Heartbreak and Healing

My son Levi took this from an access road on the opposite hillside on March 24th. He had to actually photograph a series of shots to get the whole thing in.
My son Levi took this from an access road on the opposite hillside on March 24th. He had to actually photograph a series of shots to get the whole thing in.
As many of you know, everything in the Stillaguamish valley changed dramatically on March 22, 2014. Under all that mud was a neighborhood, a community. Kids with bikes and balls, pets, homes. Every person I know in the area was somehow touched by that tragedy. They all knew someone who was lost or were related to someone who was lost. There were those that suddenly found that there was a 2 hour addition to their commute in each direction morning and night. Some people stayed what we call "down below" either with friends or sheltered by FEMA, etc. Some of them don't see their families for days at a time. There were those that lost everything they owned, except their mortgage in some cases. There are those that are still dealing with fears both up and downstream of the slide from flooding or a sudden breakthrough of the dammed river washing away their homes. My heart aches and my throat closes just thinking about it.
his is the western edge of the slide. You can see a white house across the river that was just missed.
This is the western edge of the slide. You can see a white house across the river that was just missed.
There was a flipside to those losses, and that is the incredible bravery and stamina of those that have put their own lives at risk in the rescue work, and the tireless work of those who supported them. Those people saw things no one should have to see. They found our dead, and every time they did and the helicopter would come to lift the bodies away all work would stop and everyone watched them go. The respect and love shown to the victims really honors us all.
2nd shot, still toward the western edge heading to the middle. The humps are debris under the mud, including homes.
2nd shot, still toward the western edge heading to the middle. The humps are debris under the mud, including homes.
There were the the people in charge who handled logistics, made decisions, took the brunt of the press and dealing with a lot of grieving folks. Thanks for your sleepless nights and the courage to make difficult choices. The local business people that worked so hard to keep up with demands, contributed funds and goods to help the locals were outstanding. Our largest local employer, Hampton Lumber, was absolutely stellar about letting the guys off work to take part in the rescue effort or be with their families and friends. They've been hush hush about their contributions to the victims and their families. They're not in it for publicity, like some companies would be. I admire that. Then there were men and women that came from all over to help. I saw trucks from the San Juan islands, Skagit county, Marysville, Edmonds, Mukilteo, Stanwood, even an airboat from Orange, Texas. I know I'm forgetting a lot of them. It was a blur. They came and covered shifts so the locals could continue the search.
The center toward the east.
The center toward the east.
No one will ever forget those awesome women who fed everyone. I've never seen so many cookies and goodies in one place in my life as I did at the community center! There were those that contributed to our community's needs out of the kindness of their hearts, those who were inspired to put together their own 'relief convoys' and brought truckload after truckload of food for both people and animals, including livestock. Above all I kept hearing over and over again from those who live outside of our community, like the press, that they just had a hard time believing that such a community spirit still exists in this day and age. I had one reporter tell me that it reminded him of his hometown in Texas, that he could tell the roots of the community are southern. 🙂 His photographer didn't know what to make of it. She said "All these ladies just kept asking me what I wanted to eat, if I'd eaten, here honey, have a bite to eat you look hungry..." LOL I saw so many people hugging each other, everyone was comforting someone somehow, and even those who had suffered great losses of their own were doing their best to comfort others. It really shows that there are still good people out there, kind people, if you look for them and give them the chance to shine.
The eastern edge of the slide, towards Hazel, and the beginning of the ponding from the river being dammed.
The eastern edge of the slide, towards Hazel, and the beginning of the ponding from the river being dammed.
One thing I kept hearing over and over again on various news shows was 'it was an act of God' or 'God took him' and I just want to share what gave me some comfort from the bible about that idea. In the bible in the book of Ecclesiastes at chapter 9, verse 11 it says
“The swift do not always win the race, nor do the mighty win the battle, nor do the wise always have the food, nor do the intelligent always have the riches, nor do those with knowledge always have success, because time and unexpected events overtake them all.”
In other words, bad things happen. Unfair things happen. It's not God's fault, it just happens. We're all familiar with the scripture at John 3:16 where Jesus said "“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life." A God of love doesn't kill people or allow their deaths because 'he needed another angel'. No. Another scripture, James 1:13,  says this:
"When under trial let no one say, 'I am being tried by God.' For with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone."
The bible explains clearly why God has allowed people to suffer this long, and that he is going to undo all the bad that has happened very soon. Revelation 21:3-4 will come true.
"With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them.  And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
These bad times, the "former things,"  will pass, God promises it, and he never lies. This article explains God's promises in the bible about when natural disasters will be a thing of the past earth wide. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it did me. Most of all, though, I just want to say Thank You to everyone who took it upon themselves to get involved, to show kindness to those who had lost so much. Thank you. Cheryl

