Around Our Clocks - 11am | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Every month, I seem to comment about how back and forth the weather has been in Northern Virginia. April was more of the same, though fewer cool days mixed in with the warm. For our April Around Our Clocks blog circle, we documented 11am.

Swimming has taken over our Saturday mornings lately. Even the baby is taking lessons at our local Fairfax County RECenter. :-) Both boys love the water.  The baby is a big splasher and my older son is quicky growing more confident swimming. It's so much fun watching him play with my husband after his lesson.

Continue the circle by visiting Heather Tully Photography to see her April image.

Swimming at Fairfax County RECenter by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Print Your Photos - For the Fridge | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I'm often annoyed by the paid advertisements on my social media feeds. Some of them are so far off their targeted market that it's comical. But sometimes, they get me. And I'm actually appreciative. Chatbooks is a great example with their encouragement to get moms in the picture.

Recently, I saw a Shutterfly ad for unlimited free prints through their mobile app. It had been awhile since I'd ordered prints through my usual lab and we had no pictures of our youngest on the fridge (he's eight months old now!) so I thought, why not? I was also curious to see how the quality compared to my professional lab.

The free prints are for their 4x6 and 4x4 square images.  The process from my phone was simple. I upload my favorite images at full resolution to Flickr as I edit them, so it's easy for me to download therm from the Flickr app to my phone and then pull them from my phone's gallery into the Shutterfly app. Once I picked the ones I wanted, I paid for shopping and was done. It took less than ten minutes.

My prints arrived in a little over a week. It was immediately apparent that my monitors are not calibrated to their printers (meaning the color looks off - this is why it's a good idea to check with your photographer before making prints from a professional session), but for the cost and effort that went into getting them printed, I'm satisfied.  And now I finally have updated prints for my fridge!  We have stainless steel fridge doors, so magnets aren't an option, but I love these durable and removeable sticky frames.  

Want to learn how to document your family's everyday?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

A Birth Story | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Birth is such a personal and revelatory experience, whether you're experiencing it yourself or are present for it. I understood this on some level, but didn't fully realize it until I gave birth to my first baby.  After that, I was in awe of the birth community - the amazing people who so lovingly support women and their partners in bringing forth new life.  When I discovered that birth photography was “a thing,” it immediately resonated with both the mother and documentary photographer in me.  

Woman in labor at Inova Loudoun in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

While birth isn't part of the everyday for the average woman, it is very much a natural, beautiful part of life that is being experienced somewhere at every moment of every day.  It is, at once, both routine and normal, and at the same time earth-shattering and full of the unexpected.

In many ways, birth photography is the epitome of the documentary approach - being on call, being ready for the unexpected, and being comfortable simply watching it all unfold through the lens. It's a beautiful process and represents a profoundly transformative time in life, whether it's your first born or your fifth. Once you hop on the ride, there's no getting off and life will never be the same afterward.  In this sense, what better experience in life is there to document? :-)

Woman in labor holding hands with husband in Leesburg, Virginia hospital by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

As a mother and photographer, I feel particularly compelled to tell the stories of motherhood and family. I hoped to one day be able to preserve this piece of a woman's story -  of a family's story. Many women and their partners are left with gaps of memory or knowledge after a birth. So much happens in such a short period of time and its amazing how quickly you forget details (especially during the wonderful, but potentially sleep-deprived, first months). Doulas and caregivers are wonderful resources in piecing together a birth story, but having pictures or video can pull all the fragments together in such a meaningful way. Documenting a birth is a wonderful way to preserve such a eventful piece of a family's story. And what a beautiful gift to a new life as well, who will have their arrival and first moments on this earth, surrounded with love, documented.

