The Rusty Lens » Photography and Lifestyle Blog

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dsc_9846aPhotography tips for beginners. Are you a beginner new to photography? Are you flooded with beautiful images all over and feeling discouraged? Do you constantly ask yourself when will then be now?

I hear you. I bought my first SLR camera in 2002. Do you notice it’s missing the “D”? That was 15 years ago. Do you want an even more embarrassing secret? My images from then didn’t really look too different than my images from 4 years ago. I was a slow learner.

2010 tips for photography


The biggest jumps in learning came from:

  • taking a basic photography class, ie. learning the exposure triangle
  • buying a prime
  • watching a few basic editing tutorials via youtube
  • shooting nearly every day
  • reading two of my favorite photography books

Please note that those weren’t all in the same year. Or in the beginning. I didn’t start shooting every day until 2014.

2011 tips for photography


Here are my photography tips for beginners

1. On the basics.

The first must in photography is mastering the exposure triangle. My favorite book for this is Understanding Exposure by Brian Paterson.

Then comes the rest of the mechanics. My favorites books for that are The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman and The Art of the Photograph by Art Wolfe and Rob Sheppard.

Then, when you’re wanting to look a little deeper into your intention, my favorite is Photographically Speaking by David Duchemen.

Want some lessons and assignments? Try the Visual Toolbox by David Duchemen.

Want the books cheaper? Buy used! I did! Amazon and ABE are my favorite places to buy used books.

2012 tips for photography(2012)

2. On Shooting.

You need to practice. Practice, practice, practice. 

I get it. I used to leave for work and come home in the dark. And my home wasn’t any better because I lived in a cave. Okay, it was a duplex. But it felt like a cave.

To get more shooting in, try:

  • taking a photo walk
  • visiting local tourist stops
  • heading downtown
  • going to the zoo or aquarium
  • getting in your backyard
  • practicing in window light
  • asking your friends or neighbors to pose
  • going to a park or botanical garden
  • going on a hike
  • and try shooting in the different rooms in your home, no matter how unfavorable you find the conditions

You’ll want to practice metering and more specifically practice in the different light. How does full sun effect your metering vs open shade?  When you get a little more comfortable with your settings you’ll want to learn about the zone system.

2013 tips for photography(2013)

3. On Editing.

I learned two ways. The school of hard knocks. And hours and hours of editing videos I would find.

I came across Michelle Kane’s actions, and though I liked them a lot, they weren’t entirely the look I was going for. I did learn a ton from her videos though.

David Duchemen created a series which I couldn’t find, but I learned a lot from his free sample video that is on the page.

2014 photography tips

4. On Workshops.

I’m sure you hear about workshops left and right. And I’m going to whisper this because it isn’t exactly popular. Workshops are great when you need to be pushed. When you need hand holding. When you want forced deadlines or someone else to do some leg work in organizing for you.

Workshops are also expensive. And I have taken some where I have been sorely disappointed. And they can be disappointing for a variety of reasons, either they can be run poorly and have poor instructor involvement,  they can be superficial and lack general content or they can be a rip-off of a book you could have bought for 10$ used online.

I’m super super picky about where I spend my photography dollars now. And it’s also something I have kept in mind when I have created any products or teaching materials.

That said, I have taken workshops I have loved and that have been helpful. One of my favorites will be turned into a self-study course this year which means a huge savings for everyone. I’ll be sure to share when it is released.



5. On discouragement.

It’s easy to feel like you’ll never get “there”. But first off, “there” is a moving target. Even when you get somewhere you will still move past it and think, oh gosh, I thought I was there, then. You will get there. You will get there faster if you are willing to work harder and push through it. The more information you take in. The more you critique your work. You will progress, I promise.

It’s easy to compare your work with others. Please please please stop. I always wanted to be like my friends in high school, super skinny and not 8 feet tall. You are what you are. Even with all the tools and training, you will never be someone else. You are you. Your innate personality is behind the decisions that will determine your voice. Your voice will be unique to you anything else is not authentic.

Everyone was a beginner at sometime. Sure, some people put in more hours and some people just had more natural wherewithal to get somewhere faster. Typically we don’t like those people, I know many of them, lol. But, most people take a little while.

Find some positive photography friends who understand. Everyone goes through slumps.

2016 Tips for Photography2016)

6. On encouragement.

You can do this.

You will get there.

If you’re not enjoying this, you’re doing something wrong. Enjoy the process.

Start a 365 project, a 52 project, or some other variation. Get involved. Put your photos together, watch your improvement. In this post, I share images from 2010-2016, any further back requires manually uploading backup CDs due to a hard drive crash. Can you see the changes? The editing changes? How long it took me to get rid of that God forsaken excess camera tilt? The difference in composition and light? It takes time. It doesn’t have to take as much time as it took me, but it’s not a progression that occurs overnight.

