What Kind of Camera Should You Get?

posted in: Parenting | 0

What Kind of Camera Should You Get? Moms weigh in on their go-to favorite camerasThe inevitable question that is asked of me, as a photographer, is this:

“I’m looking at getting a new camera, what kind should I get?”

I have to break it to you.

There is no simple answer.

Sure, I could tell you to go for the biggest and the best.  Or the most expensive.  But what good will that really do you?

Instead, my usual reply is this:

What do you want to use it for?

Then, depending on how the conversation goes, I might ask what type of bag you want to carry around if you plan to have your camera on hand always.  Do you have a purse that can fit the kitchen sink?  Yes? Well, then that entry-level DSLR might not be a bad idea.

But, on the other hand, if you’re like me, and have a small purse, or sometimes no purse at all, then you might want to think in terms of compact cameras.  The quality on today’s cameras is really phenomenal, so it depends, again, on what you’re going to use it for.

What I like about my “everyday camera” is that I can fit it in my pocket.  And I can use it with one hand.  Bonus points because it takes videos.

Actually, the HD video feature was a selling point for me.  For my personal use, I wanted a camera that could document our everyday moments. One that could record my boys as they took their first steps. A camera that would be on hand and easy to operate while I maneuvered around small children.

I didn’t want something I needed to think about. Or a camera with a lot of parts.

Changing lenses?  Not something I wanted to deal with.

But then again, I’m a professional photographer. I do this day in and day out.  I need to draw the line, find a way to experience my life rather than concentrate all my energy on documenting it.  So the compact camera was my choice.  I am still happy with my five year old Canon G12 (#afflink – I’m using Amazon affiliate links in this entire post, thanks for your support!).

When you buy a camera, make sure you’re confident in the brand.  In the five years since I purchased my G12, I’ve had to send it in for repairs twice… due to inadvertent camera drops.  Fortunately, I know Canon stands behind their product, and that the repairs they do are top notch.  Just something to consider if you look into any off brand cameras.

So, what should you do if your 10 year old camera is dying?  Have you been told it’s better to buy a new one than to repair?  Are you hoping to find recommendations for a good replacement?  What to do…

Think about what you want.

Do you want small size, portability? Do you want easy to use, easy to download, etc?  It all comes down to personal preference.

Now, let’s hear from some other people about their favorite camera.  These all happen to be moms who use their cameras on a regular basis.  Their opinions vary as much as their cameras do, but each has figured out what works best for them.

Now, as you read through these thoughts below, consider which opinions echo your own sentiments.  It may just help you get a better idea of what camera you should get.

 


Canon DSLR Bundle – Canon EOS Rebel T5 with 2 lenses #afflink
It’s easy to use, takes great pics and came with 2 lenses. It can be cumbersome to take to school events where there’s not much room in the seating area but I love it.

Peta Groth, www.greatgoogamoogas.com


iPhone + DSLR – iPhone or Nikon D3200 with 2 lenses

IPhone (does that count?) I have a lovely Nikon DSLR that takes great pictures, but my phone fits in my pocket and is always on hand. I make a point to pull out the Nikon for fun sometimes and for special trips and events, but when capturing our everyday moments I almost always use the IPhone.

Erin Buhr, www.bambinitravel.com


Canon DSLR – Canon EOS 70D kit

Canon 70D – being able to shoot in manual mode to get quality pictures is invaluable to me. I would rather carry around a nice camera bag that looks like a purse with my DSLR in it than have mediocre photos of the memories I care about. Getting used to carrying a bigger camera was pretty easy too and I am much happier with the results even though I have an awesome camera on my phone.

Kara Carrero ALLterNATIVElearning.com


 

Olympus Tough Waterproof Camera

These days my go to camera is an Olympus Tough point and shoot. Since I’m in my 40s, I cut my teeth on heavy SLR film cameras–I didn’t go digital until my first kid was 4, and I’ve had enough of carrying a giant bag for camera and baby gear. The Tough is water proof, dirt proof, drop proof and fits in my jean’s pocket. I have boys, I need to be able to keep up with them! Plus it takes blog worthy photos. (I have a Sony a100 DSLR if I feel like dragging it around.)

Denise Bertacchi, stlMotherhood.com


 

Nikon DSLR

I am always carrying around my Nikon DSLR. I hate it when I am stuck using my camera phone to capture a really great moment of my kids because the quality is not up to par. I purchased a new larger purse so my camera fits in it so I will always be prepared to snap away!

Katie Pinch www.alittlepinchofperfect.com


 

Canon Elf – Canon Powershot Elf 350

I have a simple canon elf that tucks into my purse that seems to have 9 lives. (it has been dropped, stepped on, splashed, and still works 7 years and 3 kids later!) It takes good photos and videos for it’s size and price. My kids use it often too! I also have a Canon Rebel EOS that has a much clearer image, but is bulkier, so I use a camera case when bringing it out and about. I love the clarity of the picture and couldn’t image life without it! The image is clear and I can change lenses but it doesn’t have video.

Amanda Boyarshinov www.theeducatorsspinonit.com


I hope you found this post helpful!  It’s always tough to decide on something like what camera you should get, so if this post has helped you at all, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

Learn About Existing Light (Scavenger Hunt with Free Printable!)

posted in: Learning | 4

learn about existing light scavenger hunt (with free printable!)I decided to mix things up a little bit for our ABCs of Photography and depart from the logical choice for letter “E” — exposure. That gets a little more into the technical aspects of photography that I was envisioning for this series. So instead, we’ll learn about existing light (also known as ambient light or available light).

Dictionary.com defines these three terms as follows:

the light surrounding an environment or subject, esp. in regard to photography and other art work.

