Monday, September 29, 2014


We went on a family trek to see a nearby grove of coastal redwoods yesterday morning. It was a good time, and I brought my big camera along, and then stayed up way too late last night working a photo post on exposure. So here are just a handful of pics, head on over here to see more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

adding to my camera collection

I had a birthday last week, I am now a ripe ole 34 years old. Following a few strong hints Zach got me a vintage twin lens reflex (tlr) camera... or, well, two actually, thanks to a little mixup on ebay. So on my birthday (or really, on the night before, apparently I'm not the only one who gets antsy about giving gifts early) he surprised me with them, along with a pack of rolls of Portra 400 film.

Hello there, gorgeous. Both of you.

I gleefully check them over, and quickly realized what foreign beasts they are, and promptly headed over to the google and youtube to figure out how you even load film into these things. The buttons all seemed to work, but neither camera was film-tested so I wasn't even sure the photos would turn out. Which, of course, means you HAVE to try out a roll in each just to check if they work, right? The rolls only hold 12 exposures so it's not that difficult to burn through them...which I did, in just a few short hours. 

Old meets new

Shooting with a tlr is like a completely, totally different experience than with even my film slr. I'm used to having a fixed focal length (no zoom) and prefer it anyway, but I don't usually shoot in fully manual mode. The cameras both have light meters that seem to work (they respond to changes in light and settings) but I don't trust the readings, so I downloaded a light meter app on my phone and have used that to figure out the right settings. The ISO is set by the film-- there is no adjusting it for a dark room or bright sunlight. The apertures are a fairly standard f/3.5 to f/22, but the fastest shutter speed is 1/500th of a second (and each shutter speed interval is a full stop-- my "fast" shutter speed options are 1/125, 1/250, and 1/ inbetweens). I have to manually crank the film after taking each picture, and then wind the lever back to prep the shutter for the next one. And then there's the viewfinder, which is much larger but is on top of the camera, and a reversed image which makes it really really weird to try to adjust the frame (there is a nifty magnifying glass that I can pop out to better see close-up details in the viewfinder, for easier manual focusing). Lastly, the minimal focusing distance is something like 3 feet. Shooting with these babies made it really obvious how often I like getting up close to my subject. 

Even D got in on the vintage action.

All these things impose some serious limits on what kinds of photographs you can take, and how. Eg-  indoors is a bit too dark without faster film, while outside I can't take a dreamy wide-open photo if it's too bright.. and that's kind of the fun of it. It's awesome to have a super nice dslr that can handle almost any situation I can throw at it (the limits there are my own skill and knowledge), and it's a whole different experience to have to stretch my creativity and skill to work within the parameters of these oldies. I have to see and think very differently than with any of my other cameras (film slr, dslr, iphone).

So, I shot a roll of film in each of the Yashicas and took them in to get developed, and just today got the results back. I am happy to report that both cameras seem to work fabulously. The first two shots in each roll didn't turn out, which is probably from a mistake I made while loading the film? But the others turned out fine. They're not super great pics or anything, as most of my focus (heh) was seeing what they could do and getting a feel for them. 

So now that I have a bit of a feel for how they work and how the resulting images may look, I get to stretch myself further trying to think of what subjects are best suited for them and how to use their limitations to my advantage. It's not a style that comes naturally to me, but I do think it could be pretty fun to try. 

BTW I really don't need to keep both cameras, and will likely be selling one of them soon... let me know if you happen to be interested. ; ) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Photos from my brother's funeral, and other thoughts

About mid-afternoon today the boys were playing a video game together, and getting along pretty well doing so, so I took a chance and sat down at my computer. I opened up Lightroom, and remembering the pictures I had taken at my brother's funeral, almost 3 months ago, but had till today been avoiding doing anything with, I went ahead and opened those up. It was bittersweet, remembering that day and seeing the sadness in everyone's faces captured in the photos. I didn't take many, but at the time I felt a strong urge to capture the moments and was trying to do at least a bit of that. Most of them, of course, aren't of the actual funeral, but of my family setting things up at the church beforehand-- putting up pictures, and the kids running around as a welcome distraction and reason to smile here and there.

I think I have a nearly identical shot from our wedding, which was held at this same church. 

JC's birthday came and went last month, the 20th of August. He would have been 40 years old. The boys and I re-watched Star Wars episodes 4 and 5 together, in his honor (I finished up with Return of the Jedi after the boys were asleep). Tears came and went throughout the day, but overall it was ok.  A few friends left sweet birthday messages on his facebook wall, mostly imagining him celebrating his birthday up in Heaven. I don't share their views of Heaven as a place or what happens to us after we die, but I still found their words comforting as the love they had for him shone through. One of the hardest parts for me is thinking of the missed opportunities, watching Dono get so into playing Star Wars games and trying to make his own movies, how much they could have bonded over those things in the years ahead. D reminds me a lot of him, actually, in small ways.

A few weeks ago my dear friend Jeremy, who so often seems to know what it is I need to hear, referred me to a song by the Avett Brothers called Murder in the City. I had heard the song in passing before, but never really listened to the words. So I pulled it up on spotify and listened to it, and instantly felt like it was speaking right to me.  There's the last verse about the love shared among siblings, that I can't stop thinking about. But also at the beginning, the song starts out with If I get murdered in the city/ Don't go revenging in my name. The best explanation we got for why he died was that it was long belated after-effects of the brain tumor he had battled and beaten something like 15 years before, but had left behind enough damage in his immune system and finally did him in. I had been feeling so angry at cancer, that insidious bastard that somehow still managed to kill him, but when I heard that line of the song it's like I could hear JC telling me to let that go, that it's no use being angry. To not waste my energy on being mad at things that can't be changed but instead to "pay attention to the list," to the way he lived life and things he found important-- family, community, making other people's lives better in whatever ways he could-- and do the same in his honor. I've been listening to that song a lot lately, and the Avett Brothers in general. I fear they are doomed to be one of those bands whose music becomes forever associated with a particular point in my life, where it may later on be difficult to hear that music on its own (or maybe not... maybe that connection will always be bittersweet with a slight emphasis on the sweet over the bitter), but there's just something about them that feels soothing these days. 

