About Me

Lara David
Bay Area, CA, United States
I'm just a girl, writing and photographing my way through the world, one lesson at a time. Join me on my journey - you just might learn something.
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What Is This Place?

This site is a work in progress - much like life, actually. I am an amateur photographer who enjoys playing with my Canon EOS 10D. Questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome, since I'm really just learning. Like what you see? Encouragement would be greatly appreciated!

A Girl and Her Hat

Down at the Watering Hole


And of course, when I say "watering hole," I mean, big tall Duplo tree on the rug. Either way, the animals seem to be enjoying themselves.

BSM: Bring on the Sun

Suffice to say that early in the week, I was feeling a little down in some ways. But after some excellent advice from a friend (read about it here if you're interested), I'm ready to pull aside the curtains and let the sunshine in.


How about you? More sunshine available at Tracey's.

BSM: Ah, Refreshing!

For this week's Best Shot Monday, Tracey asked us: What little slice of heaven do you have to share this week?

Well, I'm presenting this picture as a little piece of that heaven pie for two reasons. The first is that you might be experiencing some un-springlike weather, like rain, or even snow. If that's the case, I think you'd love to be having some of the sunshine you'll see here.

The second reason is that you might - like me - be experiencing some unseasonably warm weather. And by "warm" I mean "hot like the surface of the sun." Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but it did suddenly get very hot the past few days.

So if either of these cases applies to you, then you'll probably agree that this?

Would be heaven.

For more slices of heaven, head on over to visit Tracey and the other participating photogs!

My Kind of Perfect

The Theme Thursday for this week is "Perfection," and I have to say I struggled to come up with something to post. What, really, do I know of perfection? Particularly in my photography, since I'm still so clearly an amateur? But then I realized - what, really, do any of us know of perfection? So I thought about what perfect would be, for me, and I came up with this photo:


The shot is crooked. You can see the camera. You can also see the frame of the mirror. But you know what? This, to me, is perfect. This is as good as it gets, seeing three strong women who love each other through everything. My mom and my sister are infinitely special to me, and while this picture may not be perfect, there is perfection in its meaning to me.

Head over to Stacy's to see more variations on the theme!

A Question-Answer Segment

Over on my personal blog, I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer. They asked me a lot of good stuff, and over the coming week or two I'll be answering them all. But one of them was really more appropriate to answer here on this blog, so here goes.

Little Spoon asked:

How are you able to take such perfect self-portraits? Is there some kind of trick or equipment I don't know about?

Now, there are two ways to think about this question (which technically is two questions). I could just take it as a compliment phrased as a question, like when I ask Mocha, "Why come you're so gorgeous?" LS's question implies that she likes my self-portraits, so I could just say, "Aw, shucks, thank you," and be done with it.

However, I'm going to go with my second response option and answer the question as if it were asked in sincerity. (Because a) I do think LS wants to know, and b) I think others might also want to know about my self-portraiture.) While my self-portraits are far from "perfect," I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in this genre. When I come up with good self-portraits, it is usually due to six main factors:

1. Equipment
2. Lighting
3. Subject Prep
4. Framing
5. Un-Self-Consciousness, and
6. Volume

Equipment

Since you asked, LS, yes, there are certain pieces of equipment that make self-portraits easier (and produce a higher percentage of good shots). First and most obvious, the better quality camera you have, the better quality pictures you will get. Everyone says, "Well, duh!" so I'll move on.

Now, my self-portraits have always been taken one of two ways: by hand in a mirror, or with the self-timer on the camera. If you'd like to take the shots by hand, a mirror is always going to be better (and, in my opinion, easier) than extending your arm out as far as you can and aiming the camera back at yourself. With a mirror, you have way more options of angles for your shot, because you're not holding the camera in quite as awkward a position. I think some shots are nicely accessorized by having the camera visible, but if you don't want to see the camera, you may have a bit of trial and error finding the right way to hold and aim the camera to get the shot you want. Also, if you want to take mirror shots, it's best to actually invest in one or two large-ish wall mirrors that you can move around to different locations; otherwise, you end up with the same background in every picture.

