Having a Little Fun With a Photo Scavenger Hunt! | CT Engagement & Wedding Photographer

Ashley Sisk of Ramblings and Photos hosts a fabulous photo scavenger hunt each and every week!  She calls it Scavenger Sunday!  I decided I wanted to join in on all the fun!  Any excuse the break out the camera right?  (ha, like I need an excuse!)  Except I think I’ll probably end up posting on Monday.  So for me it’ll be Scavenger Monday!

My first week was pretty amusing.  Here are the photos we are supposed to find:

  1. architecture
  2. rimmed with light
  3. toes or feet
  4. this is my favorite
  5. shade(s)

Well you all know me by now!  I can’t just go out and snap any random old photo!  I think photos should tell a story.  So a story I will tell!  I had an engagement session recently that has yet to be blogged.  It’s turn is coming up pretty darn soon!  A few of the photos worked perfectly for this challenge so I thought I’d offer a little sneak peak while I’m at it.  What you are about to read is complete fiction.  In a few weeks when I do fully blog this engagement session I will tell you the fantastic story of this fabulous couple.  But for now, just indulge me while I exercise a little fun and some extreme goofiness.  Just remember! I’ve never claimed to be a writer!

ps.  I guess the royal wedding hoopla sunk it a bit.  Sorry!  I had no idea I’d head in this direction until I was deep into it!

One Sweet Princess!

Once upon a time in land far away lived fair maiden princess who wept all day.  She lived in a castle so cold and so dark.  Her life was a string of endless days that left a dreadful mark on her heart.  The floor was so dank, the walls were so cold.  Everything she touched was just like rough stone.


She sat in her room on the edge of her bed and gazed out the window with a feeling of dread.  She’d never escape, she’d never be free.  She’d never have a chance to live her dream.  Late in the night, when it was too cold to sleep, she’d lay wide awake and her mind scream… “I want to run! I want to fly! I want to leave and escape and never say goodbye!”  Tears would slide like ice down her cheeks as she finally drifted off to sleep.

She awoke with a start and nearly fell out of bed when she felt a soft warm touch on her head.  Her mind raced as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes “Who is this stranger and does he want?” She thought as she looked up and locked her gaze on his eyes.

“I have come to rescue you.  To take you some place warm.  The place you’ve dreamed of.  To a new life.  Now come take my hand and let us get out of this cold place.”

In a flash the princess was on her feet.  Now was her chance! Her chance to be free! As she raced to get dressed she wondered how could this be? Her dreams finally coming true.  What a chance to begin anew.

He grabbed her hand and they raced for the door.  Shoulder to shoulder they ran down the hall.  She was running so quickly she was sure she would fall.  They rounded the corner and there just in front her stood the doors standing tall.  They threw their weight at the large metal gates with all of their might and they swung open to such a sight.

my favorite

The world lay before her in all it’s glory.  A warm blast of air enveloped her face.  They raced away from the castle and toward the shore! They laughed and they danced and they frolicked in the surf!

toes or feet

She was free! She was warm! Her dreams were coming true!  They laughed and they played until the sun was nearly set.  Her handsome rescuer swept her up in his arms. Who was this man anyway and where did he come from? He was a true man of mystery.  Anxious to know more about her dashing rescuer our princes reached up and pulled away his shades.  Her heart skipped a beat, her breath caught in her throat as she was met with the most radiant eyes she had ever met.  For her it was love at first sight.

mystery man's shades

“Come”  he said, it is time to go.  And with that he lead her down a path onto a new life.

Rimmed with light

And… you guessed it…

They lived happily ever after!

The End!


Tips & Tricks! Catching the light! How to improve your photographs with better lighting!

I don’t believe there is anything more important in a photograph than the light that was used to create it.  I’ll say it again…. there is nothing more important than light when creating a wonderful photograph.  Stop and think… you can have a fabulous moment that is destroyed because the photo was too dark, too bright, or too streaky.  If you cannot see those fabulous expressions, or you are distracted by strange shadows, what exactly is the point in creating that photograph?  Light can make the difference between a FABULOUS photograph and one the is just… ho hum.  In this blog post I plan to show you the difference and give you pointers for finding fabulous light.

