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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The cousins


First off... don't miss out on the raffle for a free seat in my next class! Go HERE to enter! 

And now back to the business of cuteness! 
When my extended family got together, it of course gave the cousins a chance to come together and reconnect. They don't get to see each other often, but it never takes them long to pick right up where they left off. How is it cousins in all families seem to do that so easily? My niece J is only a year older than Tess and Jude, but she's literally a head and shoulders taller. And she pretty much has rock star status when she visits. 

They played and played for 2 days. J got to know Ru, and Ru got to increase his extended family by 1 more "fun kid" as he says. I'm not sure he really gets how J fits into the family yet. This whole family thing can be confusing. Who is who's mom and who is who's sister and brother. He just understands that he really likes have "fun kids" around. 
I love Mimi in this one. She like, "We're gonna do what?" 
And this last shot was all their idea! Yes, I'm that mom that makes my kids go out into the middle of the road to take photos!

2017 Photography Christmas List


First thing... don't forget to enter the raffle for a free seat in my next class! Go HERE to enter! I'll announce the winner on Saturday on Facebook!
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I've gotten a few questions about photography Christmas gifts. Over on Facebook I put out a request for everyone's favorite photography gifts too, and you can click HERE to get to that list, (it's towards the bottom.) And I put a list out way back in 2014, but really it's time for a new one, so here it goes!

My top 10 photography gifts!

1) A gift certificate to one of my classes!
I have classes for beginner through intermediate photographers and they can be put towards any class I offer in 2018! Just email me with the amount you'd like to purchase, and I can even send you a gift certificate that you can print off at home to wrap up and put under the tree! Any amount for beginner-intermediate photographers.
2) Pete Souza Photography Book(s)
I've had a little crush on Pete since he came to the White House in 2009 and never really paid any attention to images from the Chief White House Photographer until then. Not matter your political preferences, you gotta admit he's crazy, ridiculously talented behind the lens. And he was Ronald Reagan's Chief Photographer too! ~$18-40 for all photography levels

3) Tripod
The thing with tripods is that they can carry a substantial investment. So you want one that's gonna be worth putting the value of your camera and lens on it. Tripods are not the place to cut back. This is the one I have from Slik, and I've been very happy with it. And the bonus is that the price has come down since I purchased it a few years ago! If you're going to to hauling it around and/or hiking with it consider upgrading to carbon fiber. ~$125 for intermediate+ photographers
4) Interval remote 
This little guy is a timer and remote that you can set to take X amount of pics every Y amount of seconds/minutes. This is an updated version of the one I have by Vello and after wasting money on 2 prior remotes I finally found one I love! It's what I used to take pics of me and the kids in Thanksgiving and Christmas cookie baking pics. If you have a Nikon camera you may already have this feature in your camera. If you have a Canon camera, you're probably out of luck like me. Thus the interval timer to the rescue! Couple with the tripod above, I've been working towards my goal of capturing myself in pics more often. ~$100 for intermediate+ photographers

5) Your first DSLR!
I wrote a whole blog post HERE. If you're looking for your first DSLR this is the one I recommend. You can also usually find it refurbished with a guarantee to save some money, and if you'd like to look into that just give me a holler and I'll point you in the right direction. ~ $400-$799 for beginning photographers
6) Upgrade your DSLR
But if you already have a DSLR, you already know how to shoot in Manual mode and are frustrated by it's limitations, then maybe it's time for an upgrade. Upgrading your camera body will help you focus more accurately and shoot in lower-light settings among other things. I'd recommend the Canon 6D Mark II, (starting at $1700) the Canon 5D Mark III (starting at $2800 or $2000 refurbished) or Canon 5D Mark IV (starting at $3200 or $2800 refurbished) depending on your budget. Again, you can also usually find these bodies refurbished with a guarantee if you want to save some money, and if you'd like to look into that just give me a holler, and I'll point you in the right direction. ~$1700-$3200 for intermediate+ photographers

7) My favorite girly camera bag
This is my go-to camera bag. It looks and functions like a purse, and it's real leather so it wears over time very well! My favorite part of this bag is there are 3 big zippered compartments, and the middle one if JUST for camera and lens(es). The other 2 zip separately so your stuff, (wallet, Chapstick, snacks...) doesn't commingle with your camera gear. ~$250+ for any level photographer



8) My favorite more-practical camera bag
But let's say you're not a girly-girl type of gal or maybe you just want something more practical. Then This is the one I'd get. Works great as a backpack and there's easy access to your camera via a side pocket. The top storage compartment keeps your stuff separate from your camera gear. There are bigger and smaller versions of this bag depending on your needs but do look for one with the side pocket camera access. Disclaimer-I don't have this camera bag but traveled with someone who did and was insanely jealous the whole time! ~$100 for any level photographer.



9) Camera Strap
I get headaches regularly, like yucky, migraine headaches, and a traditional, over-the-neck camera strap just wasn't working for me. Then I discovered this Black Rapid cross-body strap and problem solved! Now I can comfortably wear my camera for hours. The under-arm strap that's pictured is optional. ~$75 for any level photographer.

