First Snow – Grayling, MI

posted in: Notes | 0

It’s amazing how transient things are, how quickly the seasons change.  We went up north last weekend as part of our continued “working on the cabin” saga.  And yes, that’s why things have been a little quiet around here on the blog.  Real life obligations always come first — in this case, it was an amalgam of things for clients as well as the addition we are adding to the cabin.

Anyways, last weekend we were expecting cold weather, but certainly not snow.  We unpacked the truck in between snow flurries and frozen rain showers.  And in the morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Well, snow wasn’t completely covering the ground, but there was certainly enough for the boys to stomp about, shovel off the deck, and make snowballs.

Here’s a view off the back deck of the cabin, at sunrise.


Yes, it was still snowing that morning.  The grayish white specks all over these images (faintly resembling sensor dust) are really large snowflakes coming down.  Zack was enthralled and wanted nothing but to be carried outside so he could try to grab snowflakes.  Toby tried his hand at catching snowflakes on his tongue, before moving onto bigger ventures — shoveling the deck.bphotoart-DSC_8305-grayling-mi

There’s something to be said for the warmth of the early morning sun coming up over a snowy scene.  These pictures simply don’t do it justice.


The air was a bit hazy with all that moisture as the sun came up, giving off an ethereal glow…


And here’s the best “it’s snowing” picture I took before heading back inside to make breakfast.  So many snowflakes in the air.  It was gorgeous.  Cold.  But gorgeous.


Thanks for letting me share.  I’ll be working more blog posts back into the schedule this fall and winter, so don’t be surprised to see things get “back to normal” around here.  As always, I’d love to chat with you about planning a portrait session… so get in touch!

Simple Studio Portraits

Just because you choose to have your senior portraits done at the studio, that doesn’t mean your portraits will suffer. One benefit of staying at the studio for portraits is it’s simple to do both indoor and outdoor locations — without the hassle of additional travel.

We have a nice wooded area, complete with rustic forest path and patches of sunshine that make it through the leaves of mature trees. There’s no trekking along public park paths to get to “the perfect spot” — and while your senior portrait location may not be completely unique, your senior portraits still will be personalized to your taste!

Senior Portraits at the Park

I find that senior portraits, when done at a local park, always end up with a more casual and relaxed feel. Maybe it’s the simple fact of being outdoors, or just happenstance, but if I have a client who is looking for relaxed and casual — I’m definitely going to suggest someplace green and natural.

The nice thing about most outdoors options is the variety of backdrops. With one location, we can create a wide variety of looks quickly and easily. There is no better way to have a stress-free senior portrait experience!

Retro Hollywood Senior Portraits

posted in: Notes | 0

Sometimes it’s fun to do something a little different, a little retro. These Hollywood glamour style portraits have a retro vintage feel, and definitely are not your average senior portrait. While this style of portrait is easily created in the studio, it’s also simple to create on location.

Creating a vintage-themed portrait does take a little planning, but it’s easy enough for anyone to pull off this look with the right vintage attire, and oh, don’t forget the curls!


Senior Portraits at Home

Sometimes the best locations are literally just outside your front door. Or, the front door of a family member’s home. For this senior’s portrait session, we planned a relaxed outdoors series of portraits around her grandmother’s home. Additionally, we incorporated a few inside settings into several of the portraits (based on a preliminary walk through).

While having a plan is good, it’s important to go with the flow, so usually when doing senior portraits at a client’s home I will do a quick walk through of the location before the session officially begins. If my client has specific spots in mind for the portrait session, we’ll make sure to include those settings, but otherwise, it’s flexible.

And the results, as you can see, are always fantastic.

Senior Portraits on Location

This Saline High School senior wanted to have his car included in the senior portraits. So we planned a location portrait session at his home. While we were there, we also created a number of other portraits around the neighborhood. I love the wide variety of portraits you can get with a location senior portrait session like this.

Laid back, relaxed, casual, and stress-free. All part of the equation for fantastic senior portraits.

Senior Portrait with Musical Instrument

An important part of creating senior portraits? Finding ways to personalize them! For this senior’s session, we decided to incorporate his musical instrument. Well, one of them. Percussion players almost always get to play more than one instrument, so we settled on just one for the portraits.

