Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “kids”

Shooting Kids

I know, we’ve all been tempted, right? It’s not what you think. If you want to accuse me of using a sensationalist title to draw in readers, fair enough. Guilty.I’m referring to photography. I am an amateur photographer. I like to photograph many things, but one of my favorite things to do is shoot kids. Think of it as going on safari. You stalk them, you grab pictures quick when they’re not moving, and do lots and lots of deleting later.

I am by no means a pro, but I have found over the years that there are some things that can help you get good kid pictures. (Or any pictures, for that matter).

First, closer, closer, closer. I have read this advice numerous times from photographers who are professionals, and I don’t think that this can be emphasized enough. Pictures whose subject is in one corner of the photo are not good photos. They look messy, and busy, and you really can’t tell what the picture is even supposed to be illustrating. Also, all sorts of photo bombs get in there. Make sure your subject (in this case, the kid or kids) completely fill the whole frame as much as possible.

Snow Girl

Snow Girl

You will also of course need to include at least a portion of what they are focused on – a ball field, a swing set, etc. But you really don’t need to include the whole object of attention – just enough to get an idea of what it is.

Snow Fort

Snow Fort

Second, if your camera has a sports setting, turn it on. The ability to take multiple photos in rapid succession is very important if you are shooting kids in motion. If you take a ton, at least one or two of them will turn out well. If you only take a couple, you most likely will not get anything worth keeping.

Honest Work

Honest Work

If you are outside, turn that flash off. It will only delay the clicking of the shutter if you are in a hurry to get multiple photos. Often, you can get away turning the flash off inside too, if you have a good DSLR camera that can compensate with correct aperture and f-stop settings. Take a couple photos inside of the same subject, with and without flash. If the quality of the no-flash pics are acceptible, turn off the flash.

Don’t pose your kids, except maybe for a few final pictures of them all together, with a finished product. Say they are making a snowman. You want to catch as many action photos of that as possible. You can pose them at the end, with the snowman, to insure that all the kids are in the pic and facing the correct direction. Just remember that most kids quickly sicken of posing for photos. They want to be DOING something. They will soon ignore you, and the stupid faces and stupid poses will rapidly ensue.

Girl and Guck

Girl and Guck

Make as little fuss about the camera as possible. Don’t even mention that you will be taking pictures. Try to maneuver at as much distance as possible, with the lens zoomed in so that the subject is well framed, so your presence is unobtrusive. The kids WILL notice that the camera is there, and at first they will clown around and act crazy. Get a couple of pics of this – one of them might be cute. Don’t ask them to pose or not to make faces. They will soon acclimate to you and the fun at hand will soon take precedence.

Look Out Below!

Look Out Below!

Now, snap snap snap. Set up your photos by establishing yourself at a point distanced from them (this is where a long range or zoom lens comes in handy) and adjust focus and zoom until the kids are more or less filling the full photo frame. Test focus on one of the kids – that way the focus will be more or less established when you are ready to snap. Hold the focus, and pan after them with the camera. Adjust focus as necessary, and as soon as one turns their head so that their face is towards you, especially if they are smiling, snap, snap, snap. Stop when they turn away. Focus on a different kid if that one is faced away from you. Make sure you try to frame both kids if you have the opportunity to show them interacting, particularly if they are both faced toward you. Again, snap, snap, snap. Get ten or more pictures if you think you have a good composition. You will edit them later.

DSC_0077

Just remember, especially you older folks, that the camera you have is now probably digital. That means you have NO FILM. Back in the day, only pro photographers shot this many pictures, since film development was slow and expensive, especially if 90% of shots are discarded. My mom has been an amateur photographer since before I was born, and she is still timid about snapping multiple photos. There IS NO FILM! Your picture taking now is only limited by the size of your SD card and your patience with prolonged review and deletion of photos. Make sure you have an extra SD card – you may fill this one. An extra camera battery is also a good idea.

Be prepared later on (preferably later that day) to download and look at a LOT of photos. The kids were in constant motion, and most of them will be blurred, or the kid will have turned away at the last moment, or they may have a weird expression on their face. Or, the composition of the photo may just be crappy. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE. If you wouldn’t want to show anyone else the photo, or wouldn’t want to look at it again, dump it. The other day was a snow day and I took almost 800 photos – filled an entire 16 GB SD card. You DO NOT have room in your computer for this many pictures. DELETE. Out of those 700+ pictures I took that day, I deleted until I had less than 100 photos left. Then I made a second and third pass and got them down to less than 50, but those were really good.

