A bright light, boat, and beautiful flowers

Here are a few more pictures from our vacation to Mackinac Island. There were some breathtaking views and gorgeous flowers on the island. I only wish I would’ve had more time to take pictures of them all.

If you missed the other vacation pictures I posted last week, you can see them here.

Lighthouse Mackinac Bridge

Freighter in the straights of Mackinac Roses
The last one is my best shot. Which one is your favorite?

Head over to Mother May I to see everyone else’s best shots.

Our MI vacation: the good, the bad & the ugly (with pictures, of course!)

On Saturday, Aug. 9, we returned home to Colorado after spending two weeks on vacation in Michigan. Most of our trip was spent in Oscoda (where my parents live), but we also spent a little time “down state” in my hometown of Clawson and the surrounding area, and Jody, the kids and I spent three days on Mackinac Island.

There was drama even before we left for our trip when I discovered (as I went with the kids to our car in Borders parking lot) one of our tires had gone nearly completely flat. This happened the day before we left. I got the tire fixed (actually, got all 4 tires replaced since we were due to do that anyway after having another flat just two weeks prior) and I was thankful that it happened and was discovered that day instead of the following morning as we scrambled to the airport to catch our flight. (Small favors and all that.)

The trip itself went quite well for the most part and what follows are some of the memorable moments – the good, the bad and the ugly (in no particular order).

The Good
* Watching the kids delight in the waves and sandy beaches of Lake Huron or discovering interesting rocks and minnows in the Au Sable River
Julian on the beach at Lake HuronJulian on the beach at Lake HuronAva in the Au Sable River
* Eating s’mores (or, in Julian’s case, plain chocolate graham crackers) at a campfire in my parents’ backyard
Julian and a graham cracker
* Going with my sister for a walk down memory lane, or more specifically the street we grew up on
* Watching the kids read books, get pulled in the wagon, and play with their grandma & grandpa
Reading books
* Seeing Ava perfect her bike-riding skills
Ava riding her bike at Grandma&pa’s house
* The kids smearing sunscreen all over my back for me
* The surreal feeling of watching my kids play at two of the parks I used to play at as a child
* Communing with nature.
Wild flowersAt the marshes
* And trying to catch the little frogs
A frog on a log
* Everything about Mackinac Island – the flowers, the clean air (no cars on the island), the horses, the biking, the fudge, the history, the nature and beauty
The harbor, Mackinac IslandThe kids on Main Street, Mackinac Island
* Watching Julian pass out kisses and the kids beg for more bites of dessert from grandma & grandpa
The kids with grandma and grandpa
* Witnessing Ava drive her first boat at age 4
Ava driving her first boat
* Seeing Julian eat the rind off a lemon slice, twice
Julian eating a lemon
* Zen biking riding around Mackinac Island and discovering the perfect place to have lunch (Turtle Park) – with sandwiches made by Jody right at the picnic table – and let the kids play
Jody with the kids in the Burley on Mackinac Island
* Watching Ava and my mom’s excitement over the butterfly kit my mom got as the chrysalises hatched and butterflies emerged
* Seeing extended family members and watching Ava bond with her 15-year-old cousin Claire
Ava and cousin Claire (taken by cousin Ryan)
* Getting to float on the waves of Lake Huron alone with Jody for about 30 glorious minutes
* Capturing the look on Ava’s face as she saw a rainbow
Ava spots a rainbowRainbow

* Having an opportunity to take Ava’s 4 year pictures
* Spending time playing with the kids without having to worry about blog posts needing to be written, the house needing cleaning or dinner needing to be made
* Seeing the kids, especially Julian, enjoy strawberry shortcake for the first time
Julian enjoying his first strawberry shortcake
* Never tiring of Julian requesting “more horsey” after seeing yet another horse on Mackinac Island
* Assembling a rock family with Ava on Mackinac
Mommy, Ava and the rock familyOur rock family
* Water as far as the eye can see
Looking out at Lake Huron from Arch Rock
* The opportunity to take lots of pictures
Me and Julian at Fort Holmes
* Listening to the kids play grandma’s piano
Tickling the ivories
* Beautiful sunsets
Sunset behind the Mackinac Bridge
* Watching Ava make a new friend at our resort. They went from “flying” around together, to collecting seagull feathers, to talking, hugging and kissing in the span of about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how simple it can be.
Ava and her new friend Lily at Mission Point Resort (Mackinac Island)
* Eating ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream.
Mmm, ice creamIce cream
* Watching my little beach combers
Ava and Julian on the beach of Lake HuronJulian - “Giddy-up!”
* Having my whole family together (mom, dad, me, li’l bro, li’l sis), even if it was just for one dinner
My brother, mom, dad, sister and me
* And a new picture of me with my siblings. Not sure when the last one of the three of us together was taken.
Me with my li’l sis and bro (taken by my cousin Ryan)

The Bad
* Iceburg lettuce. Seriously, what is up with iceburg lettuce?! I’d forgotten that it seems to be a staple in MI and that it’s nearly impossible to get a salad without it.
* Discovering we’d also left our wireless router at my parents’ house. Oops!
* Wearing my new sexy sandals for 10 minutes only to have them leave my feet looking like this:
Ouchee feet

* Discovering we’d also left our Mackinac Island fudge from the Murray Hotel in my parents’ fridge. D’oh!

