Capturing An Inspired Life

I get into a kind of Photographic Seasonal Miserable Disorder every winter because I seem to dwell on all the reasons I can’t take a good photo in my house–it’s too small with clutter in every nook and cranny and the days are too short for me to do any natural light work after JDubbs gets home–but I am also reluctant to shoot outside on a chilly winter’s day.  Professionally there isn’t anything new on the horizon and I am insecure about embracing the mediocre light in our house–embrace the grain? Orchestrate more play in my bedroom with the best light? Take fewer photos?  Take more?  There’s not much more to say other than I was in a photographic rut, taking the same kind of photos in the same places with (mostly) the same equipment for years.  I was restless.

Well, at the end of 2014 I reflected on my professional photography and I felt pretty confident about in which direction I want to head in that arena, but what about personally?  What about what started it all, me taking photos I love of my kids?  How do I get back to that?  I decided that in order to get out of my rut I needed to challenge myself to take different kinds of photos, in all kinds of light, and learn to make the best of whatever light and room I am given.  After all, I take photos in people’s homes all the time–what better exercise than to find the very best places and lighting in my own difficult location and learn to transfer that flexibility elsewhere?  And that led me to decide to do a 365 project, where I take a quality photo every day, but also to participate in a 52 week photography challenge at My Four Hens Photography, where I can be part of a larger group of amazing photographers, be inspired by their work and feel gratitude at the support it provides me.

At first, looking at all the amazing photos on the Facebook group daunted me, and I was hesitant to share my photo for the first week’s theme, “Fresh.”  I took a photo I was happy with, of my fresh dog Baxter sleeping on the bed (somewhere he is definitely not allowed to be), although I will admit it was more of a photo I thought I was SUPPOSED to take than one I was inspired to take.  I’m happy with it overall and I got some small positive feedback on it.

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Here I embraced the tricky lighting and used a small enough aperture to eliminate the clutter of a post-Christmas toy-strewn living room.  I love his floppy ear and love the quilt he’s laying on, made by my great-aunt.  Overall, I took what I thought was a decent shot and never gave it another thought.  Not my best effort, but it was a start.

This week, the theme is “Story-Telling” and when I saw the photos I took this Sunday of Jax and his Legos, I knew there was no better story that I could tell than a 6-year-old boy guarding his creations.  I posted it with a little trepidation that it wasn’t “serious” enough–mixed light sources! high ISO! haphazard composition!–but the photo was so much more ME.  I was in the moment, playing Legos with my kids, I happened to have my camera handy so I snapped the shot as it was happening. I didn’t orchestrate the light or consider rule of thirds. If I had, I would have missed it, and that is definitely not the kind of photographer I want to be.

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And you know what?  This photo, which is so much more true to myself and my style, the kind of photos I love to take, already has 150 likes in 6 hours and has tons of comments from people who can totally relate.  It may not be a perfect photograph, but its story rings more true.  That’s the kind of photographer these projects are going to help me become.  The one who is confident in her style and technique, and shares what makes her happy.

Oh, one more good thing.  This 365 project also forces me to pick up my camera every single day, and on a day like today where I know my afternoon is full of after-school activities and an extra-credit research project on bats (seriously), I forced myself to grab my camera and sneak in on Little H as she was taking her nap because it was the only good capture I’d get.

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I’m so glad I did.  Not only because I got to capture the sweet little details of this wonderful soul, but because I also tried something new–a softer, lower-contrast editing style which I haven’t mastered and want to embrace more.  These projects are giving me the opportunity to not only see my life in a more inspired way, but also a chance to try out some new post-production techniques without risking photos for my clients.  It really has inspired me.  I look forward to what photo I will take every day.

So, if you feel like you’re in a rut in any facet of your life, 2015 is just 13 days old.  How can you change it, embrace it, practice it, master it, alter it, combat it, learn to love it?  2 weeks into this year and I already feel invigorated.  Just wait and see how I grow.

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Evolution Of A Photographer

  As 2014 comes to an end and I reflect on the year professionally, I have found several things to be grateful for.  First of all, I’m so thankful that I have been given the opportunity dozens of times this year to photograph families and to learn and evolve in the process.  This year I think I finally see a glimpse of the photographer I would like to be, and have gained the confidence through my experiences to own that right.  I am a natural light, lifestyle photographer, capturing families and people as they are, celebrating them and their relationships.  I enjoy working with props and am happy to help a family make a dream shot a reality, but as a whole I love when families are themselves.

This year, JDubbs and I agreed that I would cut down to about one photo shoot per week to avoid the burnout I felt the year before.  This model really worked for me and I felt like I was able to prepare and give each family my undivided attention.  I have also tried to be consistent in the types of photos I take, how I edit them, and which photos I share with my clients in an attempt to formulate my true style (which, of course, is constantly evolving).  But without question the photos I am the most proud of from 2014 have been those that capture real emotion, genuine moments, and honest connection. In 2015 I hope to be confident enough to be able to own that spirit and have the courage to graciously turn down requests for photos that don’t coincide with who I am as a photographer. I am ready to own who I am and what Rebecca Whitney Photography represents, and not make apologies for it.

