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Get Those Creative Juices Flowing

Let's face it, Wisconsin winters can be brutal, and I'm not just referring to the cold weather! Winters here mean that most of us experience a bit or a lot of cabin fever, which can make us all a little cranky. For me winters translates into less work, which means that I have very little distraction from my downtime. However, I've learned to cope by seeing it as an opportunity to immerse myself in a variety of things I find inspiring and enjoy. In fact, during this time I take a much needed respite from my camera. Over the years I've found that this break is essential to my well being and offers me opportunities to seek creative inspiration from a variety of sources. That alone, invigorates new life into my work and leaves me feeling a renewed excitement for it when I return. I think of it as a kind of creative re-boot for myself.

Today I thought I'd share with you something I've recently created to aid me in cultivating and channeling my creative self in hopes that it may inspire you as well. Even if you don't have a great deal of downtime, you can still make this work. And if you don't see yourself as a creative person, there is no need to fret because no creative experience is required and it's not complicated in the least. My belief is that all of us could benefit greatly from a creative outlet, it's simply good for the soul.

I'll readily admit that one of my favorite guilty pleasures is spending countless hours surrounded by the comforts and smells of local coffee shops. Recently on a whim one cold and blustery morning, I threw some things in a bag that would allow me to be creative on the go and set out to for some me time. The bag is now what I refer to as my adult version of a child's "busy bag". Even if you're unsure of what a "busy bag" is, I'm sure you've seen one in action before. They are often offered to small children at churches for them to occupy themselves during the service if they lose interest in the message. It's usually a small canvas bag containing toys, books and coloring pages. I can attest to the fact that it can be a lifesaver in many situations if you have children! So how does an adult utilize a "busy bag" and what do you keep inside it?  Instead of a "busy bag" to simply pass time, it's actually more of a portable source that encourages moments of quite reflection and procures time to create without a timeline or purpose. It's contains items that aid in self-preservation, self-exploration and is catalyst for creativity. The fact that it's all contained in a bag means that it can be easily tucked away, but still available for you to grab on a whim, whether you take it to a coffee shop or simply to your bedroom, it's ready for you. I happen to keep mine in plain site so I'm encourage to use it more often.

So now that I explained the purpose of my "busy bag" I'd love to share with you what I keep inside mine, in hopes that it inspires you to give thoughtful consideration to what you'd have in your own.

One of the first things I have in mine is an adult coloring book and colored pencils. I had a friend give me my very first one last year for my birthday. I have to admit it was something that I would have never thought to buy for myself, nor had even considered that it would be something I'd enjoy, but low and behold I do! I now have a couple different coloring books, but my current favorite is the "Time Garden" by Daria Song. Adult coloring books are all the rage right now because they have been known to be a stress reliever. You can find these kinds of coloring book almost anywhere now, so I hope you pick one up. My advice is to find a coloring book that inspires you with it's images, you'll know when you find the right one because you'll feel like you want to jump right inside the page to explore. Something else to consider is what you'd like to color with.  Some choose to color with markers or gel pens for vibrant colors, however I have fallen in love with colored pencils because you can blend and use shading to make your coloring page come to life. I will certainly never be an artist that can draw or paint, so this is as close as it gets for me, but I totally enjoy this process. I allow myself the freedom to start and stop a page as I wish an without feeling like I "have to finish this" before I move onto something else.


The second thing I keep in my bag is my Erin Condren Planner. In this highly digitized world I still find that I prefer to write down my schedule and this planner is simply stunning! I'm very much a visual person, so I got hooked on stickers that make looking at my schedule at a glace super easy for my brain to register and digest. I have stickers for when my son has hockey, when I have coffee dates, and for when I have photo sessions etc. I'm completely aware that it may sound utterly juvenile, but gosh how I love it! It's just another way that I can get a creative fix in just a few short minutes without having to make a mess, not to mention that it's productive.  Along with stickers I have a pack of erasable colored ink pens, because let's face it I make lots of mistakes when it comes to scheduling things so the fact that I can erase is essential and the colors just make it pretty. Frixion colored pens by Pilot totally rock! I've only been able to find them on Amazon, but totally worth the wait! I also keep a small collection of washi tape in my bag which I also use to decorate the week, eek I just love it!


