Monday, November 29, 2010


For those who don't know, I love to clean. I sometimes have been called Martha Stewart. I wear yellow gloves to wash dishes. I spend a long time cleaning the tub, and sometimes say to friends, "It's so clean, you could lick it." Laundry (esp. folding it) is one of my favorite things. My car is always tidy; I hate garbage in my car. I don't mind piles, but even they have organization to them.

I don't know why I am this way. And no, I'm not opening it up for discussion....haha! So keep your comments to yourself. I already know I'm special.

So when it came time to pick a product for a commercial shoot we had last week, I thought: DUH! Use a cleaning product. As I mentioned in a previous post, up until this week, we avoided shooting metal or glass, so oftentimes people would bring shampoo bottles or lotion. I opted for something close to my heart...Fantastik.

The assignment had us using new equipment - a medium format camera. I don't have a picture of it, but will be sure to get one. It's bigger in size and bulky. The mechanism that sits on the back of the camera (one of the essential pieces) is worth $17,000. Liken it to the engine of a's crucial and extremely delicate.

And, the most crazy thing is this: When you look through the back of the camera, the image you see (your subject) is upside down and backward. So we tether to a computer and don't see what it "really" looks like until it shows up on the screen. It's weird, but way awesome!

The assignment called for two pictures: one of the product by itself, and then one with the object plus props (but NO over-propping). I thought, "what better prop than paper towels?"

So here's the ones I submitted for this assignment:

Doesn't it make you just wanna go buy some Fantastik and clean?
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Weir Family

While I was home, I had the opportunity to head back to PA for the day. My friends Steve and Sarah were hoping to get a picture taken for their Christmas card. They have an almost 1-yr. old cutie named Reilly. Seriously, he is going to be a little charmer; he has the most beautiful blue eyes.

It was fairly cold on Saturday. We tried to get some shots outside, but the cold - coupled with an energetic little one - didn't really give us any great shots, so we headed back inside. Steve and Sarah both love to read, so they have this awesome brown bookshelf filled with books. I thought it might be good to take some pictures there, then also wanted to isolate Reilly in some pictures too.

Here are some shots from my time with them:

Sarah and Steve - I am thankful for your friendship and just think Reilly is so precious. Enjoy your first Christmas with him!
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Much to be thankful for....

The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving were busy. Quite a few assignments were handed out since I last posted. Then the week of Thanksgiving, we had two fairly quiet/easy days before I headed home to NJ. Surprisingly we only received one assignment to do over break, and it wasn't even a photographic assignment. It allowed for a relaxing break, not one consumed with the overwhelming feeling of having to get assignments done.

I got to spend time with my family and see many friends. I had a photoshoot with some friends, ate good food, and even attended my 10-yr. high school reunion. But Sunday came too quickly, and I got on the road to head back to MA.

Thankfully, we had the first 2 hours off this morning; I took the time to sleep in a bit. Then today we had three different lectures (each two hours long): a portrait lecture, location lecture, and commercial lecture. Over the course of the next few days, we will be having studio time to take pictures related to the lectures we had: using the accent light in the portrait lecture, doing aerial photography in Springfield, MA, and doing our first shoot of reflective metal (silverware) - which is a lot harder to photograph than items that are non-reflective. Sidenote: thus far in Commercial Studio, we've been instructed to avoid using products with metal or glass, as these require specific tricks and techniques.

Here are a few pictures of my time at home, celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. My mom had the Thanksgiving day meal at our house, and my grandma (mom's mom) came, as well as my dad's brother and his family. My sister, husband Dave, and 3 boys, my brother Kevin and his fiance Catania, mom, dad, and I were the others, bringing our total to 18 people. We had lots of yummy food and plenty of desserts to go around.

My mom used to always make the lemon meringue pie; I've never made one. But this year, I attempted my first one...and think I succeeded. This picture was taken before we stuck it in the oven. I had fun making the little peaks with the meringue.

