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