Smart Phone Nature Photography

When a friend asked Matthew and I (as well as another biologist friend of ours) to help with the Earth Day Celebration she was putting together at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, we were all about it.

Matthew created a poster and pulled samples of local invasive plants, our other friend put together an experiment for kids to extract DNA from strawberries, and I prepped a walk & talk on smartphone nature photography.

Here, in my professional opinion, are the basic tips for an average person who wants to make beautiful visual memories while surrounded by nature:

  • Find the Light – Where does your eye naturally go? Most people prefer soft, warm colors. Avoid harsh light and shadows when possible.
  • Think – Why this picture? Focus on the most important part of the image. Minimize distractions that may also be in-frame.
  • Change the Perspective –Where is the most interesting point of view? Try high and low angles and walk around the subject. Avoid digital zoom.
  • Steady the Shot –If a tripod isn’t available, place the camera on something solid or hold it against your body.
  • Befriend the Camera –Know your tools! Learn tips, tricks, and shortcuts for your particular camera and be ready when the moment strikes.

And here’s a Pinnable/downloadable version:
Smart-Phone-Nature-Photography

The gallery in this post are some of the nature photographs I’ve taken throughout the years. Notice that just following the rules doesn’t automatically make a photograph visually pleasing; the subject matter needs to be interesting, too!

Tough Subjects, in audio

In the fall of 2014 I attended the RTC staff retreat. I felt like very much the outcast, their video person in a beach house full of writers, written word editors, operations people, etc… when everyone broke into their teams or discussed their processes, I was completely left out. The final night of the retreat we all sat around the table to discuss how to, as a company, tackle a large project for a client of theirs, Oconomowoc Residential Programs.

Somewhere in the conversation it dawned on me that the writers record their calls(/research) with clients (and why wouldn’t they?!), and that RTC has permission to use those calls in whatever capacity, and like a strike of lightning… I knew I had to do audio pieces. The content already existed, it just needed to be lovingly crafted into a narrative!

I was given several interviews each for two disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Prader-Willi Syndrome, and created two downloadable content pieces to compliment upcoming articles. I got to work with a writer (new for me) and craft pieces that were meant to speak to parents of children with the aforementioned disorders. After a lot of listening, highlighting, Google-ing, talking to the writers, talking to friends in psychology fields… I finished two very specific pieces.

The first piece to be published, on ASD, focuses on extremely violent child behavior and exists behind a paywall of sorts.

You’ll need to enter your e-mail to listen to it. The parents go through heart-wrenching situations and I’m still haunted by some of their anecdotes at times.

Now the second piece, on Prader-Willi, is a true emotional roller coaster. It took so long to gain approval from ORP that I stopped receiving updates from RTC on the project and only found it today when updating my project list on LinkedIn (true story). My name isn’t even on the page, but I remember all 13 minutes and 10 seconds of that finished piece, and that’s my voice introducing it, my voice warning you halfway through that you’re about to hear something awful, my taste that decided just how much hysterical sobbing was enough… I’m proud of this audio piece because I included the toughest topics and fought to keep them included. I’ll be blunt with you here: a kid chokes a puppy to death in this story. It’s awful, and it’s a really good reason why people with Prader-Willi need very precise care. If including that rough/controversial anecdote convinces just one parent to push for better services & care for their child, then it’s well worth it my book.

Double Product Launches, year two

Just about this time last year, I posted two product videos that were recently released. This year, we did the same.

Learning from our 2014 mistakes, our 2015 selves (same team, one year wiser) put a month in between the filming of the two product videos. Some items (like booking talent, whoops my fault) were left until the absolute last moment but overall I think we we produced videos of equal quality with less stress than last year. Most importantly, we didn’t leave the lab fridge unplugged overnight again this year. Victory!

My second biggest takeaway from this year is that we finally hired a professional voice-over artist instead of coaching in-house colleagues to narrate as needed. I went to Upwork (formerly Elance), posted our requirements and the next day was able to hold a meeting where we chose our narrator. The day after that our audio was done. Thank you again, internet.

Ok, so, my part in these projects was all production and post-production. I actually stayed clear of the concept/storyboard/script team, so deep was I in the ParticleTrack narration and a couple of other projects.

How do we measure particles?

Once we had the first 28 seconds of the fun ReactIR animation put together I started showing it to colleagues, to see who else would get hooked and want to publish an animation as well.

This project built off the previous, but since the point is to explain exactly how our product measures particles, the fun animation style pretty much had to go. This time around we needed to look precise and scientifically credible while also modern and approachable. Needless to say the ParticleTrack animation took several months longer than it’s predecessor.

I’ll go ahead and say totally worth it. Blows your mind, a little, right? Hopefully we’ve also provided you with some understanding of the literal method of measurement.

And again, my part in this was recording the narration and animation the illustrations, as well as working with the rest of the team on the concept, script and storyboard.

