Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Photography Websites of 2012

As we are getting ready to ring in the new year, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sum up my Top Ten Photography Websites of 2012.

National Geographic Photo of the Day

This one does not need much explanation.  The National Geographic is well, the Super Bowl of photographers.  I can only hope that one day my work would have the honor of gracing the pages of the National Geographic.  I check out the Photo of the Day often, but subscribe to the hard copy of the National Geographic Traveler.  I really enjoy it as it pairs photography and travel ~ my two loves.

Paint the Moon

Annie is the photographer behind Paint the Moon.  Simply put, she is amazing.  She creates these magical photoshop actions and textures that are worth every penny.  They take what would be hours of photoshop editing and tie it up in a neat little bow that cuts your time into almost nothing.

The CoffeeShop Blog

While Paint the Moon has actions and textures available for purchase, Rita at the CoffeeShop Blog provides all her actions and textures for free... yes.. FREE.  She does have a donation button though, and I highly recommend donating to her blog should you use her actions.

Beryl Ayn Young

A website catered to Moms who just want to be able to take good photos of their kids.  She has a mailing list that sends a dose of love from your camera straight to your inbox.  They are cute suggestions that help to see your camera in a different light.  She also hosts classes called Momtographie, based out of Sterling, VA.

"Momtographie is a beginner dslr photography class customized for families in the Washington Metropolitan area with dslr cameras who want to take better photos of the special kiddos in their lives. Designed for the busy mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, or uncle on the go, this 4 hour jumpstart course will deliver the basics to get that camera out of AUTO mode and working for you in any situation."

B&H Photo

I get 90% of my photography equipment from B&H.  Their sales representatives are very informative and helpful and they almost always have exactly what I need in stock.  The prices are usually right on par with Amazon as well.

Meridian Professional Imaging

I've tried out different professional printing labs, and this is the one I use all the time now.  Their prices are great and they include color retouching at no extra charge.  Everything I have ordered from them has come perfectly packaged and the shipping time has a relatively quick turnaround.  And the most important part, the quality of the prints ~ superb.


I first became aware of FotoDC through the Cherry Blossom Photo Contest last year.  They have contests, meetings, seminars, lectures and FotoWeekDC in November of every year.  Even if you are not in/from the DC area, there is plenty online to peruse and look at for it to be worth your time.

Photo Naturalist by Steve Berardi

Steve has some of the best Nature and Travel photography that I have seen.  He also puts out a very helpful and informative newsletter that you can have sent via email.

Tony Northrup's DSLR How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

I was fortunate enough to get this book on Amazon when it was free, however I would pay double or triple what it goes for had I not.  It is a very basic, easy to understand book.  If you are new to your DSLR or want to take your camera out of Automatic and into some of the Manual modes, GET THIS BOOK!

Traveling Hearts Photography ETSY Store

Yes, I am shamelessly plugging my ETSY store.  I just lowered all the prices and put a bunch of new photographs up ~ so check it out!  All of my photos can be special ordered as well in different sizes.  I just ordered a 20x30 print of this for myself.  My first print of my own work ~ I figured it was time!

Wishing you a blessed and prosperous New Year and I look greatly look forward to spending 2013 with you all.

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

Friday, December 28, 2012

Photography Pen Pals

I just signed up to be a pen pal after reading a blog I subscribe to from Diamonds, Dog Tags, and Diapers.  What a great idea!  Imagine, writing an actual pen and ink letter... I am excited to be able to take part in something that so many of us no longer incorporate in our lives (myself included).

I wanted to take this opportunity to open this up to you, my readers.  But I am adding a little spin to it.  I want to start a photography pen pal group.  Each month I will have a theme.  You will take a photo that fulfills the theme requirements, print it out (which so many of us fail to do) and then snail mail it to your pen pal. 

© Corrie M Avila

Email me with your name and full address to and I will match everyone with a photography pen pal.  I will then send out more details regarding the themes and the nuts and bolts of the project.  Your addresses will be kept safe and secure and will not be used for any marketing purposes or sold in any way.

I am so excited to be able to do this and hope you will join in!  I will be taking addresses from now until Saturday January 5, 2013.

One more note ~ I came up with a new way to sign-off... what do you think?  If you are not sure what I am talking about read my post here...