If you decide to use the self-timer or a remote for your camera, you will need a) brilliant engineering skills, so that you can always construct a sturdy base of the appropriate height on which to place the camera; or b) a tripod. I recommend getting a tripod because they're really not very expensive and they really come in handy, especially for self-portraits. The important thing to remember when using a tripod and timer/remote is that when you're setting up the shot, something needs to placehold where you will be - if not, the background will be in focus and you will be blurry. Do a few tests to make sure the set-up and focus are good, then shoot away!

Lighting

I've covered all the equipment I use, so let's move on to lighting. I don't use a flash when I take self-portraits, for a couple different reasons. First and foremost, all my self-portraits were - for a long time - in the mirror; using the flash in a mirror is a good way to get a picture of the flash and not much else. So then I had to work hard to establish good lighting around me to avoid dark, blurry pictures. (Though trust me, I have a lot of dark and blurry pictures around.) Indoors I try to open windows and/or turn on lots of lights, depending on time of day and the look I'm going for; outdoors, it's all about the sunshine, of course. To avoid weird shadows or backlighting, always face towards the source of light, whatever it is. I generally prefer natural light to artificial, but I've had good results with both.

Oh, and the other reason I don't use a flash is because I'm pale and it washes me out. Sad, but true.

Subject Prep

By this, I basically mean how I prepare myself as the subject of my photos. What will I wear? How will I do my hair and/or makeup? If there is something specific I'm trying to achieve, I can do a lot of that through my own preparation.

(Wow, that one was quick.)

Framing

One of the first things my friend Balee told me when I asked him about improving as a photographer was about framing my shots. I'll try to paraphrase here (and if I mess up, he can correct me in the comments):

When setting up the shot, imagine the field as a tic-tac-toe board. Basically, many pictures are more interesting if the subject is NOT in the center square. I'm sure there's a legitimate explanation for why that is more visually stimulating for humans, but I don't know it. I do know it's true, though, for the most part. Most of my favorite self-portraits are framed to one side or the other: See here, here, and here for examples.

Un-Self-Consciousness

Honestly, this might well be the most important part of taking self-portraits, the factor to most directly bring success or failure. How many of you have ever thought of taking a self-portrait and had this thought (or one like it) run through your head:

I feel so silly/stupid. I can't believe I'm going to sit around and take pictures of myself.

If you feel that way about your self-portraits, you're pretty much doomed to fail. As a photographer, you quickly learn that you have to help your subjects feel comfortable in front of the camera, otherwise all the shots will come out feeling tense or awkward. When you are your own subject, that rule doesn't change, so you need to learn not to be self-conscious about taking those pictures. Keeping a few important things in mind will help with that: For one thing, remember that you have all the control in this situation. You can take a picture and immediately delete it if you feel it's awful - no one else ever has to see it. So feel free to experiment with your poses and facial expressions. Also remember that you are on your own time schedule, so don't rush yourself. Take the time to test things out before committing to anything, and feel free to shoot the same general pose multiple times to make sure you get it just right.

The less self-conscious you feel, the more you can branch out in your self-portraits. I've taken pictures of me crying (here), laughing (also here), and even pictures of myself nude (here). All of those photos took bravery, but I ended up being so glad that I took them.

Volume

Last, but not least, TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES. I'm sorry I shouted at you, but it's really that important. The more pictures you take, the more good ones you will have left over after you go through and delete the ones that are too dark, out-of-focus, or just generally unflattering (in whatever way is most important to you). If you only take five pictures, well, at best you'll have five good self-portraits, and at worst you'll have none. If you take 150, your chances of finding some nice ones are much higher.


Well, Little Spoon, there is my long-winded answer to your question. I hope if you read through this that at least one small part of it was helpful and educational for you! Now, go take some pictures already!

The Colors of Childhood

There is something so powerful in the vivid hues of children's toys, hues that become muted as we grow up and learn to be more circumspect. Later on in life we come to appreciate pastels and neutrals, and we lose that love of primary colors. Maybe that's why I appreciate it so much when I see the brightness of the objects around me when I work with kids.






What are the colors you see and appreciate around you in your life?