Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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The Elving has Begun!

Today’s post is about our annual family photo album. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of our DIY wedding album, you can see that post here.

Almost a month has passed since my last post, and while we made it through a great Thanksgiving, I think everyone in this house (ok, maybe it was mostly me) was just waiting to get to the other side so that we could start with the Christmas festivities.

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And here it is! We’ve jumped into Christmas prep with two feet. Every day a new decoration, or ten, is hung. Present lists are being written and re-written. And then there’s the Christmas knitting. I’m doing so much fun knitting in the evenings that I may not be back here until the New Year! Kidding. (hopefully)

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But before I could even start in on the knitting, I was busy putting together our annual family photo album. Every year for the past eight or so, I’ve put together an album that chronicles our year in photos. I start with the previous Christmas and end with Thanksgiving. That gives me enough time to create the book and have it printed and ready to give by Christmas morning. I also gift the book to Calder, but I think this year it’s time to say that it’s too all of the guys in the house.

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This has become such a special family tradition. When the book is unwrapped, it’s so nice to sit down together and look at it on Christmas morning – a moment of calm amidst the craziness of opening presents and celebrating. Throughout the day the book gets passed around, and one by one everyone in the house gets to look at it.

In this post I’m sharing a few screenshots from this year’s book. You can see that it’s a little bit of everything. Photos from vacations, from weekend hiking trips, from afternoons at home cooking dinner, and silly snapshots.

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I know that making a photo book can seem overwhelming, and many people get paralyzed by the task before they even start. I’ve been making these for so long that it’s become second nature, so I wanted to share some of my tips.

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Tips for Creating an Annual Photo Album

  • make it a tradition : having a set time every year when you make, give, and look at the book makes it so much easier to stick to a deadline and actually complete the task. I know that if we weren’t on an annual schedule then I’d put off making these albums.
  • pick a service : You’ll have to decide which printing service you want to go with. There are many out there, and there are also many reviews that will (hopefully) help you pick the one that’s right for you. I always go with Blurb because I like the design flexibility provided by their software, as well as the high number count for their books (some years our albums are 400+ pages!), and the options to upgrade paper quality. You should pick the service that’s right for you.
  • there’s a learning curve : If you’re using software to design your book, expect there to be a learning curve, and don’t get too discouraged when it takes you longer than expected to create your book. Now I speed through a 300 page book when it would have taken me a bit longer years ago. Hopefully you like the printing service you use and won’t have to take the time to learn about a new company in the future.
  • keep the book simple : you can see that my page layouts are pretty simple. This was one of the tricks that I learned early on. We love looking at the photos, and we don’t like too many packed onto a page, so I keep it simple with some variation if there are photos that need special attention (either because of their resolution or because they are so beautiful/awesome/absurd that they deserve a full page of space).
  • be cut-throat with your photos choices : I think this comes with time, but keep reminding yourself that you take thousands of photos every year (I know I’m not the only one). Stick to the big and special moments and pick the best photos. They don’t have to be the best from a design standpoint, but they are the best because they capture the moment, someone’s laugh, someone else’s silly face, etc. After you’ve gotten the big moments in the book, then you can go back and fill it in with second and third tier photos until you feel satisfied with the feel of the book. I think you’ll find that there’s a learning curve with the photo selection task just as there is with using the design software.
  • leave space for the things you forgot : I like to leave a few blank pages at the end of the book. These can be used for writing down memories from the year, new years resolutions for the next year, and for adding extra printed photos that didn’t make it into the book.
  • have fun! You’re doing something so special for your family and leaving them a tangible memory of life in these crazy years. Any book you put together will be better than nothing.

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Five Tips For Shooting Better Fall Photos

Happy Monday! There’s only one week of October left, eeek! Grab your camera and go take a walk in the woods, but before you head out, learn how to take better fall photos. This post was originally published on October 30, 2014, but after a wonderful hike in the woods this weekend, I thought it was worth another look.

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Autumn really tends to steal the show in terms of natural beauty, dontcha think?  This year I took a trip to Asheville, NC and after cruising up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway I don’t think I’ll ever take fall for granted again.  I spent three days hiking, driving and simply sitting and looking at leaves.  After the trip I mentally cataloged what went well and what went wrong in terms of the photos I took.  I thought it might be helpful to share a couple fall photography tips here in case you want to capture the season.

