Take Good Pictures in Bad Lighting (flash-free on the iPhone)

Shooting in low light can be a scary, scary thing. Most of us prefer nice sunny days, our viewing screens filled with as much natural light as possible. But there are times when this simply isn't the reality. There's no windows. It's 10pm at night. You're at a concert and have to work quickly to make the shots as hot as possible. Yes, these situations can be tricky but here is some advice so you can focus on your subject vs the lighting hurdles.

Grab your phone because it’s time to try these tips!

1. Adjust your exposure in Camera Mode

Tap the iPhone camera screen on the dark areas to boost up your exposure of the image. It’ll brighten things up! Like a DSLR camera adjusting its settings, the more light will be exposed to the sensor, allowing you the most light into your camera as possible.

2. Add more lighting

How many photographers does it take to move a light bulb? ONE AND IT'S YOU. Grab a lamp nearby and light like you had a studio of lamps! No one will see that library-style desk lamp that you're awkwardly holding three inches away from your subject, just out of frame. Get weird! You can always send me some behind the scenes photos of your wildest lighting, I'd love to see how creative you can get!

3. Shoot somewhere brighter

If you are shooting indoors with low light and it's during the daytime, take the subject outside or pull some of those still life's to a picnic table outdoors. Move somewhere where there is more light. If you are in the center of a dark room during day time try your setups next to a window and let light flood over your subject all pretty-like.

4. Smooth with a filter

I use the VSCOcam app and love their editing features. You can adjust your “clarity” if the image looks a bit too grainy. Also, feel free to sharpen things or change to black and white in VSCOcam. Black and white photography has a long lineage of being grainy and offering wonderful contrast for low-lit situations.

5. If it can wait, then wait

What is this, a candlelit dinner date? No, it's a photograph! Can it wait until morning or tomorrow afternoon for you to shoot the perfect iPhone image? If it can, go ahead and wait. Your audience will be here when you’re ready. 

6. Embrace it

The truth is, I LOVE the drama of low light. If you only have one source of light at your disposal, try some new things! Photograph at a striking angle. Change your position. Try the photo with different subjects in the light and out of the light. Explore silhouettes. Now is your chance to be expressive! Shoot within your comfort zone but don't be afraid of challenging yourself with low light. I dare ya.

 [Special thanks to The Kevin Hayden Band for allowing Dakota Lenox Photography to shoot their group shots and behind the scenes of their show.]

Local Feature: Creative Influences of Musician, Robert Noyes

Robert Noyes is a local musician of Somerville, MA with a knack for sweet vibes and awesome sounds. I reached out to photograph him for the Somerville Arts Council because he is the Artist of the Month for June!

Robert Noyes of Somerville, MA

Robert Noyes of Somerville, MA

When I emailed Robert to arrange the photo shoot, he surprised me with the fact that we’d be shooting in his main space of inspiration - his home. I LOVED this immediately, excited to get a glimpse of the influences that fuel his work. Upon arriving, I noticed Robert’s extensive record collection that rivals some of the best I’ve seen. With Laurel Aitken’s reggae/funk/soul vinyl record “Sweet Rocking Mama / Reggae Serenade” (1975) hanging prominently in the living room, I knew this guy had impeccable musical taste along with talent.

In true cat lady fashion, one of the best parts was meeting his silky black kitty, Onyx. This old gentleman was kind to me and gets to live the ultimate life - listening to the sounds of Robert’s guitar everyday. Lucky dude *and* he photographs so darn well!!

Robert strummed his favorite guitar as I began to photograph, slowly drifting into a blissful state. He effortlessly created a beautiful acoustic ballad on the spot. I knew he practices for hours, honing on his natural abilities with the instrument, and this was dream-like.

While It was amazing to witness, it was evident this particular photo shoot would be less “directing” on my part (I didn't want to interrupt his flow) and more observational photographing. So I mentally switched gears, something that is often tricky for photographers. While he stayed in the zone, I allowed myself to drift and pay close attention to the details of his home studio; I loved the pile of handmade art on his music stand, the beautiful and delicate eggshell artwork in his kitchen that his girlfriend made, and enjoyed photographing closeups of his guitar as his fingers glazed through each note.  Special thanks to Robert for the free short concert, I will forever be impressed by your musical talents!

