Monday, June 30, 2014

Behind the Scenes

I think there are two dangers in blogging, or sharing through any form of social media really.  I think there's the danger of publicly declaring every emotion that pulls at your heart.  I'm bored.   I'm upset.  I'm frustrated.  I'm angry.  I'm hurt.  Etc.  And there's also the danger of portraying your life as some magical, struggle-free utopia.  How much do you share?  How much do you withhold?  I think these are personal questions with individual answers.  I generally have three rules.

1.  I don't share about negative stuff at work.  That's just stupid in my opinion.  (I also used to work in employment law which I think helps me stay smart about this).  Basically, if my boss couldn't read it, I won't post it.

2.  I won't post a picture of a minor without their parents knowing about it.  Again, just smart legally.

3.  I don't post about family issues.  If I share something about Nick and I, it's with his full knowledge and consent.  And I stay the heck away from extended family stuff!

That all being said, sometimes there's stuff going on at work or with family that is hard.  Sometimes I get really sad, or hurt, or angry with what goes on "behind the scenes".  My heart is feeling a little bit like that lately.  Like the weight of the world and the weight of decisions that people make press in and colour my day to day.  Sometimes I feel just so dog-gone sad.  Sad as I watch people make destructive decisions.  Sad as I watch people hurt other people.  Sad as I get hurt.  And I won't share it on here as I won't break my three rules.  But sometimes it just needs to be said.  Because sometimes others just need to know they're not alone in their own personal situations.  And sometimes, it's good to hear someone say, "Not everything is so perfect", because it's a good reminder that we're not alone in whatever it is we're going through.

I have one encouragement for anyone going through their own personal struggles.  Don't let it own you.  I've listened to more than one person in this last year say, "Oh I can't do xyz, because there's just too much going on here or there."  And yes, I think there's a place to step back sometimes and deal with whatever is going on, on the home front or where ever else.  But at the same time, when I hear statements like that, I look inside and ask myself, "Laura, are you letting your sadness steal away the joy from living?  Are you letting it win?"  

I don't have all the answers.  I don't know where the balance perfectly lies between giving yourself time to mourn something and shoving it to the back of your mind and ignoring it.  I won't even tell you I'm working it out day by day, because I'm not.  I'm working it out moment by moment.  How do I let my heart grieve something genuinely, but also enjoy life to the fullest?  I don't know.  Today I was sad.  I've been sad a lot lately.  But today, I also went on a berry-picking adventure.  I basked in the sun, and walked through the fields hand-in-hand with my love.  I let my fingers get stained red and savoured the best berries instead of putting them into the bucket.  Today I bought a new fish to replace Bacon (who jumped to his death again and succeeded this time).  Today I made raspberry custard pies from scratch (including the crusts) and opened the doors and windows wide to let Summer in.  Today I was sad.  But today I also lived.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Photography 365 Project: (Days 168 - 173 with a LOT of extras!)

Tuesday, June 17th, I may have set a record for how late we ate dinner.  Actually, scratch that.  (We ate dinner at 11:00pm last night).  Ironically, part of the reason for the delay was because I was working on this photograph.  I didn't want to control my camera from my phone.  That would be too easy.  (Actually, I just forgot I could).  I also certainly wouldn't want to pull out the tripod when I could create a precarious tower of books and magazines on top of my piano bench in the hallway to perch my camera on.  Selfies are hard work!  

Wednesday was my last Wednesday teaching night until September.  Most of my students go through the Summer in some capacity, but none of my Wednesday kids do :).  Nick picked me up when I was finished, and we came home to make dinner and snuggle on the couch watching t.v.  It was probably my most relaxing evening all week.  Not the most fun (that comes later), but the most relaxing for sure.

Thursday was my birthday.  29.  I have one more year until I hit my mid-life crisis.  (I have been dreading 30 ever since I turned 25.)  I had a grown-up birthday.  A grown-up birthday is where, even though it's your birthday, you have to get up early and go to work.  But, it was still awesome.  My husband gave me $20 to buy lunch instead of eating the snacks in my bag.  He also gave me the remainder of his Starbucks card to get a soy latte - a vast improvement to my regular, home-brewed, cheap coffee in a travel mug with almond milk.  (Almond milk in coffee is gross, btw.)  I further got to start the morning with a great conversation with a colleague about faith that was really encouraging to me.  And I even let myself wear jeans (though technically I'm not supposed to if it's not Friday).  1.  Because it was my birthday.  2.  Because I got burger grease on my work pants the night before.  

