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WHY I DO THINGS THE WAY THAT I DO | Worthington, Armstrong County Photographer

I picked up a camera for the first time, probably when I was a toddler. My great aunt Marilyn and my aunt Sue both had “fancy cameras” in the late 80s, early 90s. I know this because I have photos and videos of them, and of myself, taken by them that serve as my memory.

I loved disposable film cameras as an adolescent and teenager. They were fun tools to remind me of my life then. The anticipation of turning your camera in, waiting for the prints and then seeing them (and all the spoofed ones lol.) I know this because I have photos specifically that I took, or I was in that serve as my memory.

I remember when I was a senior in high school my mom bought me a camera. It was a cheap one, but it was mine. I have no idea where it is now. It looked similar to this: https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/autofocus-35mm-camera {which holy moly, that’s cool you can buy one still.) I know this because I took photos with it and have prints and they serve as my memory.

When digital cameras came out, I thought that was awesome. I played on other’s digital cameras, because I couldn’t afford one. Finally, in late 2006, after I moved to Pittsburgh and finally bought a bed to sleep on- while I was working as a waitress, I had some money and bought my first one. It was a Kodak Easyshare. I have no idea where this camera is now. But I loved it! I took many, many photos on it, pictures of Lacey and Beefy’s wedding, me and Jody, Yuri’s graduation… so many big memerories. I know this because it is still not too long ago, but these photos serve as my memory. It is hard to remember every exact moment from even today, and although the memories are there, I believe it is because the photo specifically reminded me of it.

After that, Lacey got a DSLR. Nikon D3100ish era. I thought it was so cool. I took photos on it any chance I could get. Baby Noah and Camp Little Joe 60th anniversary are two things I specifically remember. I also see the photo of camp, with four generations of their family documented together, when I go to Maw Maws house, and look in her dining room.

Eventually, I upgraded to a Nikon Coolpix, which was the camera I had still when Ava was born. Uncle Marky had a DSLR and he would let me borrow it to take pictures of Ava, and at this point I just knew in my heart that I needed to have my own. More than anything, I wanted to be able to capture my memories and the memories for her to remember from a time that she can’t. I know this because our walls are filled, that serve as my memory of that split second of time, for the past 10 years.

So at the end of 2011, I bought my very first DSLR. My only brand new one too! Nikon D5100, with kit lens. It wasn’t cheap, I was in school and not working and Jody just got hired at Bayer. I charged that battery as fast as I could and started snapping away. I had no idea what I was doing, but I took photos and I printed them too. If I wanted Ava to remember these times, I had to. In this digital age it is so easy to just leave them on the card, post them on Facebook, etc. but prints are an absolutely necessity. It is hard for me to remember so much because like most of my life, it all seems like a blur. It simply isn’t possible to remember EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES. The big moments that are special we take pictures of. But for me, I wanted pictures of even the mundane moments. I wanted pictures of the way Ava’s hair curled when she was a year old, the way her hand fit in mine and was so small. The way that Jody embraced her in his arms. Her cute little smile, her baby face. It all helps me remember so I know it will help her remember, too. I hope that her children, and her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren, will get to see these images. To share that moment in time even after I am gone, the way that photos have been shared with me, by my family members.

I took a lot of pictures from the first shutter on my Nikon in 2011 to 2014. I still really had no idea what I was doing, pictures were looking okay, but they didn’t have the exact look that I wanted. I finally buckled down and taught myself manual mode photography. ISO, aperture, f-stop. Exposure triangle. Focusing. Depth of focus. Posing. Angles. Somewhere along the lines, it all clicked. Literally and figuratively, haha. I figured out my style. I realized what I wanted to shoot was not portraits, not the ordinary thing that everyone else was doing.

I started my business in January 2015. I had no idea what I was doing but I did it, with the help of the IUP SBDC, which I am so thankful for their guidance starting out. I still barely know what I am doing, I didn’t go to school for business. I went to school to learn how to care for people. I taught myself photography. It took me my whole life. From the first time I picked up a camera to finally understanding the magnitude of what holding the tool that I held in my hands, with the knowledge in my brain and caring in my heart. I am not a standard, run of the mill photographer. I am one of a kind. I am Forever Whimsy.

Graphic design, my logo is one of kind, I made it myself. Website design and redesign, also me. Taught myself both. I found a free software called GIMP and although, it took many, many hours of frustration to figure it out, I did it. I learned as I went and still consider myself to be learning. Wanting it to be absolutely perfect. Photoshop, taught myself and although I used it for over 5 years, I wanted to upgrade. So I bought Lightroom and it literally took me over a year but now I have loved it for about 5 years. My editing flow took some time but I found the tweaks I love and use them on every photo.