Baby Steps.




DSC_5546zAhhh. I’m on the other side of a very stressful six months. That’s not to say that my days are no longer stressful, quite the contrary, I have six children. But I am trying to grasp at serenity wherever I can find it. In the tall trees out my bedroom window. In the beautiful orange tree full of tiny green orange babies. In the hydrangeas the previous owners bestowed upon us. In the new peonies I have added to our garden. In my neighborhood walks where I am greeted by amazing gardens and friendly cats. In hot summer naps. In the cool evening air that blows in after the hot days.

Every night around our supper table we share what we are greatful for and my cup runneth over. I could not ask for more.

Okay, that’s a total lie. Maybe a cleaner house. Or a finished kitchen. hah! But my heart is full.

The Serenity Circle is a collaborative blog project sharing our serene photographs with you each month. Please continue on the journey and visit the next blog to complete the circle.

Click HERE and check out the fabulous Kathy Roberts and see what she found this month.

  • June 22, 2017 - 6:24 am

    Wendy - Beautiful imagery – all of them. The bottom image in particular is so beautiful.ReplyCancel

The part where we finally call a place home.

The owners said we could “stay” in the home. Because they didn’t want the squatter coming back, and because they wanted us to be able to protect our goods that were being housed in the garage. And because we had a closing date that was super close.ome

And I tried to abide by the rules. I really did. It started out as, well, they can’t expect us to sleep on the floor, so let’s set up the mattress. And we might as well set up the bed frame. And the furniture doesn’t fit in the garage so we put it in the dining room, what’s the difference between the dining room and bedroom.

And basically, it turned into, “as long as I don’t put any holes in the wall I’m still abiding by the rules”.

I was desperate to nest.

And then one afternoon I met Michael down in Berkeley. The title company sent us a mobile notary. And we sat outside on a really bright sunny day, next to a little garden and signed what felt like 100 pieces of paper.

I finally had a home.

And funny thing, all those bad things I had felt when I first saw the house… they evaporated. What I saw as crammed turned into cozy and quaint. This neighborhood was perfect. I have loved every single neighbor I’ve met. I love the location. I love the city. I love the tall trees. The sounds of the birds. And I saw the potential.

I knew we would make this house so perfect. Just a little bit of renovating. that’s a lie. It’s a metric shit ton of renovations. But we will make it through.

The house doesn’t come without some downsides. The lots are small. Very small. And our houses are mirrored. So my kitchen looks right into my neighbor Claire’s kitchen. And we both have very large kitchen windows. That face each other.

And let’s just put it this way. We finished installing some kitchen cabinets one late night and got a text shortly after, “the new cabinet’s look great!”

It’s a good thing we really like our neighbors.

And we will try and teach ourselves to wear pants. Always.

I also love this town. The bay area is huge. And crowded. But we live in a small little town at the very top of it. And our town is… a bit eclectic. And odd. And sometimes upscale. And sometimes trashy. I knew this was the place for me when I went to the local Safeway at 10 pm to find a woman pushing shopping carts in the parking lot in a bathrobe, slippers, and with curlers in her hair. First, it’s 2017, who the heck wears curlers in their hair to bed? Second, bathrobe and slippers too? This woman must have time traveled.

Also seen in this town, a teenage girl walking her pet snake to Walgreens.

Anyhow, I hit the ground running. I wanted everything unpacked and in its place in 30 days.

And well, that was semi-laughable, because it’s now been 65 and I’m still not there, but, in all fairness, I got the stuff that mattered. Most of the boxes left in the garage are either camping gear, tools, or clothes that I sure as hell won’t unpack until we have our laundry under control.

We are almost done with our moving claim. To which I’m sure we’ll be given a giant middle finger. We’re placing bets on how much we’re compensated after they did thousands of dollars of damage. The manager we were dealing with at one point suggested that their industry doesn’t attract the smartest folk and that this is a par for the course. Do they attract elephants? Because I’m quite certain one stomped all over our stuff!

But I’m finding peace with that too.

I ventured to Ikea. In Emeryville. In Michael’s truck. Which I will never, ever, ever do again. Hello, 27 point turn with people staring and probably available for viewing on youtube. I bought new beds for the girls. Cole has a new bed. We’ve got a giant dumpster out front for the renovation so we can rid ourselves of all the broken pieces and begin our new start.

We pulled down some kitchen cabinets. We started knocking out some walls. We demoed the “lovely” lava rock wall. We pulled up the carpet. Our goal is to finish with the phase one remodel by Christmas.

