Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BBL 2011-2012 | Try a New Form of Exercise


Why did I include this on my Bucket List?

I used to be a runner. Back in 2006, I ran the Indianapolis Half-Marathon, and was training to run the Chicago Marathon. Sadly, I never made it. My right knee started giving me problems, and I was diagnosed with an over-use injury. I kept at it for a while, but wasn't able to do the distances that I used to do. The last race I ever ran was a 10K in May 2007, which ironically enough was the best race I ever ran.

Training for distance races was literally the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding. Nothing in my life has ever brought me the pride that I used to feel when I'd complete a long run, or cross a race finish line. Having to give that up had a huge impact on my life, and I mourned the loss for a very long time. Perhaps in a way, I still do.

The pain in my knee that started back in 2006 has kept me constant company every day since. Some days are worse than others, but it is almost always there. Every doctor and specialist under the sun has been unable to explain the cause of it, and by now I'm so used to it that I notice more when it's not there than when it is.

Unfortunately, whenever I have tried another sport, such as biking or walking, my knee pain kicks back up into the intolerable range and I don't last very long. I know how important exercise is but thus far I've been unable to find one that allows my knee pain to stay in a functional range so that I can continue to do the basic things I need to do every day. I decided to include this on my Bucket List hoping that if I try out enough activities I will eventually find one that I enjoy and am able to do on a regular basis.

Was the experience what I had hoped it would be?

The experience actually turned out better than I had hoped! I found a new form of exercise that did temporarily increase my knee pain, but it hasn't had a lasting effect. Meaning, my knee hurt worse for several hours after completing the exercise, but by the following day it was back to the normal pain level. But even better, I managed to stumble upon a form of exercise that I think could actually take the place of running in my life on many levels. Not in the same way of course, but I think it could bring the same sense of accomplishment and pride when I reached a new milestone.

The details...

So, what is this form of exercise? Bikram Yoga!! If you're not familiar with Bikram Yoga, it is a 90 minute class consisting of a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, practiced in a room heated to 105°F and 40% humidity.

Kevin and I took a handful of classes back at the beginning of the month before I started work at my new day job.  It takes a while to get used to the heat, and 90 minutes lasts forever! Several of the poses are balancing poses that I can't even come close to doing! But, that's the challenge of it, and what gives me such a sense of pride when I've completed a class and was able to do something that I couldn't do the week before.  I definitely see more Bikram Yoga in my future as soon as I find a studio that has class times that are more compatible with my schedule.

Do you want to see my entire 2011-2012 Bucket List? You can find it here.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

BBL 2011-2012 | Find a New Music Artist


Why did I included this on my Bucket List?

I've never been a huge music buff. A handful of my favorite artists are ones that I found on my own, but most of the music that I listen to is because of the influence of others. I can look back over my favorites and pinpoint the time in my life where I became a fan of the music, and who got me into it.

Because I've never spent a lot of time seeking out music to fit my tastes, it has never been a big part of my life. Usually the only time I listen to music is while driving.  Yet, every time I do take the time to play music during a boring task, like cleaning the house, I think how much better it made the experience.  So, I figure the more artists/band that I enjoy, the more likely I will be to begin to incorporate music into my life.

Was the experience what I had hoped it would be?

Looking for a new artist was what I hoped it would be, yet at the same time it wasn't.  I enjoyed the process of listening to new bands, and getting to decide for myself if I wanted to keep listening to them or not.  During the process I even found a few artists that I enjoyed enough to add to the music collection on my ipod.  However, I didn't find THE ARTIST that I felt like I couldn't live without hearing, or that I would rush right out and see in concert, like I was hoping to find.  Maybe I just need to keep searching.

The details...

Since I really wasn't sure where to start looking for artists to listen to, I decided to ask for suggestions on facebook.  I created a fun little contest asking the fans on my business page to suggest artists/bands for me to check out.  The winner would get a $25 iTunes gift card sent to them.  Not a bad deal, right?