Another creative tool I have in my bag is called a Smash Book. It's a simple spiral bound book with decorative semi-blank pages (they can be found at most craft stores). It's a place to stick anything down that inspires you or just odds and ends that you can't seem to part with. Mine contains quotes I find inspiring, thank you notes I've received, movie tickets and magazine clippings. Once again, it doesn't have to be pretty. In fact it's much better when you don't give it much thought and just paste something down. Sometimes I just stuff things in the front of the book as a kind of holding place until I have time to annually find a proper spot for it in the book. It's just a fun little book to fill up with whatever your heart desires, awesome right?


I also find that it's an absolute must to have the current book I'm reading with me, along with some headphones for music in case I need to drown out noise or want to have music be my inspiration.  So plan to leave extra room for other items you deme as necessities.

My bag has become a simple source of pleasure in my life, it beckons me on days when I'm feeling down or unmotivated and always leaves me feeling a little happier than before. I encourage you to discover for yourself the little joys this can bring you and I would love to know if you come to enjoy it as much as I do.  Perhaps your bag will have yarn and knitting needles, crossword books and a sketch pad. The ideas and combinations you can come up with are infinite! Have fun deciding what things you'll put in your bag and feel free to share your ideas in the comments below. Happy busy bag planning! 

By the way, I would also love to hear your suggestions for a name for the bag!!


Creatively yours,

Connie



Taking Anxiety out of Family Portraits

If there is one thing all of us with children have in common, it’s that we share the knowledge that time is passing by too quickly. Years seem to go by in the blink of an eye and suddenly we find ourselves watching in disbelief as our little baby marches off to their first day of Kindergarten. As we stand there watching them walk timidly up the stairs to school, we suddenly have visions of them going off to college and panic sets in.   We repeatedly ask ourselves year after year, “Where does the time go?” We promise ourselves that we will do a better job of documenting this special time in our life so we don’t forget a single thing.  We arm ourselves with our trusty cameras (or digital devices) and anxiously snap away, but when it comes to having professional family photos taken we tend to get cold feet or put it off for years!

Chances are you know how invaluable family photos are, but everything associated with it may make you nervous.  We often find ourselves stressing over picking out the perfect outfits and the very thought of having our children sit and behave for photos can be exhausting to say the least. However, I want to share with you some secrets on how to get the family photo of your dreams without all the stress!

First and foremost, you need to let go of the preconceived idea of what the perfect family photo should look like. We’re constantly bombarded with images of families perfectly posed, with perfect outfits, perfect hair and smiles. That’s simply not realistic.  Who wouldn’t feel a little intimidated when we think that’s what we have to live up to? In fact, that’s often the reason we put so much pressure on ourselves to look and play the part of “the picture perfect family.” We think “perfect” is necessary to get a beautiful family photo, but it’s not! In reality just being who you are is exactly what is needed to get the best photos of your family.  The most beautiful and memorable photos come when everyone feels like being who they are is enough. If your children hate to sit still for photos, don’t! If being serious isn’t your thing then take silly photos, do what comes natural to your family. I promise you’ll be much happier with the results if you don’t try to be someone else’s idea of perfect. Just be yourselves, I’m confident you’ll have more fun that way


My greatest piece of advice is to try your best to let go of the insecurities you have about yourself. Your insecurities are just that, yours, they only bother you. I can guarantee that you have never looked at a picture of your parents and thought “Gosh, they really should have lost 20lbs before they had this picture taken!” In fact, the things we dislike about ourselves aren’t even a factor in the eyes of our children.  For instance, my son could care less that my hair is standing on end when I wake up. He would literally let me leave the house like that without a second thought. Regardless of what you think about yourself, your children will simply be happy that they have a picture with their parents. They’ll love the memories captured, no matter “how you think you look” in the photos.

Another recommendation is to choose a photographer like you would a friend. I recommend talking to potential photographers on the phone or better yet in person. See if you have a real connection with the photographer. Chances are, if you don’t feel comfortable with them over the phone or in person (regardless of how great their work is) you will not feel comfortable in front of their lens either.  While you’re talking with them, take note of how they make you feel and if their personality agrees with your personality and your families.  I believe that having a photographer with whom you have a connection with has a real impact on the overall outcome of the session as well as the memories associated with it. If you take photos with a photographer you like and who likes you, it’ll payoff tenfold!

Finally, before you have your next family portrait session, take a moment to consider what you want your photos to say about who your family is at this moment in your lives. Do you want to look back and laugh about how goofy your boys were or do you want them to convey how tight knit your family was? Will the photographs show how silly your daughter was and how her main objective was to make you and your family laugh? I promise you, just a bit of forethought in this area will go a long way in helping you achieve the heartfelt family photos you’re longing for.  Be sure to share your vision with the photographer you chose, because it will be instrumental in completing your vision and result in quality photos!

