Christi & Kaiya

I have always considered myself a big dog person. I love Great Danes, Newfies, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, German Shepherds, and anything big and furry with a sloppy kiss. Of course now that we have a big dog, I’m starting to understand why people might prefer small breeds. And then I met Kaiya. Kaiya is a Shiba Inu, and just about the coolest little dog I’ve ever met. She’s small enough to fit on your lap without smushing you, and she can still run with the big dogs at the dog park.




See? No smushing happening here. Cole likes to do the same thing, but I don’t look nearly as happy when he does ;-)






She even smiled for us in this one!







The Bardens // Charleston Maternity Photography

Last week I sat glued to the weather forecast. Every day predicted cold, stormy rain. Every day except Sunday, and Sunday was the one day we needed. I know the weatherman often gets a bad rap. People complain that if they were wrong that much in their job, they would have been fired a long time ago. Personally I was very grateful for the weatherman this week, and he nailed it! In the middle of eight days of rain, he picked out the one sunny day and could even tell me what time the morning clouds were going to break!

This is the beautiful Barden family! You may remember them from their session last fall, and now they’re about to have a new addition :-)

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You’re killing me, Monica! So beautiful!

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Ok quick story: shoemakers are brilliant! When we were walking out to the beach, I noticed that Sophia’s shoes had squeakers in them. I kind of laughed remembering how light-up shoes and wheelies were so popular when I was a kid… and then we started doing some couple shots. The shoes were amazing! While Justin & Monica were working it in front of the camera, you could hear every step Sophia took while she played with seashells. It was a continuous “don’t worry Mom, I’m right here!” So this next series is courtesy of the great people who design children’s shoes :-)

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During the session Justin found a dead ghost crab and showed it to Sophia. At first she was a little shy, but then she started looking at it and grew quite attached. When she couldn’t find it later, she got really sad and kept asking where her crab was. After we finished the pictures Justin went back and helped her find it, so she could give it a proper seashell burial and say goodbye.

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The Library: A Love Story

I remember the day someone first told me about libraries. My family was visiting my grandma’s house, when my uncle suggested that I get a library card. He then proceeded to explain that a library was a place where you could check out as many books as you wanted for free! Now all of you are (hopefully) familiar with libraries and probably aren’t astonished by their lack of fees, but all I knew of renting things came from the local Blockbuster. The idea that anyone could walk into a building full of books, take the ones that interested them, and walk out paying absolutely nothing blew my mind.

Now with the internet, there are tons of ways to learn for free. You can find pretty much anything you want to know on the internet if you’re willing to dig a little bit, but libraries still hold a special place in my heart. Walking in and smelling that old book smell, wandering through rows and rows packed with literature on every subject, sitting cross-legged on the floor flipping through book after book after book… *sigh* So much happiness :-)


Edit: Just to clear up any confusion, this story happened when I was about six, or five, or whenever children learn how to read. As my mom will attest, I’ve been a library junkie the vast majority of my life :-)

Valentine’s Day Weekend

Trey and I decided that instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day on Valentine’s Day (because really, who wants to celebrate on a Thursday?), we would take the weekend and celebrate at the lake! It was really nice to get away for awhile and just be with each other. The lake doesn’t have internet, which is my biggest distraction, or a beautiful reef tank, which is Trey’s, so it’s really the perfect place to reconnect.

And what’s more romantic than cuddling inside during a freak hail storm? We did brave the cold long enough to let Cole play around in it, though, since this will probably be the closest thing to snow he sees this winter.

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Then the next day dawned sunny and beautiful as if nothing had happened. Oh and if you’re tired of seeing pictures of Cole man, you can blame Dana and Britt for the sudden influx. They both do gorgeous pet photography and I didn’t want Cole to get jealous ;-)

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“Goose poop! Goose poop! Pleeeease let me have the goose poop! Nomm nomm nommm!”