Because of the instrument’s size, it was easier to create these portraits at my client’s home (versus transporting it to the studio). So, we planned a nice series of outdoors portraits in their backyard!

I love the vibrant colors of nature, and how they add depth and interest to the image.

Senior Portraits with Fall Colors

I love doing senior portraits during autumn. The colors are vibrant, transient, and beautiful. The colorful leaves provide a change of pace from summer green, and it’s usually still warm enough to forgo heavy jackets.

Here are some favorites from a senior portrait I did during autumn at Nichols Arboreteum. The fall colors really add another dimension to these images.

As an aside, I love including pets in portraits! Whether we go for something casual and more lifestyle in nature, or more formal, if pets are an important part of your life, please let me know so that we can discuss ways to include them.

Senior Portraits in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor has such a nice variety of locations and settings for creating your portraits! For this senior portrait session, we chose two spots in Ann Arbor that are almost iconic. — Nichols Arboreteum and Graffiti Alley. An interesting juxtaposition, I might add.

Nichols Arboreteum has acres of undeveloped land. There are a variety of natural areas: rolling hills with grassy open fields, deeply wooded areas, maintained gardens, and frontage on the Huron River. It is easy to spend the day at the Arb, feeling like you are far from the city of Ann Arbor.

In contrast, Graffiti Alley is at the heart of Ann Arbor, and is everything the Arb is not. Urban, gritty, and ever-transient, the graffiti art is likely to be different each time you go.

Senior Portraits :: Courtney

Courtney came to the studio for her senior portraits, and after discussing numerous location options, we decided to stay at the studio. You’d never know it from the portraits we created, but it was a ridiculously hot and humid day. Courtney’s senior portraits are so gorgeous; I love how the color of her dress contrasts with the vivid green hues of nature.

We also created a series of images indoors at the studio, so that the family could have a set of more traditional images to choose from. Those turned out great too!

Summer Portraits :: Sisters

These adorable sisters came to the studio on a nice (albeit hot) summer day. We started indoors, and then after doing some more formal portraits we created several more casual portraits outdoors here at the studio.

I absolutely love the colors of these dresses, and the detail work was absolutely gorgeous too.

Dogs + People

It’s always fun to photograph dogs with their people!  Creating these portraits of Susan with her two dogs, Malia and Zihna, was a pleasure.  I enjoy animals of all kinds, but we’re still only a cat-only family, so it’s always fun when I get to play with puppies!

Enjoy this series of images from her session.

Oh, and in case you’re bemoaning the fact that your dogs would never sit still for a portrait session, don’t worry. I have several tricks up my sleeve.  And treats work wonders 🙂

Making the Choice: School or Home? (…9 parents share)

posted in: Parenting | 0

Making the Choice School or Home? ...9 parents share why they chose public schools, homeschool, or hybrid called afterschooling.As we count down the days left until school starts, it’s a good a time as any to cover the ever popular topic of schooling choices.  Specifically, whether to send your kids to school or keep them out of the school system and homeschool.  Rather than trying to argue one side or the other, I figured it would be more helpful to get input from parents like you and me.  Parents, who, for various reasons, have fallen into homeschooling, or tried homeschooling and switched to traditional schooling.  I even learned about a hybrid blend of the two, called “afterschooling” — which I thought was very interesting.

As you read through the responses below, keep in mind that I asked these parents three questions:

  1. what you do and why
  2. the benefits for you in doing what you do
  3. what you find difficult about what you do

As you’ll see in the various responses, no two experiences are exactly alike.  Whether you choose traditional schooling or homeschooling, there are joys and challenges.  It’s all about what works best for your child, what works best for your specific circumstances.

I hope these parents’ experiences will help you if you’re trying to make the choice about whether to send your children to school or to educate them at home.

Some Parents Choose Public Schools

My daughter attends a public traditional school. She is bright (and quirky) and in third grade. We chose to send her to public school because there are really awesome teachers there, she has a strong quest for knowledge and I like that she has built in social time at school while building independence in a supported environment. When she gets home from school we sew, craft, bake, garden, and explore the world together.

