Tourist in my own city | 1

Friday, April 8, 2016

For years we've driven over the Auckland Harbour bridge and I've lost count of the times I've said "we must walk under here someday".

At Easter, finally we decided on the spur of the moment to do just that. I can't even imagine the impact on the residents of the clifftop in Birkenhead when in the years leading up to 1959, the Harbour Bridge was built - right over the top of some beautiful villas! People still live there and the houses are still beautiful. They just have a humongous concrete structure towering over them.

We walked down under the bridge and around the area. I took a heap of photos. Here are a few faves.

The next day we went on a little road trip to places we've never been. It's so nice to get out and explore your own back yard. So often we're envious of others travelling overseas to exotic locations, but really, we have a lot of magic right in our back yards. It's nice to appreciate it:)

Thanks for stopping by.

Project Life 2016 | My photo book process

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

This year I've adopted a different approach to Project Life. If you're not familiar with this system of memory keeping, you can read more about the different ways to work it here.

For 4 years, I've been making hybrid project life pages and have physical albums. At the beginning of this year, after toying with the idea for over a year, I decided to make a photo book for this year's photos. I thought I'd share with you my process, in case any of you are wondering if super simple might work for you.

Over the years, I noticed my preferred pages were becoming more and more simple. I knew my love for photography was developing, and so I wanted to have more emphasis on the photos.

I've spoken before about my concern at having too many bulky photo albums and wanting to downsize. I've also observed my family looking through photo books more than the larger albums.

I've opted for very little use of digital stamps or embellishment.

That might seem like a strange question to any memory keeper. Surely the story is important. Yes it is, but for me, there is no need to state the obvious.

I was talking with my son about a famous film director, who said that films shouldn't need to be explained if made well enough. I also saw a quote from Alfred Hitchcock, another film director, who said "If it's a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on".

I feel the same can apply when telling the story with photos. They can narrate the story perfectly without any need for explanation. Often though, there is more of a story to be told, or the photos don't cover it.

I've trialed writing a monthly currently page and after 3 months, I think this is working well. For the first 2 months I added little other wording, but as I approach March pages, I recognize there are more stories to be told, so I'll be adding those as I go. March was definitely a month of stories, rather than moments!

1. Decide on a photo book company. There are so many to choose from and differences in quality, price and postage to be considered. There's also the ease of system to consider. For me, I chose Artifact Uprising after considering all of these things. I've used them before and loved the product received.

2. Size. I weighed up pages and cost, along with the vision I had and decided to go with 8.25 x 11 inches in portrait. The soft cover book has a maximum of 200 pages. That allows me roughly 16 pages (or 8 double pages) per month. Having this knowledge before commencing was valuable because it sets the guidelines and I work out my month based on this. I thought this would be tons, but seriously, it's so easy to fill these pages! I love that I can add and move pages around at any time. My project is saved on their site until I'm done with it.

3. Style. There are so many ways to approach this.

  • You can simply use the page templates in Artifact Uprising's system, and I do use these for some pages. You can add text anywhere on these pages.
  • You can use the Project Life App to make pages and then upload the JPGs. In fact, Becky Higgins is working on photo books to add to her products.
  • You can make your own pages in an Adobe system and upload the JPGs. I use a series of grid templates for a lot of my pages, so I can fit more photos in.
  • You can use digital Project Life cards in any of these options and you can use digital stamps added to your photos before uploading to AU page layouts.

When I think of a photo book, I see simplicity, emphasis on photography, good design and white space. I try to keep this in mind as my pages flow. I've used my fave full page photos balanced with small photos. Some full page grids and some small blocks of grids.

Because it's a yearbook, it's not exactly a themed photo book, so not all pages will have that sense of continuity, but after 3 months, I've settled into a pattern and details like keeping my currently journaling page format the same each month help keep that continuity.

I've noticed I'm spending a lot more time taking photos and less time making pages, but I'm sure I'm going to end up with a product that's closer to my heart.