What is existing light? Well, it could be all natural light. But it could be artificial light too. When you take a picture, you are either using existing light or adding light (like a flash). If you don’t add any light to the scene, then you’re taking a picture using existing light. If you add light, whether it be a flash, a flashlight, or a glow stick, then it is no longer existing — it was contrived, planned, created by you — the photographer.

So what’s the activity for today? An “I Spy” game of sorts. Take a few minutes with your kids to search out different light sources you have in your home, outside, or even on the road. Light is everywhere.

What are some light sources you might find? Here are a few ideas:

  • sunlight
  • moonlight
  • car lights (interior or headlights)
  • standard household lights
  • light from a gas pilot flame
  • LED lights on electronics or DVR players
  • Christmas tree lights

As you might know, I like to hand Toby a camera and let him take snapshots of whatever he deems interesting. This could easily be turned into an “existing light scavenger hunt” much like our outdoor photo scavenger hunt, or our more relaxed nature photography activity.

These are some snapshots Toby took around the house using existing light.  The light from our kitchen light fixtures, the sunlight streaming in through the windows… it was already there.

Now, since I mentioned a scavenger hunt for existing light, I think it’s only fair to send you on your way with a free printable!  Here’s the scavenger hunt checklist:

Learn About Existing Light Scavenger Hunt Checklist

Download Existing Light Scavenger Hunt Checklist: PDF / JPG

I’d love to hear about the results of your existing light scavenger hunt!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter F (learn about flash). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about double exposure.


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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Nature Photography For Kids

posted in: Learning | 4

Nature Photography... for Kids!Getting kids excited about nature doesn’t have to take a lot of planning or prep work.  It’s as simple as heading outdoors.  Or, if the weather isn’t conducive to being outside, as simple as finding a window to observe nature!

Toby and I have had a lot of fun observing nature, and talking about the intricacies of the world in which we live.  I enjoy these moments, and the unplanned nature (haha, unintentional pun!) of our nature activities leaves the discussions open-ended and interest driven.

While Toby’s photography skills leave a “little” room for improvement (hey, come on, he’s still in preschool), I decided to share a sampling of the world from a child’s eyes.  The tiled series of images are all created by my son, without any direction or assistance from me.

Yes, I hand him a camera and tell him to have fun.

Are the pictures always in focus?

No.  Nope.  But does that matter?  He’s excited about photography.  He’s excited about nature.  He loves looking at the pictures he took.

And he’s finding nature everywhere — indoors, outdoors, …places we adults have forgotten to look for it.

This camera may be beaten and manhandled in the process, but it’s honestly really fun to scroll through the pictures on Toby’s memory card.

Just one note to the wise – you’ll save disk space if you reduce the image file size …kids take A LOT of pictures, as you might remember from my post where Toby took a plethora of selfies on my phone camera.

Trust me, these are just a sampling of the photos.  He took many selfies on his camera too.  Lots of pictures of our house, and his baby brother.  Some candid photos of the cats… need I continue?

But there are gems in there.  Reminders of what it’s like to experience life as a kid.  So I challenge you to let go, give up a little control, and see the world from your child’s perspective.  Giving them a camera is an opportunity to do this.

Here are the nature shots I found.  Some blurred abstractions, many focusing on the clouds.  Some from a civil war reenactment (his grandparents are reenactors).  Nature as seen from the car. Nature as seen from the house.

Nature photography doesn’t have to be created “off the beaten path.”  You can find nature wherever you are.

bphotoart-toddler-camera-captures

While these Instagram photos aren’t taken by Toby, I wanted to share some views of nature as we get to enjoy it on a regular basis.  This first one is the view from our family room — we get to see a glorious sunrise every morning.

One morning, Toby ran to wake me up, exclaiming, “look at the beautiful sunrise!”  What a precious moment.

#sunlight #sunrise #snow

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

And my toddler is fascinated with videos. He regularly asks me to take videos on my phone.  This one was of the snow falling.  There’s something gorgeous about snowflakes floating towards the ground — something we adults often miss in the hurry to be off to work and down the driveway.

Snow falling…. A video posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

And who can forget the joy of a snow day in their childhood?  I know Toby will enjoy his memories of getting outdoors, out in the snow.  Maybe he’ll remember the time he had me stomp through the 15″ deep snow drifts in my snowshoes to make giant hearts for Valentine’s Day (during which I lost my phone).  Or maybe he’ll cherish the independence of being allowed to “shovel” the driveway for me (before taking a break to climb snow mounds).

I’d love to hear ideas on how you help your kids learn to appreciate nature! Please share in the comments below!

outdoor-play-challenge

Taking a Selfie: 5 Tips + Tools

posted in: Notes | 4

If you take it from my toddler, the secret to taking a great selfie is to take many many photos.  Just push that button and keep going!  Here’s a sampling of the images I found on my smartphone the other day after Toby was finished using it to talk to his grandparents on the car ride home from doing errands.

Found a plethora of new pics on my phone… #toddler #selfie series #mommyproblems #Pixlr

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@bphotoart_com) on


In all seriousness, cell phones cameras have become the go-to for getting snapshots and self portraits. So today I’m going to share some tips with you to help those smartphones and cameras be a little more useful when taking pictures.

Taking a Selfie - 5 Tips + Tools to Help You Take Better Self-Portraits1. Be steady

This one is a no brainer (hopefully), but you know to hold the phone steady… and that includes when you are pressing the shutter button. A lot of people do a great job at holding the phone still when composing their picture, but when it comes time to press that button, a jerky motion yields blurry images every time.

2. Use your flash

If there isn’t enough light, your selfie will be blurry.  Use the built in flash to add light. Did you know that your phone’s camera probably has a setting to turn on the flash so it goes off all the time?  If you enable that feature, you can use the flash even if the overall image didn’t need the additional light.  This will help your selfie be adequately exposed in the foreground too.

