Saturday, January 21, 2012

Creating a snowy white background

The snow is FINALLY here in southeastern Massachusetts. We got one strange snowstorm in October then nothing until mid-January. So when it came this week, I bundled the kids up and rushed them outside before it melted. I took my camera with me to capture these precious childhood memories, of course. In the process, I also discovered that snow makes a great blank background for a scrapbook page!

The hardest part, after accepting the fact that my toddlers don't pose for the camera, was getting the right exposure. When you put the camera in full auto mode, the snow becomes a yucky gray and the subject comes out very underexposed. That's because the camera thinks you want an image with an even tone. Under most conditions, that is correct. But snow is different because most of the image is SUPPOSED to be a very bright white. It took me a while to realize this, meanwhile missing the opportunity to get good pictures of my daughter playing the snow for the first time.

One solution is to change the camera setting to “snow.” I've never used it, but I would think that it would produce results much better than it would in “auto.” The other solution, if your camera allows, is to use exposure compensation. I took test shots of my kids against the snow, increasing the exposure until the snow turns into one big blown-out highlight (also known as "the blinkies”), then dialed it back one stop to get healthy-looking white snow and a correctly exposed subject.

The next step is to take pictures with the snow surrounding the entire subject. After chasing my kids around the yard and begging them to move this way or that way, here's what I got:

Using GIMP, I used a soft brush to paint over the woods and some stray twigs popping out the the ground. To make sure that it blended correctly, I used a sample color from the snow, which is a little darker than true white. I was debating whether to leave the leaf in the picture. I decided to keep it there to give the impression that they are indeed standing on ground and are not floating in the air. Then I added the title, journaling, and a border. For those interested, the journaling reads:

Look who's bringing up the rear! It's my little boy, who is now almost as big as his sister. And at 27 pounds, he's just three pounds lighter than her and almost as strong. I have been looking forward to this day since he was a 9 pound newborn and I had to make sure she didn't crush him. Now that they are just about equals, I can relax a little and watching them chase each other around the yard. Having a baby and a toddler is tough, but having two preschoolers is fun! I'm so glad they're just 18 months apart in age and I wouldn't have it any other way. They are quickly becoming best friends and I hope it stays that way forever. ~January 2012

I love using blank backgrounds for my layouts. They isolate the subject and can give the image a surreal quality. This is very hard to accomplish with candid shots of people, as there always seems to be something distracting behind them. A beautiful snow-covered lawn makes a great background, as well as a nice canvas to add text later. I'll also add that for those unfortunate people who don't get snow where they live, you can do the same thing at the beach against the bright sand.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You're just like your...

I saw this layout in a scrapbooking magazine and I loved the idea. My three-year-old is finally at an age where we can see little personality traits coming through, and it's fun to analyze her and speculate where those traits come from. It is completely unscientific and can change at any time, but at least it's an excuse to talk about the three of us. It's also an exercise in using “you're” and “your” correctly!

The page that I got the idea from was paper and glue. She had to order an 8x10 print and print out the text on strips of paper. That seemed like a lot of work. It's so much easier to put it together digitally. It was easy to grab the colors from the shirt and the background to create a nice color scheme, too.

The journaling reads:

You are a mix of genes from your mother and your father. There's also a little of your grandparents (both mommy's parents and daddy's parents), and a little of your aunts and uncle. Yet though you share characteristics of your family, you are not truly "just like" anyone. You are unique. Even if mommy and daddy had a hundred babies, none of them would be the same as you. Yet here are are some ways that I've noticed that you resemble your mother and father even at the young age of three.


...we both like to stay up at night and cuddle in the bed (daddy asks me to put you in your own bed when he gets tired).

...we can both be very stubborn and have trouble accepting when things don't go our way.

...our faces look alike, so I've been told.

...we both enjoy listening to music and dancing around the living room.

...we both have curly hair.

...we both prefer pasta over meat. We never get sick of eating spaghetti!

...we're both very curious and ask questions about things we don't understand. I know this will be tough for us to handle but it will make you smart!

...we both avoid strict routines. We just wake up each morning and decide what we want to do and where we want to go. You're naptime always changes and we do schoolwork whenever we can fit it in.

...we both like junk food and can't leave it alone if it's in sight.