You can find more of his music and get in contact with him here:  robnoyes.bandcamp.com & https://www.facebook.com/robmnoyes/

To read the full interview with Somerville Arts Council please visit: http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org/artistmonth/2016

Make-up Tips For Your Professional Portrait : Contouring Secrets For The Camera

I get a lot of questions regarding what type of makeup to apply for photo shoots. Personally, I'm a fan of whatever natural face your were born with. But sometimes my clients want more answers...

So I’m giving in! For you!

I’ve studied makeup for many years and would like to provide a step-by-step guide to contour makeup to effortlessly become flawless in your next photo shoot. Follow these steps and your hashtag #iwokeuplikethis will never be more accurate!

 

Step 1.

Take a “Before” photo. Admire your natural skin tone, because it’s about to rapidly and delightfully change through the miracle of foundation and face paint!

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

 

Step 2.

To create a superior you find a foundation tone that matches your natural color. To create a brand new person choose a color that's bold! Some experts say "skin match" for foundation but contouring is about full transformation. Cover the entire face including lips and eyebrows because you can fill them into any shape you’d like in later steps. This is the perfect time to include any warrior lines you’d like to explore with white face paint, this is highlighting.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 3.

Start to find the shadows and highlights of the face using your deepest brown and white face paint or powder from your contour kit. Explore different lighting sources for added creativity and allow yourself to freely explore diagonals and shadows!

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 4.

Blend blend blend! Notice the beauty of your eyebrow-less, cheekbony, matte face! Is that a new chin?! Yes! You’ve created it from your deepest desires. I’m so proud of you.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 5.

The next step is vital. Add on your new eyebrows and fill in your lips and cheeks with a hot shade of lipstick and blush.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 6.

Without a hair stylist for your photo shoot? No problem! Add a wig and change your clothes to become someone you’ve always wanted to be! Shoot all your hottie-shots and have fun while doing it.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 7. [Bonus step!]

I usually don’t share this secret, but because you’re such a loyal fan and this is the hottest beauty industry tell-all article I’ll reveal it... To remove your contouring makeup apply nature’s best exfoliant: chocolate syrup. It’ll rid you of dark circles temporarily with it’s deep opaque coverage and leave you glowing for days afterwards.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Thank you for reading and remember there’s nothing more beautiful than your natural face for photo shoots. Relieve yourself of the pressure and simply be you. Happy April!

 

I Did A Boudoir Shoot So You Don't Have To : How modeling helped me understand all your feels.

Here I was. Half naked in the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA, getting coaxed into sticking a hotel sliding closet door between my buttcheeks, thinking to myself that I should have had more wine before leaving my house. All I hear is: "“Eyes towards the camera, part your lips slightly, ohh yeah. That’s goooood.”

This whole thing is a covert operation. I self-tasked myself to book a boudoir photo shoot, costume up for the event in “negligees”, and put myself through an entire boudoir experience with a quantity-over-quality boudoir Boston photography company.  

That’s right, the photographer becomes the photograph-ee.

I didn't purchase any final photograph files so my partner, Ty, interpreted my boudoir images for you as post-it doodles. (All rights reserved to the artist)

I didn't purchase any final photograph files so my partner, Ty, interpreted my boudoir images for you as post-it doodles. (All rights reserved to the artist)

Before you hate my sneakiness please know I did it out of love! Often, when I suggest boudoir photography to someone I get weird looks anywhere from a distorted face of disgust or a quick dismissal of the idea because “that’s not for me”. So, instead of trying to sell the experience from a photographers stand point (I get to stay cozy, warm and clothed during your boudoir shoots) I wanted to fully understand what my clients are going though. Plus, it may end up being a little fun.

Before the shoot the boudoir company emailed a PDF document highlighting all their “add-on services”, which I found out means retouching EVERYTHING, including many items I wasn't concerned about until reading their list: Cellulite - $45, acne - $25, hair flyaways - $30, scars - $50. The company introduced me to their services by listing a potential slew of “faults” making me insecure about NOT being insecure about these things. Let’s not forget about hair and makeup, which the company recommended “Wear extra makeup for the camera”. I’ve heard this before, and no. Just no. If you're into that type of thing and want to get your makeup done, awesome. Hell, I’ve helped my clients have fun with makeup during shoots because I’ve been a makeup artist for years and I respect it as an art form. But it should never conceal, just reveal. Don’t ask me to pack it on.