My Number 1 tip for creating fabulous photographs is this…. TURN OFF THE FLASH!

The flash of a camera can make subjects look strangely ghost like.  It can make the person you are photographing bright white and the background almost pitch black. Camera flash can also create strange and unnatural shadows in your photograph. It can make people blink, give them red eye, and distract them from the moment you wanted to capture.  Seriously, who LIKES having a flash poofed in their face over and over?  Why do camera flashes create such results?  Because the are very small and pretty strong sources of light.  Here is something to remember.  The smaller the light source, the more harsh it’ll be and it will result in strong, unnatural, and unflattering shadows.

Let me show you an example.  This is a photo of my son I took back in 2006 when he was just 4 months old.  I took it with a standard point and shoot camera with your typical built in flash.  Do you see how bright he is compared to the background?  Do you see that odd shadow behind his head?  This just isn’t the best representation of real life.  While I love this photo because it is my memory of my baby boy is who now a whopping 5 years old.  Any photo is better than no photo but there are things I could have done to make it even better.

Catch the Light!

If you are not going to use flash for a light source you are going to have to find another source of light.  My ultimate favorite choice is natural outdoor light.  Given the chance I’ll photograph outdoors every time.  Outdoor light can be absolutely gorgeous.  But let’s think about this for a moment.  Yes, outdoor light can be gorgeous, but outdoor sunlight might not give you any truly different results.  Why?  Because the sun is also a very small source of light that will also create harsh unflattering shadows and squinty eyes.  Let me show you!

This is a photo from a wedding I was in back in 2006.  It was a very sunny day and the wedding was midday.  Notice the harsh shadows under eyes and in our faces.  Not the prettiest of photos is it?

What do you do?  The flash stinks, bright sunlight stinks, what’s left?  PLENTY! My tricks for catching great natural light are the same for both indoors and outdoors.  FIRST, turn your subject toward the light.  If the light is coming from a window or one portion of the sky have them face in that direction.  It’ll create very pretty light in their eyes and illuminate their faces in a very pleasing way.

If you are indoors, bring your subject close to a window that does not have sun directly pouring into it.  If it is a decently bright day, the light pouring is will be gorgeous!  Here is an example.

This is a photo I took of my husband in my hospital room the day we brought our daughter home.  I LOVE this photo!  Why?  Well first it sure is a special moment I will treasure forever.  But look at the light on his face and in his eyes!  I simply had him turn toward the big window.  It was a sunny day, sunlight was hitting the bright roof and building just outside the window and reflecting back into our room.  PERFECT.  BEAUTIFUL!  I could set up a studio in that room!

And I can’t resist sharing this one too.  I took this photo in my living room!  It was early morning and the sun was pouring through one window.  The direct sunlight would have been too harsh so I closed the blinds to soften the light perfectly.  There was a bit more light coming in through a window on the right that just filled any possible shadows.  I hung a white sheet behind her and poof.  I had the perfect setup in just moments.  You can actually see the beautiful light shining in her eyes.  I did have to clone some wrinkles out of the sheet after the fact in photoshop.  But that was easy!

Great!  You can get great light indoors.  What if I’m outdoors? How do I avoid those harsh shadows?  Pretty much the same way.  Find a shaded area to put your subject in.  The light will reflect off of the ground and objects around the shaded area right onto your subject and light them beautifully.

Take a look at this photo of a beautiful bride I had the opportunity to photograph just this week.  She was sitting on a park bench in front of a hotel on a very sunny day.  I had her under the overhang of the hotel so she was shaded.  Sunlight was hitting the sidewalk just in front of her and reflecting right back at her.  She was perfectly lit and I was jumping for joy inside. No harsh shadows, not squinting, just perfection.

Now I know there are times when the use of flash is just unavoidable.  Trust me, I find myself in dark places all of the time.  Next week I will talk about how to make the best use of your flash and what to do to turn down some of the harshness.