In order to give the artists a fair chance, I decided to listen to at least three of their songs.  In some cases the person gave me songs to check out, and in other instances I simply listened to the ones that grabbed my attention when I searched for the artist on YouTube.  With some of the artists, I really liked one of their songs and really disliked another, so in those instances I decided to add in another song to help me make my decision.  Almost every artist had at least one song that I enjoyed, which was nice!

Here is a list of the suggested artists along with the songs from each that I listened to:

Foo Fighters
Learn to Fly
All My Life
My Hero

Plug In Stereo
Oh Darling
But I Can't
A Love Like Mine

The Band Perry
If I Die Young
You Lie
Hip To My Heart
All Your Life

Alexandra Burke
Start Without You
Bad Boy
Broken Heels

Kate Voegele
Monday Rain
You Can't Break a Broken Heart
Kindly Unspoken

Someone Like You
Rolling in the Deep
Set Fire to the Rain
Make You Feel My Love

Point of Grace
Circle of Friends
King of the World
Bless the Broken Road

Jason Mraz
I'm Yours
You and I Both
A Beautiful Mess

Love in America
(I'm Gonna) Party Like a Rockstar
Nothing Matters
Sunshines Black

Briefcase Full of Guts

Cold Hard Bitch
Look What You've Done
Are You Gonna Be My Girl

Death Cab for Cutie
Home is a Fire
Codes and Keys
You Are a Tourist
Your New Twin Sized Bed

What You Are
Heavens Dead
Broken City

Days Like These
Only in My Head
Venture to the Sun

Andy Davis
Brown Eyes
I Never See You
Believable Doubt

Griffin House
I Remember
Better Than Love
Live to be Free

The Prodigy
Smack My Bitch Up

The Misfits
Last Caress
Teenagers From Mars
Horror Business
Hollywood Babylon
We are 138

Screeching Weasel
I Wanna Be a Homosexual
Cool Kids
Stupid Girl

Kings of Leon
Red Morning Light
On Call

It was a tough choice, coming down to a decision between JTX and The Misfits!  I ultimately decided on JTX as my favorite artist from all of the suggestions!

There were also a few other artists that I wanted to check out because I'd liked their songs from the radio.  So, I also listened to the following artists, both of which I really liked!

Hot Chelle Rae
Tonight Tonight
Never Have I Ever
Let Down
I Like to Dance

The Killers
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Mr. Brightside
Smile Like You Mean It
Somebody Told Me
All These Things That I've Done
Andy, You're a Star

I ended up finding four artists, and several songs to add to my collection of music!  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Do you want to see my entire 2011-2012 Bucket List? You can find it here.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tips + Tricks | 5 Helpful Hints to Improve Your Snapshots

Have you ever looked at a photographer's personal snapshots of their vacation or their children, and thought to yourself, "Wow! How do they do that?"

I'm not going to lie to you. A lot of how its done has to do with the camera body and lenses that the photographer is using to take the photos, and the software being used to edit the photos. However, there are several things that you can do to take better snapshots, regardless of the camera that you are using. I'd like to share with you 5 simple things you can do to improve your snapshots.

In an attempt to make the examples as real as possible, I tried to use photos similar to the ones that you might be taking on vacation or around your home (except I don't have kids, so my dogs and husband are my subjects).

1. Always be aware of what is in your frame

You want the focus to be on the intended subject of your photo, not on oddball random things off to the side of your frame. Nothing ruins a photo faster than something in the background that you didn't realize was there!

Take a look at this photo of Kevin in front of a rock formation in Sedona.  The random tourist on the right side of the photo is a distraction, and obviously the photo would be better without her there...

By taking a step or two to the side, turning my body slightly, and zooming in a little bit, I was able to remove the tourist from the frame, so that the focus of the photo remains on Kevin and the scenery behind him. I also could have asked Kevin to reposition himself, but since Kevin doesn't really like posing for photos, I try to take my shots as quickly as possible. It's easier for me to move than to redirect him into a new position...

2. Watch out for distracting backgrounds (or foregrounds)

Sometimes the background for your image is an important part of what you are photographing (like in the photos above), other times all it does is distract from the subject you are trying to take a photo of, like in the image below.  The viewer could probably guess that Zoe is my intended subject because she is what is in focus, while the other objects aren't, but this photo would be much better without all of the clutter in the frame...

