Sunday, March 18, 2012

rain boots

Another photo on Inspired by Family.
Thoughts from the editor and a friend, Mari Tuten.

I think I need to learn about editing photos for online - they never look so good once they are up....

photography in Fairfield

Back in February, after a trip to Maryland, I was home for a week and then had a trip to California.  Yup, just call me the jet-setter..... I'll write about that trip later.  Eric and I debated for a long time about whether to send me on this venture - more money spent and more time away.  In the end, we looked at it as an investment and in hind-sight, I'm glad we did it.

My darling friend Rachel and her sister have both started school photography businesses, which I'm pretty sure is what God used to plant the idea of the same in my brain for here.  Since they have been through it all and know the ropes, so to speak, I headed out to California to have Rachel help me get going on it.
Now, she had been doing that for a while already - through email and whatnot - but there was much I needed see.  Basically I needed her to take my hand, sit me down, treat me like a 5-year-old (which is about my age in terms of learning digital-type stuff) and teach me how to organize and edit, order and package and all that stuff.  I do have limited skills in some of these things, but the whole thing overwhelmed and intimidated me.  Anything with computers and such puts a mental block in my way.
The time we had was invaluable to me.  She really got me going.  When I came back, I felt very prepared.  I made files and organized just as she patiently showed me.  And of course, God helped me to actually remember what she taught me.
The other bonus of being there was that Rachel and Becky were putting on a photography workshop for some ladies.  Something I might want to do some day.
Rach and Beck did a great job.  I know the ladies were very happy with their experience.  After they had lunch and did some teaching at Rachel's house, we all went to a friend's farm to practice what they learned.  I mostly took some photos of them teaching - but I got a few good pictures of the "models" (a family that are friends) as well.

Rachel took a few images of me taking pictures for the future website I want to have.

This is the whole group of ladies with Becky and Rachel at the very back.
I had the delightful privilege of playing with one of Rachel's lenses for a while.  We mounted one of her great lenses on my camera - my new dream lens.  It was a lot of fun - amazing.  Then in the pictures that she took of me, I'm using her camera and other wonderful lens.  I'm trying not to salivate too much over them.  A few great shots I got were on her camera and I still need to get them from her, but I will one of these days.

Aside from the joys of all this photography business, I was able to enjoy my nephews - almost can't get enough of that - my in-laws, my wonderful mentor Dorothy and a great Sunday at church.  There wasn't nearly enough of any of that, but I am thankful for what I got.
My brother-in-law Michael probably felt that he had more than enough time with me.  He had the great pleasure of picking me up late from the airport, helping me deal with American Airlines as another passenger took my carry-on (filled with my laptop that needed repair and my camera equipment - yes, there was a bit of panic), drove me around to get the carry-on back, brought me to get the laptop repaired (although it had to get sent in) and then even got to have me again for night only to bring me to the airport at the crack of dawn to get my flight.  What a guy.  He's probably plenty happy that I am back in Ecuador - but he hid it well!

say cheese

It is actually happening.  Well, I guess it already happened.  
I spent the week of Feb 27 - Mar 2, and Wed, Mar 7 taking more than 2300 photos of students and staff at Alliance Academy International.
Since then I have selected the best of each person, edited those, named them with each person's name, delivered them to the yearbook team and ordered over $2000 worth of photos online.
God has abundantly blessed this endeavor - above and beyond what I asked or imagined.  It has completely been His thing - from how well the photos turned out, how much support and encouragement I have received to how many people placed orders.  It is overwhelming.
Aire Fino is well on its way.
While Sherri was here, she helped me sort out the studio, such as it was.
The lights that the school has - thankfully I didn't have to buy my own yet - are old and even Sherri with her knowledge and experience could not get them to work how we needed them to work.  We couldn't switch them to a low enough power, so I had to deal with some very bright flashes.
As frustrating as it was, especially for Sherri (I sat ignorantly by) we managed to have a good time.

Once we got it all set, we taped everything off and put up all kinds of nasty signs threatening peoples' life and limbs if anything got moved.  Before the actually photos started, I had the kids come and help me make sure everything was still in working order....

Here is my beautiful, highly technical set up.
Because the strobes/flashes were so harsh, a lot of shadows were cast.  Sherri helped me set up the white foam core that we found in the dungeon I was working in to reflect a little light.  It still wasn't quite enough, so I brought in my reflector and a little bitty spot to fill in the backdrop.  While still far from where we want it, it worked.  And I have portraits of some lovely children to prove it.

I still have much to learn on the whole deal, but over all I am thrilled with how well it all went.  Now I need to pray that people are happy with their purchases, the name will hold a good reputation and other schools will join in.  But that too is in God's hands.  In the meantime, my heart is full of gratitude for God's amazing grace in all of this.

friend are friends forever

While I really don't care to be sick.... it is a lovely, sunny Sunday and both Mia (very sore throat and fever) and I (phlegm filled head) are nursing ailments inside on the is giving me the chance to do some much, much needed catch up.  Much needed.