Woman laboring in tub with husband in Northern Virginia Hospital by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Given all the variables of timing, work, and family, I didn't know if I'd ever make it happen. But the stars aligned in March of this year, thanks to the wonderful ladies at Arrow Birth, who are working hard on a revolutionary approach to education and support surrounding childbirth.  I was able to support them in documenting not one, but two births (in the span of a week, no less!). My mama and photographer hearts were on cloud nine. :-)

I also got to dive into film work. My primary focus for both of these births was not my usual still images, but video. I'll share the resulting films soon, but for now, these are some of my favorite images from my first birth with this wonderful family welcoming their rainbow baby girl at the Birthing Inn at Inova Loudoun Hospital in Northern Virginia.

Mother holding newborn baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Want to learn how to document your family's everyday?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

March 365 Project Faves | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Despite a last minute resurgence of winter, spring seems to have finally arrived in Northern Virginia.  We are happy to be enjoying longer days and spending more time outside. As usual, many of my March 365 project images were taken in the morning.  I'd love to have a bit more variety, but I also adore these moments with my family and am glad to have captured them.

Want to learn how to document your own family's day-to-day?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun plan for documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

Around Our Clocks: 9AM | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Sometimes I have the luxury of an extended moment to shoot a scene. While telling a story in a single image is wonderful in its own way, I also love the variety that comes with a series. I can find different angles/perspectives and choose different elements of the story to focus on.

Here is a typical morning at 9am in our house (no surprise, we're still in our pajamas). My son enjoys feeding our hamster by hand (despite being bitten a couple of times!) And I wanted to capture this part of our routine.

This post is part of a collaborative documentary photography blog circle called Around Our Clocks. We're documenting a day in our life over the course of one year.  Continue the circle by visiting Fort Collins Family Photographer Betty Berg.

Boy waiting to feed pet hamster by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy feeding pet hamster by hand in Alexandria, VA by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy feeding pet hamster in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Want to learn how to document your own family's day-to-day?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun plan for documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

Playing with light | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

There are a variety of triggers that give me the urge to pick up my camera when I'm with my family. Most often, it's a combination of inspiring light and some activity. For daily shooting, my favorite times to shoot are when the boys are snuggling or reading in bed with my husband.  This usually coincides with the pretty morning light that comes through our bedroom windows. Often that's the only time of day when there's not too much other things going on for me to grab the camera for at least a few shots.

Boy resting on ottoman with sun flare by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Now that longer days are here, I've been reminded how much I also love shooting the afternoon light that comes through the windows at the front of our house.  It's mostly where our dog sleeps and the couch is covered in her hair, so we don't use it as often as we used to before we gave up trying to keep her off the couch.  But my son doesn't mind the dog hair and enjoys practicing his "tricks" jumping between the couch and the ottoman.

On this day, it was a perfect marriage of pretty light and a fun, quintessentially childhood, activity. I spent a happy half hour watching my son jump around. Shooting into the light can be difficult to expose for, so taking time to adjust your settings until you get the look you're going for is key. It's easy to lose your subject and other details in the bright light, but it's fun to play around with different exposures for a mix of haze, sun flare, and dramatic rim light. I shot around 80 images and got 8-9 good images where my son is in focus, the composition is favorable, and the light adds to the story.  Here are my favorites.

Boy jumping on ottoman with sun flare in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy jumping on couch with sun flare in Alexandria, VA by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy jumping on couch with rim light by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Want to learn how to document your own family's day-to-day?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun plan for documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

One Second Every Day - A 365 Video Project Guide | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Video is quickly becoming the the next greatest thing when it comes to documenting family life. Today's post is a special essay from Whitney Rowland, a fellow documentary photographer in Northern Virginia. When I met her around this time last year, she enthusiastically told me about her One Second Every Day (1SE) project, where she committed to documenting one second of her life for 365 days. When I saw the resulting compilation of her project later, I knew I'd ask her to share her experience and tips for others interested in preserving their everyday in a new way. A way that conveys the beautiful simplicity in life and elevates the mundane into meaningful. 

