Special Moments: Christmas Lights

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is to drive around town and look at Christmas lights. Our area hosts some amazing displays of creative festivity. Each year more and more houses join in and partake of light decorations. Normally my husband will drive while I am on camera duty (my favorite job to have 🙂 ).

This year was particularly interesting. For one thing, the little one was big enough to realize there were lights. He was quite fascinated with the displays. However, he fell asleep part way through. About the time he fell asleep, two people came out of the house we were watching. This particular place had music timed to their light display. They were approaching a lot of the cars that were parked along the road, and appeared to be asking for donations. They bypassed our car though, so I am unsure what they were asking for. Another thing was that we ended up getting somewhat lost on our way to one of the big displays. We missed the turn. However, there was a car right behind us so we couldn’t turn around. We ended up at a dead end at the end of a dirt road with multiple cars behind us (apparently they thought we knew where we were going). My husband had to maneuver the car around a large pit and do a 3 point turn. We then had to get around the other cars that were waiting to do their turn arounds as well. However, the challenges were well worth it to see some amazing displays.

A challenge for photographing such a tradition is two-fold. One, the car is continually moving. A lot of the residences with large displays had signs that said “No Parking.” It is probably due to the bottleneck situations that have happened in years past. Another problem was that it was so dark. I wasn’t able to get out my nice camera, so I was relegated to my new phone. It wasn’t bad all things considered. However, next year I would like to research ahead of time and see if there are any tricks I can use to get better pictures of the lights.

Even if the pictures didn’t turn out, we still had a great time driving around looking at all the displays. I hope you and your loved ones get to celebrate your own traditions this year!

-Amanda

Capturing the Day: St. Nicholas Day

Today is a most festive day: St. Nicholas Day. As it was explained to me as a child, this was the day when good boys and girls write letters to St. Nicholas. They then put the letter in their shoe, and leave the shoe outside their bedroom door. That night St. Nicholas comes for the letter. If the child has been good, they will find candy in their shoe. If they were bad, they will find coal. If they find coal, it gives them a little time to turn the tables before Christmas!

There are different variations of the tradition, including leaving the shoes on the fireplace mantle or receiving fruit in the shoes instead of candy. At the heart of the holiday, it is a great way to celebrate a Saint that was known for his generosity.

Photos to Take

Be sure to get before and after shots of the shoes: One with the letter and one with the candy. Try getting low to the ground or taking directly above shots. Also get shots of the letter outside of the shot.

Daddy Shoe, Mommy Shoe, Baby Shoe!
Letters to Santa
The letter is read, and the goodies are in the shoes!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

-Amanda

Gift Wish List for Photographers

Note: This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Camera and Gift

It is that time of year again! Looking to find something for that special someone on your list. If your list contains a budding or seasoned photographer, take a look at some of the gift ideas that are on my wish list this year:

#1 – Camera Cleaning Kit: I have been meaning to get a cleaning kit for my camera for awhile now. I have a nice camera and want to keep it that way for a long, long time. I found a kit on Amazon that looks like it has everything I would need to keep my camera going.

Product: Altura Photo Professional Cleaning Kit

#2 – Camera Bag: One of my biggest fears is that when I am out with my camera it will start raining. I would hate for my camera to get ruined due to a sudden downpour. I live in Colorado, and weather changes are quite common. I found a camera bag that is waterproof, and has compartments in it for all my camera gear. It is a handy backpack design, so you could probably carry quite a bit in it.

Product: Beschoi DSLR Camera Backback Waterproof

#3 – Camera animal for kiddos: I have a little one, and it can be hard to get him to look at the camera some of the times (ok, most of the time). I had seen professional photographers use stuffed animals to get children to look at the lens. This one is a stuffed animal designed to fit on the camera, which is a clever idea. It prevents the need to glue or attach a stuffed animal to your camera, and can keep the hands free if you just hold the stuffed animal. I would be very interested to see if it would hold the interest of my little one.

Product: Shutter Huggers Monkey Shutter Hugger

#4 – Crystal Ball: I have seen some clever photos taken with a crystal ball. This would be one of those novelty items, good for the photographer who seems to have everything else!

Product: JIHUI Photograph Crystal Ball Sphere

#5 – Photo Shoot Box: If I don’t buy one of these, I am probably going to try making my own. 🙂 With stock photography, I have been trying to get more “product shots.” These can be hard without good lighting, and Shutterstock has rejected quite a few of my shots due to poor lighting and excessive grain. This particular model has a few different backdrops, plus has a small tripod for smartphones. It is portable, and pops up and down for easy storage. It looks like a perfect way to start trying still shots!