This is our 27lb. turkey, carved by dad:

And this is a picture of the pretty:

On Friday, we went to Lancaster for the day. We did our shopping at our favorite stores (Harry Goods, Flower and Craft Warehouse), and ate lunch at Palermo's - this pizza place we go to whenever we're there). We also stopped by Achenbach's, one of THE best bakeries. Oh, so yummy!

Today in class, one of the instructors asked a question of the day as he was taking attendance: "What was the worst part of Thanksgiving?"

My answer: It was too short.

I hear these next few weeks will fly, and with all these new assignments we have, I'm sure I'll be kept busy. This weekend there is an open house I am helping with, so that should be fun. I never got to come to an open house here, but I hear it's quite fun.

Oh, and this week starts the parking ban on the streets. Beginning on Wednesday, we need to find alternate parking for overnight. This should be interesting. I'll be sure to post when our first big snowfall hits!! Yikes!
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kayla and Bucky:: Engaged

Dear friends of mine got engaged on November 1st. I was going to PA to assist a photographer with a wedding a few days after they got engaged, and Bucky asked if I'd be willing to take some pictures of them while I was in the area. I assisted at the wedding on Saturday, then went to Princeton with Kayla and Bucky on Sunday before heading back to MA. The day was nice...a bit windy, but relatively warm (considering) for a November day. Stephen came along, too, and was my "light boy". He did a great job metering and helping with the reflector. I couldn't have done it without him.

Here are a few favs of the day:

And as we were driving home, the sun was setting beautifully. I have never taken a successful picture of a silhouette and just begged them to let me try. All of a sudden, the curved road became straight and there was a tiny slope at the entrance of a local middle school. I pulled in quick, told them to get out fast and run to the slope, got my gear, and desperately tried to pull it off. I can't believe I kinda pulled it off. I know it's probably not done technically the way that most would set up a silhouette, but I was beaming even getting something remotely close with a gorgeous couple.

Congrats again, my friends!! I cannot wait to stand beside you on your special day!!
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Portrait Lighting

In this post, I talked about how we had this assignment in the portrait studio where we had to create these different lighting patterns. I gave you a link with this hideous mannequin head. I also promised I'd put up the pictures I took for comparison.

Here are the ones I submitted. My model is Megan, a classmate of mine.

SPLIT LIGHTING (see the split down the middle of her nose?):

Then we had to do split lighting, but this time with the use of a reflector, making the picture have a 3-stop difference between on the highlight and shadow sides of the face. Notice how the pictures differ; the first one is darker and the second one is brighter, allowing you to still see the split, but also more of the shadow side of her face.

REMBRANDT SHORT LIGHTING (see the triangle under her eye? It's the technique that Rembrandt used in his portraits):


For this one, too, we had to make use of the reflector for the 3-stop difference, either doing short or broad lighting:

LOOP LIGHTING (see the nose reflection?)

And same for this one....loop lighting with the reflector and 3-stop difference:

BUTTERFLY LIGHTING (see the shadow that the light makes under her nose? It looks a bit like a butterfly):
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Phase One Final portfolio

Here are the pictures of my Phase One final assignment:

1a) picture of motion being stopped (in black and white)

1b) picture of motion blurred (in black and white)

2) gentle black and white portrait using "Home Depot" lights (this system of lights an instructor rigged up and aptly named).

3) relaxed, natural portrait outdoors (in black and white)

4a) portrait using color tones (warm on cool OR cool on warm; i did cool on warm)

4b) portrait using color tones (warm on warm OR cool on cool; i did warm on warm)

5) environmental portrait (in color). The portrait should tell something about who the subject is (what kind of personality they may have, what they do; a story can be created or made up) This picture is of Lindsay O'Neil, the Director of Admissions at Hallmark. She is instrumental in getting me to make the decision to come to school here. She's the best....and we share an affinity for sunflowers.

6) a consumer product in an appropriate location for the product (in color)

7) self-portrait that shows not just what we look like, but more about who we are. I chose to do a simplistic picture of myself up against a sunny background!

8) a black and white portrait of one of our hands (while shooting with the other hand)
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Back to Reality

If I could summarize today in one word, I would say..... NERVE-RACKING.