Here are a few fave pages from February.

This photo shows how I've set out my monthly CURRENTLY summaries.
Products Used:
Becky Higgins Everyday Edition digital files
Paislee Press templates

Project Life is a system for memory keeping by Becky Higgins. Last year I was part of her Creative Team. You can find out more about Project Life here.

Thanks for stopping by:)

AE Day in the Life 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

Despite some pre-planning for Ali Edward's Day in the Life, March 30 rolled around (the day I planned to do this, to coincide with the day the Northern Hemisphere were participating), and I didn't really feel in the mood. You know how it is... despite all the anticipation, often the event feels flat because you're just in the wrong mood, or not quite in the zone.

However, after a quick browse through Instagram I found lots of inspiration from the IG community already well into their days. I'm not a quitter so I decided to pick up my camera and make a start.

I'm a terrible over-thinker, so to be honest, I think I had visions of having oodles of time to set up and take great photos as if I was doing a photo shoot. As it turns out, of course I didn't have the luxury of that time and it is, after all, a project to capture a regular day in my life.

Through the day I didn't feel I took enough photos and I knew a couple I got were a bit dark and out of focus... hazards of early morning indoors light and fast moving targets! Fingers crossed that I could resurrect something usable.

When I had a little time yesterday to edit my selection and work on some grid pages for my photo book, I was pleasantly surprised to find I had more than enough photos and I love the out of focus shot of my daughter anyway. I also spent some time yesterday assembling my notes into typed journaling while it was fresh in my mind. I've used a time line style of journaling and so I didn't feel the need to put the time on the photos this time. Keeping it simple.

At the end of the day, I allowed 4 pages for this project for my 2016 Project Life photo book. It fits the criteria for my Project Life book this year and that is - simple layout with focus on the photos.
I'm into my third month of documenting via photo book and now that I feel comfortable with how it's going, I'll share some details on how I go about the process. Stay tuned.

Products used:
Ali Edwards 8.5x11 grid template
Love Day Seed digital stamp for Wednesday
Becky Higgins Project Life filler cards

I used a mix of Canon DSLR with 50mm lens and iPhone - whatever worked in the moment!

Thanks for stopping by, Donna xx

Preparing for Day in the Life | Part 2 Photo ideas

Thursday, March 17, 2016

In my last post I talked about different ways of recording your life on the day, using communication as an example.

I've also put some thought towards taking photos for Day in the Life project at the end of March. Some of you may be fans of just going with the flow, taking photos when the opportunity arises. I'm a fan of being prepared with a bit of a plan, if possible. It doesn't necessarily guarantee that things will turn out as planned...but I think that self consciously you think of taking the photos you've been planning, at least some of the time.

Because we're talking about A Day in the Life project, recording this is the story of our day. We need to think about how we can convey this story in photos and words so it's meaningful to look back on in the future.

The whole day, and a single moment can slip by so fast. You need to think what it is you want to remember. (Just as wedding photographers have a list and firm plan as well as being prepared to be flexible). I want my story to include the people around me, myself, my dog - doing what we do.

The question I ask myself is: how can I better capture my own personal meaningful moments? Those moments will be different for every one of us. I'll be approaching this as the storyteller, therefore this whole project will be about my day, but I have ways of including the family's days also.

A few things to think about:

1. Think about natural lighting around the time. For me that means autumn and the mornings and evenings in my house will be quite dark. Personally I hate using a flash for these situations so I'll be mindful of using the lights on as best I can and trying to get photos near a window as dawn occurs. I'll also try using parts of the house for photos where better natural light streams in, like our stairwell with large windows.
Loved that this morning I could make full use of lovely morning light and shadows cast by the blinds