DSC_0045

You don’t have to be an expert with photoshop to improve your photos. I certainly am not. Most computers come loaded with a photo processing program that is free and reasonably intuitive. All I really do is correct red eye and crop. You can accomplish so many improvements with these two edits! Never print out or upload photos to Facebook, or anywhere else, if the people in those pics have red eyes. Those photos are instantly crap. No one wants to look at vampire people. Red eye correction is super easy to do.

Cropping is the other massively useful ability. You may have a good picture, but it may have been taken from too far away, or there may be photo bombs around the edges of the pic. Crop. If you have a decent digital camera (and they’re all pretty much decent these days) the crop will still have good resolution and not be grainy. If you think the photo would be better composed if just a portion of it was used, crop. You can always undo this before you save. You will develop a feel for the most pleasing ways to crop pictures by moving around the crop box if you do it enough.

Kissy Face

Kissy Face

Hope this is helpful! Probably most of you don’t need my advice, but these are tips I’ve found useful. Happy hunting!

Trouble In School

My daughter is having Issues. Since she has started school, she has easily been a straight A student. She tested into the city’s magnet school, and until this year she has done super. Something happened this year. I don’t know if it was the switch to a new school for 3rd grade, or some issues with her dad, or her extreme social tendencies, or her proclivity for ridiculous drama, or all of the above.
There is a lot more homework this year, there is no doubt about that. But we check her work and go through it with her, and it clearly is not a problem with comprehension. Left to her own devices, she treats the work as nothing but that, an impediment to more fun activities, like goofing around with her friends.
Some of this may be her father’s doing. He grew up in a family that placed little or no value on education. He was the first person in his family to go to college. No one ever checked his work or encouraged him at all. No one in his family read. There were no books in the house. He read the encyclopedia because it was there and he was bored. He was bored in school because he was so bright, but no one bothered to work with him. He wishes constantly that someone had showed some interest in him,, because he would have gotten so much farther in life. So he is trying to give our daughter all the advantages that he never had, and I think he has pushed her too far. He made her do workbook pages all summer, and she was sick of them. Now I think her homework feels like an extension of that and it is just a hurdle to work through as fast as possible so she can get to the fun stuff. She is burned out.
Also she has an on again off again “boyfriend”, and this is causing a lot of problems. He is in her class, on her bus, and in her aftercare. He plays her against her little friend and alternates his “affections” between the two of them, which causes ridiculous drama, especially for 8 year olds. I think she thrives on the drama and does not wish or try to avoid it. This concerns me greatly – there was nothing like this going on when I was a kid and I don’t understand it. I don’t know where that drama gene came from – certainly neither her father nor I have it.
She brought home an ATROCIOUS paper last night – worst grade she ever got. It counted as a grade in two subjects and she got a 51!!  This was work to be done in class, and she tried to blame the little boy who sat next to her for “bothering and distracting” her. I told her this was completely unacceptable and in the future she was to tell the child to hush the heck up and leave her alone. Failing that, she was to request that her teacher move him or her to another table. She told me that hardly anyone in the class completed it but I think she is full of it.
Last night was such a treat. Yes, that is sarcasm. I made her finish the project she got the 51 on. There was so much wailing and gnashing of teeth it was really quite alarming. First she burst into tears and said her Daddy and I hate her, because she is a horrible person and makes horrible grades. This is not the first time this has come up, despite our efforts to reassure her to the contrary. Then she cried again and said everyone at school hates her because she’s annoying. Then she sobbed that she hates her life and everything in it. Does this sound like a healthy 8 year old?  I really don’t think so. A healthy (if unhappy) 14 year old, yes. So now I worry there is something wrong with her. And I am SICK of all the drama. I feel like we’re hit puberty already, and we should be years from that. I hate to make a big deal of it and take her to a shrink or something, but it just feels like something is wrong. Is she just a massive drama queen and I can’t relate to that?  Or is she already broken?  Lord, I feel I’ve been careful with her and raised her carefully. Does anyone out there have a drama queen (or king) and can relate?  Or do I need to seek professional help?

American Girl Dolls

I will start with the disclaimer that I know nothing about dolls.  Never had them as a kid (except for one much maligned Barbie).  Never wanted them.  I was a tomboy with a love for animals, and I was going to be a vet.  But now I have a daughter.  And now I have to learn about dolls.  We started a few months before Christmas with the “but everyone in my class has one” discussion.  American Girl Dolls.

As near as I can tell, the American Girl Doll racket is one of the shrewdest, savviest marketers out there.  Not only have they been out for years and maintained market share, but they sell an amazing number of dolls and accessories, at the highest possible price.  My mom ordered my daughter one of those blasted dolls for Christmas after she begged and whined and wheedled.  Let me just say that my daughter has never played much with dolls and this is probably all peer pressure.  $129 for something she probably won’t play with for two minutes.