The alarm was set for 2 hours later than usual (on purpose...we got to sleep in today).
The mood was intense.
The butterflies in my stomach were like those of getting on stage to sing a solo.
The drive to school seemed to take forever.

Then I walked into the auditorium to be greeted by these words on the massive projector screen: Welcome to Phase One Final Review. There was music playing and the lights were dimmed. All the instructors sat in their directors' chairs along the side wall. There was a table on the stage - with a black tableskirt and a computer atop it - and 10:00:00 arrived. Phase One Review had begun.

They asked different sections to bring up different pictures from their portfolio of images. We had to submit our pictures both digitally (to the server) as well as print them to photo paper, after taking each through the editing process. My phase one section "R" was called upon to bring the picture of blurred motion. My picture was of a girl coming down the slide at a park.

The instructor looking at it said it was good, but commented on how the sky in the background was a little too bright. I'll take that. It helps me know what to refine for next time. The next time we were asked to bring a photo up, it was our warm on warm, cool on warm pictures. Instead of going through each one, this instructor chose to give a more generic talk about taking into account what matters and paying attention to the variables of composing a picture (right time of day, good model, wardrobe decisions, pose for your subject, etc.) Then they had us bring up our hand portrait that we had to take. And then ended the day with a slideshow of everyone's self-portrait (all 140 or so of us). It was a neat way to end our day together.

So now that we're "back to reality" - and a tad bit of seeming normalcy - life continues on. I stayed after school today to sit in as a model for a classmate who needed to reshoot a portrait session. Then I went to the computer lab to submit two assignments due tomorrow, one done in the commercial studio and the portrait session I just mentioned. I also did a little bit of work on my self-promo piece that is due next week.

Now here I sit in my apartment, writing a blog and thinking about what to eat for dinner (yes, you read correctly...I've not yet eaten dinner at it's nearing 9:00pm).

I will post my Phase One final pics soon. The files are too large to upload, so I need to go in and resize them before I can get them on the blog. But this is the picture I submitted for tomorrow's commercial assignment. I knew the Teavana set I bought would come in handy for purposes other than just drinking tea.

And just so you get a little bit of perspective, we worked in the commercial studio for 4 hours (from 1pm-4:50pm). There are 16 "bays" (sectioned off portions of workspace), each to be shared by 2 people. I worked with a classmate I didn't know, but it was fun meeting someone new. I let her go first, so by the time I was able to begin setting up, it was nearing 3:30pm. I set up my items and - I think - changed the background paper 4 different times. I finally landed on the green textured paper that you see in the shot. I had one of the instructors come over to assess what I was getting and she and I worked tediously on the littlest details to get the shot "just right". I am happy with the end result and really like my little tea set. In order to get the proper lighting, the items were actually sitting on the tabletop, which was moved to the floor. Normally the tabletop sits on two sawhorses. So when I had to move a teacup even slightly, I had to get on the ground, wedge myself between the light that was only about 3 feet above my items and tweak it just so, then ask my partner to press the command on the computer to take a picture using my camera. We were tethered to the computer again, which means that instead of images showing up on the back of our cameras, they show up on computer screens so we can see the images bigger and zoom in to see what's in focus and what isn't.

This week we have a bunch of lectures, followed by studio time.

Here's a breakdown of the next few days:

8am-10am: Location Lecture
10am-12pm: Portrait Lecture
12pm-1pm: Lunch
1pm-3pm: Commercial Lecture
3pm-5pm: Business Communications (this week it's an open work period to prepare - in groups - presentations we have to give after Thanksgiving)

8am-10am: Digital Foundations
10am-12pm: Design
12pm-1pm: Lunch
1pm-5pm: Location Studio

8am-12pm: Portrait Studio
12pm-1pm: Lunch
1pm-3pm: Digital Imaging
3pm-5pm: Open Career Observations (time we get to work on any outside business assignments we have, or time to work on Hallmark assignments if we have nothing else)

8am-10am: PhotoJournalism
10am-12pm: Aerial Lecture (yes, we do aerial shots in December)
12pm-1pm: Lunch
1pm-5pm: Commercial Studio

So as I said, a huge portion of this week is shooting in the studio for 4-hr. blocks of time.....yikes!

