Things to do… photography edition!

For those of you interested in photography and wanting to either further your education or challenge your skills I’ve found some free and inexpensive options to explore!

BEN SASSO – He has a handful of great paid education workshops. He also has a free lighting workshop and a really great newsletter which he sends infrequently but loaded with helpful hints when it does arrive in your inbox! You can find his workshops along with the free lighting working on his website here. I’ve always admired his work and would love to ask him to photograph me and my husband the next time we’re in his area!

SAM HURD – He has, without a doubt, the most valuable photography Patreon out there. He has shared literally EVERYTHING on his Patreon and it’s well worth the cost of the month subscription. I attended his workshop a few years back in California and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent on photography education. You can find his Patreon page here.

TRIBE ARCHIPELAGO – Their blog is a wealth of information. They have a great newsletter and Facebook group too and often do editing videos with their presets. You can find their blog online here.

MAG MOD – I discovered their flash/light systems a few years ago and have purchased a ton of their products. Their system is so well designed that I feel like it takes all of the guess work out of it for me. I am far from an expert at using off-camera light, but with their system every time I experiment, the images turn out exactly how I imagined them. I absolutely love the ease of their system and after years of heavy use, all of my products from them are still standing strong! I also really love their blog. They don’t post on there frequently, but there are so many great articles to go back and read through. Many of their posts contain videos too, showing how a variety of professional photographers use their products. They get you thinking creatively about light and show the numerous ways you can utilize their products. You can find their blog here.

CLICK IT UP A NOTCH – Both their ‘Photo Tips’ and ‘Resources’ pages have a lot of great content for free. Most of it is aimed toward beginners, but it has everything from outlining the uses and benefits of a variety of lenses to seasonal photography ideas, tips, and tricks. Start on their resources page here, and start exploring from there!

UNSCRIPTED – I work primarily through prompts. I’m an introvert and hate having my photos taken so I’ve always worked really hard to try to create and environment for my clients that even my own awkward self would feel comfortable in. My goal is for clients to walk away telling me they had fun and enjoyed the process. Prompts have quite literally changed my business and I’ve been using them for years. The Unscripted app is a wonderful resource to get you started using prompts. The app has quite a few free prompts on there. There is, of course, an option to upgrade your account and pay for more prompts too. You can download the app here.

CHALLENGES – And, if you’re looking for some creative inspiration, I’ve found a few photography challenge inspiration posts here, here, here, and here.

Also, I’m always more than happy to help and answer questions so if you start working through any of the challenges or are practicing your skills and need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out! Happy Capturing!

Things to do…

I’ve seen plenty of posts listing ‘things to do while quarantined’. Most of the posts though, contain ‘things to do’ to keep children busy while they’re homeschooling and stuck in the house. I wanted to create a similar list, but aimed more toward adults. Throughout this pandemic my anxiety has been causing my body to vibrate constantly and if I’m unable to keep my mind and body busy, my anxiety takes hold and I promise you it isn’t pretty. So, I’ve created a list. Because lists feel like they are bringing organization to the chaos. They make me feel like I’ve created some semblance of order and right now, that seems to ease my anxiety. So, here is a list of some things I’ve found over the last few days which are either free or heavily discounted to keep your mind busy while practicing #socialdistancing.

MYSTERY MANSION – If you love escape rooms as much as I do, you will be excited by this one! Regina’s Mystery Mansion is providing a live-streaming option so you can do an escape room from home and you can direct the game-master via live stream on what to do next. You can book in on their website here. I’m sure that other local escape rooms will also start offering something like this so please try to support local if you can and try out experiences like this one!

JSTOR – They have opened access to their journals and articles for FREE! You can find more information about what they’re offering and how you can access it here.

SCRIBD – They offer free 30 day access to unlimited books, magazines, and audiobooks. Past that 30 days memberships are only $8.99 which is a great deal for the content they have! You can find them online here.

AUDIBLE – They are offering free access to hundreds of children’s and teen’s audiobooks. I just browed the list of titles and there are some great titles in there including plenty of classics. They have advertised this as for children and teens but there is a large assortment of audiobooks everyone in the family will like. You can find all of these books here.

CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE – They are offering a discount on all of their courses until the end of the month if you use the discount code LEARNATHOME14 . They have some great personal development courses as well as some silly ones too! I’m currently taking a course on Cryptozoology and loving it! You can find all of their courses outlined on their website here.