The Good
* My mom saying she would mail the fudge to us. :)

And the Ugly
* Having one of our three suitcases stolen out of my sister’s car.
* Finding out insurance won’t cover any of it since the amount of items stolen (clothes, shoes, bike helmets) is just under the amount of our deductible

The Good
* Realizing my evil sandals were in the suitcase that was stolen.

The Bad
* Realizing my brand new tennis shoes were also in there, as well as one of Ava’s favorite dresses.

And more of The Good
* Getting a family picture using a tripod and the timer
Family photo on Mackinac Island
* Making wonderful memories
Daddy’s little girlAva and Julian at Fort HolmesMe and the kids at sunset on Mackinac IslandJody and the kids at G’ma & G’pa’s houseThe kids at Mission Point Resort

Guest post: Don’t Forget the Gummy Worms (photo tips)

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post comes from Anna of Hank & Willie and is chock full of great tips for photographing your kids.

(And six more tips for taking better photos of your kids this summer)

It’s summertime, and the activities from each busy day could fill their own photo album. Amy and family are probably enjoying one of those days as you read this. I know that many of Amy’s readers are, like her, accomplished photographers and even professionals, but if you aren’t, I’m hoping you’ll find something to enjoy in this post.

Maybe you’ve got a new digital SLR camera, or maybe you’re a diehard point-n-shooter, but we’ve all got the same goal in mind: to take the best possible pictures of our families, preserving the memories in the jewel-like light we remember them.

I can guarantee you’ll see great results in your photos if you try a few of these techniques, and I won’t even talk about shutter speed and f-stops. And if you’re a devotee of automatic settings, you don’t have to change your stripes. You can try all these tips in auto mode.


1. Get involved.

Get close. Then get closer. Then get down low. Chances are you’re taking a photo of your child in a location you’d like to remember—maybe a scenic mountainside or a sparkling beach. But one of the biggest mistakes we can make in a photo is trying to include too much information, like taking a landscape photo that just happens to have a small, faraway person in it. Instead, fill the frame with your subject, making them the most important part of the photo. Because they are.

Want to remember the beach? Get up close to your child and photograph his toes buried in the sand, or the look on her face when she spies a new piece of sea glass. Want to remember the mountain? Zoom in as your child reaches in to pick a wildflower or throws a rock in a rolling stream.

And unless you and your child are the same height, you’ll want to get down where the action is. It’s all part of getting involved.

photo_2.jpg photo_3.jpg

2. Find the sweet light.
Your photos will be 1000-percent improved if you do nothing else but this: think about the best times of day for kids to be out in the sun and shoot your photos then. Early morning before the sun gets too intense (you’re all awake anyway, right?) and afternoon/evening when the intensity wanes.

Here in North American, that’s roughly before 8 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. this time of year. (Bribe ’em with ice cream if they are melting down at day’s end.) Full-day sunlight washes out colors, creates harsh, unflattering shadows and causes sunburn, of course, while the warmth and softness of early and late-day sun will bring a beautiful, unrivaled tone to your images.

Now, I know what you’re saying. Plenty of life goes on between 8 and 5:30, in fact most of the day for those of a certain age in my household. So if you’re stuck outside at high noon on a sunny day, pray for a cloud or find some open shade (a spot out of direct sun lit by reflected light. Just go under a tree.) and shoot your photos there. And if you end up with a cloudy day on vacation, you can be the annoying one that chirps, “Well, it’s an absolutely perfect day for photos!”


3. Go for the unexpected
If your child is about three or up, they probably know what it means to pose for a photo and you end up with a series of lock-jawed grins. So go for the anti-pose. Have your child leap in the air. Make a crazy monster face and challenge them to make one, too. (Guaranteed to get a laugh.) Sing the ABCs to them, and get it wrong, so they have to correct you, giggling all the way.