There are so many little things that just feel so strange now. Like there was an email going back and forth among my sisters and mom and I, and when I looked at the address field it seemed so short, his email so obviously missing. Our family just feels so much smaller all of a sudden. 

We spent those days leading up to the funeral looking through all our pictures, new and old, for good ones of JC to share and display. We all know the joke of how our generation has so few pictures from our childhoods because film was expensive, but I was impressed by how despite the cost of film, and despite a global move where so many other things were lost or left behind, we still had a plethora of family photos to look through and re-discover. We even found a bunch of photos JC had taken himself, as a kid, of his action figures posed around the backyard in different fight scenes (again, so many similarities with my kids now). We filled that sanctuary with JC through the ages. There were so many different sides of him present that day, as each of us-- his family, new and old; a few of his childhood friends who attended; all his church friends who knew him as a adult and through his involvement with the child programs and the audio equipment; etc-- we each knew a slightly different version of him, and were able to give the gift of sharing our knowledge of him with each other, to broaden each of our understandings of just who he was. 

And lastly, there is one of my favorite pictures of the day-- JC's funeral portrait, with a running Quinn photobomb. He would definitely have smiled at this picture.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I've been kind of in love with for months now, ever since discovering it last spring. It's a beautiful platform for posting photo narratives. I finally went ahead and justified getting a paid account, as a little early birthday gift to myself, which means I will likely be doing a lot more of my photo posts over there instead of here.

If you enjoy photography, either taking pictures or just looking at them, I highly recommend checking them out. I've spent a good bit of time drooling over other people's work. There is so much amazing stuff posted all the time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

remember patience

The past couple of months I've noticed that emotional stress seems to be taking a much stronger physical toll than normal. It feels like anytime I have a bad day-- feeling sad, stressed, frustrated, whatever-- my body soon starts feeling run down, tired, ragged, and like I'm getting sick. It's almost like clockwork. I take it as my body reminding me of how much we've gone through over the summer, and that I need to slow down and practice more self-care.

Yesterday was kind of a mixed bag of a day... Some parts were good, like when our neighbors invited us over for tea in the afternoon. The kids all got along pretty well (at least till the end when tiredness began to escalate into tears), and we grownups got to hang out a bit while enjoying the incredibly delicious treats they made. The boys and I dearly miss the amazing friends we had in NH, but it's nice to be making new friends and see potential there.

Other parts of the day, however, were incredibly trying. I went for a long run in the morning which was good, but since I don't go often enough it left me super tired for the rest of the day. And we've been dealing with some stuff with D that hit me really hard yesterday. We're working on it and I think we're taking the right approach, but there's still those nagging voices of doubt in my head and things that just feel really bad when you're in the middle of it. And so then starting last night and for much of today I felt completely wiped and like I was getting sick.

Which got me thinking of the realization above, about how strongly my emotions are affecting my body, and how I'm not the only one who has gone through the emotional wringer the past few months-- Donovan has too, our whole family has. And if I'm still feeling wrung out by it, then he probably is, too, which helps reinforce the need for patience-- with myself, with my kids. That we're all going through a lot. That we each have our own ways of dealing with it. And that time, patience, and love are probably the best medicine. I'm writing this out partially as a reminder for myself, for the nest time I get super frustrated by it all.

Monday, September 01, 2014


So we've been here in this new house for about two months now. Things are good... we like this house, which feels so much more spacious than our last. I almost feel worried about being "spoiled" by having more space to stretch out, in case we have to downsize again one day. We got most of the house set up pretty early on, though we still have random piles of things here and there that need to be sorted, photos I need to hang on the walls (or order to put in frames), a few pieces of furniture that I'd like to find for this spot or that one. But for the most part it kinda feels like home.

The boys like it, too, or at least parts of it. We flipped D's bed so now it's lofted, with Quinn's bed underneath, which is great fun for them. And they love the larger playroom, where their legos can scatter even farther across the floor (and the fluffy carpet that hides the small pieces so well...). But they definitely also miss New Hampshire and our life there. Quinn is more subtle about it... the past couple weeks he's been telling me how he misses the porch on our old house, which admittedly was much longer than our current one and pretty darn nice. He also says he misses our old, much smaller kitchen, which I can't quite make sense of. 

Donovan, however, tells me straight-up that he wishes we could move back to New Hampshire, with Ethan still down the street. Sometimes it's just a passing comment during play or while he's doing something else. Other times he gets really upset, tears welling up in his eyes, telling me it's not fair and it's too hard not being able to play with his best friend. It breaks my heart. They facetime sometimes, but I wonder if that almost makes it harder, if it just makes him miss playing with his buddy even more.

We've started making friends with some of the neighbors and their kids. We've also been slowly reconnecting with old friends around the bay area. Quinn is pretty social and seems to connect with other kids more easily and quickly. D has been more awkward and kinda antisocial around other kids. Lately he has been having an easier time warming up to others, although he still mostly just wants to stay home by himself or with Quinn, playing legos...which can be frustrating for the rest of us who like getting out of the house every once in a while. But I'm trying to remind myself that he's still adjusting to some major changes and emotional turmoil and may just need more time. I'm hoping that between neighbors and playgroups he can find a few new friends to click with soon. Quinn starts school in a couple days, which hopefully will give him that social outlet he needs and a few new buddies to play with.


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