For this image, all I did was zoom in as far as my lens would let me and snap another photo...

And here I got up off the couch where I was sitting to take the two photos above, and reposition myself so that I was on the other side of the coffee table and zoomed in even more...

How tight to crop your photo is personal preference, but I think it is easy to see that Zoe stands out as the subject of the photo much more in the second two images!

3. Look out for lamps, poles, trees, etc. coming out of people's heads

This photo of Kevin was taken in our office, which is fairly crowded.   For the photo below I positioned Kevin so that he was partially in front of the bookcases, with the lamp pole directly behind him.  You can see how the background is a bit distracting and the lamp looks like it is growing out of Kevin's head...

This next photo is a little better, but not great. The lamp is no longer coming out of his head, but instead the bulletin board (that we really need to hang up!) looks like it is coming out of his neck...

Using my advice from above, one solution would have been to crop the image to eliminate some of the distracting background. To improve the image even more, I also changed it into black and white. It some instances black and white can help eliminate distractions...

However, the easiest solution would have simply been to have Kevin move a bit to change the background so that he didn't have the lamp pole, or other items behind him.

4. Avoid taking photos of your subjects from below

Occasionally there may be a circumstance where you want to emphasise the size of your subject, or perhaps show them in a particular intimidating type of manner, but in general people look much better when photographed from slightly above (or at least eye level).

For this photo I got below Kevin and shot a photo of him. Kevin has a very thin face, so this photo of him isn't too bad. If he would have taken a photo like this of me, I'd look like I have five chins!...

This photo, taken from slightly above, with him looking up at me, is much more flattering...

This can be tough if you are photographing a subject that is a lot taller than you are and you are both standing. If at all possible, try to have subjects sitting down, or else try to find some place where you can stand to elevate yourself above your subject.

5. Position your subjects so that natural light is in front of them, not behind them

Sometimes you can use this type of set up if you are taking creative silhouettes, but in general you should never position your subject in front of a window...

Instead, simply turn around so that your back is to the window and the natural light from the window is shining on your subject...

And there you have it... Five simple tips to improve your snapshots. If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them in the comments section.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a Tips + Tricks post about photographing dogs? And in that post I said that a tired dog is a good dog to photograph?

Perhaps, I should have added that a tired dog is a good dog to photograph IF you are trying to capture photos of the dog(s) with them appearing calm and serene, while looking at the camera.  However, if you are trying to get some nice actions shots of the dog(s) playing, then your plan will completely backfire if the dogs are too worn out to play!

Case in point:

Today, I thought it would be fun to get some photos of Lexi playing in the kiddie pool that we have in the backyard for her.  (It's not that we are playing favorites!  Zoe just doesn't like to get wet.  She's a HUGE baby.  She doesn't even like to walk in wet grass.)

So, I got out my camera and went outside with the dogs, all ready for some fun shots.

This is what I got instead...

Kevin and I had a small gathering at our house last night, and in an attempt to keep the dogs from being too insane while we had company we took them to play at doggie day camp all day yesterday. Then three of their new dog pals came over with their owners last night to play in the yard during our party. Apparently all the activity wore them out, and they are having a very lazy Sunday!  Guess I'll have to try the pool pictures another day.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Self-Portrait | September 2011

September's self-portrait was taken in the bedroom in our rental house in Arizona, using the Fisheye Lens that I rented earlier in the month. Since shooting with the lens was one of the highlights of the month, I thought it was fitting for me to use it to take this month's portrait.

I decided on a photo of myself holding a book, while relaxing on the bed, because reading is one of my favorite things to do!  Now that we are (mostly) unpacked, and things are starting to settle into more of a routine around here, I'm slowly starting to find time to do more of the things that I enjoy.

If you look at the book I am holding, you will see that it is called The Happiness Project. I saw this book at the store quite a while ago and though it looked like an interesting read. I finally decided to buy it and start reading it recently. As I'm reading, I'm putting together my own version of a happiness project of sorts. I feel like my life has been passing by me mostly unnoticed in recent years because I haven't taken the time to stop and see the good around me. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to change that, and hoping that the book will help me to do just that.