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

Thursday, December 27, 2012

After Christmas Glow

My house is eerily quiet as our last visiting family member just walked out the door.  We had a grand total of eleven people in our home for the Christmas holidays.  Family came from four different states to be with us <3  No matter how hard I try to make the Christmas holidays stress free and laid back, it never happens.  I had all these grand ideas and ambitions but wasn't able to do any of them....  However, even without all the glitter and glam, we had a fantastic time full of yummy food and happy hearts.

Christmas Cookies Basking in the Lights of the Tree
ISO 1600 ~ 117mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/50 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Decorating the Cookies
ISO 1600 ~ 105mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/25 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I must have been a good girl because Santa brought me a record player, so now I have something to play all the vinyl that I have been collecting from thrift and vintage stores over the past few months.  Nothing can replace the pure sound of a 1970's record playing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  I find myself reflecting on the things that are important in my life and making sure I let go of the unimportant and unnecessary stresses...
Vinyl Records (the best!)
© Corrie M Avila

Most of what I was not able to accomplish was photographically related.  Even though Christmas is over, I am leaving my tree, the lights, and the decorations up so I can capture our holiday season with my camera.  Now that all is quiet, it is the perfect opportunity to unwind and reflect with my camera.

© Corrie M Avila

How do you deal with managing all that goes into the holidays, while still trying to accomplish photographic goals?  I had dreams of photographing the kids all snuggled in their pajamas in front of the tree Christmas Eve and then family photos all relaxed in front of the fireplace.  But instead I ended up with blurs, crooked shots, and half faces... Something I have discovered is that I usually have to make a decision.  I ask myself, "Which is more important for the moment?"  Is it being a part of the moment or capturing the perfect shot?  As I have said before, my family always comes first, hence the nice action montage I now have stored safely on my hard drive.

M super excited Christmas Morning
ISO 400 ~ 28mm ~ f/4.0 ~ 1/60 sec
© Corrie M Avila

G equally excited
ISO 400 ~ 28mm ~ f/4.0 ~ 1/60 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Enjoy the after Christmas glow and remember the blurry, unfocused, and candid shots are just as important as the perfect ones.  Enjoy your holidays, your family (whether near or far), and cherish your blessings.

Angel Ornament
© Corrie M Avila

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season and the Merriest Christmas

Corrie <3

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Finding Joy through Grief

Friday was one of the most traumatic days our nation has seen since 9-11.  The trauma that Sandy Hook Elementary endured will be engrained in every one of our hearts and minds forever.  I stayed away from the media for most of the weekend because of how heart wrenching this is.  I spent time sitting in my home feeling helpless, wishing I could do something to change the awful reality... but knowing nothing I did would change what already had happened.  Even though I couldn't change the past, I could change my present ~ so this weekend I spent a lot of time with my family, reflecting, cherishing, hugging, hoping, and loving.  I watched as a nation who was unable to process the 27 deaths (20 being children) at Sandy Hook Elementary, in turn, cling to their family and loved ones.

This weekend was packed full.  I had a maternity photo shoot in Washington DC, birthday parties to go to, Christmas gifts to make, and countless other errands to run... but rather than getting caught up in my "to-do" list, I put my focus back on my family.  Instead of getting frustrated with M for taking extra time getting ready, I sat down and just gave him a hug.  When G asked me to read another book, I happily obliged relishing in the extra snuggle time.  As I am typing this, M came over and asked for the Muppet song ~ so you guessed it, I am typing this blog listening to M sing to "Are You a Man or a Muppet."  We did puzzles, went on walks, read books, completed crafts, took photos together... 

Spending time with my Favorite 3 Guys doing a Puzzle.... 
and Ignoring Everything Else
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Enjoy your family ~ cherish your family.  Don't let this be a short term change based solely on traumatic events, but rather make it a life change.  We have disconnected from our families based largely on the technological world we now live in.  Put the phones, ipods, computers, and video games down and unplug yourself for a while... you never know how long these angels will be with us.  I don't know about you, but I never want to have regrets.

M at the Dentist being Mr. Hot Stuff
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

When I first started this blog, I created a signature of "Happy Shooting" to sign off with.  In light of the movie theater shooting back in July, the shooting that occurred right in front of the Empire State Building in August, and now this massacre that happened in Newtown, CT.... I will be changing my signature.  I'm not sure what it will be yet... if you have any suggestions, let me know!!