3. Use a timer

Another built-in feature you’ll probably find on your phone is the timer feature.  This allows for a delay between the time you press the shutter and when the smartphone takes the picture.  If you can find a place to prop up your phone, this can help you take a fun selfie.

4. Use a monopod

Think of it as an extendable arm — a monopod will allow you to get a better angle (and/or further away) when taking your selfie.  I received a Solo Stick Pro Gold to review — it came with a bluetooth shutter (see next tip), which was nice.  The monopod is very lightweight, and collapses down to fit in a diaper bag or larger purse.  Easy to extend, the solo stick includes a ball head mount for use with small cameras like the GoPro Hero #afflink (an awesome little video camera) or the Canon Powershot G16 #afflink (the current version of my favorite pocket camera).

5. Use a bluetooth remote camera shutter

If you have an Android phone, the bluetooth remote that I received with the solo stick works seamlessly.  If you have a bluetooth enabled device, you can use the camera 360 remote shutter to take pictures.  The device comes with an on/off switch on the side (to maximize battery life), a spot for attaching a lanyard or key fob, and two buttons – one for the camera 360 app and one for use with the default android camera shutter.  I was really happy with this remote shutter, it was easy to set up and use.  Only downfall I can see? It could fall apart quickly.  But, hey, for under $10, there is no point in complaining.

That wraps up my quick tips on taking selfies.

Well, not quite. I have one more.

6. Give your kid an alternate source of entertainment

If you don’t want to end up with 100 toddler selfies on your phone, you may want to keep them entertained some other way.  At least Toby didn’t take a video — my friend found a video of her purse spanning most of a recent grocery trip.  So, it may be better to set your child up with an app on the phone or tablet if you really need technology to entertain.  Due to a previous experience, I’m no longer locking my phone to keep Toby off it (read about how he reformatted my phone accidentally). But maybe an app like Smarty Preschool (for iPad) would be good.  It’s a curriculum-based education game for kids (2-6 years).  You get reports on your kid’s performance as they progress through different academic skills involving colors, matching, counting, and shapes.  The verdict is still out on the app, but we’re going to give it a run for its money on our next family vacation!

Note: I received one or more of these products gratis in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Quick + Easy Photo Memory Game

posted in: Learning | 12

Quick + Easy Photo Memory GameAnother quick and easy indoor activity, this photo memory game is sure to be a hit. Assuming you can find pictures on your computer, you’ll be able to make your own memory game with the pictures on your hard drive. If you want to involve your child in the image selection process, by all means! Or, you could pick and print the photos ahead of time, to make life easier on you. That’s what I did this time, since Toby frequently tries to hijack my keyboard or mouse if I sit down with him to do something at the computer.

So, all you need to do is find some photos.  What kind of photos?  Here are some ideas:

  1. phone snapshots – these will be good enough, quality-wise, for the size we’ll be printing.  Copy them from your phone when tethered, email them to yourself, or transfer them by some other method.
  2. family snapshots – go through your old photo archives and scan or photocopy those old snapshots.  Hey, you could even take a picture of it with your phone.  (let me include my obligatory “don’t infringe anyone’s copyright” message here).
  3. your child’s artwork – I’ve been taking photos of Toby’s artwork when it comes in the door, so I have a lot of it on my computer already. I think it’d be fun to do a “match the artwork” game.
  4. public domain images – you can find a plethora of public domain images online.  Many are old photographs, so this would be fun for kids to talk and learn while playing.
  5. words – for kids who are learning sight words, you could have them pair words.  Or use their weekly spelling words in the game… the possibilities are endless.  I know there are some sites that have free photos with words in them.

For this particular game, I chose nine pictures from my cell phone’s repository. Using the “print” feature on my PC, I printed out the pictures, in wallet size — twice.

This dialog can be accessed by right-clicking on the selected images you want to print; select “Print” from the drop down menu (circled in screenshot below).

bphotoart-photo-memory-game-print

Here you can see the print dialog — this machine is running Windows 7.  I’m sure it looks different in the current edition, but al least the screenshot will give you an idea of how easy it was for me to set this up.  bphotoart-photo-memory-game

 

Notice the screenshot says “copies of each picture: 1”  — I printed the sheet of 9 images out twice, giving us eighteen cards total for the memory game.  I figured that was enough for now.

Now, you can just print on plain paper, or, if you want to get fancy, you can do one of two things:

  • Laminate it!  Print your pictures out, adhere wrapping or scrapbook paper to the back side, and then cut out and laminate each photo card.  You can get a nice thermal laminator #afflink online.
  • Print double-sided on Cardstock!  On one side of the cardstock paper, print a pattern or design for the back side off the cards.  On the other, print the wallet-sized photos. Then cut out and get playing. Here’s a link to some cardstock paper #afflink you can buy online.

And then cutting out the cards can be done with a paper cutter,  rotary trimmer, or even a pair of scissors.  whatever is easiest, whatever you have on hand.

We ended up playing memory as our “calm-down” activity before bed.  Toby was really excited to see the pictures, and specifically wanted to find the one of him at the baseball game (where Torii Hunter, then on the Detroit Tigers, threw him a ball).

We had a very excited toddler at the end of the ballgame…

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@bphotoart_com) on

So anyways, Toby loved the homemade memory game because it had photos of him and his family. He talked about the pictures while we played, which was fun for me. I can see this being a fun “looking back” game to play at family gatherings, reunions, or even low-key anniversaries. Not just for kids!

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.


This post is part of an Indoor Activity Blog Hop — Indoor Activities.