The benefits are that she has the best of both worlds, learning at home and at public school. She is a very well rounded, thoughtful child.

It is challenging to find ways to deal with things at school that I don’t necessarily agree with. As a reading specialist, I was dissapointed that their spelling / vocabulary tests consist of the teacher reading the definitions and the students (from memory) write the word with correct spelling. My daughter is 8 and the words tested are words like surrounded (shut in on all sides: encircled, enclosed) and anxiously (uneasily: nervously). From my personal and professional opinion, these tests do not accurately measure vocabulary use and put undue pressure on kids. We have luckily found a way for my daughter to find success in these tests, whether or not I’m a fan, they still exist weekly!

Amanda Boyarshinov, The Educators Spin on It

My daughter who is also 8 goes to the third grade of a regular public school in California. Both of us work full time in technology jobs, and we don’t think that either of us could be a successful homeschool teacher even if we could “swing it” financially. Our public school is considered to be a good one in a good district.

My daughter constantly receives positive feedback from teachers and other kids respect her. This brings confidence. She learns to listen to different adults and to cooperate and compromise with her classmates. She is also learning to do what she doesn’t like to do or to be bored sometimes – I consider that to be an important skill if these “lessons” don’t happen too often.

My daughter is highly gifted, and public schools are not well equipped to support such kids. Everything depends on the teacher. Last year we had a teacher who taught to the middle, and daughter was bored more than we consider acceptable. This year after a lot of advocacy, they created a gifted cluster with a very strong teacher, but it feels rather an exception than a rule.

Natalie, Planet Smarty

I loved homeschooling my kids. But I hated the stressed-out mom I became trying to do it.

I loved that my toddler got to spend so much time with his older sibling.  But I hated neglecting him most of the day to focus on their homeschooling.

I loved that my Preschooler was excelling at Kindergarten content.  But I hated hearing her beg to go back to public school with her friends.

Now we’re loving public school, because…

My kids are learning more social skills than I was able to provide while homeschooling.  They have so many friends!

I feel like my time with them at home is more quality mama time instead of stressful “teacher/school time.”

THEY are happier.

I am happier.

Krissy, B-Inspired Mama

Most kids go to a private school (with varying expenses) in India. Education is not funded and the government schools are not really up to the mark. we spend an average of 2500$ per year for the school fees ( 5000$ and upwards if you want an international syllabus) which is a big deal when you do the conversion.

Homeschooling is an option that is picking up but we don’t have support and since we both work in technology jobs full time, its not an option for us.

Education in India is highly competitive and rote based…My daughter is 8 and is doing well in school. They have a 1:12 student to teacher ratio and that ensures she gets the attention she needs while still functioning in a group setting.


Some Parents Choose Homeschooling

We homeschool for several reasons, the easiest of which to explain is the freedom it affords us. We get to learn whatever we want, whenever we want, in whatever way works best for us.

The best benefit so far has been that my son gets to go at his own pace and learn what he is interested in. He loves math and science and is able to explore those subjects at incredible depth for his age. Many times in the morning he brings me a book that he is interested in and we spend the entire homeschool day centered on that one subject, incorporating reading, math, science, and history.

I find it difficult to find time for myself and sometimes I feel jealous of my friends who get a break while their kids are at school! I love my kids and I love to be with them, but spending 12 hours a day with them can be a little challenging sometimes!

Crystal, The Science Kiddo

We kinda fell into homeschooling, only truly it was the Lord’s plan all along for us to homeschool our girls during each of the seasons of their lives we have done so

Homeschooling is hard enough already! Truly it is often a very draining, time-consuming, even grueling at times feeling endeavor. But other days it can be wonderful, and free-ing and downright awesome! Honestly, it’s just like any other area of our lives…. can’t just about everything we experience, at times alternate between awful and awesome?

Sybil Brun, She Lives Free

We homeschool. We tried two years of public school and it was a terrible fit for my kids (both are highly gifted). We are also a military family. Our options for schools are limited to where the army sends us and how far my husband is willing to commute to the base in order to (hopefully) find a good district.