10) LensBaby
If you're looking for something to get you out of a creative rut, give Lensbaby a try. Lensbaby is a line of interchange about lenses that creates distortion and special effects with focus. It can be used with most all cameras that have interchangeable lenses. I recently got THIS one and am having fun playing with it. Beware, Lensbaby lenses are manual focus, but really that's part of the fun! I think this 50mm Sweet Optic Composer Pro II would be a great one to try! And I gotta say, their customer service ROCKS! ~$249 for intermediate+ photographers
And just to you know, I have no affiliation with any of the companies listed above. I wish I did, but I don't. But if any of them are reading this and would like to build a relationship with me, I would love to shout your name from the rooftops and have a giveaway for my readers!

Monday, December 11, 2017

GIVEAWAY for FREE SEAT my next online photography class!


It's Christmas time, so I thought a giveaway was in order!
I'm giving away a FREE seat in the next class that I'll be teaching, Composition 101. It's a great class that will get your creative juices flowing by teaching you all about the the fundamentals of composition and how it applies to photography. There are no prerequisites for this class, and the only requirements are a camera, (any kind will work. Even your cell phone!) and a Facebook account. The details of the class are HEREFrom a past student that took Composition 101


Nancy takes you to the next level. Having a technically accurate photo is just the beginning. Having a photo that tells a story… Now that’s what moves people. Nancy takes you to that level. She is patient and knowledgeable. I would recommend this class to anyone that wants their photography to touch people’s lives.  ~Teresa
Enter to win a FREE seat in the next Composition 101 that starts in January 2018! To be eligible to win you must not have taken this class previously.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 8, 2017

Gift Certificates Available!


Are you going Christmas shopping this weekend?
Are you worried that it'll be the right size? Or the color she wants?

If you're looking for the perfect gift for the photography enthusiast, I got ya' covered!


Ordinary Miracles Photography is offering gift certificates that can be used for any of my online classes or one-on-one mentoring, in any denomination you choose! I can even send you a gift certificate that you can print off at home to wrap up and put under the tree! One size fits all 'cause I have a classes for beginning through intermediate photographers. My classes are all online so they're super convenient, and if you don't mind me bragging, they're better than the other online classes you'll find out there. Right now registration is open for 2 classes, Composition 101 (that has no prerequisites) and the class that starts the the journey, Manual 'n More, but the gift certificates can go towards any class I offer in 2018.

Just give me a holler at Nancy@OrdinaryMiraclesPhotography.com!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Cookie Bake


After my clutter-full Thanksgiving pics, I wanted to practice some more, so I got out my tripod and timer again for our annual Christmas cookie bake. I'm trying so hard to be in front of the lens more these days, and I will say that being on this side of the lens absolutely does not come naturally or easy for me. But with my purposeful efforts to it anyway for my children, it is getting easier. I still cringe when I see pics with me in them, but I also see some wonderful memories of a full family. I want my children to look back at these images and remember these times we had together, including their mama who loved them... grey hairs, a few extra wrinkles and extra lbs and all.
That being said, here we are, making Christmas cookies over a 2-hour time frame. On the frame left, we made two different types of cookies (both of which were kinda a flop. Never to be tried again.) and also decorated sugar cookies that my wonderful mother-in-law made and dropped off complete with all the decorating supplies, on frame right.

The progression of the amount of stuff on the island makes me laugh. So does the progress on people in the frame.

And you gotta love the inevitable fact that in the end, like every Xmas cookie bake in every household across the nation, that it's Livy and me finishing up the cookies with no kids in sight.

And PS - Ru decorates cookies much like a 4 year old; piling sprinkles, red hots and icing directly into the middle of the cookie as high as it will go in hopes of maximizing his sugar intake.

Conversations during the cookie bake included a answering questions from Ru about what the colors green and red have to do with Christmas. After thinking about it, I'm honestly as stumped about this as he is. I think I answered him by saying something incredibly deep and profound like, Because they just are. Ru also revealed that he thought Santa Clause's first name was Christmas. He seems to be generally confused with all this attention put on Christmas. Why we buy gifts for people. Why there are Christmas songs on the radio. He is befuddled by the stockings that are hung by the chimney with care, and gently touches his each time he walks by and usually asks me, Mama, why this where Santa puts stuff? Why it here?
Merry Christmas season to all of you that follow this crazy little blog. I'm humbled that anyone would. And if you're anything like me, try not to focus on the clutter and the ever-growing list of things that aren't getting done, and enjoy the extra time that you get to spend with the most important people in your life.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Photography Tutorial {Christmas bokeh made easy!}


'Tis the season for smooching under the holly, Santa, hot chocolate, and those pretty Christmas photos with the blurry Christmas lights in the background. Have you seen those pretty pictures with the blurry lights in the background? Bokeh is the name of that pretty blur that is created when something is out of focus, and it's especially pretty when created with Christmas lights. Have you ever wanted to capture those types of photos? Let me show you how! It might a few tries, but really, it's not rocket science. And it might be easier than you think! 

