love thursday: power surge

Brené & Jen on the mountaintop, Park City, Utah.


A few days ago, Brené shared the following quote on her blog:


"When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them."

~ Martin Buber


Let that roll around in your head a bit. 


It's a lovely thought, isn't it?

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.


Image:  Photographed with Nikon D300 and 60mm lens


Song: My friend by Groove Armada

mind mapping

Logan, our lovely pilot from last Friday, was very generous with information about the wide world of hot air ballooning.  Despite how he made it look, it turns out that hot air balloon pilots have far less control over the balloons than you might think.  In fact, there's no steering (other than being able to rotate the balloon on its axis) -- the pilots simply determine wind speeds and directions at different altitudes, and then raise or lower the balloon accordingly, all the while hoping that the winds haven't shifted or done something else unpredictable once they get there.  For this reason, it's anyone's guess as to where the balloon will end up landing (and in fact, a group of conference-goers who decided to go on the hot air balloon the day after we went, ended up landing in the middle of a neighbourhood, frightening a few small children and alarming several homeowners). 

This?  This just sort of aimlessly looking for interesting-looking winds and seeing where it takes me?  This has been my life lately. 

Not that this is always a bad thing -- I'm a huge fan of being open to new experiences, and seeing what comes, without judgment.  But the truth is that ever since I turned in the final edits to my book, I've been feeling a bit aimless, without any major project to work on or any serious goals to steer towards.  And I need a project, people.  I like A Project.  And this constantly being distracted by any possibility that looks like Something Shiny is starting to work my last nerve.

But then yesterday, as I was daydreaming in my office, I noticed a vision board I'd done late last year, and in it, I'd included a mind map.  It was one I'd drawn when I was trying to figure out what the subject of my book should be -- I was just putting everything down that came to mind that I thought might work, without censorship.  As it turns out, the final product was almost a direct result of the ideas that came to me in that mind map.

I'm thinking it might be time to draw another.  Because after all -- even with all their let's-see-where-the-wind-takes-us -- even hot air balloon pilots have maps.


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, and the lovely wide-angle 10-24mm lens Nikon lent me.


Update:  Several people have asked how to do a mind map.  The following is a video that I found that explains the process pretty clearly.  The concept is that mind mapping more accurately reflects how the mind works -- that we don't think linearly, but more spacially.  Personally, I don't start with a central image (because I can't draw very well), but I do start with a central concept (the problem I'm trying to tackle, whatever), and then branch off with whatever ideas the central concept sparks.  Also, I ABSOLUTELY use lots of colours -- usually I have a different colour I use for each main branch and its associated subbranches.

I hope this helps!


SongRich girl, as performed by The Bird & The Bee

chookooloonks life list update: number 16, photograph 1000 faces (the evo edition, part 2)

Alli, the creative mind behind Mrs. Fussypants and co-founder of Blissdom

As I mentioned yesterday, at EVO this past weekend I was able to photograph some people who I knew would be attending and who I'd been looking forward to photographing.  However, I also had the opportunity to meet people whose blogs I'd certainly heard of but never met; in addition, I got to spend some time with women who I'd met previously, but had never really gotten to know. 

Today, I thought I'd introduce you to some of them.

I'd certainly heard of Blissdom before, but didn't really know a lot about it -- luckily, I was able to meet Alli, one of the founders of the conference, this weekend.  When I saw that amazing curly hair and those gimongous blue eyes (above), obviously I had to photograph them.  I was thrilled to find that Alli is as lovely as she looks.


Allison of Petit Elefant

I'm not sure exactly when I met Allison -- I think it was at the Mom 2.0 Summit earlier this year (or maybe it was the ALT Summit?) -- but in any event, I've always been quite enamoured with her face.  It strikes me as 1940's-film-siren-elegant, in that Katharine Hepburn kind of way.  I was so thrilled when she let me photograph her this time around, and I loved getting to know her in the process.  The word that comes to mind when I think of her is classy.