In summary, we didn’t care for the curriculum, the pace, the lack of enrichment opportunities for gifted kids, or the social aspect. They had some great teachers (I still talk to two of them), but overall, that couldn’t overcome the issues. I can elaborate if you need, but I generally do that via email because I’m not up for the argument that I’m only concerned about my kids (I am, they are the ones I’m responsible for). I’m a certified teacher myself. Just spent the last 20 minutes doing polynomials with my 12 year old, my 9 year old is exploring ungulates. Everyone is much happier.

Would I love a break? Yes. And several. And I want to go to Starbucks right now. And I’d like to have lunch with a friend and take a long hot shower at noon. But I’m not willing to put my kids into a bad situation again in order to do it. The private school I’d pick is well beyond our budget, so homeschool it is.


We sent our oldest 2 to private school. When Eldest was in 1st and Princess was in K they began all day everyday K. My kids were gone from 7:50-4:20 each day. We no longer had the freedom to do things like trips to the zoo or playing at the park during the week. Numerous times my daughter fell asleep on the way home. I was pregnant with Big Red and knew financially having more than 2 in private school wasn’t feasible. We now have 4 and take a relaxed eclectic almost unschooling approach now. Trying to let each child follow their interests and be kids a little while longer.

Thaleia, Something 2 Offer

My life is dedicated to teaching my children, not only academics but life skills, so that they may one day be independent and successful on their own, if at all possible. I have found, for me, this much easier to do on my own, than to work with the public school system, teachers, counselors, therapists etc.

…In summary, I guess home schooling chose us, rather than we chose it.  Both my husband and I went to public schools.  We enjoyed our education.  However, that type of education is not one that will work for our children …This is our story.  It’s A LOT of work.  It’s a HUGE time commitment.  However, I love it.  I love to watch the kids faces as they see new activities on our shelves.  I love to watch them succeed.

Renae, Every Star is Different

Some Parents Supplement with Afterschooling

We do “after-schooling” which might be a made up term:). The kids do go to public school during the day. We purposely chose this school because it is extremely diverse in cultures and religions, and want our kids to learn side-by-side with kids from around the world. After school, we have fun with pursuing my kids’ interests whether it’s cooking, hands-on science experiments, animals, crafts, etc. We also love to travel and take field trips often.

Becky, Kid World Citizen

And then there are some more links I found that you might enjoy:

What are your thoughts?  Did you go through the school system?  Do you think it was a good choice for you?  Were you given a choice, or would you consider giving your kids a choice when it comes to schooling options?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  (also, please remember this is a hot topic for some, so an extra dose of kindness won’t hurt!).

Michigan Pasty Recipe – Meat Hand Pie

posted in: Notes | 3

While Michigan doesn’t have an official state food, in the UP (upper peninsula), there is a fond love for the pasty.  Pasties are meat hand pies, and depending on who you ask, a pasty may or may not have specific filling ingredients (potatoes, onions, rutabaga, carrots, meat).  A little further on, I’ll share our recipe for Michigan Pasties, but first, a bit of history.

According to a student webpage project done for Michigan Tech University, the history of the pasty is quite detailed.  It was a common meal for workers in Michigan’s upper peninsula copper mines (originally Cornish, but adopted by other European immigrants).

The pasty became popular with these other ethnic groups because it was small, portable, was very filling, and could stay warm for 8-10 hours. Pasty rivalry occurred between the Finns, Swedes, Irish, Poles, Germans, Scots, Italians and French with each group contributing something in the way of seasoning and other ingredients. All groups agree that pasties must contain two things, potatoes and onions.

The pasty was eaten by hand, and could be reheated or eaten cold. We’ve tried both ways in our household; the boys LOVED having cold pasty leftovers for lunch.

