalis is darker inside …very interesting.
monarch caterpillars, macro photo
All the chrysalises, lined up in a row. In case you’re wondering, no, nature wasn’t this organized. I transferred all of the chrysalises to this stick — the caterpillars had used their silk to attach to the aluminum foil lid of their hotel, and I cut it up into strips before wrapping it around the stick. For the photos, I did touch it out….
monarch chrysalises hanging on a branch., macro photo
And one final picture of the chrysalises. I thought this one was particularly neat because it really highlights that newly formed chrysalis and how it stands out from the others that have been hanging there for longer.

Nature Portraits by the River in Dexter :: Haylee’s Senior Portraits

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With this recent cold spell, fall really seems to be upon us.  But it wasn’t that long ago that we had warm sunny days like for Haylee’s senior portrait session.  We planned Haylee’s portrait session to take place at Mill Creek Park in Dexter.  As you might have guessed from some past blog posts, it’s a popular destination for portraits.  But even so, it’s not hard to make your portraits look unique and personalized to you.  Haylee was a great sport and smiled beautifully for the camera throughout her entire session…. and we ended up with a fantastic set of senior photos for her and her parents to enjoy.

Make sure to scroll all the way through this series of senior portraits, because I saved some of my favorites for the end.  We did do a few portraits standing in the water, which I have to say, was cold but felt refreshing given the heat.

high school senior, dexter class of 2018 senior photo dexter mi photographer
I’m not sure if there was a surefire favorite from Haylee’s senior portrait session at Mill Creek Park, but this one is definitely up there. She looks so beautiful!
high school senior girl portrait leaning up against rock wall. dexter mi photographer
I love photographing seniors at this rock wall. It’s timeless, and even on the hottest days, it feels nice and cool!
black and white photo of senior girl in nature, michigan photographer
Okay, so every once in a while, the photo just really needs to be in black and white. And I love how this one turned out.
senior portrait headshot, senior girl smiling, high school senior photographer dexter mi
This portrait of Haylee was used for her drama club headshot. So pretty!
smiling senior portrait, dexter high school senior portrait photography
And a close up of Haylee smiling. Love it.
senior girl sitting on rock by river, senior portrait in mill creek park, dexter mi photographer
We ventured out towards the water a bit, and Haylee smiled beautifully for the camera (even though her mom was making her laugh!).
senior portrait mill creek park dexter mi photographer girl near rocks
This one of Haylee is cute too! It was really hot out, but she did an awesome job of following my directions and smiling for the camera!
senior portrait, girl smiling, high school senior photo
Seriously, Haylee had so many great photos to choose from. What a gorgeous senior photo session!
senior portrait in nature, dexter mill creek park, portrait photographer
You’d never know it from these photos, but it was sweltering out the day we did Haylee’s senior photos . And, there were bugs too, of course. But Haylee did so well!!
senior portrait head and shoulders picture, dexter mi photographer
After a quick outfit change, Haylee was ready for the second part of her session. Here’s a head and shoulders photo of her…
senior portrait dexter mill creek park, border to border trail senior photos dexter mi
Haylee put up with my antics while I created a series of wide angle portraits like this one. It takes a little guesswork when you’re holding your camera two feet above your head! Love how this one turned out.
senior portrait at mill creek park in dexter near dexter library and railroad bridge.
Honeslty, this portrait might be my favorite from the session. It’s just so fun, and you get the awesome view of the border to border trail going under the railroad bridge…and the Dexter library too! Quintessential Dexter, right?
senior portrait, girl in dress smiling, senior photo dexter mi
Stunning. Really. I love this portrait series that we did on the pathway. Haylee looks so sophisticated, don’t you think?
full length senior portrait, high school senior girl, dexter high school
A full length photo from this series of senior portraits. So pretty!
senior portrait of girl leaning on railing, dexter mill creek park, michigan portrait photographer
And, of course, another one that turned out great. 🙂 🙂
wide angle senior portrait, girl by water and trees, nature portrait senior photographer dexter mi
We wrapped up Haylee’s senior portrait session with a few portraits by the water. This one is a super wide angle one that is kind of fun, don’t you think?
digital painting from portrait photograph, high school senior girl, senior portrait photographer dexter mi
And here’s the final frame. A digital painting that I created from one of the last portraits we did at Mill Creek Park in Dexter. You might notice a few scenic changes from the last portrait — that’s the beauty of painting. It’s an art and you can change the scene to fit the feel of your painting. Love those clouds.

 

If you’ve been putting off planning your senior portrait session because it seems like a lot of work, just get in touch!  We help you through the entire process, whether it’s choosing your location, giving advice on attire and outfits, or selecting the best portraits to hang on the walls of your family room.  Your senior portrait experience can be relaxing and maybe …even fun! 🙂

Monarch Caterpillars – Take Two (They are bigger!!)

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Earlier I shared some macro photos of monarch caterpillars…. and since I promised to show you how much bigger they would get…. here you are!

The monarch caterpillars are definitely bigger.

A lot bigger.

Anyways, enjoy these photos. I did include the same dime in one of the photos so you could get a sense of scale. Because when you take such close up pictures… it’s hard to get a big or small a monarch caterpillar is.  And they’re definitely fatter, I will add — just like in “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

monarch caterpillar macro photo taken from side, dexter mi photography
When I opened up the container, one of the caterpillars was hanging onto the tin foil lid. This guy is actually the smallest of all the caterpillars. Kind of makes me wonder if something is wrong with him, because he is definitely half the size of the other guys. Or, maybe he’s just a few days behind, growthwise. Your guess may be better than mine!
monarch caterpillar peeking over milkweed leaf, macro nature photographer dexter michigan
Oh my gosh. I seriously love this little caterpillar portrait… down to the little green thing that’s stuck to the monarch caterpillar’s antenna. So cool!
monarch caterpillar crawling on leaf. macro nature photography michigan
Here’s one of the fatter monarch caterpillars, from the side. I love hose this one shows off all those little legs. Very cool.
three monarch caterpillars on a milkweed leaf. macro photography nature michigan
Here are several of the caterpillars (we had six total in this round). It’s interesting how the stripes aren’t exactly identical. I wonder if they’re completely unique like zebra stripes?
monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaf, macro photography michigan
This monarch caterpillar was very wiggly. As soon as I set him down on the leaf for his photo, he started going places.
monarch caterpillars on milkweed, nature photography in miniature
Another one of the wiggly monarch caterpillar. He was one a mission of some kind!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf, mostly eaten. michigan nature photography
This monarch caterpillar had completely eaten the milkweed leaf that he was hanging out on. Seriously, the only thing left was the stem.
monarch caterpillar eating milkweed leaf. macro photograph.
I love this photo of the caterpillar on the edge of the milkweed leaf. So cool to see the eaten part kind of curve around him!
monarch caterpillar profile view, front end
Now, which end of the monarch caterpillar do you think this is?
monarch caterpillar, profile view, back end
Here’s the other end of the caterpillar. Any guesses? It’s amazing how similar they look, right?
monarch caterpillars with us dime for sense of scale, nature photography macro
As promised, here’s a photo of the caterpillars with a dime for size comparison. Haven’t they gotten bigger since I took their photos last week?
monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf, macro nature photography dexter michigan
One final side view of the monarch caterpillars on their milkweed leaf. Notice how you can see the shadow of a second one on the leaf too?
caterpillars on milkweed leaves, caterpillar poop, macro nature photography dexter michigan
And a final photo of all (or most) of the monarch caterpillars. I took this after piling them all back in their living quarters. If you look closely, you can see caterpillar poop pellets… they look like little green pellets. Kind of interesting how much waste these guys make. Especially for kids, right?

 

I know some of you like videos. so here’s a video slideshow of the photos from both photoshoots.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  I will try to keep an eye on them so that you can see photos of them once they’ve made chrysalises.  My dad, a longtime amateur entomologist, has always dreamed of getting a time lapse video of a monarch caterpillar emerging from its chrysalis. Wouldn’t that be cool?  We’ll see if I can pull something like that off.