All of these things conflict with my personal beliefs. In my practice if you fully understand your lighting, retouching should be nothing or extremely limited. Don't ever set up anyone for failure or flaws.


At 7pm I walked in from the dark winter night to the hotel lobby carrying a plastic Market Basket bag of wadded lingerie. I didn’t go shopping for anything new, despite the boudoir’s spokesperson assuring me that “all women love the preparation part of their photoshoots”. Nah, I'll pass. My hair was clean, exactly the goal I was aiming for. I’ve got a busy schedule and a red poof of curls on my head doing what they want. This was me-ish: trying the bare minimum on the surface while maintaining my gusto-filled personality on the inside.

The Hotel Marlowe has a beautiful lobby with gold walls and jewel-toned accents.  I clenched my plastic grocery bag as I over-relaxingly strolled by the front desk to the elevators wondering if anyone could see my wads of lace, quietly judging me as I passed. I texted my photographer and she answered, “Room 502, I’ll meet you at the room door.”

After ringing the bell to room 502 my photographer answered the door smiling. She was a blonde woman a bit shorter than me and wore a comfy sweater dress with knee high boots over teal tights. She invited me into the room and jokingly apologized for the bags under her eyes saying that it’s been a long day.

“How many clients have you had today?” I asked.

“Eight." She Huffed, "and you're the last one for the night!” 

I looked around the room, two softbox lights were set up in the divided suite - one in the living room area and the other in the bedroom area. The rooms were divided by a sliding door. My thoughts started racing. How many buttcheeks have been on this door today? Or this chair? Or the bed? The answer was at least sixteen buttcheeks. Did she sanitize after each client? I wish I was doing this at my home where I know where everyone’s buttcheeks have been… Yeesh.

How many buttcheeks have been on this door today? Or this chair? Or the bed?   (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

How many buttcheeks have been on this door today? Or this chair? Or the bed? (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

The photographer showed me to the bathroom and directed me to change into my first outfit out of the four allowed. I shut the door and thought about how weird it’s going to be when I stagger out uncomfortably in heels and underwear. For my own boudoir clients, we start with clothes on because my clients are participants the whole time: we work collaboratively from the beginning. I believe it’s about the journey and the comfortable stimulation happening during the process, not “TAKE IT OFF” right away. 

Stepping out of the bathroom covering myself and shivering in front of this stranger the awkward session began instantly. Other than the small talk about how tired the photographer is we didn't say much to each other. I’m standing in my skivvies and wasn’t asked anything about myself. Not what the session objective was, not what I think is sexy, or what my partner thinks is sexy about me, or how I preferred to be called “Jackie” instead of “Jaclyn”. There was no music and the silence made me start to yawn and drift away...

I started thinking about my own boudoir shoots. As a photographer, I need to know the person intimately to give them any truth with their portrait. For example, to begin sometimes I'll ask about their favorite celebrity and how we can channel them together. Then we'll talk about their feelings and most sexy attribute (mine is my clavicle), perhaps what their partner thinks is their sexiest attribute and how to portray it tastefully. I always strive to offer people my coined phrase, “familiar sexy”: the look only you or your partner truly sees and celebrates in you. Personally, my favorite trait on anyone is their laugh. I like loud laughs and relaxing grins because they trump uncomfortable “sex kitten” expressions (whatever those are) any day. 

“stick your booty out, Jaclyn”. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

“stick your booty out, Jaclyn”. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

The whole shoot lasted an hour. A cold, music-less, connection-less hour. The photographer kept telling me “to open my lips.”  She recommended textbook poses like “point your toes”, and said the words “now let’s do a closeup of your boobs” (I KNOW!), and despite my complete discomfort on so many levels, “stick your booty out, Jaclyn”. I didn't know who’s gaze this was for but it certainly wasn’t for mine or my partner’s.

I couldn't stop yawning. She never fully bothered to understand my comfort level of my body and missed the opportunity to treat the photographs with thoughtful and creative respect. Posing needs to happen strategically and artistically, everything is for the individual and out of love. Boudoir shoots are a complete luxury and this felt like a desperate bootcamp. The distance between me and my boudoir photographer left me feeling embarrassed and frustrated I had spent an hour without a voice in a vulnerable position. 

