Sweeten the Deal

Children are my main subjects when it comes to portrait photography.

In my experience, very few children are totally keen and relaxed and eager in front of the camera. Ideally, their parents are in the adjacent room sitting on the couch very relaxed, flicking through my photo books and product displays, while I start my little routine, where I take the children into the studio and ask them to help me set up this and that and move a chair and turn on the studio lights.

But even so, most children can feel very ‘put on the spot’ in that situation. And I am supposed to, within minutes, make them totally love the situation, me and the camera. I do admit that I am struggling with this part of my job.

We may use the big mirror to check their hair and practice silly faces. I have some props, sometimes parents bring a book or a toy, but mostly their brief is to have the child smiling their happiest, most natural smile and looking fully into the camera.

I find that even the very shy, fearful or grumpy children do everything you ask them to, but they will not look at me or the camera and they certainly will not smile a natural happy smile. I have gotten some very odd looks by parents while I go through my repertoire of children’s songs or nursery rhymes where I appear to make silly mistakes with the words, I’m getting inexplicable hick-ups, speak in animal language and have even resorted to the fart-app. I know, I know.

Most children will eventually laugh, but they will not look at me or the camera, even if their life was to depend on it. I have tried lens buddies, frankly I’m not a fan, they may work really well with very small children but with the 3-5 year old-ish ones I’ve used them for: no such luck.

Eventually I realized I have to sweeten the deal. I’ve heard of photographers who use M&Ms as bribe, but I’m not sure I want to photoshop chocolate off teeth in post production, plus, these days a lot of children are allergic to chocolate.

Years ago I found an article and had made a note about it. Finally I have re-created this great idea. It’s pretty self explanatory: buy Pez dispensers, use scissors to cut a slither off their feet on either side, slide into flash hot-shoe of camera.

Because it’s such a small item (unlike most lens buddies), the children will have to focus to really see it. And Pez lollies are gluten and lactose free, therefore not an issue with food allergies. And no chocolate teeth, yay.

So there’s my 5 cents worth of wisdom when it comes to photographing children: sweeten the deal:)

 

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Not Like Van Gogh

Time again to say thank you to all and everyone who goes through the troubles of following the journey of az pictured, whether it be on the blog, Facebook, Instagram or with the Lens Cap Chronicle, my very own newsletter.

This journey would only be half as much fun if I had to make it alone. I may only be a small business, but I put my heart in soul into my work. Not like Vincent Van Gogh, who said ‘I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.’ At least I hope soπŸ˜‰

So here’s to you all and my thank you comes with a little visual treat, showing all the latest Instagram posts of mine, that have been featured on some of the collaboration fun sites that I follow.

If you want to check them out and get some creative juices flowing: @hiyapapayaphotoaday, @rainbow_wall, @tv_neatly, @shotwithlove, @seekthepositive, @365_today, @keepingwiththetimes, @its_my_week

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Free Your Photos

I know, I know, I keep saying it too often. But there you go, it’s my mantra. As soon as I have more than 200 photos on my phone I get twitchy and start sorting, deleting, backing-up and printing! Don’t even talk about my computer ….

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Yes, printing. It seems to get largely forgotten these days. And seriously, I have no idea why. So when I spotted this large collage frame for very little money, it was mine. Very little money is good, of course, but it also has its downsides (my framer probably rolls around on the floor just about now, in despair).

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Let’s list the good things: the price of course, the frame itself is quite sturdy, the glass is not glass but perspex, which makes the whole thing less dangerous and lighter, and the two bevel edged mats inside the frame are cut perfectly and neatly and look pretty. And a variety of sizes for photos are available. Noice.

The not so great things: a variety of sizes for photos are available (sometimes, having too much choice is not a good thing), the hooks in the back are hm a bit flimsy maybe, time will tell, there is only one piece of backing, which means the whole thing will warp, the photos will warp, even the little ones. And with so many photos, it will be a fiddly job to get them perfectly straight and have nothing sliding around.

But alas, this frame was meant to be a decoration item to display some of my photography in the rumpus/guest room/games room/waiting room just outside my studio, and as I intent to change photos regularly, it would do for now.

It took me quite a while to select photos that somehow work together and work nicely with the colour scheme of the room.

Once I had them printed I took my time to position them, stick them down with photo friendly glue and sticky tape. I inserted a second large piece of backing to really fill the back and make the whole thing tighter and prevent warping. And voila.