Anyways, I’ll leave you with one final fun fact, courtesy of my son’s monarch caterpillar book.  Did you know that monarch caterpillars born late in the season will fly directly south, instead of mating?  The ones born earlier in the summer are the ones that do the mating.  Interesting. Over and out.

Senior Photos at Mill Creek Park in Dexter

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It’s always fun to do senior photos someplace local, someplace meaningful.  Or, in the very least, someplace that is amazingly gorgeous!  And that’s what Mill Creek Park is — gorgeous.  You might know it as the Library Park, because the Dexter District Library overlooks the park.  Or maybe you know the park as Warrior Creek Park….which it was formerly named in years past.  Whatever you call it, the park is gorgeous.

Let’s just say, if you’re thinking about doing senior photos at Mill Creek Park in Dexter, you won’t be disappointed.  I love the boat launch steps, the walking path under the bridge, the grassy natural areas, and even the playground.  Mill Creek Park offers a nice variety of settings for most types of portrait photography sessions — and, most importantly, there are some nice shady spots to keep you out of the heat of the midday sun!

Here’s a sibling portrait session I did at Mill Creek Park this summer.  N. is a senior at Dexter High School, while C. is a junior this year.  It was nice to get photos of both of them during this senior and not-quite-yet-senior photo shoot!

Since you might want to see what some other parts of Mill Creek Park look like, here’s another senior photo session that we did there.  Well, at least partly.  Madison’s senior portrait session took place in downtown Dexter, and included some senior photos at Mill Creek Park in Dexter too.  I love the one of her with her black lab.  So adorable!

I’ve done various other senior portrait sessions at Mill Creek Park over the years.. the water is almost always nice to wade in, and feels great during hot summer Michigan days. On rare occasion the water is too high, and the current too fast, but usually my older (i.e. teen or adult) clients are able to comfortably wade into the shallows of the water. Here’s a few photos from a teen photo session at Mill Creek Park….

And for those of you who remember what Mill Creek Park was like before the boardwalk and other improvements went in, I haven’t forgotten either.  Here are a few senior photos at Mill Creek Park when it was still known as Warrior Creek Park.  Amazing how quickly we grow accustomed to new improvements, huh?

As an aside, there’s another nice park in Dexter that’s similar, but a little different — Hudson Mills Metropark.  I’ve done senior portraits there too.    If you want to take a peek, you can view Luke’s senior portrait at Hudson Mills Metropark.  Here’s a teaser of his senior portrait blog post:

If you want to explore Mill Creek Park a little more, you might check out this blog post of mine about Mill Creek Park in Dexter.  I have a few more recent sessions on the schedule to share with you at Mill Creek Park, so if you’re dying to see more senior photos at Mill Creek Park in Dexter, definitely sign up for my email updates so you won’t miss those posts.

If you want to learn more about planning your senior portrait session at Mill Creek Park (or elsewhere), please contact the studio today.  We definitely are in a busy season right now, but should be able to fit you in before your yearbook deadline.

 

Family Photos with Baby + Dog :: A. Family

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I photographed the A. Family when this cute little girl was just a newborn. And now here we are, doing a family portrait already… she’s grown so much!  There is nothing more exciting than getting to watch my clients’ children grow up into their own little selves.  Oh, I guess there’s one thing almost as good… and that’s when my clients bring their pets to the portrait session.  I love including animals in family photos (or any type of portrait photo, for that matter!).

infant portrait, digitally painted by photographer dexter mi
I based this digital painting from several photographs we took during the outdoors portion of their family session. It was really fun to create this, and I especially had fun painting the background of the piece.
family portrait with baby girl outdoors dexter mi
Here’s one of the portraits I am talking about. Adorable family portrait, no? You’d never know it was buggy out by their great smiles 🙂
mom with baby girl, portrait session outdoors dexter mi
We got this portrait of mom with baby girl before deciding the bugs were too thick outside …at least in this spot.
family portrait with baby and dog in grass. dexter mi photographer
Before heading into the studio, we did one last set of images out in the grass. I was hoping the bugs would be fewer in number here, but no such luck. They were great sports though! Love this one.
family photo in studio with baby and dog, dexter mi photographer
And after a bit of a break for baby, we started in on the studio portion of the family photo session.
baby sticking tongue out with mom giving her kiss, dexter child photographer michigan
It’s always cute to capture some of those silly baby faces. I love this one of her with mom!
baby smiling while mom holds her, dexter michigan baby photographer
And an adorable baby portrait where she’s all smiles!! I love it.
baby sucking thumb in dad's arms, dexter michigan photographer
Dad’s turn to hold her came next. At this point, she was more interested in her thumb. Too cute!
dad with baby, family portrait photographer dexter michigan
She was getting a little wiggly at this point, but we managed to get this one with dad and babe in arms.
mom and dad looking at baby during family portrait, michigan dexter photography session
Oh my gosh. I totally love this photo. She is looking so sweetly at the camera, and mom and dad are so happily looking at their baby. Love it!!!
outtake from photo session, prepping for baby portrait session dexter mi safe photography
This one is an outtake from the family photo session, but I wanted to share it with you because it’s important to know how much prep work goes into some of these photos. With little ones, we’re always VERY careful about keeping them safe. And then you can’t do a portrait like this with just any dog. They have the calmest, sweetest dog ever. Dad stayed right nearby the whole time, with his hand on his kiddo to make sure she didn’t fall over. That’s when Photoshop comes in handy — I do a little magic and you end up with a safely created portrait.
baby portrait studio dexter michigan photographer. baby girll with chocolate lab dog pet portrait
Seriously. Adorable. Isn’t this the cutest baby portrait ever??? I love how it turned out. And as I mentioned a minute ago, dad was holding onto this kiddo because she’s not quite ready to sit up yet. Sometimes Photoshop magic just makes sense. Safety first.
chocolate lab portrait in studio, pet photographer dexter michigan
And to finish things up, I took one portrait of this well-mannered chocolate lab all by herself. She is really such a sweet pup!!!

I’d love to talk with you about planning a fun family portrait session — whether or not you have pets to include! Call the studio today at 734-424-0472 to start planning for your next family photo.

Senior Portraits at Hudson Mills Metropark :: Luke

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Luke’s senior portrait session started at the studio, but most of his photos were created on location at Hudson Mills Metropark.  When photographing clients at two locations, I always love to start in the studio because those portraits are a little more formal. By the time we get to the second location, everyone is relaxed and comfortable — perfect for more casual location portraits!

So, without further ado, enjoy these senior portraits taken at Hudson Mills Metropark!