I've been really excited to see that the light in our rental house is amazing for photos! I haven't spent too much time taking indoor photos here yet, but the few I have managed have really shown the great light. If I'd decided to try to take these self-portraits in our old house in Indiana, I would have really struggled. The lighting in that house was atrocious, and I'd cringe any time I had to take photos inside there.

Did you miss some of my past self-portraits?  Clicking here will take you to all of my self-portrait blog posts. Clicking here will take you to my self-portrait Facebook album.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday, Sweet Baby Zoe!

Yesterday was Zoe's 4th birthday! I find it incredibly hard to believe that so much time has passed since I adopted her. It is down right scary just how fast time has been flying by in recent years.

I will fully admit that my dogs are incredibly spoiled! On their birthdays, we always buy them a bunch of toys and treats to unwrap. We put them all in a bag covered with tissue paper, and let them open it and pull out all of their goodies.

This is typically how the event starts, with both of the dogs heads in the bag, checking out the goods...

Here are a few photos of the birthday girl that I took after her present had been opened and sufficiently sniffed...

I had to throw in a cute one of Lexi, too!  This photo just captures her personality.  She is such a happy dog...

They were actually doing a very good job of posing together, so I even managed to get a couple of good ones of them together...

Lexi's birthday is in early December, so I'm sure that we will be celebrating hers in the blink of an eye!

How do you celebrate your pet's birthday?

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Monday, September 12, 2011

All For Love

Unfortunately for me, a love of photography is one of the rare things in life that Kevin and I don't have in common. Fortunately for me, I have the most loving and supportive husband in the world! So, even though Kevin doesn't really like having his photo taken, he sits for me quite often when I want to try out a new piece of equipment or a new shooting technique. And even though he may not understand why I want to spend several hours behind my camera trying to capture the perfect shot, he regularly agrees to tag along with me when I need help with a shoot, or when I just want company.

Kevin went with me a few times while I was shooting with the Fisheye Lens that I rented. During one of those trips, we stumbled upon a rather large ant hill, and Kevin suggested that I take photos of it. Because of the lens I was using, I had to plant my face just a few short inches from the ants crawling in and out of their house and take the photos. Umm.... yuck! But I did it anyway because my hubby asked me to.

I knew that the photos weren't going to turn out all that great. It was getting dark, and the ants were moving pretty fast - two things that aren't really compatible in photography. In order to let in as much light as possible, I had to slow my shutter speed, and in order to freeze the movements of the ants, I had to speed up my shutter. I was already shooting with my aperture wide open, and my camera doesn't do so hot with ISO levels over 800 and as a general rule I'm not a fan of images full of noise. I did the best I could under the circumstances, knowing that the photos would probably just end up buried along with several thousand others in the archives on my hard drives.

I briefly considered posting one of the photos, but ultimately decided against it. There was nothing special about any of the images, plus the ants were just kinda gross and creepy looking (or maybe that's just leftover trauma from having my nose so close to them)! So, when I posted the final post from my Fisheye Post series it contained no ant photos. On the link to that final post on facebook, Kevin left a comment saying that he demanded ants. I had forgotten that I never even showed him any of the photos that I took!

So, I am once again honoring my husband's request (or perhaps I should say demand), and giving him ants!  I suppose I should consider myself lucky that my husband has such simple (albeit strange) requests.

Here you go, honey, as requested: ANTS!......

And a cropped version, just in case you want to get a little more up close and personal with them...

The things we do for love! So, what strange things have you done for your loved ones?

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Amanda!

Last night, Kevin and I went out to celebrate Amanda's birthday, and she asked me if I would bring my camera and take some photos of the evening for her.

We went out for great sushi and then to a few bars afterward.  I did take a lot of photos during the evening, but my policy is to never post photos of people I don't know without their permission.  So, I'm only going to share this adorable photo of Amanda...