Don’t Take Chances- Take Multiple Shots

What is continuous shooting mode, and why should you always keep your camera set there? Because taking just one shot is a recipe for disaster. Why? I was recently watching a photographer shooting an event and I noticed something that really concerned me. There were several group shots, and as each group was assembled the photographer went 'click' one time, and then the groups moved on and the next one assembled. One click... Yikes. That's leaving a lot to chance. Sure enough, when the proofs came back, the family pictures left something to be desired. Not only were they distorted by a bad choice in focal length, but there were several awkward poses. How many times have you taken a picture of a group and everyone's eyes and attention were where they were supposed to be? There's the guy flirting with someone across the room, eyes-closed kid, the idiot who thinks he's hilarious flipping off the camera or doing bunny ears behind someone else's head, the blur, or cousin Dwight with his finger up his nose, again. And then there are your mistakes. Can a photographer always catch all the details by chimping? No. The 3 inch view screen on the back of the camera can really fool you. I've thought 'got it' when I was feeling rushed and it never ever fails that when I get home and get the pictures uploaded that I have a serious heart-sinking oh-no moment when I see the details I missed, like someone just slightly out of focus. Sigh. Don't get in a hurry! Take. More. Than. One. Picture.

Always use the 'continuous shooting' mode when taking pictures.

Whether they're group shots, action shots, or still portraits. Most digital cameras have this capability now, even phones. The camera won't take multiple pictures every time you hit the shutter button if you have a light touch (you do, right?) but when you want more you can. I just leave my camera set there, because there is never enough time to switch when you're in the moment. Machine gunning exposures like paparazzi can catch the fleeting expressions of a child or pet, or just get a shot of a group with everyone's eyes open and no one's tongue out or finger up. There's also a psych factor. Once people hear the first click of the camera they tend to relax, and you get some nice natural expressions for portraits. Sometimes the second or third picture in a series will be less blurry if you tend to have shaky hands or are in low light. You may also get some unexpected expressions in shooting a series, like my son channeling his inner Grumpy Cat. The whole point is to make things easier on yourself, and to catch the memories you want. If I wouldn't have been on 'continuous shooting' I never would have caught this expression, have the fun of teasing him about it, or have my younger son tell me, "Yeah, that's how he looks when he's really going to throw it hard. I always know I'd better brace myself when I see that face." Have fun, catch the moment. Cheryl

A Beautiful Wedding

All of the work and worry came to beautiful fruition Sunday, when my son and the girl of his dreams were wed. Congratulations, Luke and Ellie! Thank you for letting your family and friends be a part of one of the most important days of your life.
First Dance as Man and Wife
Two become one.
I shot this with a nice compact 50mm 1.8 lens, no flash. I had my ISO cranked, which makes for some grainyness, but I didn't want to carry a big flash and camera in my purse. And carrying my 'jurassic bag' wasn't an option with my mother-of-the-groom formalware on. I'm still recovering from my bling shoes! LOL You can see the 'real' photographer crouched on the other side of the happy couple getting the mirror image of the same pose. She is an amazing person who we called on very short notice because the first photographer we hired got the stomach flu. The very morning of the wedding the maid of honor gave Denaje a panicked call and she flew to our rescue. She's our hero! You can find the DPB Photography page on facebook by clicking here. Thank you again, Denaje. 🙂 I also want to give a shout out to The Marysville Opera House, the gorgeous venue the bride's family found. It's a truly lovely historic building with a wonderful ambiance. What did I learn from being inside a wedding? Hmmm. Wear waterproof makeup, that's a given. Stuff will go wrong, but it's ok. Friends and famly are the most important decorations in the room, and their loving support made the beauty of that day possible. And it's over before you know it, so be sure to stop and appreciate the moment. I will cherish these memories forever. Thank you all so much. Much love, Cheryl