Younger than three? Try positioning them in or on something, like a ride-on horsie, a bathtub, a bucket or a basket and shoot away until they escape or are done. Then follow them around and capture their entirely unselfconscious anti-poses. Or hand them a prop you can stand to see in your photos, like a bright red ball.

photo_5.jpg photo_6.jpg

4. Get cheeky
When photographing more than one child together, have them avoid perpetuating the grip-and-grin pose they see in adults. Instead get creative to get their faces close together. Have them lie on the ground and look up, which almost always will bring on the giggles. Encourage a whispered secret or a kiss on the cheek. Or just request “Cheeks together!” which will bring you sibling closeness you didn’t know you had.


5. Remove the bulls eye from your child’s forehead

So you’re on the beach. It’s 5:45 in the afternoon, and glorious streams of golden light are bathing the scene in front of you. The sky is a brilliant blue, the sand is warm and inviting, Junior is waving his snappy red shovel and he flashes you a big, natural-looking grin. Mentally patting yourself on the back, you get down on his eye level, perform a quick check on the background to be sure the lifeguard chair isn’t growing out of his head, center him perfectly in the frame and…STOP!!!!!!

Try this. Move your camera slightly to the right or left, so that Junior is now off center. Is there something else across the frame that you can bring into the photo, like the bright blue bucket he just threw in frustration when his sand castle caved in? I promised no photo lingo in this post, but if you’re ever tempted to Google the phrase “rule of thirds” you’ll learn a lot more about this composition technique. In short, it can make for a much more appealing and interesting photo. Give it a try.


6. Take your camera for a spin

Take your camera and turn it 90°. Try using the camera in vertical or “portrait” position to capture an image of one or two children, a format that naturally crops extra information from the photo and focuses in close on the important stuff: your subject. While excellent portraits can be in either landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) position, trying the portrait position might bring a brand new focus to your shots.


7. Don’t forget the gummy worms!
While portraits don’t need to have dead on eye-contact to be successful, there is always something a little disappointing about the image that is nearly perfect in every way, yet has a child with a vacant stare over your shoulder, probably because a well-intentioned person was jumping up and down trying to get a laugh.

When I’m nearing the end of a session (and I use the term loosely, I’ve been known to break out this trick in the backyard with my kids) and want to bag a few more good shots, I might drape a gummy worm around the barrel of my lens. This usually promotes a tractor-beam lock on my lens (hello, eye contact!), as well as an interesting discussion about worms and eating them, depending on the age of your subject. It doesn’t last long, and if you’re shooting someone else’s kids you probably want to check the guidelines on sugar consumption, but it can be a serious secret weapon at the right moment.

Before and After

This morning at a playdate, I tried to use some of these tips to demonstrate what they can do in two quick snapshots.
Here’s Sydney before, out in the blazing sun at about 11 a.m., in a cluttered snapshot, taken in landscape view. Like the disembodied adult arm and half toddler in the background?


Here’s Sydney a minute later, under a tree in her yard. This photo was taken at her level, in portrait view, in lovely open shade. She was so happy about it she even gave me a smile!

Got a great summer photo to share?
Post a link to your blog, Flickr or web page in the comments section here, and let me know if you give these tips a try!

Anna is a mother, writer and photographer from New England who can often be found
picking up toy trucks off the floor and blogging at Hank & Willie.

A belated Father’s Day gift

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while, you probably recall that every Father’s Day since Ava was born I’ve made a DADDY storyboard for my husband. This year, although the pictures weren’t taken until a couple weeks after Father’s Day, and Julian kept throwing letters on the ground or pointing in the sky at “bearplanes,” and the storyboard hasn’t been ordered (quite yet), I happy to say I am keeping up the tradition.

My imperfect, but perfect for us choice for best shot Monday is:

Julian and Ava - Happy Father’s Day 2008

Feel free to also check out 2007 (when Julian was eating the letters), 2006 and, the year it all began, 2005. Then head over to Mother May I to see everyone else’s best shots.

Celebrate good times (BSM)

While our 4th of July didn’t go exactly as planned (we missed the parade we set out to see because the time listed for it was incorrect, then missed our backup plan of an outdoor symphony concert because Julian fell asleep in the car on the way), but we still ended up having a nice day. Ava got to ride her new bike (a present for her 4th birthday). My sister Carrie joined us for the evening. We picked up some dinner and some fireworks which Jody set off in the street. Carrie and I were sure to throw in some oooohs and aaaahs for good measure and the kids enjoyed it all.

My best shots are of my big girl learning to ride her bike:

Ava on her new bike - 7/4/08 Ava on her new bike - 7/4/08

Then here are a few from our mini fireworks display:

Fireworks 7/4/08 Aunt Carrie and the kids watching fireworks - 7/4/08 Fireworks 7/4/08

See more Best Shot Monday posts this week over at Slurping Life