Make sure to visit the other blogs below for some fun indoor activities that you can do when the weather’s not conducive to playing outside!

Make a Photo Frame Ornament with Crayons!

posted in: Notes | 3

Make a Photo Frame Ornament With Crayons!

For my son’s preschool holiday party, I offered to make ornaments for the kids.  I’d been planning on making some sort of photo ornament, but when I saw a crayon ornament on Pinterest, I was inspired.  My variation might not work as well for a school photo due to the triangular shape, but I really like how it turned out.

The crayons perfectly frame the picture, and I even found a creative way to include a slot for threading ribbon.

Materials Needed (#afflinks):

The first thing you’ll want to do is print out your photo.  Or find a photo that you are willing to cut up.  We had this one on the computer, and I was (unfortunately) out of color ink the day we made this craft.  That’s why I did a black and white photo… but I actually like how it turned out!  If your crayons are “standard” sized, then you should be able to use a 3.5×5 photo to make your ornament.

Next, you’ll need to select three crayons for the project.  I made a number of these (one for each child in Toby’s class), and can attest that they look best with 3 different colors… or with three of the same color.

Lay out your three crayons in a triangle shape on your cardboard.  You’ll probably want to use a pen (or crayon, whatever’s easiest) to sketch out the equilateral triangle.

Then cut out the triangle.  Check and see how the crayons will fit (note that I made my triangle sides go from the butt end of the crayon to the edge of the paper near the tip.  The last part of this step is to cut off the end of one corner — this is where you’ll thread the ribbon later.

Now it’s time to assemble your ornament.  Using your hot glue gun, run a bead of glue along one of the triangle’s edges, then put the crayon in place.  Repeat this for the remaining sides, making sure that two of the crayons’ pointy ends will meet where you cut off the corner of the triangle.  Although, they don’t have to meet perfectly.

Now, flip over the ornament, and add a blob of glue anywhere that needs reinforcing (I did the “bottom” two corners).  Then, take a little strip of cardboard and cut it to a little less than an inch.  This will go at the top of the ornament, ensuring your ribbon has someplace secure to hang.  After a dry fit, put two dabs of glue on the cardboard and then put into place.

On the back (non-photo) side, I used metallic markers to write my son’s name and the year.

Cut a piece of ribbon, thread it through, and tie a knot… then you’re done!

Honestly, the longest part of this project was designing it.  Once I knew how to do it, these crayon ornaments were easy to make!

DIY Photo Advent Calendar

posted in: Parenting | 4

DIY Magnetic Photo Advent CalendarAs a child, I used to love getting to open a window in my advent calendar in the days leading up to Christmas.  This homemade take on the advent calendar is a great alternative to store bought calendars, is reusable, and your child will enjoy helping put everything together!

You can actually make this two ways — hold the photos on with tape, or with magnets, depending on what supplies you have available, and how long you want this calendar to last.

First, we cut out a free form tree from a pretty green gift bag.  I found a plain brown paper lunch sack for the trunk of the tree.  We taped this whole segment on the fridge.

Then, we printed out 24 photos, with the faces approximately quarter-sized.   I printed out two copies, one for Toby to cut with his scissors, and a set for me to cut into circles. This let Toby practice his scissor skills and feel involved while I made the circles for our face “ornaments.”  Toby had a lot of fun helping me pick which pictures to use.  Sadly, we couldn’t include all our family members…since we have more than 24.  If you’re planning to have this last for more than one year, I’d suggest printing on card stock or laminating the photos.  Otherwise, plain paper works.

Once all the photos for the 24 days of advent were cut out, we started putting them on the fridge, around the tree, of course.  If you’re using plain paper photos, just use pieces of rolled up tape to hold them on; if you made durable photo ornaments, then attach squares from an magnet tape roll #afflink so you can have these stick to the fridge.

The final touch was a sign, also from the paper lunch sack, that said “Countdown to Christmas!”

Toby is really excited to start putting ornaments on the tree, and I’m sure he will have fun picking out which family member should go on the tree next.  This DIY magnetic photo advent calendar is a great way to familiarize kids with their relatives (and their names too)… and it is definitely more meaningful than your run of the mill advent calendar that can be bought at the store.

We may also add a gold star for the tree topper, that would be put on the tree Christmas morning.  I think that would be a nice touch — but didn’t think of that until just now.

Enjoy some pictures of our photo advent calendar being made below!  Click on an image to open it in gallery view mode.

 

5 Tips for Taking Pictures of Your Child in the Swimming Pool

posted in: Photography | 4

Water is an inherently “tricky” thing to photograph.  While I’m not going to get into the science of things, I figured I could share some tips with you for taking pictures of your kids when they are swimming pool.  The images you can get will depend on the camera, the available light, and how far away you are.

5 Tips for Taking Pictures of Your Child in the Swimming Pool - Betsy's Photography - PhotoArt.comToby has been taking lessons at Goldfish Swim School for quite some time.  I’m frankly not quite sure when we started, but I know he has progressed through the various classes and loves every minute of his swim lessons.

The facility is very nice, with numerous windows around the indoor pool, so you have a lot of ambient light.  This is *great* for taking pictures of your child in the swimming pool.  Every so often, I will take some pictures to document his progress — for that memory book I’ll eventually get around to making once I decide what format will be best (Wildflower Ramblings has a nice series on keeping and recording memories).

That being said — you have to get the pictures first.  So here are my tips, which I’ll keep simple and sweet.

1. Don’t use a flash if you can help it.

You heard me.  Water is so reflective that your flash will illuminate all the water droplets in the air as your child swims; the flash will reflect off the water’s surface too.  If you’re trying to capture something underwater, it will not be visible at all.  So, if you have the luxury of a well-illuminated pool like ours, or an outdoor pool on a bright day — don’t use the flash.  If you can’t get a photo without flash because the pool is too dark, well, then cut your losses.  Use your camera’s low light setting, or turn off the flash and see how it turns out.  If that doesn’t work, let the flash do its job.  Take the photo, deal with the flash being present in your image… and don’t worry about it.  Something is better than nothing.