Shake, Rattle and Roll

With the lovely auto-immune issues I seem to be saddled with, I seem to quite often be victim to my hands shaking like aspen leaves in a high wind. It happens most often when I've worked beyond my limits, and am reaching exhaustion.  As you can figure, shaking hands and photography do not mix. So what can you do to help with the problem if you also fight a bit of palsy? There's always using tripods and remote triggers, of course. Modern cameras also have a 'vibration reduction' feature, which is some help. There are a few other things you can do, too. I have to admit, though, that the lighter the camera, the fuzzier the picture. It seems almost impossible for me to get a completely sharp shot on my cellphone, for instance. They usually turn out somewhat 'artistic'. 😉 You can try leaning on things. Keep your elbows close to your body instead holding your camera waaaay out at the end of your arms swinging in mid-air. Yeah, I know, those LCD viewfinders make that tough. Rather than inhaling and holding your breath, exhale slowly while clicking. I also use a multishot setting when I take pictures, quite often. In other words, the camera takes more than one picture while I have the shutter depressed. Sometimes the second is sharper than the first. You might just catch everyone's eyes open, too. 🙂 If you have a choice, make sure that your shutterspeed is faster than the length of your lens, at the very least, and faster than 1/125 a second or more so that the fast shutter speed can make up for your wobble and bobble. So those are a few ways that you can sharpen up your photos, rather than being doomed to fuzzy 'art' shots. Along that line, let me show off one of my newest lines at Zazzle. It's sporting a head of curly hair with fun pink highlights, and says 'I'm not gray, I'm Chrome!' in honor of all of us who are joining the Gray Hair Revolution, and owning our status as Natural Queens! So if you want to shout to the world that you earned every one of those lovely chrome strands, check out my store! 🙂 Find the Chrome Hair Travel Mug Here. It's Customizable! Have a great day, and don't forget to encourage someone along the way! Cheryl  

The Horizon Matters

The cutest picture ever (to Corgi Geek fans, anyway) is making the rounds of the internet. I traced it back to the Geeks are Sexy website, but if anyone knows the photographer, holler and I'll slap up the appropriate attribution. I would have attributed this to a common every day FRAP (frantic random act of play) but they are carrying weapons, signifying something more dire. This claims to be a LARP, or live action role play, or perhaps a reenactment of one of the Welsh wars.... we hope. The Welsh may be finally ready to take back Wales and conquer the Western World while they're at it. All those loving Corgis may just be the first vanguard ... or this could be simply another skirmish in the Stubbies -v- Tails debate. 😉 Ok, so whether or not the Corgi army is battling for freedom is not really the point, you're wondering what this has to do with photography! This picture demonstrates something that I see a lot of times when we're in a hurry to take a picture, or only really paying attention to our subject matter or foreground, and that's the apparent tipping of the entire planet slightly to the left. In this case, if you straightened and cropped the picture in post you might cut something important out of the picture because it's pretty tightly framed, so it's better left alone. If you do have plenty of room around your subject this is something that can be fixed, you can level and then crop pictures in every photo editing software I know of, which means it's a really common problem, it's not just that you personally are a numskull. 🙂 I've done it a lot of times. We usually have one hand that is stronger than the other, so if you hold the camera with two hands it will often be tipped a little. Or the weight balance of the camera is a little off, and you just have to train your hand to feel how to properly hold it to make it level so that when you are in a hurry the motion is natural. Some cameras have a visual grid in the viewfinder that makes this easier to do, others don't. If there is the potential of it being a really cool picture, take several shots at varying distances so that you'll get something you can edit into what you wanted, then trash what didn't work out. And if you have to make excuses for your shot, it didn't work out. Toss it. Fix it, or Forget it. Do better next time. So now you'll get all picky about horizons, right? Ok, so now you have to learn the difference between a receding shore line or river bank. Sometimes they'll still just look sort of wrong to me. Here's a good example. So try to keep your horizon level as best you can, except when it's not. 😉 Now go do something fun, and don't forget to take pictures! Cheryl