Sunday, January 25, 2015

4/52

"A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Poet: occasionally she will be transfixed by thoughts, her dreamy eyes gazing off into the ether. 

Shot on a Canon mkiii with a 50mm 1.4 lens - ISO100, f1.6, 1/400

This week there was much to love about beautiful sisters in the snow / earthy hues and brilliant light / this girl, her cat and her bedroom; perfectly nostalgic.


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

the cost of living in 2015

Moving house so close to Christmas proved to be expensive beyond my expectations. Despite the fact that we only moved ten minutes up the road and did most of the moving ourselves, the costs added up quickly. Factor in the budget-conscious setting up of our new home, end-of-year-celebrations and Christmas lists and we started the New Year with a more humble bank balance than we intended.

Alas, at least we have a bank balance that's in the positive. Perspective is good at times like this.

I tend to stress about finances in every pregnancy, despite the fact that in each subsequent pregnancy, we've been in a better financial situation than the last. After seven years of teaching prenatal yoga I know for a fact that my worries are not unusual; a fear of the financial is one shared by most pregnant women. 

I've written about the cost of living a few times (here, here and here) and I've always been inspired and motivated by the suggestions within the comments. Indeed, as the years pass the cost of living continues to increase, despite our best efforts to be conscious of how and where we are spending money. It's a universal issue that seems particularly pertinent at this time of year; in school holidays the grocery bill seems to increase exponentially and the costs associated with back-to-school are significant. 

Daniel and I both work freelance; it's a beautiful lifestyle choice that allows us to spend lots of quality time as a family but the downside is that there isn't a lot of financial stability. We've learned to work with it though; we are pretty sensible when it comes to what we buy and our outgoings are kept to a minimum. Still, every fortnight I'm shocked by how much the day-to-day costs us.

Since our move we have made a few changes to ensure we are making sensible financial decisions and consequently embracing our desire for simple and mindful living. 

- in mid-2014 we finally purchased a coffee machine. Instead of buying a top-of-the-range model we opted for the very affordable sunbeam cafe crema + grinder, both of which happened to be on sale at the time. We spent about $150 in total and since then, Daniel has perfected the art of coffee making (my brother is a coffee roaster so we get the beans for free) and we have saved ourselves a fortune. Coffee in cafes, takeaway coffees and the added sweet extras were really increasing our weekly spending and it got to the point where we just couldn't justify it anymore. We'll still go to a cafe about once a week but we consider it a bit of a treat and, where possible, we go without the children. 

- we rarely buy books. When we were packing up our old house we were floored by how little our book collection had been touched over the years. Whilst the children's books are regularly read, our novels just sat on the shelf looking pretty. We donated most of our collection, kept our absolute favourites (especially cooking, gardening and lifestyle books) and since then, we've been going to the library which saves us money and ensures our bookshelf stays clutter-free.

- we researched our electricity consumption. Even when we turn our computer off, it's still using electricity, hence we turn it off at the wall at every available opportunity - same goes for most appliances. We don't have carpet in this new house so the vacuum cleaner rarely gets used and because we get endless amounts of sun, we haven't turned the dryer on since we moved in. Come wintertime, a clotheshorse on the balcony or beside the fire should eliminate the need for the dryer altogether (that's our intention, anyway). 

- we're a one car family - by choice. Granted there are weeks when the juggle can get a little frustrating (especially when Daniel is working in Sydney) and it is going to be more difficult this year as I have to drive Che to school (we were within walking distance at our old house) but...we prefer the juggle to the expense of a second car. 

- where I can, I buy groceries in bulk. Admittedly, I'm terrible at bulk buying, simply because the large bill terrifies me but I've come to realise that I'd rather have a large bill once every three weeks than a series of small bills every few days. We get our organic fruit + veg delivered once a week so it's only dry goods, bread and milk that I need to stock up on (I buy meat from the local butcher once a week).

- we take our water bottles everywhere (we love and swear by the klean kanteen range).

- we started a vegie patch and whilst I think I planted too late in the season (the humidity has been a bit of an issue) we have still managed to reap a good selection of greens. Now, I'm looking towards autumn/winter and thinking of what to plant.

We still have a goal of buying a little house but for now, we're pretty happy where we are; saving where we can and enjoying what we already have.

How are you feeling about finances for the New Year? Do you have a savings plan? What is your top tip for saving money as a family?


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

my favourite room in the house

Confession: when we were looking at rental properties late last year I completely dismissed the house we now live in. My imagination often needs encouragement when it comes to making something old seem new again and this house was no exception. However, after much discussion I could see the potential; we just needed to repaint. 