2. Use “Fast” or “Action” settings on your camera.

If your camera has some sort of action setting, this may do the trick.  Basically it will have your camera take the picture more quickly (it uses a faster shutter speed to eliminate blur, to get technical).  These settings usually have the flash automatically turned off, so you won’t have to worry about that.

3. Use a higher ISO (“film speed”) or low-light scene mode on your camera.

Sometimes low light settings will work too — they typically sacrifice detail, but if you’re okay with a “grainy” photo, then have at it.  How good will it look?  Well, this depends on your camera.  As digital technology has improved, cameras have gotten better at capturing details in low light.  So you may find this works …or if you have a low-end camera, it may not be up to par.  You’ll have to experiment.

Swimming

4. Closer is better; get close.

The closer you are, the better.  Now, during my son’s lesson, we parents have to sit in the “observation deck” — depending on where my son is in the lane, I’ll be 10-30 feet away from him.  So I’ll usually wait until they come to the near end of the lane for any pictures I want to take.  If you’re taking videos, it can be fun to document the whole “down and back” swim, but this doesn’t really translate to still photos.

 

5. Don’t forget about taking pictures when your child is *not* swimming.

While he waits his turn, it’s amusing to watch my son’s antics.  I’ve taken some adorable pictures of him at the edge of the pool.  Goggle-eyed grins are priceless.  As are photos on “graduation day” …or whenever your swimmer accomplishes something new for the first time.  Toby gets ribbons from time to time for learning a new skill, and there is nothing more adorable than having a picture of him holding that ribbon, just out of the pool.

Swimming

So, there you have it!  A short and sweet list of tips for taking pictures of your child in the swimming pool.  I probably should’ve added a sixth item — don’t get your camera wet!!!  But hopefully that’s a given, right?

Do you have any other great tips for taking pictures of kids at the pool, or while swimming?  I’d love to hear them.

Mürren, Switzerland – Neighborhoods Around the World

posted in: Fine Art | 2

Switzerland's Murren - Part of a virtual visit to neighborhoods around the world - BPhotoArt.comThere’s something about traveling, about seeing things beyond your backyard.  As technology continues to advance, the world continues to grow smaller and smaller.  My kids have the world at their fingertips, literally.  Through the web, you can learn about and experience things like never before.  Pictures, videos, live feeds… technology serves up the world on a platter.

I have fond memories of visiting Mürren, a village in Switzerland, when younger.  So that’s what I’m going to share with you today.  These images are not only a virtual visit across the Atlantic, but travel back in time.  When I visited Mürren, it was a car-free village, as were most of the mountainside towns and villages.  It took us 24 hours of travel to arrive in Mürren from the Zurich, the capital of Switzerland. You can’t drive to Mürren, but have to travel by funicular up the mountainside (or hike it on foot).  There are also cable cars that get you up and down the mountain.

The funicular is a mountainside train that travels up and down the mountainside.  There are actually two cars — they counterbalance each other, so one always travels up the track as the other travels down an adjacent track.  It’s fun for kids to watch for the other car and wave at the other passengers as they cross paths mid-way up the mountainside.

We would travel to Lauterbrunnen by train, then up in the funicular to Grutschalp.  From there we would take a smaller train past Winteregg to Mürren, the end of the line.  My grandparents always enjoyed staying at the Hotel Eiger, which overlooked the station.

We would spend our days exploring the countryside around Mürren… the Blumenthal valley was always a popular excursion — we would stop for lunch at the Suppen Alp, a restaurant in the middle of the valley. We also enjoyed visiting the top of the Schilthorn by cable car, where the revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria, is located.  You might be familiar with it, as it was featured in the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Show me your neighbourhood around the worldThis post is part of the Neighborhoods Around the World tour, hosted by The Piri-Piri Lexicon. Make sure to check out other neighborhoods around the world!

5 Tips For Great Pet Snapshots

posted in: Photography | 1

5 Tips For Great Pet Snapshots - bphotoart.comDog owners aside, most pets don’t really listen to their owners. Sure, cats will come for a treat, but often it’s dependent on their mood! So, what’s a pet owner to do when you want some good pet photos? I’m going to share five tips for great pet snapshots (this is a revised list from way back in 2006).

Now, I can’t promise these tricks will word without fail, but they should help you get more used to the idea of photographing something that won’t sit pretty for the camera, like people. Hmm, scratch that — a lot of kids don’t want to sit still for the camera either, right? I’ve covered that in other posts, so today, let’s stick with the topic at hand. Pets. Here are my 5 tips for great pet snapshots!

Step 1: Introduce your pet to the camera

This tip is an obvious one, but sometimes even I have to remind myself of it. The first few times you pull out your trusty camera, your pet probably will be excited or fearful — remember, even though you know what a camera is, your pet either thinks it’s a cool new toy or a one-eyed monster.

Give him some time to get used to the thing before you start clicking away, it usually helps.

Step 2: See how your pet reacts to having his picture taken

Try taking a FEW pictures with him nearby — and see what happens. You may have to distract your pet away from the camera by dangling an enticing toy.

When I initially tried to photograph our cats, I had to resort to distraction — those cameras just look like too much fun! Once your pet is used to a camera being around, you’ll find many cute photo ops…

Step 3: Keep your camera handy!

This of key importance — chances are if you haven’t prompted your pet to do something cute, you won’t have your camera ready. I know, it’s amazing that “hold on kitty, let me take a picture” doesn’t work.