How does ReactIR work? (Or, my second After Effects animation)

For as long as I’ve known about After Effects, I’ve wanted to become a wizard with it. I got a decent taste of it last year with my “How EasySampler works” animation, and my colleagues were pretty blown away that we can now show, in real time, things that can’t be captured by a camera.

At a dinner with customers earlier in the year, I spoke with someone who asked if I knew who put together that animation on the EasySampler probe. He mentioned that after watching it a few times he was able to explain the process to others, and that I should pass on my compliments if I knew who was responsible. What I’m saying is, it basically took all of my concentration not to hi-five him at the dinner table. I felt totally validated and when I relayed the compliments to the rest of the team, we shared those hi-fives.

One of the great things about where I work is the requirement to continually train in your field of expertise. Last year I took a local training class in Adobe Speedgrade and this year I returned for After Effects Intro & Advanced. (If you’re near Columbia, MD I whole-heartedly recommend Think Big Learn Smart for Adobe and other software training).

With last year’s proof of concept and this year’s training under my belt, all I needed to continue animating was for there to be an actual business case to do so.

Boring work-related stuff aside, we wound up adapting an internal white board for external use in a modern animation style.

Again, let me stress that this is always a team effort! We worked together on concept and storyboard, and my contribution was to record the audio narration and animate the illustrations that were given to me. I love it. I love how many problems this brought up. How many times I said “No, that’s not a thing” and then figured it out the next day. How long each scene took me at first and how quickly I was animating by the end. All of it. Let’s do more. Let’s have fun. Let’s learn every day during the process.

Vintage Comics

Matthew and I have spent quite a lot of our free time lately with friends at the Nerdporium. When the owner wanted to start posting items online I got excited and quickly took over the @nerdporium Instagram. The valuable things, however, I brought carefully into my light box to show off their true beauty.

Thor 327 - First Appearance of Beta Ray Bill

 

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen

 

First Doctor Strange

Marvel's Civil War #1

#tbt Madison, WI

#‎tbt‬ February 2012, on patrol with the Challengers in Madison, WI. I was contacted by Scandinavian Traveler magazine about using this photo in their Sept issue with a story by Tea Krulos. Working with Real Life Superheroes is one of my favorite memories and I was more than happy to dig through my old files for this frame.
textin'

Stroll down memory lane with me and see my original blog posts from my Great Lakes Alliance trip.

Wedding in a Box

Or, my wedding in a light box. I’m not one for knick-knacks or trinkets or anything in that attracts dust, so throughout the wedding process I looked for items that were reusable, disposable, or that could simply be cut altogether. So when the guests left and the dust settled the items that we were left with were(/are) extremely valuable to us.

The ridiculous owl vases are now planters in our front yard, all of our lanterns were donated to other people’s wedding decor, and I wear my shoes at least once a week. But there are still things, items that I would typically call crap except that instead of being inexplicably valuable to someone else, they’re sentimentally valuable to me. So I did what I know how to do, I put everything precious in my light box with the respect it deserves.

_66A4374

Welcome bag for hotel guests — bag from Etsy, card design by me, cookie by a friend.

_66A4564

My bridal accessories — handmade necklace and earrings, promise ring with engagement ring and wedding ring, in a glasses bag found at Michael’s.

_66A4465

Garlands hand-cut by my husband and sewed by my two best girls.

_66A4396

Set list!

_66A4392

All the set lists.

_66A4477

My mom crocheted infinity scarves for each of the bridesmaids.

_66A4579

RSVP cards.

That Time We Got Married

Hi friends! We hope you’ve been well in the month since our wedding celebration. We have certainly been busy and tired! In case the memories have started to fade, our phenomenal photographer Matt Miller posted a preview of our photos on his blog today. Enjoy!

facebook preview
See Matt’s blog post / gallery over at WeAreDiamondEyes.com

And seriously — a HUGE thank you to friends old and new for making the day so perfect: Super Art Fight, Jukebox the Ghost, Kommie Pig, GrrChe, and of course Matt Miller!

Yolanda’s Story Podcast

I present to you Part 1 (of 3) of Yolanda’s story, a podcast I edited and co-produced for Round Table Companies. I’ve been jokingly calling this my magnum opus, and I am supremely proud to be able to share with you this audio story of Yola’s journey through chronic illness. It’s happier than it sounds. ‪

In episode two of this podcast, Yolanda shares some of the bold decisions she made as a young adult with chronic autoimmune illness. Dr. Tom Sult, Yolanda’s father Paul, and her husband Matthew join her voice to share their views on her trials and resilience.

In the third and final episode of my most recent/favorite podcast, Yolanda discusses the changes that she embraced in order to reach significant remission. Dr. Tom Sult, Yolanda’s father Paul, and her husband Matthew proudly join her voice to share their experiences with her journey to wellness and her resulting quest to remain well.