I believe these suggestions will aid you in becoming more confident, stressing less and achieving the kind of photography that suits your family best. Whatever your family’s story, know that it’s authentic to you and should be documented in way that showcases that beauty and uniqueness.  Life is precious and so are the people we share it with, so promise yourself you’ll take action now and make it a priority to be photographed with your loved ones more often. I promise the memories you have captured today will be one of your greatest treasures in your family’s future!






My Advice for Taking Great Summer Photos

Well friends let's get the beach ball rolling and talk about capturing your best summer photos yet! In my opinion photos are shot with your camera, but captured with your heart so let's make it a point to start there. First, I'd like to invite you to think about your own favorite summer memories as a child. In fact, I recommend giving yourself the assignment to pull out some of those old summer photos so you can connect with the feelings they give you.  Are those photos filled with plastic kiddie pools in the backyard, eating popsicles that stained your lips for days or are they filled with days spent at the beach, with wild hair tousled by wind and dried by the sun? How do you feel looking at them? The reason I want you to remember those feelings so vividly is because I believe that if you can connect with your childhood self, you can photograph your family's summer moments even better! You must first see summer thru the eyes of a child to capture it just right.  This year, make it a point to recreate one of your own childhood summer memories (in some form or fashion) to share with your own family. Then while you're enjoying that time together look for the moments that make you feel the way you did when you looked at your photos. Look for the pure joy, look for the fun and look for the beauty. Look for the essence of the moment so you can document it without forcing it. Remember, a photo doesn't has to be perfect to be beautiful, it just needs to be genuine.

My second assignment for you is to make yourself a summer bucket list. I personally don't like to make "Photo Bucket Lists" because it's heavy on the photo aspect and makes it more about getting the photo checked off rather than cherishing the time. So simply start with writing down the memories you want to make as a family and just plan to have your camera handy.  However, remember not to make it all about capturing the moment so much that you forget to enjoy it. I'm constantly reminding myself of that, because I realized a while back that I wanted my son to remember me being in the moment with him, instead of just observing and documenting it all the time. I promise you, the best photos just come by being present in your own life, then deciding that you wanted to freeze that moment forever by quickly photographing it.

I also advise you to take a little break from posting your family photos on social media or sharing your photos with others. Something happens when you decide your memories are just for you and no one else. Suddenly you realize the true motivation behind why you're photographing a moment and it's has nothing to do with showing off a perfect family. Instead, it's primary purpose is simply to document your family's life to enjoy for years to come. It relieves you from the pressure for it to be "look picture perfect".  In my opinion my photography got much better when I decided to do it for me, without fear of having to display it. So friends, I beg you to let your hair be wet and messy in photos, take photos of ice-cream melting all over your son's hand as he savors every lick and just decide to capture true genuine memories for the pure joy of it!

Have a wonderful summer everyone!!



Utilizing Different Angles to get Better Photos

(Photographing a subject at eye level can create deep connection)


Hello friends, I'm very excited about this topic and am anxious to get started. I've been pondering for weeks what I would write about that could influence your photography in a way that you would find beneficial. Each time I thought about it the same recurring idea came to me, which hopefully means I'm on the right track : ) The idea is about the angle or perspective at which you take your photos from. I firmly believe that how you approach the subject you are photographing has huge impact on the mood that gets conveyed and the story the photograph will tell, so let's get started!      

 To me there are several basic angles that I would like to discuss and utilize very regularly. The first one seems like a no brainer, but I'm telling you, my very own husband needs constant reminding! It's simply to take most of your photos at your subject's eye level. I believe a couple of things happen when you actually get down on your subject's level: Firstly, when you're at their level I think you're connecting better with your subject which tends to bring out genuine smiles and emotion more easily. I also believe that shooting at eye level encourages you to want to fill the frame with your subject more. It's like we tend to instinctively understand that the subjects are the focal point so we naturally zoom in when they do this, resulting in beautiful intimate shots that have true connection.