I purposely made a dramatic photo with contrasting light while doing a mundane thing!
2. Getting myself in the photos. If you're a follower of my blog, you'll know I've worked on several projects about self-portraits, including writing a class for Big Picture Classes. I don't want to repeat the sorts of photos I've taken for those previous projects - mainly because that's just plain boring and really I don't need oodles of the same thing covered! So, I've been researching all sorts of different ways I can get myself in the day's photos. It's a good idea to practice some of these ideas to get an idea of focus. perspective and lighting sorted to save stress and time on the day.
I placed phone on mantle piece to get this shot.
3. Think about perspective. Where can you photograph from for different results? Get down low, look up, look down, through doors and windows. Far away. Up close. I love to contrast big and little details.
I stood on a chair to get this perspective

This sort of photo captures the story of part of my husband's regular work day break - a coffee by the sea
One way to capture the food shopping
4. The little details make up a huge part of the story. A normal day may include getting breakfast and lunches ready, kids off to school, going to work... Try to find the special magic in the day. How can you incorporate this? The weather is a biggie and can help portray the season, or obstacles to the day. Even a day you may call a bad weather day, can produce photos with the magic element.

What sort of fruit is in your fruit bowl? Do you have cut flowers, or are there flowering plants in your garden?

What are you wearing? What's on your bedside table? Can you photograph yourself incorporating these sorts of details in the frame?

I've told this story before, but one of the photos that's become most precious to me is my childhood home. I'm sitting at the dining table in a t-shirt which has distinctive memories, and the kitchen is a 70's time warp with patterned wallpaper and cupboards painted by mum!

These details we often crop out of our photos can be the very thing that hold the emotive value - the thing we connect to the moment in our history.
This shot captures some room detail and already, less than a year on I see little changes.
5. Remember to photograph details of whatever you're working at during the day - whether it be on the job, or as a stay at home mum. Set the 10 second timer to capture you doing what you do with the work space details in there. That will be interesting to you or someone else one day. I regret not getting more photos reading piles of books to my children sitting on my lap, or of me playing with them on the floor. Those things took up a large chunk of my time but back then I never thought to record the little details. Oh yes, there are plenty of photos of them playing, just not with me playing with them.

6. How can you incorporate your family into the photo/story? You may be separated during the day, so be intentional about getting them in morning and afternoon/evening photos. It may involve a sneaky photo while they're working in their rooms. I've found that explaining to them that I'm doing DITL helps and they are more willing to be included in a photo or two. If not, you may need to resort to photographing something which connects them to the day - school shoes or bag tossed on the floor, for example. Try giving them the camera, or ask them to take a selfie.
I love this completely candid photo telling us about her day
I will probably be devoting a double page spread to this day in my annual photo book - maybe 2 double pages. I will probably take far more photos than I will use, but this will give me the choice for piecing the story of the day together. The rest of the photos will be stored away for family to look at.

Whenever I think about a project like A Day in the Life, I feel such a sense of excitement. Does that happen to you? It's such a simple way to preserve a little piece of our lives. If you find stories of your parents or grandparents like this, does this excite you? Do you like reading about stranger's stories in lifestyle magazines? Maybe I'm a bit nosy but I love a little glimpse into how other's live. If you're not aware of this annual project run by Ali Edwards, read more about it here.

I'm looking forward to 29th or 30th March. I'm not sure which day I'll do this yet. Let me know if you're joining in this event. If you are, the most important thing is to have fun with it! That will show through in your photos.

Thanks for stopping by.

Donna xx

Preparing for Day in the Life | Part 1

Monday, March 7, 2016

For those of you who are participating in Ali Edward's Day in the Life at the end of March, I thought it may be a good thing to share some thoughts I've been having on preparing for this day.

Why prepare? Why not just snap away during the day?

Well, 3 years in on this project, I know that the day can arrive and even with the best intentions, can slip away and be over before you've captured the true essence of your day. If you're going to record this day so someone can look back at a specific moment in time, then why not set out with some clear intentions? If you have the opportunity to start with the end in mind, you can focus on more specific things and feel more accomplished at the end of the day.

