Real Life | Week 3: Camping in the Uintas

Now that life has slowed down a tad and I’m not on full-time National Guard duty anymore, I’m picking up where I left off in my Real Life Photography series. This week’s theme was nature. Luckily we had planned a camping trip with the in-laws to the Uinta Mountains, so I had a lovely landscape to practice on.

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I tend to prefer photos of people, so when it comes to landscape photography, I’m really picky. There’s definitely a certain look that I like, and it’s not necessarily the wide-angle, everything in focus, HDR shots like the one above. But as long as I was practicing, I had to take some time to whip out my tripod and explore the HDR function on my camera, which is how I got the photo above. Not too shabby, I think. And that was literally the view from our campsite! Like when I took that picture, I was sitting on a rock next to the firepit, facing away from everyone else, while my family members were giving me the ol’ side-eye for doing my own “fancy pictures” stuff while they were roasting marshmallows.

But as I was saying, there’s a certain look in nature photography that I like, and that’s what I was working on capturing this weekend. I like shots that highlight the details and show the texture and depth of a landscape. So this next photo is probably my favorite from the weekend. It’s basically the same view as the one above, but with a slightly different angle, plenty of depth, and a focus on the details.

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I love being in nature and enjoying the natural beauty of the earth, but carrying around a camera and looking for specific things– lighting, texture, contrast, etc.– made me experience it and appreciate it in a whole new way. It also really made me appreciate good nature photography– it’s hard to capture nature through a camera lens and still preserve all the beauty that your eyes can see.

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William snuck himself into some of the shots too.

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In looking for color contrast, I started noticing all these little white flowers with purple and green leaves. I’d never seen them before, but I think they’re absolutely beautiful! But again, I’m not sure my photo really does them justice. Something to work on, for sure.

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Obviously, I couldn’t go camping with the fam and NOT take pictures of people, so to prove that we were actually all there together, here are some pictures of the crew.

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It’s been so hot in the Salt Lake Valley recently, which made the cool mountain air and the even cooler nights around the campfire that much more enjoyable.

Oh, and our dog, Remy, came along too.

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The kids have always loved camping with their Grandpa and Grandma. My in-laws have a giant RV with all the amenities and they always bring tons of food, so obviously that’s a plus. But last fall Garrett and I bought an old pop-up trailer. It’s really only one step above an actual tent since the gas line doesn’t work so there’s no heat or refrigerator or anything, but we love it anyways. This was our first camping trip parking our little pop-up next to my in-laws’ giant 5th wheel. They brought the UTV, too, so we went on plenty of trail rides. (The kids, of course, only went on the gentler roads, and reeeeaaally slowly. Safety first.)

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Hopefully we’ll be able to get a couple more camping trips in before the end of the summer. The kids honestly sleep better in their beds at home, so if we can just get them a little more accustomed to sleeping in the pop-up, it would pretty much be the perfect way to spend a relaxing weekend!

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If you’re just joining in on my Real Life Photography series, be sure to check out Week 1 and Week 2 to catch up. And then subscribe by email or follow me on Bloglovin’ to be notified of new posts!

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Real Life | Week 1: Good Morning, Good Night

Back at the beginning of 2015, the amazing bloggers over at A Beautiful Mess launched an e-course titled “Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks”. For my birthday that year, I was gifted a subscription to the class. It has been approximately 109 weeks, and I’ve never really gotten past the first couple of lessons. Whomp. So… I’m starting again, and I’ve decided to blog my progress each week in order to help keep myself accountable.

(Incidentally, that class is no longer available, but they’ve got an e-course called “Everyday Photography” which looks pretty similar.)

I have always loved photography as an art form, ever since seeing a black and white portrait exhibit at a museum in Chicago when I was a young teenager. Since smartphone cameras have become much more advanced in the recent years, I’ve tried to use photography, not just for snapshots, but for personal artistic expression. And, more recently, to document the lives of my children. I have a pretty nice DSLR camera now, too, so I’m working on my technique as well as trying to find my own personal style.

So, back to this e-course. The prompt for the first week is “Good Morning, Good Night”. It didn’t really require stepping out of my comfort zone because sleeping babies, and little kids in general, are cute and relatively easy subjects to photograph. Taking indoor photos early in the morning and late at night, though, when natural light is low, made it somewhat technically challenging. As a result, my photos turned out a bit grainy, but for the most part I don’t mind– it just gives them character.

