When I was invited to be a Nikon Mom, I came in ready to learn. After owning a Canon T3i DSLR for the past two years, I still knew how to do exactly two things: take photographs using the “auto” option and take a video with a resolution so high that it took an hour to upload a two-minute clip to my YouTube channel.
I was really more enamoured with the idea of a full day of training than with a new camera, to be honest. I figured I would simply learn what aperture is, how to shoot into the sun and how to make fast-paced action shots freeze in time and then give the Nikon D3300 digital DSLR away.
So, that’s not happening. I love this camera. It feels better in my small hands than my Canon ever did, and the 24 megapixel photos are beyond spectacular. When I get it just right, that is, which now that I’m not shooting on auto every day of the week is taking a bit of practice. I’m getting there. And the payoff is definitely worth the experimentation. Additionally, thanks to a good understanding of exposure compensation, I barely need to do any post-production editing to brighten or sharpen photos.
During the next year, I’ll be photographing some of our family’s most memorable moments. To start, take a wander through this slideshow to see just a few of the 400 or so shots I took during The K Man’s sixth birthday. (And, by the way, if you’re an amateur photographer like me and you want to know any of the camera settings, just leave a comment and I’ll gladly look it up for you.)
Angry Birds has run rampant in our house for years, and even though Skylanders is the fan favourite these days, we decided that a couple of Angry Birds here and there would be welcome.
Well, that, and Party City didn't have any Skylanders décor.
I can't tell you how much it irks me to go to kids' birthday parties where there's nary a fruit nor vegetable in sight. Before guests arrived, we laid out some healthy (and, yes, some not-so-healthy) snacks, including this vibrant veggie platter with my homemade Vitamix hummus:
- One large can of organic chick peas, drained
- One tbsp. tahini
- One tbsp. organic all-natural peanut butter
- Four garlic cloves, peeled
- One-third cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Several dashes of both cumin and paprika
- Pinch (or two) of salt
- DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a Vitamix blender (do not attempt this in your $30 blender!), blend on low speed while tamping down ingredients. Add more EVOO as needed and switch to high speed only for 15 to 30 seconds once everything is blended and moving around smoothly. Voila!
I love food, but I am not a baker. I bake precisely two cakes every year: one for each child I have borne unto this world. After I'd done it for The K Man's first two birthdays, I felt sort of obligated to continue it with Miss Q, lest she be the cliché poster child of second children everywhere. And now it has spun slightly out of control and I'm creating cakes from scratch instead of following a pre-formed cake pan with instruction booklets.
But my kids love their special cakes, and toiling over them for hours (many, many hours…) is all worth it to see the looks on their faces. Or, you know, when they get so excited that they climb onto the dining room table to get a closer look.
I'm not a big fan of the cheap and cheerful style of loot bag assembly. Instead, I prefer to get my kids' guests something of substance. This has included books and puzzles (or Melissa & Doug goodies if you have Kidville Canada plan your birthday party), but rarely just candy or dollar-store trinkets that'll be long forgotten in a week's time.
I also have a lot of fun dressing up the loot bags. Obviously.
Hostess gifts, too?!
Gotta love it when your kid's friend is your friend, too, and knows you well enough to bring wine. 'Nuf said.
One, two, three…JUMP!
I wanted to give shutter speed a run for its money on my Nikon D3300, but as a newbie to advanced camera skills, I opted for a great little feature on the dial called "GUIDE," which makes finding just the right settings for your particular situation ridiculously easy. I scrolled over to "freeze action" and managed to catch this glorious moment with my son and some of his besties totally going for a massive group cannonball.
I'm getting there but I haven't quite nailed it, so I'm making this a goal over the course of the next year: snap frozen action photos that will make Elsa and Anna do a double-take.
And this is what I love about DSLRs. Whenever I've had a point-and-shoot camera (like my old Panasonic Lumix or my very first digital camera back in 1998, the Canon S4), I've missed moments. Really good, heart-wrenching, smile-inducing, never-to-be-captured-on-film-again moments. Because the darn things just don't click fast enough.
There's nothing like the quick shutter sound that emanates from a digital DSLR; trust me, it's addictive. And so are the results, because I shot four frames in between the last photo and this one. FOUR.
If you were ever in a pool before you turned 12 and within arm's reach of a noodle, you probably remember doing this. I loved capturing these kids-will-be-kids moments with such clarity.
Jump like a pencil!
And then the uncle joined in...
One of the biggest hits of the party (and not just because he gave The K Man a copy of The LEGO Movie for his birthday) was my brother. He wasn't afraid to let the boys play fight with vigour that would send me screaming, and the kids loved him for it.
I don't have too many pictures of my little brother as a grownup, so it's nice to be able to file shots like these away.
Look at all those water droplets! Being able to capture facial expressions that are truly in-the-moment and some of the finer details is one of my favourite things about shooting with the Nikon D3300.
Calling the Tooth Fairy!
Thanks to a strawberry, we also celebrated the loss of a big tooth at the party! (Yes, we found it.)
Cut the cake
I'm not sharing this photo because I think it's particularly special. I'm sharing it to showcase how knowing your camera's bells and whistles can make a huge difference in your photography. This table is in a really shady spot in our yard. Normally, the people in the photo would be quite dark, but thanks to our Nikon training team, I know how to tweak a little of this and a little of that to brighten it up immediately.
Yep, we even spoon-feed our adult guests. We're excellent hosts that way.
Worms 'n dirt
(Actually, centipedes in dirt because the grocery store didn't have gummy worms.)
This was a huge hit, probably in large part because we let the kids make their own. We simply put out the cups and spoons, a bowl of chocolate pudding, and bowls of centipedes, bits of chocolate cake (that were lopped off the Skylander's Portal of Power cake during prep) and OREO cookie crumbs and let them have at 'er.
This was in addition to cake. I'm sure all of the parents were really pleased with me when their children were bouncing off the walls at 9 p.m.
And then the party ended, and all was still. We sat in our yard, drinking lovely wine and eating leftovers and reminiscing about what a perfect day it had been.
This is the camera I used to shoot every photo in this slideshow, using both the 18-55mm lens that came with it, as well as the NIKKOR 55-300mm lens that I purchased myself to get some of those really candid closeups.
DISCLOSURE: I’m part of the #NikonMOMents program with MomCentral Canada; I was compensated for this post and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are always my own.