Because salmon pink walls just don't work, do they? Nor do faux mahogany curtain rods or thick, pink curtains. White was my solution to all manner of cringe worthy decoration choices so I set about creating an entirely new start with fresh paint in the shade of bassinet; an apt name if ever I heard one. 

After seven years of dealing with damp and mould in our old house (and the subsequent health issues that were at their worst just before we moved), I wanted a paint that would resist mould and mildew if they ever surfaced (I doubt they will considering the glorious full sun we bask in every day - never again will I underestimate the benefits of a home with a good aspect). The team at Taubmans were generous enough to provide us with Endure Interior in bassinet; a superior paint that is approved by the National Asthma Council of Australia as a sensitive choice for those with asthma and allergies. As a bonus, it also resists stains, handy considering dirty, little hands like to leave fingerprint marks on a regular basis. When it came to ordering quantity, the online paint calculator came in very handy, too. 

After taking down all the curtains, filling all the holes and hiring a painter who managed to get all the walls and ceilings done in three days, we were ready to move in. Settling in takes time and making a house a home takes even longer. 











The house features a filled-in-wrap-around-verandah and the front room is a large L-shape which we have broken into a dining room, sitting room and entryway (our bedroom is an extension of this room, separated by a panelled wall). Sash windows run along the entire length so it's light-filled from dawn till dusk. It's my favourite part of the house (ocean views win every time) and I knew as soon as we moved in that I wanted to maintain the sense of space and light. We also didn't want to spend much money so we prioritised the painter, new curtains and a footstool for the chair.

As you walk in the front door the entryway (top photo) is on your right and is incredibly practical, so much so that I have no idea how I ever survived without a dedicated space for everyday items. The little desk (as well as our dining table) was found at a deceased estate opposite our old house and it fits perfectly in this space. I have minimised the contents of the drawers so they only contain essential miscellany and writing equipment - candles, a lighter, incense, a few pens, sticky tape, notepad, an external hard drive and my laptop bag. The little terracotta bowl on the desk is for the car keys and the baskets either side contain my camera, reusable shopping bags, sunscreen and shoes.

On the left of the front door is our dining table and in the corner is my sitting chair which I will, no doubt, spend many hours feeding in. For those interested it's the Ikea Ektorp Armchair + Footstool (that also includes a decent amount of storage) with a linen cover in a "loose country fit" from Swedish company, Bemz. The chair looks onto the short end of this L-shaped space where we have stored most of our books and the children's toys.







The children share a room so when they are inside they tend to spend most of their time here. There's significant floor space in front of the bookshelf so no doubt, a playmat will make its way there when baby is a few months old and wants to be in on the action (which is when the lego will, once again, become an issue).

I still have plans for this space but right now, in an attempt to save and not spend, I'm content with what we've created. Fresh paint, new curtains and simple decoration has ensured it's both practical and pleasant; perfect for family life.


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Monday, January 19, 2015

photography : ISO, aperture + shutter speed



ISO 100, f1.8, 1/6400 (late on a very sunny afternoon)

Now that you have let go of the fear surrounding the M mode on your camera, it's time to explain the three main settings that ultimately work together to create a photo. Whilst this is a technical post I honestly believe that the best way to learn is to pick up your camera, play with the settings and take hundreds of photos. Don't rely solely on instructions; the best photos are taken by a photographer who has, in his or her own way, developed an intuitive approach to taking photos; essentially, the camera is an extension of the photo taker.

When you first take the leap onto manual mode, set aside a good hour to take photos. Ideally, you want to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon (for those of us with daylight savings, early evening is good, too) as the light is more forgiving at this time. Remember that one good photo out of 100 shots is commendable; don't set your expectations to high.

When I'm setting up a shot on my camera, I adjust the settings in the following order:

ISO

ISO basically measures your camera's sensitivity to light. Essentially, the lower the ISO (ISO100) the less sensitive your camera is, the higher the ISO (ISO8000) the more sensitive. So, during the day when you're shooting outside, you would generally set your ISO to 100 (the lowest setting). Indoor photography on a sunny day usually requires ISO400 and if you're shooting in low-light conditions, you would need to go even higher. However, the higher the ISO, the more grain you'll get in your photo (unless you're shooting on a top-of-the-range camera). Indeed, low light capabilities are one of the most alluring aspects of expensive cameras (and it's one of the main reasons I upgraded from the GF1).

if you're shooting outside set your ISO to 100, if you're shooting inside in natural light, set your ISO to 400. If you find that you still don't have enough light, take your ISO even higher.