When I got home that evening, I only had one student to teach since the other asked to move her lesson due to a work conflict this week.  I was done teaching by 6:30pm, just in time for Nick to come home and pick me up.  We went out and made it to the camera store with 20 minutes to spare before they closed.  This was good because it took me that long to pick out my present.  My current camera bag BARELY fits my camera in, and now I have one that fits not only my camera, but a spare lens as well.  He also bought me a soft lens case to hang on a belt for when I'm shooting weddings.  I got really tired of running back and forth at the last wedding I did and have now decided I'm shooting with a belt.  (He also gave me his belt - he just doesn't know it yet).  

As a side note, I didn't mean to become a wedding photographer.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I said I would never be one.  However, I shot my first wedding a few weeks ago, and now I somehow have between 10 and 13 on the radar for the remainder of the year - mostly through friends and a couple companies offering me to either intern or shoot with them.  I've only booked one completely on my own.  However, I have an inkling that I may be opening a whole new horizon after this Summer, and I'm excited about it!

Anyway, back to my birthday.  Afterwards, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some steaks for dinner, and I grabbed a new pair of earrings because I lost my old ones.  Yes, I just have one pair.  No, I don't want the responsibility of having to switch them out.  One is good.

Friday night, after work, we headed over to see our friends' new place and they were so awesome!  They had a little birthday dinner for me with my favourite snacks.  They even bought me my own little tub of lactose-free ice cream for after dinner.  I felt so loved.  This birthday was a hard one for me due to personal reasons, so I really felt extra loved by all the Facebook wishes and gestures from friends and family throughout this week.
And the truly awesome part?  SPARKLERS!!  I love sparklers.  They bought an entire pack, and we ran out with our cameras into the yard later that night and had a blast.  Photos I'm in, curtesy of Nick :)

Saturday was sleep deprivation make-up day.  I slept til noon, and Nick brought me breakfast in bed.  We cuddled, watched t.v., and then I took a nap (of course!).  I woke up around 6pm (don't judge - you have no idea how little sleep I operate on all week long), and we got ready to head out to our movie reservation.  We watched Edge of Tomorrow and shared a coke and some candy.  

We saw that it was truly a gorgeous sunset as we left the theatre, but had no good view of it with all the buildings.  We chased it 20 minutes down the road to the beach, but didn't quite catch it.  After grabbing a quick silhouette of Nick, we head off to the grocery store and had a delicious, but super late, dinner with our spoils :)

Sunday was errand day.  Returning some stuff at the Mall.  Costco (to finish our proper shop from the night before).  Taking our bikes to get repaired.  Being told they were beyond repair and that it would be cheaper for us to get new ones.  Going to Canadian Tire and spending $260 on new bikes (Mine was only $99!). 

By 4pm, we were ready to take out our bikes and explore a local park we'ld never been to.  (We're trying to "get out" more this year, and stop being bums all the time).  Before I got all sweaty, I asked Nick to quickly grab my "annual birthday photo".  For my entire life, my mother took me to have my photo done ON my birthday.  Every year.  Tradition.  After I got married, I continued the tradition, but have been a little bit lax about the "on my birthday" rule.  I usually get it done within the month.  I liked the black and white one, but it was a bit soft.  Thus, here are the candidates I sent off to my parents (minus the black and white) to choose from.  They pick, I print.  I hate the process, but love the idea of watching the age progression, and we're 29 years in, so I continue!  I spent about an hour culling out all the ones I looked truly annoyed in.  