And man do I love this house. It’s a little dark for a photographer. I know I don’t get my camera out as often as I should because of that. But one day. We’ll throw in some skylights. We’ll get some walls knocked down.

But it’s wonderful right now.

And it is not our forever home. It’s just our home for now. And it’s where our hearts are hung. And looking back at this journey, that is just what we need.

This was a big risk. It was a huge amount of change. And there wasn’t a single time along the way that we didn’t question ourselves. Were we doing the right thing? Would this bring us more quality of life? Will the kids be happy? What if we move and it’s not what we were looking for?

But we’ve been here a few months now, and I am quite certain we did the right thing.

First Weekends from The Rusty Lens on Vimeo.

And some more randoms from around the house in March and April.



Do your thing and be happy.

You may have seen me talking a lot about what I’m letting go of. I’ve been clearing out my Facebook, my house, and I’ve been letting go of certain roles and responsibilities, including the decision to give up teaching my workshop. All for what?

To do my thing and be happy.

What is my thing?

My thing is being a wife. It shocks me how many people think that our priorities should be elsewhere. Online, or with our friends. I take care of my husband and he takes care of me. Together we take care of our family. This is a priority.

My thing is being a mama. I did love my old job. But I didn’t do it because I loved it, I did it because I had to. I did it because I had to pay bills. It was always our goal that I would become a stay at home mama. And since we have six children, it really is a full time gig. I remember a time I longed for this, cried for this, and when it finally came true, it was amazing.

My thing is being a homeschool mama. My husband and I both graduated college after having children. We did things the hard way. I want them to do things an easier way and be more prepared for it. So we plan their education around it.

My thing is being a stock photographer. I stopped taking clients years ago. It didn’t fit my schedule. Stock photography does. I try and make a college try of it. But it’s flexible. While I was moving I wasn’t able to upload any images. They were OK with that. Now I’m getting more settled I can add some new images each week. Stock is something where the more you work it the better it works for you. Stocksy is income that increases our quality of life.

My thing is getting out in nature, going on walks, talking to my friends, remodeling my house, not, that is not my thing, lol.  But these are things that are making me happy. There are things that don’t make me happy that are still my thing.

If one of your things is not making you happy. Stop doing it. If someone else’s thing is not making you happy, stop looking. It’s really that simple. If it’s not that simple, make it that simple.

Many moons ago when I was a teen in what we will call a “group session” I said, “I didn’t have a choice”. And the “counselor” said, “you had a choice, you just didn’t like it, or you didn’t like the consequence that came from it, but you had a choice”.

You have a choice to be happy. Make it. If not for you, then for fuck’s sake, for the rest of us bastards that have to watch you not make it. Life is short. There are things that matter. There are bigger fish to fry. Fry those. With butter. Everything is better with butter.

Wise Words | A dangerous blog series composed of ramblings and inspired thoughts

meal planI need to meal plan. It is essential for my family and for my health, both mental and physical. It helps me organize. It saves me money at the grocery store.

I have tried pen and paper, ziplist before it went out of order, plan to eat, and now, real plans.

There are good things to be said for all of them. The pen and paper method is free. Plan to Eat is cheap, and it’s great if you already have a go-to collection of recipes. But, Real Plans is revolutionary for me.

First. My friend Jessica introduced me to it, I was hesitant at first because I had a current method. So I paid for my meal plan subscription. This isn’t a paid endorsement. I do have an affiliate link you can click.

weekly meal planWhy I love this meal plan tool:

I don’t eat meat. My husband is a carnivore. I am trying to reduce carbs, gluten, sugar, processed foods, etc. Sure I can find recipes that meet my needs and add them like I had been doing.

OR. I could find a service that does it for me.

Yep. It fills my week with a meal plan that meets every one of my dietary requirements. Don’t like what it put in? Change it out. Need to add an extra meal for the carnivores? Add one. It has a recipe roulette tool to replace meals so I don’t have to go in search of one.

And I can SEE a thumbnail of the food. I am a visual person, this is huge for me. I can move them around if I need to change things up. I can see what side dishes  I may want, or, it actually makes suggestions for me.

I can add any recipe to the planner so I can keep my favorite recipes. I have been looking up Julia Child recipes and importing them so I can have the ingredients in my shopping app.

Then, it sends a shopping list to the app on my phone.

Also, every meal I have made has been delicious.

Why it is different than other meal plan methods?

It can auto populate my week with a meal plan. This alone is mind blowing. If I lost track of time, didn’t have time to manually select my meals, I have a fail-safe ready to go! This is where my current meal plan method fails me most. I needed time to meal plan. Now, I don’t!

It asks you which meals you want to cook! Don’t need 7 nights of meals, select how many. I use a lot of left overs for lunch so I was able to put in what I needed.