formal portrait of dexter mi high school senior boy
We started out in the studio for Luke’s portrait session. I like to start in the studio because it gives us a chance to get used to working with each other. Besides, these traditional shots tend to be a little more formal anyways.
senior portrait boy at hudson mills metropark mi
After the studio part of his senior portrait session, we went to Hudson Mills Metropark. Hudson Mills, like most parks, has a lot of nice natural areas. I love that it’s easy to incorporate the river into sessions here too!
senior boy crossed arms in front of river, dexter mi senior portrait
I love this portrait of Luke with the river behind him. Whether you’re a natural in front of the camera, or need lots of directions from me, I will make sure that we get some fantastic portraits 🙂
senior photo relaxed expression high school boy dexter mi
Luke with a slight smile. I love how natural this expression is, and how relaxed he looks in this senior photo.
senior portrait, boy on bench by huge tree. dexter michigan hudson mills metropark
A lot of the time, I will tell my clients “go sit over there on that bench.” Because even if you might not see it, there’s an awesome photo waiting to be taken. And that was the case with this photo. I love the huge old tree in the background, and how Luke isn’t really looking at the camera (yes, sometimes I tell my clients to look at such and so …to deliberately stage a contemplative senior portrait like this one.
senior portrait boy standing on rock by river dexter michigan
After a series of photos on the bench, we walked down the path and stopped by the river bank near the base of that old tree. I had Luke stand on one of the larger rocks so that I could create this cool senior portrait. I love how the leaves are in the foreground…
senior portrait, boy sitting on rocks dexter michigan hudson mills park
While it had been a partially cloudy day, the sun suddenly peeked out from behind the clouds. We got some gorgeous light on the water, and it definitely added a lot of impact to this portrait. Love it!
senior portrait of boy on rocks at hudson mills metropark
Another one from the same series. I just love that light reflecting off the water. Throughout this whole session, Luke did a great job of following my directions so we could create great images like this one.
senior portrait of boy near a fence in dexter mi
A little further down the path, we found a wooden fence. I had Luke lean up against it. This one is the first in the series. Very serious, but I like it.
dexter high school senior boy leaning on fence.
Another senior portrait – I love this capture of Luke.
senior portrait boy near fence in nature park dexter mi
And the sun, again. I love it. The leading lines from the fence draw your eye down the path, and Luke is right in the center of it. Very cool senior portrait!
senior portrait of boy in nature dexter michigan
I had Luke stay where he was, and moved further up the path to create a totally different look from the same exact spot. Love this one too!
senior boy at river edge sitting on rocks dexter michigan portrait
We finished up our session by a boat launch. I had been eyeing this spot from the beginning of the session, but we did wait until after several kayakers got their boats into the water. Luke sat on the rocks, his mom steadied my light for me so I didn’t have to worry about it falling in the water (thanks mom!)…. and we got this great natural looking portrait of Luke!
senior boy sitting on rocks near water in dexter michigan
And, of course, a pull back of the same portrait. I couldn’t decide which was my favorite, so you get to see both! Either would be great for a senior portrait — but I’d use this one for a larger wall portrait 🙂
senior portrait boy sitting near tree roots dexter michigan photographer
As we were wrapping up the session, Luke’s mom asked about doing a few photos near these cool tree roots. I am so glad she mentioned it, because I had seen the same thing and loved it! We did a few photos of Luke here, and I love how the roots all wiggle their way towards the subject of the senior portrait.

Luke was a great sport during his entire senior portrait session. We managed to create all these senior portraits — and more — during his hour long session.

I’m always happy to work with clients who know exactly what they want… and with clients who want me to direct them completely. We will make your senior portraits uniquely you. If you’re interested in planning a laid-back senior portrait session and need someone who knows what they’re doing, call us at 734-424-0472 today!

Macro Portrait :: Monarch Caterpillar

posted in: Fine Art | 0

My kids love nature (woohoo! Excited parenting moment, right?)… and they are always asking if we can keep bugs or insects to “watch them” for a while.  Usually, we send the little critters back out into the wild after a brief observation period, of course.  But when it comes to Monarch caterpillars, I’m willing to make an exception.

You see, we have a friend who’s been raising Monarch caterpillars for years, so I was excited when we finally found some!  Where?  In my front garden bed, surprisingly.  The first round of caterpillars took a field trip to my son’s classroom for the entire class to enjoy watching.  Those five (no, maybe six?) caterpillars were pretty big, almost ready to make their chrysalises.

I made a mental note to check the milkweed plants a couple times later in the week, just in case we missed any.  Why?  Because my preschooler was sad about not getting to see the caterpillars.  Anyways, I happened to find six teeny tiny Monarch caterpillars. These guys would’ve been hidden really well if I didn’t know exactly which plants to search.

So, enjoy these photos.  I’ll try to take some more once they’ve grown bigger so you can get an idea of how much they grow in the caterpillar stage!

monarch caterpillar curled up on milkweed leaf
This was the biggest of the six caterpillars I found …he liked to play dead when I picked up his leaf…
monarch caterpillar next to hole in milkweed leaf
Another monarch caterpillar, next to the hole he had cruched in the milkweed leaf
Monarch caterpillars on milkweed
You can see one caterpillar on the underside of this leaf, and the shadow of another one hiding on the opposite side close by. Cool!
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf
They are so tiny, but so intricate. I loved photographing these Monarch caterpillars!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
They crawled around a little bit during their portrait session, but such is life when photographing critters.
three monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaves.
You can see three Monarch caterpillars in this shot. The curled up one, another on top of the leaf, and a third caterpillar on the underside of the top leaf (near the top of the photo).
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf with water drops.
I liked how the water drops looked on the milkweed leaves. That’s from my spray bottle, so they had water, by the way.
Monarch caterpillars on opposite sides of a milkweed leaf
Two of the caterpillars, one on each side of the leaf again. Thanks for bearing with all these photos…. the kids were really interested and wanted me to share these!
Monarch caterpillars hiding on milkweed leaf
Yup, another Monarch caterpillar is hiding on the backside of this leaf. That makes two…
Two Monarch caterpillars on milkweed. One larger.
This photo shows how one of the Monarch caterpillars is bigger than most of the ones I found.
monarch caterpillar near edge of milkweed leaf.
I love this photo of the Monarch caterpillar.!!!!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
The big guy decided to uncurl and hang out on a milkweed leaf, so I took a few more photos of him.
macro close up of monarch caterpillar
This is the closest macro photo I could get with my fancy camera gear… at least the stuff I had easily accessible. Not bad, not bad at all. Amazing detail on these guys!
monarch caterpillar near chewed up milkweed leaf.
One more of the biggest-small Monarch caterpillar…just because.
monarch caterpillars next to a dime (american currency) for scale
Here are two of the caterpillars next to a dime for size comparison. Seriously, they’re tiny!!
monarch caterpillar with USA dime for sense of scale
Another one of the caterpillars next to the dime…I’m not sure he would even cover the letters “LIBERTY” …it might be close!
monarch caterpillar near big hole in milkweed leaf
And right when I was starting to put the caterpillars away, one of the caterpillars crawled on the edge of the milkweed leaf, right near this huge hole. I thought it was really neat!
monarch caterpillar from the side
And finally, a profile shot of the Monarch caterpillar. In this one, you can really see how the head and back end of these caterpillars look very similar. The head is to the left of the photo. Did you get mixed up?

Manchester Pistol Prodigies

posted in: Local | 0

For the past couple years, we have sponsored the Manchester Pistol Prodigies.  Now, since the season is over, I can tell you… the Manchester Pistol Prodigies did really well in the realm of competitive shooting this past year.  The team made it all the way to the 2017 National Championships!  Congratulations everyone!  The Manchester Mirror posted an article about the Pistol Prodigies heading to Nationals this summer — it’s a good read if you’re interested.

sports team, competitive shooting team, group photo manchester pistol prodigies.
The Manchester Pistol Prodigies team!

What a fantastic group of kids.  And of course, they are headed up by a set of awesome coaches too.  There’s nothing more important than good leadership when you are teaching youths about responsible gun handling.  And every time I’ve been around the Pistol Prodigies, I can tell that they have been taught to be safe and responsible when handling firearms, and it carries over to other aspects of life too.   I can tell you from personal experience that these kids are top notch.  Nowhere else do I get so many “thank you for taking our photos” and polite comments from clients who are still youths.

The Manchester Pistol Prodigies are a local team associated with the Michigan Scholastic Action Shooting Program, whose goal is this:

SASP is designed to instill in young people a set of personal values and character traits for fair play, compassionate understanding, individual responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline, and personal commitment. As the sport itself, these qualities will stay with them throughout their lifetimes, helping each young athlete reach his or her full potential.

If you want to learn more about the Manchester Pistol Prodigies team and their season, here’s a bit of info from their website:

September 1st is the official start of our 2017-18 season. We’re ready for our 1st match, the kids will shoot great!

If your 4th-12th grader (or full-time college student) is interested in joining our team, please contact us. Student Athletes do NOT have to be from the Manchester Area.