  • Zone in.  Don’t be afraid to focus in on one tree, one branch, even one leaf!  Get close, choose your angle and go for it.  While the whole forest is beautiful sometimes when we constantly shoot at a wide angle, the viewer’s eye doesn’t really know where to focus when looking at the picture.  The resulting image will be a mess of pretty hues instead of that amazing sugar maple with fiery red leaves. While you’re busy looking up, don’t forget to look down and around too.  There are multitudes of berries, fungus and seed pods waiting to be photographed too.

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  • Photograph your subjects in open shade or on cloudy days.  Cloudy days are great for photographing people; the clouds act as a huge soft box eliminating all shadows.  Obviously you have no control over the weather, but avoid midday sun and its harsh shadows, instead find a big wide open area of shade (near a building, under tree cover, etc) and take portraits there. You should find that the light is even and diffused because of the shade, but still bright enough because you’re in a wide open area.  If the sun is peaking through and creating hot spots (over exposed areas) in your photo, it will be pretty distracting so look around and try to avoid that as best you can.  Shooting in open shade is more comfortable for you (not so hot!) and your subject (no squinting) and the balance of light between your subject and background won’t be as drastic and therefore much less confusing for your camera in turn creating a better image.

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  • Shoot when there’s weather. Shooting during a sunny day with blue skies is nice, but shooting when it’s stormy, foggy or rainy is more dramatic and interesting. Weather easily adds mood to a photograph without a subject present.  I especially like shooting dark blue stormy skies during the fall because the contrasting colors of the deep blue sky makes the orange leaves pop even more. Shooting in the rain (or right after if you want to stay dry) looks fantastic during fall.  The colorful leaves that normally look dry (well, cause they are) glisten and shine, which really brings out their color.  Think about how nice a car looks when it’s freshly washed and still has drips of water on it or how shiny your nails look when you put a clear coat on.. it’s all about the glisten 😉

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  • Try setting your white balance to Shade.  (Its symbol is usually a house with three diagonal lines next to it)  Shade basically warms up your photograph, which in turn will result in leaf hues closer to what you are seeing with your eyes.  Sometimes photography can be frustrating and disappointing because what we see isn’t what our camera sees.  It’s ok to use the camera as a tool to better create the scene in front of you.  Using Shade white balance is one way I’ve found to help the camera represent changing leaf colors more accurately. Try it and see if it works for you.

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  • Coordinate with the fall foliage.  We think about color whenever we’re trying to create something visually pleasing (interior design, picking out an outfit, choosing a palette for an art project) so it only makes sense to do the same when we’re creating photos.  If you know you’ll be the subject or the shooter, dress to compliment your scene!  This is especially easy in the fall because you generally know what colors to expect. Next time you are the subject of the photo, you’ll compliment the scenery and visa-versa.

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I planned on only dishing up five tips, but here’s a bonus that works for shooting in any season and setting: Shoot during the golden hour.  This rule basically runs every photographers life.  The light is warm and shadows are long, which creates for interesting and beautiful photographs.  If you want to shoot the changing leaves and natural scenery, shooting during the first hour and last hour of light is highly advantageous.  The colors of the yellow, orange and red leaves will look even more brilliant during the golden hour so plan your walks just before sunset!

Have fun and happy shooting! Oh and if you snap a shot using one of these tips, tag us on IG @liveseasoned because we would love to check it out 🙂

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Winter Photography Tips

Sarah is a professional freelance photographer – she’s always sharing tutorials. Learn how to find flattering natural light for selfies and portraits or catch tips on photographing kids and pets. See what camera Katie shoots with or check out my favorite lenses.

Live Seasoned Spring 16 Photographing Winter Landscapes08Live Seasoned Spring 16 Photographing Winter Landscapes14 We agree, it’s a little bit strange to talk about Winter Photography Tips in mid-April, but did you see all the snow that fell in Boulder this past weekend? It wouldn’t stop! With a house full of food and relatives and the fire on full blast, we enjoyed every second of the snow.  We even made it outside for a hike up the mountainside.  If you’re still enjoying wintery snowscapes, here are a few practice pieces of advice for photographing in the snow. Continue reading

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Our Camera Equipment – Sarah’s Camera

We often get asked about the cameras we use to take pictures for the blog and our instagram account, so today we thought it would be fun to do a series of posts where we each talk about our equipment and how we use it. This won’t be a lesson in photography, rather just a discussion about what we use and why it’s worked for us.