It asks me how many servings I want and adapts the recipe. Why is this great? Because I have 8 freaking people in my family. That’s usually twice the size of meal portions. Want to make extra so you have leftovers? Bam. Need less because birth control actually works for you? Reduce it down to what you need.

It can do it with special recipes that meet several different diets: Vegetarian, different varieties of paleo (normal, primal, or AIP) whole 30, GAPS, Keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, or just plain traditional. If you have a special diet, you know how awesome this is.

If you want to specify a quick meal, a make ahead meal, or a wildcard, you can do that. Which is awesome when I want to meal prep my lunches for a week. Want seasonal recipes so you’re saving money on produce at the store? Of course it has that. Becasue this thing is genius.

It allows you to add on subscriptions to some of your favorite food blogs that meet those needs. I have been loving Love Real Food, so I added Cookie and Kate recipes.

And… wait for it…. it TELLS YOU WHAT TO DO! It pushes notifications to your phone so that if you have to defrost something, or make something ahead of time it sends you a ping. Ping, go take your chicken out. Ping, make your chia pudding for tomorrow morning.

Why it is worth $$

Do you really need more after the above? Okay, it is pricey. My girlfriend recommended a trial to make sure I was in love. I did a three month subscription to make sure. It was love at first recipe. I think 72$ is a lot and I totally value my dollars. But, when I fail to meal plan properly I can easily blow 72$ in one grocery trip. So, I actually feel this will save me money in the end. No need for all the junky processed foods for when I screw up and don’t have a dinner planned, even frozen pizzas can cost our family a good chunk of change. No need to eat out because I am too lazy to figure out what to cook. I can’t even add up the ways that blows our grocery budget.

They also have tons of videos on their site: Real Plans

Product Review | My views and opinions are mine, and mine alone, they are not influenced or bought. In other words, I do not blow smoke up your ass in exchange for free loot. If you’d like to get in touch about a product review or collaboration please email

on my plate a health journey
It has finally happened. I saw my reflection and truly didn’t recognize my body. Who is this girl? I’ve always thought I was fat, so it’s easy for me to dismiss. I’ve always been a little… curvey. But now, for the first time, it’s really there.

It actually started in 2012. Michael’s unit had a formal event, and I went and grabbed one of my go to dresses, and I couldn’t zip it. Like, not even close. I felt like something was wrong, this had to be a mistake. I had lost most of my baby weight. It’s like my whole body had expanded. I didn’t look fat; I didn’t think. I didn’t feel fat. But this dress was not going on. And my BMI is now in the overweight category.

And I’m so done. I’m taking my health back. I’m done being several sizes too big and growing. I’m done hiding from getting my photo taken. Just a few years ago I was in college, and I was in the best shape of my life. I can do this again.

I feel like I need to make a disclaimer. I am incredibly happy. I love myself. And oddly enough, I feel more beautiful than I ever have. But my health is going down, and fast. I can feel the toll on my body. My feet, knees, and hips suffer. Some of that is surely from so many pregnancies, but, I can do better. I can feel better.

health journeyThe Game Plan is SO simple. Move more and eat better.


Okay and this is going to sound crazy, but one of the biggest things that deters me from high-impact exercise is not being able to find a good sports bra. I am not exactly your garden variety A-D or DD or even DDD size woman. I recently purchased a SheFit bra. I’ll report back with a review.


This is SO hard. I’m a pescatarian. (I’m a vegetarian who eats fish). I am looking into autoimmune diets, Mediterranean diets, gluten free diets, clean eating diets, and more. I don’t know exactly what I want/need to do. And I’m having some health problems to boot, so I’m working with my doctor to determine what will be the best for me.

I also do not have a stove. I have a microwave and instant pot. For the next two weeks.

So for right now, we’re going to start with some basic health necessities: fewer carbs, less sugar, less processed foods, more protein, and more vegetables. And then as we get a little further along I will make the changes I need to.

Drink Water

For the love of all things holy! I need to drink more water. I drink my body weight in coffee, but that doesn’t count.

But I’ll be reporting my weekly success and failures. They say if you write it down and share it you’re more likely to stick to it.

I’m ready to do this. And it wouldn’t be the same without a before photo.

health journey

On my Plate is a series documenting my journey to get healthy. This isn’t the journey to be a perfect size; this is a journey to be healthy and fit to enjoy more out of life.

  • June 14, 2017 - 1:16 pm

    Sasha - You got this Court!!!ReplyCancel




After three months apart over the course of selling a house, packing, moving, puking, and hotel stays, we were finally coming home. We were finally going to be together.

So we booked a flight.

And a trip to the vet.

