I have finally written up all my big dreams to customise my home studio. While having to unexpectedly gut and redo our master ensuite has financially set back any plans to renovate downstairs, I decided to begin with the small projects myself. The first order of business was to soften the sunlight that comes in the large west facing windows.

DIY frosted windows with yoghurt
I had considered sheer curtains like the ones I used at home in Los Angeles. They always gave such lovely shooting light. I also thought about translucent adhesive sheets, but just knew I would screw them up during application. I can’t even put a screen protector on my phone without bubbles. Then I remembered the trick my friend Ian taught me while preparing the gallery space for Within The Keep… yoghurt! No really, if you paint a layer of low fat plain yoghurt over the inside of the windows you want frosted, it will dry as if it was painted white with just enough light let through. I used a small fuzzy paint roller. The smooth sponge roller sent more yoghurt splattering all over me than onto the actual glass. You will only smell like cheese for a day at most. When you are ready to see out again, the glass can just be wiped clean.

The glass is a lovely milky white and the illumination is bright and soft. The top image shows you the windows. The bottom shot was taken just a few minutes after the first showing how perfect the light they let through is for portraits. No matter how pretty the light is, Clover still doesn’t like homework.

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When I was a little girl and things went wrong, my mother always said “This too shall pass.” I can hear her say that in my mind as I type the words. To this day it remains her best advice. Actually, she pops up to tell me it time and again still.

Knowing that storms clear and pain subsides is what got me through bad days as a child and even the most gut wrenching events as an adult.

What I am adding to share with my kids as a parent myself is not something that my mother did not know, but something I did not glean immediately from her words. The good is impermanent as well, so be sure to be grateful for those times and enjoy them as fully as you can. Also, that there is beauty surrounding the pain. If you can look up from yourself in the worst moments and peer around the enemy in front of you, you will see the army of goodness and love dispatched and heading as backup. That is what I saw yesterday when I encountered one stupid ocean after another. I wasn’t drowning because love was lifting me up and so I cried and I worried and I hurt and then I said thanks for all the good that happened that day in between the giant waves.

I bought a book last night and downloaded it to my Kindle app as I just could not think of anything more appropriate to delve into right then than Wabi Sabi, The Japanese Art of Impermanence and did not want to wait to find a paper copy. I also bought another title on Wabi Sabi that came up as recommended because who can’t have enough information about something so lovely?

I am finding a lot of similarities between my Virginian mother’s advice and the ancient Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi. Who knew. I am also seeing the attraction to Wabi Sabi and my love for underwater photography… imperfection, impermanence and flux. They are the things that I can’t deny in life and will need to embrace. You can only stay under for so long.

black and white underwater photo of a girl in a swimming pool

I have just begun to read these books and I can already tell that it is not a concept that can easily be blogged about by a middle aged expat mom with no Japanese historical background, but I will give it a good go. I look forward to seeing what these concepts do to my outlook on life as well as their effect on my art. I doubt I will ever start seeing beauty in misspelled words or “there” used instead of “their”, but I do hope that I will stop seeking perfection and instead value growth…even when it hurts.


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  • Fran - You have no idea how much i needed to hear this today! I will now go hunting for those books. Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Fiona Carson - I watched a movie recently called Collateral Beauty. In it, after a death, a lady gives the advice to someone – “be sure to notice the collateral beauty”. It really made me think – and I loved that single line most of all.ReplyCancel

Visual storytelling is what I do. It is my career, my art and also my happy. While I absolutely love my proper camera system, I also like to play around with the many other tools in my kit. Last night I was getting the twins wound down after and exciting week and saw the opportunity to use the light and a camera app I had downloaded to document our mini-adventure to the park. It was just too pretty out to not take advantage of the remaining moments of light and energy. This month during our Photographing Happiness project, we are looking for light. Sometimes that means finding the shadows too. I wanted to show what one can capture in just as little as 20 minutes with only a cameraphone and the setting sun when you add moments (our January focus) and perspective (what we looked at in February).

photographing happiness

Recently I have been playing around with more filmmaking techniques to add moving stories to my repertoire. I will share that in a different post, but the exploration of  a new medium had led me to discovering many different apps. One I particularly liked for its ability to record in filters and with a dreamy concentrated focal point was Camu. I can’t find much written on how to get the most out of the app, so I am trying to learn by doing. As I learn, I thought I would share with you. This is a free app with the option to buy all the filters in an additional in-app purchase. I always get the full app when I like the free app even if I don’t use all the features as I think of it as my support for the developers. I don’t love all the filters on this app especially since you can’t directly reduce their opacity, but I did purchase them.