Flag at Half Mast in Honor of the Victims from the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary
Taken at my Son's Elementary School on Monday
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

To all the families and friends of Sandy Hook Elementary and the town of Newtown, CT ~ our hearts are broken, our prayers are with you.  We will never forget <3

Solemnly Signing Off...

Corrie <3 

Monday, December 10, 2012

again with the "lasts".....

This post is completely off topic and filled with wonderful ramblings ~ don't say you weren't appropriately warned :)

I am desperately trying to move forward into the Christmas season, but I feel like I am moving one step forward and two steps back...  As if life went into fast forward the beginning of November and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Being that we were in New York City for the first week of December, we postponed most activities we normally do after Thanksgiving.  We came home to a house still adorned with Fall and Thanksgiving items.  It has been slow motion moving forward from here...

  • Dec 5 ~ Arrive home from NYC exhausted, but happy to be home in our own beds
  • Dec 6 ~ Happily opened up 6 of the doors to our Lego Advent Calendar we bought for the boys.  Making sure to explain that we were only opening up 6 because we missed the first five days.
Lego Advent Calendar
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila
  • Dec 7 ~ Went out and bought the Christmas Tree, but didn't have a stand... and didn't realize we were missing the stand until we were home with the tree.  (insert great use for tupperware)  Reminded boys that we are only opening up one advent door each day ~ this resulted in the end of the world for my 3 y/o.
Our sad sad tree...
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila
  • Dec 8 ~ Our fantastic friends graciously lent us their extra tree stand and even delivered it to our front door (I am assuming the tupperware must have looked pretty pathetic).  Reminded the boys again that we only open up one door a day.  Less tears today.
  • Dec 9 ~ I then piled all the Thanksgiving items in a corner and my husband brought the Christmas boxes down.  Now insert Thanksgiving and Christmas hanging out in the Living Room in their respective bins.  As I intervene the opening of ALL the doors on the advent calendar, I am considering making it "disappear" until Christmas Eve ~ that way they can open them all and be done with it.
My Favorite Mr and Mrs Pilgrim
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila
  • Dec 10 ~ I FINALLY got all the Thanksgiving stuff packed away ~ only to realize it now doesn't fit.  Sigh, now I need another bin.  Advent calendar still exists and I only had to break up one fight over who's turn it was to open a door.

So now that we are current ~ the plan for tomorrow is to put up the lights while my oldest is in school to then be able to decorate when he comes home.  I can't wait to put up all of the decorations and be able to start shooting some dreamy Christmas photos <3

I also was scouring the internet for homemade Christmas gift ideas and came across a link to make a Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile ~ I plan on giving it a shot!  I bet it will make spectacular photos!!

On another note ~ while I was putting away the Thanksgiving items ~ the realization hit me that this we just had our "last" Thanksgiving here and will be going into our "last" Christmas.  Most people's lives are marked with births, deaths, decades, and seasons.  A military family's life is marked and run by tours.  The countdown is always on, even when it has yet to begin.  This move is the hardest so far because I have really settled into the area, made friends with some pretty incredible people,  my oldest has started real school with Kindergarten, and we have found a church (6 months before moving) that we love.

But even though I am teary eyed even as I type, I know I cannot dwell on this.  We have to live for the moment and take each day as it comes.  But it does make me want to pull my camera out more than usual to capture life as it is now.... so we don't forget <3

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Photojournalism or Failure to Act? ~ Subway death in NYC caught on Camera

My family and I just got back from spending our Holiday Vacation in New York City.  Early on Tuesday (12/4) morning, I took the subway down to Rockefeller Center to photograph the Christmas Tree before the sun came up.  I left our hotel room about 4:45 AM and took the subway downtown.  As I was walking the few avenues over to Rockefeller Center, I saw a news crew set up at the top of the 49th Street and 7th Avenue Subway.  It wasn't until later that I knew why....

Tomorrow marks one week since a NYC man was pushed to his death in front of a moving subway.  Initially this news did not shock me.  I'm not trying to sound morbid, but I know that this wasn't the first NYC subway death, nor will it be the last.  But what really caught my attention was the fact that the New York Post published a photo that was snapped seconds before the man was crushed to death by the oncoming subway train.  If you haven't seen the photo or read the article ~ please take a minute and read it here.  