It's always fun shooting something new, and this was a really different experience for me because I don't normally use a flash, which means that I don't own any lighting equipment. So, it really had me on my toes trying to remember that my on board flash was only going to reach so far and I couldn't shoot from too far away.

Every time I photograph an event I am reminded why I prefer to take portraits. It is soooo much easier to shoot when you have control of your environment, you have (somewhat) willing subjects, and you aren't trying to capture every moment around you as it is happening.

Amanda, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your special celebration.  I hope your birthday was everything you dreamed and more!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fun With a Fisheye | Part 4

If you missed my other four posts about shooting with a Fisheye Lens, you can find them here, here, here, and here.

Day 7...

Kevin and I live about half an hour away from downtown Phoenix, so we live in a pretty rural area. All of the following photos were taken just a few miles away from our house near the Gila River. (I've been surprised by how much water I've been finding in the Phoenix area once I started looking!)

Here is a photo I took of the river, with the lens zoomed so it gave a wide angle view...

Look how clear the water is!...

Like I said, it's a pretty rural area, so I was able to lay down in the middle of the street to take this photo.  (The river is off to the left side of the photo.  It's that shiny area you can see where the trees kind of break.)...

Before we moved here, I was expecting to see a lot of this type of hard, cracked dirt.  I was pretty excited to find it just as I expected and get a photo of it!...

I love me some cacti!  I truly am in love with the landscape in Arizona, and drive around in constant awe of all of the palm trees, cacti, and mountains every where I look.  I hope that these things never lose their sense of wonder for me...

I was really losing light fast, and was trying to capture as many photos as I could, but I would have loved to change out the lens on my camera and take another shot from this same position to show how close those mountains really are to where I was standing!  It's amazing how far away the Fisheye Lens makes everything look!...

See that tiny, little white speck in the center of the photo?  Yeah, that's the moon!!....

Gorgeous colors in the sky!  So far Phoenix has shown us some pretty impressive sunsets.  One of these days I'm going to get out with a different lens and really capture the stunning colors...

And there you have it! My week experimenting with a Fisheye Lens!

So, I guess the big question is... Would I want to own this lens? I really had a lot of fun shooting with this lens over the past week. I think that if I had more time to play with it (and learned the Phoenix area better so I knew of more fun places to photograph), my skill with it would have improved and I eventually would be able to take some really fun and creative shots. However, in all reality I don't see a lot of practical uses for the lens with the type of shooting that I prefer to do (i.e. portraits). I also think that eventually the novelty of the lens would wear off and I wouldn't use it all that often if it was in my camera bag. I think if I ever get the urge to experiment with a Fisheye Lens in the future, I'll just rent one again and save my money to purchase a more practical lens.

As always, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to check out my photos!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fun With a Fisheye | Part 3

If you missed my other three posts about shooting with a Fisheye Lens, they can be found here, here, and here.

Day 5...

I decided to try something a little different with the lens today, and take some night shots with it. So, I headed back downtown with my camera and tripod to have a little fun. This was only my second time experimenting with night photography, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it! I definitely see more of it in my future.

These were all taken from the same parking garage as the images from Day 4.  (I guess I need to spend some time downtown seeing where else I can shoot from, huh?)

I really liked how they all turned out!...

Hubby and I had to jump into this one, just for fun!  This is definitely one of my absolute favorites of the week...

Day 6...

All of these photos were taken in Tempe, and I must say that they are by far my favorite set of photos from the week.  When I first got the lens, I had decided that I wanted to try to find a bridge to photograph, but where was I going to find a bridge in Phoenix?  I did a little research, and found that there were several bridges very close to each other that cross the Salt River in Tempe.  I had a ridiculous amount of fun playing with the lines of the bridges in all of these photos, and bending them every which way with the lens.  I do have a favorite of the bunch, but it was a pretty hard choice!

Here is another photo, where I zoomed the lens a little bit to use the lens as a wide angle and decrease the distorted effect...

Fav!  I just love all the curving lines in the image...

Believe it or not, I still have one more post of Fisheye photos to share with you, so I hope you'll join me again soon for Part 4!

Which photo set do you like best... the night photos or the bridge photos?

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.