The portability of the pasty not only made it easy to carry, but if it should get cold it would be relatively easy to heat up. This was done by putting the pasty on a shovel and holding it over a head-lamp candle. Miners never ate a pasty with a fork, they ate it end to end, and held it upright to keep the juices in. Since entire Cornish families worked in mines and each member of the family wanted different ingredients in the pasty, the Cornish wife would stamp the bottom corner of each pasty with an initial. According to the Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern, “The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in the hand, and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner. And woe betide anyone who take’s another person’s corner!”

bphotoart-pasty-meat-handpie-DSC_6990An internet search for “Michigan Pasty Recipe” will produce many different pasty recipes — according to a UP pasty resource  I found, it appears there is no longer a set of required ingredients:

Pasties consists of a crust filled with diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions & ground beef seasoned to perfection. Now some people combine ground pork, ground beef, and ground lean beef. Now a days they even have chicken, veggie, and even a breakfast one.

Another bit of interesting history trivia?  In 1968, then Governor George Romney declared May 28th Michigan Pasty Day.  Oddly I’d never heard this, despite being born and raised in Michigan.  Thanks, History channel!  Apparently the tourism industry …er, the Mackinac Bridge, helped elevate the status of Michigan’s pasty from a homecooked meal to a restaurant-worthy entrée:

 After the 1957 Mackinac Bridge opened the Upper Peninsula for tourism from southern Michigan, the pasty shifted from being a food mainly cooked at home by U.P. locals (known as “Yoopers”) to one sold at restaurants to visitors from southern Michigan and beyond (playfully derided as “Fudgies” for their preferred dessert).

I also didn’t know that there is an annual pasty festival in early July (according to the Pasty Recipe on the Cooking Channel!)

Making Michigan Pasties

And now, it’s time to share our take on a Michigan Pasty.  Well, at least, our most recent variant.  I admit, I’ll make them with whatever is on hand.  This time, we skipped potatoes entirely (gasp) because I didn’t have any!

I chopped up the vegetables first - carrots, onions, and celery.
I chopped up the vegetables first – carrots, onions, and celery.
Then, I combined all the spices.
Then, I combined all the spices.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).

Next, it was time to start on the dough for the pasty.  We used freshly ground einkorn flour, and shortening (rather than our typical butter).  My toddler helped with this phase quite a bit!  Also, if you’ve never heard of a Danish dough whisk (#afflink), you need to try one …or at least check out when we made Irish Soda Bread with the Danish dough whisk.  It really simplifies the dough mixing process; I love how easily the ingredients get blended together — and how little mess there is!

My toddler helped me measure and dump.  To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening...
My toddler helped me measure and dump. To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening…
Here's what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Here’s what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10" rounds)
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10″ rounds)
Adding the filling to our dough - just on half the dough, leaving at least 1" around the edge.
Adding the filling to our dough – just on half the dough, leaving at least 1″ around the edge.
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn't tear
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn’t tear
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!

And that’s it!  Into the oven for almost an hour, and when they come out, dinner is ready!

A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.
A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.

Michigan Pasty Recipe

Dough Ingredients

  • 4 c. einkorn flour
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 t. salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 lb. carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 Vidalia onions, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef or venison
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 1 T. Thyme
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. rosemary
  • 1 T. coriander
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 t. pepper 


  • Combine flour and salt in bowl. Add butter, and use a knife to cut into flour.
  • Add water, and stir with Danish dough whisk (#afflink) until well combined.  If necessary, add more flour or water so the dough is workable.  If you use normal wheat flour, you’ll probably need another 1/4 cup of water.
  • Divide dough into four sections (we rolled ours into balls) and set aside.
  • Combine first four filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Separately, combine butter and seasonings; drizzle over top of fillings and stir to coat.
  • One at a time, roll each dough ball into ~10″ rounds.  place filling on half the circle, leaving 1″ border around the edge.  You can mound the filling up high.  Then, fold the dough over top, and crimp the half-circle pasty’s edges together.  We rolled these out on a silicone baking sheet, and then used the silicone to help flip the thin dough over top.  If you plan it out right, there is room to roll out two pasties per baking sheet (with no need to transfer).  That way, you don’t have to worry about the dough tearing and the pasty innards leaking out!
  • After all four pasties are completed, place the baking sheets in the oven at 375 F for 50 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
  • Enjoy!

The nice thing about this recipe is that it comes together pretty quickly.  The ingredient list may be long, but if you have kids who like to “measure and dump” — no problem.  While older kids can be involved with every step of the process, you can let younger kids help help roll out the dough for their own pasty, place the fillings on the dough, and “check on the pasties” by looking through your oven window as it cooks.  My toddler was so excited to eat dinner the night we had pasties!