 57th Street Subway
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

My first thought was who in the world took that photograph and why was that person not helping the man pull himself out?  I won't get too "social worker-y" on you, but that man in the subway was in shock.  Frozen in trauma and in fear looking at the oncoming train.  He CLEARLY needed help, even an outstretched hand would have been something... possibly saving his life.  But what does he have?  A photo of his imminent death.  A reminder to his family members of how horrible his last seconds were as he stared death in the face.

The photographer's name is R. Umar Abbasi and his story is that he saw the man on the subway tracks and chose to use his camera's flash to warn the subway driver that there was a problem on the tracks.  He also said that he was further down on the subway platform, too far to do anything.  According to the article and video in the above link by the NY Post, he also said he feared for himself because at one point the supposed perp was coming straight at him.  Abassi also redirects the questions to all the other people that were there closer to the victim.  Why didn't they help him?  

In an interview with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Drew, they discuss the possibility of the "Bystander Effect."  That the more people around, the less likely they are to help someone in need.  Abassi also speaks to the "armchair critics" saying we don't know what it was like because we weren't there.  

I don't know what lens he had on his camera, I don't know what his settings were.  He claims he didn't even know he had this shot until the police were looking at his photos trying to glean usable information in the to catch the perpetrator.  Lily O'Donnell writes an article supporting Abassi, stating that what he did was strictly photojournalism.  Read her article here.

70th Street and Broadway Subway
Taken one day after the Subway Death
ISO 1600 ~ 30mm ~ f/4.0 ~ 1/60sec
 © Corrie M Avila

What are your thoughts?  Is this photojournalism or neglect to help a human in crisis?  What would you do if in the same situation?

Deep in Thought....

Corrie <3

Here are some additional links:

Monday, December 3, 2012

the middle of the trip "bla's"

Have you ever felt like this?  You start a vacation or a much anticipated trip and you are so excited you can hardly contain it.  You are busy planning and packing and preparing and then you FINALLY arrive at your destination and shoot out of the gates like a racehorse at the sound of the bell.  Then comes the middle of the trip.  You are halfway done, so the pressure is on to make sure you squeeze in and accomplish everything you want to before time runs out.  I am trying to not focus on the inevitable end in sight, but to enjoy the moment.  But I'll be honest, I am fighting the "bla's" just a bit.

We've seen and accomplished so much so far here in New York City, but I still have yet to see my tree in Rockefeller Center.  We are so close to it, walking distance actually... but I have yet to even get a glimpse.  Part of the reason we have pushed it off is that the weekend is more heavily laden with tourists.  Is it so wrong not to want to share??  The weather hasn't helped either.  It's been foggy, cold, and windy... so we have tried to do more of the indoor things.  And on the one night we were going to walk over after seeing Spiderman on Broadway, BOTH of our cell phones had died.  Since my sister was watching the boys at our hotel, we figured we should head back... I never knew a Christmas tree could be so elusive...

My Oldest Hailing a Cab 
he was so surprised when it worked!
iPhone Photo edited with the Snapseed App on my phone

But today is the day!  It is supposed to be beautiful with temps up to the 60's and the sun will be shining.  We also have to leave our gorgous hotel room as we only had a two night booking.  Where will we go?  I have no idea, but at noon, you can bet we will be checking "hotel tonight" again to find a new room.  I saw one listed yesterday called the Library Hotel.  The rooms all honor the Dewey Decimal system and the entire second floor is a reading room.  How AMAZING is that??

Well, enough blogging, it is time to get out there and get reacquainted with my Tree <3

Oh, and if you missed the link by Beryl Ayn Young I added to my Facebook page, check it out.  I think this photographer does a fantastic job explaining how to achieve beautiful photos incorporating Christmas lights and bokeh.

Happy Shooting

Corrie <3

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Top 10 Must See Places in New York City during the Christmas Holidays

Since I did not have the time to put this list together before leaving on our trip, I figure a 3 hour train ride (with wifi) is the perfect time to do it.  Traveling by train often gets overlooked since there are so many travel options now available.  I have to say that having the luxury of being able to stretch out (and having our favorite apple products with us) makes traveling more than just a means to an end.