The biggest highlight in the last month and a half - and that is saying a lot as it has been extremely busy with many amazing things happening and many highlights - was a visit from Sherri.
Now Sherri and I have been friends since we were three or fourish.  Outside of immediate family (husband included), no one knows me like Sherri.  We have been through everything (okay well, a whole lot) together and have been there for each other, even if through great distances - in prayer, for much.  She is a true sole-sister, even if I am a hater of such terms, a kindred spirit, minus the cranberry cordial.  We even shared a Amy Grant and Michael W Smith concert - thus the title.
Within seconds of being reunited, we went straight for the heart.  Tears.  Unfortunately some of the tears were out of exhaustion and relief of not being abandoned by us, when we finally arrived at the airport.  We were a little late and after a long day of travel she was bombarded with Spanish speaking people trying to push her into taxis, buy gum and candies or just give them money - any or all of it.  A little overwhelming.
Mostly the visit just went up from there - including plenty of sunshine, which could only be attributed to the answer of many many prayers.  God is, as always, so good.
The first day was just full of talking.  And a little sun burn.  We lunched on our roof, as the sun was out. Even though we were only out there for 45 min. to an hour, that is definitely enough to burn skin.... especially skin not used to the intensity.  Being that we are on the equator (okay, 10 miles or so from it) and at 9500 ft., Quito is almost constantly in the UV danger zone.  We average, so I hear, one day per year that we are lower than "danger".  Good times.
Anyway, her poor beautiful face fried.  And just in time to spend the long, Carnival weekend at the beach.  Good thing she brought 15 spf sunscreen along....  Hahahaha.  We slimmed some of our 50 on her.
The whole family, Sherri and our friends the Jensens went to Same.  And while they had been having tons of rain and flooding on the coast, we were again blessed with clear blue skies, the entire three days we were there.
While I am trying to emphasize the blue sky by showing the picture, it is also a reminder of Carnival.  Mia has foam all over her head.  That, and being constantly wet, pretty much sums up Carnival - or at least our experience of it - in Ecuador.  Everywhere you go, you are in danger of getting sprayed with either water or foam.
Now Sherri is an incredible photographer, and while she does know and shoot some digital, she is mostly a film photographer.  A true artist.  As in one who has to be good enough to get it right in one or two shots as opposed to 200, because she can't just delete the bad ones and only show off the good ones.  Part of the idea of the weekend was for her to impart some of her knowledge to me.  Unfortunately the beach isn't the safest place to carry cameras, especially expensive ones, so I hardly busted mine out at all....I stuck with our new, but piece-of-poo, point and shoot.  I blame Marlo mostly, for scaring me with her stories of people who robbed on the beach.  Since they were true stories, I suppose I can only thank her for protecting me.  But there went the good photos.....

We had a delightful time.  Lot of swimming at the pool
including "surfing".

And a lot of good times on the beach.

I don't know if it was more because Sherri is as bad in front of the camera as she is good behind it (not bad as in not photogenic - bad as in non-cooperative), but this is the only picture I have of her... her and Marlo.

And we even had some good times in the cabin.
But really these photos hardly capture anything.
They don't show the yummy ceviche, camerones encocado (shrimp in coconut sauce) or coco batidos (kind of like a coconut milkshake) we consumed.  They don't show the sand castles, the great conversations and laughs, the boogie boarding and body surfing, and they most certainly don't show the trip to Atacames we attempted.  Atacames hosts very large, yummy, cheap batidos.  We tried to head in there for an evening but the police had everything blocked off.  Probably because of Carnival festivities. So we rerouted to nearby something-or-other beach town and wandered there for a while.  There was plenty of night life to enjoy there.  A few of us got nice and wet, and Nick managed to find himself the largest can of foam possible and got into a foam-fight we some of the younger locals.
Since our goal was batidos, we found a safe-ish looking stand and ordered some delicious refreshments.  He even had one with a fruit neither Marlo or I had heard of or tried before.  If only I could remember the name.  We got one of those batidos to try as well.  No one really liked it much - it was slightly banana-y tasting (and texture) but not quite as good.

Once we got back from the beach, Sherri and I spent some time around Quito - mostly old town and the market, seeing the sights, buying the wares and talking our faces off.  I have no pictures to prove any of it, but it really did happen.  She also helped me - HUGELY - with setting up my "studio" for the school photos (next blog entry....).  She has much experience and wisdom in studio photography, so she was invaluable.  Mostly we came away with - I have a lousy environment in which to work, pathetically old and not well functioning lights, and this-is-the-best-it-is-going-to-get results.  But we had a good time, and it still worked.