I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious :)
I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious 🙂

Have you made pasties before?  What fillings are your favorite?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

tour-the-world-by-foodThis post is part of the Tour the World by food series — make sure to check out some of the other blog posts that highlight various state foods!

Here are some more resources on the Michigan Pasty (and other state foods), if you’re interested:

Senior Photos in the Backyard? 3 Reasons you should consider it!

posted in: Photography | 2

Senior Photos in the Backyard? 3 reasons  you should consider it!Can you do senior pictures in your own back yard?  Sure!  High school senior pictures don’t have to be in the studio anymore.  These days, it’s possible to hire a photographer to go on location, even to your own backyard, and have senior photos taken there.  Where you have many memories. Where the setting is meaningful to you.  Don’t think that these senior portraits will cut it?  Does your backyard sound too boring and mundane?

If so, here are some reasons why you should consider doing senior photos in your backyard.


You don’t have to go anywhere.  Most professional photographers will cheerfully go on location, including to your home.

What are some of the benefits of staying at home?

Well, for starters, you don’t have to drive anywhere on the day of your session — your photographer will come to you.

Then, there’s the whole wardrobe thing.  If you’re planning on multiple outfits for your portrait session, you’ll appreciate not having to bring half your wardrobe with you (like would be necessary if you went elsewhere). Outfit changes will be easy — just head back inside.  No fumbling with clothes in a public restroom, or layering clothing so that you can “change” in the middle of a park.

And, if you have a instruments, a pet, or other items you want to add into the session, you don’t have to worry about piling those into your car to drive to the portrait studio or another location.  Your things are at your house already.  When it’s time for that part of the session, just go get the dog, or bring your trumpet out.


Your senior photos will mean more to you because of the location, the setting, and the memories you’ve made there.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the years as a portrait photographer, it’s that people love settings that have memories.  You might think your backyard looks boring and commonplace, but trust me when I tell you, that’s a concern I voiced hear frequently when planning portrait sessions.  Trust your photographer.  Show her the space, and let her work some magic for you.

Your backyard might be ordinary, but it will look fabulous in the pictures.


If you want your senior pictures to be different from everyone else’s… to be different… then why not choose a location no one else will be using?  Let’s face it.  The local parks tend to be popular portrait destinations.

Your backyard?  Not so much.

By simply selecting your backyard as the location, you’re setting your portraits apart from the masses. Your backyard is different from Jane’s, so even if you both have the same ideas about what you want for your pictures, you won’t end up with a cookie cutter portrait.

No one else will have portraits like yours.

Unless you have siblings who also have their senior portraits done in your backyard…. but that’s a story for another day.

See what I mean?

Here are some high school senior portraits I’ve created for clients… in their neighborhoods or yards.  No park pictures here!

Hire a Senior Portrait Photographer?

Now, when it comes to the question of hiring a photographer or doing it yourself, I’m a bit biased.  Obviously I’d recommend hiring a professional photographer (like myself!) for your senior portraits.  Sure, it’s going to be an investment.  But you get what you pay for — quality portraits that make you look great.  There are several big milestones in life that you can’t let pass by without having your portraits done — and graduating is one of them.

Sure, you could do it yourself, or find a friend with a fancy camera to do it — but this is your high school graduation.  It’s a big thing.

You deserve it.

These pictures will be hanging on your relatives’ walls for years.

One thing to keep in mind?  Scheduling senior portraits can a little hectic if you wait until the last minute. As the school yearbook deadlines get closer, senior portrait photographers like myself get booked up.  Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule something!  Get it on the calendar now.

If you’d like to contact me about helping you plan your senior portrait session, please don’t hesitate to call (734-424-0472) or send me a message.  I’m located in Southeast Michigan.


Don’t Lose Your Pictures

posted in: Notes | 1

Don't Lose Your PicturesLast year, my child accidentally did a factory reset on my phone. And he wiped the micro SD card clean too. At first I was furious. He should know better than to mess with Mommy’s phone, right? But then I took a breather. He was only three, after all. He thought the pattern passcode on my lock was a fun new game. And, I obviously neglected to realize that I had the default phone setting “erase all data after 10 failed login attempts” turned on. whoops.