As I’m always trying to support small business, and handmade as such, and Mum’s in business especially, two pillow covers are from TWIG, and the mobile is from CocoCooie.

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Now this waiting area for siblings or parents while I’m busy doing a shoot in the adjacent room is very comfortable indeedΒ :)

 

 


Setting the Angel free

Expanding my collection of dog silhouettes, I’ve added some marble dogs. A customer inquired whether I have any designs that are not ‘that colourful’ but rather monochrome. As I didn’t I felt it was high time to change that, especially since marble is one of those timeless classics that will never really be out of fashion when it comes to interior design. In fact, 2015 saw once more the rise of this elegant material not only as floor and wall covering but also as material for a multitude of decor items, from marble cubes to marble fruit, plant containers, clocks and even tea cups, and it is sure to be a trend to hang around for some time.

So, marble. I was doing some research, and there are about a gazillion different types of marble, which you can look up here, if you’re interested, however, for me, the only name that pops into my mind is Carrara marble. Carrara, Italy. The city Carrara is in Tuscany, a bit north of Florence, and, interestingly, it’s motto is Fortitudo mea in rota (Latin: “My strength is in the wheel”). I suppose it makes sense, considering that the wheel would have played a big role in the marble production for centuries.

I have never really owned any marble items, other than the black cube which you can see in the photos next to the marble dogs, and whilst I have been in Tuscany, I have never been to Carrara. However, I can claim some first-hand knowledge and photos, as my husband was there in 1989. Obviously, marble blocks are big, and the pictures, apart from the wiring and some machinery, remind me a lot of Asterix and Obelix comics:)

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Clearly, it is quite a beautiful product. I’m probably reaching a bit far when I quote Michelangelo here: ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’ If nothing else I managed to weave this quote, which long has been a favourite, into a blog post of mine:)

As always, my marble dogs are available in my Made It store.

 


Getting Ready for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away.

As a Mum I don’t much care about this ‘Mother of all Days to celebrate Mums’, although I confess I did drop a hint or two. With soccer season in full swing I’m usually just glad if we have time to sit together for a nice lunch or afternoon coffee.

My own Mum is far away, and any gift is long in the mail, and a double gift it is, too, as her birthday is May 7th.

As a photographer, Mother’s Day has been on my mind for months. A few very organized clients have purchased Mini-Shoot Gift Vouchers and a fair few of my photography greeting cards will be given to Mums, too.

For the first time I’ve participated in a shopping guide, and what a fine shopping guide it is. Check it out: Mother’s Day with madeit.com.au. 21 pages of fabulous items and ideas, but page 3 is my favourite, just saying:)

And of course, being the Mum of a furbaby counts too on Mother’s Day.

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Let’s not forget Dad’s though. I seriously feel sorry for any father who has a birthday on Mother’s Day. That’s where this little beauty comes in.

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Above acrylic blocks and the dog silhouette print are available in my store. For session gift vouchers or photography cards please contact me directly.

 

 

 

 

 


A Lament Over Chocolate

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The two (in my opinion) main chocolate feasts of the year, Easter and Christmas, coincide with the hotter months of the year. It’s a really bad combination, because who likes to eat melted chocolate?

For most Australians this is the norm, they grew up with it, they don’t know any different, for but for an European flower like myself, the switched seasons are still one of the harder aspects to overcome Down Under, even after all the years we’ve been here.

When the kids were little we lived in Canberra, where spring and autumn generally deliver a pleasant 20 degree temperature difference between day and night, and where winters do get well below 0 degrees. It made perfect sense that the Easter Bunny brought new warm house shoes and a new winter pajama every year. And the early morning Easter Egg Hunts were a pleasant, non-perspiring affair, and chocolates melted only once tightly gripped by small children’s hands, not during the 2 minutes ‘hiding’ in the grass or in this or that garden bed.

All different now, even though the kids are older now and the ‘hunt’ is done in a jiffy. Still, this Easter Sunday we turned on the air condition around lunch time, because the chocolate eggs were melting in their baskets.

Which gave me the idea of a shoot. And rise to the lament over chocolate. Because chocolate is not what it used to be. If you delve into this subject you will find many consumer sites that complain about changes in recipes, changes in production processes, changes in quality of well-known chocolates that have been around since their childhood, and are just now … different.

