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outdoor photo adventures

Doing my best - on the night before the 15th anniversary

Doing my best - on the night before the 15th anniversary

It's the night before the 15th anniversary and still I feel so raw and traumatized and heartbroken. Other sadnesses have passed or at least lightened over the years. 

This one...

This one is deep in my bones.

Sharing favorite friends (sibling photos week 13/52)

When Liam was two, he watched the Cars movie for the first time, and thus began an obsession that lasted a good two years until we finally transitioned him into Superheroes, mostly for our own sanity as by then we could ALL recite the entirety of both movies, having watched them what felt like at least a hundred times each!

Therefore, despite the insane amount of merchandise we own, we were a little reticent to introduce Jack to the Lightning McQueen phenomenon and he skipped right into Superheroes.

We revisited this decision recently though as the constant Superhero fighting is wearing us a little thin. We dusted off the old DVDs... well actually we couldn't even find them so, to add insult to injury, we had to rent them on Amazon Prime, but it has actually been quite adorable to see Liam get reacquainted with old friends while introducing them to Jack who is happily "kachowing" all over the place now.

What is truly hilarious is seeing Jack's slowly dawning realization that our house is covered with Cars stuff that he just hadn't noticed before and we had all stopped seeing. Lightning and his friends are EVERYWHERE!

The other day, I took the boys to Pratt and some of our Cars friends came with us. The last time Liam played with Lightning McQueen, Jack was a baby. Now that baby has grown into a friend to share obsessions with.

My laid back photo strategies for your next beach vacation

On Mom365 this week, I am talking about laid back photo strategies for your next beach vacation.

Get tips and packing ideas to capture the moment like we were able to do on our recent family beach vacation to Aruba over winter break.

Without my photos, our week of warmth would be a much more distant memory.

Capturing beach vacation photos as a parent doesn’t have to be a big deal, or overly complicated. I have a few of these vacations under my belt now and have perfected some laid back photo strategies.

Read them all on Mom365.

Family vacation to beat the winter blues - sibling photos 7 and 8/52

Every winter break since Liam started preschool and therefore started having a winter break we have said, we really should go away somewhere warm for winter break. This year we finally did it!

While our fellow New Yorkers back home suffered 0F temperatures we enjoyed amazing sun, sea and sand-filled vacation in Aruba. It was bliss, and we felt like geniuses for getting out of town during what turned out to be the coldest week of the winter. It was hard to contain our glee!

I'll be sharing my photographic observations and tips from the trip on Mom365 soon, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorite DSLR shots, including my official sibling photos for week 7 and 8!

Have you gone on a family trip to beat the winter blues? What is your favorite place to vacation with your kids?

How to capture your favorite winter weather moments

We are deep into snow here in NYC... well, not exactly deep, after last week's snow blizzard failed to deliver on the promised 2 to 3 feet of snow, but even so, we have had several snowfalls since and it is a slushy mess out there with more to come!

In fact, I'm even considering biting the bullet and buying poor Liam some proper snow boots as he has been making do with the fireman rain boots I bought him for Halloween two years ago! Granted, they were extremely big for him then but really, no wonder the poor kid has not been keen to go out and play in the snow.

On our snow day last Tuesday I did manage to get the kids into the backyard to play. Actually, Keith enticed them out by building them an igloo, which they crawled into to eat their oatmeal cookies.

Then we turned the igloo into a hill - Sledding for People Who Are Too Lazy to go to an Actual Hill!

I have to say, the light in the backyard was absolutely gorgeous.

Here is my soon-to-be 6 year old:

And here is my newly turned 3 year old:

It is hard to tell but it was actually still snowing lightly when I took these photos. If you can get out with your camera when it is snowing, the results can be magical. Here are a few of my favorites from last year when I was able to get out during a heavier snow fall.

For capturing the moment this winter, keep in mind some of my favorite snow day photo tips and inspiration:

The 3 survival techniques you need for taking photos in the snow.

If the snow has you stuck inside, try these simple indoor photo tips, starting with get the best from the light you have for the photos you want.