So, with this newfound confidence and the drive to evolve even more as a photographer, I am undertaking a 365 day project where I take a photo each day, all in the realm of the kind of photographer I want to be.  The challenge is to not cheat myself by blowing it off and taking a throw-away photo just to say I did it.  Who do I want to be, what do I want my photographs to say about me, how do I want prospective clients to view my photography?  I hope that through this daily photo diary (found in the Inspired Life tab above), I will solidify my art and build my confidence to say, This is what I do.  My world and my time are too important to me to do anything other than what I love.  I hope you like it, too.

With that in mind, here is a favorite photograph from every photo shoot I did this year (at least, all the ones that gave me permission to share the images on the blog).  Thanks again to all the wonderful families and here’s to a great year 2015!

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I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for my photography!  Thank you for coming along for the ride.

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The Original Besties

Since Jax is in school all day during the week, sometimes I feel like I have a disproportionate amount of photos of Em with Little H, her new little bestie and protege.  But we can’t forget the countless days, moments, and memories of Jax and Em, the original besties, and I have to remember how they are really thick as thieves, even as their daily lives evolve and they spend more time apart.

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While Little H was napping, I asked them to pose for a few photos in front of the Christmas tree.  I wanted to capture the Christmas lights bokeh (basically I wanted them to be blurry) and the kids know it’s fruitless to argue when Mommy has a photo in mind.

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They also know that when it comes to impromptu photos, sometimes the sillier the better, and Mommy loves their silly smiles, crazy hugs, and true personalities way better than a cheesy smile.

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I have to remember that every family dynamic is important to document, and Little H doesn’t have to be in every sibling photo.  These two partners in crime’s relationship deserves to shine, too!

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Love this silly pair!

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My Heart In Gold

This light, these leaves, these three.

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There was no choice but to stop what we were doing and revel in it.

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No choice but to introduce littlest sister to this golden world.  To show her how amazing this life is, how we are surrounded by golden moments every day.

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And some golden “pumpkins,” too, just for good measure.

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My heart, wrapped up in gold.

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Jumping In Leaves, Take 1

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One warm autumn afternoon, I decided I would make my kids a massive pile of leaves, bigger than I could create with a rake.  I was determined to master our monstrous leaf blower and build a leaf pile masterpiece.  Unfortunately, that leaf blower is a beast and within seconds my hands were turning numb from the vibration and I had to use both hands to even hold it in place, let alone exercise any control over the darn thing.  So, the kids wound up with kind of a wimpy pile of leaves for their first leaf-jumping experience of the year, but hey.  It was only the first go-round.  There would be lots more leaves where those came from!

And you know the big kids didn’t care anyway.  Not even Baxter was safe from their enthusiasm!

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 Little H, on the other hand, decided unequivocally that throwing leaves was for the birds, and I got a whole lot of this:

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So we decided to break her in easy.  Baby steps for this little one.

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After we wore out our wimpy little leaf pile, we decided to walk around our “neighborhood” (aka our deserted road) for one last afternoon in the sunshine.  You know by now I am a sunshine hoarder, right?  I need to soak in as much of it as humanly possible to survive the winter!

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The best part about living in Vermont is the room to roam.  I let these three explore the terrain while I hung around practicing taking photos with the tricky (but beautiful) lighting.

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Sun flare and backlighting are challenging to me, but I am determined to take advantage of all kinds of light.  Especially the prettiest kind!  In the perfect world the sun would have been lower toward the horizon, but sometimes I have to just go with it.

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I struggle a bit with the color cast, the low contrast, the haziness.  I am used to taking super sharp pictures.  With this new style I have to learn to be flexible with the end result.  I can’t complain when I am inundated with golden sunshine like this!  It’ll just take some practice.

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Loved spending those last few warm afternoons outside with my kids!

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Sandy Silhouettes

Here are my attempts at capturing silhouettes on a bright and beautiful beach day, although the sun was not low enough in the horizon for them to be exactly what I was trying to achieve.  I like how they turned out, regardless, with the reflective sand and cloudy sky.

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We live in such a wooded and hilly area that any time I try to practice true silhouettes behind my kids (in the traditional sense, not just playing with light), I fail because the light is still too far above them rather than behind them, or the sun doesn’t set until after their bedtime in the summer (when we’re out later).  Anyone have any suggestions as to how get my shot?

I didn’t mind that they weren’t perfect, anyway.  It was a lot of fun practicing!

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Next year the kids will be a little older and I plan to keep them up until sunset one night just to try some more (and who doesn’t love a sunset romp at the beach?).

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Fun in the sun!

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Heaven On Earth

Last month, my amazing Em turned four, and once the weather had a chance to warm up, I took her out to capture her sweet self and fabulous personality, wrapped in a pretty pink dress in the golden light of sunshine.

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She is a sweet and thoughtful soul, and I hope she always lives her life as sincerely and as joyfully as she does now, uninhibited by anything but her own choices.

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,

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Love like you’ve never been hurt,

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Sing like there’s nobody listening,

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And live like it’s heaven on earth.” ~William W. Purkey

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I’ve got my little slice of heaven right here.

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