Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 First Snow

Growing up in Wisconsin, I spent all winter outside playing in massive amounts of snow. My best friend Joe and I would build colossal snow forts, sled, ski and spend hours outside getting cold, wet and having a blast. As an Adult, I lived a lot of my live in the U.P. of Michigan where winter literally lasted for 6 month of the year. I taught at a school where we cross-country skied, snow shoed and went winter camping on a weekly basis. Living in Missouri, I miss the snow sometimes, and I'm always excited when my kids finally can get out their boot, hats, gloves, snow pants and play in the snow on the hill next to our house. 

Last year, Myles hated the snow. He didn't want to touch it, be in it, be next to it, wear his hat or boots or jacket, and he cried the entire duration of our trips outside. I was pleasantly surprised this year when he put his snow pants on without having a meltdown, and stepped out into the snow and had a big smile on his face. He continued to climb the hill, sled with his sister and for the most part he was happy and content. 

Macey has pretty much always loved the snow and is really becoming proficient at sledding and snowboarding. Her first ever ski lesson was in Vail in 2014, and since that trip has been on ski's a handful of times. I wish we lived closer to skiing, and our dream is to move out west were we can take advantage of all the winter actives the mountains deliver. In the meantime, we try to go skiing every year. Last year we took a trip to Gatlinburg TN and this year we are heading to Wisconsin to go skiing. My hopes are to get Myles on ski's for the first time.....that should be interesting!

We don't get much snow here, and it never lasts for more than a few days, so I encourage my kids to get outside as soon as it starts snowing to take advantage of the fun it brings. I love the twinkle in my kids eyes when they are going up and down the hill or trying to build a snowman. I love how my daughter eats so much snow that her tongue gets frozen. I love how she helps her little brother get into the sled and how they chase each other around with snow. Mostly, I just love to hear their laughter as it fills the frigid air. It's always worth the trip outside just so that we can go in afterwards and get warm with a cup of hot coco. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tips to help you capture everyday moments

As a photographer, I always have my camera very close at hand. When I was first learning to shoot in manual mode, I took photos of my kids doing everything from sitting in their high chair to taking a bath, and everything in between. I still take a million photos of my kids and each year I put together a book that documents the captured moments of their life. I'm always amazed at how much more meaningful the everyday moments are to me than some of the bigger trips or posed photo shoots. 

You don't have to be a professional photographer to capture these moments...although I won't be at all upset if you hire me to help you capture them. But if you want to practice with your camera, here are some tips that I've found helpful in my learning process. 

Make it habit: Bring your camera with you everywhere you go and have it ready. Have spare batteries and plenty of SD cards on hand. 

Post your photos: I have a personal blog, a Facebook (www.facebook.com/cyndipalmerphotographyhttp://www.facebook.com/cyndipalmerphotography) and Instagram account. I post photos in many locations and have also joined in fun groups like www.shootalong.com to help motivate and challenge me along the way. You could start your own photo-a-day challenge with friends and family. 

When in doubt....take it out: Yes, you may get strange looks at Target or the grocery store, but that has never stopped me from taking photos in public places. It can be a great reminder of your everyday routine and life. 

Capture kids in their element: Taking a bath, playing with the iPad, relaxing, playing with their favorite toy, anything that they enjoy doing, capture it. These are the moments we cherish as parents, and the ones they love to see when they get older. 

Get rid of the clutter: It takes 5 minutes to clean up a bit before you start shooting, and a clutter free photo is 10 times better than one with distracting elements. 

Be intentional: Give directions and ask questions to get the best out of your subjects, especially if you have something specific in mind. Get your subjects to smile genuinely by asking them silly questions or tickling them gently. Don't put your camera down for a moment cause you will need to act quickly to catch that moment you've been waiting for. 

Think outside the box: My kids don't always want to have their pictures taken and sometimes it becomes a game, but this is also when I get my best photos cause I have to try new angles or a different approach. Play around with it, get up hight, down low, move in close or back way up. 

Focus on the Details: Think about all the things you love about your kids. Eyelashes, belly buttons, toes, fingers. Tell a story with your images and be sure to capture these details. 

Be Yourself: Tell YOUR story, with YOUR camera, of YOUR kids everyday life, how YOU see it, and most importantly have fun doing it. 