(Photograph from lower levels to get playful shots and emphasis your subject's perspective)


The second angle I love to take photos from is at a very low perspective. Yes, I'm completely aware that I just told you to take most of your photos at your subject's eye level, but as you'll quickly find out, one angle will not fit every situation nor do you want all of your photos to look the same. I happen to shoot a lot of shots of my son at a lower level when he is playing or working on something because it allows me to capture his facial expressions better. Don't be afraid of looking ridiculous laying on your back or tummy to get a shot, trust me you get to a point that you don't even care what you look like while shooting, lol. Besides, I always convince myself that no one is looking at me anyways : ) The example photo below of my husband and son playing was obviously taken from a low angle and because of that I think it captures the feeling of being right there with them in their happy little moment. Not only does it capture their interaction, and emotion,  but the photograph also shows some of the surrounds which I believe helps give this moment a frame of reference, which helps tell the story even better.


(Photographing from above captures how I see my son and can create beautiful catchlights)


The next logical angle is to shoot from above. I personally love taking photos of my son looking right up at me, they are some of my favorites because I know there will come a time that we'll see eye to eye or he'll be taller than me. It's a gentle reminder to myself that for now, he still looks up to me and how little he still is. A couple of things happen when you shoot from above, more than likely your subject will have beautiful catchlights in their eyes because most light is from above us. Catchlights happen when a light source is reflected in your subject's eyes, it's what gives eyes beautiful sparkle! Shooting from above is also great to give a birds-eye view of something that is happening. For instance, I love to shoot from above when my son is laying on the floor looking at a book or playing a board game, it's like I'm peeking in on him from above. However, when I shoot from above I will almost certainly shoot at eye level and below too in order to evaluate which angle I like the best.


(Photographing from behind can give an intimate view into a special relationship  or show how your subject sees the world)


Lastly, is shooting photos from behind your subject. I love this angle for showing relationships. I have many photos of my husband and son walking away from the camera and this sweet shot of my little guy and our furry little girl Miley. However, keep one thing in mind, many of us are very self-conscious of our backsides so most women (myself included) prefer these shots if they are shot from waist or higher (a skirt instead of jeans with big pockets may also flattering). I also use shooting from behind my subject when I want to show what my subject is looking at. For instance, if I take my son to the beach I may take a photo of him looking out a the water. Leaving him in the shot shows how small he is in the vast open space and shooting at his level shows the viewer how he sees the world at his age, both of those things make a huge impact visually.


My Greatest Fear

Your Presence in photos is necessary

Since giving birth to our son I have worried incessantly about a countless number of things, but one of my biggest fears, aside from losing our son, has always been that something would happen to my husband or myself, leaving our son without one or both of his parents. Sadly, this hits very close to home for me, because I witnessed one of my beloved aunts loose her battle with breast cancer. She was only 45 and left behind a 12 year daughter who had no active father in her life. I can't even begin to describe the kind of pain and havoc that was left in it's wake.       

What that loss instilled in me was a deep seated fear. Which leaves me constantly asking myself "if something were to happened to either of us would our son know how much he was loved?" I know we tell him constantly and our actions show it, but would that be enough to carry him through the rest of his life? Would it be enough to carry him through life's trails and celebrations and would it bring him comfort?  That thought worried me, and to this day it still does. So what do you do when you worry about something?  You formulate a plan to set your mind at ease. Other than trying to take care of ourselves, I knew that my life and death were in God's hand, death is simply a matter of when, not if. So I knew I wanted to be proactive should I be taken from this earth before I anticipated. I wanted to give our son something tangible, something that he could hold in his hands when he missed me/us. My plan was simple, it was photographs.  I planned on photographing our son as much a possible, I was going to show him how much I loved him by all the thoughtful photos I took of him and of our lives together as a family. I wanted him to know that he was the sun and moon of our little planet and that I left no shadow of doubt that he was anything but adored by us. It sounded like a great plan, he would have the photos an our words to comfort him. The only problem was that wouldn't be enough, but I didn't know that yet.      

One day I found myself discussing all of this with one of my closest friends and she pointed out something I hadn't even thought to consider. She said "Connie, do you know what your son would want photos of if you were to die?" She asked in such a way that it seemed like it should be painfully obvious. She said "He wouldn't want photos of himself, he would want photos of you!" Gosh, when she said that I instantly knew in my heart that she was right and I felt like I had the wind knocked right of  my chest! How in the world had I not even considered that? For anyone who has ever lost someone, you know that to be true. I knew all of that first hand so what in the world was I thinking? From that moment on I started to get in my own photos more and knew that I wanted to share more of myself with our son. For instance I want him to know that the reason he likes to twirl his hair while he sleeps is because I used to do that while I rocked him to sleep in my arms as a baby. I want him to know that one of  my little joys in life is watching those tiny bubbles drift and bounce around that come from squeezing the dish soap bottle. If I left this earth too soon, I would want him to know me, not just as his mom, but who I was as a person. Because knowing me, means he knows himself a little more too.       