We had a great Sunday afternoon biking around and learning how out-of-shape we are!  Nick humoured me as I instructed him to step in various pockets of light to play with the rim lighting and laid in the dirt to shoot buttercups.  We chased geese around.  We realized we should have brought water bottles.  We went home and relaxed.  It was the perfect end to the last two-day weekend we'll enjoy together until mid-October.  Wedding season begins.  Nick's booked solid, and I suppose I can't really point the finger just at him this year, since I seem to be getting in on the action as well now.  We'll sleep when we're dead, right?  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Photography 365 Project: (Day 167: Converting My Everyday)

I never used to be a huge fan of black and white photography, but I have to admit that it's growing on me.  I find it especially useful for the times my husband's face is lilac-coloured from a purple computer screen.  Here is my lovely SOOC (straight-out-of-camera):

This is what the photo looks like in black and white (by simply pressing the conversion button and doing nothing else):
It's kind of blah.  My eyes dart all over the frame from the bright tip of the lamp in the top, left-hand corner, to the square of kitchen light reflecting in the window behind the loveseat.  My eyes just briefly graze over Nick whose skin is a nice grey that almost matches the wall in the background.  I'm looking everywhere.  My eyes are attracted to all things bright and shiny - the white canvass with the heart, the glare on the couch arm, that one especially bright tiny dot right in the middle of the window.  I'm taking in the room as a whole.  Even the board games on the very far right-hand side are peeping out from the shadows at me.

So with a little love and time spent in Lightroom and Photoshop, I managed to create the look I envisioned.  I minimized the distractions and pulled the focus to where I wanted it.  I didn't want to say, "Look here is my livingroom and it happens to be in black and white.  Oh yeah, Nick's there, too".  I wanted to say, "Enter this moment with me.  Let all the outside distractions fade away at the end of a long day, and come into our little relaxing space.  A space where it's just Nick, me, a couple of drinks, and a computer keying up our evening show that we are about to enjoy together on the couch :)".

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Photography 365 Project: (Days 161 - 166)

Tuesday night, after teaching, we enjoyed some nice BBQ'd steaks for dinner, and cuddled on the couch to catch up on t.v. shows.  Watching t.v. is always better with a 7-11 break to run for candies, don't you know ;)

Wednesday night I didn't have any piano students after work as the three I would normally teach this evening took their Summer break early this year.  We spontaneously decided to take advantage of the $0.25 wing night at a local restaurant.  We, unfortunately, were not the only ones with this idea!  It took a good 2.5 hours to drive there, wait for a table, wait for a menu, and then wait for our wings, and get back home.  But they were delicious and it was worth it.  We always buy more than we can eat so we have lunches the next day :)

Thursday was eventful enough that it got it's own separate post here.

Friday night I was pretty wiped out.  Probably because I was missing 3 out of 5 regular "bus naps" on my commute this week due to getting a couple rides into work and emailing students on the bus.  It could also have been because I worked 7am-3pm instead of my usual 8am-4pm this day in order to go have a meeting after work before catching the train home.  I came in the door around 5pm and promptly set my alarm for 6pm to grab a quick sleep.  My friend Alana came by around 6:15pm to pick me up for a girls' night at the movies.  We got into a little bit of trouble bringing our cameras in, but since we were taking photos of random things, we got off with a little chat from the cleaning crew and that's about it.  

Saturday I got up by 9am in order to have time to walk over to the mall for my hair appointment.  My hair dresser had an unfortunate answer to my query regarding if I had a lot more grey hair than the last time I was there a few months prior.  My mother was completely grey in her 30's, so genetically I'm doomed in that regard ;).  I got her to put in another batch of blonde foils and threw in some violet-red ones for fun as well.  I was relieved that they settled into a bright red and stopped looking purple as the day went on and my hair absorbed the colour more.

The afternoon involved a quick stop at Target on my way home for baking supplies, some Netflix watching, a bit of cleaning the house, and a LOT of cookie baking!  A dear friend stopped by to visit while I finished baking, but before she showed up, Netflix was keeping my company in the kitchen :).  We had a good visit, practiced our duet together for the next day's recital, and headed out to the evening service at church, grabbing sushi on the way.  Nick finished his work on set early and stopped by to finish church with me before we headed home.  He had to continue to work into the night on a wedding, so I curled up on the couch with my t.v. series and photos to edit from throughout the last few days.

