I just can’t understand why there are so many people upset about the release of Pokemon Go. My personal Facebook feed is split with those who are all GET OFF MY LAWN AND GET A JOB and those who sheepishly admit they kind of love the little monsters. I am one of a vocal minority who proudly says: “We are having fun with the app!” I thought I would tell my reasons.

Pokemom why we love Pokemon Go by SesameEllis . com

One) I keep hearing these reports of people wandering into traffic and off cliffs or even just into other people as they play the game. You don’t need to keep your face pointed down on the screen to use the app. Head on over to the settings and make sure the vibrate option is turned on. When a Pokemon pops up in your personal space, the phone will vibrate and you can then look and catch try to catch it. If you are on the hunt for Pokestops, gyms and/or rare monsters, you can look at the screen and then plan your route. There really is no reason to fall off a cliff. Ever.

Two) We are getting out and walking around. I can’t run in the winter because of my asthma, but I can walk and you know what got me back into the habit of taking 10km tours of my neighbourhood? Yep, Pokemon. It would have been very easy to just turn back home even before I made the halfway point, but I had virtual waypoints to visit with Pokestops and new monsters were popping up at the waters edge. I turned the sounds off in the game settings so I could listen to my music playlist as I went. It isn’t just this old girl getting out because of this. My kids will head out to take a walk just to see what we can find. We used to do Geocaching, but would discover that the physical treasures were no longer there and the app was out of date. There was a lot of disappointment when we had walked such a long way to no avail (other than a lovely walk which as a reward in itself is often lost on little kids) and the cost of the subscription was less and less worth it to me.

Pokemon and Prisma app SesameEllis.comThree) It is inherently non-competitive and non-violent. Ok, there are “battles” and levels, but the Pokemon don’t “die” in battles, apparently they faint. You can get medicine at Pokestops or from getting to the next level to fix them them back up too. Heck, you don’t need to even fight in battles to play the game if you don’t want to. It can be just a treasure hunt forever. Or find a gym that is the same colour as the team you choose and you can train. You play at your own pace and in your own time. If you level up, you level up. Some may do it quickly while others can take ages. It doesn’t matter. There is no real leaderboard to encourage anxiety in those who get really competitive. Yes, there are hardcore players, but your enjoyment of the game and theirs never have to cross paths. The tagline might be “Gotta catch ’em all!”, but you don’t really…whatever is fun for you.

Four) It is friendly and free. These don’t really go together, but give me a minute. When you run out of Pokeballs, you can get more for free by visiting Pokestops. The developers are making plenty of money from the folks who do buy virtual supplies, so take advantage of the large number of people playing and make friends out and about. Chances are your kids’ friends are playing this game too. You can be sure to find someone to go walking and hunting with. If you don’t want to spend data charges on it, have a friend over and play at home on WiFi. You might not be close to a gym or Pokestop, but Pokemon will show up in your house.

Pokemon in the house and Mextures app by SesameEllis.com


Five) There is some learning in it too! Not only do you have to calculate the value of certain monsters and the benefits in trading them to upgrade or to clear space, but more importantly for my family, you learn self control. One of Kieran’s greatest challenges with Sensory Processing Disorder is self control. With this game, he is learning that when the Pokeballs are gone, we are not buying more so we must wait to replenish them for free at a Pokestop. He understands that even though we love to play the game, I will not have it on in the car if we are driving somewhere. We can take careful trips out to play in the car, but only if he holds the phone and we pull over safely before we do any hunting or Pokestop gathering. We are next going to focus on learning about maps and measurements through this app as we walk certain distances to incubate eggs, plot our adventures and time the use of magic eggs as it aligns with their measurement maths inquiry at school this term. See, magic eggs double the points you get during a 30 minute period so we will have to figure out how long it takes to walk 5km, calculate if we can activate the magic egg time period and hatch the regular egg within that 30 minutes. The fine motor skills he works so hard to improve during OT sessions are getting a workout as well.

Overall, this game has been a great motivator for my son. For example, he has developed a bit of a fear of the dark lately and to get him to do his chore of taking out the trash at night, I offered to walk around the block with him catching special Pokemon who only appear at night. I was amazed to see him face his real fear and take my hand for the opportunity to do something he likes with his mom. He did his chore too.

So while I might not yet be able to offer you any real tips to playing Pokemon Go, I do hope you might understand a little better why it isn’t just some mindless zombie gamer apocalypse. And my kids and I? Well, we promise to stay off your lawn.

