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Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas

Summarizing today's post: Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas.

Christmas, son
snapshot using Samsung Galaxy II
I have tons of photos of Christmas past, like you do I'm sure. It is so much fun going back and looking and them...they bring back such wonderful memories.

I ran across this simple snapshot of Gavin this morning and wanted to share. It was during Christmas 2012. He was all excited about going to see Santa in the mall, and he was patiently waiting his turn in line when I snapped this photo. Sweet boy :)

It does my heart so good to go back and look at fond memories like this. Two years have gone by since this photo and Gavin has changed so's hard to believe. I like to capture every stage he's in with simple photographs.

I haven't even gotten a chance to look at all the photos that we took this season, I can hardly wait. It's always fun when I go thru them a few days after Christmas.

Sometimes during all the hustle and madness of Christmas we forget to take those simple shots that later bring us so much happiness. I'm as guilty as everyone else. It's important to pause and remember to make memories last forever with a photograph. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your family and that you captured your happiness along the way with your camera. I'm reminded this time of year especially of how photography amplifies my happiness. I bet you can see and understand this as well when you go thru all your family photos that you took yesterday...while smiling.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful Friday!


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Friday, December 19, 2014

A Christmas Tradition

Summarizing today's post: Christmas traditions, using photography to amplify your happiness, & photo tips using off-camera lighting.

photography, christmas
35mm, ISO 400, f/4.2, 1/30th, off-camera strobe added
Christmas time is here again, ready or not! So hard to believe another year has gone by and now Christmas is right on our door step. It's this coming Thursday, you realize?

The best part about this time of year is getting together with family. While its nice to give and receive gifts, that's not what it's all about. [You and I say that all the time, but do we really mean it? Think about that for a moment. How much effort do you put into gift-buying just because you know everyone else is doing the same.] 

No, the reason for the season is very simple: To reflect on God's perfect gift--Jesus--to this world, and to fellowship with our loved ones. That's it. Everything else comes second.

I'm not quite sure how the tradition of giving gifts to one another started. It is certainly a fun, fulfilling family event. And believe it or not, it can be done without "breaking the bank" and without the credit card bill hangover in January. 

photography, Christmas
36mm, ISO 400, f/4.2, 1/30th, off-camera strobe added
Remember, it's all about good quality familytime.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you one of our long-time Christmas traditions. Every family seems to have their own.

Ever since I can remember, my mom and dad would snap pictures of me and my 2 brothers as we opened our Christmas gifts. They would always have the camera handy as we tore into all the glorious packages.

And the tradition has carried on. Of course I had to jump on board too when I got my first camera long ago, but I never have been dedicated like them. Every single year, mom's camera comes out when we sit down to open gifts to one another. I jump in from time to time and get a few shots with my camera when she actually sets her's down for a moment.

Pictured above is Mom and Dad after they opened one of our gifts to them last year. Then next is my sweet wife as she opens a skillet that she asked for (look at those smiles, will you?).

photography, Christmas
20mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/30th, off-camera strobe added
Here's one of Dad opening a watch he asked for. I love capturing that happy look on his face.

One thing to notice. He's actually not looking at me (as Pinky was not as well) as I snap the photo. Why? Because he's looking at Mom, of course, as she's taking her own barrage of pictures. Ha, I love it.

Priceless stuff right there :)

Here's a photo tip for you this coming week as you bring out your camera. If you have the ability, point your flash straight up at the ceiling (if you have nice white ceiling above you) instead of directly at your subject. It will soften the light a bit. Better yet (as detailed here) move your strobe off-camera for nice 3 dimensional, real-life look. 

As we part this week, I leave you with an outright snapshot made with my cellphone. (Hey, sometimes you have to take the photo with what you have available!) 

photography, Christmas
snapshot of Dad and Gavin with HTC EVO
Here's a nice photo of Gavin as he tries on his hulk costume his grandma and grandaddy gave him. He was so excited..sweet boy. Happiness amplified with photography? I think so...I'm smiling right now.

Remember...Christmas is about Jesus, about being with family, and about cherishing the time we have with them. Remember your camera this week for goodness sake.

Have a wonderful Friday and a Merry Christmas.

Thanks for reading!