 

Baby’s First Year – P. is Ready to Stand!

posted in: Photography | 0

One of the best parts of my job is getting to see repeat customers. I love it when my littlest clients come back to the studio, because it’s always so amazing how much they’ve grown! And, let me tell you — if you’re worried about planning a portrait session for your child because he or she just doesn’t behave in front of the camera — don’t worry.

That’s my job — leave the magic to me. I feel a little silly telling you this, but I’ve been called a baby whisperer by clients who were sure the photo session would be a bust. So don’t stress out. After all, that’s why you’re trusting me with your memories, with creating portraits of your loved ones. Relax, and let me do my thing.

baby's first year portrait, hand painted in photoshop, digital painting, master photographer artist dexter mi
I seriously can’t get enough of this smile. P. has the cutest expressions. I just had to do a painting from one of the priceless expressions he shared during his final first year portrait session. I am really excited about how this painting turned out!! LOVE!!
toddler baby boy with wooden car. studio portrait, baby's first year plan, dexter michigan portrait photographer
Like many little boys, P. loves cars. So when his mom told me he was super interested in anything that has wheels, I made sure to hand him a cute wooden car right away. No better way to help a kid relax and get excited about letting me take their portrait!
baby boy one year old, standing with a chair. photographer studio portrait dexter michigan.
Since P. was not quite standing on his own for this session in his baby’s first year plan, I brought out a chair to give him a little support. Now, when photographing little ones (or any clients, for that matter), safety comes first. For portraits where I have a toddler who may topple over, there’s always an adult literally right out of the frame. My rule? “If you feel uncomfortable at any point, grab your kid.” No photo is worth a little one getting hurt.
toddler boy riding rocking horse for baby's first year portrait in studio. dexter michigan photographer
I think P. smiled most of the way through his first year portrait sessions! By now, he’d started moving the chair around as a walking aid, so we switched to a new prop — this lovely wooden rocking horse that used to be one of my nieces’ toys. I’m all for repurposing well-crafted pieces. He was so excited to ride the rocking horse!
baby boy one year old, standing with chair in photographer studio. Baby's first year photos in dexter michigan
P. needed a little break, so we took the opportunity to do an outfit change. I love that his mom planned this portrait to correlate with his older sibling’s portrait at the same age. That will be so adorable to compare their portraits! Of course, the chair thing didn’t last long… but we got a couple before he was off to the races! (pretty typical for a first year session).
toddler boy standing and holding mom's hand during portrait session at dexter mi photographer studio
Here’s the closest we came to having P. stand unassisted. We tried seeing if he would let go of Mom’s hand for any length of time, but he was having none of it. Oh well. No worries, this portrait is still cute! One of the less smiley photos of P. ….but still adorable.
toddler boy with curly hair, smiling at camera. dexter mi portrait session for baby's first year.
And finally… look at those curls!!! I can’t get enough of this cutie. Isn’t it interesting how some siblings look so similar, yet have different features, like curly/straight hair? What a sweetie.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these first year portraits of P. (sigh, I can’t call him a baby anymore, he is getting so big!). If you want to learn more about planing your own portrait session with Betsy’s Photography, please call the studio at 734-424-0472 today. If you have a little one, or are expecting, make sure to inquire about our baby’s first year plan!

A Field of Sunflowers :: Rachel’s Senior Portraits

posted in: Photography | 0

Rachel’s mom contacted me this summer about doing her senior portraits in a field of sunflowers.  Cool idea, right?  And we were in luck, because the weather was great on the day of Rachel’s session.  A bit hot for anyone’s liking,…but, hey, it’s Michigan.  We have to work with what we’re given.  You’d never know it from these photos, because Rachel looks absolutely gorgeous, but it was drippingly hot.  Seriously.

Enjoy this slideshow of our favorite images from Rachel’s senior portraits in the sunflower field.

 

And in case you’re a sucker for web photos instead of video slideshows, here they are!  Rachel was a great sport.  She put up with the hot sun, some windy gusts, and of course, my goofy requests that she pretend to laugh at her mom.  All in all, Rachel’s senior portrait session went very smoothly though.  We got some great portraits that I am sure her family will enjoy for years to come.  And once I’ve designed the memories panel that her mom ordered for their home, I will share that with you too!

senior portrait of a girl in a field of sunflowers.
This photo was one of Rachel’s mom’s favorite portraits in the sunflower field. Love it!
senior girl in sunflower field for senior portrait photo session, Michigan.
I love love love this view of the sunflower field. Rachel’s senior portraits all turned out awesome!
Senior girl with sunflowers behind her.
Love those sunflowers behind Rachel. <3
Senior girl in a sunflower field, Dexter, MI
Another one of Rachel… love that white dress, it looks great with the sunflowers!
senior girl portrait, closeup, with sunflowers. Dexter Michigan Photographer.
Look at those eyes! Gorgeous.
senior photos of high school senior girl in field of sunflowers, Dexter, MI
And it was windy now and then, so Rachel’s long hair looked fabulous (as long as we faced into the wind!).
senior girl in dress, surrounded by sunflowers. Dexter Michigan Senior portrait.
Another one of Rachel, looking great!
Sunflower field for a senior portrait photo session, Dexter Michigan.
Pulling back to get a few more sunflowers in the portrait. Love it!
senior portrait in sunflower field, Dexter, MI - dance.
This one looks a little more formal than the rest of Rachel’s senior portraits, thanks to the pose. I usually try to get a mix of relaxed and more posed portraits to keep the session flowing well.
Senior portrait, girl with hat, sunflower field, Dexter, MI
I love that Rachel brought along this hat!! Isn’t it great?
senior portrait, girl wearing hat in sunflower field, Dexter MI
Of course, with a hat, we had to do something a little more fun and peppy. Love how this portrait of Rachel turned out!
senior girl portrait, Dexter, MI, sunflowers behind her.
I love using one particular lens in my camera bag because you get such a neat perspective. <3
senior girl portrait in sunflower field, sitting on tree stump, dexter michigan photographer
Okay, I have to tell you, we didn’t bring a tree stump to our portrait session. I did a little of my artistry magic to give Rachel something a little nicer to sit on than my white stepstool. Presto chango…voila!
Senior girl with long hair, looking over shoulder, senior portraits in sunflower field, dexter mi photo
Love that hair!
Senior girl relaxed smile, long hair, dexter michigan senior photo
And I love this relaxed photo of Rachel. Great natural smile!
senior girl with hat and long hair, sunflower field dexter mi senior photo
Again, that hair…and that hat. Love it!
senior girl standing in field with sunflowers, wearing hat, dexter mi senior photo
I know, another hat portrait. But she’s rocking it.
senior girl wearing hat, smiling, in sunflower field. senior photo dexter mi
Hats off to you, Rachel, as you enter your senior year of high school. <3
senior portrait, artist painting, sunflower field
It must be the artist in me, but I can’t help myself. I loved painting this portrait of Rachel… it’s so fun to explore the world of digital painting. Seriously, I get to use a paintbrush with my stylus and tablet…. and there is no messy paint cleanup!

 

If you’re looking at doing senior pictures while the weather’s warm, get in touch with me ASAP to plan your session! Or, we can plan something for the fall… your call.  Call the studio at 734-424-0472 to learn more about having your senior portraits done by award-winning master photographer Betsy Finn today!

Studio Portraits of My Dog :: Meet Apollo!

posted in: Photography | 0

Life has been pretty busy around here. But, I’ve finally taken studio portraits of my dog.  Yes, we have a new pup! As an aside, if you’re looking for a lab, I highly recommend Northern Lites Labs in Grayling, Michigan.  We made the drive from Dexter to Grayling to pick him up, and it was totally worth it.  This pup is one of the calmest labs I’ve ever met. Except for his mom.  Apollo has got a soft mouth already, and is very tolerant of everything our crazy household has thrown his way.  Plus, he came to us practically housetrained — and he slept through the night in his crate without any issues right from the get-go.  Seriously. Northern Lites Labs is a fantastic breeder.