All four of us ~ I'm blogging while the rest of the family are on iPads
iPhone Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Top 10 Must See Places in NYC during the Christmas Holidays
  1. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree ~ if you haven't read my previous post, click here.  There is something so magical about the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza.  If you've seen photos, or watched it on TV, trust me ~ they do not do it justice.  It is worth the trip to see this in person.
  2. Top of the Rock ~ Slightly less known than the Empire State Building, but a great view nonetheless.  Also, so close to Rockefeller Center, that I'm hoping there is a nice view of the Tree and the Ice Skating.  This will be my first time going to the Top of the Rock.
  3. Broadway Show ~ Either purchase tickets in advance (if show, date, and time are not flexible) or go to a TKTS booth on the day of.  They offer discount tickets for same day showings.  We are going to hit TKTS when we get into NYC ~ I am hoping for Mary Poppins, but there are so many good shows right now, I'm sure we will find something for the whole family.
  4. Jane's Carousel ~ This is a must see for any NYC visit.  The carousel was built in 1922 and recently was moved to Brooklyn, NY.  It is set on the East River and is encased in a glass structure so the view is magnificent.
  5. Conte's Market ~ I may be biased because my Uncle is the Conte in "Conte's Market," but pay them a visit, you will not be disappointed!  In a society of chain stores and fast food, Conte's Market stands out and reminds us of what NYC once was.  Not only do they sell meat, but they also sell sandwiches, lasagna, and some of the best roast beef I've ever had (cooked right in the store).  You are treated as a person and not a number.  And don't be too suprised if you come in and there are some very handsome gentlemen singing in Italian and playing music.  If you are lucky, you may get a glimpse of Midnight, the black cat who protects "her" store :)  Conte's Market can be found on E 89th Street and York Ave.
  6. Grand Central Terminal ~ Grand Central is celebrating their 100th Anniversary and they also are having their 11th Annual Holiday Train Show.  I believe it is free and my boys will LOVE it!
  7. Bryant Park ~ Nestled right next to the New York Public Library, this is a park that hosts movie nights during the summer and an ice skating rink during the winter.  You've heard of ice skating in Central Park and Rockefeller Plaza, but this is slightly less known and therefore less touristy.
  8. Radio City Christmas Spectacular ~ This show runs from Dec 1 through Dec 30 at the Radio City Music Hall.  I have never personally been, but everyone that I know that has gone has loved it. 
  9. Fifth Avenue and Times Square ~ If you've seen "Miracle on 34th Street," you know what I'm talking about.  Christmas window displays are everywhere and the stores are decked out in their finest.
  10. Central Park ~ You have all the typical attractions here, but something you must do is to go on a horse and carriage ride through central park.  It is romantic, whimsical, and full of Christmas Magic <3
On another note ~ we are doing something we've never done before... we are going into NYC without hotel reservations.  My sister (who lives in Manhattan) suggested we use an app called "hotel tonight."  It has many major US cities to choose from.  The rooms are discounted because the hotels are trying to fill up to capacity.  The benefit ~ spending less money on your NYC hotel, the downfall ~ you have to wait until noon on the DAY OF to book your room.  So being that it just passed noon, we now have a room for two nights and we are paying 50% less than the listed price.  I'll keep you updated on that :)

Please feel free to add anything to the list in the comments section ~ we are here for five days and would love more suggestions!

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Corrie's... uhh, I mean, Rockefeller Center's Christmas Tree

For those of you who don't know, the tree that is annually put up in Rockefeller Center, well that is my tree <3  I've been in love with this tree since I was a little girl.  Last night they had the official tree lighting event in New York City.  The last time I saw the tree in person I was small ~ real small...

Rockefeller Center, NYC
circa 1986
© Corrie M Avila

This photo is special to me not only because of the tree but also because it includes my dad, my brother, and myself.  Since my dad passed away when I was young, the absence of him in my life is only illuminated by his absence in photographs.  So when I see a photo of something special, and he is in it too, it puts such a smile in my heart.  I also love the fact that it looks like my dad has a death grip on my jacket ~ he was probably trying to keep me from climbing on an angel or something :)

This year we figured it was time to go as a family and see New York City in all it's holiday splendor.  We get to spend five glorious days in Manhattan and guess what is number one on my list?  Yep, my tree <3

I will be blogging about my "must-see" holiday list for New York City.  If you haven't been, you must go... 

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Craziness

Hoping everyone had a nice Thanksgiving Holiday last week.  We've had a month full of battling cooties, lots of family visitors, and finishing up with my youngest almost knocking out his front tooth.  Needless to say it has been pretty much insanity over here.