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Rainy Day Pick-Me-Up

If last week was excessively busy, this week was excessively wet. And dark, and cold. It’s almost as if someone read my last post and said, “Hmm how can we give her exactly what she doesn’t want?” So for everyone out there who’s had to suffer right along with me, I apologize for writing about summer and getting your hopes up.

On the other hand, if there’s one creature who doesn’t mind a little cold & wet it’s Cole man. Since he’s pretty much the best cheer-er-uper anyone could ask for, I decided to do a little impromptu photo shoot/training session to boost everyone’s mood. :)  And as an added bonus, anyone who saw the first birthday post can now get a clear picture of just how much he’s grown!

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“You have the cheese and the dummy. I love you.” – “You threw the dummy!” – “I’ll go get it for you!”

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The following are not technically great photos, but they show his utter enthusiasm and the funny way he always starts shaking with his shoulders down to his wriggly butt! Oh and in case you were wondering, the blue rope is his 50ft check cord. Since he’s being trained for hunting, it’s important that he brings the dummy back every time. He’s still young and kind of distractible, so the check cord allows you to keep control at a distance.

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Best friends =)

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Remembering Summer

To say this week has been long would be an understatement. I generally consider myself to be a very social outgoing person, but having something scheduled every night of the week has been a huge drain.

And February is always a struggle. I know, I live in the South and have zero right to complain about winter, but I can’t help it, I’m a summer girl through and through. I want to wear cut-off jeans and go swimming again. I want to sit out back under the stars with Trey without being wrapped in a ginormous blanket (and still ending up with icicle fingers). I want to ride with the windows down every day and some nights.

I know most people who live around here complain about the heat in the summer. 100 degree weather is nothing unusual, and most people would agree that that’s too hot. But I love it! I love baking in the hot sun, sweat covering your body so even the tiniest breeze feels delightful. *sigh* 6 more weeks…

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Superbowl Monday!

Man what a great weekend! It started off Saturday morning with pancakes, a visit from Trey’s parents and a 100 year old armoire. I wanted to call it a wardrobe, because A: I can pronounce ”wardrobe” and B: because Belle had a wardrobe and she’s pretty much my favorite Disney princess of all time (Jasmine comes in a close second for having a pet tiger). Of course Belle’s wardrobe probably should have been called an armoire given that she’s French… In any case, Trey’s parents have been helping his grandparents clean out all of their old tobacco barns turned storage units and came across this gorgeous piece.


Trey’s dad was itching to fix it up and did all of the work in about two days (I wish I had a before picture to show you everything he did!). They also showed us some old pictures, maps, and WWI training manuals that they found. It was so cool reading the language in the old books, and seeing four digit phone numbers on a map of Summerville.  Thank you, Nana & Grandaddy!

Building on an awesome Saturday, yesterday was the Superbowl! A full afternoon devoted to football, friends, and delicious food! Food may be my favorite part of the Superbowl simply because it’s always good. Sometimes the game is a blow out, sometimes the commercials aren’t funny, but wings, beer, mini sausages and food made with bacon & cheese are always delicious! This year I tried out a Pinterest recipe for Loaded Potato and Buffalo Chicken Casserole and even remembered to snap a picture with Trey’s phone before everyone devoured it :-)

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I substituted two teaspoons of chili powder for the six tablespoons of hot sauce to take out some of the kick, and it came out quite delicious. You could probably make it without the chicken as well for a great side dish.

So what ‘s your favorite part of the Superbowl?


Better Photography: White Balance

I have a confession: I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to write this post, but never got past the blinking cursor. Blinking cursors have always been a struggle for me. They just sit there, taunting you while you try to think of a suitable beginning. So today we’re going to pretend like this is a suitable beginning and jump right in ;-)

White balance is how your camera handles colors. As you probably learned in kindergarten, visible “white” light is made up of several different colors -> the rainbow! What your kindergarten teacher may not have told you, is that different light sources have different quantities of each color. Red has a much longer wavelength and takes less energy to produce, so cooler lights, such as candlelight and tungsten lamps, have a lot more red in them. Blue, on the other hand, has a short wavelength and uses a lot of energy (kind of how high notes take more energy & air to produce than low notes), so hotter light sources, like the sun, have a lot of blue in them.