So, as I thought things through, my anger dissipated. In its place, I was left with a keen awareness of just how fleeting electronic data is. Sure, I’ve tested and reviewed data recovery software before, but I’ve never had an actual loss. It’s not the end of the world. These weren’t wedding photos, or birth photos. I know enough to download photos to my regularly. So all that was lost? This past month’s cell phone photos and videos. But they were still memories that mattered. Memories of Toby being brave at the hospital when he got his x-rays, a video of him getting his cast put on.

Thankfully I don’t have to report to a client that I’ve lost their photos. And I pray I’ll never have to do so… my redundant backups should be prevention enough. But I’m still regret the loss.

So I thought I’d take a moment to remind you — please download your phone pictures regularly. Save them to your hard drive, burn them to a disk, put them in the cloud. Do something.

And what should you do if you lose your pictures? Take it as a reminder to do better next time. A reminder to be grateful for the memories you do have.

My attempts at using a photo recovery program were mostly unsuccessful.  Out of 3,358 files recovered, only 303 were fully recovered. The rest were partially corrupted. Thankfully I found the manual backup I’d done when switching phones several months ago.  So I’m only out 2-3 months’ worth of pictures.  Yes, this made me sad.  But you know what?  My life isn’t defined by the photos I have.. my memories aren’t relegated to pictures.  Sure, they capture the memories for me to enjoy later, but I can think back fondly on those memories without photos too.

I’m strangely okay with the fact that these pictures are gone.  My life is not defined by the pictures I take of it.  My enjoyment of this life is not dependent on the pictures I have captured.  Life is more than that.

I’m glad I’ve been documenting and sharing snapshots from our life on social media — snippets of those months are preserved there.  And, in the big scheme of things… no one has been hurt by this loss.  Maybe an emotional drainage has occurred, but nothing more.


Learn About Overexposure (and Underexposure)

posted in: Learning | 5

Today we’re talking about exposure — overexposure (and underexposure)  As relates to cameras.  I’ll be simplifying it for kids, as has been the norm with my Photography ABCs series.  Make sure to read through to the end, because I’m sharing three activity ideas to help kids learn about overexposure and underexposure.  So, let’s get started.  What’s exposure?  Or, more specifically, what are overexposure and underexposure?

Learn About Overexposure ...and Underexposure (includes 3 activities for kids!)

Underexposed, as defined by

1. inadequate exposure, as of photographic film.

2. a photographic negative or print that is imperfect because of insufficient exposure. defines overexposure as follows:

1. excessive exposure, especially of photographic film or a sensitized plate to light rays.

2. the condition of having been seen, heard, or advertised so frequently or for so long that freshness or appeal is diminished.

You’d probably recognize overexposed images if you saw them.  They tend to be overly bright, with loss of detail.  Want a simplified definition of overexposure?  Too much light.  You know how you can’t see anything when you first go outside into the bright sunlight?  You’re blinded.  Blinded because your eyes are adjusted to the dim indoor light, and when the brighter light from the sun reaches your eyes they are overwhelmed — it takes a few moments for them to adjust and compensate.  Remember the lesson on aperture, and the one where we made a camera obscura?  These are related to the concept of exposure. And overexposure.

Light enters the camera.

The right amount of light, and you can create a stunning image.

Too much light, and you end up with an overexposed image — if taken to the extreme, it would be a white rectangle.  Too little light, and you get an underexposed image — taken to the extreme, it would be an unexposed black rectangle.  But we’ll get to that later.

To simplify this concept — If you take a picture of your yard during nighttime, it will likely be very dim and dark. Possibly underexposed, if you use your camera’s auto settings (and no flash).  The camera tells the flash to fire so that it will be the correct exposure, so that it will have enough light in the picture.  If you take a picture of your yard during the daytime, the camera usually tells the flash not to fire — because then it would have more light than it needs, and the image could be overexposed.