When your pet is sleeping or has just woken up, he’s a whole lot easier to photograph than when he’s playing with that fun toy. Know your pet’s behavior and take advantage of his lazy moments.

Step 4: Get closer to your pet

Sometimes getting on eye level with your pet can make the difference. These pictures I’m sharing of Jake were taken quite low to the ground, from a short distance.

Instead of taking a far-away picture that shows your pet as a furry dot, take some time to sneak up a little closer. With patience and persistence, you’ll get some really great snapshots.

Step 5: Try not to use your flash

You know that “red-eye” feature on your camera? Well, just like people’s eyes don’t always photograph very well with that flash on your camera, neither will your pet’s.

If possible, photograph your pet while he’s basking in the sun, or while outside in your backyard. That way you’ll have enough light so that your pet’s eyes will look normal.

Have more ideas for getting pet photos?

I’m sure you’ll think of some great tips to add to this list — as you find more, feel free to comment or let me know! Hopefully though, I’ve given you enough great ideas to get started — remember, the most important thing is to make sure that both you and your pet have fun.

Welcoming Baby Finn! (Meet Zachary)

posted in: Parenting | 4

What a blessing to welcome another healthy boy to the Finn family! Zachary arrived less than a week after his due date, after about 10 hours of labor (less than three of which we spent at the hospital).  Here’s a photo of me holding him at the hospital, I think he was still under 24 hours old at this point.

Newborn Baby Photo -Welcoming Zachary! - BPhotoArt.com

There are so many wonderful moments and memories to share with you from Zachary’s arrival and first days.  Since I have had my hands *a little* full, I figured it would be easiest to share them all as a video slideshow (like I did with Toby’s birth story).

Zachary is mellow, calm, and a phenomenal sleeper.  At birth, he was smaller than his brother by quite a bit.  We actually had to stop at our favorite kid’s store, The Little Seedling, on the way home from the hospital because our infant car seat wasn’t fitting right.  Had their carseat tech check the setup, and we ultimately left with a new carseat that fit much better.

Making the transition from one to two kids has been ….well, not without problems, but overall we are all doing well.  The cats didn’t bat an eye at the new human we brought home.  Big brother has done really well; we’ve been working on using words to communicate when Toby is feeling in need of attention.  He is such a big helper, and has been so excited to hug and kiss his little brother.  We parents are doing pretty well too.  Recovery for mom has been fantastic… as I just mentioned we made our first outing on the way home from the hospital.  Night and day difference from last time — and for that, I am more thankful than words can express

I’ll be sharing some official newborn portraits in the near future, but for now, you can enjoy the video slideshow here, as well as the snapshots I’ve been sharing on Instagram.  Here’s one of both boys at a recent chiropractic visit:

And one of Zachary sleeping, wrapped up snugly in the baby blanket my mother crocheted for me when I was a baby myself.

A Mother’s Love: That Face

posted in: Parenting | 3
I’m honored to share another snapshot story with you today, one about motherhood, how quickly the time passes, and just how important it is to keep photos on display that remind us of how quickly our little ones grow into their own.Suzette Ladouceur is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom. She blogs at The Joy of Homemaking about marriage, motherhood, homeschooling, and making the most of the life God has given her.

Thank you Suzette for reminding us of the importance of a mother’s love!

— Betsy

That Face... Love. Joy. Sentiment. - The Joy Of Homemaking @ BPhotoArt.com

That Face

When my son was just under a year old, we went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for Memorial Day weekend to spend time with some family. While there, one of our activities was spending time in their community pool. After a hearty swim, as we sat around to dry off, I looked over at my son who he had fallen asleep on my cousin. I took a quick picture, not realizing how precious the finished photo would be.

Every time I see this photo, it conjures up a whole host of emotions from my heart, but here are the three dearest to me.

Love.

I cannot believe how much I love my children. I never knew that I could love someone so much that even on my most tired nights, I would willingly wake up to care for the needs of that small person.

My love for them has caused me to evaluate my purpose as a mother and my goals for each child, spiritually and emotionally. My love for them causes me to pray and think about each decision I make because I know that my children will be affected by my choices in some way.

Joy.

I am so thankful that this little boy (and my daughter) is mine. He was a gift from God to me. Instead of looking at the blocks scattered across the house, hearing the noise he makes, or finding the negative in his 2 year old behavior, I choose to see the sky scraper he tried to build, hear the laughter in his play, and appreciate the point in time we are living in right now. I choose to experience the joy my children bring.

Childhood itself brings joy. Sadly, as we leave our childhood and enter the world of adulthood, we forget the joy of catching bugs outside, how easy laughter can come, and that the sounds of happy play and noise are two completely different things.

Sentiment.

He is growing so fast. It has been two years since that picture was taken, yet the time seems to have gone by so quickly. In two more years, he will be a four and a half year old on his way to Kindergarten.

I continually remind myself that time stops for no “mom”, and my babies will not stop growing. As much as I wish I could keep them where they are, each day is another step towards the growth that they must make. Each day takes me closer to the time when I will have to let them go. Looking at this photo of my son reminds me to appreciate each moment I have with my children.

Do you have a photo of your child(ren) that can serve as a reminder that our time spent as “mommy” is short? Can I encourage you to pull it out and keep it front and center? It will help in those moments when you forget what a gift you have been given.

— Suzette

Are you intentional in cultivating a mother’s love?

Do you find the days, weeks, and even months flying by far too quickly? How have you been intentional about cultivating and displaying a mother’s love to your children?

Do you have photographs on display, as Suzette suggested, that remind you of the brevity of childhood, and the importance of a mother’s love?

I’ve love to hear your stories, thoughts, and comments below.