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Friday, December 12, 2014

A Time To Be Born & A Time To Die

Summarizing today's post: Reflecting for a moment on the seasons of life, the importance of photography, & a few tips for taking photos of aging structures.

photography, firetower
shot at 50mm, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/400th of a second
Driving past the old firetower in Winterville, NC a few weeks ago, I decided to stop and take a few photographs of the old decaying structure. 

Placed in service many years ago, the old beat up tower just stands there, blocked off to keep the public from venturing too close. To keep it company, about 25 yards away, stands massive tree...decaying as well. Appropriate, I thought.

I love taking photos of old structures--barns, buildings, and old houses. They seem to tell a silent story without anyone there. Once a vibrant part of the community full of life, now they are forgotten. Sad...and worth a moment of your time.

The best time to capture images of structures such as these is in the late afternoon, about an hour before sunset. You need to do nothing special, the sun low on the horizon will be all the special effect that you need. Position yourself so that the sun is at your back, or over to the side slightly. Then click away. You'll be surprised at what you can produce. 

I feel that I am paying respect to an old abandoned house when I pause and bother to take a photo of it. So many just drive right past it (including me 99% of the time) without even a glance. Just think of all the time and energy put into building it 100+ years ago. Now the creation is returning to earth gradually to join it's creator.

In Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, the good Lord gives us some powerful words. There is a time and place for everything. Seasons of life. "A time to be born, and a time to die" ring in my mind. They were read by our pastor during my grandfather's funeral just last week.

Grandaddy "Rudy" Thompson followed my grandmother to heaven only 3 months after she passed (see here). We all loved them dearly and miss them terribly. Words cannot express my emotions, so I'm not going to try. But I know they are in a much better place, free from pain and with God. And we will see them again real soon.

Going thru my recent photos, I thought of Grandaddy when I found the photograph of the old abandoned firetower. They are alike in the sense that they are both at the end of their lives ("...a time to die"), but totally unalike in the way the old tower has been left to decay all alone.

I am so glad for our mom and dad, aunt (my dad's sister) and uncle, and the core group of caregivers who were there with him during Grandaddy's last days. He was nothing close to "abandoned", and I thank God for giving these family members (and yes, we consider the caregivers as family) the heart to be so close to him. He, along with our grandmother, where given the respect and love they deserved at the end of their lives.

Give notice to the aging buildings and decaying structures on the roadside as you drive past them today. Keep your eyes open, and camera with you of course. Taking a photo of them might give you a new appreciation.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend,



Friday, December 5, 2014

Where Are You Going?

Summarizing today's post: A quick look at the path your life is on, whether or not you are finding happiness, & (of course) some photography tips.

photography, cotton field, road
shot at 24mm, ISO 200, f/3.8, 1/5000th of a sec
Let's take a moment as we approach the end of 2014 to look at the "road less traveled". (The phrase has just about reached cliché status, but I still like to refer to it.)

Before we head into a new year in just a few weeks, it's a good idea to look back and see where you have been during the year. A time for reflection is always healthy. If you like where you have been, that's awesome. You can't ask for better...don't change a thing in 2015.

What do you see when you look at the above photograph? I see a road not too many people would bother to go down. It's a little rocky and uneven. It would certainly be a much smoother ride to stay on the highway, wouldn't you agree? [I took this photo in Wilson county a few weeks ago after driving thru what seemed to be miles of cotton fields. It was a beautiful sight. It was late in the day, with nice spotty cloud cover, which made for a nice photograph.] 

Here's what I see. 

I see a road/path with potential written all over it. I see absolutely stunning views all around...on both sides of it (in the form of bright white cotton) and in the sky surrounding it. While, yes, the road is a bit worn and weathered, it is not my focal point. I would definitely spend some time driving down this road. I believe the reward is worth the bumpy ride.

So has 2014 been good to you? Are you happy at your job? Spending as much time with the family as you like? Is your health where you want it to be? Are you saving enough for retirement? Spending enough time with God? Are you making room for some ME time? In other words... Are you happy?

Lots of questions. We are all on a different path in life, so there are many questions to address. It's important to reflect. And then if you see an area that needs changing, then--by all means--develop a plan to make things better. 

Have you ever thought about diverting off the highway? 

Make a plan today to make small steps towards a happier existence in 2015. You don't have to set the world on fire, or make a radical move. Simply make small adjustments to your daily life...5 or 10 minutes a day...towards whatever it is that would ultimately give you a better quality of life.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

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