And packed up our stuff we’d been amassing, because my children have a wonderful grandmother who spoils them.

And we got back on a plane. And it went pretty well. I think. I don’t know, at this point in my life I try and forget the bad so it either went well or so bad that I’ve blocked myself from thinking about it.

Oh, yeah, see, now I’m remembering. And it was definitely option B.

But we arrived. And I was hurrying though the airport waiting to jump into my husband’s loving arms. Phew. Finally.

Uh… honey?

“I’m stuck in traffic… I’m going to be another hour. I’m really sorry.”

inner dialog “I fucking hate you and want to light you on fire.”

what I actually said. “ughhhhhh. Okay“.

First, we just pretended Nash was a service dog. Which, oddly enough he was so traumatized from the trip he super behaved. So that worked. Second, they had a Starbucks right next to the baggage claim. So we snacked on fresh fruit, and I drank my body weight in coffee.

Michael finally arrived, and we packed our belongings in like Tetris masters. And drove off. Almost. My coffee was still on the roof. Can’t forget that shit, it’s vital equipment.

And finally. We were off.

Once we got outside of San Jose, California really started getting pretty. I had never been a fan. I must be crazy because everyone tells me how much they love SoCal, but, I’d seen it, been there, had the t-shirt, it didn’t do anything for me. Northern California…. Now we’re talking. The hills, trees, winding roads. This was speaking to me.

I planned our flights so we would arrive on Michael’s weekend. And if we’re staying in a hotel anyways, we might as well go somewhere fun. So we picked Monterrey, and I finally crossed the Bay aquarium off my bucket list. We loved it. We loved the city. We loved the sights. We loved the food. We even loved our retro 1950s hotel. We celebrated and went out for a Hawaiian dinner, which, when we choose to take six children into a restaurant it’s a big deal. Because it means at least one of us is sacrificing our sanity, will be covered in food, eat one handed, and that’s if you’re lucky and you’re not standing leaning over the table rocking an inconsolable child. Despite forgetting shoes for a few kids, something that sadly happens way more than I care to admit, it went really well. And it was so delicious.

We had planned on driving down to Big Sur, but with the heavy rains, a bridge was down. So, no dice.

We decided to stick around and do the 18-mile scenic drive and see Carmel and enjoy a sunset on the beach before doing the two-hour drive to our semi-final destination. Carmel was special. I will go back.

We drove up to East Bay and got a hotel that we were hoping would only be for a week. It ended up being two. Things kept getting pushed back.

We made it work the best we could. We explored. We house sat in Oakland in a really cute house. We watched Moana on repeat with an HDMI cable. Friends. HDMI and a laptop. We will never travel without them. SO great when you want to veg out.

And I finally got to see the house.

My first reaction wasn’t exactly amazing. I was probably still a little tired. And grumpy. And it was a little bit of a shock. Everything in California had seemed miniature. I don’t mean to say that like a spoiled brat. The houses were small. The streets were small. The neighborhoods were small. The driveways were small. It felt cramped. I drove up to our house, and it felt like my car was bigger than it.

It was a gross over reaction. Although I must admit, I’m not a fan of the German style painting and homes. And the house was terribly outdated. I knew I could work with that. I’d seen the photos 1000 times. I already had a new kitchen planned. But it was still a little bit of a shock.

I knew Michael had done the best he could. He had a hard job. Buy a house without his wife seeing it. And pray she doesn’t hate him for it.

I can be happy anywhere. So I kept it to myself. Or really leveraged it for when the moment arose that I wanted to fling it during a fight, but that’s neither here nor there. And in hindsight, it’s kind of funny I had such a strong negative reaction because I have fallen in love with my home.

Another weekend came, and we were off to Fort Bragg, CA. I was so excited about this one. Quiet getaway on the coast. Driving up the high way 1. It was going to be relaxing. And a breath of fresh air despite all our troubles we’d be having with the bank, the sellers, and the moving company.

Did I mention winding road? We had some car sickness causalities. No worries. We can work with this. Not the first time someone has barfed in our car.

At least we got to see some whales before the vomiting started. Or during. I don’t remember.

We got back in cell range to get a text from our movers. Deliver tomorrow or be charged 600$ a day. Awesome. Freaking awesome.

Thankfully the seller’s realtor knew we were so close to closing, so he allowed us to move into the garage. Not ideal. I was looking forward to the movers putting things in the rooms. And putting together the furniture. That was after all the biggest benefit to paying an arm and leg for their moving services.

So we had to end our trip to the coast early. It wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped. We were so late. And we ran into problem after problem trying to pay the moving company. And they were frustrated. And we were frustrated. But we got it done.

We met them at the house, with our realtor, who had news.