Now your eyes in combination with you brain are incredible, and a white shirt looks white to you inside with tungsten light as well as outside in the sun. With your camera, you have to use white balance to make colors appear as they really are. The most common way to achieve correct colors is with automatic white balance. Auto white balance, like auto exposure, does a good job in most common situations: impromptu family photos on the lawn, flash photos at a party, travel pictures of that gorgeous beach, etc. But auto white balance has two main situations where it struggles.

The first is when an image is overly comprised of warm or cool tones (which explains why sunsets are not nearly so vibrant when photographed with auto white balance). This is the red mulch around our bushes. In the first image they came out a little more purple than they really are, but with the addition of a white paper towel, it came out perfectly.

If you were with me on the exposure discussion, you might think that you would need to add something blue to help balance out the colors. Instead, white balance performs best when it has something white or bright gray within the frame, because it’s programmed to think of bright tones as colorless (which they frequently are).

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The other area where automatic white balance struggles, is extremely colored light. Auto white balance wants to neutralize color cast, but only to an extent, because it has no way of differentiating between an orange wall and a white wall with orange light on it.

These were taken in my bathroom with the overhead tungsten light. The bathroom has very light cream walls, a light cream hand towel, white light switch plate, and a white door. In these first two images, however, not only is everything too orange, but the door appears to be the same color as the wall. I shot the second set of images with the present “tungsten” white balance which got rid of the orange cast and also created unity across the images (the door matches the switch plate as it does in real life).

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With automatic white balance, the balance will shift with each image taken, based on whatever is in the frame at the time. That means that the perfectly matching chair & rug set you’re trying to sell on craigslist might not appear to match in the photos. When you set the white balance, either with a preset or with a custom mode, you get accurate color differences across images. Of course it will also accurately show any color differences in the light, but at least that is predictable and avoidable.

The most common presets are auto, tungsten, florescent, daylight, flash, cloudy, shade, degrees Kelvin, and custom. Aside from auto and the two custom modes (“custom” and “degrees Kelvin”) they are generally in order from warmest to coolest. This is especially helpful when shooting outside because there are so many variables that can affect the color temperature of a given setting.

Obviously the original light source isn’t changing, but clouds and other obstacles affect different wavelengths of light differently. Cloudy days generally have a bluer color because the short blue wavelengths are better at bouncing through all of the clouds. They’re also better at bouncing into deep shade, but tend to get lost at sunset when the longer red wavelengths are able to bend around the earth more. At least I think that’s how my Weather & Climate professor explained it… In any case, lots of things affect the light and being able to go “hmm that’s a little too blue” and go down a setting or “that’s a little too warm” and go up a setting is very helpful.

These images were shot in daylight with all of the preset white balance settings in order from auto to shade.

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Of course the perfect setting may end up being between presets, and that’s where the custom modes come in. With degrees Kelvin you can set the temperature you want, which is really all the presets are doing. Higher numbers are for bluer lights and create warmer images. Lower numbers create cooler images. You can also use the “custom” mode which generally involves photographing a gray card. That is you telling the camera, “hey this is gray” (or white or black) and the camera can then neutralize any colors in that image and save those settings for your future photographs under that light.

Custom mode is especially useful when you’re shooting under florescent lights. Even though florescent is one of the presets, there is such a wide variety of florescent bulbs that not only have different color temperature (orange/blue casts) but also different tints (green/magenta casts). The degrees Kelvin setting will only adjust the temperature, but the custom setting will neutralize all of the casts, including green/magenta.

These red mushrooms were under actinic aquarium lights (super blue florescent lights that show the phosphorescence of the corals). Needless to say they didn’t look red when photographed with the daylight setting and the florescent setting wasn’t coming close either. If I wanted the most accurate colors, I should have put a gray card under the aquarium lights (read inside the aquarium) and taken a custom reading. Since that would have been a little rude, I opted to shoot in RAW* and adjust the white balance later.