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  • Marybeth - My 14 year old has been banned from playing Pokémon Go. If it is found on one of his devices again, he will lose the device for good. He made bad choices while playing the game and exhibited a lack of self control (walking to places he didn’t have permission to walk to just to collect Poke stops, etc). He even woke up from a dead sleep one night, walked into my bedroom where his devices are kept overnight, picked his phone up, and said he was going for a walk because there was a Pokémon nearby. He was obviously dreaming, but still. The game isn’t to blame… but I could clearly see how it affected his thinking and decision making. I don’t want to have to worry about him walking in rush hour traffic, or walking somewhere at school he isn’t meant to be just because he sees a Pokémon near his location.ReplyCancel

I was rushing to get everything done before our family holiday as I had to head to Sydney for the day on Friday. We were supposed to leave for our trip to Queensland on Saturday morning and I had to pack and make arrangements for the animals as well as the twins’ birthday which was the day we were due to return. I was crazy busy with work deadlines too. All those things I thought were important.

Life lessons. The religion of kindness. SesameEllis.com

Thursday morning felt oppressive with these seemingly important details and I did a quick kiss and go with the kids for school drop off. I headed right to Aldi and while driving, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman getting up from the sidewalk. It registered that she was not elderly and that her basket had spilled its contents, but then I was already past her. I looked in my rear view mirror to see if anyone stopped for her. A long line of cars drove on by just as I had. I wrestled with turning around to make sure she was OK all the way to the supermarket. By the time I had parked, I was completely disappointed in myself for putting my errands ahead of helping someone out. To assuage my guilt, I let someone cut in front of me in the checkout line. So lame, I know. I had hoped that I had learned my lesson and over the next day I had nearly forgotten about it.

Gemma and I flew up to Sydney and as we were heading home later that day, Jetstar cancelled all their flights for the rest of the day. Gemma and I were stuck in Sydney overnight and due to leave on our family holiday the next morning from MELBOURNE! We had nothing with us for an overnight stay. Not even a hairbrush. We headed out to the checkin area with the hundreds of other disgruntled passengers and tried to get on another flight. Jetstar (to get out of having to pay for any accomodation) claimed the airport was closed due to high winds yet we watched Qantas and Virgin fly every few minutes for the rest of the evening. A cheap hotel was booked and we tried to find our way to it.

My real lesson was just beginning.

With dark descending and the air too cold to wander without coats, we went to find a cab. No one would take our fare as it was too short for them. Uber is not allowed to pick up from the airport and we were told there was not a shuttle to that “hotel.” I was on the phone, nearly in tears convinced even if we made it to the hotel we would miss our flight the next morning and Gemma was barely holding it together. I looked up and saw a stranger waiting for me to get off the phone. She introduced herself as a reader who recognised us and since she was going to her car, would we like a ride?

people ome into our lives for a reason. SesameEllis.com

She saw someone who was emotionally falling and she stopped to help. Of course I was still wrapped up in our moment of difficulty and disappointment and could not see the real message for my own petty issues.

Gabbie came into our lives and rescued us when we needed it most. When we finally made it to Melbourne the next morning (hair brush crafted from a plastic takeaway fork like I was a magical mermaid) and met Alec and the twins at the checkin desk for the family flight, it all hit me. Suddenly the woman on the sidewalk came back into my mind and I knew the real lesson I was to learn the hard way. Stop for people who need your help, they are put in your path for a reason. The rest can wait.

I’ve had a hard time lately finding meaning and purpose in the big picture. I have never been religious because I have struggled with the notion of exclusivity and well, science. But I have that wonder inside. I am looking for some connection and I know there is something I believe in. I am not sure it has a name, but I feel like there is a reason for all of us… It might be as simple as kindness or it could be much more. I know that it is a start.

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  • Helen - Beautiful post. Things happen and get bigger at the right moment. Thanks for sharingReplyCancel

  • Kelly J. R. - I love the honesty in your post. I’ve had many moments where I’ve said something nasty about another person and it’s come back to bite me. Or I’m let down by plans that fell through but the silver lining shows up later in an unexpected way. Call it karma or divine intervention – whatever you wish. All are learning experiences that we should try to be our best selves and be kind to others each and every day.ReplyCancel

As a professional photographer, I have long been on the hunt for a sharing platform that is visual and also collaborative. I’m not talking about another social media site or a client gallery, but a working space where I can share images with clients and get their feedback as well as allow them to download the final full resolution files. I needed something organised and tidy, but also useful. As a photographer who shoots commercial look-books, fine art portraits and personal brand imagery, I need to work closely with my clients in the selection and editing process to ensure that they receive a final collection of photographs that encapsulates either their family and home design vision or business and brand needs. Sometimes that is a straightforward process, but often there is a bit of back and forth needed to finalise the number of shots and the overall look of the images. I am usually working with women just like myself, who are balancing home, children and professional life, so getting together around the same laptop to achieve this is often impossible. That is just one of the reasons why I have been searching for an online substitute to being in the same room.

Fine Art Portrait Commission Rachel Devine SesameEllis.com

Shoebox Timeline is a new site that really ticks a lot of the boxes for me. While the platform itself is still in the early stages of release and some little issues are to be expected, I have been lucky to watch it evolve from an even earlier incarnation and am impressed with how feedback is taken on board. I have worked with the developers and am confident that they are committed to making this a full featured photographic workspace like none other out there. The developers have been super responsive to not only any small issues encountered, but to my ideas for how the site could be even more useful. It is wonderful to see people working on something they are excited about.

Shoebox Timeline for Professional Photography and collaboration with clients SesameEllis.com

In addition to the fine art portraits and commercial sessions, I have been doing quite a few personal brand imagery photo shoots over the last few years. It is just getting more and more busy. These sessions are more than just headshots. I like to provide people with an entire collection of images that they can use for all sorts of media from editorial to marketing as well as simple profile photos. There is an art form to working with your clients to provide a comprehensively good experience that goes beyond the art of creating photographs. I truly feel like the age of photographers working alone and just delivering the images they want to deliver is over. I have never liked a hard sell pricing model, so I charge my clients along a one rate system. The rate varies with the number and size of final files that are included. To keep prices affordable for my headshot/branding clients and to free up time for myself, I have created a system that works quite well and I wanted to share it with you here. You can easily set everything up right after that first call and add images as you and your client work together from pre-shoot through the delivery of final files. It keeps the process organised.

Shoebox Timeline professional photography and collaborating with clients SesameEllis.com


Once I book a session, I can send the client an invitation to create a free account on Shoebox Timeline to get the collaboration process started immediately. To do the best job I can for each individual client, I need them to tell me all the ways they will be using the photographs. It is important that I see the dimensions of the website image frames if the clients already have their sites designed before booking the photography. With Shoebox Timeline, the client can just upload all of these ahead of the shoot. As I can control the Timeline setup, there is no learning curve for the client. Everything is set up for them ahead of time. I just request they add screenshots of their website and screenshots of inspirational images that they like to an event called “Inspiration and Goals”. This serves as a mood board that I can refer to again and again right inside the site where we will be working through their session.

Another thing I like to do is ask clients for words they wish people would think upon seeing their final photographs. This helps guide the shoot more than anything else.
During the photo session I make sure the client is getting all their different outfits covered in a wide range of settings. If they needed help choosing what to wear before we met, they can upload quick snaps of their clothing choices into the event on their Timeline. This saves us time on the day of the shoot.

After the session, I load the card of images onto my computer and do an initial cull of the ones which are blurry or unflattering. I do a quick raw conversion of the remaining files and upload those jpg files to an event on the Timeline called “Proofs”. The client can view those files at their convenience and move the ones they choose into an event folder called “Selects”. With the comment feature, the clients can leave notes for me directly alongside the images so we avoid a long email chain. I will begin the process of doing my final processing of the files they have chosen. As Shoebox Timeline allows for full resolution files to be stored and downloaded, I can load these final edited files into an Event called “Finals.” where my client can download them on their computer at home. Remember, they have already paid for these files when they paid their session fee as I work the files into the cost.

You can even create a slideshow right in the Event to embed on your blog or simply to let your clients share your awesome work!

Getting used to the way Shoebox Timeline works takes a small amount of adjustment as there is some different terminology from that which I was used to. Once you get the idea that the overall workspace is divided into different Timelines and what I would call galleries are referred to as Events, you are well on your way to an organised visual experience. No more folders represented by tiny icons. No more managing multiple sites to keep personal photographs separate from your work. All your work for clients can be found on Timelines in your one account and your clients never see anything but what you share with them. I can work on my garden renovation progress along with my husband in the same account where I am working with clients and neither knows the difference…

Sign up for your own free account today. Spend a little bit of time getting the feel for it and then get your visual life organised!


Disclosure: I will be working with Shoebox Timeline to bring my Kid Photo Club to life in the next few months. As they will be helping the kids at my local primary school get books of their work printed, I am happy to review their service and help them make it the best platform for professional photographers.

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This weekend we went to the park. I know that is not a remarkable event by any means for our family, but I suddenly found myself drowning in a flood of years worth of memories of time spent in that place.

Winter weekend fun…

Just thinking about the years and years spent at this tiny little playground.

Posted by Sesame Ellis on Saturday, 18 June 2016

After we bought the house, but before we moved to Australia, we visited from Los Angeles and walked past a little park just one block from our new home. We let the tiny little Gemma have a play and daydreamed of our future kids walking there one day.

The first time the twins went to that playground, they were just thirteen days old. They were all bundled up in their pram and one block from home was as far as I could manage to go. I remember them barely big enough to sit in the baby swing. In fact, they had to ride backwards. Then there were hours and hours of me pushing them facing front. They grew too big for that swing and one day it was like I blinked and they were pumping their own legs. I really did think I would be pushing a swing for the rest of my life, but that was not the reality.

Nearly eight years have flown by and I am grateful that they still want to run and play. I am cherishing childhood even if it means they now want to shoot hoops and stand on top of the monkey bars.

I plan to take many more videos of their childhood downunder so that I can watch them over and over when they grow all the way up.

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Since creating my first commercial brand video for the blog with the Mercedes-Benz Valente, I have learned so much and am excited to be able to bring you these tips to help you start your own journey into making films! Even if you don’t blog and just want to record family moments, the first post in this little series where I revealed my mistakes and offered filming hints is a great little beginning resource.


Films are just so powerful. They really do touch the soul of your viewers in so many more ways than still imagery in some situations. This can be an incredibly powerful and important tool for bloggers as they are called upon to deliver complicated brand messages to their audience while still keeping true to their own personal values. Films are also a brilliant way to supplement your family storytelling. Entire experiences like overseas holidays or birthday celebrations can be beautifully woven into a series of treasured moments to be watched and enjoyed over and over again for years to come.

First we should chat about filmmaking equipment. It is finally something that is quite affordable for most.

I have been shooting my little films using two different cameras. I use the Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark2 for all of my videos in the home studio. I also used it to create all the footage for the Mercedes video. If I am shooting for a client, I will use the best equipment that I have as I want to be assured of the best quality footage to start with. The in-camera stabilisation (the system that keeps the video capture smooth and not shaky) that comes with the Olympus is second to none. I am absolutely amazed at how easy it is to handhold the camera while keeping the footage still. The other advantage to using the Olympus is that I can attach my Rode VideoMic Pro, an external microphone to record sound properly, which is essential to the product reviews that Gemma and I do monthly.

The majority of my little family daily life films are just taken on my iPhone6. I have this with me most  all of the time. If the camera is with me, then it will be the camera I use. I don’t have a microphone to us e with the iPhone just yet, so I usually just remove the sound in the editing program and set the clips to music. Since I am mentioning it here, I will bring up the point that music needs to be properly licensed to be used in even your home movies. There are many sites where you can find royalty free music and purchase commercial rights to tracks. The song in the Mercedes-Benz Valente video was from PremiumBeat.com.

The actual filming is just half the process. While many people want to know how to get started, they often forget to ask about how to wrap it all up.

With that in mind, lets look at video editing.

video editing : the favourite apps for bloggers who want to make films : SesameEllis.com

Mick, my video editor uses Adobe Premier Pro and that is what he put my Mercedes-Benz Valente footage together with. Since I have the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, I have downloaded it to my Macbook Pro. I have yet to come anywhere near to mastering the controls, but I can see why it is the choice for many video professionals. It is on my list to learn as it also syncs with the iOS app to allow seamless video creation from iPhone to Macbook.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 1.11.55 PM

The learning curve for any full featured program is a bit steep, but there are quick ways to get yourself a fully edited film without even having to learn any techniques. There are a few automatic apps that will take your footage and put it all together for you, but you lose some control in return for ease. My favourite of these apps is called Magisto. You can choose a theme and music, but the app will cut and edit the clips together for you. I pay for the yearly business subscription to get a bit more options, but it is still an app that asks for you to let go of control and embrace the surprise.

Filmrora on the Mac : SesameEllis.com

If you can’t swing the price for the most professional video editing apps out there, you can spend a little less and buy iMovie or my new favourite, Filmora. Both of these programs have iOS apps and Filmora is also available for Windows. These programs are quite easy to use and will let you have full control over the editing process including transitions between clips and title/text overlay.

No matter what the editing software that you choose, the key to a great little film is the story and how well you engage your viewers with that tale.

Final tip (for now) is to keep your video limited to 2 minutes. If you must, 3 minutes, but that is about the most anyone will actually watch to the end. After that your message is lost as people stop watching.

Do you want to learn more about how to “tell a little story”? Stay tuned, because Mick and I just might have something in the works for you!


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