24 Frames – A Filming Project. July – Free Choice


My submission for the monthly filmmaking project that I’m involved with is short, sweet, and…..not what I intended. But, we have been traveling almost non-stop and are just now home for the rest of the summer. So when you put off getting your clips together until the end of the month, and then at the end of the month you have TORRENTIAL RAIN…… you figure out a new plan. So this month my project is entitled July Rain. I set out to try and get super slow motion rain drops and other movements. I also had to try and use my body to stabilize shots so as not to get my stabilizer wet. Neither thing was very successful in my mind, but I do feel like I learned.

I have long had a love of water, reflections, etc so I took some footage of reflections in puddles. If anyone secretly peeked into my photo catalogue, you’d see a long running water theme, including a perhaps absurd number of reflection shots.

So this month, I present…. July Rain.

Please continue the blog circle and see the beautiful work of my co-creators! Next up, Tasha Boin, who routinely puts out gorgeous videos that make you want to jump inside your computer and experience the beauty she sees.

24 Frames – A Filming Project: May – Freelensed

Freelensing, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the “art” of shooting without the lens attached to your camera. You basically hold it up in front of the camera and hope for the best. That isn’t entirely all there is to it – you can control what is in focus, how much light leaks in, etc by how you angle the lens and how close you hold the lens to the camera. It is certainly an art form.

I tend to be a precise shooter who prizes focus and detail. To say that the theme of “freelensed” gave me not just pause but outright fear is an understatement. But one of the reasons I joined this group was to expand my horizons and learn how to incorporate new techniques into both my videography and photography.

Not only did I learn how cinematic freelensing can look – I completely fell in love with the results. This video is heavy on the freelensing because, well, that’s the theme this month. But I think freelensed shots will forever have a place in my repertoire for future films.

This is a very short film (1 min 20 sec-ish) that is mostly just freelensed clips that I have cobbled together to tell a little story. May around here is synonymous with honeysuckle. My two girls really love getting the nectar out of honeysuckle and we’ve been known to pull into random parking lots when we see honeysuckle so they can free range.

One day Charlotte and I set out to find some lingering end of season honeysuckle and I used that opportunity to pull together some freelensed clips.

After you watch, be sure to scroll down to follow the blog circle and see my friend Erica’s video! There are 3 Ericas in our small group – what are the odds?!

See Erica’s beautiful work HERE!



24 Frames. A Filming Project: April – Day in the Life

This month’s video is very different from the others that I’ve done. For one, it includes no people. It also lacks any furry friends.  But it is sort of a love letter to the flood plain behind my house. The theme for my group was “Day in the Life” but since you all already saw us doing carpool karaoke, I liberally interpreted the theme and went another route…

Last May, I spent a lot of time sitting in the flood plain waiting for the baby fox to make an appearance. I started realizing how relaxing and calm just sitting and watching the birds, trees, water, and clouds can be. Ever since, it has been my go-to place for taking deep breaths and de-stressing. I have to sneak out the back door, though, without the dog noticing, because it is also her happy place. And constantly being brought a sopping wet tennis ball to throw by a dog that smells like swamp is not as relaxing as it sounds.

This month I set about to document some of the beauty I encountered in the course of a day in the flood plain. So this is a short one and a half minute video of the beauty in my backyard.

Continue along the blog circle and watch my friend Tasha’s beautiful video here!

March – A Video Portrait

The theme for this month’s video with the *amazing* group of women I am working on the 24 Frames project with is “Video Portrait.” I had originally envisioned something like the pictures hanging on walls in Harry Potter books where the subject wasn’t necessarily doing much other than existing in front of the camera. But then I decided that I wanted to try and capture what Elisabeth is like at twelve years old. We picked three of her favorite activities – flute, soccer, and reading – and went with it. As I worked on the videos, I really enjoyed taking in the smaller details of Elisabeth – her fingers, her smile, how she moves. Also this month, I learned how to use Adobe Premiere Pro. And by “learned how to use,” I mean I learned the very very very basics. I think it might have more functionality than Photoshop!

Here’s my video. Make sure to scroll down and click on the link to my friend Sonia’s amazingly artistic video portrait (seriously, its beautiful).

Continue the blog circle to see Sonia’s beautiful work here: http://soniabourdon.net/24-frames-filming-project-march-video-portrait/


24 Frames – February – Get In The Frame

For the year 2017, I am working with a group of extraordinarily talented women to further our video skills. Mine are certainly in their infancy and I am learning a ton from this group. This month’s theme was “Get In The Frame.” This is harder to do with video than with still images because good videos generally involve artistic camera movement.