Heather of The Spohrs Are Multiplying

Heather is an extraordinary woman.  She joined Momversation recently, and it's been such a joy to virtually work with her, but this was the first time we were able to meet in person.  She normally blogs at The Spohrs are Multiplying, where she chronicled the very sudden death of her young baby girl.  When we met this weekend, I was struck by her eyes -- they seem so kind, but even more, they seem so compassionate.  I was particularly honoured that she allowed me to photograph them.

Really lovely person.


Helene, the incredible talent behind Sweet Tartelette

I have been lurking on the blog Sweet Tartelette for years -- this site has the most beautiful food photography I think I've ever seen on the web.  Seriously, the food styling, the lighting, even the movement in some of the shots -- really fantastic.  So when I found out that Helene was going to be at EVO, I was really excited to meet her.

They say that French women have this thing where no matter what, they look like they just stepped off of a fashion runway, and I'm here to tell you that Helene does NOTHING to dispel this myth:  she has this elegance and a quiet confidence constantly about her that is absolutely breathtaking.  It was such a joy to finally meet her.


The terminally charming Helen Jane.

You know how sometimes you have a really close friend who has a really close friend, and for some strange reason or inexplicable inopportune circumstances, you never ever seem to meet that really close friend's really close friend?  In my life, that elusive really close friend's really close friend is Helen Jane.  She's a very good friend of my friend Laura, and it's sort of startling that we hadn't met before this past weekend.

I feel like I have a lot of time to make up in my brand new relationship with Helen Jane -- we immediately hit it off.  She's funny and practical and friendly, and not afraid to enter into deep discussions with people she just met -- I love this.  In addition to her blog, she's also the creative mind behind Cheese Whizzes, a, God-help-me, national cheese tasting club.  I'm so thinking about joining up.



I met Jen at a conference 4 years ago -- this quiet, unassuming Canadian with the kind, easy smile.  Since then, we've seen each other almost yearly at various conferences, and while we haven't spent much time together, she's never once failed to pass along a lovely compliment or a kind word of encouragement.  Never once.

She's such a very sweet soul.  I was thrilled to photograph her lovely face.


Casey, of Moosh in Indy.

Casey is quirky, funny and wields a helluva camera.  On the first official day of the conference, Casey was on a panel discussing photography, and she taught me things about diffusers and reflectors that I'd never even considered before.  I was so happy that she allowed me to capture her sparkly eyes.

We are now 2/3rds of the way through the beautiful faces that I photographed at EVO -- I'll reveal the remaining beauties on Friday.  I can't wait to share them with you.


Images:  All faces photographed with my Nikon D300 and that fabulous little 50mm Nikon lent me.


Song: Come find yourself by Fun Lovin' Criminals

monday chookooloonks life list update: number 16, photograph 1000 faces (the evo edition, part 1)

The lovely Jyl, founder of Mom It Forward

I'm back from the really spectacular EVO Conference.  It was a lot of fun, and not just because I booked a flight in a hot air balloon.  I was asked to do the closing keynote along with my friend Brené.  It was the first time we've ever spoken together -- and it was such a gas.

But even more importantly, I've come to believe that the feeling of a conference is directly correlated with the vibe of its organizers, so really, the fact that that EVO was warm, friendly, welcoming and inclusive, is no surprise:  Jyl, above, and Rachael, below, are possibly two of the most gracious women I've met in the past two years.  I don't think I've ever seen Jyl without a smile on her face, and her dogged commitment to giving back to the world is astonishing.  As for Rachael, the word that immediately comes to mind when I think of her is "sass" -- and I mean that in the most glorious way possible.  I'm really thrilled for both of them that the conference was so successful.


The very dynamic Rachael of Today's Mama.  You wouldn't believe what I had to make her think about to get this shot.

For me, the other fabulous thing about attending a conference like this, of course, is all the amazing faces that I get to photograph.  In fact, I took so many images, that in order to make sure it doesn't take 20 minutes for your computer to load my posts, instead of showing them to you all on one day, I'm going to reveal them to you slowly over the course of the next few days, if that's okay.  So, for today, I'll share with you the faces that I went to EVO with the prior intent of capturing.