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The main issue with adjusting the white balance later, is that you have to rely on your memory to get the colors right, and slightly incorrect can easily look correct because you have nothing to compare it to. Remember how your brain and eyes are awesome? Not only can they make a white shirt look white under different light, they can also make a white shirt look white when it’s slightly blue in a photograph, just because they know it’s supposed to be white. In the end I put the mushrooms at 50,000 K and that looked close enough to what I remembered for my purposes. If I were trying to sell this coral online, however, I would definitely be more concerned about getting truly accurate colors.

Well that pretty much covers the basics of white balance and your different settings. There are definitely other color issues that can come up (mixed lighting anyone?), but this post is already much longer than I intended, so we’ll save that for another time. ;-) In the mean time, try it out and let me know how it goes, or if you have any questions. Next week we’ll be getting more into lighting, since that’s such a huge factor and I only briefly covered it earlier.

*Quick note about RAW: The option to shoot in RAW is under the quality settings of your camera, and not all cameras give you this option. Most cameras default to shooting in JPEG. JPEG is good because it is a standard format and it is a compressed format. The first means you can view it and share it without any special software. The second means you can take more pictures on one card, back up the photos with a smaller drive, and send them over email. RAW, on the other hand, is more like a film negative, and it has to be processed before you can use it anywhere. It also has a lot more data (since it’s not compressed) so you can do more editing without ruining the quality of your images. Since white balance is all done after the fact anyway (your camera doesn’t alter the light that’s coming in in any way, it just applies the settings to the data received), you can adjust the white balance of a RAW image on the computer later without losing any quality. JPEGs, on the other hand, have already been compressed and had the white balance settings applied, so you will lose quality when you edit them later.



Adventures in Cooking: Italian Spaghetti

The actual name for this recipe is spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino, but there was no way I was going to remember that. It’s actually a really simple recipe, and its simplicity is what really messed me up the first time. All it is is spaghetti noodles, olive oil, garlic, chili pepper flakes, and salt & pepper to taste. See? Simple and delicious! Except for the chili pepper flakes.

The first time I made this recipe I looked at the pictures (from,

and used red pepper flakes. Because that’s what the picture looks like, and that’s what I had on hand. Of course the result was scalded tongues and cries for large cups of milk. Oops.

So I went on a quest for chili pepper flakes. I had chili powder in my cabinet already, but the flakes were so pretty and really made the dish look delicious. I tried Walmart, Food Lion, and even Bi-lo (yes Bi-lo is my idea of a high glass grocery store, don’t judge), but no one had chili peppers in flake form :-(

So I used chili powder and I remembered to take pictures. It turned out quite well, though for the two of us, we could have halved the seasoning.

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Recipe is from


7 ounces of spaghetti
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons of chili pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper


The measurements in this recipe can be shifted depending on your taste preferences.

  1. Cook spaghetti according to the directions on the package, until it is al dente.
  2. Strain spaghetti and place in a large serving dish.
  3. Add minced garlic, chili pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and mix together well.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 2 to 4.

Happy Birthday Dear Fur-Butt!

Today is Cole’s birthday! In celebration of such a momentous occasion, I went through some old photos and picked out the ones that seemed to best sum up Cole’s first year of life (and to prove that he wasn’t always a humongous monster ;-) )

This is Cole’s first photo shoot, when he and Trey visited me in Columbia. Wasn’t he adorable?


and already learning basic commands =)



One of his first trips to Smoaks (aka paradise) when he learned how to swim.



His first trip to Atlanta, when he met Ivan.



Going to the lake. The other paradise =)



The dog park makes for a well behaved pooch.


His day at the doctor, poor thing ;-)


His first Christmas and his daily spot in my office, keeping it safe from any invading songbirds.


Cole, you’re a terror, but you always keep our dinner time stories fresh. Here’s to another year of slobbery kisses, piles of fur, and always remembering to enjoy the weekends!


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