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2 Sep

How To Camp With Kids And Also iPhones (End Of Summer Edition)

This weekend, we’d planned on doing one last canoe trip. It would have been our sixth such trip this summer. To say that we were looking forward to it would be a gross understatement. We’ve loved these trips. Sure, they were hard work – lugging two small children and camping gear for four into backwoods lakes in a canoe – but they were an escape. They were islands of quiet in the vast, churningly busy weeks of the ocean that is – was – this crazy summer. They were our getaway, our holiday, our us time. And we’d gotten really, really good at them.

When we started out, on our first trip, a couple of months ago, we were still figuring things out. We packed too much food and not enough beverage, too much sunscreen and not enough bug repellent, too much bear spray and not enough chipmunk-be-gone. We struggled with solar chargers for our gadgets and failed to figure out how to use the GoPro. We did not yet understand that beef jerky was a food. But by our most recent trip, we had things down to a science. We sorted out the charger issue (trick: get a really good charger and charge it in advance) and figured out how to ward off chipmunks. We’d worked out the exact amount of food we needed and had figured out how to hack a portable, fully stocked bar (with ICE). We understood about beef jerky. We had it down. And this last trip? Was going to be a model of backcountry camping ninja efficiency.

But then I got sick, and Kyle got sick, and with too much stuff to do – little things, like sort out immigration and relocation and figuring out how we’re going to move our entire household to New York City in the next couple of weeks – and we just couldn’t do it. So this weekend, we’re staying in Nyquil and leasing forms and packing boxes, and just dreaming of the lake, and of how this would have the camping weekend to end all camping weekends.

So I thought that I would list the things that we would have done, which basically amounts to a list of the Very Important Learnings Of Camping For Comfort Addicts that we mastered this summer:

17 Aug

From The Jason Files: Better Photos Are Only A Screen Door Away

Beneath the smudged fingerprints left by your five-year-old and the cobweb that the spider contractors erected over the winter sits the single best photographic tool you own.

Your screen door.

The fastest way to take better family shots? Position your mom/husband/small fries in front of the door on a cloudy day and take a good look at your subject. The clouds give you a giant soft light that filters through the biggest window you’ve got in the house.

15 Aug

Mommy Paparazza

Hey all! Meet Shalini, who’ll be sharing her Digital Life stories here, and schooling us all in mom geekery! In Shalini’s own words:

Shalini is a semi-techie and aspires to be a true geek.  She is very comfortable with using and learning about new technology while trying to maintain the cool wife and Mom façade. She also hopes to be the Mom who schools her kid(s) and husband in video games while running her household with order and authority. Among her newfound Mom skills, Shalini is developing her talents as a Mommy Paparazza as she constantly photographs and videos her son.  Shalini has also started taking instructions on cake decorating, which provides some much needed “mommy time” and an excuse to bake and eat cake.

Shalini is currently dealing with the challenges of a toddler who is walk- running, scaling the furniture and wondering the house looking for “Da Da” while she slaves away to prepare healthy, organic meals and to keep him clean. She is also recording the stories she makes up for her son with the hopes of one day sharing them with the world.  Shalini blogs at www.yellowsunnydays.blogspot.com and welcomes words of encouragement!

Hi interweb folks!

I need to admit that I have a problem. I am a Mommy Paparazza (and sMother). I take countless photos and videos of The Boy. So much that when he sees the DSLR, hears the chime of the camcorder or smartphone camera, he immediately stops what he is doing and smiles and poses…even if he’s crying. It’s super adorable except when I’m trying to capture him doing something cute or mischievous without disrupting said behaviour.

9 Aug

That Auto Setting Is Not Your Friend

Hey, everybody! Meet Jason! He’s a dad and a photographer and he’s going to be contributing here, sharing his digital life, and providing much-needed professional advice on all this photography stuff that I am so resolutely amateur about. In his own words:

“Jason Thomson is insane. How else do you explain being a dad to six kids, working as a full time writer and photographer and publishing “Frame One,” a blog to help anyone who wants to take better pictures without being a photographer.”

Take it away, Jason…


It’s just so darn tempting.

You turn on your camera and are bedazzled by that ever-expanding list of situational settings. Portraits. Fireworks. Aquarium (!). When you first buy the camera, you think to yourself “Oh man, I’m totally going to use all of those on trips next summer.”

Then next summer comes and you can’t find “Aquarium” buried under menu three and how to get the best shots from it.

“Auto” is a scam.

29 Jul

A Certificate Of Presence: On Why I’m Obsessed With Taking Photographs, And Happier For It

There’s a post at Babble this week by a mom who regrets having been too obsessed with photographing every moment of her family’s life. She forced herself to put the camera down, and, she says, is happier for it. “While I still desperately want my boys to be able to look through photo albums of their childhood and feel a deep sense of love and family,” she writes, “I also want them to remember that I ran into the cold Maine surf right beside them, that I danced the night away with them in my arms at their auntie’s wedding, and that I simply sat with them while they talked about cars and firemen and bugs. That I did not leave them to grab my camera — no matter how adorable they looked. Instead, I stayed and I listened.”

Which is lovely, really, and I get it, I do. There is a difference between living a moment and documenting a moment, between being in and aware of the lived experience of a moment and being an observer of that experience. Here’s the thing, though: each of those experiences is a discrete and unrepeatable experience. It happens once, and only once. Which is, perhaps, all the more reason to just live each experience as fully as possible. It’s also, however, an excellent reason to seize those experiences – some of them, anyway – and do whatever we can to hang on to them. Photographs are one way of doing that.

23 Jul

What’s In YOUR Bag?

For a long time, I used a diaper bag for everything. It was a pretty cool diaper bag, one that cost way too much money – like, designer-handbag-too-much-money – and I figured, if I spent half a mortgage payment on one bag, I’d damn well better use it. So I did. I used it for diapers, of course, and wipes and snacks and toys and the like, but also for my camera and for my laptop. Diaper bags, as you know if you’ve every used one, come really well-padded and are virtually indestructible, which are exactly the qualities that you want in a gear bag as well. And seeing as most gear bags aren’t as pretty as some contemporary – pricey – diaper bags, well, might as well go for the diaper bag. My friend and fellow Intel advisor Shalini does this too, because it just makes sense (great minds, etc, etc.)

17 Jun

I Have One Or Two Important Life Skills. This Is Not One Of Them.

I’m often asked how I get the action captures in the photos that I upload to Instagram and that I post here, because everyone assumes that if you’re not a professional photographer using a fancy camera, you must have a secret to getting great photos. Well, I’m not a professional photographer, and although I do have a fancy camera, it’s not the one that I’m using to get those shots – those are all iPhone shots, people – so it’s totally fair to ask if I have a secret. I do have a secret. And it’s a ridiculously simple one.