Let's go to B'Donalds....

... for some chicken NUN-gets.  Then we can stop by TOYS-for-US!  It seems like only yesterday that I met this little one.  Looking back, it's actually been over ten.  Yikes.  I've been taking pictures of her since day one as she has always been animated, inquisitive, and just plain fun to be around.  With a great range of expression she taught me very early to love the not-so-smiley photograph.  There is something so character revealing when you refrain from the "say cheese" and just shoot.  When I look at these images I am reminded that time passes quickly. Thanks to my beautiful little Rachie for patiently letting me capture "just one more" frame.

Pumpkins with a Little Punkin'

You'll see the minute you look at this little guy just what I mean!  He is a Q.T. with unbelievable range of expression in a not-quite-one year old body.

At school they told us that when you are photographing a child that you should plan for one minute of focus-time for every year that the child is old.  Based on those statistics I was looking at seconds!  Instead I got two solid hours of playtime amongst the pumpkins with this little one (and his parent's of course). 

One of the hardest things in the world for my Type-A personality is not being able to plan exactly how a photo session will flow.  At the same time, the thing that I end up cherishing the most is that I can let the action take place and capture it frame-by-frame.  I find that the smiles that shine the brightest on a little ones face are always prompted by the simplest of things... a song sung by a mom or dad, a chance to play in the leaves, or perhaps just the freedom to "army-crawl" across the lawn without constraint!  It was a pleasure to capture just a few of these moments.

PS - Thanks to the Zaruba's for making the afternoon SO MUCH FUN!  And a special birthday wish for the little guy who, as of Thursday, is the ripe old age of ONE!

Does your blog need a facelift?

Hey you happy bloggers. Do you have blogger.com account? Have you looked over the list of default templates so many times only to feel like you can't find the one that fits your personality best? Perhaps you are simply looking for something that integrates well with your website design? I actually had some luck today finding a simple template that integrated easily into my current blogger account.

It looks like there are several websites that cater to blogger layout designs. This one has hundreds and was super easy to switch out. In case you are interested...


Keep in mind that you may have to tweek the html to get exactly what you want. Maybe add a gadget or two. I spent about 30 minutes and now have something simple and clean. Maybe you'll find a style that suites your needs.

Meet Milli...

So there are a few things in life that constantly bring me laughter. One of them is THIS little one. She came to me from the shelter, looks exactly like her somewhat more substantial brother, and is the smartest most ornery cat I know. Guess I can't blame her, she was named for a unit of the metric scale by her nerdy math owner. She has her own agenda, cleans herself incessantly, and plays fetch like a dog.

Not long after bringing her home she started doing funny things like lining up toys on my bed. When I would wake up, there she was... ready to play! She has evolved from toys to socks. Yes, socks. She has a radar for socks that rivals the dryer's ability to lose them. In fact, if she could open the dryer I am certain that she would steal them from there as well.

Perhaps my favorite Milli moment came after a weekend of cleaning on my part. I had washed, dried, folded, and put away every item of clothing in the house. EVERY item. When I woke up the next morning expecting a sock-free bed, I got it. However, in their place nicely arranged was every receipt in the house. Guess they were the only "little white substitute" she could find. It reminded me of a line of validated parking tickets... each certified with a special Milli tooth punch. That, or she was confessing to her closet shopping addiction.

Since returning to Texas she has found some really interesting ways to get my attention. The sock habit is still intact but she now spends the bulk of her time searching for ways to spend time with me. Since the computer is where you will find me most often, you'll find her as well.... carefully balanced on the back of my chair.

Now worries, I'll let you know when she learns to color correct prints. Maybe you'll want to hire her for the back of your chair!

Observations from an Overstuffed Chair...

I had the a rare opportunity today to sit.... sit in a bookstore and peruse every section of my mind that needed insight. Okay, so not everything, but I was certainly there a while. From creativity boosters to diet from fashion to business I explored it all, sitting in an oversized chair with a large cup of ice (with tea). Every once and a while I would look up to see who was meandering the aisles. Mom's with little ones, students, retirees, the unemployed, the independently wealthy, the vacationers, and the self-employed are my guesses. The photography techniques section was heavily frequented. I almost wanted to hand out a survey to those who pulled books off the shelf... hobby or career? :) No worries, I refrained.