A week later, the photos were ready to view. Before my viewing session the spokesperson once again presented a price sheet with every retouching option, annoyingly priming me for insecurity. As my partner and I looked at the photographs I quickly realized this was not me. This was an open-lipped awkward woman photographed while being completely uncomfortable. The lighting was harsh and blasted. The poses didn't fit my body. I looked bored as I followed *her* idea of "sex kitten". This wasn’t my sexy.


The poses didn't fit my body. I looked bored as I followed *her* idea of "sex kitten". This wasn’t my sexy. (   All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

The poses didn't fit my body. I looked bored as I followed *her* idea of "sex kitten". This wasn’t my sexy. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

I have to face the facts that this company's business philosophy is quantity over quality and not everyone shoots this way, but there are more out there with this model. If you’ve had a rough past boudoir experience like mine without ever processing why something felt “off”, it’s most likely because raunchiness and disconnection has been created and you do not need to be shot in this way. Different photographers have different takes on boudoir.


Don't be discouraged from reading all this because I’m proud of you for having an interest in boudoir photography! DO IT!  Your curiosity in being photographed means you want to find a new side to yourself, possibly changing and metamorphosing, embracing your sexuality, and improving your ability to project yourself in the world. We are all allowed to be sexy, funny and attractive. What do we find attractive in ourselves? What does it mean to truly “feel natural”? Why are familiar moments in the present so damn sexy? To be in the moment is a gift in front of the camera. Your next steps are to find a photographer you trust, that makes you laugh, has the gift of putting you at ease, and whose imagery you love enough to take you on this journey. Talk with them before hand. See if they are listening to you because your sexuality and confidence is sacred. At the end of the day, YOU have to love the artwork and love HOW you want to be seen.

VIEW THE FULL IMAGE GALLERY


Back to Business: Working at the LoveSick Wedding Expo in South Boston

The words “Wedding Expo” send a shudder down my spine. I’m planning my own wedding this upcoming fall and as an indecisive libra, I have zero interest in attending an expo. In my mind, expos mean getting a mess of options and “must-needs”, most of which are not part of my initial plan, or budget. Also, most these events remind me of my worst fear: how “serious” my big day is. Truth is, I want to feel like a kid about my wedding day, because it’s not only a day of beautiful declaration of love, but also a big damn party.

Despite my fears, my business partner, Anna Spaller, of Dakota Lenox Photography's sister company, Wild Eye Photobooth convinced me to sign up to be a vendor at LoveSick wedding expo in Boston's Southie this past weekend. “It’ll be perfect!” she exclaimed showing me the website of the so-called “alternative wedding expo: LoveSick”. The next thing I knew we were spending the week building a prize wheel from scratch, printing off all our marketing materials, and praying that this expo was as exciting as the LoveSick website made it seem. We had high hopes that people would understand Wild Eye’s new photobooth concept: real humans behind the camera giving you a professional studio photoshoot in the midst of a party.

Wild Eye's Studio Setup with real photogs taking your glam-shot!

Wild Eye's Studio Setup with real photogs taking your glam-shot!

Before the doors opened on the day-of the event, I was expecting a lot of couples at this expo. I channeled characters from popular romantic comedies; perhaps an overly excited wedding-crazed partner, dragging behind them a reluctant fiancee, whose feet you could hear dragging throughout the entire affair. I was dreading they’d roll their eyes at getting their photo taken together.

11am hit and the doors of the Arts For Humanity building opened to a flock of folks. Anna straightened her orange polka dotted blouse, I downed a Red Bull, and we high-fived as we put on our “game faces”.

Before the storm: Our Wild Eye Photobooth table at LoveSick expo 2016

Before the storm: Our Wild Eye Photobooth table at LoveSick expo 2016

LoveSick Expo blew my expectations away. The crowd was a fairly even split of couples and groups of friends, all giggly and enthusiastic about being there, and mercifully enthusiastic about having their photo taken. Everyone seemed genuinely jazzed to rifle through our prop box and lunge in front of the camera wearing feather boas and fez hats. Each playful pose suggestion we gave - “You’re a tiger!” or “How about a kiss on the cheek?!”- was followed by giggles and squished friends, families and couples hugging each other close. The booth filled up and we were flattered to have such enthusiastic guests rocking out in front of the camera. West Coast beauty and LoveSick partner, Offbeat Bride had a "Kissy face" that blew us away, while LoveSick's head honchos were simply saucy and stunning. 