I elected to do a sort of day in our life, which was fun but a challenge. Our group also shares the videos on Instagram, which has a 1 minute time limit. A day in our life, shoved into a minute, makes for more of a glimpse into our life than a full video documenting our day. I tried to have fun with this, and so it is a bit less artistic than some other videos I’ve made and more just fun(ny). In the future I might make two versions of my videos – a longer one and a 1 min one for Instagram.

Enjoy – it is silly – but so are we. Make sure to scroll down for the link to my friend Fiona’s submission for this month!!

The next video in our blog circle is Fiona’s! Go HERE to see Fiona’s video!

24 Frames. A Filming Project: January – Slow Motion

One of my goals for 2017 is to learn to make better videos, both for myself and for my photography clients.  I’ve joined forces with an incredibly talented group of other photographers as we set out to experiment and hone our videography skills together.  We have a theme for each month of 2017 and are sharing our videos in a blog circle.  January’s theme was slow motion.

I really enjoyed learning how to make a good slow motion film.  I never appreciated frame rate, shutter speed, and playback speed prior to this month.  I also never fully appreciated how using slow motion changes the tone of the video.

This video is about one minute long and just tells the simple story of what my kids (and the crazy dog) do after school, on a day without sports practices — which is admittedly rare.

Thanks for watching!  Now continue on and watch my friend Fiona’s gorgeous video HERE!

Livin’ on a Prayer

This week’s image that stuck with me the most is my daughter, 9 yrs old, at a set of drums.  She was one of 20 kids in a camp, and on Friday the parents got to go see a performance.  So, imagine yourself in a small room with 8 drum sets and 50 of your closest friends.  Now imagine 8 elementary aged children playing the drums along to Sweet Home Alabama, and some  Bob Marley.  Oh, and did I mention there’s no A/C and it was 100 degrees outside?  And for once I’m not even exaggerating.
224 - C Drumset

But look at her face!  You could see it in her eyes.  She loved it.  She walks around now saying all sorts of weird syllables and drumming on surfaces.  Thankfully there’s a place for kids like her…. the Vienna Jammers – the percussion ensemble that hosted the camp.  My 11 yr old is already a member, so the 9 yr old is pretty excited to join her.

Technically…. this photo isn’t great.  I was shooting in a very cramped space.  The “framing” involved shooting through grown up bodies so that I could hopefully get a glimpse of Charlotte.  She’s not even in focus.  Yet….. I love it.  I love the connection.  She wasn’t posing.  She was playing.  And she looked up and smiled like that.  That’s joy on her face.

I love this picture for its subject.  And I’m writing about it for its subject as well as to tell all of the other budding photographers out there that the technicals are important…. but sometimes a great picture is still great if it is fuzzy.  Or shot using some guy’s backside as a frame.  Or a wonky color (hellllooooo black and white conversions!).  Look at some of the greatest photographs of our time and you’ll find limb chops, missed focus, horizon lines through heads – so many “rules” broken.  That’s because sometimes a picture works on its own despite those things.

(disclaimer:  I am under no delusions that my work belongs in the same sentence as some of the greatest photographs of our time… but just making a point)

On Good Friends, Creativity, and Time

I woke up this morning and, as I’m wont to do, grabbed my phone and checked Instagram.  I was met with a picture of a photography friend and fellow Vienna resident, sitting on a dorm room floor, reading the new Harry Potter book to her daughter.  The caption said something along the lines of how she’d take any chance she can get to read to her daughter again.

We still read to our girls.  Admittedly some nights I don’t feel like it, instead craving that alone time that feels so precious and rare.  But the girls love it and we’ve read some great books together. Then the thought that one day it will end hits me. Whether it is because they get tired of it or because they go off to college and distance makes it hard if not impossible, it doesn’t matter — these moments are fleeting.

So I put my phone down and decided it was time for coffee, because tears before coffee is just not on the agenda for today.  After a brief panic that we might actually be out of sugar, I managed to make my coffee and settle in with my computer.

Each girl came downstairs, a little bleary eyed, and sat with me for a bit chitter chattering about different things.  Elisabeth wanted to talk about the upcoming Vienna Jammers camp, while Charlotte wanted to talk about her adventures in solving a Rubik’s cube.  Apparently she had a white corner and not a green corner and this wasn’t good.  I was only midway through my coffee, so while I enjoyed the sound of her voice, I wasn’t actually processing the words.