I managed to learn a few things today. Perhaps I'll leave you with an interesting passage I came across was in a book entitled "The Encore Effect". It talks about the differences between performing well and performing remarkably... you know, that top five percent? Here is some food for thought. Take one area of your life that you'd like to perform well in and rate your commitment based on this list of "I's". Photogs, which "eye" are you?


Now how are you going to get to the next level?

Within walking distance...

So I've made my way back to Texas. It's amazing how being gone for a year can really throw you for a loop! Am I who I was when I left... no. Can life be exactly as it was in Massachusett's... no. So where do I start?

Well, I decided to take a walk. See the neighborhood with new eyes. Here's a few things I found "within walking distance"...

If I were a supermodel...

... my shadow would look like this ALL the time. Funny, huh? Can you imagine?

Just thought I'd drop in and say "hi". I spent the day on a random road trip. I woke up this morning and decided I'd drive somewhere. Little did I know that the somewhere would end up being Cape Cod. Me and my trusty GPS had some laughs... I'll save those for later since I've been on the road all day.

Oh, and that model thing. No worries. I had "Cape Cod" chips in the Cape today. I'm sure they went right to my hips.

Gratitude Day

I am officially a Hallmark Institute of Photography alum!

The hard work put in over the last year paid off (and in a surprising way). I was granted not only a Certificate of Completion but also the award for Highest Graduate Credit. What an honor!

Congrats to all the graduates of 2009. I am humbled by the talent that surrounded (and supported) me this year! I will miss everyone dearly. Please keep in touch! You don't have to write... just send pictures. ;)

... for Life

Every so often in life you are given opportunities that leave an imprint on you deep enough that you know you'll always hold a "visual of the experience". The past two days have been like that for me. I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Franklin County "Relay for Life"... an experience that I won't soon forget. Along with 20 or so of my fellow Hallmark classmates, instructors, and alumni we spent 20 plus hours photographing in incredible event! Yes, all night and into the next day. What I will take from this experience is a better understanding of what it means to live with, live through, live without and live for...

For more info on
the Franklin County event...

For more info on
Relay For Life...

Roller or Coaster?

A day or so ago I described my life to someone as being one of the cars on the track of a roller coaster, slowly climbing the first peak. Click-Clack-Click-Clack. Ten months of work at Hallmark and I somehow wonder whether I am ready for that moment when my "car" is released at the top of the incline. Often in life people describe themselves as being "stuck in a situation". It occurred to me that can't actually be the case. Life is in a constant state of motion, we have only to choose whether to roll forward with intention or coast. Today I choose to roll... maybe even jump the tracks.

My (not so) little brother...

As my final portfolio review lingers 'til the end of next week I found a few days to escape western Mass and spend some time with my family in Illinois.  I am so excited for the chance to "hang out" with my brother and his girlfriend as it's been more than a year since I've seen them. It's not easy to get back and forth from Japan (where he's lived for about three years now). He hasn't lost his pestering younger brother ways, but when I look at him in pictures he seems far from resembling the title of "little brother".

What day is it?

So, it's really been a while.  I can't possibly sum up the last several weeks in one post, but some of the highlights include...

* 26 photo shoots
* more than one 17 hour day at school (no kidding)
* numerous hours of editing
* one failed attempt at the famous "master cleanse"
* trip to Hartford
* assisting opportunities with Justin & Mary Marantz, Jim Roselli, and Dani Fine Photography
* numerous evenings in a row with 3 hours of sleep
* two evenings since with more than 12 hours of sleep
* one trip to Boston
* six days of portfolio reviews
* one marathon of "Jon and Kate plus 8"... did you know they get $75,000 an episode?
* lots of thought as to what my future holds :)

School ramped down so quickly that we were all left with strange sleep schedules and the stress of reviews through mid-June.  All-in-all an exciting process.  Imagine your work being critiqued by three industry professionals with wonderful credentials in front of the staff and student body of Hallmark.  It's a bit like defending your thesis (with a little less talk).  I have until the 11th-12th of June before I'll be "called to the stand" so wish me luck!