My mom and I took the boys to the playground after taking my Aunt to the train station in DC.  As the boys were playing my youngest face-planted and his teeth sadly took the full force of his fall.  I took this photo to send to my father in law who is a dentist to get a phone consult... we iced it and were off to the ER because his front tooth was displaced.  He will make it and it looks like the tooth should firm up, but it was quite the scare.

© Corrie M Avila

I would have never taken this photo to blog about, but since I did take it, I am sharing.... As scary as it was to go through this, I love how big brother is looking from the distance.  He was heartbroken and drew a picture for my little guy while I was at the ER.  These guys are my life and I am so blessed and thankful for them.

In the meantime, if you are looking for something to read click here.  I had the privilege of guest blogging at VA is for Bloggers over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Stay sane in the midst of the holiday craziness and remember to be thankful for the important things <3

Happy Shooting

Corrie <3

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Coffee, Java, and Cafe

To say "I love coffee" would be a grandious understatement.  If you know me personally, I don't just love coffee, but have an infatuation.  I worked at Starbucks on and off during my time in college.  There was something about the sound of the coffee beans grinding in the morning, or the first shot pulled and watching it pour out like liquid gold.  OH, and the aroma <3  That heavenly aroma just blankets around me....

self portrait <3
ISO 200 ~ 60mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/80 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Something else I love about coffee is it transcends cultures and language.  I remember sitting on a street  in Paris and drinking a cup of coffee with a fresh croissant.  If I close my eyes I can imagine myself there again... in the moment.  When you travel, there is coffee.  When you are meeting someone new, there is the mutual ground of having coffee.  When I lived in Sault Sainte Marie, MI, I was invited out to coffee by my neighbor.  I was a new mom, in the throws of winter (coming from Miami), with no friends.  And this kind gesture created friendships I carry to this day.

the three parts of an espresso shot ~ (yes, I am a coffee nerd!)
ISO 200 ~ 60mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/13 sec
© Corrie M Avila

With winter on the horizon, I have been wondering what types of things I can photograph as I wait for Spring (and more importantly the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC).  Being in Northern Virginia, we have cold, but we don't get much snow.  While there is a certain appeal to the landscape in winter tones, it does not have the color that blankets everything in the other seasons.

my favorite drink right now ~ a caramel mocha
ISO 200 ~ 60mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/25 sec
© Corrie M Avila

As I was making my caramel mocha this morning I thought about how much I love coffee and especially making my own drinks,  and decided it was about time I photographed it.  Think about something you love.  Consider why you love it, what makes it special... then go ahead and photograph it.  Come up with creative angles, or perspectives that capture the essence of what makes this so amazing to you.  Once you do this, please share!!  Either tag them to my facebook site @travelingheartsphotography or on instagram at #travelingheartsphotography.

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Eyes are the Window to your Soul

Walk down memory lane with me for a little while.  The date is August 27, 2001, and I am walking on campus at Florida State University for my very first day of classes (I transferred in as a junior).  My entire first semester was filled with Social Work classes and they were all located in Doak Campbell Stadium.  For those fellow Seminole Football fans, you know what a big deal this was!  Well, I had a mandatory class called "Interviewing and Recording."  I learned something that very first day that has stuck with me since... looking into someone's eyes can tell you more than a single word coming out of their mouth.  There is a saying that the eyes are the window to the soul.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Eyes speak volumes and contain hurt, pain, sadness, loss, happiness, joy, pride, and hope.

If I were to ask you to think of an iconic photo of someone's eyes, what would you say?  The first one that comes to my mind is this photograph by Steve McCurry that was published in 1985.  You don't have to know one ounce of background info on the girl or the cover story, and yet the impact is still there.  And we didn't know any of her background info until seventeen years later when McCurry was able to locate her once again.  Seventeen years later, her eyes still tell a story.  You can see a side by side photo of her before and seventeen years later here.

When you are taking someone's photo ~ whether it is a photo of your children, an event, photojournalism, or a paid shoot ~ you must take into account the eyes.  What are the eyes saying?  What story do they tell?  If you cannot connect with the eyes, your viewer will not be able to either.  Don't get me wrong, there are times when you want to creatively do something different, like a silhouette or a photo from behind.  But if you have the subject's face as the main focal point, focus on the eyes.  If you can command this, you will have emotionally charged and connected photographs that will convey the totality of the moment.