NEW YORK POST STORE – They are also offering a lot of online courses at a heavily discounted rate. From what I can tell this sale ends in the next few days though so if you’re interested, act quickly! Also, if you were looking at any of the Centre of Excellence courses, many of their course are in this sale as part of bundles so they savings are huge. I was looking at a writing course and actually found it here as part of a bundle with a handful of extra writing courses and at half the cost compared to if I would have just bought it by itself from Centre of Excellence. You can see all the courses in the sale here.

RED HERRING GAMES – This is a company who creates Murder Mystery games. I’ve played one of their games before with my family and it was quite fun. We actually plan to do another here soon while everyone is still self-isolating. Because we can’t get together in person, we’re going to set up and online group video chat and play the game that way. Red Herring offers downloadable products and games so this is actually quite easy to do with friends and family. Also, they have a really fun newsletter option that’s solely puzzles. Every day they email a new puzzle to do and I always look forward to solving it! You can see their huge assortment of games online here.

As I find more things, I’ll add them to my list but until then, I hope you enjoy this and find something here which helps take your mind off of everything we’re dealing with right now. Much love and happiness to all of you!

The Dichotomy of a Day

I’ve alluded on social media that I have been struggling a bit on this trip. It was a bunch of little things that I don’t need to get into at the moment. I had/have the power to navigate all of them so they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers, just dampening my spirits a bit.

Last night I decided I would overcome one of my first hurdles and figure out how to order a Tuk Tuk to come pick me up and take me into town to explore a bit. After waiting for four hours for my cell phone service and the wifi to come back online I called a driver and in Spanish managed to give the correct address. 15 minutes later the driver pulled up and I was off to start the day. I asked him to take me to the Plaze de Mercado, the local fruit/fish market. I wandered the market and surrounding area, made my way down to the Amazon river, and even spoke with a few of the locals. I was SO proud of myself for overcoming my fear of calling someone who didn’t speak English and figuring the entire morning/afternoon out on my own and with great success. I made my way back to the house I’m staying at and was really excited to tell Aaron all about my day and what I had managed to do.

Shortly after I arrived back at the house I was sitting in my room, reading when popping noises broke the silence. I could tell they were off in the distance and at first thought, ‘that must just be kids playing with firecrackers’. A minute later half a dozen more pops sounded off and all I could think about was my dear friend Janelle describing the sounds she heard while in Vegas at the Route 91 shooting.

This wasn’t firecrackers.

I tried not to panic and just listened. They still sounded like they were a block or two away. There were gaps of silence between each grouping of shots. Then there was a round that were much closer than the others. After these shots a child started screaming and crying off in the distance. The shots were getting closer after each terrible gap of silence. I dropped to the floor and crawled to the corner. While belly-down on the tiles I peaked my head around the corner of my room. I watched as the front door and the gap between the door and floor allowing a sliver of sun to shine through suddenly had two leg-shaped shadows in it. Half a dozen more shots went off right outside of my front door. I lost it.

I was absolutely positive I was going to die. I left Aaron a voicemail sobbing and telling him I loved him. Children were still crying off in the distance and I have never felt more scared in my entire life. I desperately tried calling my Mom but she wasn’t answering, then I tried my brother, I tried calling Aaron again, probably six times in a row. Nobody was picking up and the guns had quieted outside. I sat in the corner of my room and sobbed uncontrollably. I was trapped in my room. There were bars on my bedroom windows, and if I left the room through the door I made myself visible to the front door and wall-sized window beside it which was only half-covered with a threadbare sheet. The back door led me to a 12-foot high cement wall and no way to climb it. I was SO mad at myself for not creating a better escape plan. I was sure I was going to be shot, crying in the corner alongside with few dead cockroaches.

Twelve long minutes passed and the front door swung open, but when I looked there wasn’t anyone there. Then the house cleaner rounded the corner. She told me there was indeed shooting outside but that I didn’t need to be scared. They were armed guards. It was fine, she told me. Nothing was fine, I was NOT fine.

I found out the day after this happened that another neighbor had also reported and automatic weapon being fired around the houses in the area I was staying. The local police told me there was indeed ‘conflict’ in the area. They were currently considering the area ‘unsafe’ and ‘at risk’ and advised me that I should not be there alone and recommended I move to a safer area immediately.

Every sound I hear outside sends me into a panic. A neighbour dropped a bike outside my windows a few hours ago and I started crying again. Every ounce of my being just wants to catch the next flight out of here and come home. I’m terrified, alone, and feel incredibly vulnerable. If this is ‘all part of the experience’ I want no part of it.