Now, onto the portraits!  Apollo is a chocolate lab, and he’s not quite 5 months yet. What a handsome guy.  We are so lucky to have found him! Our dog photo session was cut short because one of my little assistants left the treat container on the floor. Yes, open.  So, Apollo naturally got into them… and we had to postpone the rest of the photos for another day. No need for a sick puppy!  Regardless, our mini session was very fruitful.  I think we spent under 15 minutes getting all these studio portraits of my dog.  That’s excluding the two minutes of crazy kid photos you’ll see at the end of this post (my assistants like to pose for the camera).

Studio Portraits of My Dog, Apollo! studio portraits of my chocolate lab puppy, Apollo studio photo of my chocolate labrador chocolate labrador studio photos dog photo by puppy photographer dexter michigan

I have to admit, even though I already think my dog is a good looking pup, when I saw the results of his portrait session I was wowed.  Seriously adorable.  Okay, I’m sure you’re tired of all the gushing about how cute this puppy is!

Before we wrap this post up, here’s the “test shot” or two of my kids.  Yes, my photo assistants wanted to do some silly photos to make sure my camera was working correctly. So, per my usual, I made Toby and Zack smile first.

Although adorable, remember, they are a textbook example of what NOT to wear to your photo session! LOL

....what not to wear for your studio portrait session!

what not to wear for your studio portrait session
….what not to wear for your studio portrait session!

If you are looking to have studio portraits of your dog (or human family), please contact Betsy via the web or call 734-424-0472. Let’s get you set up with some fantastic photos of your own!

Senior Photos With Pets? Yes! :: Madison

posted in: Photography | 0

While I love photographing seniors, or any of my clients, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for animals.  So, when Madison’s mom asked me if I ever do senior photos with pets, I enthusiastically said, “yes!!”

A lot of my clients are concerned that their dog might be too rambunctious or energetic to sit still for photos.  But, as I reassured this client of mine, I am happy to include dogs for a portion of any session!  My secret?  Well, besides just liking dogs and being patient with them, it’s a simple matter of getting your dog mostly tired out before the photos happen.  Whether that means a trip to the dog park, or a long walk, or numerous games of tug… it’s usually a pretty good bet that when your pup is pooped, he will be amenable to having his photo taken.

I have to admit, I think this is my favorite photo of the whole senior session. We had Madison stand in the water to coax the pup towards her. Even thought he generally doesn’t like water….it worked! Yes, he was back out of the water within a minute… But, I was able to capture this priceless moment. I initially wasn’t even sure we had captured him looking at the camera!  Now, you might notice this photo looks more like a painting. I used my traditional artistic training and recent training in painting digitally to create this digitally masterpiece. Don’t you love how it turned out???

senior portrait of a girl and her dog in Dexter, Michigan. senior photos with pets
Madison’s black lab doesn’t usually like water, but we coaxed him into the creek for this gorgeous portrait moment. I painted it digitally, because it was just crying “paint me!” I think this is one of my favorite senior photos with pets that I’ve done.

Now, let’s get on to the photos of Madison.  It was such an honor to photograph Madison, she is a great person and I love her cheerfulness!  While I love all of my clients, it’s always fantastic when a session goes smooth as silk. And Madison’s senior portraits just flowed so nicely. Despite the heat, we managed to stay out of the direct sun. …and we created some gorgeous senior portraits in the shady spots of downtown Dexter. Side note — when doing senior photos with pets, make sure to also bring a water bowl and enough water. On a hot day, it’s really essential.  (I’m so glad Madison and her mom planned ahead!).

Madison, class of 2018 senior in Whitmore Lake, posing for a photo op during her senior portrait session in downtown Dexter, Michigan.
Madison, class of 2018 senior in Whitmore Lake, posing for a photo op during her senior portrait session in downtown Dexter, Michigan.
I love this photo of Madison laughing during our senior portrait session in Dexter, Michigan.
I love this photo of Madison laughing during our senior portrait session in Dexter, Michigan.
Madison is a class of 2018 senior in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. She came to Dexter for her studio and location portrait session. This brick wall was a great spot for photos.
Madison is a class of 2018 senior in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. She came to Dexter for her studio and location portrait session. This brick wall was a great spot for photos.
Portrait of Madison, a class of 2018 senior, in downtown Dexter.
Portrait of Madison, a class of 2018 senior, in downtown Dexter.
Portrait of Madison, a class of 2018 senior, in downtown Dexter.
Portrait of Madison, a class of 2018 senior, in downtown Dexter.
senior photos with pets? yes! Girl with dog in Dexter, MI
Madison brought along her black lab for some portraits during her senior photo session in Dexter, Michigan. (senior photos
Since it was a hot day, this spot under the bridge in Dexter's Mill Creek Park was a fantastic place to stop and take some senior photos.
Since it was a hot day, this spot under the bridge in Dexter’s Mill Creek Park was a fantastic place to stop and take some senior photos.
Class of 2018 senior Madison posing under the bridge in downtown Dexter for her senior photos.
Class of 2018 senior Madison posing under the bridge in downtown Dexter for her senior photos.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of Madison’s senior portraits. As I mentioned earlier, these were taken in downtown Dexter.  What I didn’t mention is that her entire session took about an hour. Yes, including a quick stop at my studio for the obligatory studio senior portrait.  Easy peasy!

As the senior portrait season ramps up, we’ll be sharing more sneak peeks. I hope you will find these senior photos inspirational as you plan your next portrait session. If you’re interested in learning more about how the portrait planning process works, just contact Betsy via internet or call 734-424-0472.

 

One More Moment – Local Charity Spotlight

posted in: Local | 2

This week my husband and I attended a happy hour event for One More Moment, a local Ann Arbor charity that helps create “one more moment” for late stage cancer warriors.

(We’ve gone to several events in the past, and all of them have been fabulous)

Maybe you’re wondering:

What is One More Moment?

It’s a nonprofit charity based in Ann Arbor that works with local donors and supporters to give late stage cancer warriors their “one more moment” together:

One More Moment …[was]… created to help give local late stage cancer warriors and their families … one more special moment together. … They needn’t be extreme or “typical”. The key is for something special and unique for every individual & family; simply “their” moment to enjoy.

You can like their Facebook page and visit their website, onemoremoment.org, for more info.

So, back to the Happy Hour event.  It was nice relaxing end to a busy day for us.  There were a lot of people there (One More Moment sold tickets in advance, and ended up announcing that tickets were sold out earlier in the week!).

Everyone left with a goody bag, but there were a number of winners that took home raffle items too!  Like my grandmother, I have a knack for winning things.  So, we left with a really cool Shock-Top logo-ed patio/beach umbrella, and a wooden crate full of other Shock-Top swag.  I think the wooden crate may make an appearance in future kid photo sessions, as it is just the right size for babies and toddlers to sit in!  Thank you!

If you were there, we hope you had as much fun as we did.  My kids “helped” me dig through the bags today, and I was reminded how MANY wonderful local Ann Arbor businesses have contributed goodies to help these One More Moment fundraisers fabulous. So, when you look through your swag, please consider supporting all the local businesses who made the even possible!

Here are some photos that I took of the event.  Feel free to share them with friends and family, upload to Facebook or whatever social media. I just ask that you leave the discrete watermark intact.

Remember to like One More Moment on Facebook and visit their website, onemoremoment.org, for more info!

Learn about the Rule of Thirds (a fun snack activity for kids!)

posted in: Learning | 0

Learning is fun, but when you combine learning with snacktime, that’s even better!  This week, we’re talking about the Rule of Thirds (another stop on our trip through the alphabet with our Photography ABCs series).  What is the rule of thirds?  It’s a photography concept for creating visually interesting images — we’ll get into that shortly.

Read on to see how we’ll be using crackers to recreate the rule of thirds!