Cameras aren’t all that smart, though.  If you take a picture of a person with the sunset behind them, it might underexpose the scene (and render the person a silhouette) in order to properly expose for the sunset.  If it exposes the image for the person, the sunset portion of the image would be overexposed.  That’s where the flash comes in (yet again) — it adds more light to the person, so they will not be underexposed.  Of course, the flash has no effect on the sunset, because that is WAY too far away.

Over/Under Exposure Camera Activity

For today’s activity, you’re going to need a camera.

Turn off the on-camera flash, and try taking pictures of different things around the house.  Notice how when you take a picture of your sofa next to the window, that the camera tries to expose for one of two things — the sofa (dimmer inside light) or the yard (brighter outside light).  Take a couple pictures, and see how the camera either overexposes the outside or underexposes the inside, depending on the image.

Now, turn on the flash and see if it makes a difference.

Exposure Coloring

This activity is really simplified.  Have your kids draw a picture of a tree at night, or their bedroom with the lights off.

Tell them to use their imagination and draw something that is not shown clearly because there is not enough light (underexposed). Suggest they use dark colors if they need prompting.  A candle in a bedroom, for example, might be a paper colored completely black, with just a little orange glow.  You can’t see the bed, or more than a shadow of it, but you know it’s there.

On the flip side, have them draw something that is so bright it can’t be seen clearly (overexposed).  Ideas you could prompt them with include a car with its headlights on, a polar bear in the snow (e.g. three dots, a nose and two eyes).

It will be interesting to see how your kids interpret this, and will vary depending on their ages.

Exposure Experience

You don’t need anything except your eyes for this activity.  Take your kids from a brightly lit room into a dark room.  Tell them to pay attention to how their eyes adapt, how nothingness becomes dark shadows, which in turn becomes identifiable objects.

Then, return to a bright area.  The opposite happens.

If you wanted to, I guess you could let them shine a flashlight into their eyes for this portion too.  Not condoning that, but it definitely would illustrate the concept of overexposure.  Way too much light to see what anything is.

Have more ideas?

I’d love to hear your ideas, if you have any more thoughts on activities for overexposure and underexposure, in the comments below.  Or, if you try these activities I’ve mentioned, I definitely want to know how things go for you!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about negative.

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

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Quick & Easy: DIY Creative Gift Wrapping for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 4

quick and easy DIY creative wrapping paper for kidsEven though we save gift bags and keep a (small) stash of wrapping paper, it seems like my go-to preference is for homemade gift wrapping.  It involves the kids in the gift giving process more, and depending on what paper I am able to reuse, is eco-friendly too.

When we put together gifts for the grandparents a while back, I tried something different than my normal artwork-repurposed-into-wrapping-paper method.

We took some paper bags, traced handprints, and made a variety of quick and easy (yet creatively wrapped) gift bags.  An “I Love You” hand (sign language) graced one bag, complete with explanation.  On another, an octopus was created when two hands were traced on top of one another (christened “Avocado the Octopus”).  It was fun to give Toby, my toddler, free reign on this project.

I helped, since we used a permanent marker.  After doing the lettering and tracing the hands, I handed Toby some pencils so that he could further decorate the bags.

If you have a child who isn’t big on coloring in the lines, or who is liable to scribble over the handprints and words you’ve just created, then I have a simple solution for you.

Use a permanent marker, or dark/thick ink for the handprints and lettering.  Then, provide a variety of lighter/thinner coloring pencils, markers, or crayons for your child to use.  It won’t matter if they color over the “important” words, and you won’t have to constantly nag your child to be careful about where they decorate.

After putting the gifts in the bags, we rolled the top down a few times and stapled or taped each shut.

Pretty easy.

Pretty quick.

The recipients of these gifts loved hearing from Toby about how he decorated the bags for them.

This project could be done in five minutes or less, so if you’re short on time but want to add a personal touch to a gift, definitely consider this quick and easy DIY gift wrapping option.

bphotoart-artwork-wrapping-paper-1483So, to recap.  You’ll need:

  • paper bags
  • permanent marker
  • pencils/crayons
  • staples/tape

Oh, and a gift to put inside, I suppose.

What ways have you discovered that are fun for your kids to wrap presents?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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