Aperture

Aperture has nothing to do with your camera and everything to do with your lens. Consider your lens your eye and the aperture as your pupil; it gets bigger and smaller as you adjust your settings, letting in more or less light respectively. 

a large aperture setting is a large pupil, a small aperture setting is a small pupil

Perhaps what is most confusing about aperture is that the numbers work in the opposite direction:

a large aperture setting has a small number - f1.4 lets in a lot of light

a small aperture setting has a large number - f8 lets in much less light

Because most of you are reading this in the hope of taking more/better photos of your children, I would encourage you to set your aperture to either f2.8 or f4 so it's easier to get your subject in focus.

Aperture also controls the depth of field which is essentially the degree of blur behind your subject. As you can see below, I shot two photos of Che at the beach using two different aperture settings. A larger aperture setting - f1.4 on the left- will isolate the subject in the foreground and blur the background whereas a smaller aperture setting - f7.1 on the right - will bring the foreground and background into focus.









Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is essentially the exposure time; the length of time the camera's shutter is open to light. I wouldn't recommend shooting under 1/125 (of a second) unless you're using a tripod (or have very steady hands). This is particularly applicable if you're photographing people, especially wriggly children. Generally, a slow shutter speed will capture movement as a blurred motion but a fast shutter speed will freeze action with the upmost clarity.

As you can see below, a slow shutter speed of 1/640 has captured Poet on her scooter as "motion blur" where as a fast shutter speed of 1/2000 has frozen the water droplets from the garden hose.


There's a little bar in your viewfinder or on your screen that measures shutter speed - it's called your light metre. Ideal exposure is measured at "0" - an under exposed shot will be measured at "-1" or "-2" whereas an overexposed shot will be measured at "+1" or "+2"

But light exposure is a highly subjective matter. Ultimately, you control the look of your images by under exposing or over exposing, depending on whether you prefer a light-filled capture or a darker, moodier vibe.

ISO + Aperture + Shutter Speed

Notice that I've mention light a lot? Essentially, ISO, aperture and shutter speed work together to create your ideal lighting conditions.

When I'm setting up a shot, I'll do the following:

Set my ISO depending on the light conditions. If I'm outside I'll usually set it to 100, unless it's early evening, in which case I may shoot at 200 or 400. 

Next, I select my preferred aperture. I love shooting at f1.4 but if I'm taking photos of the children and want to play it safe (ie. I want to make sure all or most of the subject is in focus) I'll shoot at f2.8.

And finally, I look at my shutter speed.

The slower your shutter speed, the lighter your shot will be. If you select a fast shutter speed, your photo will be darker. The best way to choose your ideal shutter speed is to take a photo and look at the results. If it's overexposed (there's too much light and everything is blown out) you will need to increase your shutter speed - make it faster - and vice versa if your shot is too dark. 

If you find that you can't get your exposure right, you need to go back to your aperture or ISO. Granted, it can get a little confusing or overwhelming here but don't be put off. A few common scenarios:

If my photo is too dark, my aperture is at its largest (f1.4) and my shutter speed is 1/125 (and I don't want to go any slower than that), I'll increase my ISO. 

If there is too much light, everything is blown out and my ISO is already at 100 (it's lowest setting), I'll usually increase my shutter speed. If it's still too overexposed I'll make my aperture smaller and move from f2.8 to f4.





















ISO 100, f1.4, 1/640 (outside in early afternoon sun)

ISO 100, f2.0, 1/4000 (outside in midday sun)

ISO 500, f1.8, 1/250 (inside in the early morning)

I am in no way an expert at technical photography. Instead, I've explained these settings as I understand them - I hope it's been helpful! If you have any questions please ask them in the comments section.


37 COMMENTS


Sunday, January 18, 2015

3/52

"A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Poet: she oozes mischief and cheek and revels in pushing the boundaries.

Try disciplining this face:




Shot on a Canon 5D mkiii with a 50mm 1.4 lens - 1/640, f1.6, ISO 500

This week I adored: the minimalism of this unportrait / the calm in the middle of the night / the beauty of these strong, gorgeous girls.

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Someone, on either here, facebook or instagram (I've forgotten and can't for the life of me find the comment), asked me for camera recommendations. They told me they wanted a good quality DSLR that didn't cost a fortune. 

I currently use a Canon 5D mkiii which is one of the best cameras on the market. But, it's worth a significant amount of money, it's big and it's heavy; I'm reluctant to throw it in my bag and take it with me wherever we go, hence I take a lot less photos than I used to. I purchased it for professional work and for Daniel's film requirements but honestly, it's not my favourite camera of all time. 