Three more used cameras. My first full-frame DSLR, Canon 5D classic. Which at the time was nearly a decade old and cost me half of what my brand new Nikon kit cost me, and I had to still purchase a lens. I got the 50 1.8, nifty fifty, a great lens. I took one of my absolute favorite photos of Ava, which is in my kitchen above my sink. Everything about it is perfect. Amazing that such an old model was so good still. I also bought a 40mm pancake lens. I knew what I wanted though. A Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art. But first, I upgraded to a used Canon 6D. Much newer, cost me close to what my brand new Nikon kit cost. Awesome camera. Lots of pictures on that one. I have no idea how I could ever calculate my shutter count, between every DSLR I have used but it has got to be way over a million. I know this because I have folders upon folders of photos of my life and every person thats been on the other side of my lens dating back to 2010. 11 years of unlimited shutter clicks, outside of running out of space on a card, which is hard now with a 16GB or 32GB card. I easily take between 200-300 photos during a 30 minute-1 hour session.

April 2016, I got my Sigma. Used. It cost me the about the same amount as my used 6D. It is amazing how awesome these photos turn out. Partially because of me but also because of the equipment. I bought my ultimate camera, my Canon 5D Mark iii in 2018. That and my 24mm are my main set up that I always use. I do still have my 6d with the pancake lens but I hardly ever use it. Sometimes for self portraits, because it hooks up to my phone through wifi.

I know this has been longwinded but basically what I am trying to say is that I love photography, the memories captured. I believe in printing photos. Putting them in albums. Hanging them on walls. Looking at them and remembering for that moment, unfortunately we can’t just remember one thing all the time.

When you book a session with me, I give you everything that I learned, know and feel in the photos that will become your memories and the memories that you pass on.

This last year has been a difficult one for me and my family. If you know what I have been through, just as an outsider of the ones afflicted, you probably wouldn’t understand how I can still smile today. I have tried my best to do what I love, photography. Of course, the virus didn’t help at all. But over the last month, things are looking up. I have had a few sessions and those brightened my spirit a bit. The carnival is next week which will be so colorful, a wonderful backdrop for memories!

I got off track again and the purpose of this post was to help you understand why I do the things that I do. To understand why I want to continue to do things that I love to do. And to put it into the universe that I want to do more of it. Just put the camera in my hand and I will do the rest. Just make sure to have prints made so they can serve as your memory. Display them. Look at them often.

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GAME NIGHT GOES LIVE WITH FRIENDS | IDEAS FOR GAMES TO PLAY TOGETHER VIA VIDEO CHAT

There have been many challenges of having to stay at home. One big challenge is missing our friends and family – and the time we spend together. Luckily, we have old fashioned games and internet/smart phones/tablets.

I was thinking of Ava, missing out on her friends, so I had the idea to play games via video chat with them. I reached out to her friend’s mom and we set up a day/time to play together. We used Facebook Messenger Video to play, but you could use Zoom or Google Hangout as well.

Yahtzee

Yahtzee is super easy to play with via video chat, with 2 or more players. It is meant for ages 8+, but it is very easy to play for even 6 or 7 year olds. If you don’t have Yahtzee, but have 5 dice, you can play. If only one of you have the actual game, with scorecards – you will keep score for both parties – or you can print off/make your own scorecards and keep track seperately. Here are two versions you can print – Classic Yahtzee via www.winning-moves.com or Triple Yahtzee Score Sheet via www.memory-improvement-tips.com. You may want a calculator handy to add up the scores at the end. Here are the rules to Yahtzee via www.winning-moves.com, if you have never played before.

Farkle

Farkle is a fast paced dice game that is so fun! Play with 2 or more players, ages 8+, but like Yahtzee, it is possible for 6 or 7 year olds to pay as well. You will need 6 dice and a score sheet to play. Here is a score sheet via www.elversonpuzzle.com with directions on how to score. Also, here is another score sheet via www.dicegamesdepot.com and a more detailed version of how to play the game here via www.playmonster.com.

Scattergories

Scattergories is awesome to play via video chat. It is recommended for 2-6 player to play, but its definitely possible for more to play! It is listed for ages 13+, but 8+ can play (they might not get some of the topics or spelling correctly, but that’s no big deal.) If you don’t have Scattergories – click here to print it out for yourself via www.nwtliteracy.ca If you just need sheets to play the game, just print pages 6 and 8 of the previous link, or use lined paper folded in half across and then thirds, numbering each “column” 1-12. You will also need a timer – set for 4 minutes a round. Here are the rules via www.winning-moves.com to Scattergories, if you have never played before.

Battleship

Battleship is a game for 2 players ages 7+ that can be played via video chat. You would play the game as you normally do, just not in person. Here is a travel size on Amazon for under $10, if you don’t have it yet.