BTW - I do realize it's Friday! ;)

The perfect clouds...

Things have been infinitely crazy with final portfolio coming due. We've all been madly shooting and editing (less editing in my case). The one thing that I am thankful for is that photography takes me outside on a day like this!

It was actually an assignment for me to find beautiful clouds to shoot for a background. No silver lining, but it was a beautiful day...

PS - I am more active on Twitter than here at the moment but I've linked my Twitter Status on the upper right of this page. To follow me on Twitter, see http://twitter.com/monikamichelle or see the "Links" section above.

The Hallmark House is Open!

It's this time of year that hallmark feels just like a home. I'm certain that I spend more time there than in my apartment! We have just moved into Phase IV of the program which means we are preparing for our final portfolio. Our work has finally reached the point that the school is using some of the images as the rotating banner on their website (new selections every week). Even more exciting than that, the first gallery for the class of 2009 was posted to the site. It's associated with the student-run open house coming up in April so it is temporary, but it's great to see some of our work brought together.

Take a look for yourself!


Life as a student.

Yeah right.  It's like all the stresses of professional photography!  I just turned in my Phase III assignments (18 of them in all) and I was given another 8 assignments only 4 hours later.  My plan to relax and catch up with friends/family has been foiled until the 13th!  Does anyone find it funny that this will be the second Friday the thirteenth in two months?  Good thing I'm not superstitious.

PS - Send the warm weather.  It was 10 degrees when I started the car this morning. :)

Id, Ud, we all scream for Adobe!

Along with shooting right and left, we've been working on marketing and career plans.  Here is my work so far on my logo and the associated stationary.  I'm not sure if the colors are as fine tuned as I'd hoped.  I'd actually like to steer away from a single color and instead accent the logo with colors that compliment the work being printed or displayed. Let me know what you think!

Amy de Parma

Here is one of our latest adventures... a lesson in referencing art in our work.  This is my recreation of a work entitled "Maria Luisa de Parma" by the painter Anton Raphael Mengs.  This version is actually an unfinished study version.  Thanks to Amy for being a perfect replica of a king's wife.  Side Note: Can anyone tell me why there are curlers in her hair?

Beware of Dog!

Meet Tank, the most social of dogs.  In fact, short of licking the lens, he greets you like a person. Needless to say, I learned my lesson the hard way here.  Dog slobber is tough to get off the lens!

Through her veins...

Relocating to the northeast for photography school was a chance to see and experience new things.  There has definitely been time for that, but not at the expense of carrying on one of my favorite southern past times... drinking tea.  Sadly, the places in which you can find fresh-brewed tea here are few and far between.   Joking aside, McDonald's has been a lifesaver as you can now get a 32oz iced tea for only $1.00.  I stop by on my way to school in the morning.  It must be quite a habit because on the days I don't have my McDonald's cup in class everyone asks me where I left it.  When assigned another "Self-Portrait", I knew just where to head with my shoot.  Tea really does "run though my veins".

Thanks to Gidget for helping me evolve my ideas!

How time flies!

Just looking back through a few pictures that I took before coming to Massachusetts.  It's amazing how fast life moves!  Here are a couple of my favorite pictures of Pico.  Yes, the math nerd named her cats after units in the metric system.  Pico (10^-12) and Milli (10^-3).  I think that's enough incriminating info for the day.

Periodical Anyone?

Shooting assignments in the portrait studio are becoming more and more open to our creativity.  We shot for a magazine cover this week.  Here is my take on an "eclectic millionaire that is slightly anti-establishment".  Thanks to Becky for the fun clothing choice!

Happy 2009!

Here's to a new year (and a new photography blog).  2009 finds me well-rested, over-fed, and ready to dive into Phase III of the Hallmark photography program!  Lots of opportunities to shoot over the last month or so.  Here is one of my favorite images from my visit to New Mexico over Thanksgiving.  It took me laying down on the floor first to get her to slow down. Guess "setting a good example" works in photography as well!

Just a thought...

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