And my bonus tip for today: take snow photos in your backyard or in front of your home so when everyone is cold and cranky you can just pop back inside!

Stay warm and safe and have a great day.

Make the most of summer vacation photo tips for moms and dads

Before the summer ends, take full advantage of my tips for better summer photos series here on Photosanity and over at Mom365.

The photo tip series for moms and dads includes: Top 5 tips for photo friendly outfits, summer photo location tips and tips for taking great photos on summer trips.

Top 5 Tips for Photo-Friendly Summer Outfits

What are the best summer outfits for photos? Summer is a great time to find bright colors, patterns and styles that really reflect your child's personality without having to worry about whether they are warm enough.

1) Pick colors that are rich, warm, and bright.

Ever noticed how colorful the architecture is in warmer climates? In the bright summer sun you want strong colors that hold their own...

Read more on Mom365

Summer Photo Location Tips for Families

The summer is a great time to use photography as a catalyst for creating memorable experiences for your kids as well as vice versa.

Here are some ideas for summer activities that also provide great photo ops.

1. The lake

No, not everyone has access to a lake in their backyard, but if you get the opportunity for some lakeside summer fun, it is a great opportunity for summer photos. Depending on the lake, it is generally easier to handle a DSLR at the lake than at the beach if there is less sand and no waves...

Read more on Mom365

Tips for Taking Great Summer Family Photos

We all know that "vacationing" with kids in tow is very, let's say, different, than in the pre-kid days. It's a lot of work! Yet the payoff of memorable and happy experiences for your kids can be great... and I know you want to capture those moments for years to come. So to help you along, here are some tips for summer vacation photos:

What photography gear to bring on summer vacation with kids:

1) Your iPhone and charger

These are a must, of course. Make sure you clear off storage space and have Photo Stream turned on so your vacation memories are backed up to the cloud while you are away...

Read more on Mom365

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Friends, scooters and our favorite park (sibling photos week 29/52)

One of my favorite things about Brooklyn is Prospect Park. It's about a 20 minute walk from our house and I spent a lot of time there with Liam during his first summer. I still remember the first time I made that walk with him after my c-section and how, as I stepped through that tunnel into the wide vista of grass and trees so carefully designed by Frederick Law Olmsted over 100 years ago, it felt like my life was opening up again after a long winter of being either heavily pregnant or recovering from major surgery.

Special places hold special meaning that can be captured over time through photography.

I don't get to the park as much as I used to, but last weekend we met up with Liam's oldest friend (literally!) for a play date and the boys had fun scooting up and down one of the paths. They were given strict instructions about the limits of how far they were allowed to go and they kept to them!

And yes, Jack did lag behind a little but he did a pretty good job of keeping up.


Photo tip

If you can get your kids doing a repetitive activity such as scooting up and down a path, you get repeated opportunities to capture them in action.

Setting the shot to capture natural moments (sibling photos week 15/52)

Setting the shot to capture natural moments (sibling photos week 15/52)

Raise your hand if you're excited about spring! Me!

Yes, we were back at Pratt this past weekend and yes, Liam was in short sleeves! We picked up some large poster boards and crayons on the way over, spread out a blanket and I dusted off my 85mm lens, backed up a little and captured Liam and Jack hard at work.

Of course, Liam complained three seconds later that he was too hot in the sun and so we moved to the shade!

Photo tip

As much as I recommend shooting in open shade, the shade we had available was just too shady and the backlighting I captured in this photo was much more captivating.

The boys didn't know it but I actually set this shot up quite deliberately, checking out the direction of the sun and positioning them so other picnickers would not be in the background.

The blanket and art activity were perfect for getting them a) in the same frame, b) still, and c) engrossed - not something my active boys would otherwise have any interest in cooperating for!

My 85mm lens allowed me to get back a little farther and leave them relatively undisturbed. And of course I got down low to shoot at their level for more of a child's view.

Get more photo tips for capturing the moment outdoors and capturing natural moments with your kids in my Stop Missing the Moment Workshop, available online and at your own pace.