Silhouette of Girl Running on Beach at Sunset
ISO 100 ~ 22mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/100 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Girl with Umbrella ~ View from Behind
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/1250 sec
© Corrie M Avila

As a young girl, I remember the photo referenced above from National Geographic and it made an impact even in my youth.  Take the time to connect with your subject.  Don't just jump into "photo" mode immediately.  Step back and take a look around.  Talk to your subject, make eye contact (if culturally appropriate), and connect.

eyes are the focal point with a natural catchlight from nearby window
ISO 400 ~ 44mm ~ f/5.0 ~ 1/8 sec
© Corrie M Avila

even though hands are shading the eyes, this creates a mysterious feel.  if you could not see the eyes at all, this photo would not be effective
ISO 400 ~ 53mm ~ f/4.5 ~ 1/80 sec
© Corrie M Avila

here the eyes are closed as the child is sleeping, however, putting the focal point on the eyelashes still brings the emotional connection to the eyes
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1.3 sec
© Corrie M Avila

This falls true even with animals.  When photographing an animal, if all you see is the back of the animal's head, it will be missing the intimate connection of eye contact.  Wait for the animal to look around and capture the photo at the moment you can connect with the eyes.

Side View ~ not as intense
ISO 200 ~ 300mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Fierce Eye Contact
ISO 100 ~ 300mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/320 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Get to know your subject, make a connection, search the depths of their souls, photograph the eyes.  I promise you will see a difference immediately in your photographs.

my love <3
ISO 800 ~ 53mm ~ f/4.5 ~ 1/80 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, Power Outages, and your Camera

I am sitting here in my living room waiting for Hurricane Sandy to make her appearance.  I've been trying to only check on the weather/news minimally.  When I watch too much, it starts to really get overwhelming.  But isn't social media like that?  There never seems to be a middle ground.  Either we can't get information on a topic, or it is everywhere, like a deluge of information.

Being from South Florida, I have a good idea of what to expect.  But at the last news report I saw, they are saying Sandy is 900 miles wide.  NINE HUNDRED MILES WIDE????? I've been through countless hurricanes and tropical storms, including Andrew and Katrina... but I've never been through a storm of this size.

I hope that all the newscasters and weather reports are wrong, but in the event that we will be hit by this massive storm, I figure it is better to be prepared.  We have a decent stock pile here of canned goods, water, and candles/flashlights.  So I am not concerned in that area, but threat of such widespread power outages is where my focus lies.  

The last time I went through a hurricane I was newly married and we did not have any kids yet.  I was in school at the time and remember having to read schoolbooks via candlelight.  There was no TV, no internet, no movies, no a/c... But in the middle of all of it, something amazing happened... suddenly we had so much extra time on our hands.  We played cards, talked, read books, and hung out.  I think the last lengthy power outage was with Hurricane Katrina and we were out of power about a week.  I remember that time with such sweet memories as my husband and I got to really be with each other without the electronic distractions that occupy our daily lives.

I wish I had photographs of that time... of us hanging out or cooking by candlelight.  But sadly I don't.  Even when the power goes out, your camera still works.  Don't miss out on the opportunity to capture these memories with your family.  Be creative with light.  Use a flashlight or candle to illuminate and photograph this special time.  Take advantage of the darkness and practice experimenting with night photography.  Use a tripod so you can keep your ISO low.  Find different things to use as your light source.  Take this time to be creative and experiment.  There are no excuses because there is nowhere else to be except right here.  Live in the moment and enjoy the time rather than "wishing" you were somewhere else.

Here are some ideas of things you can do with your family to pass the time should you have a power outage.
  • make a fort
  • create a "campfire" out of blankets
  • do puzzles
  • make shadow puppets with flashlights
  • start a journal
  • catch up on your magazine pile that you've been too busy to look at
  • play board games/card games
  • pull out the crayons and color with your little one

But most importantly cherish the moment.

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Patch at Belvedere Plantation in Fredericksburg, VA

Belvedere Plantation hosts a Harvest Festival that showcases an ENORMOUS pumpkin patch!  It is a 645 acre working farm just outside of Fredericksburg, VA, located right off the historic Rappahannock River.

My son in the Pumpkin Patch <3
ISO 200 ~ 30mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/125 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I came last week as a chaperone for my son's kindergarten field trip and fell in love with the plantation.  I made plans to return this week to take photos.  I was able to bring my 3y/o son with me and to say he had the time of his life would be an understatement!

