We had some friends over on Saturday and when it was time to put the kids to bed* it turned out that Jason and his friend E had the same pajamas. This initially caused some consternation as Jason thought that E had taken his pajamas, but when it was revealed that there were actually two identical pairs, both boys became very excited. When we suggested taking their picture, they got even more excited. Which, as you can see, lasted about as long as it took me to retrieve my camera.
* I always used to get so jealous of my parents and their friends when they got to stay up late and have fun. It's interesting being on the other side of that now.
Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX
f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 200
On-camera Vivitar DF-383 @ TTL, bounced from ceiling
There are several little girls who like to hug Jason over and over again, one of them being his friend L. This shot is from our cookie-decorating get-together last month, and, as you can see, Jason had already reached the point beyond which he was willing to put up with repeated hugging, and had progressed to the "running away" phase.
You know, when I was younger (sure, older than Jason is now, but you know what I mean) I would have killed for the kind of attention he gets from girls. I suppose he'll get there soon enough.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, TTL flash mode (+1 EV). Aperture f/4, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves to increase exposure; levels to darken shadows and midtones for contrast and color pop; lightly dodged over Jason; added edge sharpening.
Thoughts for improvement: I think the reason this one didn't make the cut the first time around is because of all the clutter in the frame. The photos on the wall, the door behind L's head, the balled-up sweatshirt, the baby gate, and the edge of the wreath sticking into the frame--it all detracts from the focus of the image, which is L and Jason. I absolutely love the capture, though.
It's Christmas Eve, and all of us here at Sakeriver (me, that is) wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy holiday. And to say thanks for following along all this time, here's a cookie, decorated by Jason's friend L.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, manual flash mode. Aperture f/4, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200, flash power 1/4 (I think). Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves to brighten highlights and midtones; levels to darken shadows and brighten midtones.
Thoughts for improvement: The background is a little cluttered, so this might have been better at f/2.8 or f/1.8 to further defocus the background. I do like the little red and green bokeh highlights in the corner, though. There is also some color fringing due to chromatic aberration, but this is an artifact of my lens/camera combination--if I were more motivated I could try to remove or reduce it in Photoshop.
On Sunday we were supposed to meet up with some friends and their daughter and go to Legoland. It rained, though, so instead we went over to their house to decorate some Christmas cookies. (Pro tip: if there's any chance whatsoever that your plans to go to Legoland might change, don't tell your toddler about it ahead of time. This turned out to be key in making our Sunday afternoon work.
Jason has known this girl since they were both just a few weeks old (Juliette and her mom met in a breastfeeding support group), and it's been neat to watch them grow up together. One of the most interesting parts of this weekend was watching them interact, because it marked the first time that they really talked and played with each other without any intermediaries. Up until now, most of their communication had had to relay through us parents, but this time they actually had some little toddler conversations. It's going to be neat to see how their friendship progresses now that they're actually able to connect with each other directly.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (with Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode and TTL flash mode (+0 EV). Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves to bring up exposure; burned over the highlight on the railing; vignetting applied; edge sharpening applied.
Thoughts for improvement: The highlight on the railing is distracting, though I was able to reduce it some by burning. Other than that, though, I like the lighting a lot--the Gary Fong Lightsphere really does work well. Compositionally, this would be much better with a sparser background. There's stuff right behind both of their heads that looks weird, and the stuff like the fence and TV really don't add anything. If I were doing this in a studio, I'd like to see what it looked like with just the kids, the chairs, and the table.
On Saturday I went on my first real portrait shoot. Some friends agreed to help me practice my technique by letting me do some family portraits of them. Juliette and Jason came along as well, since we figured we could get in our Christmas card shots in at the same time.
Leading up to the shoot I was a nervous wreck, even though I was working with friends in a very low-pressure situation. Once we actually got there, though, and started shooting, it was actually kind of fun. I think I learned a lot, too. For example, the next time I do a beach shoot, I'll either do it in the morning or bring a fill light. I also won't try to cram in two shoots into the same session.
Anyway, the kids had fun, as you can see. And hopefully my friends will find a few keepers out of the set.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/4000, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: yellow filter BW preset; curve for contrast; burned the highlights in both kids' faces; added edge sharpening.
Thoughts for improvement: A fill light on the left would have been a good idea, although the shadows in the current version do look kind of dramatic. I also wish I had framed the shot just a little bit lower, to add a sliver more space below Jason's foot.
L and Jason have been friends since they were both just a few weeks old--Juliette and L's mom went to the same breastfeeding support group. One of the fun parts about seeing them grow up together has been seeing the differences in their personalities. L is soft-spoken; Jason is a shouter. L likes to give Jason hugs; Jason usually tries to run away from L's hugs. And, as you can see here, L likes to pose and smile for the camera, while Jason generally doesn't want to be interrupted from his busy schedule of running in circles and climbing on top of tables.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-55mm DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 55mm, aperture f/8, shutter 1/60 sec, ISO 200. Post processing in Aperture 3: Daylight WB preset; cloned out some sensor dust and a bit of food that was in the corner of her mouth; applied curve for highlight recovery, midtone boost, and highlight recovery; lightly dodged over her eyes to bring out the color a touch.
Thoughts for improvement: I can't quite make up my mind whether this would be a little better if I had taken half a step back, so that her whole head appeared in the shot. It would be nice to get her hair in the frame, but on the other hand, I think this framing may emphasize her eyes and smile more.
Mother and Daughter
Saturday evening we joined our friends at their church's Greek Festival. I've been hearing about Greek Festivals for as long as I've known them, but this was actually the first I'd been to. It reminded me a lot of the Obon festivals I went to as a kid, except, you know, Greek. We all had a pretty good time, and of course the food was great, but I think it'll be even better when the kids are a little older. Who knows, maybe Jason will even learn a little Greek dancing.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Focal length 55mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/200 sec, ISO 200. Post processing in Aperture 3: applied Daylight WB preset and pushed recovery to max. Bumped vibrancy a little, then applied a strong curve to bring up the midtones and darken shadows. Lightly dodged over both faces. Lowered the overall saturation a little, further desaturated reds, then brought up the luminance of the reds.
Thoughts for improvement: The only thing that would improve this, in my opinion, is if I had caught it just a half second earlier or later, when the girl was making a happier face. But I like the lighting, especially the rim lighting in their hair, and I also quite like that you can see the dad reflected in the mom's sunglasses.
Learning to Share
I got this snap the other night when we were babysitting our friends' daughter. What you can't tell from the picture is that the reason he's "sharing" this ball is because he's trying to distract her from the other ball that you can't see, which both of them wanted at the same time. Still, it's been neat to watch them develop from only a dim awareness of each others' existence to actually playing together.