Spring photo tips (sibling photos week 14/52)

Spring photo tips (sibling photos week 14/52)

Spring is finally here! Well, we'll ignore the current forecast of rain mixed with sleet and "wet snowflakes" and pretend that spring is here!

Last week we celebrated spring by making our first trip of the season to the Pratt campus where we spread out a blanket and enjoyed some snacks and time running around in the sun.

As we were packing up to go home, the boys started whispering and giggling to one another and I managed to capture this moment.

I am loving seeing their relationship develop through the lens of my camera. Looking for sibling moments to capture means that I am seeing more of them, and creating more opportunities for them to occur. Already I have a much stronger sense of their relationship that I did last year and that is something I feel really good about.

Photo tips

Early spring can be tricky for photos as the sun is starting to get higher and brighter but there is not a lot of tree foliage to provide shade.

Here are three strategies I used to create this photo:

1) Position yourself so the sun is behind your subjects: In this photo the boys are in direct sunlight but I put the sun behind them so their faces are in shade.

2) Crop for an off center composition and to remove clutter: Because I was in a rush to capture this moment, the boys were more centered in the original photo and you could see the stroller and all our stuff in the background. Cropping totally transformed this photo - even I was pleasantly surprised by how much, to be honest!

3) Convert to black and white if the lighting conditions are harsh: The blanket is close to blown out (over exposed) in this photo as it is in direct sunlight compared to the boys, but in black and white it is less noticeable and distracting.

Get more tips for capturing the moment this season.

My top ten tips for better park photos on Mom365

This week on Mom365, I'm talking about another favorite location for enjoying the warmer spring weather, and the opportunity for photos - the park.

1) Look for open shade

Filled with natural light and luscious green backgrounds, the park is one of the most popular locations for portraits, but make sure you get out of direct sunlight and into "open shade" where the light is soft and more diffuse and therefore more flattering.

Get all ten tips on Mom365!

Top ten tips for better playground photos on Mom365

Spring is officially here... and for those of us in colder climates, that means we can finally get out of the house with our kids so not only is everyone not going stir crazy but our opportunities for photos in natural light and a wide variety of locations opens up wide. Yay!

A simple local playground can be chock full of good photo opportunities, especially if it's early on a cloudy morning where you don't have to worry about harsh shadows, and it's before the playground gets more crowded.

Head over to Mom365 for my top ten tips for better playground photos.

Take better photos in the snow

Take better photos in the snow

It's a snow day in NYC!

If you're out taking photos, remember that your camera is going to freak out with all the brightness and most likely underexpose your photos.

Here are some tips on how to take better photos in the snow

If shooting in manual: spot meter for faces or over expose - your kids' faces should look correctly exposed, even if this means the snow is a little blown out.

If shooting in aperture priority (and some other modes): use exposure compensation to overexpose

On your point-and-shoot: see if your camera has a "snow" mode

On your iphone: use tap to focus and second tap for exposure (on apps such as Camera+)

In general: you can try to get less snow in the photo so there is less brightness for your camera to struggle with, or try to find an angle where the light is reflected off the snow and onto faces.

Have fun and keep warm!

Tips for taking great playground photos

New York City is filled with spectacular photo locations but a great photo session with your kids doesn't require anything fancy.

A simple local playground can be chock full of great photo opportunities, especially if it's early on a cloudy morning where you don't have to worry about harsh shadows and before the playground gets more crowded.

A couple of months ago, Keith took Liam fishing one Saturday so I took Jack to the playground by himself. He had a great time... and so did I.

Here are some ideas for playground photos:

1) Shoot at your child's level, or even from slightly below.

2) Wait for natural eye contact.

Your child will periodically make eye contact even from across the playground.

3) Capture your child in action!

It may take several shots but keep persisting.

4) Keep an eye on background clutter.

Try to avoid getting cars, strollers, trash cans or other people in the background if you can, or use a shallow depth of field so they are blurry enough to not be distracting.

5) Look for off center compositions that will make your photo more interesting.