The afternoon entertainment of LoveSick was filled with delicious stimulation, including juicy all-male burlesque dancers, Sirlesque, and a dancing rope angel sent from above, Aerialist Molly BaechtoldI’ve never seen either of these services before in my life, but myself and the crowd laughed and stared in awe at the performances. I’m usually pretty snobby about my music playlists, but the exciting rockabilly-looking band Jan Marie and the Mean Reds had their sound and style on point. My feet hurt from dancing in my Doc Martens the entire day. 

(top row to bottom row) The day was filled with entertainment by astounding aerialist Molly Baechtold, the saucy Sirlesque performers, and live music by Jan Marie and the Mean Reds. (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

(top row to bottom row) The day was filled with entertainment by astounding aerialist Molly Baechtold, the saucy Sirlesque performers, and live music by Jan Marie and the Mean Reds. (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

The rad women of Apotheca Flower Shoppe posed in our booth and I could not stop staring at their flower crowns: they reminded me of Vermeer’s famous painting “Girl With the Pearl Earring” meets the sass and class of an earthy goddess. Our next door booth neighbors, Minter and Richter, a unique jewelry company in Boston, had such a lasting impression with brightly colored titanium rings that my fiance spent hours on their website the night after the expo. Sign me up for a cobalt ring, please!

AMAZING flower crowns by Apotheca Flower Shoppe (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

AMAZING flower crowns by Apotheca Flower Shoppe (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

Wild Eye is built on the human pleasures of good music and dance moves, being healthily overstimulated and living on laughs. LoveExpo gave us a place to be ourselves with other fun-loving attendees. A wedding can be a big, serious ordeal, but we can't forget about our youthfulness, lust for life, and the most important part, hosting a party that has the artisan touch that will make your day creatively yours.

Thank you to all guests, vendors, and staff who made LoveSick wedding expo 2016 such a blast! 

Thank you to all guests, vendors, and staff who made LoveSick wedding expo 2016 such a blast! 

You can see all Wild Eye's #LoveSick Photobooth photos taken here: http://wildeyephotobooth.pixieset.com/guestlogin/lovesickexpo/

Follow Wild Eye on Facebook for updates and to participate in their photobooth contests and join Wild Eye on Instagram for weekly motivation and fun!

Nayda The Painter

"Can we push our hangout back to 1pm?" I texted. I’m usually late; I recently moved to Boston and constantly rely on Google Maps. Of course it would be fine. Nayda would have to re-heat the black rice dish she made for us to eat for lunch, the one she scrambled over to find the perfect Puerto Rican recipe that was vegetarian for my needy ways. But it would be fine.

Hopping out of Ty's red Ford Transit van, my camera bag hanging heavy on my shoulder, I looked around at Nayda’s neighborhood block: a cozy tree-lined street with the pale New England colored houses. It was my first time in East Arlington, MA, and to this day I proclaim "if I'm going to raise my non-existent children anywhere in Massachusetts, it'd be here."

Nayda gave me a giant hug as I stepped into her home, smelling the homemade veggie dish from the foyer: black rice and black bean salad laced with tomatoes, peppers, and green onions. I was drawn to the kitchen, which was painted pale yellow with splashes of red and had the functioning format of those who use their kitchen often and smartly. This was the first time I’ve had a formal hangout with Nayda and I listened to her story while sipping on my to-go coffee cup. She told me of her move to Boston 6 years ago, how she's only experienced three difficult Boston winters, how her husband is a chef and they met in dance class, and the details of when her family spent a month in Italy. I recently rifled through her pics on Facebook (cuz I do that) and sure enough saw a delightful series of Italy snapshots of her husband, their 3-year-old big-eyed son Lucas and Nayda’s smile under her dark curly hair. The photos had the backdrop of family city bike rides and in front of her exhibition of small paintings in Venezia, Italia.

I put the first bite in my mouth. Sweet and savory. She smiled and must have known I was drifting away from her stories due to the delicious taste of cilantro and lime, salt and pepper. She began to explain Puerto Rican food and the different salts and spices she used… I drifted again. Shit, I hope I don't cry. I cry with exceptional food. My psychologist friend, Breanne, recently told me this behavior was my way of taking notice of the small things. “It's okay,” she assured me, “The world is full of beautiful moments."