Product: EMART 14″ x 16″ Photography Table Top Light Box

#6 – Photo Journal: I found this intriguing photo journal on Amazon. From what I can tell it has a lot of interesting ideas and prompts in it. It would be a fun thing to work at over the course of a couple months or a year.

Product: Use this if you want to take Great Photographs: A Photo Journal

I hope some of these ideas will help you when you are shopping for your own shutter bug. ❤

-Amanda

I Sold My First Stock Photo!!

Oh happy morning! I had some extra time today, so I was going over my blogs and emails. I decided to check on my Shutterstock account. Sadly, I have been busy so I hadn’t been keeping up on it like I should have. I opened it up expecting to see the downloads ticker reading 0 still. But to my surprise, it said that I now have a download! It was an image i took of a brick wall, one I took specifically for uploading to Shutterstock. I also made $1.88 on the sale. 🙂

Even though it is just one photo that was downloaded, it is a wonderful feeling. I had worked really hard for awhile, hoping one of my photos was good enough that someone actually wanted to buy it. After losing my chance to be on a National Geographic assignment, this feels like a huge win. 🙂

I will keep everyone posted on if I sell anymore photos, or what happens with anything I do on Shutterstock. Thank you everyone who took the time to enjoy this moment with me. 🙂

-Amanda

Goodbye YourShot, it has been a journey

I sit here on Halloween, the festivities for the day are done. The LO is sleeping away, tired from a fun day of costumes and candy. The husband is unwinding with a YouTube video. I am resting my very tired feet. It has been a good day, marked with the fun that accompanies this holiday.

However, as the evening closes, it is also a somber moment for me. The photography community that I have been a part of for so long is coming to an end today. YourShot is a site run by National Geographic, and it was a place for photographers from all levels could come submit their works of art. For more information about YourShot, please see my other post “End of an Era: YourShot is going away.”

The first photo I ever submitted was over 6 years ago. It was a rare find, a baby walking stick. I remember uploading it, and within minutes I got my first comment “Great shot! Please promise you’ll post more.” And I did! I ended up posting 52 photos over the past 6 years. I could have uploaded more, but I only wanted to submit my best of the best.

My first photo on NG YourShot

I remember so many people posting photos of such tender, dear moments for them. Loved ones on their death bed, people giving birth, and so on. I remember one woman posting a self portrait. She was sitting down, and upright in her lap was a picture of her younger self. She had her head leaning against the picture, and was looking fore lonely into the distance. The caption said how she missed her youth, and that she didn’t feel beautiful anymore. She had wished that someone would have told her that she was going to miss being young and vibrant so much. The picture won an award (I can’t remember if it was Daily Dozen or an assignment). The community rallied around her, and posted such loving and supportive messages on her photo. It was really beautiful to see everyone come together like that and show such love to a stranger.

I remember the one time one of my photos was selected for “Editor’s Favorites.” It was a picture I had taken of a Golden Orb Weaver Spider. The spider is silhouetted against florescent lighting. I had submitted it to the assignment “Urban Wildlife.” I was checking my email at my parents house when I saw the notification. I was so excited!! I told everyone, and kept checking on the assignment daily after that. While I was sad it did not make the final selection, it was still one of my happiest photography moments.

My photo that was selected as an “Editor Favorite”

It has been fun getting to go on the different assignments, comparing photos with the community, and waiting with baited breath to see whose photos would be selected. I tend to get sentimental about these things. 🙂

Now it is time to find something new, something different for my photos. It will be a good opportunity to explore what is out there and find something fun.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to let me reminisce! Hope you all had a good Halloween,

-Amanda

Bridesmaid Tips: 10 things to make the big day go smoother

Bridesmaid Tips

10 things to make the big day go smoother

#1 – Make your own emergency kit: For both the ceremony and for decorating the venue

You see many tips on what the bride should pack in her “day of” kit. But what about the bridesmaids? You could have your own “emergencies” to deal with, and the last thing you want to do is bother the bride and use up her resources. Pretty much what the bride packs in hers is what you will pack in yours. You can download my emergency list under the “Printables” section of my site or by clicking on shutterbugsflight.com/printables-and-images/.

Besides having a kit for the day of the ceremony, it is good to have one for decorating the venue as well. That can be an overlooked area. I am working on a checklist for decorating, and will post it as soon as it is available. 🙂

#2 – Arrive everywhere EARLY

Plan on being everywhere at least 15 minutes before you need to be there. That will give you some extra wiggle room if there are traffic delays, or if you have to make a side detour.

#3 – Pack different shoes for getting ready

If you are wearing heels for the ceremony and you are not very comfortable in them, you may want different shoes for getting ready in. This is also helpful because sometimes photographers like to get photos of the bridal party shoes all together. This way you have other shoes to wear while your other ones are getting photographed.

