Tag Archives: kids

The Whole Wide World

This week was spent taking a trip down memory lane. I scanned through 14 years of home videos to put together a video piece for La Belle Tu called Whole Wide World. It is the story of “a little girl with great big plans” and set to a catchy tune by Mindy Gledhill from Triple Scoop Music.

While the existing videos provided footage for about half of the piece, the concept of a mother and daughter who capture a moment in time taking photos together required putting on a small shoot at the La Belle Tu studio.

We shot our talented cast (my wife and daughter) using a Canon 5D Mark 3 as well as a Canon Vixia HD digital video camera as they experience their photo shoot together. I must say that I have a whole new respect for filmmakers. It isn’t easy directing a movie—even one that is only 3 minutes long!

The final video tells the story of a little girl growing up fast and sharing special moments in her life with her mother.

Enjoy the Whole Wide World


Filed under filmmaking, music, Photography

Beautiful Things

On Saturday morning the parents of the Pasadena Waldorf School braved the brisk California 70 degree morning air and gathered under partially cloudy skies  to witness the 8th Grade class graduation ceremony.

All Waldorf events start with food. It is tradition that for the graduation, the 7th grade class provides the reception, and we were greeted with a wonderful spread of homemade scones, finger sandwiches, hot coffee and tea.

A PWS graduation is unlike the typical middle school ceremony. The classes are small (21 kids are in the 8th grade class) and so there is time to spend reflecting on the individual children and what the event means as they transition into being young adults. The families are recognized, thoughtful and funny speeches are made and songs are sung.

Waldorf events are big on ritual and symbolism. Flowers are taken and given, songs are sung and poems recited. Watching my daughter sitting there with her class it was hard not to tear up and get all mushy.

PWS students are an amazing group of kids. They are confident, artistic and ready to take on the world. The education produces creative thinkers who have a sense of their humanity and place in the world.

This year will see the beginning of the Pasadena Waldorf High School. Our daughter will be in the first class–a class of less than 15 kids. They will be the pioneers, shaping the school for future classes.

Our daughter gave us a rose and a card with the following note inside:

“Dear Mon and Dad, I am so grateful for all the work and dedication you have put in for me to receive this education. Each of you have put so much time into making all this possible. Without Waldorf, I believe that I would be a completely different person than I am now. Thank you for everything. Love, Paige.”

Continuing her Waldorf education into high school was totally her decision to make, and I think it took courage. In a class of 500 you can blend in, find a little group of friends and feel safe.

In a class of 15 kids there is no place to hide.

The years are racing by at the speed of light and it is all we can do to hang on, love one another, and savor the moments we have together.


Filed under inspirational, Photography

Things that Flash

I have been working hard on learning how to light with off-camera strobe lights. A great resource for anyone interested in using flashes is the Strobist Blog. One thing that I’ve found out quickly is that once you head down the strobe path, there is a whole bunch of new things to learn.

I love to learn new things!

There is also an endless amount of money to be spent on equipment (strobes, radio triggers, cables, light modifiers, books, etc.), which can lead to a hefty credit card bill quickly if you lack self restraint and like shiny new electronic toys.

I love shiny new electronic toys!

Taking photos with strobes presents a unique challenge that involves a balance of creative and technical skill. It especially appeals to me because it means really considering the image you want to create, and shaping the light to serve the vision for that image.

Below is my first real attempt to use multiple light sources to shape an image. My son loves to read and can often be found oblivious to the world with his head tucked deep into the folds of a novel (especially a Harry Potter novel). I wanted an image that captured his love of reading and the sparkle in his eyes when he is caught reading one of his favorite books.

I took a layered approach to building this image. First I calculated an exposure that reduced most of the natural light in the room. The curtains were quite bright and I did not want them to overpower the bulb in the lamp. My exposure was:

ISO 200, 1/200 sec., f /5.0

This effectively took all the ambient light influence out of the photo, leaving just the strobes to light Ryan and the chair and table set piece.

I then added a fill light which was a flash shot through an Westcott shoot-through umbrella just to the left of my camera.

This guaranteed me that I would see detail in the left side of his face, the book and the furniture, and that the bulb in the light would be visible. The flash setting on this was:

Canon 580 EX II Flash at 1/16 + 1/3 power on Manual Mode

The last step was to add the key light, which I wanted to be warm and be far enough back that it felt like it could have been generated from the mica lamp. My first attempts had the flash too far back, which was not very flattering and spilled distracting light on the lamp.

I adjusted by moving the key light forward and attached some black cardboard to keep it from spilling on the lamp and background. The final set-up looked like this:

This gives you an idea how much light was actually coming through the windows, but with the fast shutter speed it was almost all canceled out so that the strobes would be the primary light sources in the shot. The key light strobe was shot through a Lastolite 24: McNally Ezybox with a full CTO gel for warmth. The flash setting on this was:

Canon 430 EX II Flash at 1/4 + 2/3 power on Manual Mode

The 580 EX II was connected to my camera using a long TTL cable. And both flashes had Pocket Wizard TT5 radio triggers to fire them, although I could have used Canon’s built-in flash triggering system if I wanted to.

Here is the lighting “diagram” from my note pad:

It was a fun little project, and the best part was that I ended up with a nice shot of my son!


Filed under Photography

Little Things that Matter

Two little things to be specific: my son and daughter. The two things in my life that matter most. Of the many jobs I have as a parent, helping to nurture their passions ranks high on the list.  The challenge is in guiding them towards interests that have some redeeming value beyond being something that they purely find fun. Otherwise, their passion would be to watch TV and play video games most waking hours.

At a young age my daughter (the eldest) took an interest in learning to play piano. After much discussion we made the plunge and purchased an upright piano and found a local teacher who could take on a new student.  A few years later my son joined in, thankfully allowing us to amortize the cost of the piano across two children, but also doubling the cost of the lessons.

It didn’t take long at all for the novelty to wear off.

As with any new skill as the difficulty level increases so does the need to practice, as does the whining and complaining. When you are a kid the concept that anything worth doing requires commitment is purely a ridiculous idea created by parents to torment their children.

But we have thick hides, selective hearing and iron wills. Our rule is: no practice, no dessert.

But as the weeks, months and years have gone by our children have slowly begun to realize a basic fact of life: practice makes people better. And the better they get, the more they enjoy the practice. Okay, who am I kidding. They still hate practice but getting them to do it takes less pestering than it used to. And these days, they even sit down at the piano and just play for the fun of it now and then.

Something else happens that is pretty cool too: when they play people think they are great, and their little egos get a lift. Best of all, the praise is not artificial–they are actually getting recognized for a talent that they earned. And little by little they are finding that music is more that hitting the right keys–they are finding that there is an artist inside them and music is an avenue for expressing themselves.

Sometimes it takes a push for us to not only find our thing, but to take hold of it, nurture it, and make it our own. And when we do dessert is so much sweeter.



Filed under hobbies, music, Photography