Watch Ya Mouth

Watch Ya Mouth is a silly game that came out a few years ago that requires the player to put a mouthpiece in and say what is written on a card, while their team member guesses what they said. It is recommended to play with 3 or more players, ages 8+. This would be fun to play with team members on video chat – if two players are in one house and two players in another house, then pair up with someone from opposite houses. If there are only 3 players, 2 players would guess. You will need to have this game handy to play, for cards and mouthpieces – here it is on Amazon for under $20. There are a few different versions to choose from.

Charades

Charades is a classic game that you don’t need anything but yourself, another player(s), a charades list via www.thegamegal.com (you can also google charades list to find more words to choose from!) and a bucket or hat to put the words in to play. Here are the rules via www.familyeducation.com. This would be so funny to play with via video chat!!

Pictionary

Pictionary is another classic game that can easily be played via video chat. It can be played 2 or more players, ages 6+ (will need to be able to read.) You will need a dry erase board of any size (they have them at Dollar Tree for $1), dry erase board markers and a list of ideas to draw. Here is a great resource with rules on how to play as well as multiple word lists via www.thegamegal.com!

These are just a few ideas that I have for this blog post, but please let me know if you have any other ideas! Let me know if you have a virtual game night, and how you liked it, too! ❤

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D E A R P H O T O G R A P H E R // WHAT A DECADE IT HAS BEEN

DEAR PHOTOGRAPHER featuring Forever Whimsy Photography

(I can’t believe it’s been nearly 5 years since I wrote my original Dear Photographer post.)

Dear Photographer,

Can you believe it has been nearly 10 years since you officially began your journey as a photographer? You started much earlier than that, you always had disposable film cameras in your youth and for your 18th birthday, your mom bought you a Targus film camera. You couldn’t wait to get your hands on a digital camera and it wasn’t until 2007 when bought yourself a Nikon Coolpix E7600 with some leftover money from waitressing. It was so awesome to be able to take pictures of anything at anytime. Eventually you bought a Kodak EasyShare, but what you really wanted was a DSLR. Your best friend got one and you would take pictures on it whenever you could. In 2010, you documented Camp Little Joe’s 60th anniversary on her camera – even funnier to you because a week later, you were back together with one of the subjects you were documenting. Then came Ava and that sealed the deal – you had to learn photography. You would borrow Uncle Marky’s DSLR to take pictures of her, but you needed to have your own and could finally afford it. So for Christmas 2011, you purchased a Nikon D5100 with kit lens. Never did you think to yourself, “I will be a professional photographer someday,” you just wanted to capture every stage of your daughters life the best that you could. The first SECOND you could take a photo on that camera (as soon as the battery was charged) – you did just that. It remains as the image you remember of Ava’s “rooster curl” at 5 months old.

You practiced all the time, mostly on your niece Mariah. She was always willing to be your model and in doing so, you learned SO much about your camera. Back then, you were still shooting in aperture mode but you were learning composition, focusing, lighting. You made it a point to try to learn something new every time you picked up that camera. You would take pictures here and there of other people, just for fun. Then you started photographing other people. Looking back, you wonder why in the world anyone paid anything for those photos, but understand that it was a stepping stone. You became interested in learning how to shoot in manual mode the in the winter of 2013. It was not easy, by any means, to teach yourself photography. Months and months of trying and failing and finally getting it after reading a blog on Click It Up a Notch. Your A HA moment… finally.

By fall 2014, you were mastering manual mode – and looking into how to start your business. You also had made a blog and had some photographer friends from different states that you met online helping you with it, “The Thrifty Tog Blog.” It fizzled out after a few months, no biggie. Then the same friend you worked on TTB with had come to you and had a new idea – Dear Photographer. You worked your butt off from mid-2015 to 2017, running the Facebook page, keeping the blog going, getting two photographer meetups planned in different states. You even developed a magazine, literally designed it from scratch which released early 2017 – you wanted to give up a few times in the process, but you held on until it was done. Then, you decided it was time to part ways. You wanted to stay because you spent so much precious time working on this and building it up… but you weren’t treated fairly and your friend, wasn’t your friend anymore. It wasn’t a decision you took lightly, and still to this day it bothers you… your farewell post that so-called friend wrote when you left was taken down, so it was literally like you were erased from it’s history. You know and there are some good friends that you met through that community that know your integral part – and a lot of them also left that community. Today, all you hope is that your reasons for starting it didn’t go to the way side – beginning photographers to feel empowered in their journey and seasoned photographers to help them in their journey – and for them both to continue to learn from one another.