Learn About the Rule of Thirds... your kids will love this fun snack based learning activity! - BPhotoArt.com

The Rule of Thirds

First, let’s talk about the rule of thirds.  Here’s a definition I found at Cambridge in Colour:

The rule of thirds states than an image is most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds — both vertically and horizontally.

Basically, you take an image, and divide it into thirds, both ways.  Where the lines cross, those are the places that you should try to have visual interest.  So, if you took a picture of your dog running at the park, you would want to make sure that it was at one of those spots when you look through the camera.

It’s a little bit easier to see than to explain.  Take a peek at this picture below (used with permission from Pixabay.com).  The image is deliberately composed so that both the bird and the wire are following the rule of thirds.  I’ve included a second image which illustrates this, as the blue lines divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically.

The wire is running horizontally across the image, placed at the lower third of the image.  You might notice that the bird is slightly to the right of the vertical blue line — but look at its eye.  That eye has been placed at the spot where two blue lines intersect.  Those intersections are points of visual interest.

pexels-bird-rule-of-thirds-no-grid
This image has been composed according to the Rule of Thirds. Image used with permission from Pixabay.com.
pexels-bird-rule-of-thirds-with-grid
With the addition of these blue lines to illustrate the Rule of Thirds, you can see that the points of interest lie along the lines, and at the intersections of the lines. Image used with permission from Pixabay.com.

 

Okay, now onto the fun snack activity!  This will help your kids visualize the concept of the Rule of Thirds.  You probably have everything you need in your snack cabinet.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 9 square crackers
  • 9 rectangular crackers
  • 4+ smaller snack items
  • snack tray or cookie sheet

We used saltines, graham crackers (broken into the smaller sections), and goldfish crackers.  But you could use any snack items that are square and rectangular.  The goldfish could be replaced by any similarly sized snack item: raisins, nuts, or bite-sized candies.  And, of course, you’ll need some sort of flat work surface.  My kids love using cookie sheets, but if you have a small serving tray, that could work well too. It just has to be big enough for all the crackers to be spread out flat.

First, you need some edible supplies for this activity. We used goldfish and saltines to learn about the rule of thirds
First, you need some edible supplies for this activity. We used goldfish and saltines to learn about the rule of thirds
Zack, my two year old, had fun moving the crackers around on our activity tray.
Zack, my two year old, had fun moving the crackers around on our activity tray.
set up the crackers in a 3x3 grid (3 across, 3 down). You can probably see the grid lines already...
set up the crackers in a 3×3 grid (3 across, 3 down). You can probably see the grid lines already…
Now add goldfish to the intersection points on the grid. Those are the key points of visual interest, per the rule of thirds!
Now add goldfish to the intersection points on the grid. Those are the key points of visual interest, per the rule of thirds!
Zack obviously could have used a little help getting everything "perfectly" lined up, but if you're okay with imperfection, it's best to let them run with it!
Zack obviously could have used a little help getting everything “perfectly” lined up, but if you’re okay with imperfection, it’s best to let them run with it!
Here Zack is showing me where he'll put his next goldfish for our rule of thirds activity.
Here Zack is showing me where he’ll put his next goldfish for our rule of thirds activity.
Graham crackers, when used to make a 3x3 grid, create a rectangle rather than a square. You can see how the rule of thirds adapts to this change!
Graham crackers, when used to make a 3×3 grid, create a rectangle rather than a square. You can see how the rule of thirds adapts to this change!

 

Rule of Thirds Activity Extension (for older kids)

Isn’t that cool?  You can also extend this activity by having older kids draw lines through photos in magazines, creating the rule of thirds grid.  Discuss whether the images adhere to the rule of thirds, if the most visually interesting things are found along either the grid lines or the intersections!

 


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

 

Looking Backward With Photo Memories

posted in: Notes | 0

Last night I was going through old photos.  While I have my client images well organized and backed up appropriately, my personal photos have been stored haphazardly on CDs, DVDs, and old external hard drives.  My goal?  To make sure my photo memories didn’t get lost forever.  If there’s interest, I’ll go over some ways to store photos in another article — send me an email or comment on this post.

Anyways, it was really interesting for me to note my experience taking a walk down memory lane.

Every photo was steeped with emotions, feelings, and memories.

When I looked through a series of images from a family vacation, I could recall additional events that occurred that same day.

It was amazing.

And poignant.

"To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." ~ Margaret Fairless Barber ~ {Shared at BPhotoArt.com}
“To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.” ~ Margaret Fairless Barber ~

Some of my favorite photos now, are ones that wouldn’t have been all that important in the moment.  Photos of loved ones who’ve passed, photos of pets who aren’t with us anymore.  Even photos of the exterior of my childhood home.

Looking through all those photos made me nostalgic, sure.

But it also made me feel grateful.

Grateful for my childhood. Grateful for so many memories. And grateful for the photos to share with my kids.

Going through those photos was a chance for me to get out of the mindset where I can’t see the forest for the trees.  In the daily grind, sometimes you just forget to look at the big picture.  But those details, while they matter, have to be aligned with your master plan to be effective.

So, this year, as you look forward — consider looking backwards first. You may find, as I did, that it helps clarify things for you.  You become more aware of your blessings, or rediscover forgotten goals.

Clothespin Christmas Angel (an elf alternative)

posted in: Notes | 1

My kids are really excited for December.  And since Thanksgiving has come and gone, there’s definitely been an uptick in the Christmas spirit around our household.  Last year, I’d been considering making kindness elves for the Christmas countdown, but never got around to it.  I have never really liked the elf on the shelf idea, so this year I did a little more exploring of alternatives to elf on the shelf, and kindness elves.

Some people made kindness elves, kindness kids, etc — whose purpose was to help the kids learn to pay it forward.  I liked the idea.  But then I stumbled across this idea of a Christmas angel.

 

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I decided to print out a few kindness elf printables for the Christmas angel to share with the boys each day.  After checking out a bunch of different options, I decided to use these cute circle tags by Passionate Penny Pincher.

And since we celebrate Christmas in both the secular and religious sense, the Christmas angel will also be delivering a daily advent prompt to help my boys understand things on a more spiritual level too.  That part was easy, as I found this printable that goes along with the Jesus Storybook Bible #afflink …so I printed out a set of free printable advent cards for December.

When the kids wake up, I’m going to have this cute little clothespin angel sitting out on the kitchen table with some of the printables I mentioned inside this envelope.  I also wrote a brief “introduction” letter to the boys, from the Christmas Angel, of course.  The text was inspired by a Christmas Angel note I found at The Riches of His Love.

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

How to Make the Clothespin Christmas Angel

Now, in case you’re wondering how I made the clothespin angel, here’s the quick cliff notes version.

(Sorry, I didn’t take step by step photos, as I honestly wasn’t sure how it would turn out!)

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I took a square piece of fabric that was about five inches by five inches — and cut a small hole in the center. Then I pushed the clothespin through the opening.

Using the gold pipe cleaner, I made a halo at one end, then bent it around the neck of the clothespin angel to secure the fabric “dress.”

I used another gold pipe cleaner as a combo waistband and set of arms.

Then, I took two more pipe cleaners and bent them into angel wings.  Honestly, they looked more like flower petals than wings at first, but I still think it turned out cute!

I then attached the wings to the clothespin Christmas angel on the back side (at the “waistband”).

Using some permanent markers, I colored the main part of the clothespin gold (it turned out more brown, but oh well), and drew a face on the Christmas Angel too.

I kept it really simple… because, well, simple is better!

…and easier.

So, if you don’t have all the supplies, then by all means, improvise!  Make it work for you 🙂

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I’ll see how many days we continue the Christmas Angel concept… it might be a huge hit, or it could be a bust.  I’m all for being practical.  So, I’ll try to report back and let you know how it turned out.  It may be that this Christmas Angel ends up as nothing more than a cute decoration for our Christmas tree!