First, a bit about Whitney, in her own words:

I’m a Northern Virginia dweller who satisfies my wanderlust by eating delicious foreign foods whenever possible. I’m a teacher, yogi wannabe, and fan of stand-up comedy. I sometimes get fancy and use a Canon DSLR or Fuji mirrorless to photograph my life but most of the time you can find me playing with my iPhone and sharing bits and pieces on Instagram

And now, all about 1SE.

Hello readers! I am excited to be Nicole’s guest blogger today– especially because I am going to share with you all something I feel really passionate about: DOCUMENTING THE EVERYDAY! Oh, and wait… not just documenting but how to make preserving memories EASY. I mean, really really easy.

Sometimes it can feel like we spend just as much time documenting our life as we do actually living it. Between filters, cropping, and uploading our photos – it can become a chore. Most of us lead full and hectic lives that don’t leave a lot of room for capturing the everyday.

After my failed attempt at a 365 project (where I challenged myself to take a single photo every day for an entire year) I realized I needed a better way to document. Before owning an iPhone, I seemed to only capture photos of trips and holidays but I wanted more than a highlight reel - I craved an accurate representation of my life as a whole.

I wish I could look back and see times in my life such as my first year of marriage: hanging out together in our high rise apartment’s laundry room waiting for clothes to dry, ordering take out from our favorite Thai restaurant, celebrating weekends with our friends at bars in DC – the seemingly trivial parts of our life that were actually what the majority of our days were filled with. I’ve learned that no matter what phase, you will never get that time of your life back. Every day is significant and all moments matter. Each year is filled with changes and growth and it all happens so fast!

In 2016, I decided to start a new 365 project. I read an article about an app called One Second Everyday and it sounded like a fun project that would be little work on my end. I would be taking a video every day – which sounded much easier than a photo! No time wasted trying to make an interesting composition, capturing a perfect moment, or editing. I was also intrigued by the idea of showing movement.

The app looks like a calendar and lets you pull up your videos for each day. You choose which video you want, drag your finger to pick a single second, and just drop it in the calendar to save it to your project. The app keeps track of the date and organizes it – making it think-free. You just have to remember to grab a video each day – and the app even has a reminder feature to help with that too!

One Second Every Day 1SE Northern Virginia Family Photographer

The project takes minor dedication… seriously, you brush your teeth more often in a day than you need to whip out your phone and grab a video (and let’s be honest: you are using your phone more than twice a day anyway! Oh, and feel free to film yourself brushing your teeth if you forgot a video that day).

My tips for a successful 365 project:

  1. Start taking videos now. I started mine on January 1st but that doesn’t mean you need to! It is ALWAYS a good time to start documenting! If you absolutely need a distinct beginning and end to quell your OCD tendencies, try doing monthly projects that summarize a single month or make a project that starts on a special day such as your birthday or anniversary. But seriously. Just start now. You will not regret it!

  2. Pick a way to hold your phone while filming and stick with it. I choose horizontal because that is how our eyes see the world and it’s the way TV and computer screens are positioned. It also shows more environment in your footage. You can pick what you want - just don’t mix vertical and horizontal or else your video will look a little wonky.

  3. Mash your clips and watch your progress every so often. It will keep you motivated! I remember watching my January video and it gave me the enthusiasm to continue with the project!

  4. Don’t be shy about pulling out your phone. Just grab some video and get over it. Maybe someone will wonder why you are taking a video of your husband picking out paint at Home Depot but who cares.

  5. Go easy on yourself. You missed a day? So what. I missed a bunch of days in my 2016 and have probably missed even more in 2017. Try to get as many videos as you can and it will be awesome.

  6. Update your calendar every few weeks. You could do this every day if you want. I definitely don’t. In fact, I like to go a week or two because then I can make sure I have a good variety and not too many of the same thing.