And then they went off to watch their morning shows, a ritual that has persisted in this house for many, many years.  The sounds of Phinneas and Ferb, Arthur, Girl Meets World seem to be the soundtrack of my morning coffee.  At least Phinneas and Ferb is funny.

I settled in with my coffee and started reading an e-book that I was recently gifted by David DuChemin entitled A Beautiful Anarchy.  I thought it was about the creative process.  I recently met David at a photography workshop in Canada.  He’s my kind of person – witty, smart, creative, full of that whacky creative energy – so I was pretty excited to dig in to something personal he had written about creating and creatives.

Wouldn’t you know it – the first bit was all about how life is short and if you die with a blank canvas, you’re going to be pretty bummed out now, aren’t you?  Luckily I don’t think I’m personally at any risk of my proverbial canvas being blank, but if there is anything that the last 3 years have taught me – it is that you have no promises of tomorrow and no promises of a lovely post-kids retirement, so if you have a mark to make you better make it now.

This is all an awful lot to process before my second cup of coffee, let alone my first.

But it was just the swift kick I needed to start a personal project that has been brewing for awhile.

I love to write.  I guess that is part of what drew me to being a lawyer (getting paid by the word!) and part of why I have at least 3 blogs – none of which have been touched in years aside from this… my “professional” one.  So my plan has been to pick a photo each week that meant something particularly interesting, meaningful, funny, whatever and write about it.  Sometimes it might be technical, sometimes more creative – but I’m hoping to create a series of photo essays that I can look back on and remember specifics about the time.

So this week, my first week, is a photo from yesterday.

219- inner circle USAFRA

It is of one of my dearest friends on this planet (Melissa), her daughter, and my Elisabeth.  Melissa and I met in law school.  I was barely pregnant and Melissa would find out she was pregnant a few months later.  We were in class with a bunch of kids just out of college who were horrified enough by my wedding band, not to mention the fact I could easily put back a burrito dos manos from Baja Fresh as I gained 50 (!!) pounds over the course of the next 6 months and then birthed a child.  It was good to have another adult to laugh at the fact my huge self could not fit into a chair that was physically attached to the desk, and another adult who also understood that a contracts exam wasn’t the defining point in our lives.

But Melissa was also much more than that.  We developed a friendship much deeper than law school acquaintances and now our lives are happily entwined through not only our friendship but the friendship of our families with each other.  Side note:  it is a darn good thing our kids like each other!  Otherwise they’d really not enjoy vacations and random Saturdays very much!

Melissa and her family are good people – like *really* good people.  The kind that do the right thing when no one else is watching.  So, we’re pretty lucky to have them in our lives. Elisabeth is also pretty lucky to have Melissa as her soccer coach since she was 4 yrs old.

Melissa has instilled a love of the game not only in Elisabeth, but in the rest of us as well.  When we started down this soccer journey, I truthfully knew nothing of the game and was one of those people who would have told you it was boring because there isn’t enough scoring.  Watching your children play a sport that they love through and through will make a fan out of even the hardest heart and Elisabeth *loves* soccer.

We’ve all become rabid US Women’s National Team fans, as well as rabid fans of our local soccer team, the Washington Spirit.  This summer we’re closely following the Olympics and yesterday we got together with Melissa and family to watch the game.  They walked in the door and the scene in this picture immediately unfolded.  Melissa and the girls, on the floor in front of the tv, talking about the lineup.  What did it MEAN that JJ wasn’t in at defense?!  How would we meet France’s speed?  So I snapped the shutter and hopefully captured what it felt like in that moment.  The tete a tete amongst three soccer fanatics who love each other and the game.

A wise soul recently told me something that I’ve known in the back of my head but not heard outright:  shoot how it feels, not how it looks.  I sometimes find myself wrapped up in the technical and putting pictures on the cutting room floor that should really belong in my memories, if not in my portfolio.  This image was how it felt to me.  Huddled together in anticipation.

We’ve got seven more years with these two before we’re hopefully reading a book to them while sitting on their college dorm room floor.  Of course none of that is promised, we can  only hope and pray that those moments happen.  So I’m going to try and treasure what I have in front of my face and not count the days that remain.

I think it is high time for that second cup of coffee.  My baby turns 9 tomorrow.  Time just keeps marching on.