As I threw myself on the floor in protest, upset, frustration, desperation he asked, “do you want the good news or the bad news.”

Me: Definitely good, give me the good first

Him: The sellers said you can stay here starting now, but just not MOVE IN like you own it yet

Me: Oh shit, what’s the bad

Him: WElllll they found a drug addict squatting in the house last night. He’d been staying here a few days and was breaking in the back.

Me: Grand. Fucking Grand.

And then the movers opened the truck.

Shit was destroyed. Boxes rattled coming off the truck. Boxes were barely holding on; they looked like those little origami packages. And the movers were douches. They complained about everything. They wanted to know why we had so many books. And they wanted us to know how heavy they were. And they pretty much hated us.

And then they left all their food, trash, cigarette boxes, water bottles, and all the packing materials in the street and all over our yard. And they didn’t assemble any of the furniture. Because they had broken or lost everything to assemble it. And when I gave them something else to assemble they jumped in the truck and drove off.

And of course told their boss that we told them they could leave all their shit. Because that’s what we would have said if we were asked. not.

I cried. I was filled with hate. But whatever. The most painful parts of this were now over. And we had a closing date in hand. In just a few short (or long) days we would own this new home. So we just held on tight and tried to see the ride for what it was. We enjoyed the weekends where we could explore our new part of the country. And even though we couldn’t officially move in, it was already starting to feel like home.

But in all that chaos and madness, I felt like I was home. I’ve lived all over. I’ve lived in four countries. I’ve lived in five states. My mom taught me early, home is where your heart is. My heart was with my family. And we were home. And we were starting an exciting adventure. And all of a sudden I was just so relieved and so filled with home.

I’m going to make this little nest mine. And it’s going to house my little babies. And we will live and love here. I can feel it. Good things are happening.



print your photos


You take photos, you ooh and ahh as you look on the back of the camera, you upload them, you edit them, you carefully share them to social media, and then BAM! Your photos go off to die a slow painful death on the back of your hard drive. Hopefully you have a back up and they aren’t just counting down days until they are lost forever.


Print them. Some. All. Enlarge some. Get some on your walls. The ideas are endless.

I used to scrapbook. Scrapbooking and photography went hand in hand. The more I got involved with scrapbooking the more I wanted to improve my photography. The more I improved my photography the more I wanted to scrapbook. And I was hardcore. I worked with several magazines. I worked on assignment. And freelance. I worked with manufacturers. I loved it. And then I went back to school. And my photos never saw the light of day.

During that time the scrapbook industry practically died. Magazines folded. Manufacturers went out of business. The industry is fairly unrecognizable from where it left off back in 2007. But something that developed during that time is Project Life.

Dude. This is amazing.

I printed a whole year of photos in a week. A week!

print your photos

Here’s my process and how to print your photos:

I create a collection for each month. I go through and grab the photos I want to print. I don’t grab them all. I try to be fairly ruthless. What do I want to print? What do I need to tell the story? The system I use allows for 7 full size 4×6 photos and then 12-14 photos that will get printed 2-up on a 4×3 photo. But I really don’t focus on that until I see how many I want to select. I just grab them and put them in a collection.

I rate the photos to print. Now I look at how many I select. Because each page holds approx 19-21 photos I can see how many page spreads it will be. I like to keep my amount of pages per month to 4 or less, basically one page for each week. Birthday, Births, Vacations, and special trips can get extra pages. I can also take one of the full size 4×6 photos and make it a 9-up photo collage to hold more images. I rate the full size photos a 5 and the ones that can be smaller a 4.

LR Print Module. This is where LR is amazing for this. I use print templates and drag all the photos onto the appropriate template and print to file. Then I go into my Project Life cards and grab what I need. I know I want a title card for the month, and I like having a journaling card. If I have extra spaces I can look for some to help highlight the photos, or some cards just for fun. I used to buy the physical versions, and those are great, but I love the digital versions. No storage I have to worry about, and I can just browse them right in my LR Catalog. Also– digital packs are so inexpensive and you can use them over and over.

PS Print.  This part is because my computer is special. It will not just print the files out of my file browser and get them right on the borderless print. So I open the files in PS and I created an action to batch print them with the right print settings. I also add my journaling to any of the cards while I’m in here.

Cut and Stuff. I trim the cards that need to be trimmed and stuff them in the right pockets! Bam! Done. Now you can sit back, flip through and enjoy.

It’s that easy. I freaking love it. I have my photos printed. My kids love flipping through the books. I have journaling down! You think you will remember this forever, but it fades. Time goes SO fast. I love creating something to accompany those photos. I am leaving a legacy for generations to have. And they will know everything behind our lives.