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Sarah here:

I use a Nikon D300s with 24-70mm f2.8 & a 35mm f2.

If I’m being honest, (which of course I’m always striving to be) I’m due for an upgrade. I’ve had this camera for over five years, but I truly love it so the years fly by and I keep clicking with this babe.  The tricky thing about shooting with DSLR cameras is that the lenses are just as important (some would argue more important) than the camera body and the good lenses tend to cost more than the camera body itself, so it’s always a struggle, for a frugal freelancer like me.

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Our Camera Equipment – Katie’s Camera

We often get asked about the cameras we use to take pictures for the blog and our instagram account, so today we thought it would be fun to do a series of posts where we each talk about our equipment and how we use it. This won’t be a lesson in photography, rather just a discussion about what we use and why it’s worked for us.

Katie here :

I use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. And sometimes my iPhone 6s.

In the best of ways, I sort of fell into my camera. Calder gave it to me for a gift about five years ago (maybe longer!), and once I started using it, I’ve never wanted anything else. Below I’m listing some of the selling points for me, together these may not seem worth the ticket price for this camera, but what I’ve left out is that this camera is just f’ing amazing for its size. It’s packed with features, and I’m only highlighting a handful.

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How To: Find Flattering Natural Light for Portraits

Sarah is a professional photographer, from time to time she shares general photography tips and specialized tutorials to teach you to take better images.

Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s girlfriend looks extremely different depending on the lighting? If you haven’t, click the link and get caught up! If you’re a photographer, amateur or professional, you know that lighting is everything in photography, especially when it comes to photographing people and objects.

For the purpose of this post, let’s define flattering natural light as soft, even lighting without hard shadows. Let’s also aim for photos that reflect the true color of the subjects being photographed. We’ll also pretend that these photos are going to be self portraits because everyone is taking selfies these days and really the best way to master a technique is to practice, practice, practice.  You can be sure that you’ll always have yourself and your cell in most situations, so practice looking for flattering light every day that way when you need to find it, you’ll know where to look.

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How To : Photograph Pets

Apparently we loooove giving advice. Here’s a whole archive of How To: posts.  Often times we’re chatting about travel or sharing photography tips.

Happy Monday! We’re keeping it light today with How To: Photograph Pets. One of my favorite photography subjects is my dog, actually any dog or cat or bird. I love animals therefore I’m always trying to take stellar images of them. Added bonus? Photos of pets make the best presents.  Read on for ten simple tips to create better pet portraits.

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Cheap Oversized Photo Art

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How many times have you google searched cheap prints? I have a  l o t. Pretty much every time I have a show or event.  I’m always trying to figure out the best way to produce LARGE photographs inexpensively.  Katie recently introduced me to a new method: Engineer Prints.  Engineer prints reproduce line drawings and graphics with high definition and contrast, but they’re also really great for making large black and white photography prints.  Engineer prints are the perfect low-cost option when you’re looking for a statement piece without the price tag.  Since these prints range from only a buck to $10, the quality is obviously not fit for The Louvre, but they’re definitely awesome enough for a wall in your home or as a focal point at your next art show.

In addition to sharing our love of engineer prints, we also wanted to show you a simple way to add some structure to your print before hanging it. This will help to turn the image from something that looks like a poster into a more substantial piece of art.

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How to: Photograph Young Siblings

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Family portraits are hard.  There’s a good chance everyone involved has varying levels of interest in taking a great portrait.  I’m usually the one in the bunch groaning, so I’m here to tell you how to make future family shots a little less painful, specifically portraits of young siblings.

It all comes down to making it quick, easy and safe for the little ones.  You’re not going to walk away with fifty amazing portraits, but if you get one great shot, the squawks and squeals are all worth it.  In previous posts, we gave you a primer on photography, newborn portraits and kid candids.  I advise skimming those posts to get a better understanding of light and photography before setting up your mini models.

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