Check back soon for some pictures I took of Kayla and Bucky's engagement shoot we did in Princeton 2 weeks ago.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Phase One Final Assignment

It's unreal to think, but we are ALMOST done with Phase One. It officially ends tomorrow. And to reward punish us, they gave us this assignment labeled - quite simply - Phase One Final Assignment.

There are 10 files in total...8 different shots.

Without giving away all of the assignment, here are some of the at-a-glance shots we need to take:

- a self-portrait, not only just showing who I am, but revealing something about my personality
- a portrait of one of my hands, taken by me. I have to have one hand as a "model" and the other focusing and depressing the shutter.
- an environmental portrait (example: someone at their job)
- a product shot (in an environment appropriate to the product)...since I love doing laundry, I may try and shoot Snuggle or dryer sheets with some laundry in the background blurred out.
- a simple black and white portrait of someone
- a picture showing cool on cool or warm on warm OR cool on warm or warm on cool, like pictures taken in this post.

....and a few others. The whole assignment is due on Monday, November 15th. Not only do we have to take the shots, but we then need to put each one through editing and color correction, as well as print each one for submission during the Phase One review.
It's still overwhelming at this point, esp. since I've only gotten 2 shots completed and I'm going to PA this weekend. Maybe I can get some shots this weekend while I'm "out and about". I'm not behind, as most of my peers have only completed a few shots.

We also had time in the Portrait Studio today, and for the first time we were tethered to a computer. For those who don't know what this means, we plug a cord into both the computer and our camera...and instead of seeing the picture on the back of our camera screen, we look at it (enlarged) on the computer screen. It helps us see the image magnified. It was quite fun and made me feel "professional". We also used strobes for the first time and had our cameras synched to the cord from the strobe, so the light/flash went off when we pressed the shutter. Think of your childhood school pictures, where the bright light flashes quickly, or a portrait studio (like Sears) where those bright, quick flashes go off.

While in the studio, we had to get a bunch of different lighting patterns: split light, Rembrandt light, short and broad lighting, loop lighting, and butterfly lighting. I am fairly embarrassed to send you to this website, because the mannequin used is HIDEOUS, but it gets the point across. Once I submit my photos for this assignment, I'll try and post MY version of the lighting techniques so you can see them on a real person.

For now, check this out.

(I know, the mannequin needs to be replaced!) week we're going into the Commercial Studio to shoot objects with shape again, this time using strobes. I think I am going to use my new Teavana set, and am quite excited. Stay tuned!
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Outstanding Achievement

Hallmark has a plasma TV screen in each of its two buildings. It welcomes the prospective students and guests to campus, as well as shows the mission and purpose of Hallmark. Additionally it shows images from current students and labels pictures as those having received outstanding achievement.

I was in the Admin. building yesterday doing a shoot with some classmates, when the president walks by and says, "Sarah, I saw your work on the TV...nice job." First of all, I was pleasantly surprised he knew me by name, and second that my picture had made it to the "big screen". It was an exciting moment.

The cycle of images takes quite a bit, so I didn't know exactly when my picture would pop up on the screen. Sure enough, it did...long enough for me to take a (blurry) picture of it.

The assignment I had done this for was during Week 3, where we had to compose an image with lines and curves (2 separate shots). The shot here was line, and I used drinking straws overlapping each other as my object.
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So in a previous post, I mentioned how excited I was that we were getting a NEW (to us) couch. The one that had been left in our apt. was gross.

And I told you I would take a picture of it out by our curb; I finally got around to doing that yesterday. Notice the beautiful leaves that are accumulating as it sits on our curb....

Gross, huh?
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Love is in the air....

Two of my very very dear friends got engaged within the last few days....

First I got a phone call from my friend Janice this weekend. She and I grew up together and shared MANY memories together. We worked at a bookstore together for a number of years, and while our first memories together were haunting, we became fast friends (inside joke between us; J- I promise to never lock your kids in closets). We've been farther apart than we've been together, but we always find time to see each other, or at the very least, call each other to find out the latest news. She's been there with me through very tough moments, and we've experienced a host of emotions with one another. She is like another sister to me - a kindred spirit - and I can't imagine my life without her. She and Jeremy (whom I have yet to meet) are getting married in May 2011.