6) Look for interesting views.

Take photos through parts of the playground structure and use its different levels to your advantage.

7) Look for soft diffuse light rather than bright direct sunlight.

This is why cloudy days are so great for photos.

8) Capture your child's emotions, such as the moment of hesitation and anticipation before going down the slide.

9) Use your camera to bring you more into the moment.

This allows you to enjoy your time with your child, cement your memories of this time, and create images that you can share with them years later.

10) If the playground is within walking distance, photograph the walk there and back as well.

It's all about the journey and not just the destination. On the way home, Jack suddenly stopped and started clapping and singing and laughing. This photo is one of my favorite recent photos of him, even though the background is just sidewalk!

Summer memories at the lake - capturing family moments in a special place

A recent photo challenge theme in the Photosanity Peer-to-Peer Facebook group was "summer" which is of course was a very broad and open theme, but seeing those and other recent photos from the group has had me thinking about what a great time summer is for experiences, photos and memories.

Many of my favorite summer photos and memories since I met my husband have been from the times we've spent at his Uncle and Aunt's house by a lake in Connecticut. Only a 90 minute drive away, we've spent many summer days up there (as well as other days year round). The kids in the family, all Liam and Jack's cousins, love it, and it has been so great to see our kids get to have that same experience.

Keith recently took Liam on his first fishing trip up to the lake, and Liam was so excited! They caught 17 fish (all catch and release) and the trip was a huge success. We were up there for July 4th also and Liam spent about five hours in the lake swimming around in his life preserver and had to be dragged out for dinner - he had a blast!

This past weekend we were there again, and Liam "swam" across the lake and back... twice! (Swam, meaning, with a life preserver, and piggy backing on Keith some of the way.) And Jack had a blast throwing a ball for his new best friend Dukes, the Boston Terrier.

Here then are some of my favorite photos from the lake over recent years. If you have a place that you return to over and over throughout the years, pulling together a series of photos across time from the same location can be a great way to reflect and reminisce as well as celebrate the good times.

Get outdoors! Photo adventures (part 3 of 3)

A couple of weeks ago I kicked off our current blog post series on outdoor photo adventures by talking about the biggest secret to successful outdoor photography.

Last week I talked about choosing the perfect location and gave some tips on the most common challenges that come up when you're shooting outdoors and how to overcome them.

This week, in the last of this 3 part series, I'm going to talk about my top 5 locations to take photos of your kids in NYC... and if you're not in NYC you can use this as inspiration to find similar locations near you.

1. Pratt Institute Sculpture Park

Why it's great: the kids love to explore and look at all the sculptures, which make for really interesting and unique elements to include in your photos.

Tip: don't be afraid to get in close and fill the frame.

If you're not in NYC: see if you can find a sculpture garden near you.

2. Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Why it's great: the gardens are a beautiful, calm oasis within the urban craziness of New York City. From the Cherry esplanade to the Japanese pond to the bluebell wood and more, there's a huge variety of settings to enjoy and the grounds are very well kept too.

Tip: play around with off center compositions. No, more off center. Way way off center!

If you're not in NYC: find a botanic garden or park near you.

3. The High Line

Why it's great: although it's become a little crazy and touristy in the past couple of years, the High Line remains a unique place to visit that captures the imagination of kids and grown-ups alike. Again, there are a huge variety of settings for photographs from industrial backdrops, to the urban skyline, to the waterfront, or more parklike settings. Go early in the morning on a weekday to avoid the crowds, especially in the warmer months.

Tip: my sister took this photo of me and Liam when he was 5 months old. If you can, and as I mentioned last week, hand your camera to someone else so you can be in some of the photos!

If you're not in NYC: ok, this one is pretty unique to NYC (although similar parks are planned in Philadelphia and Chicago) but think about what the most unique location near you is.

4. Tribeca

Why it's great: the industrial buildings, the warehouses, the loft buildings and the restaurants all make for great urban backdrops for your photos. Fire escapes, tin panelling, glass brick walls, covered bridges, cast iron columns, even the occasional modern glass facade - Tribeca has it all and, maybe it's the architect in me, but I love it!