So for this shoot, in my head, I had this idea of a chocolate Easter Bunny melting, the chocolate dripping down, oozing, glossy, wonderful, delectable chocolate. Judging by how fast chocolate melts in children’s hands and in the sun, I thought this would be no problem whatsoever. I set up the studio, set up the chocolate Bunny, got the camera ready and started melting the chocolate with the help of a hair dryer.

The bunny started looking exactly how I’d imagined it: glossy and chocolately melty. And that was it. After that stage no more melting. Eventually the bunny just collapsed. I tried it several more times, different brands, different price range, I used some chocolate Santas that I had kept for this experiment … You see the result. The better brand chocolate didn’t even get glossy, but left a puddle of yuk at the bottom, lovely fatty yuk. Brrrr.

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My scientist husband remarked that it was either the hair dryer or the fact that it was chocolate that had been melted previously to get into its shape that my experiment failed. He’s used to experiments failing, I’m not so much. So for now my enthusiasm is a little deflated, which doesn’t mean I’ll try a different approach some time in the future. Meh.

 

 


For the Love of Beer

Digital restorations of old photographs can be tricky. Some can be outright nightmarish. The more one zooms into the image, the more damage becomes visible. Somehow it becomes quite obsessive to fix ‘everything’ and I have had nights where I’ve been dreaming in pixels after a long session at the computer during the day.

In this beer advertising from the 1950s, the very pretty model with the very elegant hands holds this for today’s standards very unbeer-ish glass in the air, a bit like a chalice. It’s a fine piece of photography, but the 8×10″ print has suffered over time.

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As always, my main goal is to get the digital restoration as close to what the image would have looked like on the day it was printed as possible. There’s a fine line in overdoing it.

In the original, the only things in sharp focus are the hands and the glass, the bottle was deliberately left slightly blurry, and the face of the model was totally out of focus. I did not change that, but made sure I worked very neatly on the hands and glass, which are the main focus.

In the close-ups you can see the damage, the scratches, all the little spots and specks, that needed to go.

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And the fingerprint. It always makes my heart skip a beat, when I find fingerprints on photos. Yes, paper and inks back then were different, but please, please, please don’t ever handle photos, old or new, it doesn’t matter, unless you hands are clean and dry, and hold by the edges only. The white glove thing is a myth, I have attached a link to that here, if you’re interested in reading up on that.

And I have done some research on the beer, which is a fine brew from the Swan Brewery in Perth. You can purchase this very label for a reasonable amount on e-bay, if that takes your fancy.

Love the history part of old photos:)

 


Melting Crayons

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Yes, it seems they are everywhere, certainly Pinterest is brimming with photos of great and successfully created Melted Crayon Art.

The madeit blog kindly did a ‘how to’, in their first of hopefully many more monthly DIY project how to’s. I had been mulling this melting crayon idea around in my head for some time, had wanted to tackle it in the school holidays, but alas ….

On an otherwise rather middle range exciting Wednesday I could have done the accounting and some cleaning and tidying but the ‘Crayation’ beckoned.

Since the kids are no more little there are no more bits of crayons in the house. I got two packs at the last grocery dash. And I already had a canvas, an oblong shape which I’ve had for ages with no real idea what to do with it. Now it time had come.

As a photographer, I like negative space, my cropping is usually such that the subject is not in the middle, but rather off center and even to the very sides of the image. It’s a thing.

And on Pinterest I spotted a few melted crayon images using negative space as well, negative space as in shapes and outlines of names etc. As the oblong shape of the canvas kind of lend itself to something longish I attempted a dolphin.

The blog also had pointed out that chasing bits of half melted crayon on kitchen bench and floor was an undesirable side-effect once the hair dryer is getting its work-out. Duly noted, which is why I decided to not break my crayons into pieces but somehow stick them on the canvas. Good old blue tac helped with that. Before that, I drew a rough outline of a dolphin with pencil on the canvas, and peeled the paper off the crayons. THAT was a really annoying and time consuming part … almost went back to accounting …. almost.

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In sections, I went around the canvas, sticking complimenting colours of crayons on and, with the hair dryer on low, started melting the crayons. Generally, it worked really well, however, eventually the crayons just melt too much – and yes, blue tac melts, too – so the angle of the hairdryer did matter a lot. Regardless, many times bits of breaking off melting crayon just flew across the canvas.