Meeting Bigfoot

I wrote this post months ago and only now am realizing I never shared it. So, if you enjoy reading my random mutterings, here’s another one for you!

I need to preface this story with a few facts. The first, I live for unique experiences. I’ve always made every effort to live my life to the fullest and yearn for experiences that allow me to tell stories. Spontaneity and adventure are two of my most favourite things.

Also, I love Bigfoot. Like really, love Bigfoot. Of all the cryptozoology creatures, Sasquatch is the one I’ll do my best to convince anyone who will listen to my wild theories, is the real deal. And I’m only a tiny bit joking about this.

So now, onto the story about how I met Bigfoot…

When my cousin emailed our family to tell everyone that my Grandma wasn’t doing well I knew I needed to pack up and make the trip out to Edmonton to see her before it was too late. I had just finished a tour at work and only had 70 hours before I had to work again but I was going to make it there one way or another. After a late visit at the hospital I chose a hotel at random to crash for the night before going back to see her again in the morning. It was close to 01:00 when my sister, Regan and I walked through the doors of the Chateau Nova, bags over our shoulders and under our eyes. We were greeted by a tall, burly man with a pleasant smile. I looked up to meet his greeting but stopped at his name tag. It said Bigfoot. I laughed and told him I loved his name tag. He laughed quietly and so I pushed and said, “No really, I LOVE your name tag. I’m a huge fan of Bigfoot”.

“Do you want to see something?” He asked while pulling out his phone.

Regan took a step backward, while I excitedly yelled, “Yes!! I do!” It was at this point in me telling Aaron the story that he interrupted me, noting, “You do realize there’s an incredibly real possibility that this man who calls himself Bigfoot was pulling out his phone to show you a photo of his junk, right?” I told him I was willing to take that chance.

Regan, now a few feet away from this conversation, likely contemplating her exit strategy asks from a distance, “Is the point in the conversation I tell you to stop talking to strangers?”

“No, Regan. It’s not. We are bonding over a common love for Bigfoot and this is very important.”

Bigfoot pulls out his phone, scrolls through some photos and finds what he’s looking for. He passes his phone over to me with a smile on his face. I eagerly grabbed at his phone and on it is a photo of Bigfoot (like THE Sasquatch) sitting on a fallen tree in a forest, reading a newspaper.

“That’s me!!” He exclaimed.

I started doing my happy dance, jumping with excitement and told him he HAD to get me a copy of that photo. He didn’t really say anything, he just smiled and told me about the circumstances that led to him wearing a Bigfoot costume in the middle of a forest. He had been cast in a tv show a few years back and after making a mental note of the show and thanking him for showing me the photo we set off to out room. As soon as we got to the room I started Googling him and found the episode of the show he was on. I had been watching it for a few minutes when there was a knock at the door. I looked through the peep hole and Bigfoot was standing on the other side. I opened the door and blurted, “I’m watching your show!” “How on earth did you find it?!” he asked. “My research skills are impeccable,” I replied. He laughed and handed me an envelope. I took it and asked, “Is this our bill?”He shook his head and immediately I knew what was inside. I tore the envelope open and excitedly pulled out an autographed 8×10 of the photo he had showed me on his phone. I thanked him profusely for making my week and off he went.

A few days after this my grandma passed away and I found myself back in Edmonton for her funeral. I already knew I had stay at Chateau Nova and Bigfoot was there to check me in again. He recognized me right away and asked what my husband thought of the photo. I told him Aaron thought it was hilarious. I didn’t mention that Aaron also thinks that I’m wildly eccentric and weird but that’s beside the point. As he was checking me in I had mentioned I thought there may have been a mix up with our rooms as I booked for my parents too and was pretty sure they got my room when they checked in earlier. He said he could see the error and would fix it up for me. When I walked into my room I saw that he had “fixed” it by booking me into a huge suite. It pays to make friends with Bigfoot!

Humour aside, it’s the little things like these interactions that make my heart so happy. And, I don’t think Bigfoot realizes it but the multiple trips to Edmonton were not for happy reasons. Saying goodbye to my last living grandparent was awful. But, he brought a smile to my face when it was much needed and that signed photo is now hanging on my office wall as a constant reminder that when given the opportunity, you should always make friends with Bigfoot.

Leave of absence

I really want to share the story of why Facebook has now been deleted from my phone and my social feed disabled on every computer I own…

If I’m being honest, lately, hasn’t been awesome. Not that there has been anything specifically ‘wrong’ per say, but my schedule has been abnormally chaotic and my anxiety through the roof. All of this combined, leaves my skin paper-thin and everything I see/read/hear pierces that vulnerable layer and some days, the pain is just too much to tolerate.