I met Jen about 4-1/2 years ago at another blogging conference, and have followed her blog since then.  Jenijen has a serious storyteling gift, and if you love funny, poignant writing, you need to bookmark her site as quickly as possible.  As it happens, Jen's face is also one of my very favourite faces to photograph -- I mean, seriously, have you ever seen a face more full of joy than hers? -- so when she told me that she was coming to EVO, my immediate response was something delicate like, "Yeah, yeah, but you KNOW I have to photograph that face of yours again if we meet, right?"

Seriously, I don't know how she puts up with me.  But not only is she always really sweet to me, she brings me fancy bottles rum to conferences to help me with my life list

But that's a post for another time.


Stefania, the beautiful creative mind behind CityMama, MOMocrats and Kimchi Mamas

Stefania is another incredibly prolific blogger who I've known for an age.  I feel a really odd connection to her because -- get this -- her daughter "Bunny" and my niece Julia look like they could be sisters (seriously, click on those two previous links, it's uncanny).  For this reason, I have this irrational feeling that Stefania is, in actuality, a long-lost extended family member.  So when she emailed me prior to this conference saying that she would like me to take her portrait, I was only too happy to oblige.

Besides, she's got an amazing face, doesn't she?


Ah, Lu.  Lu and I have been online friends since I lived in Trinidad, and I've always admired how spirit-filled she lives her life.  We've emailed often, and have even been old-school pen-pals for a while, sending hand-scrawled letters of encouragement back and forth over the last year or so.  And if you happen to be someone who loves art journaling or scrapbooking, run-do-not-walk over to her blog, Art Slam, to be fully inspired.  She's a truly wonderful talent.


And on that note, stay tuned: more lovely faces to come.


Images:  All photographed with my Nikon D300 and the lovely 50mm lens that Nikon lent me.

SongStarry-eyed surprise by Paul Oakenfeld

friday chookooloonks life list update: number 67, fly in a hot air balloon -- CHECK.

So, when I got that email from the PR person from Nikon, the one inviting me to test out a couple of lenses, I decided that since I was going to get to try a wide-angle lens for the first time, it was important for me to complete a life list item when I did it.  So I scanned my list, and suddenly, I knew just the thing.

I called Brené.

"Hey," I said.  "I have a proposal."

"I. Do," she said immediately.  I laughed.

"Well, if you'll do that, you'll do this:  you know how we're going to Park City next month?"


"Well, I want to do a life list item.  I want to ride on a hot air balloon.  Are you in?"

It was her turn to laugh.

"You know you called me, right? Brené?"


"I'm afraid of heights, Karen."

"So am I, Brené."


"Because I'm afraid of heights.  And I want to push myself.  And a hot air balloon seems like a relatively calm way to do it.  Are you in?"

She was in.

And today, we did it.









And terrifying.  And awesome.  We went about 4,500 feet above Heber, Utah, just outside of Park City.  There were apparently a few tense moments, having to do with things like windshear and shifting winds, but our pilot, Logan, was an absolute pro, and never really let on that he was concerned until after the flight.  And once we were up, it was just so beautiful, so peaceful, and despite the fact that I'm still petrified of heights, I cannot WAIT to go again. 

If you've never done this, seriously, you must try.  And if you happen to be in Park City, Utah when you want to do it, I strongly, strongly recommend Park City Balloon Adventures -- they are really fantastic, completely professional, and Brené and I had a helluva time.

And now, I'm off to enjoy the conferenceBut if you'd like to see the entire set of photos, click here.


Images:  Photographed with my Nikon D300 and that whizbang of a lens Nikon lent me, the 10-24mm wide angle.


SongI'll take you there by the Staple Singers



love thursday: mandala

If Javascript is disabled browser, to place orders please visit the page where I sell my photos, powered by Fotomoto.

Yesterday, my friend Jenny published a link to a video of Buddhist monks using coloured sand to create an intricate Buddha of Compassion mandala

It's really beautiful.  You should take 2 minutes, click here, and watch it.

And then, once you do, go out and show some love today.  Because as the video makes clear, if not now, when?


Happy Love Thursday, everyone.


Image:  Lily on my kitchen table, photographed with my Nikon D300 and the lovely 50mm lens Nikon lent me.