For information about booking a session, please visit my website at www.cyndipalmerphotography.com or call me at 636-222-8754. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Nature Journal Week 1: Frozen Waters

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the
 most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry

One of my goals for 2016 is to document my children as they interact with the natural world around them. Growing up in a small Wisconsin Town, I had plenty of opportunity to roam, explore, get dirty, stay out past dark, ride my bike, and play in the streets. To put it plain and simple...I had the perfect childhood to just be a kid. These early childhood experiences left me with a large appetite for adventure and a love of the great outdoors. 

I feel most at home in nature and it dramatically affects my mental and physical well-being when I don't get enough time outdoors. In the world we live in today, I feel that my kids don't have that same freedom in regards to nature, and it concerns me about how that will impact their lives. My husband and I talk constantly about the pressures to get them involved in "organized" activities. It's so tempting to just sign them up for all sorts of youth sports and before you know it they are being asked to play on select teams or travel teams. Weekly practices and multiple games on the weekends leave little time for kids and families to be together in nature in a more unstructured way. 

Every week, I will post a different theme and photos of my kids as they explore the natural world around them. My hope is that this experience will instill in them the same love and respect for nature that I have. I am also hopeful that it will give me a window seat into their inner beings, help me to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, and give me a chance to capture them in nature, through the lens of my camera. 

Week 1: Frozen Waters

“Let Nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth

It has been an unusually warm fall and winter here in Missouri, and we have just experienced historic flooding in the past week. The recent rains have left lots of water in the creek bed that is part of a common area behind our house. On New Years Day, the sun was out, the temps were in the 40's and I was longing to feel the wind on my face and to smell the earth, so I put some boots on my kids and we walked down to the creek. 

The creek bed sits mostly in the shade, so even at 3:00 in the afternoon, there was a film of ice lining the water left from the rains. My 5 year old daughter Macey noticed it first and was overjoyed to jump in the middle of each puddle breaking up the solid surface with her boots. She proceeded to take off her gloves and pick up a piece of ice and examine it. We talked a little bit about how and why ice forms, and the importance of being safe around ponds and lakes in the winter time. Growing up in Wisconsin, and living much of my adult life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I was able to spend a lot of time out on the frozen lakes. Some of my fondest memories are snow shoeing or cross country skiing at night and watching the Northern Lights dance all around me. Here in Missouri, unfortunately, it just doesn't get that cold. 

My 3 year old son, Myles, has an agenda all his own and rarely wants to do what everyone else is doing. He was busy climbing on the rocks and running back and forth over the little bridge. I tried to get him to come look at the ice, but he was not interested, however, once he saw that there were stones to throw into the water, he was 100% invested in the creek as well. Myles is slow to warm up to new things and he gets bent out of shape easily. All was going well, until he stepped into the water and his boot got wet. 

After the crying stopped, we moved on to bigger and better adventures. My daughter is pretty athletic and she discovered a good challenge of jumping over the creek bed and seeing if she could get just a little further with each jump. It's funny watching your kids do things that just take you back to your own childhood. I was a major "tom boy" and I was super competitive with all the other boys in my neighborhood. I loved to climb and run and jump and play all sorts of sports. Macey loves to do a lot of these same activities, however she is much more kind-hearted, concerned with everyone's feelings and keeping things fair than I ever was. She's such a nurturing child, especially to her little brother. It's a great quality to have and she's actually much more like her father when it comes to her temperament. Myles on the other hand is stubborn, feisty and competitive .....just like me. 

Myles copies EVERYTHING his big sister does, so I knew it wouldn't be long before he was trying to jumping over the creek as well. At first, he was a bit apprehensive and mostly because he doesn't like getting his feet or hands dirty. He soon got the hang of it, and although he landed in the creek more times than clearing it, he didn't mind getting his feet wet as long as he could make a big splash. 

We had a great time playing in the frozen stream, but wet hands and feet led to cold and cranky kids, so with the promise of hot cocoa at home, we decided to walk back to the house. Myles is a funny kid. He threw a fit not wanting to go over to the creek in the first place, and then when it's time to go home, he doesn't want to leave. So kicking, whining and screaming away we went back to the house, but I accomplished what I had set out to do.....be outside, create opportunities for my kids to explore the natural world around them, let them run, jump, climb, get dirty, wet and be cold. I had also been rejuvenated by feeling the sun warm my body, listening to the wind in the trees and using my camera to tell my story. 

"Children need the freedom and time to play outside. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity." -Kay Redfield Jamison

Here are a few helpful website for information about helping your children build a relationship with nature that I've found helpful. 