What are your ideas for helping kids get in the Christmas spirit?  Do you try to focus on being kind, or…? Do you love/hate elf on the shelf?  Don’t care one way or the other?  That’s cool too.

Regardless, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Easy Last Minute Thanksgiving Activities + Crafts

posted in: Notes | 3

 

Thanksgiving kind of snuck up on our family this year.  I’m not sure if it was just because life was busy, or we were preoccupied with school and the daily grind.

Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving is here.  And we haven’t decorated.  We haven’t finished going grocery shopping.  We know we’ll be spending Thanksgiving with family, but the details?  Nope.  Those are still TBD.

Maybe you’re a little more on top of planning ahead for the holidays than I am.  But, then again, maybe you’re not.  Whatever your holiday preparedness, I’m going to share some easy last minute Thanksgiving crafts and activities for the whole family!

And, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll even find a round-up of 12 or so recipes to help you use up your Thanksgiving leftovers.

There are several printables, some games, many crafts!  Most are oriented towards kids, but there are some that I think would be fun for adults too.

Okay, so without further ado, here are the activities.15+ Easy Last Minute Thanksgiving Activities + Crafts for Whole Family - BPhotoArt.com

Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Coasters (printable!)

I love the idea of these conversation starter coasters from Adventure in a Box!  You can print out the coasters from the free printable, and enjoy a number of fun conversations that might not have been otherwise had!

Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Coasters Printable - Adventure in a Box
Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Coasters Printable – Adventure in a Box

Thanksgiving Bingo (printable!)

If your family is into games, maybe you’d like to try this Thanksgiving Bingo Game from One Creative Mommy.  It looks really cute, and even if you don’t have Thanksgiving themed m&ms in the house, I bet kids would love playing with whatever snack or treat items you have on hand.

Best Thanksgiving Bingo - One Creative Mommy
Best Thanksgiving Bingo – One Creative Mommy

 

Egg Carton Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving

I love Red Ted Art crafts, and this Egg Carton Turkey craft is no exception!  Plus, it holds candy corn… too cute!  These would make adorable name cards for a Thanksgiving dinner, don’t you think?

Egg Carton Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving - Red Ted Art
Egg Carton Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving – Red Ted Art

Thanksgiving Gratefulness Game

Planet Smarty created this Gratefulness Game to Promote Wiriting and Math for her kids.  I love the idea of this game.  And, if you want to make a pretty thankfulness collage like is shown in the image below, check out the blog post for info on how to do that too!

Gratefulness Game to Promote Writing and Math - Planet Smarty
Gratefulness Game to Promote Writing and Math – Planet Smarty

Paper Roll Tukery Craft

How about this cute paper roll turkey craft from Non Toy Gifts?  Everyone is bound to have a spare paper roll (or two) lying around the house.  And, in a pinch, you could make a cylinder out of a piece of paper, right?

Paper Roll Turkey Craft - Non Toy Gifts
Paper Roll Turkey Craft – Non Toy Gifts

Thanksgiving Thankfulness Tree

Last year, we created this Thanksgiving Thankfulness Tree, and the boys loved it.  Even though we haven’t talked about it since then, my older son mentioned it out of the blue as we were talking about preparing for Thanksgiving.  I guess it really made an impression!

Make a Photo Thankfulness Tree for Thanksgiving - BPhotoArt.com
Make a Photo Thankfulness Tree for Thanksgiving – BPhotoArt.com

Pinecone Turkey Craft for Kids

Here’s another cute idea from One Creative Mommy!  Have the kids make pinecone turkeys!  I can totally see an extension activity for this craft — I think we’ll be making them using autumn leaves as the feathers since my boys love nature scavenger hunts so much.

Pinecone Turkey Craft for Kids - One Creative Mommy
Pinecone Turkey Craft for Kids – One Creative Mommy

Quilled Thanksgiving Cards

If your kids want to get in the spirit by making Thanksgiving cards, here’s a gorgeous craft idea from Red Ted Art.  You can make Quilled Thanksgiving Cards!  I think these would be fun for adults to make too…. but hey, maybe that’s just me.

Quilled Thanksgiving Cards for Kids - Red Ted Art
Quilled Thanksgiving Cards for Kids – Red Ted Art

Thanksgiving Cranberry Slime

Since no holiday is complete without a little mess, or a little science experiment,… why not give this Thanksgiving Science: Taste-Safe Cranberry Slime a try?  My boys would love doing this.  Although, you’d have to have cranberries (or get them on your next run out to the grocery store!).

Thanksgiving Science: Taste Safe Cranberry Slime - Schooling a Monkey
Thanksgiving Science: Taste Safe Cranberry Slime – Schooling a Monkey

Leaf Mandala + Thanksgiving Turkey Coloring Pages (printable! for grownups!)

Yes, I admit, this collection of Thanksgiving activities has been mostly centered on ideas for kids.  But, when the kids, are happy, the adults can be too, right?  Anyways, here are several Thanksgiving Coloring Page Printables from Red Ted Art.  Get the kids set up with an activity, then start coloring one of these yourself!

Leaf Mandala & Thanks Giving Turkey Coloring Pages (for Grown Ups) - Red Ted Art
Leaf Mandala & Thanks Giving Turkey Coloring Pages (for Grown Ups) – Red Ted Art

Thanksgiving Hats

Another cute idea to keep kids busy?  Make Thanksgiving hats!  There are ten different ideas in this post by Non Toy Gifts, and I have to admit, some are pretty creative!  My boys liked the boat hat best.

10 Thanksgiving Hats for Kids - Non Toy Gifts
10 Thanksgiving Hats for Kids – Non Toy Gifts

Thanksgiving Matching Game (printable!)

Here’s another cute printable that you can use to pass the time on Thanksgiving day!  Beauty Through Imperfection created a Thanksgiving-themed matching game printable.  If your kids are anything like mine… this should be a hit (no promises, they could be engrossed for hours, or it could last only minutes).

Thanksgiving Matching Game - Beauty Through Imperfection
Thanksgiving Matching Game – Beauty Through Imperfection

Turkey Place Cards

Since no Thanksgiving table is complete without decoration, these turkey place cards might be a cute project!  Although Mommy’s Bundle designed them for the kids’ table, I can see them in use at a low key family table too!

Turkey Place Cards for the Kids - Mommy's Bundle
Turkey Place Cards for the Kids – Mommy’s Bundle

Thanksgiving Turkey Snack + Kids’ Craft

If you’re looking for a somewhat healthy Thanksgiving snack, this edible craft turkey for kids from One Creative Mommy should be a hit…. it was for a class of kindergardeners, at least!

Thanksgiving Turkey Snack + Kids' Craft - One Creative Mommy
Thanksgiving Turkey Snack + Kids’ Craft – One Creative Mommy

Turkey Baster Pom Pom Game for Kids

This Turkey Baster Pom Pom Race, by School Time Snippets, is very simple, but I bet it will be popular with the younger kiddos!  Simple, no prep, and easy to clean up. My idea of a perfect game.

FUN Turkey Baster Pom Pom Game for Kids - School Time Snippets
FUN Turkey Baster Pom Pom Game for Kids – School Time Snippets

Turkey Bookmark Corner for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Turkey Bookmark Corner, from Red Ted Art, is really adorable.  And is the perfect thing for Thanksgiving, don’t you think?

Thanksgiving Turkey Bookmark Corner - Red Ted Art
Thanksgiving Turkey Bookmark Corner – Red Ted Art

The Gratitude Game (Pick up Sticks)

I love this Thanksgiving-adapted take on pick up sticks, by Teach Beside Me!  The Gratitude Game inspires thankfulness by having you name something you’re thankful for each time you pick up a stick.  Great idea!

