My Five Fave: Books Recently Read

I’ve been doing a lot of reading the last few months. I have a little book club of ladies and that’s been a big encouragement. Taking vacation in February also helped me flip through hundreds of pages. But I realized I had a running list of books that I want to read and I just never get around to it.

No more — I’m a reading machine and I’m reading what I want to. (And what book club wants me to.) And I have a new five fave to share — just some books that I ended up liking more than I expected. So I’m not going to tell you about the books themselves… you can read the summaries on Amazon. Instead, I’m just going to tell you how they affected me.

1. American Gods  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane  3. The Handmaid’s Tale  4. The Sun is Also a Star  5. Dark Matter

My brother had been recommending American Gods to me for at least a year before I finally decided to pick it up. After being on a Harry Potter binge for months (I had never read the books before), I thought a good break would be a nice adult novel. I’d heard that Neil Gaiman’s book fell into several genres at once, be it fantasy or thriller or horror, but I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up falling in love with the book and Gaiman. I read it with such intensity that I could picture every character, every scene and couldn’t get enough of it. Even though it’s been over a year since I’ve read it, I’ve had conversations with friends about it like I just finished it. And I may have gotten a little excited to hear that Starz was making the book into an original series. I cannot wait to see it because the casting is spot on… I mean, it’s ridiculously good.

If you haven’t read Neil Gaiman, I highly recommend him. And start with this book — you will not be disappointed.

I talk about books I’ve read with several different folks and a high school friend said if I like Gaiman, I should ready Good Omens next. I did. And I was really hard to follow along because there were so many characters and half of the book was written by Terry Pratchett — I liked it, but I didn’t do flips over it. So I took a break from Gaiman for a while, but at another recommendation I downloaded The Ocean at the End of the Lane for our cruise earlier this year. It was a quick read (even for me as a slow reader), but so enjoyable. The characters were odd while the story was weird and creepy and scary at times and unexpected… made me fall in love with Gaiman all over again. It’s a little trippy but such a fun read.

With book club, we’re taking turns picking books and The Handmaid’s Tale was one that I think we weren’t expecting to take away so much from. I’m not big on dystopian novels; I enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy and book one of the Divergent series, but I did not like 1984. Like, at all. So I didn’t think I’d like this book much either. But with the narration from a woman’s point of view, a handmaid’s point of view, and knowing that the world she’s living in is only about four years from the lifestyle she used to know… let me just say it was a great book club discussion. We talked a lot about what we experience now with women’s rights, even discussed the new president and his appointments, and asked ourselves “Could this happen to us?”

We’re also looking forward to watching Hulu’s original The Handmaid’s Tale and seeing Atwood’s story come to life.

The Sun is Also a Star was another book I started and finished on our cruise. I’d heard that the main characters go on a journey through NYC together, but was delighted to see how the story was told; from both of their points of view, with interjections of stories of the people the interact with or a quick history. It’s a YA book, but it’s very well written, thought out and I didn’t feel like I was reading a teenager’s book; I was just reading about two teenagers.

This month I got to pick the book for book club! And I’m really proud of us for all choosing different kinds of books to read — I’m happy to add a little science fiction to that list with Dark Matter. I hadn’t read Blake Crouch before, but I heard that Wayward Pines was great and saw only good reviews for this book. But I really enjoyed it. Like I said, I’m a slow reader. On vacation I can find time to read a book in two days, but when I have work and chores and life… it can take me weeks to finish a book. I had Dark Matter completed in three days and I was yelling at myself for reading it so soon because book club doesn’t meet for another two weeks! It’s inventive and explores alternate realities full of twists and thrills and… you should totally read it.

My reading hasn’t stopped either. I’ve actually gotten more excited since my friend encouraged me to get the Goodreads app. I linked it to my Kindle and so many titles appeared, books I’ve downloaded over the years… made me proud of myself to know how often I still read. (And this doesn’t even count the real-life books I’ve read!) Albeit, they are mostly fiction, but none the less they are books. Check out my Goodreads page if you want to see what on my list.

Week 14: Push or Pull | 2017 Project 52

Push or pull was one of those themes that I was like “Yeah! It’s going to be awesome when it comes up because I have ZERO ideas and it will make me think and just be awesome!”

Instead I hated myself all week for coming up with ZERO ideas. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Mike had some ideas. And he was so good to me for being my model. I love him for it. But I didn’t love the pictures.

Who am I kidding — I’m not in love with this picture either.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/200 sec, 35mm, ISO 8000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

I sacrificed myself and my dignity and got in front of the camera after a kickass day at work (to clarify, I kicked its ass). I set up the tripod… and tried really hard to use another lens, but I keep coming back to my 35mm — I rarely take it off my camera these days. I found my inner infomercial persona, grabbed a t-shirt and got to work with the remote.

I pushed and pulled my way through that shirt for 15 minutes. And for the sake of being honest, this is one out of a series of 34. I thought it was the most interesting with my arm trying to push through the crumpled sleeve and my eyes  in its direction. My big, big eyes with big, big bags under them… woof.

Some weeks you just move forward. This week I’m moving forward.

Week 15: Yellow
due 04.12.17

Who’s up for a color challenge!? We haven’t had one since Week 6, so let’s keep our eyes out for the color yellow.