#4 – Remember the gift!

With everything going on, it can be very easy to forget the gift. You get to the destination, see the overflowing gift table, then realize why you had that nagging feeling you forgot something. It has happened to several people I know (myself included). If possible, you can put it in your car the night before. Or, have everything you are taking gathered by the door. Make sure the gift is included with them. This will help when you are scrambling to get out the door with everyone.

#5 – Be sure to eat

Rehearsal dinner, speech writing, getting your hair done, running to the store to buy fingernail polish when the bride realizes she forgot hers. With everything going on, meal time can come and go without you even realizing it.

But then you get to stand at the front of the crowd, next to the bride, and you can start feeling light headed. Dizzy. You might even possibly faint. Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast with a good amount of protein. If it is an evening wedding, don’t forget lunch. Also, be sure to pack a snack in your emergency kit that will have what you need to keep you going.

#6 – Charge your electronics

It may be second nature, since most of us don’t let our phones get below a 50% charge, but remember to charge your phone and any other electronics you may be taking. This can include cameras, laptops, sound systems, and more. The last thing you will want is to see your phone is dying and you will not be able to take that great family photo that everyone else is getting.

#7 – Don’t forget to smile!

I was in a wedding once where right before I went down the aisle, things started going haywire. My flower girl ran off without me, the ground was thick mud and my tiny heels kept sinking in, and the sun made a glare so I couldn’t tell where I was walking. The photographer captured the “magic moment” of me walking down to join the rest of the bridal party. I looked positively angry in that photo. It looked like a photo that belonged in the DMV and not at my dear friend’s wedding. And now that photo is immortalized in a photo album somewhere.

Now, even if things are going bad, I take a moment before I walk down. I tell myself to smile, and walk slow. I try to be purposeful and make sure I focus on my smile and my walk. Remember – there are many cameras in the crowd! This is also a big day for your friend/relative – remembering that can help put a smile on the face. 🙂

#8 – Wear a wide neck shirt or buttons for getting ready

Normally your hair will be done before you put on your dress. It can be hard to remember that far ahead with everything else that is going on. When you are doing your hair and makeup, be sure to wear a shirt that won’t interfere with your hair when you remove it. That can either be something with a really wide or stretchy neck, or a shirt with buttons or a zipper.

#9 – Practice wearing similar shoes to the ones you will wear in the ceremony

If you are a flats girl, and you are going to wearing heels in the ceremony, it is good to practice with similar shoes beforehand!

#10 – Pack clothes that you can wear to help clean up in.

If you are able, you will be expected to stay behind and help clean up the venue. This allows the happy couple to head off on their honeymoon and not worry about cleaning. There could be all kinds of things you need to do: Pack gifts into a car, pack extra food away, sweep floors, take out trashes, etc. Make sure you have clothes that you can easily clean up in and you don’t mind possibly getting food or cleaner on. This includes comfy shoes to wear!

-Aurora

5 Tips for going to Comic Con with a Toddler

This past weekend we went to the local Comic Con. We are from a smaller town, so this particular convention was much smaller than the ones found in cities like Orlando or San Diego. However, it is a lot of fun and a bunch of people turn up every year.

This year we went with the little one, who is one year old now. Going to Comic Con with a toddler is VERY different than going with just adults. I learned some valuable information that I wanted to pass along. Note: Most of this advice is for parents who want to cosplay as well as bring their children along to the event. If you can manage it, it can be a great time with lots of great photo opportunities!

#1 – Make sure your costume can incorporate some kind of bag

First, check to see if you are allowed to bring in any bags. If so, then find some way to incorporate a diaper bag, backpack, or tote into your outfit. There will be booths handing out swag, and you may need to carry things like diapers and cameras with you. There are a lot of different costumes that could work with a bag. When I went, I cosplayed as Star Fox (from the Nintendo game). While the character doesn’t normally have a bag, I had a grey backpack diaper bag that had a space patch on it. It worked well into the costume and I was able to carry anything I needed. It was a chance to be creative. 🙂

#2 – Try to bring with a stroller/carrier

When you go to these events, things are VERY crowded! It can be easy to lose someone in the throngs of people. I brought with the stroller to this Comic Con. I will admit: it was hard to maneuver through the aisles with the stroller, but I was so glad I had it. I could have easily lost sight of the LO in the crowds. It can also be hard for people to see in their costumes, so it is good to have the LO off the floors.

#3 – Go easy on the props

You will end up having a bunch of things to carry. If possible, try to find a costume that will not require that your hands be occupied the whole time.