Apart from the obvious documenting of your daily routine; it may be an opportunity to think a bit wider and look at other things which may be interesting to look back on.

Have you ever observed what your family find interesting in your photos or albums? Often it's the nostalgia. Not just remembering the moment, but the feeling of the moment. What captures that feeling or emotion comes from a number of things - the scene, the occasion, the people, the weather and so on. These are all things you can capture in your photos or journaling.

Today I want to talk about communication. How do you communicate daily with your partner, family, the wider family, your friends and work mates?

Where do conversations take place in your home? Do you talk around the table over dinner? Sadly, that doesn't happen as often as I'd like in my house these days due to the busy work schedules and teens with their own agendas. In saying that, we do talk a lot and I'd like to be able to write about this on the day.

One of the only times I use the landline these days (other than those pesky survey type calls), is to speak to my parents or parents-in-law. Neither set are good with mobile phones and other technology. I use my mobile to text or phone my husband and children when we're apart. My daughter speaks to her friends via Snapchat. That's something we'll look back on in 5 or 10 years and giggle about - much like landlines. Those things will be superseded by better technology, for sure.

Think about how you could record this in your pages.  You can simply narrate in journaling form or you could screenshot a text and print out. You could also add a photo of devices or list what each member of the family has and uses. It's surprising when you do this, just how much technology is a major part of our lives. Ask each of the family what they'd grab first if they had to evacuate the house! For my family, where they'd once have named favourite toys, now it would be their technology - their new form of toys.

I know my children get a kick out of reading snippets of what I've recorded about them, especially things they may have said. These things can really sum up their personalities and age at the time.

The second point I wanted you to think about regarding communication - how are you going to record your Day in the Life journaling?
Digital stamps from Big Picture Classes shop
Of course you don't have to write anything. A photo story of the day is fine on it's own. However, if you intend to write about your day, there are lots of ways to go about it. Here are a few ideas:

1. Write in first person in present tense. I've always admired this beautiful style of journaling by Ronnie at Life Captured. I always form a visual picture when I read her narrations and I'm sure that in the future her children will be magically carried back to that special nostalgic place when they read her stories.
I think this will be my choice on the day and I'll make notes as the day goes by and write my journaling in the evening while it's all fresh in my mind (or straight into a document as the day goes by, time permitting). I'll be writing about my day, from my perspective. I am the story teller.

2.  A written summary of the day, in past tense.

3. Notes and times on photos.

4.  Journaling cards to slip in pockets beside photos.

5. An hourly sentence or thought.

6. Have each member of the family write a 3x4 card about the highlight or summary of their day.

It doesn't need to be elaborate and it doesn't matter if you think you're no good at writing. Remember, this is your story. Your family will appreciate that you made the effort to record a snapshot in time involving them. Heck, they may even be surprised at what you get done in a day. Kids think food and clean laundry appears magically!

It's not only that. Life changes very quickly. It feels like a short time ago that my children were at primary school and I was taxi mum. I still am to a degree, but this is my youngest's last year of school and she's about to get her Driver's Licence. It's a funny feeling. On one hand I feel happy that 'taxi mum' time is almost over, but on the other I feel nostalgic about the times past - when conversations took place in the car on the way to school or activities. And that doesn't even begin to sum up my feelings as my children become independent adults!

As one chapter closes and yet a new one begins, it's all important to record all the details of a Day in the Life. 

My next post will be about photo ideas for Day in the Life.

Here's how I recorded the day last year. And I always like the simplicity of my 2013 pages.

The Holiday Story in a Photo Book

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In January we had a week's holiday staying in a beach house in Pauanui in the Coromandel Peninsula. It's the 4th January we've been there (plus a few other times during the year), and the third time we've stayed at this particular place.

I've recorded previous trips there in my Project Life pages, but before we went this time, I'd decided I wanted to make a photo book. Because I had the idea in advance, I was more conscious of capturing moments and the essence of what we love about our holidays there.