Family photos don't just have to take place at the park, and Tribeca is less crowded and less commercialized than other similar neighborhoods like Soho or Chelsea (although the meatpacking district near the High Line is great too).

Tip: look for ways to use a gritty urban backdrop to contrast with and accentuate the innocence of childhood.

If you're not in NYC: find a cool urban neighborhood or, if you're not near an urban area, old industrial or agricultural buildings can make for great textured backdrops too.

5. Brooklyn Bridge Park - Main Street

Why it's great: a beach in the middle of NYC with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline? Sign me up! This photo is one of my favorites ever taken by me of my friend Katie of Katie Jane Photography.

Click here to see more. 

If you're not in NYC: are you near some waterfront? Or a bridge? Or a spectacular view of some kind of skyline or horizon?

Very cool announcement:

Picking my five favorite locations was tough... I have plenty more! And the good news is that I'm starting a new guest blog column over at A Child Grows in Brooklyn called "Small Kid Big City: Capturing Your Child's Moments".  Each week I'll feature a favorite location with more detail about the location and a more detailed photo tip than I've included here. Consider this a teaser!

I'm also excited to announce that A Child Grows in Brooklyn is presenting two upcoming Photosanity workshops in Brooklyn. 

Stop Missing the Moment: an introduction to Photosanity will take place on Wednesday, April 24th, from 7-9pm at Bija Kids in Clinton Hill and is for current parents. 

Capture the Moment: preparing to photograph your new baby will take place on Tuesday, May 7th, from 7-9pm at Park Slope Eye in Park Slope and is for expectant parents. Reserve your spot now!

Get outdoors! Photo adventures (part 2 of 3)

get outdoors
Last week I kicked off our current blog post series on outdoor photo adventures by talking about the biggest secret to successful outdoor photography, as well as a strategy for capturing natural moments with your kids. This week I want to talk about:

Choosing the perfect location

This is important because my top criteria for the perfect location for outdoor photography is not what you'd expect. It's not about finding a beautiful location with open spaces, plenty to do, and not too many crowds, although that can all help. It's not about looking for the right light, or lots of different backdrops, or areas of shade, although that can all help too.

The perfect location to photograph your family is a location that has meaning to you.

What experience do you want to give your kids? What do you most want to capture about them and this time in your life? Is there a special location that you visit a lot that they will be thrilled to go to and that you KNOW you will want to remember them at? Or is there somewhere new that you've been planning on visiting that you know will make for a special trip?

And yes, there are other more expected things to consider too.

The ideal location would have:

  • enough space and not too many crowds so you're not constantly trying to avoid bumping into people or having strangers appear in your photos
  • areas of shade so you can get out of direct sunlight
  • plenty to do to keep your kids engaged and occupied as you take photos
  • lots of different settings and backdrops so you can get a variety of photos and have lots of opportunities to try different things
  • good light - usually going earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon is better than trying to deal with the midday sun

Sometimes it's fun to go out with the main purpose of taking photos- photography can be a great catalyst or excuse to take your family out on an adventure.  But sometimes the adventure is the main priority and the location may not be ideal for photos... but you want to document it anyway.

Here are some common challenges and how to overcome them:

  • If it's crowded: first capture the moment, but then, if you have time, try to improve on how you captured it by moving to see if you can get the people in the background out of your camera frame, or hidden by your subject.
  • If there is no shade: get the sun behind your subject so they're not squinting at you and their face is in shade so you avoid harsh unflattering shadows.
  • If you can't get a good angle: capture the moment anyway, as a reminder or trigger, even if you can't get everything in the photo that you want. You can also try taking several photos to stitch or group together later. If you can't get far enough back to get everything in the frame of your DSLR, switch to your iphone. Or hand your phone to someone else who might be better positioned!

And one final tip:

Don't forget to get into a few photos yourself! Use the forward facing camera on your iphone, or hand your camera to someone else (spouse, friend or stranger!) to take a photo.