Click on over to Project Life and check it out! There are tons of tutorials. There are some galleries for inspiration. My favorite sets that are super practical are the Everyday Set, and the Project 52 set!


looking back

I have always loved photography. From the moment I got my first 110mm plastic barbie camera at 8 years old I was hooked.

  • I bought the nicest point and shoot I could afford in 2000.
  • I bought my first SLR camera in 2002.
  • I took my first class and bought a 50mm 1.8 prime lens in 2003
  • I started working for scrapbook magazine companies in 2003 and manufacturer/design teams in 2004 and did that through to 2008.
  • I set up a website and opened a photography business in 2005, but closed up shop to go back to college in 2007.

The progression you might expect in those four years was noticeable, but not what you might hope for. Looking back the biggest excuse for slow learning was my lack of trying anything new. I found a niche and stuck in it. Also, the transition from film to digital meant I had to start learning photoshop, this brought on new developments and challenges.

From 2007-2011 I mostly brought out the camera for special occasions and trips. But by my senior year of college I was missing photography something fierce and starting doing some shoots for family and friends and opened up a new website in hopes of doing some part time work. I started shooting more often, practicing whenever I could, and reading as much as I could find online and going back through any books I owned. Thanks to youtube and some amazing tutorials from photographers I had really gotten a good handle on photoshop. I also could never resist a good camera tilt.


2011-2013 I was working as an engineer and only did photography part time, but managed to grow my business. It would never be enough to replace my full time income, but it was definitely a place where I was passionate. By late 2013 I moved to Texas and was working remote from home, I quit taking clients. I was up to my eyeballs in work, but I was now able to shoot during daylight hours and capture some ongoings in our day to day. Here I first toyed with the idea of applying for a pro program as both a validation tool and way to learn more and make more growth.

ColtonPRust.jpg, CampbellMRust.jpg, AubreyGRust.jpg, BrodyJRust.jpg. EveretteLRust.jpg

2014 I gave birth to my fifth baby. I bought the cutest hats and cocoons for a newborn shoot that didn’t happen because by the time he came home from the hospital he wasn’t a newborn. After losing that time I didn’t want to lose any more. I started shooting daily. And this was the major game changer for me. I shot everything. All day. In all situations. I started taking some workshops on macro and environmental portraiture and I applied to B&C’s pro program and was denied

2015 I continued the momentum and continued shooting. I applied for pro again and was accepted. I stopped working as an engineer and became a stay at home mom/hobbyist photographer. I put in an instructor application, had my workshop approved, and taught two runs later in the year. I continued shooting and started focusing on the photography community, mentoring services, and blogging. In the summer I put in an application for a stock company and was accepted in November.

2016 I was enjoying the ride. I taught a third run of the Introspection & Analysis workshop and mentored. I consistently uploaded to Stocksy. I began some film projects with the F100 camera I got from my husband for Christmas. I worked on new blog posts and reach. We started implementing some KonMarie in the house, trying to purge and make room and not drown int he chaos. I had a new baby. We sold our house and moved. We didn’t avoid the chaos.


2017 Total panic mode hit. Burn out. Overwhelmed. Nostalgia over the children and longing for a simpler life set in.

So… where am I going from here?

I am slowing the heck down. I will be turning my workshop into a self study course. I have already reduced the amount of mentoring I do, but I will set some new limits on that as well. I stepped down from all admin positions in various Facebook Groups. I unliked over 3000 FB pages that were clogging my feed.

I setup a goodwill box in the garage and though we purged really well in Texas I will be thinning things down again. I will be ruthless.

My goals are to document the day to day lives of our family, soak up every single moment of squishy baby time, work on a pre-school activities with the littles, enjoy quality time as much as you can enjoy quality time with teenage and pre-teen children while homeschooling, and just live life and be happy. Cultivate a good life.

And probably more so than any of that: Survive. We still have a lot of remodeling before this house can truly be functional for us. And remodeling with six children underfoot has killed people before, I’m certain of it.

One of the exercises in my workshop is to take a look back. Often times we are so hammered with forward momentum and projection we don’t take the time for that reflection. I made that time to take stock and truly enjoy where this craft has taken me. I hope you do the same.

That time I flew to Alaska with six kids.


I used to fly. A lot. I lived in Texas and worked in Alaska. I had to fly back regularly. And usually with a child in tow. And after Brody was born, with two. I remember the last time I flew. I had just come off working nights. I would come home and nap for two hours before the kids would wake. I would be up watching children during the day. I was tired. I was so tired. And then I had to fly home. Campbell was high energy. Brody was fussy. I made the long flight to Denver. Now I just had to make it to Austin. I barely kept it together. I just sobbed quietly in my seat, tears rolling down my face, rocking the crying infant in my arms. Begging. Pleading with him, or with God to just make it the last hour to Austin. It was a very long hour.