Thanks for reading!  I hope you all are having a fantastic week!

ps.  Feel free to leave questions in the comment box and I’ll be sure to answer them!


It Sure Is A Blessing to Give! Or, I’m as good as Jay Harris!

It was fall when I received a message from my friend Jen.  She was planning a human auction to raise money for the new building our church is renovating.  She was looking for talented people to volunteer their time and services.   I automatically assumed she was asking me to help her brainstorm a list of people who ask.  I think I read the message 4 times before I realized she was asking ME to donate my photography skills.  Wait me?  ME? I’m being included in a list of people skilled enough to donate something to auction?  It probably seems ridiculous to some but I couldn’t believe it!

Before you could say boo I started writing an email telling her how excited and honored I’d be to do it.  But then my fingers FROZE!  All the what ifs started flooding my mind.  What if my session went for some piddly amount?  Or worse!  What if no one bid on me?  I’d be hurt and embarrassed!  I had serious doubts about accepting.  But I did, thank goodness I did!

The night of the auction finally came.  I was NERVOUS!  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t want to witness my own humiliation if I only brought in $10.  I mean, all of my friends were going to be there!  But at the same time, I couldn’t stay home either.  That auction began.  They started with some delicious pies and other baked goodies.  Someone donated dog training services and someone else donated some interior decorating services.  My husband bet on some help from a handyman to do some fix ups around our house.  One of the most exciting items of the evening was a golf game and tour of ESPN with Sports Center Anchor Jay Harris.  Some of the guys were furiously bidding and the excitement was high.  What fun!  Then came my part.  A Session with Crystal Starr Photography.  I told myself I’d be happy if I rounded out at around $75.  A $100 would be wonderful.  The bidding started.  First $25, then $50, and before I knew it we were at $75.  Phew!  I would be embarrassed after all!  But then it just kept going!  And going! And going!  My head was spinning!  How could this be?  People were excited!  A little war was going on between the Pastor of our church and a couple of others.  Can you believe my session went for just as much as the round of golf and a tour of ESPN with Jay Harris!?  I was beside myself!  Pastor Joe won.  He told me his daughter-in-law wanted it and he decided he was going to get it for her.  My heart sang!  Not only did I feel appreciated in my work, but I was able to do something I loved to bring a nice chunk of change to the church.

The session was fantastic.  Jay and Sheena had just had a little baby a few months back.  They wanted photos of her and their nearly two year old Rylin.  Baby Riese was so sweet and tolerated my fussing and my camera like a champ.  Rylin was a doll.  So full of energy and just as curious as any little girl should be.  She kept me on my toes but listened so very well.  Mom and Dad were super.  They kept a very positive attitude and gave me the space to help their children be successful.

I was so blessed with this session.  I hope to have the opportunity to donate my photography to another great cause some day.  I’m not sure I really want to do another auction!  As fun as it was, it was a bit much on my heart!  Thank you Jen for asking me.  Thank to all of those who bid on me.  And thank you to the Jakum family for such a wonderful session!

A Photo I Love! Despite the Flaws!

Photos can be many things.  They can be beautiful works of art that inspire emotion and interpretation.  They can be spectacular visual creations that brighten a dark space or tie all the elements in a room together.  Photos can make a statement, have an impact, declare a thought or idea.  Photos can be used to help and heal or to tear down and break apart.  Photos are also spectacular for freezing a special moment in time.

This photo of my two boys was taken during a recent family weekend getaway.  I just thought they looked so cute sleeping curled up together like this.  It was taken with my little point & shoot.  The lighting was terrible and the on camera flash made it worse.  It was snapped as fast as possible so as not to disturb the sleeping beauties.  There is nothing technical or artful about this photo.  One might call the composition boring.

WHATEVER!  It is a very special moment in time for this Mommy!  It says so much to me about who they are right now and about their relationship together.  I want to take this photo and blow it up as big as my wall and remember it forever.  I’m sure it’ll find multiple homes in our family photo albums.  I love it and that is all that matters, right?  Before long they’ll be well grown beyond this stage and I’ll treasure this photo all the more.  I think I need to take more snap shots like this.