For this tutorial you're going to need:

1 - A DSLR or a mirror-less camera. That's the one that has the lens that comes off. 
2 - If you're fortunate enough to have more than one lens, use the lens that has the lowest aperture value/f-stop. Also, if you have a filter on your lens, go ahead and take it off. 
3 - A basic understanding of Exposure and focus can't hurt. Although this isn't a hard technique, it's even easier to get these results if you have an understanding of how your camera works. My Manual 'n More class is the one I recommend to learn these things. 
4 - Some Christmas lights of course!
Now that you have your supplies, let get started!

Step 1 - Let's set the camera to Aperture priority mode. Aperture priority is denoted as Av on Canon and A on Nikon. If you're comfortable shooting in Manual mode, the by all means shoot in Manual mode! And if you'd like to learn to shoot in Manual mode then please head over HERE, and let me show you how!

Step 2 - Now set the aperture value to the lowest number that your lens has. That might be f/1.8 if you are using a nifty 50mm lens. We're aiming for an aperture value lower than f/4.0. The lower it gets the more of that blurry background you'll get. 

Step 3 - If you're in Manual mode, balance your remaining settings, ISO and shutter speed, so that you have the desired exposure but still have a fast-enough shutter speed to avoid motion blur. If you're shooting in Aperture priority mode your camera will determine these settings for you.

Step 4 - Now let's go ahead and take a test shot and see how this is looking. If you like what you see, then great! But if this pic isn't quite what you hoped for, please keep reading, and let's see if we can get closer to what you were hoping for. 

If you wanted more blur in the Christmas lights in the background you have a few options.  
1) Move your camera closer to your subject.
2) Create more physical space between the subject and/or the Christmas light by moving farther apart. 
3) Combine of both of these options.  
4) Use a lens that has a lower aperture value. 

If there's not enough light where you're taking these photos, you might notice your camera's shutter speed getting really slow. If your shutter speed is dipping below 1/100th, you can use a tripod instead of hand-holding your camera. If you don't have a tripod (or like me you just don't want to haul it out) you can set your camera down on something safe and sturdy like a table or the floor. This will allow you to have a shutter speed as slow as you need. But beware, if you need a tripod for a slow shutter speed, it's probably too slow to take picture of moving subjects, like kiddos, even if they are holding still, but you can still freeze some non-moving subjects.
Unless you've told it otherwise, your camera will probably want to focus on whatever is closest to the lens. If your camera is focusing on the wrong thing, you'll need to dig into your manual and see how to tell your camera where you want it to focus. Look for the terms like "focal points" and/or "spot focusing" in your camera manual. Alternatively you can manually focus. 
Remember that photo at the beginning of the post? 
100mm, f/2.8, 1/13, ISO 100
If your subject isn't in enough focus, take a step back, creating more physical distance between you and your subject. 
So there you have it! I really hope you give it and try, and if you do I would absolutely LOVE too see your Christmas bokeh pictures! It's really pretty fun! And pretty please, head on over to my Facebook page and post your photos on this post so I can see them. And if you have any questions, I'm more than happy to help you out and share what I know!

Merry Christmas and happy snapping! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Friday afternoons


We have a little tradition most Fridays at our house.
Now that summer is finally gone, and it took it's own sweet time leaving this year! It hung around through October this year! But finally it's gone, and we can enjoy the outdoors again. So on Fridays our family likes to sit outside as the sun sets, wave to our neighbors as they pass by, strike up a conversation with anyone that's taking a walk past our house, and let the kids ride their bikes in the street. Or skate boards. Or scooters. Or roller blades. Or kick the soccer ball. Or throw the baseball back and forth. Or practice cart wheels... You get the idea.
Ru has felt kinda left out on these occasions. Although he tried to convince us otherwise, his bike riding skills were nonexistent when he came home to us. His athletic skills in general were pretty non-existent. Muscle tone was weak. Balance isn't his thing. Coordination is a challenge. And to top it off he has no idea at all how to steer anything. So you can imagine that learning to ride a bike has been a challenge. Opening his eyes while trying would be a starter.
Livy has been Ru's head bike-riding teacher and coach. That's Livy #thebestbigsisterintheworld. She's made it her own personal mission to teach him how to ride, and they've been out at least 1/2 a dozen times in the last couple weeks. 
His skills are getting better. As is his balance. Not really the coordination or steering thing though. It has been a slow process that often ends on the pavement with with a skinned knee or elbow, and then we all run in to scoop him up and tell him how amazing he is, and assure him he'll get it next time.
But as you can see by the huge constant smile on his face, despite the skinned knees and elbows, he's more than happy to give it another quick try every time they go out. And then the lesson ends as quickly as begins and he's content to watch his brothers and sister ride their bikes.
I'd like to end this story by telling you that he figured it out by the end of this day. That there was a happy ending. But as you can probably see by the way things are going in this series of pics, I can't say that. It didn't. And there are no more pictures in this series because a 1/2 a second after I clicked this last frame, I needed to run over to him and scoop him off the sidewalk, tell him he's amazing and tend to his skinned knee.
He'll get it next time.

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