This is an (old) picture of Janice and me, but one of my most favorites:

I got a phone call tonight from another dear friend - Kayla - who, just moments ago, got engaged. I met Kayla at PBU and my first memories of her are as a school of ed. student who came into the office. It wasn't until I moved down into my job as Director of Student Programs that we became close friends. Kayla was the University Social Committee president (ran all the student events) and then was Senate President. We spent a lot of time together, both in meetings and in social gatherings. She is a special friend and we share many of the same quirks and like many of the same things. I often teased her that she was a mini-me. I rarely had to ask Kayla to do something a second time. She was on top of her many roles -- daughter, sister, friend, student leader, girlfriend, worker at Starbucks (as we have affectionately named it the StarStar) and many others. Kayla is finishing up her senior year at PBU and is currently student teaching. Bucky is a great guy. He has a huge heart and loves Kayla with all he has. Kay and Bucky, I'm soooo soooo happy for you. Congrats.

This is a picture of Kayla and Bucky from spring formal in April:

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weekend fun

This past weekend consisted of the following:

-trip to NYC for the PhotoPlus expo
-riding on the NJ Transit train
-attempting to get my cell phone fixed (the screen is broken; they couldn't help so I had to order a phone online.)
-taking pictures for an assignment due this morning
-watching my nephews carve their pumpkins
-going to the mall with my mom
-going to church, followed by "Trunk-or-Treat", where trunks of cars/trucks are decorated and kids can get candy.
-laundry, laundry, and more laundry

Now to break it down some...

I drove home to NJ on Thurs. evening b/c on Friday, we all were going to the PhotoPlus expo at the Javits Center in NYC. I was going to take a few friends down with me, but we had to postpone our weekend getaway for another time. I decided it'd still be fun to head home and spend some extra time with my family, with nothing else on my agenda.

The expo was fun...I got some freebies and entered my name in a few giveaways. I'm sure I won't win any of them - I never do - but hey, it's worth a shot. I got some good ideas for wedding photography and picked up some catalogs with even more ideas in them. I got to see some demos taking place and got to listen to this one photog. talk about weddings and the way he likes to stylize his work. All in all, it was eye-opening to see the MANY possibilities out there, and a tad overwhelming at the amount of "things" that consume the business.

On Thurs. night, I received word that a good friend passed away from cancer. She was a former colleague of mine at PBU. We worked together for almost 2 years in the Professional Division (I was the secretary for School of Education; she was the secretary for the School of Church and Community Ministries, including Social Work and Grad. Counseling). Then we both moved down to Student Life and she took post as the Director of the Academic Resource Center. She not only helped all the students at PBU, but at the end of the day, went home to care for her family and grandkids. She had a HUGE heart and was an incredible blessing in my life. I remember conversations we had, laughs we shared, tears that streamed down our faces, and moments that I will never forget which taught me about loving others, having compassion, and giving your all to something you care about. Lora, the angels are dancing with you...

You had love for your family
Love for all people
Love for the Father and Son
Your heart will be heard
In your unspoken words
Through generations to come

You’re dancing with the angels
Walking in new life
You’re dancing with the angels
Heaven fills your eyes
Now that you’re dancing with the angels

There is so much that I don’t understand
But I know

We’re only here for such a short time
So I’m gonna’ stand up, shout out,
And sing Hallelujah
One day I’ll see you again

- Dancing with the Angels (Monk and Neagle)

It was fun watching my nephews decorate their pumpkins. This is the final result of all of 'em:

Then on Sunday at the Trunk-or-Treat, I took a lot of pictures, but here are a few favs:

The Heverlys' dressed up as the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland




It was a great weekend of time at home....

Now onto another busy week of taking pictures and learning new things.
This coming weekend I'm heading to PA to assist my friend Lori at a wedding. Looking forward to a lot of fun.
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