Sunday morning dawned with grey skies and low temperatures.  Definitely a day to stay inside!  I slept in, had breakfast with my husband (who was still working away on that wedding edit), and then took a little nap.  I woke up in time to get ready to head out and run some errands (picking up juice boxes and camera equipment for the recital) before we headed over to the music store together.  (Tom Lee's gives free space to teachers for recitals).

Last Summer was such a gong-show that Nick never got to come, so he promised me he would be there in 2014, and he was true to his word!  He filmed it for me, and it was actually the first time in 7 years of knowing each other that he has actually seen me perform!  All the students played wonderfully and we were done within 40 minutes, which was great.  I asked the store employee to repeat himself, though, when he asked if we all liked playing on the $100,000 Steinway grand.  Who knew!?  Pictures were taken, awards handed out, and cookies and juice boxes consumed.  Then it was back home to relax for the evening.  Although poor Nick had to head back out to finish the wedding and deliver it at the reception tonight :(

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Five-Hour Holidays

Thursday evening felt a lot like a mini holiday.  After work, I walked down to my in-laws' hotel room, since the conference they were in town for had put them up relatively close to my office.  I grabbed a few shots from their awesome 23rd-floor room, and then we headed off to dinner on a sunny ocean patio.  I discovered a beautiful corner of our city that I didn't even know existed!  I always need people to come in from out of town so that I can appreciate my own city, haha.  After we finished dinner, we took a slow, leisurely walk back along the docks.

We meandered back to the hotel room enjoying the scenic route, and then crashed for a bit while waiting for Nick to wrap on his shoot.  We agreed to meet him at a local gelato place that has 218 different flavours.  Some of them are really... interesting.... We grabbed our treats, and the four of us headed back out into the sunshine to sit and chat for a couple hours.  

We said our goodbyes and goodnights and were home before 10pm, which was good because as much as it felt like a holiday, the next morning came bright and early :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sometimes SOOC Just Ain't Gonna Cut It!

I used to think that if I was a great photographer, I would just pick up a camera and magic would happen.  Sometimes it does.  That's always the goal - to get it right SOOC (Straight-Out-Of-Camera), but in reality, without any post-processing work at all, the photos are usually going to look rather ordinary - even if I did everything right!  And sometimes... sometimes you just can't create what you want without a little editing.  Here are a few of my favourite before-and-afters from the last month that just wouldn't have happened without extra love!

Gotta love the duck lips created by the backlighting here!

A quick trip to Photoshop, and a little warming up the image, and it looks a lot cozier (and less weird!):

This next shot was white-balanced properly, but there were two things I couldn't control:  1.  The fact that the inside of the chest was orange wood, and 2. the fact that I needed the back door open to let in more light from behind:

A nice conversion to black and white to kill the orange colour and Photoshop to remove the door:

 This shot Nick took of us.  If he had brightened us up, he couldn't have kept the nice blue sky in the background.  So he shot to retain the sky, and I fixed the rest afterwards in Lightroom:

Lastly, this parking lot shot.  I had to shoot dark to keep the sky from going completely white and also because I wanted a silhouette look.  There's simply no angle I could have shot this from that would have removed that big yellow post to the right and all the buildings in the shadows along the back.  But a LOT of patience in Photoshop gave me a result I'm finally mostly happy with!

Yes, these examples are a little bit dramatic, but the dramatic ones are more fun in my opinion!

Photography 365 Project: (Days 156 - 160)

160 CONSECUTIVE days of shooting and not a single miss so far!

Thursday, June 5, I had the evening and house to myself after my last piano student, so a relaxing bath was in order.  I usually get bored in the bath, so I drag in a stool and my computer.  However, after the mysterious "water damage" I had to deal with, I've been a lot more careful as of late!

Friday, June 6, Nick's sister Stevie was in town and we had a great evening with her.

Saturday, June 7, was a day with more family at the lake, which I blogged about here.

Sunday, June 8, was a catch-up-on-sleep day for me.  (No, seriously, I didn't get up til 2:30pm).  Nick spent the day on a film set, and I spent the afternoon/evening editing photos and cleaning/organizing the house.  We ended up having "guacamoles" for dinner around 10pm.  (We don't call them avocados anymore, and sometimes I forget that's their real name!).  Yes, guacamole, salsa and chips counts as an actual planned meal around here, and is often requested!