(Thanksgiving) The Gratitude Game -Teach Beside Me
(Thanksgiving) The Gratitude Game -Teach Beside Me

Cultivating Gratitude: Ideas for a Month of Thanksgiving

Even thought I’m posting this days before Thanksgiving, the concept of gratitude is still valuable.  Especially considering, for many of us, the next holiday approaching will be Christmas. And in a world of “I want” and “I need” — it’s nice to be intentional about giving thanks.

Cultivating Gratitude: Ideas for a Month of Thanksgiving - Betsy's Photography (BPhotoArt.com)
Cultivating Gratitude: Ideas for a Month of Thanksgiving – Betsy’s Photography (BPhotoArt.com)

Recipe Ideas for Thanksgiving Leftovers

This last one isn’t really a Thanksgiving Day activity, but since the holiday typically includes an abundance of leftovers, you may appreciate these ideas on how to use up all those Thanksgiving meal items!

12+ Recipe Ideas For Thanksgiving Leftovers
12+ Recipe Ideas For Thanksgiving Leftovers

Okay. Now I’m finished, I promise. Go enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, have fun during your festivities, and make sure to remember the most important thing to be thankful for is the gift of friends of family.

Children’s Christmas Books About Giving, NOT Getting

posted in: Parenting | 0

While Thanksgiving is fast approaching, it’s not the only holiday on the horizon.  Beyond that, is Christmas. And while Thanksgiving is considered a time to give thanks, Christmas — for us — is a time to focus on the joy of giving.  Yes, for kids, it’s about getting.  Making lists for Santa.  Asking for presents.  But for our boys, we try to shift their focus to the underlying theme — the joy of giving (not getting).

So, with that in mind, I’ve created a list for you….

10 Children's Christmas Books about giving, not getting. A book list of picture books for kids.

Christmas Books About Giving, NOT Getting

Here are some Christmas books about giving, not getting.  I’ve included affiliate links to Amazon, in case you’d like to buy them for the little ones in your lives.  I’ll include a short synopsis of each story, in case you find that helpful… and a sentence or two about why this book intrigued me.

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving

Story Synopsis: As the title states, Brother and Sister learn about the joy of giving!  At first, the bear cubs are like any other kids anticipating Christmas — they are excited about the getting aspect.  But as they go through the festivities, and have bought their presents (saving as much of their money for themselves as they can) — they end up having a change of heart.  After they hear the Christmas Even pageant story, Brother and Sister end up giving their “saved” money to the poor.

Betsy’s Thoughts: My kids love everything Berenstain Bears, so this one was a no brainer for me.  Brother and Sister are relatable characters for young kids, and my boys have enjoyed learning about other holidays with books in the series (like the Valentine’s Day Blessing activity we did).

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving. By Jan + Mike Berenstain

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving

Story Synopsis: A retelling of the story of St. Nicholas, set in modern times.  This story portraits Nicholas as a young bog who wants to help the poor.  He spends his life secretly helping poor people, giving gifts on Christmas Eve to remind others of the greatest gift of Christmas.

Betsy’s Thoughts: I loved the illustrations in this book, and how the story is set in modern times — it’s a fun retelling of the classic legend.  The last pages of the book share traditions in other countries about Father Christmas.

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving By Dandi Daley Mackall

Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story

Story Synopsis: A selfish little bunny ends up lost in the woods with just his toys.  while wandering, some birds mistake him for Santa — who they hope can find them a place to live.  Ultimately Howard learns that having things isn’t really that important, compared to being around loved ones.  Howard gives his toys away to the forest birds.

Betsy’s Thoughts: This story sounds great for little ones, because the emotions are ones they can relate to easily.  The bunny’s materialism (my toys” ) ultimately gives way to gratefulness and giving.  And, there’s a song too!

Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story. By Howard Binkow

The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas

Story Synopsis: While the family goes out to get the Christmas tree, the poky little puppy wanders off and makes friends with a skunk.  On Christmas morning, he learns that his friend is homeless — and the poky little puppy gives up his first Christmas present to make sure his friend has a home.

Betsy’s Thoughts: My boys love this book. It helps reinforce the idea of looking out for others, and caring about the wellbeing of others more than about the stuff you have.

The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas (Little Golden Book)

The Smallest Gift of Christmas

Story Synopsis: Roland selfishly thinks that bigger is better.  So when he gets a very small Christmas present he wishes for something bigger, bigger, and bigger.  In the end, Roland learns that it isn’t really the size of a present that matters — a skyscraper-sized gift can’t compare to the greatest gift of all — family.

Betsy’s Thoughts: Kids tend to think that bigger is better (a penny has to be worth more because it’s bigger than a dime, right? Kid logic.).  I like how this book goes to extremes of searching for a suitably bigger present, with the ultimate discovery that finding that present isn’t as valuable as spending time with family.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas. By Peter H. Reynolds

Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving

Story Synopsis: After Junior wonders what Santa has to do with the meaning of Christmas (i.e. the birth of Jesus), Bob the Tomato tells the story of St. Nicholas to the veggies.

Betsy’s Thoughts: My kids love VeggieTales, so this Christmas story about giving seemed like a sure winner.  And, I like that it has a music CD. Because, if you’re going to do VeggieTales, it has be be set to music, right?

Saint Nicholas (VeggieTales): A Story of Joyful Giving. By VeggieTales

The Wish Tree

Story Synopsis: A boy journeys through a winter forest, looking for a wish tree.  He meets animals along the way, and helps them.  Ultimately, he finds his wishing tree and ties his wish to the branch.

Betsy’s Thoughts: I like the illustrations in this book, and also that it’s not specifically a Christmas story.  The boy, even though he wants to have his own wish come true, takes time away from his journey to help others along the way.  I love stories that reinforce the importance of giving!

The Wish Tree. By Kyo Maclear

Gifts of the Heart

Story Synopsis: While on the way to see their grandkids for Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa lose all their presents in a big storm.  The grandparents, along with their grandchildren, search all over Mother Goose Land to find them.  Ultimately, they discover the best gifts of all — gifts of the heart.

Betsy’s Thoughts: I really liked the title of this story.  Because what I want my kids to focus on during Christmas is on giving.  And there is nothing better than giving out of love and generosity.

Gifts of the Heart. By Karen Boes Oman

The Mouse in the Manger

Story Synopsis: Oscar the mouse runs away from home to look for a bed with more hay.  He finds himself in the stable where Mary and Joseph have stopped.  He tries to make friends with the animals, but only succeeds in getting them to give him some hay for his bed.  When he finally has enough hay for the perfect bed, Oscar is lonely.  Mary befriends him, and helps him see the true meaning of friendship.  And in the end, Oscar gives up his hay so that the newborn baby Jesus can have a bed.  He returns home that night, with a deeper understanding and appreciation for what it means to be a friend, and to give up that which matters most to you.

Betsy’s Thoughts: This is my all time favorite Christmas story.  I remember it from when I was little, and love the mouse’s viewpoint …and how he decides to selflessly give away that one thing which he wanted most.

The Mouse in the Manger. by Rev. Gennaro L. Gentile

Mr. Getaway and the Christmas Elves

Story Synopsis: Mr. Getaway takes his class on a field trip to see Santa’s workshop.  The kids learn that work is good, and get to see the elves happily working on toys they will be giving away.

Betsy’s Thoughts: Since my kindergartner is excited about anything “field trip” related, I figured this book would be a hit. I like that it focuses on how the elves selflessly work on gifts to send to children via Santa.

Mr. Getaway and the Christmas Elves. By Sally Huss.

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Winter + Holiday Children's Story Books - a book list series hosted by the Jenny EvolutionThis post is part of the Winter and Holiday book series being hosted by The Jenny Evolution!

Please check out the other book lists being shared…

There are book lists about Christmas Eve, the Nutcracker, the Nativity, Christmas tree books, books about reindeer, books about snow, Christmas coloring books, Christmas classics, books that celebrate 0winter holidays around the world, animals in the snow, Christmas songs, Christmas miracles, rhyming Christmas books, and more.

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