Before I invested in the Canon I shot on a Panasonic GF1 with a 20mm 1.7 (pancake) lens. I have such a fondness for this camera - it weighs a mere 500grams, was very affordable (you can't buy them new anymore but they are often listed on gumtree and ebay for under $500) and takes great photos. In fact, most of the photos that feature in my book were shot on this little camera - proof that you don't need to spend thousands to get good results. The best thing about this camera? It's sturdy and family friendly; I can easily snap photos whilst carrying a bag and holding a hand. It was also the ideal travel camera when we were in Bali. I wrote an entire post dedicated to the GF1 here.



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Saturday, January 17, 2015

preparing for labour and birth




born in the water, she's still completely content when immersed

This week I reached a new stage pregnancy; I've been feeling heavier, slower and more tired. This entire experience has been quick (I only have about six weeks to go) and as I journey into this final stage of baby growing, I'm acutely aware that labour and birth is imminent. 

My need to actively prepare for labour has, I admit, been completely non-existent - an entirely different experience to my first and second pregnancies. With Che I was incredibly focussed on what I thought was active, concentrated preparation; I read all the books, did all the courses, listened to all the CDs and anxiously waited like a typical first time mum. Poet's pregnancy was different, of course, and I prepared with a little more faith and a lot less fear. I attended a weekly yoga class, taught my pre-natal students up until 38 weeks and immersed myself in all the natural birthing books I could, seeking wisdom from the likes of Ina May Gaskin, Janet Balaskas, Sarah Buckley and Gowri Motha. 

But this time around, life is significantly busier. I spend so much time in the present - parenting, working, going about the day-to-day - that I've had little time to focus on what's right ahead of me. Surprisingly, it's been very refreshing. For someone that has anxious tendencies and likes to know what's coming next, I've been relishing in trusting that what will be, will be. 

Whilst I haven't read any birthing books, watched any documentaries or attended any courses, I have been preparing in small, subtle ways. My daily ocean swim has been an opportunity to dive into the quiet and escape the chatter of little people; there is personal space in the sea and the bliss of weightlessness and cool. I often float on my back and look up to the sky, my ears under the water so all I can hear are the waves and whilst it may only last for a few minutes, it's an opportunity to be calm and still; a meditation, of sorts. 

In moments of doubt and fear, I come back to my birth intention - a simple sentence that is both a positive affirmation and a personal reassurance. I have no birth plans or desires...instead I'm open to accepting this birth experience, whatever it may be, and trusting that Daniel and I will do it together - regardless of who is with us and where we are*. 

Perhaps after two births, seven years of teaching pregnant women, and endless discussions about contractions, labour and pushing, there is a part of me that is exhausted by the conversation. This time, I've stayed away from all the chatter and have been content with knowing that regardless of how I prepare, labour and birth is inevitable. In Rumi's words:


don't push the river, it flows by itself. 

*I am booked into the low-risk birth unit at my local hospital - the same place I birthed Poet. Thankfully, I have the same wonderful midwife that attended Poet's birth and I have the upmost trust and faith in her. There is a big, beautiful bath in each birthing suite so I hope to use it, at some stage. 

Was your birth preparation different for each pregnancy? I'd love to know.


19 COMMENTS


Thursday, January 15, 2015

how to pre-order my book

Come early February, this little book of mine will be making its way to me - in bulk!

I want to make it perfectly clear that the content of Practising Simplicity is not brand new. Instead, consider this book a collection of my favourite work from the past few years. When I was in the midst of the editing process I spent hours upon hours in my archives and after time and much consideration, I discovered a series of "chapters" that complimented each other. There is a common thread running throughout and as I explain in the introduction:

Home is a major character within these pages, as is motherhood; understandable considering their intrinsic nature.

Practising Simplicity consists of five chapters: seasons, motherhood, yoga, living less distracted and the simple home. Each double-page features one or two of my photos; images that capture simple moments and vignettes. 

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I have done my best to create a quality hardcover book (with beautiful, thick paper) at the most reasonable price possible. I'm ordering in bulk from the publishers and hope to have the books ready to send in the first week of February (expect to receive them by mid-February at the very latest). 

Each book will come signed and gift wrapped and will be posted with a tracking number. If you're in Australia or New Zealand I recommend buying through me. However, if you're in the US, Canada, Europe or the UK, it may be cheaper for you to buy direct from Blurb (I'll let you know when orders are open). Of course, if you're overseas and would like a signed copy, I'm more than happy to send it to you.

I have only ordered a small amount so, once they're sold, you will have to buy direct from the US.

If you're interested, you can pre-order here.


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