Monday, June 9, it felt good to be back to a normal routine day after a couple days of visiting people.  I'm such a creature of habit.  After too much change, I crave my routine no matter how boring it is.  Monday was a day at the office, followed by a handful of students, followed by a quick trip to the grocery store for chicken wings (my favourite food group).  Nick was reluctant to pose for me at first.  That is until he forgot his wallet at home and didn't realize until right at the checkout.  To make up for almost 30 minutes of waiting for him to go and fetch it, not only was he more than willing to pose for me (to make me slightly less annoyed), but he even came up with the idea of jumping against the sunset for me :)

And that's the last 5 days in a nutshell!  The project continues!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Baptisms, Beaches, and BBQs

Yesterday was a day filled with family.  Nick's parents were in town for a conference and his Grandparents had driven up from the interior to be there for the cousins' baptisms.  We arrived at the lake around 3pm, just in time to listen to 14 young people (between the ages of 13 and 22) give their testimonies.  Our cousin Sasha, who does a lot of public speaking, had us all in stitches and Nick's dad (immediately to the right of Sasha in the white shirt) and Nick's grandpa (immediately to the left of Sasha in plaid) prayed for him:

Next up was his older brother, Eli, whose mom (tucked in the back) and Grandma prayed for him:

After a couple hours of listening to all the young people's stories (and getting a little choked up on more than one occasion), we headed back to the icy cold water where the boys' dad baptized them:

Afterwards, we stole the boys away for a couple hours for a family BBQ dinner and birthday celebration for Sasha.  

Pretty soon, they'll be too big for you, Nick....

No, Grandma, you're not in my way.  You're exactly where I want you to be :)

Mother and son....

Right before we left, Nick pointed up into the tree behind me where this massive bird was perched.  I complained a LOT about only having an 85mm.  I even got Nick to come over so I could climb up on his shoulders to try and get a few feet closer.  This shows how far I will go for a shot.  I am TERRIFIED of sitting on someone's shoulder's, but I barely gave it a thought with that bird up there.  Needless to say, it didn't help much.  

In the end, I just ended up zooming in almost 100% when editing and it worked alright for this shot since my settings were decent enough to keep him from getting too fuzzy or grainy.

Do you see the attitude that bird is giving us?  We threw all sorts of food at it, trying to get it to budge.  When no one was looking, Grandpa pulled out a sling shot and fired at the branch to try and jiggle it loose.  (He's a shockingly good shot, and no we didn't hit the bird).  Finally he hit the branch soundly enough to get the bird's attention, but then it just flew away :(

As the sun disappeared, we headed back to Nick's Aunt and Uncle's place for chai teas and board games.  Well, some played, some napped, and some edited photos ;)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sun, Summer Days, and Sisters

My husband came into downtown today to meet me for a late lunch and then work at a coffee shop for a couple hours until I was done at the office.  When 4pm rolled around, we headed off to meet up with his sister, Stevie, who is in town for a conference and hit the beach.  Sadly, we realized that we had not been to the beach in TWO YEARS.  Man, we need to get a life....  Like that's seriously pathetic considering we work right by it!  

We hung out with each other and these rather large geese that would not MOVE.  He let me walk right up to him, sit in front of him, and take his photo....

Nick and Stevie played in the freezing cold waves, soaking their pant legs, while I took pictures and sat in the sand.  (I'm the less fun one).  Here Stevie is giving Nick lessons on how to curtsey.

Skipping shells (because they work better than rocks):

Nick's family is from the prairies so they get REALLY excited to be near the ocean.  I didn't even tell her to pose here.  She's just loving it THAT much, lol.

As we got hungry we headed over to this new poutine place that Nick found when he was working a wedding last weekend and it was delicious.  Totally worth ignoring my dairy allergy for!

It had huge windows that opened right onto the busy street that you could sit by:

We had about an hour left after dinner before we had to head our separate ways, so we strolled back to the beach to catch the last of the sun.

And then I decided that I should master shooting in backlighting conditions.  I thought I would be awesome at this.  I was wrong.  Stevie and Nick were very accommodating in ignoring me while I practiced on them.

Well... for the most part ;)