Cornfield Maze
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

If you've never heard of Belvedere Plantation, check out their website here.  I could list everything that is available and offered, but it would be easier for you to just check out this map because there is seriously so much to see and do.

When we first arrived, we walked around the flower garden on the back side of the slides.  There were rows and rows of sunflowers and wildflowers.  The sunflowers were so tall.... so tall that I had to look up to see many of them.

Sunflower in the Garden
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Wildflower Illuminated from the Sun
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/640
© Corrie M Avila

Butterfly enjoying some Sweet Necter
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/4.5 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Next we went over to the Pumpkin Slide Mountain.  This is old school FUN ~ you grab a burlap sack, climb to the top of the mountain (large hill) and choose whether you want to go down the open slide or the tunnel slide.  I'm not sure who had more fun on this, me or my son :)

Pumpkin Mountain Slide
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/640 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Sleepy Pig @ Ye Olde Barnyard
ISO 100 ~ 135mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/100 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Fun Barn filled with Hay and Rope Swings
ISO 100 ~ 53mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/800 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Pedal Tractors Track
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/640 sec
© Corrie M Avila

From the slide we went over to the Cornfield Maze.  After speaking to the farmer (what they call employees, cute, right??) who was working the maze, we decided to not go very far.  The idea of getting lost in there wasn't appealing considering my 3 y/o and his ten minute attention span.  So we walked a little to take some photos, but then turned around and left the same way we came.  I'd love to come back another day to be able to go through the whole maze.  Check out the arial view, it is HUGE and has a pretty neat design!

Cornfield Maze
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Cornfield Maze
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/13 ~ 1/160 sec
© Corrie M Avila

So to celebrate NOT getting lost in the maze, we then went on the Jumping Pillow.  It is like a huge bouncehouse without the top.  There are height restrictions, but my little guy made the cut-off.  They ask adults to not jump, but we can be on there with our kids.  I've got to tell you, between the Pumpkin Mountain Slide and the Jumping Pillow, I felt like I was a little kid again.

Jumping Pillow
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Next, it was time for the hayride to the pumpkin patch.  The hayride takes you through the farm and you get such a beautiful view of the colorful leaves, the river, and the historic homes (that are still lived in today).  The farmer that joined us on our hayride was so polite and helpful.  She readily shared information about the plantation and enthusiastically answered any of the questions we had.

Entrance to the Hayrides and Pumpkin Patch
ISO 100 ~ 44mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/640 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Hayride into the Pumpkin Patch
ISO 200 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/500 sec
© Corrie M Avila

The hayride was my son's favorite part of the day.  He wasn't too crazy about walking though the pumpkin patch, but that was only because his little legs kept getting caught on the vines that seem to sneak out and trip him.  He was also concerned the tractor would leave without us.  But they waited for each of us to pick our pumpkin and I never felt rushed, even with the extra time I took taking photos.

Pumpkin Patch
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/160 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Our Pumpkin <3
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/250 sec
© Corrie M Avila

My little guy with our Pumpkin
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/125 sec
© Corrie M Avila

After picking out the pumpkin and taking our return hayride back, it was time for us to head home.  There was so much we didn't get to see and do that we will be returning at least once more before the end of the season.  The ticket prices are discounted during the week and then are higher on the weekend.  But it is worth it!  They even offer a military discount of a dollar off each ticket.  Being a military family, that is much appreciated <3

So we took our pumpkin to the Market (where there is also a bakery and gift shop) to have it weighed.  

My little guy's BIG 15lb pumpkin!
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Market & Bakery
ISO 400 ~ 28mm ~ f/4.5 ~ 1/60sec
© Corrie M Avila

The farmers were all extremely polite and were very patient with everyone.  Even while waiting for the hayride, the farmers were asking my son questions and joking around, but at the same time making sure we were all safe.

It was a bit of a drive for me coming from the DC area, but well worth the trip.  If you are anywhere near Fredericksburg, VA and you are looking for an incredibly fun Fall experience, please check out Belvedere Plantation!

On the down side, we lost my son's sweater while we were there.  I didn't notice it missing until we were back at the car and by then I was too tired to walk all the way back to the lost and found hut.  When we got home I realized that my son swiped three rocks from the cornfield maze.  I figure its an even swap, but Belvedere Plantation, if you would like your rocks back, please let me know and I'll mail them....

"I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one.  You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy.  Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see."

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Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

I have not been paid or reimbursed to write this blog and everything written is purely my opinion.