photographing happiness through the camera app, Camu

There are three icons for the the recording of images. One is for video and one is for stills, but the other one looks like the stills camera, but with added stars. I could not see a difference between the star and regular camera at first, so I went between both. After a bit of investigation, it seems the “stars” option brings up a panel of other editing choices after pressing the shutter button linking to their retouching app (which I do not have) and things like an Instagram square border, text, tags and the store link. Beware though as you will have to press Save, Share or Trash then to complete the capture process. If you use the non-star camera, you will automatically save the images you take as you take them. That is my choice as I do not want to stop and edit photos as I am enjoying the moment. As the new Instagram feature of ten image albums in one post is limited to square shots at the moment, I selected the option to capture images in square as I was shooting with the Camu app, but you can easily shoot in the more conventional format. I also picked the blur option to be on when shooting, but later found out that it can be applied after capture by editing still images with the Camu app. There is only the radial blur similar to the effect created with the lensbaby equipment with no option for the linear blur. As you are shooting, you can increase or decrease the “lux” of an image which seems to be a combination of contrast and vibrance. You are also able to change the filter applied as you shoot. In my limited experience, I have found very little consistency in adjusting both options. The third adjustment I found is the aperture of the blur. It seems to lighten and darken the image, but again, I could not get it to be reliably the same from shot to shot in the same lighting. Overall, Camu is a fun camera to play with for toy-like image effects and my suggestion is to shoot without a filter and add those effects after you capture the shot by editing with the Camu app.

I need to let go of perfection often to see that the real beauty lies in the moments seen.

What is your happy? Show us by using the #photographinghappiness tag on Instagram and Facebook.

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  • Photographing happiness, March 2017 | moments of presence - […] I’m excited to share my first Photographing Happiness album, comprising 12 of my most recent photographs that capture happiness in my world. My friend and fellow school mum, Rachel Devine, recently invited me to participate, and you can learn more about the project here: […]ReplyCancel

This morning was the first attempt at homework for the third graders. While not too challenging, the options had Clover in tears. She is quite used to following a set of instructions and completing a task. The kid loves a good workbook. However, these homework items were a bit more broad and open. The instructions require the kids to dig a little deeper and think about how they would approach the task and not just how to follow rules. Knowing how much pure enjoyment Clover finds in her copy of Wreck This Journal, I dug out another of Keri Smith‘s amazingly creative books called How To Be An Explorer Of The World. I also had some blank notebooks that I thought might be perfect as little field journals for the twin adventurers. As the assignment the twins had picked was one that asked them to create a short piece of creative writing around an object they had found in nature, we decided a treasure hunt in the neighbourhood with the newly made field journals was in order. Before we left, we practiced how to be really purposeful observers by making a list of ten things we had not noticed right where we were. From scents to how the couch felt, we were trying to look with more than just our eyes.

We were quite successful on our adventure walk as well with interesting bark that felt like soft leather, vibrant butter coloured moss on only one tree, a branch of flowers bursting free of its fence and tiny roses that smelled delightful despite their shabby appearance. The winners though were crazy long green pods which hung off a bush and smelled like snap peas when split open. 

We finished our walk at the ultimate treasure spot, the op shop. Flush with pocket money, the twins came home with six books, two model airplanes and one stuffed pink penguin for $16.00 total. We even got some maths in on the walk home as they tallied the price tags and split their bill.

I remember third grade being a revolutionary time for Gemma and I can already imagine this will be a heck of a year for the twins as well.

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Gee was I ever optimistic when I thought I would have the new website design ready to go by Tuesday! It is now Wednesday and while I have just gotten my big girl off to her first high school camp, my old design has not budged. I can see the changes on my end, but it isn’t ready to be released into the world quite yet.

I am laughing at my relentless enthusiasm. Oh well, I know now why I have been putting it off for the last few years. There is so much minutia to check and double check. Each of these little details lead to another discovery and suddenly I am building a completely new page. Frankly, I am not organised enough to control the workflow of redesigning a website. Good thing that isn’t my actual job!

I just want to get back to writing about life and sharing the photographs I am making.

I even missed my posting my own images for my personal #photographinghappiness project this month. The idea that we will be concentrating on for this next month is Light. This will be added to Moments and Perspective to build the skill set of not only taking great pictures, but seeing all the elements that go into meaningful photographs. I guess I need to swap my perspective here and see this not as a failure or delay, but just a part of the always imperfect process!

See you back here soon.


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