Social media feels like a ‘trigger’ for me. It’s a wonderful space to keep up with friends and family and an absolutely invaluable tool for my business. However, I have a love/hate relationship with it. While its benefits far outweigh its faults, sometimes my anxiety riddled head just can’t walk away from it; even when I know it would be much better if I did.

Case in point, the article that has finally caused me to take a ‘leave of absence’ from my personal presence on Facebook.

The other day an article titled “Pets Are Not Children, So Stop Calling Them That” (I’ve linked to it there so feel free to read if you haven’t seen it yet. Plus this post will sound even more nonsensical if you haven’t read it; granted the title does sum up the main point quite nicely) was quite popular online. Numerous friends shared this article, all laughing about how funny it is, how ‘true’ it is. People called it adorable and hilarious. Tears blurred my vision while I was reading it but they definitely weren’t from laughter.

What so many people read as funny I can’t call anything other than self-righteous and entitled. I know that many will disagree with this statement, and that’s ok. But what isn’t ok is this person calling people out solely for the titles they use within their family unit. M.A. Wallace notes, “I have two children, and when I meet people with pets who equate their experience to mine, I don’t know how to react.” You know how you should react, kindly. Why? Because all that person is trying to do is have an amicable conversation with you. No, they’re not delusional and under the impression that their pet is actually like having a human child (however some humane societies make you go through more of a process to adopt a pet than anyone I’ve ever know has had to go through to give birth to and keep their own child, but that’s a conversation for another day). They are simply trying to find something through which they can relate to you, because their family unit is different than yours.

More days than not I’m meant to feel ‘other’ or incomplete due to the fact that my family unit looks different than those of so many of my peers. That hurts, but now, I’m being criticized because of the titles we use within that family unit. It seems that no matter what I do it’s never going to be considered ‘right’ and always miles away from ‘normal’.

With all of the mean-spirited articles and anger out there, why, for the love of all things good, does someone have to write a hate-filled article criticizing the names we choose to use within our family units? Telling my dogs to go and sit with their ‘Dad’ does not undermine the Dad of human children. It’s just a title we’ve chosen to use within our family. It’s one of love, not disrespect.


Dancey Cat

I’m a sucker for animals.  I seek out their interaction and attention more so than I do humans.  I’ve always been this way.  I was the sad little seven-year-old feeding her goldfish with a toothpick when his swimming bladder burst and couldn’t swim upright anymore.  Most would have simply flushed him off to fishy heaven, and maybe I was doing nothing more than prolonging his pain and ultimately inevitable death, but I couldn’t let go until I gave it my all.  He held on for a few weeks, bobbing upside down in his little tank until he passed.  Well, that’s my mother’s version of the story.  Looking back now, maybe she had the good sense I lacked and put him out of his fishy misery during her allotted ‘fish watching’ time while I was away at school.

Anyway, the point of my tail er…, tale,  is to reiterate the way my heart swells when around animals.  You can imagine what a trip to the zoo is like with me…

So, my story – a few years ago my husband and I were walking around our quaint little town and wandered by an apartment building.  They had large living room windows which opened up to the road.  It was early evening, the sun was starting to set, so their window, blinds open, was being backlit by their tv and lamps.  …I know this is starting to sound like a stalking story, but it’s not, I promise!  In the middle of their large window, presumably on the back of this person’s couch was a tabby cat, dancing.  He was dancing and it was hilarious and warmed my heart more than I can articulate!  He kept reaching up, like he was climbing an invisible ladder without gaining any height.  We stood, in the middle of the road and laughed at this cat.  It was a good ten minutes before we were able to peel ourselves away from the show; the cat, not what was playing on their tv.  In the following weeks and months we talked about that cat nearly every day.  We immediately called each other if we drove by and dancey cat was performing again.  For a good six months, dancey cat was a constant source of laughter and happiness in our lives.  We loved that cat.  Then one day, he just wasn’t there anymore.  I’m pretty sure they moved.  It broke my heart.  I’ve been sad about dancey cat for quite some time.  Until today.  Today, my husband sent me an email with a wonderful GIF.  It was a GIF of dancey cat!  …well it’s not THE dancey cat, but it’s A dancey cat and it made me smile.  I’m sharing it with you here today and hope it will make your day just a little better as it did with mine 🙂