Eventually, you had to have a full frame camera but you didn’t have the money to buy anything new, so you chose a used Canon 5D classic in March 2015, which at the time, was 10 years old. Oh my, who cared? It was such an amazing camera, to go from crop to full and show you the possibilities that were endless! The 5D and 50mm 1.8, which for you at that time, was a $550 setup but absolutely amazing to you, left you wanting more though due to technology restrictions from an old camera. So you bought a used Canon 6D and again, were floored at how amazing it was. You held on and on for that Sigma 24mm, knowing it was quite an expensive lens – and were able to buy it used from a local photographer in spring 2016. It’s been nearly 4 years and it’s still the only lens you want to use, so beautiful. Finally, in 2019, you purchased a used Canon 5D Mark iii for a deal you just couldn’t pass up. It is so nice to have two cameras and not have to worry about what happens if one breaks.

Wow. If only you knew how many photographs you would take, how many people you would meet because of photography, how you would run out of wall space haha. How empowering, frustrating, interesting your journey would be. How you would view these images you take for others as memories and get to watch families grow with your camera. How much a gift you really have.

Continue to grow, no matter what. Be kind to others, help them on their journeys. Be thankful for the photographs you have taken that are on walls in homes for families to look at for generations.

Love,

Jesica

 

Ava growing up has been a testament to my photography journey. To see how far I have come, it is amazing to me. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.

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SOME OF MY FAVORITE IPHONE PHOTOS SINCE 2014

I admittedly do not carry my DSLR around with me 24/7. It’s big and bulky. Not to mention, I’d be afraid of something happening to it using it that much.

I do however, carry my phone with me nearly at all times. No, the quality isn’t anywhere as good as my DSLR’s quality but it’s all about composition, light and the edit for me. I have photos from my phone that are some of my absolute favorites.

I had the iPhone 4, iPhone 6, iPhone 7+ and I currently have the iPhone 11 Pro Max. My iPhone 4 photos are not the greatest, I was really just getting started with smart phone photography then. I have some real favorites on my iPhone 6 and iPhone 7+. I am BLOWN AWAY by the capabilities of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, especially that it is such an upgrade from the iPhone 7+ which had portrait mode but it wasn’t all that great in my opinion. I rarely used it. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has the ability to change the f-stop to 1.4, which is literally what I shoot with on my DSLR a lot of the time – I just love bokeh (the blurriness of the background.)

My favorite apps for editing are Afterlight and RNI Films. They both have great presets. Afterlight has some neat overlays that can make your photo look more interesting. RNI Films has a great grain texture that you can adjust. I also like the fun “disposable camera” apps like HUJI and Kanon-Classic. They can be kind of finicky in my opinion.

You can absolutely take wonderful photos on your phone. You need to practice, try different things, use light to your advantage, try to keep the background uniform to limit distractions. Capture real! You don’t need your subject to smile for every picture. Document the little things that you don’t want to forget.

I want to remind you to please make sure to print the photos from your phone. There are different apps you can use, Shutterfly is a great one for up to 250 free prints which you just pay shipping (for me, it usually ends up being $25ish for 250 photos, but the quality is definitely better than Walmart or other cheap print places for about the same price if you paid for them.) You can also back them up in a cloud or upload them to your computer and save to a USB drive or external hard drive, if your phone quits working you will lose those photos forever, and that would be sad.

Lastly, I would LOVE to teach you smart phone photography – I have a class that I teach! I can do 1:1 (just you and me) or a class (up to 5 people.) It’s super fun to share my knowledge with you. I love what I do. I really want EVERYONE to have beautiful pictures from their phone ❤

Have you ever taken a great photograph on your phone? I’d love to hear about it! ❤

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WORTHINGTON, PA – ARMSTRONG COUNTY, PA – COVERED IN FROST – FEBRUARY 17, 2020

Winter. It is the one season I just don’t really like. The cold, the snow, the darkness. The lack of color. Every winter, I seem to go through a funk. It’s hard to photograph in the winter. The scenery isn’t good and it’s too cold to do outdoor photography sessions. It gets dark so early it’s hard to do photographs indoors, too.

One thing I am fascinated by is frost and how it covers everything. To my surprise, I woke up one morning to get Ava ready for school and when we walked out to the bus, I noticed the frost covering everything. I ran back inside for my camera and macro lens filter and walked around my backyard taking photos of what I saw, hoping to capture it beautifully.

I love the colors in these photos, they are so pretty. The frost made the backgrounds almost pastel in color. The tones of greens are phenomenal. I think it is so neat how the frost was almost like little barbs on everything. Imagine my surprise when I saw the spiderweb covered in frost! I actually gasped!!

What are your thoughts on winter? What do you like or don’t like about winter?

Comment below to let me know your thoughts.