“Welcome to the studio!” Nayda beamed after our lunch was over, guiding me through sheer curtains to her four-seasons room. We landed in a wooden-paneled, newly carpeted, place of relaxation. She quickly lined up a series of small oil paintings on her painting station- an easel of stacked cardboard boxes fixed to the artist’s height.

I squinted my eyes to allow myself to swirl in the detail of her artwork. I was familiar with her small-style of painting, with panels the size of an iPhone, each one consisting of a superbly rendered oil-painted woman’s portrait. "#Latina: Reclaiming the Latina Tag” is Nayda’s investigation of Latina stereotypes in online media, particularly Instagram. She’s obsessed with portraits and believes we connect with other first through the face and that’s why "the painted portrait still has the power to move us”.

She showed me the teeniest little brushes she uses and they reminded me of floss. Holding each one gently I admired their delicate size. She let out a laugh and I looked up fast enough to catch her modeling her bi-focal glasses that she uses to focus on detail while painting. She flashed a cheesy smile and crossed her eyes, then quickly removed them and threatened me if I photographed her while wearing them.  

Despite her explaining to me how excitedly nervous she was about her latest Artists Residency at MASSMOCA she is self aware and continues to discover herself and her cultural identity through her art. It was a dream, I thought, this four seasons room, the bright afternoon sun slicing through the windows, these warm walls, what a space of pure zen and creati-

"MOOOOOMMMMMMMM!"

In ran Lucas. He darted into Nayda’s thigh burying his head deep into her denim jeans. I had walked past him when I first arrived, as he quietly watched a YouTube episode on trucks while his hands were wrist-deep in red bowl filled with kid munchies. He had looked up while I walked past him to the kitchen and glared. His expression was like a tiny Sean Penn; "what are you doing on my turf..."

"Quiero galletas...” he whimpered into his mom’s waist while avoiding eye contact with me, his left hand holding a small truck and layered in sticky. Cookies may have been what he was requesting but in reality he wanted his momma's attention. I shuffled around the studio while they talked cookies and zeroed in on all the children’s art materials: glue, markers, dried clay projects and orange ottomans that were kid-sized. Nayda, now half-cuddling with Lucas, noticed my gaze and told me how she hosts weekly art classes in this warm studio for the neighborhood kids, giving fellow mothers a well deserved breather.

“It’s an internal thing,”, she quipped while snuffing Lucas’s plastic truck out of her face, “I have this maternal instinct with children, I know I have to give myself to my child and it’s equally important to be happy in my space and create. It's finding the balancing act- who can watch him so I can get away. How to be involved in my community with other moms to socialize in my community. Talking as much as I can. The world, karma, God, whatever you believe in, sends people and things into our present and I try to do the best with what’s in my reach.”

We made our way outside, Lucas leading us to a playground in Magnolia Park, Arlington on his big wheeler making “vrooming” noises. He could have a future in trucking, I thought. Nayda shut the metal gate entrance behind us and I looked up towards the afternoon sun and the playground spread: a scattering of kid sized bulldozers, big wheelers, shovels and pails. It was as if an outdoor toy convention had happened. I’ve never seen this before.

"Whose are all these?" 

"They are community’s. The toys are all donated and free to be played with by whomever."

Lucas let loose in the park, sliding and swinging with his mother, laughing from one moment and gazing like the miniature man he was the next. I snapped photographs quietly, smiling and being casual- careful not to interrupt this mother and son’s playtime or dictate any actions that weren’t natural. That’s important with family photo shoots, you have to let the life happen. The sliding. The swinging. There is nothing like the dynamic of energies between a parent and their lil' cub during play time.

Suddenly I realized this wasn't a special trip to the park because a camera was involved, this was part of Nayda’s daily routine. Every day she balances her art career with her family's needs, which include rolling around in the grass of this friendly local park. 

I asked Nayda how she does it. All of it - painting, mothering, pushing her creative self. She took a long breath in and assertively offered her advice: “I love my child and husband and there’s no magical solution- there’s just an attitude of how much you want it. As long as I have a goal set ahead that I have time for myself I can look towards that. I give every Monday to myself, and with that, I’m like ‘okay I can do this’.”

This is what self awareness and creativity is like for Nayda, allowing herself to be grounded for her family and perhaps this is what we all need: Mondays, daily hugs, salt and pepper, and the ability to be open and drive to continue on.