The choice of dolls is stunning.  They have a doll of the year, every year since I don’t know when.  You can special order a doll that looks just like you.  With freckles even.  My daughter wanted McKenna, the doll of the year who is a gymnast, supposedly.  McKenna does not exactly look like her.  She doesn’t have freckles.  But McKenna is what she wanted, and McKenna is what she got.

You can get matching outfits for the girl and her doll, so they are both wearing the same thing.  You can buy pets for your dolls.  You can buy schoolhouses and books for your dolls.  Along with getting that doll for Christmas, my daughter got one of the girl/doll matching outfits as well.  And let me tell you what else she got.  This is where the story gets ridiculous.

There are several American Girl stores around the country, in major cities.  But these are not just shops, oh, no.  They are full immersion ripoff centers.  I guess peer pressure never ends, because my mom heard her best friend tell about taking her granddaughter on one of these pilgrimages to the American Girl Doll store.  She decided that she would bring my daughter after Christmas during New Year’s break to Atlanta where the nearest doll center is.

So here’s the deal.  This trip is a full package.  You check into a hotel within walking distance of the store that has the American Girl Doll package.  There is a separate special check-in area for families with their girls with these dolls.  When you get to your special American Girl Doll room, the walls are printed bright pink and there is a special bed for the doll that you get to keep.  They bring pink lemonade and cookies to the room at night.  Then the doll fun begins.  You go to the American Girl Doll store, which has a bistro where you can dine.  They have special high chairs at the tables where the dolls can sit.  Once you go into the Death Star shop area, anything is possible.  You can go to a special salon and have your doll’s hair styled and curled.  You can go to a special area and get the doll’s ears pierced, for an exorbitant fee no doubt.  They sell all the American Girl Doll accessories, and when I say all, I mean all.  They have special movie nights with American Girl Doll movies.  These people are marketing geniuses.  And I can’t believe this child talked my mom into something like this, because it wouldn’t have even been considered when I was a kid.  Not that I would have wanted to go, being as I hated dolls and all.

So hats off to the American Girl Doll empire!  They have developed the most immense marketing racket of all time, practically.  And this has been going on now for about two generations.  When I told a nurse at work about my daughter’s little trip, instead of being horrified as she properly should, the nurse merely remarked, “Oh, I have five of those dolls.”  FIVE???  What the hell do you do with five $129 dolls (and that’s on Amazon, which is pretty reasonable)?  I guess you buy matching outfits, and books, and movies, and classrooms, and on, and on, and on.  And of course now there are myriad American Girl ripoffs – dolls about the same size and look as the originals, with cheaper accessories and such that will fit the real dolls.  Everyone wants a piece of that pie.  My daughter’s friends carry their American Girl catalogues to school with them, and sit and compare dolls and accessories and what they are going to ask their mommy for next.  Each tries to outdo the other.

I am amazed at the excess of the American Girl Doll immersion phenomenon.  It would never have occurred to me, did I not have a daughter, that this empire existed.  Now that I know, I am disgusted and awed.  I just hope that new McKenna doll doesn’t get tossed off to the wayside, with her newly pierced ears and styled hair, and special bed and Husky dog pet.  I do know that my mom and dad and my daughter probably had a weekend that they will remember forever.  It will be a great memory for my daughter.  But I know my daughter.  And we’ll see how long this phase lasts.

The Sleepover

My husband and I took a deep breath this weekend and had a slumber party for our daughter, who is seven.  For the first time, she had two friends over instead of just one.  My husband was being very brave because I am on call this weekend and had a good chance of getting called into work, leaving him to watch over three wild little animals.  Fortunately for us, we made it through the weekend without my having to leave him in charge.  He’s a fairly in charge kind of guy, though, so I wasn’t too worried about it.  He really kept those kids in line.  Our daughter, of course, did all sorts of things that she’s not allowed to do normally – I think the list was up to nine transgressions by the time everybody left.  So she did get a sound lecture at lunch today.  She was lucky she didn’t get a spanking – she had allowed the kids to climb into our (unfinished) attic, turned on the big TV without permission, asked permission of one parent after the other one had already said no (a big no-no in our house), left her bike, her helmet and her scooter out in the middle of the driveway, just behind my car, and eaten cupcakes for breakfast before we got up.  So we were pretty put out with her.  All in all, the visit was a success though; the kids had a great time and there was no blood or permanent household destruction.  I did get to get out and take some pictures of the kids while they were playing outside, and several of them turned out cute enough to post on Facebook and put up here in a little gallery.  I even threw in some late fall roses for good measure.

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