#4 – Find a cosplay outfit that is easy to move around in

Whenever I go to Comic Con, I always see very beautiful, amazing outfits that are terrible for free movement. This is great if you are trying to win the costume contest, horrible if you are trying to keep a one year old next to you.

#5 – Find an exit strategy for everywhere you go

At any given moment, you may need to breakaway. The baby might start crying, they could announce some speaker that will create a mad rush, or you may see a scary costume you want to keep away from the LO. If possible, pick up a map of the area from the information stand. Otherwise, when you enter an area, try to survey your surroundings before you go in to far.

Hope these tips will help!

-Amanda

Bridesmaid Emergency Kit Checklist

It is an exciting day for you: Your friend is getting married and you get to be by their side as they say “I Do.” The emotions, the love…. the preparation!! Although the bride is making sure she has everything, you also want to make sure you don’t hold up the show. That can mean making sure you have anything you may need (and any foreseeable emergency supplies the bride may need as well).

I love making lists! I try to have a list for everything. It helps keep me organized. So this means that I have a list of emergency items I might need for when I am in a wedding. To date, I have only been in four weddings. However I have learned a lot from each one. I used my experiences to create my emergency kit.

If you would like to make your own kit, below is the checklist:

I will soon be doing a blog post where I actually packed my kit, to show how everything got stored. Hope this helps any future bridesmaids who are reading this! I hope you have a lot of fun in the wedding. 🙂

-Amanda

How a very tired mom makes a creative cake

Soon I will be posting my instructions for creating a Pokemon rock cake. While I did enjoy making the cake, it was not without it’s trials. I wanted to share the story behind the cake to show that we are all human and tired and sometimes we have to keep pushing through. 🙂 See below for the real story behind the cake.

  1. Have your husband request you to make a Pokemon cake for an upcoming event. Agree because it sounds like fun and you forget you are already crazy stressed and should not be trusted with any more tasks.
  2. While driving, imagine this great cake design: Plastic Pokemon figurines surrounded by rock candy you grew yourself. The rock candy will look like the stones they use in the show. You can also dye the frosting blue, red, green, and yellow: Then you can make the top of the cake look like water, fire, leaves, and lightning .
  3. Do a quick Pinterest search: Nobody else had this idea. This will be a great blog post that everyone will want to click on.
  4. Find a blog page on how to create rock candy using Koolaid. It involves sugar water that you suspend bamboo sticks in for two weeks. During the two weeks little sugar crystals will form creating the rock candy. You can even watch the crystals grow through the translucent water.
  5. Try making the recipe while getting distracted by husband watching Dragon Ball Z (seriously though, how does Vegeta become a good guy??).
  6. Add Koolaid to the cups and figure out that the “Lemon-aid” mix is not yellow but a light red. Decide that lightning will be eliminated from the final design.
  7. Realize you cannot see your bamboo sticks through the water because you put too much Koolaid in. Thus, you will not be able to tell how well the crystals are growing.
  8. Put rock candy on a shelf in the hutch, deciding that it would be a nice, quiet place to grow (the crystals will not grow if they are disturbed). Have the little one find the hutch for the first time in his life, then bang the doors open and closed on it.
  9. Go to the grocery store to buy yellow cake mix and frosting because you are too tired to make a cake from scratch. Decide on Betty Crocker only because it is on sale.
  10. Bake the cake. After pouring the mixture into the pan, realize you forgot to add the oil. Pour mixture back into the mixing bowl and add oil.
  11. Check the rock candy after two weeks. Nothing has grown at all. Zilch. The only thing you have to show for your work is a sticky Koolaid syrup.
  12. Go to the candy store on main street to buy rock candy.
  13. Get distracted on the way back to the car by a baby store and someone getting arrested at a restaurant.
  14. Get back to the house with your new baby toy, and play with the little one for an hour before remembering you were on a mission.
  15. Frost the cake. Contemplate leaving the cake white because at the moment it looks good.
  16. Decide that “Fortune Favors the Bold,” and dye your remaining frosting red, blue, and green.
  17. Mentally divide the cake into thirds and start frosting the different colors. Hope that nothing goes terribly wrong. Suddenly remember the cake you make that ended up looking like a toilet (it was supposed to be a lake….).
  18. Finish the frosting, breathe a sigh of relief that it didn’t end in disaster.
  19. Sit down to take a 5 minute break before finishing. Have it be 45 minutes because the cat crawled on your lap and he was too cute to move.
  20. Add the rock candy and Pokemon figurines.
  21. Decide that was fun, you could improve on it, and you want to do another one because you have not learned your lesson.
Side by Side: The bag of candy is the one I bought from the candy store. The plate of sticks was the result of my own efforts after two weeks. 🙂

🙂 Have a great week everyone!

-Amanda