Daddy Daughter Duo – A Snapshot Story

posted in: Parenting | 5
I love how the simplest of snapshots can tell an amazing story.  More than “a thousand words,” pictures bring us back to the moment — they let us re-experience the sounds and smells that are so strongly linked to a particular memory.

Today I want to welcome Cassandra of Raising Up Stones! She’s the mom of three kids, and has graciously provided me with this lovely memory to share with you from her childhood.  This daddy daughter childhood snapshot brings many wonderful memories to mind for Cassandra — as you’ll read below.

— Betsy

Daddy Daughter Duo - Raising Up Stones @ BPhotoArt.com

Daddy Daughter Duo

Every time I see this picture, I smile from ear to ear. That is me, in the red shirt and black shorts…no, not the salt and pepper haired stud, the little cutie with the black bobbed hair! It’s as if I am saying “this is MY daddy”! In fact, I know I was thinking that.

If you couldn’t tell by our ridiculously fabulous matching outfits, I was pretty mesmerized by my daddy and I’m pretty sure he thought I was something awfully special.

My dad owned a body shop and I loved going to work with him. I remember all the mechanics and body men treating me like royalty. They would buy me candy from the candy machines, bring me fun trinkets and give me “jobs” so they could pay me money.  I was a princess in real form but my best memories were when my dad was home from work and he was all ours.

Being Outdoors in the Yard

We had a nice, large yard most of my life and my dad always took good care of it.  My family and I spent many spring and summer evenings in the yard, picking up sticks, mowing, pulling weeds and playing in the sprinklers!

I can’t be for sure but I figure this was one of those times. I can still smell the scent of freshly cut grass and hear the sounds of the lawn mower as I watched daddy ride past me.

This picture was before my brother came along to steal the show, so it was just me, my sister and mom and dad. I’m betting some time before or after this picture I sat on my dad’s lap as we made each turn through the grass cutting those perfect lines that make every home owner proud! He would let me steer but I had no idea he was really doing the steering.

I’m sure after this picture dad grilled some steaks and chicken, and of course we had corn freshly shucked by mom! My daddy loved steak, and I loved steak because he loved steak! Just like I loved my red shirt and black shorts …just like daddy’s! I was a girly girl to the max, but who needs a fancy dress when you can match your #1 hero?

Countless MemoriesWhat About You?

Do you have an all time favorite family snapshot? Maybe a similar daddy daughter photo even? One that brings many fond memories flooding back, like Cassandra’s daddy daughter duo does for her?

I know I have a few daddy daughter snapshots from my own childhood that bring back many fond memories. Every girl, every woman, has a special place in her heart for her daddy.

What is your favorite daddy daughter memory? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

posted in: Notes | 6
Today I’m welcoming Sue Lively of One Time Through as she shares a snapshot from her childhood, and the wonderful story about how her teacher, Mr. Smith, inspired her to learn, grow, and ultimately, become a teacher herself. What a wonderful tribute to an exceptional teacher!

Sue is an elementary school teacher on extended parental leave to stay at home full time with her son. She is passionate about all things related to arts and-crafts, language, and science! Thank you Sue, for sharing these musings on what makes an exceptional teacher. I can think of a few such teachers from my own childhood.

— Betsy

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher - One Time Through @ BPhotoArt.com

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

What do you think makes an exceptional teacher? Is it that unique ability to put oneself into a student’s shoes and see things through their point of view? Is it having a mastery of one’s subject or exceptional communication skills? Is it about seeing a student as more than just a sum of their parts?

Everyone has a favourite teacher that they can remember from early school years. Probably your favourite teacher had a few, if not all, of the qualities listed above. My favorite teacher certainly did.

Mr. Smith

He was a little unusual for an elementary school teacher, because he was a man. Also, it was widely known that teaching wasn’t his only gig. Mr. Smith not only taught full-time, but he wrote the drama critiques and reviews column for the large newspaper in the city close to where I grew up. He was highly involved in theatre himself and brought that love to his students.

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Smith for my teacher in grades 1 and 2 and later when I was in grades 4, 5, and 6; I was involved in school musicals that he directed.

What I remember most about Mr. Smith from the early grades was that he was FUN. Isn’t it always those teachers that stand out in your memory? Our classroom was full of laughter, poetry, art and drama.

I remember that he used to keep exceptional artwork up on his walls, long after those students had moved into higher grades. I was always proud to return to his class as a “big grade 5 or 6er” and see one of my art pieces still there! He just had a way of making kids feel good.

Teaching Through Discipline

He also treated his students exceptionally fair. There was one time when I was given the privilege of staying inside at recess on my own to finish an art piece. For some reason, only God knows why, I went around the room and tore a small corner off the page of everyone else’s work. I can remember clearly doing this, but to this day, have no idea why I did it!
When the kids came back in from recess, Mr. Smith easily figured out who the art culprit had been, as my piece was the only one without a missing corner!

I remember being quietly pulled into the hallway and firmly but gently confronted about my behavior. There was no scolding or shaming, just a very serious discussion about my actions and how they had affected others.

I think I remember that episode so much because I felt very deep remorse about my actions, and I was grateful my favorite teacher still liked and cared about me, even though I had been quite naughty!

Committed to Excellence

Later on, in grades 4-6, Mr. Smith directed me in the school musicals. He encouraged me to try out the first year, and really took me under his wing.

These musicals that he directed were not just “kid-stuff” either – they were big productions. We had amazing costumes rented from a theater company, professional lighting, and performed for large audiences. We rehearsed for months and really felt like we were a part of something important. They were a source of self-esteem and positive memories.

The time commitment from Mr. Smith, and the other teachers involved, must have been huge. It’s hard to see that as a kid, and although we all loved Mr. Smith, I don’t think any of us really appreciated how much work and time he must have put in to do these shows with us…and really, FOR us.