The First Hundred Days

I decided to take on a project this year in which I take (and attempt to edit and share) at least one picture every day for the 366 days of 2016. I honestly thought I would hate it, but I wanted to do it to try and break out of my rut, to try and expand my horizons photographically, and also as a form of stress relief – to make myself do something for myself every single day. I’m 100 days in (well really 110, but this blog post is 10 days overdue!). I wanted to celebrate that milestone by compiling some of my favorite images into one blog post.

Let’s be clear — there have been some massive flops. I’m not striving for perfection every day (which is very very hard for me!) but just to click the shutter every day and edit every day. I’ve shared the flops on social media but for this post I’m only going to include the ones I like 🙂

I cannot recommend a project like this highly enough if you’re feeling stagnant.  It takes drive to push through, but I’ve solidified a lot of techniques all while expanding my horizons.


Balance Amidst Chaos     Crazy Pepper

Snowy Road     E throwing Snow 24-366

Time to Make the Waffles     Many Faces of C

38-366 Lemon     44-366 Bluebird in the Snow

54-366 Goats     58-366 - Marine Promotion 1

68-366 Rope Swingin-2     71-366 Meadowlark keep calm

74-366 Cherry Blossom     79-366 Sunset in LA

80-366 Sandcastles     80-366 Sunset

85-366 Joined at the hip-2     86-366 Cow

90-366 Fiddlehead Color     95-366 Sunflower

98-366 Joy Project Sam E Ava

Thanks for looking through to the bitter end!

A Short and Low-Tech Review of the Sigma 150-500

Back in 2014, we were heading to Alaska on a Disney Cruise (side note:  best use of money ever).  I have a (perhaps strange) obsession with bears and was so excited about photographing one.

I have a healthy fear of bears too, so I knew I wanted a long lens.  Of course, I’d really love a Nikon 80-400 or something else long and in the $2-6K range, but sometimes you can’t just spend all that money on a lens.  Like most of the time, really.

I went to our local camera shop and looked at some used Nikons.  The guys there convinced me to give this Sigma 150-500 a try.  Including a rebate, I walked out the door with the lens plus an expensive UV filter for about $800.  $800 is incredibly inexpensive for a lens with this reach.  I keep reminding myself of that fact.

I’ve been using it for the last 18 months or so periodically, since in suburban Virginia I don’t have a whole lot of need for a long lens.  I’m pretty sure my neighbors consider calling the cops when I’m using it to shoot birds.  I’m sure I look like a peeper.

My opinion?  Meh.  I’m rarely thrilled with the images it captures, but they’re fine.  I am impressed that the optical stabilization is such that I can generally shoot with it hand-held even at 500mm and get sharp images.  They aren’t as sharp as images I capture with my 100mm Tokina, but with some post processing sharpening, they’re ok.

I routinely feel like images I capture with the Sigma 150-500 take more work in post-processing than images I take with any other lens that I own, but after I do the work, they are usable images.  I have found that the lens is not completely sharp at 500mm, but if you back off to ~450mm, it is sharp.  I know that there’s a lot of debate as to whether different lenses can result in noisier/less noisy images.  Without wading into the debate, I will say that the noise in my images even at ISOs I know my camera can handle well is more than with other lenses.  I have to use drastic noise reduction in almost every image.

The one thing that drives me BATTY about this lens is the focus.  It does an awful lot of seeking, and when it is seeking across the whole focal length range it is SO SLOW.  It is not good for fast moving animals like birds in flight.  Whales were a problem in Alaska too.  The focus is  painfully slow if it doesn’t grab it immediately.  I have found that if I manually focus it and then just use the auto focus to nail it down, that works best.  Luckily the lens allows you to just grab the focus ring and turn it in order to switch to manual focus.

I guess this is that true situation where you get what you pay for.  For a low price, I was able to get a lens that has allowed me to get a few images that I love.  It allows me to photograph my backyard birds and foxes easily without sinking a ton of money into gear.  I routinely look at used lenses to upgrade to a Nikon – but I still can’t stomach spending the big bucks for a lens I use infrequently.  This is not a resounding WOO HOO or BOO for the Sigma 150-500.  I suspect it does exactly the job it was designed to do:  bring long lenses to sometimes wildlife photographers who don’t want to sink a ton of money into it. The downside is that I am enough of a perfectionist and know enough about photography to realize that the lens is not as great as I want.

Here’s a few images I have captured with the Sigma 150-500 that I like: