There is a funny Chinese app making the rounds on the internet right now and it is apparently called My Idol. I am taking the internet’s word for it because the app is actually all in Chinese and that is one language (of many) I do not speak.

With Gemma’s tween powered technology antenna engaged, she figured it all out without any help. Thankfully she has since guided me through the process and we had lots of fun and hours of laughter making anime versions of ourselves over the weekend.

After making many videos and GIFs of the kids in their selected outfits and hairstyles, I thought I was done with the app. I figured I would delete it and make space for the next silly thing to come along, but one of my photographer friends made a comment on the shot I shared on Instagram that the characters reminded her of the Margaret Keane big eyed children of the 1960’s. That gave me a great idea to mix the portraits made with My Idol with the app Waterlogue for some new art!

I just took the little square screenshots that I created in the My Idol app and opened them in the Waterlogue app to make little paintings. I printed them on the matte photo paper I picked up at Daiso and now I have some cute art of my kids hanging in my office!

my idol app, waterlogue app

The app is currently missing a hairstyle option that looks anywhere close to what Clover has on her head in real life, so we went with the adorable long candy blue hair for fun. She looks remarkably gorgeous in the soft fairy floss coloured locks and so I thought it would stop there. The next time I opened the app I saw a new Elsa style option. I knew what she needed on her own wall…a Clover-Elsa!

Waterlogue app, my idol app

A few things you need to keep in mind when using the My Idol app if you don’t understand Chinese.

  • All the options that are greyed out just need to be downloaded. Click on each options to see a green text overlay and that means they will be available soon.
  • Boy and Girl characters can wear any of the hairstyles and/or clothes so I am not sure it actually matters what you select (except for the videos where you will hear vocals (in Chinese) that are gender based.)
  • There is an English language guide to get you started.
  • If you want to add additional characters after making your first one, here are some screen shots that will tell you how.

my idol english screenshot

Just keep clicking on the green options! 😉 Don’t forget to adjust those facial markers…the app gets very close, but you can get better results if you refine them yourself.

Go have some fun and make some cute and cheap art portraits of your kids!

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For the last few months, I have been devoting every spare moment to writing new eBook for Digital Photography School. While the project went through many different stages, I traveled far and wide from my home in Melbourne to Japan (blog post on that AMAZING adventure coming next week) and back to Australia to go off the grid in Tasmania (the whole series of posts on that experience will be published all over the place soon as well) and then on a family holiday in country Victoria. It wasn’t easy to keep up with everything, but I noticed while I was all over the place that I never stopped taking pictures. Why? The answer was simply because natural light is absolutely intoxicating! It is also so different all around the world. That just confirmed my desire to tell the story of my love affair with photographing Life in Natural Light. The images in the book are shot on everything from film to a camera phone because I wanted to make this information useful and accessible to pros and amateurs alike! 

life in natural light ebook

I am so excited to see how people fall more in love with the light around them after reading this book. I will be looking for your photos on social media with the hashtag #lifeinnaturallight and hope to share some on my Facebook page in the coming months!

Since it is so new (just released the other night) I don’t have much feedback yet however a few review copies went out last week and I wanted to share what Lucy from the blog Bake, Play, Smile had to say:

‘Rachel’s book ‘Life in natural light’ is awe-inspiring. Her passion for capturing the essential beauty of light is obvious through her stunning photography. Rachel’s guide offers an abundance of information for everyone from the beginner to expert level photographer. This is a girl who truly knows her stuff and is able to share her knowledge and skills in a practical and easy to understand manner. From start to finish, this book had me completely engrossed. Most importantly, it made me want to grab my camera and start shooting.’

The eBook comes with a bonus set of Lightroom presets as well! Lightroom is fast becoming my favourite editing program and with the Natural Light presets, you can have my starting points for different editing and be able to play with your own artistry from there! There is one more bonus included with the eBook and that is my worksheet for learning light. If you are new to photography, this will be a perfect way to begin tracking your ideas and understanding how to execute them. Head on over and start learning how to love natural light! If you haven’t already, you can pick up my other eBook all about photographing children and the posing cards at the same time!

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the Million Paws Walk Victoria 2015

Brought to you by Nuffnang and RSPCA

The other evening I reached out to pet Chilli and her ears went back, while her eyes appeared to enlarge to cartoon proportions. This happens nearly every time. When it’s windy outside, Chilli hides herself under the covers in my bed. She furiously licks our faces when the noise level in the house rises. These might all just be quirks of her chihuahua personality or more likely they are left over from the life of abuse and neglect she surely suffered before she found her forever home with us. Abandoned under a house and left for dead, Chilli was a lucky dog because someone cared enough to rescue her. She has found a safe haven in our family and will never know anything but luxury for the rest of her days. 

Kiki is a rescue as well. She was an abandoned leftover from an inexperienced breeder of Ragdoll cats. We took her in when she was far larger than the cute kitten stage. She is the boss of the place now. 

the Million Paws Walk Victoria 2015

These two loved family pets are two of the lucky ones. In 2014, in addition to 25,920 animals passing through their shelters in this one state, RSPCA Victoria handled 17,995 cases of animal cruelty up from 15,568 in 2013.* Think about that for a moment…that is five cases away from EIGHTEEN THOUSAND in Victoria alone. RSPCA is the advocate for these animals when the humans they are trusted with abuse them and break the trust of caring for a creature who can’t care for themselves. I’m not just talking about dogs and cats, but all animals from horses to chickens and all the fur and feathers in-between. 

The RSCPA goes to court for these animals, they remove them from harm, get their medical needs seen to and find them carefully screened new homes. They do it all with 97% of their  funding received through community donations. The RSPCA is not a government agency and receive only 3% in financial aid from there. That is why Chilli and I are walking this year in the Million Paws Walk at the main Victorian location of Albert Park. This annual event is the largest fundraiser for the RSCPA and since we can’t take in any more pets ourselves, we are committed to helping the people who can. Last year, my neighborhood was actually one of the highest represented at this walk! Let’s see if we can do it again this year! You don’t have to be near the city to walk, there are 16 in total throughout Victoria on the 17th of May. You don’t even need to bring a dog. Heck, you don’t even need to be here and walking to support! If you are in Victoria, join us, and head to the Victorian Million Paws Walk event site to register. Want to help from afar? Please consider a small donation in support of Team #ChilliEllis

Follow our #millionpawswalk progress on the 17th of May on social media and cheer Chilli on as she braves all the dogs.

*Statistic freely found on the RSPCA Victoria annual report published on rspcavic.org

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  • Cara - I love seeing rescue pets. We are in the middle of adopting a sweet 5 year old dog right now. Should get to bring her home Wednesday!ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Congratulations on your new dog!!!ReplyCancel

geocaching

Lately I have been on the hunt for things that can bring the three kids together for more fun than fighting and in doing so we have rediscovered geocaching!  If you have not heard about it, basically it is a worldwide treasure hunt. All you really need is the app on your smart phone.  Now, we have only stayed on the basic membership so it does not cost a thing, but if the kids continue to enjoy this, I am planning on springing for the year of premium membership -about $30.00- and the full featured app -an additional $10.00- as that is a meagre amount to pay for hours of cooperation and adventure. Adventure we can take on the road with us as I mentioned before, this is a worldwide activity! Now that the twins are six, they understand the motivation (they are in it for the trinkets and feeling like spies) and with Gemma being ten, she really relishes figuring out the clues. I just love that we can all do something as a family that is interesting and outdoors. It is hard to find things these days that keep all the kids interested and excited!

geocaching

We don’t even need to plan it anymore as we have put together a geocaching kit for the car. We upcycled an old backpack that was getting a bit too small for Kieran. In that pack, we threw a bunch of small trinkets, some paper and a few pens. When we are out and have some time to kill, we can turn on the app and look for the geocaches around us. As you need to be prepared to trade things, we have cleaned out our stash of little plastic toys, old costume jewellery and stationery items that happen to build up in every drawer around the house. Since there are log books to sign, we have to have a pen and if there is no more room in the log book, we have our own paper to leave our mark. This past weekend we found a cache that was in need of repair and getting a bit ruined in the autumn rains, so I have now added ziplock baggies to the special backpack too. 

If you haven’t already, I totally suggest you join up and get out there looking for treasure as soon as you can. You and the kids will all love it! 

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  • Michelle Osborne via Facebook - I think we need to get on board! Just the kind of adventures Oz can get into with the kids while I work!!ReplyCancel

  • Laura Burke via Facebook - We want to do it too!ReplyCancel

  • Robin Geer Troxell via Facebook - I have to figure this outReplyCancel

  • Rachel Devine Photography / sesame ellis via Facebook - It really is easy! Download the official app. Start with the free one… Open the app at home and see how many are around you! You will need an account, but that’s free too. You can use the GPS on the phone. I find it to be pretty darn accurate. There are hard core geocaching folks who gear up and know all the tricks. I am not one.ReplyCancel

  • Dawn Klein - Now that I have a smart phone, I can do this. I should download an app. One of my hubby’s friends was visiting a year or so ago and he brought his gps device with him. We found a bunch of geocache sites right around our house. It was fun. My kids are big now, but it would still be fun.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - It is so fun for the grown-ups too!ReplyCancel

  • Sharon - This sounds fabulous! App downloaded and once this awful rain stops falling in Sydney, I’ll be out with my 11yo, 9yo and 5yo. Thank you, thank you , thank you for this!!!ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Hope all the geocaches around NSW survive this terrible rain! You may have to help build some back up! I bet quite a few will suffer some water damage. Let us know how you go and don’t forget to log your finds!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Gabriela Cruces - Just got the App! It fascinating!ReplyCancel

portrait of twins

My photos, that is. It is a case of the shoemaker’s kids going barefoot around here. Obviously I take a lot of photos, but I am terrible at making prints. Often in a flurry of good intentions, I will pull my favourite of favourites and file a copy in an optimistically named folder, Print These. Then I proceed to forget to order them online and the folder becomes overrun with items like a crowded closet that you just want to lock the door and forget exists. Eventually I move that promising folder to my external hard drive for storage and make a new one. Sound familiar?

I could not even print at home as the printer we had was so old that it actually came with us on the move from the US to Australia. Let’s put that in perspective, the twins didn’t even come with us on that move…

So I reached out to Epson and asked what was new on the home printer horizons since, oh, roughly 2004. The answer is OMG SO MUCH!

Epson gifted me with their XP-950 inkjet printer/scanner model and even though I was not required to share anything, I do want to tell you about this bad boy as when doing my research, I found a lot of other friends were very much like me and without a working printer at home! 

I am amazed at the ability to connect the printer via WiFi and remotely through Google’s Cloud Print service as it means that not only am I able to print what and when I would like, but Alec can send important things home to be printed from his office in the city and Gemma can send her school work directly from her iPad. It is amazing. I printed my first photo (which was taken and edited with the iPhone) directly from my device!

Epson XP-950

The ink cartridges are double if not triple the capacity of our old printer and this one takes up about half the space. I am absolutely loving the ability to update the framed shots around here. I mean, Gemma was adorable as a toddler, but you wouldn’t know we had two other kids after her!

While Epson included their Premium Glossy Photo Paper in the box for me to try, I have since picked up some Matted Super fine paper from Daiso for under $3.00. I love the quality and finish as well as the savings! I will stick with the Epson brand inks though as I have never had luck with the off brand versions or refilling old ones at the kiosks in the mall. 

I appreciate Epson for letting me get up to date with with the year 2015! I am now going to put together a few printing projects for the blog to help inspire others to do more than just share their gorgeous images on the their screens! 

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  • Joe Pennant via Facebook - Boy, don’t I know it. I’ve only printed for requests recently. I feel like I should for myself, but I don’t. The only reason I’m gonna print now is for exhibition.ReplyCancel

  • Elena - Hi, I’ve been looking at high (to very high) quality printers that are still affordable to print out family photos. Had a bad recent experience with an HP printer that printed such low quality I almost never wanted to print a photo again! Returned it and am now looking again, this time for an inkjet. I trust your judgement the most – you’d recommend this Epson inkjet to buy?ReplyCancel

    • sesame - I am so impressed with the Epson! We had a Canon before and I specifically approached Epson because of their reputation in the printer space. I’m not disappointed. Quality is great and the UX was seamless to get it up and running on Mac, PC and iPhone/iPads. ReplyCancel

  • Andrea Sissons via Facebook - So true! Have way too many blank walls in our new house.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly Bloom via Facebook - Your son is a mini-Gemma! I used to follow your Flickr when Gemma was a baby! How time flies! Your kids are beautiful, as are your pictures!ReplyCancel

  • Leonie Barton - Hi Sesame. Not only are you a lucky duck, but you must be exceptionally polite and sales talk savvy. Initially when I started working at home, I had an opportunity to buy a A3 fine art Epson printer Photo 1290. It was too good a price to pass up, and came with new ink cartridges. But I was ahead of my time, and not ready to use the printer for it’s intended purpose. It has been packed, safely and dryly in storage, waiting to launch. The time came recently for it to come into it’s own, but it just can’t / won’t shine. When I chased up Epson and a suitable fixer man, all answers essentially came back to……… you would be better off purchasing a new one, rather than pay to have it looked at and possibly fixed. Epson customer service were lovely, but nobody could help…… sniff. Thus, I work and save and one day will again purchase the Epson, but boy wish I’d made the call you did.
    You enjoy your new printer, be sure to get those pics on the wall. I look forward to seeing what you put forward as projects on the wall. I hope this note finds you well.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Oh, large format fine art printers are expensive! Have you any idea what the problem might be? Maybe you could post on Gumtree to see if there are any electronic whizzes who might take a look at it for free!
      I paid a pretty penny for the old Canon we had because home printer/scanners were relatively new then. They have come down in price since unlike the big fine art ones! I’d say it’s worth a try! Hope you find a solution! Or consider a consumer one? They don’t print bigger than A4 though.ReplyCancel

  • Leonie Barton - Yes I agree. Did all those. I have ended up going with a fine art printer. They do a truly great job capturing my images and I can guarantee my customers of a certain consistent quality, all of which leaves me more time to make the art, that I am printing in the first place. Thank you for your kind suggestions, look forward to seeing the projects.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Michelle via Facebook - You prefer printing at home as opposed to printing in a lab? Is it mostly because it’s one more barrier in the ‘get them printed’ process? It’s been a long, long time since I owned a printer that had the capability to print photos – by the sounds of it the technology has come a long way.ReplyCancel

  • Dawn Klein - Ugh. We are that family, too. Hubby is a newspaper photographer that has taken plenty of pictures of his kids. They are not on the wall here, either.

    My older daughter, though, is good about making prints out of her photographs, though. She had them up in her dorm room and now has them up in her room.ReplyCancel