For information on photography sessions, please visit my website: http://www.cyndipalmerphotography.com
or email at cyndi@cyndipalmerphotography.com

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Art of Minimalist Style Newborn Photography

"The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple" -Albert Einstein

When I first began photographing newborns in 2012, my style was very typical of what you would find from a newborn photographer. I posed the baby with complicated, intricate poses, used an array of bright colored backgrounds, incorporated props such as baskets, buckets, boxes, nests, bowls and different colored sheepskin and mole hair rugs.  Occasionally I would try a theme or dress them in cute little outfits and hats, but I found that my favorite images were always the ones that had less clutter and were more simple and minimal in nature. My images have always had a natural and organic feel to them. I tend to be drawn to earth tones and natural fibers and textures. I typically didn't go overboard with crazy props or headbands, but somehow I still felt like I was overdoing it and the constant pressure to purchase new props, wraps and backdrops just become too overwhelming. 

Examples of my work prior to minimalist style: 

I've gotten to that point in my life where I realize that the time spent doing and exploring our world is much more important to me than the things I possess. My husband and I follow a couple of different minimalist blogs: http://theminimalists.com http://www.becomingminimalist.com, http://www.everydayminimalist.com and are making an effort to create significant changes in the way we live our lives and how we teach our children to live. Our family dream is buy some land out west, live in a "small house" (I say "small" instead of "tiny" because lets face it, 2 kids, 3 dogs and 2 adults cannot really function in 160 Sq feet in my opinion). Our dream home would be a log cabin about 1,000-1,200 Sq feet, free of clutter and excess material things.  Our goal is to give our kids a place where they can grow up in nature, surrounded by the great outdoors, have the ability to travel and see the world around them, and live a life free from debt and the pressures of our go go go and work work work society.  

As I began reading these minimalist theories and applying them to my own life, it struck me that I can also apply them to my style of photography. I'm already very organic when it comes to my family photos. I rarely use props or create "styled shoots". My sessions take place in beautiful natural settings, where I use natural grasses, leaves, trees, and streams as texture and color. I always shoot at the golden hour of sunset so I can create that soft, rich, saturated color without having to use filters or a lot of photoshop actions. So the jump to minimalist style newborn photography was really not that far of a stretch for me. 

To create a minimalist style of newborn photography, I shoot on simple backdrops of creamy white and black. I use simple wraps and elegant headbands. I gravitate toward natural newborn posing and I love to utilize the negative space around the baby. The results are timeless, clean images that allow the baby's natural beauty to shine through. 

"Minimalism is not the lack of something. It is simply the perfect amount of something." -Nicholas Burroughs

Negative space is a large part of minimalist photography, especially with newborns. It emphasizes how delicate they are. The empty space around the baby can help evoke emotion and increase the dramatic impact of the image. In essence, it enhances composition by reducing the clutter, allowing the eyes a place to rest, and letting the subject (the baby) have breathing room in the image. There is nothing competing for attention and all of the focus in on the tiny, sweet newborn. 

My posing is simple and I love the more natural posed images. Each baby is different and they all tend to have poses they prefer. I try to let the baby tell me what they are comfortable with and then I pose head, hands, fingers and feet for the camera. 

The wraps I use are very simple and are meant to add texture and creativity to the image. My headbands are also very simple and elegant, not to distract from the baby's delicate features or overpower the photograph. 

I only use natural light in my studio. My studio is the room in our house where our master bedroom should be, but I use it solely as my studio. I have two large sliding glass windows and I also use a large polystyrene reflector to bounce light where I need it. The studio is a warm and inviting space for a newborn. I keep the temperature around 85 degrees during a session. I play white noise to help sooth the baby and I also use aroma therapy to help everyone in the room relax and enjoy. 

Sessions can last as long a 4 hours depending on how much time we need to break for feedings and awake babies. I tell all my moms to give the baby a nice warm bath the morning of the session and make sure the baby is well fed. Put them in a car for a bit of a ride and you have the makings of a sleepy baby and a great session. The other important thing that I tell my clients is that the baby will feed off of their mental state. If mom is stressed or uptight, the baby can sense that. The session is meant to be fun and a time for parents to sit, watch, and relax for a bit. 

"Minimalism is not subtraction for the sake of subtraction, it's subtraction for the sake of focus." -Anonymous

To find out more about my newborn sessions or other services I offer, please visit my website at http://www.cyndipalmerphotography.com