Let's be honest, I also knew that I wanted to have an excuse to take photos... and lots of them. I don't know what it is about a different location and being in holiday mode, but it just seemed I saw beauty and great photo opportunities everywhere. The rainy days just added to the magic. And how do you beat getting up to watch the sun rise?

I used my Canon in manual mode for 300+ 'keeper' photos and kept about 70 from my iPhone, plus the others gave me a few they took of me to help me add more of me to the story.

I was definitely in my happy place there and once we got home, I was aware of getting my book made while it was all still fresh in my mind. Just over a week later it was in my hands.

How do you decide which company to use?
I chose Artifact Uprising because I've used them multiple times before. The first time was based on online recommendations and once I looked at their website and philosophy, I felt they were right for me. I love the feel of their pages and soft covers and their choice of sizes. I used their variety of page layouts to make the job simple. I felt there was no need to complicate the process with re-inventing the wheel, or adding any words or embellishment.

Choosing a book size.
I must admit this one was tricky and the final decision was based on the price, however 2 book sizes were the same price. I ended up going 6x8 portrait because I've used that size previously and I think the same size of specialty photo books sitting together on a shelf will work for us. My intention is to make the same size books for several other trips we've had to other places.

How do you decide what to include and the format/order? 
In the end I just went with the flow. The week was a series of rainy days and sunny days and most days the activities were the same so I just made pages in sort of that order and revised it a few times. Then I pushed order before I could fiddle with it any more. These are some faves.

Apart from the where, what and why words on the intro page and the final page, there are 86 pages of photos only, so it's basically a photo narrative. I love it and a sure sign of success is that my husband took it to work to show a colleague.

It was an investment. Our NZ dollar is awful against the USD at the moment and the postage was more than the book, but I feel it's a souvenir. I would readily have paid this amount for a painting or print to bring home in the past.

Apart from this photo book, there are some photos I want to use as wall prints and so I'm pricing special prints at the moment. I'll be sure to let you see how that project turns out.

Thanks for stopping by:)

OLW | A little practice challenge

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

If you're participating in the One Little Word workshop, you'll know what the February prompt is all about. I'm not going to explain it here, because that would be inappropriate, however I'm going to share what I've set for myself to do during Feb. It's all about practice. I've explained before that my word this year is voice and my reasons for choosing this.

I felt it would be a perfect opportunity to spend a month photographing using my DSLR camera.

In typical Donna fashion, I thought up too many complicated challenges for myself, then in a moment of clarity, I decided to keep it really simple.

Photograph and choose 1 photo per day which evokes an emotion.

Why? Because I want to focus on finding my visual voice, and in particular, my photography style. I'm obviously passionate about photographing "the everyday", because this captures our lives and who we are. But I have a much deeper connection to certain photos and a lot of those are really nothing to do with my everyday moments.

They are more about connecting with the magic in my everyday... things that spark emotion or joy. It may be something as simple as colour, lines in the shadows, the fluttering lacey leaves. Some days it may be the connection between my daughter and our dog or simply the way the light falls on the dogs ears.

From my enormous collection of inspirational words, today I chose this quote which will be my guide for the month:

"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." RUMI

It's only Day 2 of this 29 day challenge. So far I've surprised myself with the 2 photos I've chosen. They are probably not the ones which tell the story best. Yesterday I kept 6 of the photos I took at the marina. I chose this one because I was captivated by the light sparkling on the sea.

Today I walked past this hibiscus again. I remember photographing this one day last year. I adore the colours within the flowers but also the contrast between the flowers and the blue sky.. I used my 50mm lens today and love this capture. It was a competition between this one and seagulls on the reef at the beach, so I'm surprised this one touched my heart more!

It'll be interesting for me to see if any pattern emerges during the month. I hope so because it's the direction I'm looking for.

Thanks for stopping by.

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