I sent Sherri home a week later with the gift that keeps on giving - the one I seem to give my friends when the come visit (Karen, back in May) - some parasite or bacterial issue that causes days and days of horrible stomach issues.  Yes, I am that good of a friend.
Actually, most of us who went to the beach came away with some stomach issues, but those of us in Ecuador got it under control in a few days.  Sherri has not faired as well.  We are guessing it was the batidos from the unknown stand, but who knows.
Somehow I've got to figure out how to not get people sick, or our list of visitors will be shorter than it already is!

Thankfully Sherri still loves me and says a little stomach issue won't keep her from coming again.  I truly can hardly wait - another visit could not come too soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

the hills are alive

Yesterday we had a very sad goodbye.  But before that we had a very happy day.
We got to hang out with our friends the Tachenys for their last day and a half in Ecuador.  The Tachenys were one of the first families we met at language school in Costa Rica and they were one of the closest as well.  We spent many a pizza night at 2x1 pizza together (until our children cut up their kids play area....), most of the holidays, went on some great vacations, and Heather and I had weekly prayer dates.
One of the greatest blessings was that they were also going to Ecuador.  Even though they were is Shell, we got to see them every few months and always had a great time.  They, unfortunately for us, were finished their time here now, and we had to say a sad farewell. 
Before we said goodbye, we had some more good memories made.  
While lying in bed Saturday morning, I really didn't want to get up to go up a cold mountain.  But I am very glad we did.
We were all a little nervous about going to the Teleferiqo - it is usually packed and you have to wait a long time.  It was a banner day, however, as almost no one was there.  We even got prime, VIPish parking!  AND, even though the month of Feb. was over, wives were free for Valentine's month.   We weren't quite sure how that came about - that we still got this bonus on March 3, but we weren't about to point it out.
While the men were buying the tickets, the rest of us were enjoying the beautifully decorated ticket building.
 Good thing we were about to see some beautiful views.
Six people to a gondola, we we split up: the men
 and the women.
 We were all very carefully on our appropriate dots.

 Here come the guys.

 Now the air is thin enough at 9500 ft where we live.  Going up even a mere 2500 or so - you can definitely feel the difference.  Of course climbing up hill made a difference as well.

 The kids were quite excited when they saw signs for caballos - horses.  Since the trip up was less than we thought, we sprang for the $5/half hour ride for the kids.  Nothing is too expensive to see those happy smiles on their faces....  Of course, I jest..... plenty is too expensive.
 Since they threw in ponchos to wear, however, we knew we had ourselves a deal.

 Cade, Sam and Lucy were led most of the time, while the older girls rode on their own.

 Mike had this great idea of climbing higher with the horses.  The kids were a little scared going up so steep, but did really well.  Heather and I just figured we'd wait until they came back down - after all, then we could get some front shots instead of just taking pictures from behind.  It had nothing to do with not wanting to climb more.
 Maddy took the lead on the way back down.  I guess, actually her horse did.  He decided that he wanted to blaze his own trail instead of going on the path.  Maddy was thankful that Auntie Kim had given her some riding tips this summer!
 Naturally, all the other horses followed the first one.  There were a few looks of panic as they descended, but they all made it down without falling off, and ended up with smiles of satisfaction on their faces.
 Heather and I marveled about how quiet and peaceful it was up there.  It is so great to get out of the city.  And really the city is so beautiful - from up there!  We were so thankful that it wasn't busy like it usually is.  We almost had the mountains to ourselves, with the wind, sun and sky.

 We saw some guys out on this edge while we were hiking to the horses.  It was a must do photo op.  I wasn't even uptight with my hyper Lucy bouncing around need the edge of the drop-off.

 We got pretty hunger after all that activity, so what better lunch than hot dogs and french fries?  They looked great.  Once we tasted it, however, we realized that there were much better things for lunch.  Well, at least it silenced growling stomaches and their appropriate children.
 Some may call us foolish, but we let the kids go down in a gondola by themselves.  I think it might have just been another of our constant marvels that we can actually do things like that here....  There is no way you could send them off on their own like that in North America.  And quite possibly for very good reason.  Perhaps the thin air loosened our judgement.
 Brilliant parenting revealed itself again, however, when we arrived at the bottom to see our children quietly, patiently and calmly waiting for us.  So well behaved.  So charming.
We took a few more photos and then headed off to our private parking spot - one that was now roped off with caution tape.  No problem.  This is Ecuador - and caution tape does not mean what you think it means.  The guard merely held it up over our van and out we drove..... a mere $.50, and we were off.

In the evening we had a cozy evening of chili and "Hugo" - one last "big screen" movie at home together.  That is an event we often did together, and it needed to happen one last time.

After we said our goodbyes, I went to tuck in Cade.  I asked Cade how he felt about not getting to see Sam for quite a while.   He was a little mystified - I guess we weren't clear that we wouldn't be seeing them off at the airport in the morning.... and so tears ensued.
I'm not convinced that he would have said a "proper" goodbye, if he had realized that would be his last opportunity for a while, but our boy was sad at not doing it.  He will miss his buddy an awful lot.  We all will miss them.  An awful lot.