Good Morning

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When William was a baby, he was a terrible sleeper. In fact, he didn’t start sleeping through the night on a consistent basis until after he had turned two. In order to maintain my sanity and get the most sleep possible at night, I co-slept with him for most of his first year and a half. Nights could be super rough, but waking up next to this sweet sleeping face was one of the best parts of my day.

Now William often comes into my bed– the queen-sized bed I share with my husband that isn’t really big enough for a third person– and snuggles up next to me at night. On the particular morning that I took this photo, Garrett had left early for work and William came in after he had already left so there was plenty of room for both of us. What made it even sweeter was the fact that he brought his own pillow with the Ninja Turtle pillow case that his grandma had made for him.

Even now, some nights are rough, but seeing his adorable sleeping face when I wake up is always a welcome sight.

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Winter, on the other hand, wakes up trapped in a crib. Because of the co-sleeping situation with William, he never had a crib– just a mattress on the floor. When Winter was born, I thought I’d do the same type of co-sleeping arrangement with her as well, but just a few months in, we realized that she did much better on her own with walls around her. So we fixed up Garrett’s old crib so that it more or less conformed with modern safety standards, and put Winter in that.

When I hear that she’s awake in the morning and go into her room, the first thing she does is either hand me her bottle or point to where she’s thrown it on the floor. I guess it’s her way of saying it’s time for breakfast.

After that, she’ll jump around in the crib, point to various things around the room, and look out the window when I open the blinds. She’s usually pretty eager to be released from her confinement, though.

William wants breakfast immediately after he wakes up, but I always try to slow things down and get some cuddles out of the kids before heading downstairs to the kitchen.

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I thought this would be a good opportunity to get myself in front of the camera too, since I’m obviously a major part of my mornings!

The picture of me with Winter turned out blurry, but it’s still one of my favorites. Despite the lack of focus, her eyes are still perfectly bright!

And finally, who doesn’t love a good outtake?!

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That last pic pretty much sums up our natural state. A picture is worth a thousand words! haha

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Taking photos of our nighttime routine was considerably more challenging because, well, it was dark. Plus bedtime is always a bit crazy with a couple of toddlers.

After the bedtime storm is over, though, I like to go in and check on them one last time before I go to bed. Often this means fixing Winter’s blankets, since she has an odd habit of pulling them all over her head when she’s sleeping, leaving the rest of her body uncovered.

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Not to mention seeing those sweet sleeping faces is a good reminder of what is often so hard to remember during the tantrums and screaming– that my kids are the greatest blessing I’ve ever been given, and I love them so much it hurts.

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Baby Animal Festival

On Friday, I took William and Winter to the Baby Animal Festival at Cross E Ranch. By most people’s standards, the weather was pretty horrible. It cold and gray and wet and fluctuated between regular rain and freezing rain. I’m so glad we went when we did, though, because after spending most of the week inside due to rain, we all had cabin fever and bored toddlers are never fun. On top of that, it wasn’t busy at all so it was like a private little event for us– no lines meant we could spend as much time with the baby animals as we wanted to!

After taking a quick look at some sleeping piglets, we headed to the baby goat pen. Apparently expecting us to feed them, the goats were all over us. One literally jumped on Winter’s head twice, and each time I bent down to help her up, I had baby goats crawling up my back like I was a mini mountain. After that, I honestly thought Winter was going to develop a lifelong goat phobia, but she eventually warmed back up to them.

After the goats, we headed into a warm room where we got to see baby ducks, chicks, and bunnies. William really loved getting to hold the little chicks.

When the weather got really bad, we headed inside the activity barn where they had sand boxes and tables full of dry grains. I bought us some fresh-made donuts while the kids played, and we waited out the storm before heading off to feed the calves.

William had a great time helping to mix the formula for the calves. There were tiny kittens and wrinkly little puppies in the house too!

William enjoyed feeding his calf at first, but he lost interest pretty quickly so I had to finish the bottle feeding. Which was totally fine with me!

When we got home, it was definitely time for warm baths and hot cocoa. But overall, I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done on a rainy day.