You can see the trails of these runaway pieces in the picture.

After I finished the whole outline of the dolphin, I used some crayons to put some extra drips and swirls into the paintwork. Crayons melt really quickly, and dry really quickly, too, so one has to be reasonably fast.

I took a few photos before, but got totally absorbed during the process, and quite dirty, and my camera and dirty fingers are a no no. Plus I was literally running out of time, as this dolphin took me a good 2 hours to finish …. dinner and sports drives were waiting.

Whilst I love the pools of melted colour, really cool actually, I would not recommend doing this activity with children. I burnt my fingers quite a bit and still have crayon blue under my fingernails today. And if you’re not careful and are holding the hairdryer too sideways or too low the hot wax does splatter everywhere.

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But I’m quite pleased with this attempt and the dolphin now keeps me company in the office and makes me smile while I do some bookkeeping.

 

 


madeit in Australia

madeit.com.au is an e-commerce site dedicated to showcase handmade items created by crafty people who physically reside in Australia. It doesn’t matter whether sellers do create for a living or as a hobby, as long as it’s their creation, it can be listed in their store on the madeit website.

As the world is big and I’m not quite ready to expose myself to it, I liked this idea and so az pictured set up a store about a year ago.

I was still doing some markets in 2015 and spending a lot of energy to get my stall stocked and a lot of time being present on said markets. Unfortunately, I think, apart from a few very successful upmarket designer-type markets, the down the road once-a-month small to middle-size market is pretty much dead, a lament repeated by countless other market stall holders I became friends with. Market insurance and market stall fees keep going up, customers continue to be happy spending money on food and anything to do with the kids, but by large, they hold their purses tight. And if they shop they expect to be able to use their credit card, pay wave, chip and what not … all of which is not that easy and uncomplicated and seldom free and mostly not feasible for small businesses.

Anyway. Since I was still focusing on markets I didn’t put too much effort into my store on madeit and – no surprise – had a bit of a slow start.

Towards the end of last year I stepped it up, and madeit itself has undergone some changes and began the new year with some well thought-through and exciting changes, with a new look newsletter, improved blog and quality presence on social media platforms. All makes sense and looks awesome and it’s so exciting to be a part of it.

And to top the excitement, January has brought me a couple of features in the shopping guides and a stint as a guest pick-editor plus a few sales … insert happy little dance emoticon.

Following madeit more closely has also exposed me to the craft and creativity of other sellers and their fabulous products. A few birthdays are already sorted:)

If you like to support handmade in Australia, check out madeit.com.auΒ :)

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Love Pulses

Since 1960, the United Nations promote international awareness and action on certain issues by creating special observances designated to days, weeks, years or decades. Scrolling down the list, one can find such wide ranging topics as Human Rights, Co-Operation, Anti-Apartheid, Volunteers, Thanksgiving, Microcredit, Physics, Freshwater, Rapprochement of Cultures, Natural Fibers, Family Farming, Crystallography, the Potato and many more.

While 2015 brought us the Year of Light and Light-based Technologies as well as the Year of Soils, 2016 is the Year of the Pulses. I confess, I didn’t see it coming. I should have remembered an interview I saw years ago, where Matt Preston, the well-known, mostly colourfully suited and tied food critic and judge on Masterchef, was raving about ancient grains and announced Quinoa as the true trend for the upcoming (then 2012) year, and sure enough, we got the International Year of Quinoa in 2013.

Maybe I should have paid attention to the recipes in magazines over winter, and the ‘super home-cooking ideas’ from a certain supermarket, because, looking back, there were a lot of peas and lentils and the like. Hm. Well, we know now why.

Funny enough when I googled ideas for images for the Year of the Pulses towards the end of last year, I found quite the confusion, as many times it was the Year of the Pulse, or the Year of Pulses, a funny little translation mishap possibly, which in most cases seems to have been rectified by now.

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In any case, 2016 and Pulses it is.

Stock up on your pulses, ‘get creative’ with green and yellow peas, lentils, chickpeas and eat ‘delicious, nutritious and sustainable’, as the slogan of the Global Pulse Confederation tells us. Yes, there is such a thing.

Well, I’ve started off with a little bit of creativity, we’ll see how it translates into the kitchen.

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