Song: The song in the video, Detectors in the Eyes by Andrew Shapiro


(Incidentally, tomorrow's post is going to be late -- but please keep checking back, because I'm hoping to have a pretty special life list update for you.  Here's a hint: judging from the weather report, we should be go for launch.)

list #1: inanimate objects that always make me smile

My sweet friend Hula is doing this thing on her blog where she's publishing 52 lists -- one a week for a year.

I love this.

I'm not going to fool myself into thinking I could be focused enough to do one of these each week, but I do love a good list.  I may just have to steal this idea from time to time. 

Like, for example, the following are a few things the sight of which always make me smile:

1.  Marbles

2.  Sunflowers

3.  Bunny rabbits (okay, these aren't inanimate, but they've been littering my walking trail these days, and holy moly, are they cute)

4.  Seashells

5.  Vintage photographs of kids

6.  A single scoop of ice cream (lately, Häagen-Dazs java chip) in a plain sugar cone

7.  Egg cups

8.  Wildflowers in makeshift vases

9.  Children's drawings -- especially Alex's

10.  Mens' hands with wedding rings

11.  Freshly-made beds

12.  Boats

13.  Bonfires

14.  Brand new, unused crayons

Image:  Wildflowers in mason jars at The Pioneer Woman's ranch, photographed with my Nikon D300 and ancient 50mm manual lens.


Song: Sun comes up by John Legend


anniversaries and traditions

Today is the summer solstice -- it's also Marcus and my first-eighth anniversary.  Eight years ago today, Marcus and I had a very long leisurely lunch of tapas and sangria, before heading to a hotel to get married, on relatively short notice, in front of relatively few friends. 

(This particular marriage came up sort of suddenly, for visa-obtaining purposes.  The elaborate, better-scheduled and much more carefully-planned white wedding happened 2 months later.  We'll therefore celebrate our second-eighth anniversary in August.)

Anyway, since then, Marcus and I celebrate every one of our first-anniversaries with sangria and tapas.  Tonight was no exception.









Happy anniversary, Marz.  Here's to 80 more.


Images:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, and the 50mm lens that Nikon lent me.


Song: Eight days a week by The Beatles

how i fell in love with nikon (also: monday chookooloonks life list update: number 16, photograph 1000 faces)

About 16 years ago, I decided that I wanted to take a stab at learning photography.  I knew at the time it meant upgrading from my Olympus point-and-shoot to the kind of camera where I could switch out lenses, but at the time, I had no idea what I wanted or what would be a good buy.  So I contacted a friend of mine, Josef, who is a professional fashion photographer.

"What kind of photographs do you want to shoot?" he asked.

"I dunno," I said.  "Something like what you do."

"You want to shoot fashion?"

"Well, no..." I thought some more.  "I just ... one day, maybe, I'll have a family. And I want to shoot decent photographs of them."

"Okay," he said.  "Well, there's two things:  first of all, you're not going to spend less than $500."

I gulped.  At the time, I was unemployed, and really didn't have that kind of money to spend.  Still, for some reason, I was compelled to follow through with this.  I become very stubborn single-minded when I need to.

"Oookay," I said.  "What's the second thing?"

"You're going to buy a second hand camera."

Good Lord.

After getting over the shock of the idea of spending five hundred 1994 dollars on, God-help-me, an old camera, I decided to trust Josef.  We went to the best camera store in Houston, and ponied up to the counter.


"Now," said Josef, "you're going to want to purchase either a Nikon or a Canon."

"Okay," I said, "why?"

"Because they're the best," he said.  "They've been around the longest, they have great gear.  The professionals only use Nikon or Canon.  So we're going to try one of each, and you're going to play with them, and see which feels right."

"What do you shoot with?"

He smiled. "I only shoot Canon.  But you decide."

The sales clerk brought out two second-hand cameras -- a Nikon FE series film camera, and its equivalent Canon counterpart.  I picked each up and started playing with them, despite the fact I had no idea what I was really doing.  And yet, instantly, I knew.

"I like Nikon," I said.

"Really?"  Josef seemed mildly surprised.  "You don't like the Canon?  Are you sure?"

"Nope," I said.  "Definitely prefer the Nikon. The gauges seem more intuitive.  I think. Anyway, I'm not sure why, but I do. I prefer the Nikon."