  7. Try new perspectives. In a single video, you can try a variety of angles and then pick the one you like the best. Play around and have some different viewpoints across your videos – especially if you find yourself filming in the same places or the same things often. If your videos for a week are strictly of your 2 year old at the playground, try putting the phone on the ground and getting a view of from under the swing as you push him or just his feet as they come down the slide.

  8. Delete what you don’t need or want. Once you select your chosen second for the app, you can safely dispose of the video from your camera roll. Unless it’s a really meaningful video, don’t let it clutter your phone and take up precious space!

A lot of 1SE users have talked about the benefit of self-reflection with this project and that was something I didn’t expect when I started. Not only are you keeping memories alive, you have the opportunity to reflect on what you have experienced. I am physically able to see the things in life that mean the most to me and how they shape me as a person. Also, it’s just plain fun to watch and share with those you love. I can’t wait to show my son what our life looked like the year we found out he would make us a family!

I hope that you are inspired to use 1SE!

2016. The year I turned 30. The year Andrew and I made big life decisions. The year I had great adventures, played with tons of kids, laughed a lot with my friends, and loved my family: one amazing second at a time.

I hope you found Whitney's words as inspiring as I did.  Share your tips for 365 projects in the comments.  And if you're in need of additional 365 inspiration, check out my photo-a-day 365 tutorial.  

Fun Places to Visit with Kids in Northern Virginia | Documentary Family Photographer

I would be stretching the truth if I said that I didn't consider photo opportunities at least a little when planning outings with my family.  There are times when I don't bring my camera (though I almost always wish I had!), but most days I have it with me just in case.  There are so many wonderful family places to go in Northern Virginia and, as I sit here greatly anticipating the return of warm weather, I thought I'd share some of our family's favorites. 

Udvar-Hazy Center National Air & Space Museum | Chantilly, Virginia

This place is amazing and though I love the Air & Space Museum in D.C., the Udvar-Hazy Center is so much better.  Admission is free, though there is a $15 parking fee (and no other parking options that I'm aware of).  This place is expansive, which is great for energetic children and there is just so much to look at - from the Space Shuttle Discovery to historic aircraft like an SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the Enola Gay. There's also an Observation Tower and an IMAX theater. You can easily spend an entire day here.  It's great for super hot, cold, or bad weather days.

Jones Point Park - Old Town Alexandria

Jones Point Park is located right at the edge of Old Town Alexandria.  There's usually plenty of parking, though it can get busy on the weekends.  We love it because there's so much to do and so much free space, which is great for energetic kids (notice a theme here?).  There are two playground areas - a large one for all ages and a smaller one on the other side of the bridge with some great climbing structures for older or more adventurous kids.

Boy on swings at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

There are some great views of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the river, as well as a couple of fishing piers.  There's also a lighthouse a short walk from there and some pretty garden plots back towards the entrance.

It's a perfect place for a picnic or a great tack-on to a trip to Old Town. 

Rocky Run Park - Arlington, Virginia

We happily discovered Rocky Run last year.  It is a climbing kid's dream, but there are also great areas for smaller kids too, including toddler swings and climbing structures, as well as a sand pit. There are also basketball courts and a soccer field.  But the massive climbing structure is the highlight for us.

boy climbing at rocky run park in arlington virginia

We're usually able to find street parking here, though this park definitely gets busy on the weekends.  There are lots of places nearby to grab breakfast or lunch, including the Whole Foods (which has easy parking) hot bar.

Mason Neck State Park - Lorton, Virginia

Mason Neck is great for short family hikes.  Our favorite is the Bay View trail which goes right along the Potomac River, with some beach access, and also winds its way through some marsh areas, with some great bird viewing.  Mason Neck is dog-friendly, so we love bringing our lab for a hike too.

There are several other trails, lots of picnic areas, and a playground too.  There's a small entrance fee to the park, though there is one trail that is accessible (with parking) outside the park.

Are you in Northern Virginia or nearby?  Are there any places you would add to this list?

Want to learn how to document your own family's day-to-day?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun plan for documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.