Just like with the last color challenge, you can display the color yellow anyway you like in your image. As the dominant color or an isolated pop. A richer hue or something soft and pastel. It is your color to do with as you wish!

Bonus Challenge: I’ve recently learned more about advancing colors, where warm colors such as yellow come forward in an image. In other words, it’s easier to get warm colors to pop and standout in an image versus cooler colors; they appear nearer to the eye. Find a bold yellow subject, one that you can bring front and center, and photograph it in a way that the color helps tell its story.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

My Point of View | 1Q17

I share a lot of my work throughout the year, but have taken to posting random images on my Instagram and not sharing them here. Which is fine… but kind of bums me out. I like to have a story to go with my photographs and a blog post is a bit harder than a photo caption on IG. But I wanted to do a kind of “photo dump” and share my work so far into this year.

There’s been a lot of experimenting, shooting what grabs my attention and many of the images below stand alone. But it gives a glimpse into what I do with my free time, what kind of scenes call to my heart right now and how I’m exploring. If you have any questions about them, just ask. My plan to post a blog like this, photos from my point of view, every quarter. Who knows how many of these will end up being favorites by the time the year ends. ♥

cherry blossom tree

My point of view 2Q17 >>

Week 13: Photographer’s Choice | 2017 Project 52

I gave myself a challenge to take a photo everyday this week. My hope was to have enough photos to choose from that picking my favorite would kind of hard for this week’s photographer’s choice prompt. So I carried my camera with me most days, and when I didn’t I still managed to capture an image at some point during the day. But picking my favorite was not hard. Nope… not at all.

Earlier this week I told you about our pizza-night-out and shared some of the pictures I took while we were at the restaurant. The kids couldn’t get enough of their dad, there were “pizza waterfalls” happening all around us, babies were under the table… it was a fun night. But I’m really glad I took my camera.

I know my friends can feel awkward in front of the camera… “where do I look – OK, I’ll just look over here”… but I really do like photographing their kids. The instructor of a workshop I took referred to kids as “low hanging fruit,” and they really are. They’re cute and they do funny things. But I also like working my friends in the frame and sharing these photos with them. Sharing is caring, y’all.


Settings: f/4.0, 1/80 sec, 35mm, ISO 1250
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

You saw the other photos in my series, but this one of Claire was my favorite. For a number of reasons.

The sun had started setting (and landing in our eyes), but Claire just stuffed herself further down in the booth. Once I saw how she was sitting, I knew I wanted to photograph her because she was being a normal five-year-old. I bent myself over a bit to bring my lens down to her level, tried a couple different things and knew I got a good shot — if all the others I took that night were crap, I had one fantastic shot.

Starting with the light: It wasn’t blazing on her face, but was still strong directional light. Next, the composition: My subject is centered and fully focused (even at 1/80 sec) and framed, the cups and napkin balance the image, the lines in the table-cloth lead your eye to the subject and there’s strong layering to help build the scene. And the scene: It’s undeniable that we are in an American pizza joint with the checkered table-cloth, there’s cheesy carbs on the plate and greasy fingers. Add in the fact that Claire is making a serious #nomnomnom face just makes me really, really happy.

I’m proud of this photo and think that my documentary approach workshop is finally paying off because I’m beginning to see things unfold before I take the picture. And I know this isn’t my baby, but I can’t stop staring at that face noshing on pizza.

Week 14: Push or Pull
due 04.05.17

Time for a prompt that makes us think beforehand and is open to endless interpretations!

We are surrounded by friction, forces and motions everyday — and any kind of force is really just a push or a pull. Consider the multiple definitions of both verbs and see if one sounds more interesting than another. What type of scene appears in your mind? Would you be able to find or recreate it, and photograph it in a way that tells the story clearly?

PUSH: to press upon or against (a thing) with force in order to move it away; to move (something) in a specified way by exerting force; to press or urge to some action or course; to carry (an action or thing) toward a conclusion or extreme; to make one’s way with effort or persistence, as against difficulty or opposition.

PULL: to draw or haul toward oneself or itself, in a particular direction, or into a particular position; to draw or tug at with force; to rend or tear; to draw or pluck away from a place of growth, attachment, etc; to perform successfully (often followed by off); to inhale through a pipe, cigarette, etc; to have effectiveness.

Write down your ideas — no idea is too big or too small. Ask friends or family to help you our or explore the prompt with you. See if you can impress yourself.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Pizza Waterfall

I’ve been carrying my camera around with me most days for the last week. Even if it doesn’t go to work with me, I’ll have it within an arms reach while I’m home. I challenged myself to take a photo everyday this week to help me with my “photographer’s choice” prompt for the #2017project52. I got some that I like, but having my camera on Friday night was the best idea ever.

We usually grab dinner with friends on Friday and met up with the Mohns for pizza that night. (Impellizzeri’s, you never disappoint.) The kids were all over their dad as he had been traveling for work that week, which lent itself to some cuteness. And some big laughs for the adults at the table.

I actually did end up choosing my #2017project52 image from this particular night — I plan to share my favorite on Wednesday when I regularly post. But in the mean time… enjoy the “pizza waterfall.”

alvarez - Great! Beautiful mastery of lights! What to say about looks! I love your treatments that make your work recognizable.
Thierry A