He smiled.  "Then get the Nikon," he said.  "Because the truth is, when you know, you know."

(As I type this, it dawns on me that buying a camera is sort of like when Harry Potter got his wand -- he "didn't choose his wand, the wand chose him."  It really is the same --  when you know, you know.)

I wrote a cheque for $501.00 for the 10-year-old Nikon camera body, and an even-more-ancient 50mm lens.  And then over the next few days, Josef and I went out and about around Houston to practice shooting.



Since then, a lot has changed:  I've stopped practicing law, and I've started making a living as a photographer and a writer -- but the one constant is that I've always -- always -- used Nikon equipment.  I don't shoot with that film camera anymore, but I've owned several digital Nikon camera bodies, and purchased many more lenses.  I love their products, and dreamed of a day when I could possibly work with Nikon.  But, as it happens (and despite my best efforts), Nikon is pretty particular about who they work with -- in fact, I was starting to feel like I was in one of those 1980's John Hughes films, you know the ones?  Where the ordinary-looking-yet-quirkily-attractive girl (often played by Molly Ringwald) pines for the really good-looking guy (usually played by some random member of the Brat Pack), but for most of the movie, you feel like it's just never going to happen?

Yeah.  It was like that.  I'd pretty much given up hope.

Then one day last month, I received an email.


Hi Karen (it began),

I would like to introduce myself as the PR contact for Nikon. I came across your bio while reading about guest speakers for the upcoming Evo Conference. I have read your blog and have since become a fan. I was wondering to myself what camera you use to capture such beautiful photographs, and to my surprise you are a Nikon shooter!

(Yes! Yes!)

Are there any lenses that you might want to test?


Needless to say, I jumped all over this opportunity.  So after some back and forth emails, Nikon agreed to let me take a couple of their lenses out for a spin:  a wide-angle lens (since I'd never shot with a wide angle before) and the modern-day equivalent of that ancient lens I'd purchased so many years ago.  Understand, these lenses aren't gifts -- I don't get to keep them (unless I pay for them) -- but I do get to play with them for a little while.  And play with them I certainly will.

It's kind of like how eventually Molly Ringwald managed to get the guy in the end! 

Well, okay, not really, but sort of.

Anyway, that's how I ended up in possession of two pretty amazing lenses. I'm obviously having a lot of fun with the 50mm, but since the EVO conference is coming up at the end of this week in beautiful Park City, Utah, I'm hoping to really put the 10-24mm to the test and see what that puppy can do.  I can't wait to share the results with you. 


* * * * * * *

Speaking of Utah -- remember Justin Hackworth, the Utah photographer who took those portraits of me back in January? Well, back in April, he did this great thing:  for the entire month, he photographed 30 portraits of people he didn't know, waving his session fee in lieu of a donation for a local Provo shelter for women and children in crisisHis work is astounding, and if you happen to be in Provo, you're in luck: on July 2nd, there will be an exhibit of his work -- you can go see the exhibit yourself and sign up for your own portrait session, the proceeds of which will also be used to benefit the shelter.  Which is fully awesome.  So if you go, please email me and tell me what you thought -- I'm hating that I'm missing it.

And on that note:  have a wonderful week everyone.


Images:  Several of the beautiful faces with whom I spent my weekend (including my parents -- the last 2, above!), all photographed with my Nikon D300 and the 50mm 1.4 lens Nikon lent me.


SongIn your eyes by Peter Gabriel.  As you listen to this, imagine I'm wearing a trenchcoat, holding a camera above my head.  Nikon, this is for you.

bonus shots: my family




These shots were taken in our front garden with my Nikon D300, and yet another beautiful lens lent to me by Nikon -- the Nikkor 50mm 1.4G.  This is basically the brand-spanking new, automatic-focus version of the ancient 50mm manual lens you see me use so often around here.  It's really lovely, man.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to shell out the cash for this one, because it will kill me to give this back.

And, okay then, enough:  I'll tell you how I came to be in possession of these two lenses Nikon let me borrow.  But on Monday.  Right now, I have to go photograph more stuff.

Monday.  Promise.