Father: both have the same eye color. Sort of green, sort of blue, but definitely beautiful!

...You both of the same dirty blonde hair (or you did before he started getting greys). I love how it lights up in the sun! both follow through on tasks. When I try to help, you say, "no, I'll do it myself." Your father is the same way. If I try to help, I'm just in the way. I know that this will help you be independent in the future. both like to have things neat. Everything has a place. Your father gets mad when he goes to look for something and it's not where he expected it to be. You are the same way. You tell me when something is different or out of order. This makes you very good at doing puzzles and sticker books and will make you very successful as an adult. are both outgoing and will talk to strangers. Your mother rarely talks to strangers unless she has to but your father will go up to anyone and start a conversation. Likewise, you will talk to and play with kids you've never met. You are a natural born leader.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Writing about our hobbies

Hobbies say a lot about a person and should be included in your “book of me” (which everyone should have). You can talk about how you became interested in the hobby, why you enjoy it, and how it adds to your life.

I've seen people make a page about scrapbooking itself. Other hobbies people might have could be cooking, playing sports, knitting, or going out to dinner. I've even seen pages dedicated to favorite movies or TV shows.

For this layout, I chose to write about running. My daughter has started asking me every Saturday, “Are you going running, Mommy?” I tell her I run to work out, and she thinks people work out to make money so we can buy her food. I think she is confusing the word “work” with the idea the her dad goes to “work” everyday. This made me think about why I run for fun now that I have adult responsibilities and we have cars to take us where we need to go. That's why I thought it would be worthwhile trying to explain my little hobby in writing.

I have started to take pictures of objects, carefully composing them to create the layout I envision. I took a picture of my running shoes on our lawn to symbolize the theme (I certainly wasn't going to pose and have my husband take a picture of me running). I also wanted to show leaves on the ground because fall is my favorite time to run. I put the shoes on the lower left of the frame to make room for the title and journaling. I think a good image adds a lot to the page and is much more interesting than straight text. Lets face it, we live in a visually-oriented culture.

The journaling is very long, but I had a lot to say about the topic. Here it is:

I have been running for exercise for about 14 years now, even before I had a drivers' license. There have been stretches where I go out every day, then other times that I only go once a week or so. Of course, the weather has alot to do with how frequently I don the sneakers. I go more in the cooler months than the hotter months. I even go in the dead of winter with a hat and gloves. I don't do it to lose weight. I never time myself, and often do not even measure the distance I've covered. I don't stretch before or after I run. I just walk out the door and go. I don't consider it an achievement, just an enjoyable activity in and of itself.

So what is the point of jogging? I'm not being chased, nor am I chasing anyone. I end up the same place I started, seeming to accomplish nothing except aging myself about an hour.

For one thing, we're meant to run. God didn't invent the bicycle or elliptical machine. He designed legs that could run. I have had aches and pains in my joints after using man-made equipment, but never after running.

Even many fitness-minded individuals approach exercise in the wrong way. Most people at the gym are there to improve their appearance or their overall health, as they impatiently count down the minutes and seconds until the “workout” is over. TV's and music are needed to distract from the torture. This is not a sustainable approach, as many gym members stop going soon after committing to their exercise plan. Us outdoor joggers, on the other hand, consider running a lifelong activity and do it for the sheer enjoyment of it. Benefits such as weight loss and longevity come with it, but it is not the primary focus.

The body and mind are related, which becomes evident when jogging. It is impossible to feel sad or depressed while in motion. For this reason, I consider running to be a natural anti-depressant with no negative side effects. It has certainly worked for me. If the glass was half empty when I left, it is half full when I return. The physical exercise increases my alertness and mental clarity as well. Right after a good run is a great time to tackle a challenging project.

Running has always been a solitary activity for me. I sometimes wish my husband could join me. He insists that he will never run unless his is being chased. Maybe it's better that way. If we had to compromise on a pace, I would feel restless while he would feel exhausted. Alone, I can go my own pace and avoid both of these equally undesirable states.

As I enter the next decade in my life, I need to jog more than ever to feel youthful. It is easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle, pushing exercise down on my priority list as I juggle my adult responsibilities of caring for kids and home. But I'll always try to make time for it. No excuses.