As a teacher and a parent now, I can see all the amazing things he did…and was. Mr. Smith was such a huge positive influence on me.

Encouragement Into Adulthood

He encouraged me to pursue singing and acting, which has been a source of incredible enjoyment in my life. Even into adulthood, he followed my “career” and supported me by interviewing me for his newspaper column, even giving me great reviews for my performances in several musicals.

He has become a positive mental teaching template for me. I often think about how Mr. Smith would deal with certain situations when I am challenged by a student.

He has also inspired me to direct musicals with my own students over the years and hopefully I can make a difference for some of them as he did for me. This has been one of my favorite, and the most rewarding, parts of being a teacher.

Lifelong Positive Influence

The photograph above shows Mr. Smith and me after I had received the grade 6 Drama Award. You can tell by my face that I was thrilled, and especially honored to receive this award from my favorite teacher.

When I look at it now, tears fill my eyes, and I send a hearty thank you to this special man who had such a positive influence on me as a child, and as an adult.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

– Sue Lively

What About You?

Do you have an all time favorite snapshot from your childhood? Maybe a photo from your school years? I have memories of my favorite teachers, and seeing snapshots of their classrooms can bring so many memories to mind.

Do you have an exceptional teacher who inspired you like Mr. Smith inspired Sue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Close-Knit Family – Long Distance Grandparenting

posted in: Parenting | 4

As the weeks wind down and my second son’s birth looms ever nearer, I thought it was fitting to share this image from my family archives. It’s of me as a newborn in the hospital, with both my grandmothers. I’ve written about one of them so far (Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), but both were a big part of my life while I was growing up.

Betsy with her grandmothers as a newborn

Proud Grandmothers

This photo is meaningful for me even though I don’t remember that moment. I see my grandmothers as I remember them in childhood — loving, caring, warm and comforting.

I remember the soft texture of my paternal grandmother’s hands, the silky smooth wrinkled fingers that floated over piano keys. I recall the vibrant smiles that both grandmothers frequently flashed — a conveyance of their inner joy.

I wasn’t the first grandchild for either of my grandmothers. But still I was loved. They were proud of all their grandchildren, eager to hear our stories and listen to our childlike chatter.

Both teachers, my grandmothers instructed me when I was older — one piano, the other English.

My paternal grandmother’s favorite hymn was “The Old Rugged Cross.”
My maternal grandmother’s favorite book was “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

It’s interesting what things you recall when looking at a simple snapshot.

How the memories flow, disjointed at times, but all the while bringing back fond memories that make the distance of time seem less far.

The Importance of Close-Knit Family

We were, and still are, blessed to have most of our family nearby. And by that, I mean within 10 minutes by car. Both sets of my grandparents lived 10 minutes away from my childhood home.

And now that I’m married with kid(s), we are likewise blessed to have both sets of parents within 10 minutes of our house. And then when you add in aunts, uncles, and cousins, the map of nearby relatives gets ever more crowded.

But crowded in a good way.

Family is important to us; my husband and I were very intentional in settling down near family. We didn’t want our future children to grow up not knowing their extended family. And I can say that so far, we’ve managed to fulfill that desire for family bonding.

Our son knows the street names where his grandparents live, he talks about his cousins all the time, and loves to call on the phone to “invite” family members over to play with him.

We are a close-knit family.

Long Distance Grandparenting

One of my nieces, though, lives multiple states away. I haven’t met her yet, even though she is almost a year old. My parents are long-distance grandparents to their second grandchild.

It’s different.

It’s tough being distant when you want to be close.

I often hear a tinge of sorrow in my mom’s voice when she talks, excitedly, about her granddaughter — my niece.

Thankfully, technology has helped somewhat with long distance grandparenting. There are video conferencing options like skype and facetime. Facebook allows distant family members to keep up to date with the daily antics of little ones as they grow.

Tips for Long Distance Grandparenting

  • Video Chat – use video calls to chat with your grandkids.  You could even set a weekly phone date!
  • Send postcards – kids of all ages love to get real, old-fashioned mail.  My toddler is thrilled to receive simple postcards when his grandparents are on vacation.
  • Compile care packages – even if the goodies aren’t all that fancy, kids love to get packages.  You could probably acquire some finds at the dollar store for younger kids.  You could do care packages seasonally, or make themed holiday care packages!
  • Share photos – even a toddler can recognize their grandparents in photos.  Send them pictures of you so that your grandkids can talk about what you’re doing and “relate” to you.  It doesn’t matter whether you choose to send cell phone pictures or prints.
  • Visit ….but respect boundaries – it’s important to respect your child’s wishes, so make sure to ask and approve any trips before planning an impromptu vacation to visit your grandkids.
  • Celebrate birthdays – even if you can’t be there in person, you can always send a card (or if you’re more ambitious, a present).  Again, back to the whole “kids love getting stuff in the mail” thing.
  • Make audiotapes – read your favorite stories aloud so that your grandchildren can listen to the recordings whenever they need grandma or grandpa time.

And this next tip is for parents.  Talk about distant relatives with your children!  Repetition and visual references will help your children to be familiar with their long distance grandparents, great-grandparents, or other far-off relatives.  Even though my grandfather (memories of painting with Grandpa) lives a plane flight away, our son knows his great-grandfather, and recognizes him through photos, and fondly remembers the activities they did together two Christmases ago.

Resources on Long Distance Grandparenting

Here are some resources for those faced with long distance grandparenting.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

How Do You Cultivate Closeness?

What tips do you have for those with relatives who live out of state? Are there ways you’ve managed to encourage close relationships between your immediate family and your far-off family?