What I'm trying to emphasis at is that I don't want you to get so caught up in documenting the lives of your children or loved ones that you forget to document who you are. You never know, the photos of you  may in fact be the best gift you ever gave your children or loved ones. So friends I implore you, have a plethora of photos of yourself. I promise you, you're kids won't care if you had makeup on or if your outfit was cute, that won't matter one iota. Just get in front of the camera once in awhile, actually scratch that, get in front of the camera a lot! In conjunction with photos have notes and list written down that leave clues as to the person you were . Leave a shoe box full of little things that are important to you and explanation of why. Have a love letter written to your children or to whomever you love should you not be able to utter it one last time to them in person. Leave them with an abundance of yourself, because that is what they will crave the most. Leave behind a little bit of you to remain with them.


Getting to the Heart of Photography

Life is full of memorable moments       


Well hello there! First of all, can I just say that I'm totally giddy that you stopped by to read my little blog. I would most certainly give you a big hug if you were here as a thank you! Yes, I'm a hugger you should probably know that about me right off the bat. If you've had a photo session with me, I can almost guarantee that I gave you a hug, it's very hard for me to refrain from it. Also, if you tell me that makes you uncomfortable I'll probably give a hug anyways because you were honest with me, no really it's true! Well I guess what I'm trying to get across is that I like to make people feel welcomed, appreciated and comfortable. So anyhow, consider yourself hugged today.       

  I'm excited to share my thoughts and ideas with you this year and I'm thrilled that you're here. Some of the things I want to accomplish with my blog is to inspire you to document your life, so that you appreciate it even more. I know this isn't a novel idea and I'm pretty sure you're already doing this. Let's face it, we live in a society that is obsessed with documenting everything, all you have to do is look around and you'll probably find someone snapping a photo with their phone and sharing them on Facebook or Instagram. However, I'm speaking more to how you're documenting and what. What I hope to achieve is to inspire you to take the photos that truly tell the story of your life, not the ones where you say "look here and smile". Those are great and they certainly have their place, but so do the day to day moments that make up our routines and make our life uniquely ours. Moments like when your son sitting at the breakfast table with his hair all a mess and you can't stop laughing about it. It's about pictures of skinned knees and tangled knots in your daughter's hair. It's also about those tender moments when your child snuggles close for a bedtime story. I'm going to be honest with you, all of those little moments mean more to me than the one or two posed photos that are hanging on my wall. Those moments mean so much to me that I have numerous heavy albums full of them. And you know what? Those are the photo that truly make me appreciate our life so much more and fill my heart with tremendous amounts of joy. So lets vow to take more of those kinds of photos in 2015. In upcoming blog posts I'll give you suggestion on how to do that and what works for me.      

  I also want to take this opportunity to announce that Wunder Photography may also be adopting this kind of lifestyle photography into it's style as well. I took time this winter to really analyze what I love about photography and what I was most passionate about. Every time I asked myself that question I always came back with the fact that for me it was about documenting life and telling a story. I realized that I wanted to somehow share that with all of you in terms of the style of photography that I offer. I'm throwing around the idea of possibly doing on going in home sessions where I would capture everyday life. Right now this is all very hypothetical and there is a lot to consider, but I just wanted to let you know where my heart is and what Wunder Photography is super passionate about. As exited as I am about this, I'm allowing myself time to develop these ideas so please be patient with me. I'm hoping to spend time asking questions and refining my photography techniques to suit this new style of photography, but you'll be the first to know when I'm finally ready to make the leap.        In addition to all of that, I just want to make this blog fun! I want to talk to you like we've been friends forever. For instance, I want to tell you when I've fallen in love with a new camera related purchase or found some awesome way to display photos in your home. Basically I want to be free to share whatever is in my heart with all of you and I hope that you're willing to listen. If you would like to follow more of my work use the links on this page to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. Please also know that I would love to hear your comments and feedback so always feel free to post them below. Thank you so much for listening and I promise to chat again with you next week! Till then, keep your chin up and a smile on your face.


Sincerely yours,


Connie Wunder


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