And I hadn’t flown since. It had been over two years. My parents had wanted me to come back for a visit and I just couldn’t. Wouldn’t. You pretty much couldn’t pay me to do it.

But now here I was. The hotels and eating out was so expensive that the trip paid for itself and then some. It just made sense. But I had to get on the plane. I had older teenagers that I knew I could count on for some help getting on the plane. But I knew it wasn’t going to be comfortable.

We parked at the wrong terminal and had to walk nearly a mile with all the kids, the bags, the dog, the giant ass dog kennel. It was grand.

I must say, they really did not give a crap about the dog leaving CA. I could have shoved one of the kids in the kennel and they would have been “good to go!”. I only make note of this because on the way back down Alaska was HELLLLLLLLL.

But we made it. Dog is checked in. Kids and I make it through the shit show of taking shoes off and getting through security. Now we’re on the other side. And the real pain hasn’t even started yet.

And of course, in awesome airline fashion we were spread all over the plane. They did the best they could to try and get us together, but they said I would have to ask for some trades once I got on board.

I asked the first man, “excuse me, I’m traveling with six children and we are spread out, would you mind trading us for the window seat over there”

“uh, no”.

*asshole* I should have put Brody next to him just to make him suffer. But fine, Everette and Campbell went there.

Next man, “excuse me, I’m traveling with six children and we are spread out, would you mind trading us for the window seat over there”

He takes one look at what he’ll be sitting next to if he doesn’t give up his seat.

“I don’t want to, but I sure will!’

Good man. Wise Choice.

We made it in one piece. The first flight was rough. Brody was on repeat. Loud. Upset. Couldn’t figure out what he wanted. Nothing satisfied him. Not tired. Pippen wasn’t thrilled. She wanted to howl and do her own thing. And not be next to Brody.

Second flight gave us more room and had us sitting together. When we first got on board I asked the attendant if Nash had made it on board. He said, “is he large and does he bark a lot, if so, he’s here” to which I said, “yep, that’s him!”. Brody put up a good 20 minutes of protest and then crashed. And then Pippen crashed. And then I realized I had brought nothing to support her in my arms so I would be holding her all night. lol. #regret #amateurhour

We arrived. Deboarded. And were greeted by my parents. And down by our luggage we were greeted by Nash.

Butttttt. The belly of the plane froze and they couldn’t get our bags out. Or at least that’s the story they were going with.

Two hours later we got our bags and were on our way. It was the first time back in Alaska in over two years. It was the second time I’d seen my dad since he fired me while I was nursing in the backseat of a rental car. Long story. I was home. A home away from home, when I have a home.

There is always something about going to your parent’s house. This wasn’t the home I grew up in. But it’s a home I’ve lived in for short spurts. It’s a home that has memories. Like that time I was half naked about to get into the shower and I saw a black bear heading for my dad so I grabbed my sweater and the closest shoes to the door which were high heels and went running looking like a garden variety hooker into the street.

Or that one time I went out with some girlfriends and had a horrific reaction to red bull and slept on the front porch till morning. And I still maintain and will with my dying breath that it had nothing to do with the 8 shots of vodka they put in it.

But, anyhow, home is where the heart is. Or where your mama is. Or where anyone who is willing to cook for you, your six children, walk your dog, and do your laundry is. I’m available for travel… anyone?

There was still jack shit on the market in California. I knew it would be at least 30 days before I would be returning. And that’s if we found something immediately. And trust me, I was looking daily. Several times a day. I was dropping my standards. Widening my search. There had to be something that would work.

But the kids and I settled in. I took full advantage of the situation and decided to shoot some stock photography. My portfolio was really limited on winter photos. And I knew Alaska would provide a nice backdrop to add some variety. And I was in a little bit of a rut with the move. I was missing my photography and nothing sparks creativity like being in a new place. And Alaska is amazing.

We settled in, started back up semi-structured homeschool routine and then we escaped to the lake. The beauty of homeschool is that we can go anywhere. And the lake is one of my favorite places out there. We played. Sled. Skied. Snow Shoed. We watched sled dog races. We went to the Sea Life Center. We went to Homer. We visited with Eagles. We visited with one of my dearest friends who was my maid of honor at my wedding.

We stayed for weeks. I love lake life. I would have stayed longer, but my mom wanted to throw a Super Bowl party and have the kids there.

And there was still jack shit for houses in California. Still.

The realtor called. He wanted to know what I had thought of the house out in Martinez. I had looked at it. I dismissed it for a few reasons, the biggest being that I thought Martinez would be too much of a commute. But also, it was three bedrooms and we wanted four. And I didn’t see the potential in it.

He persisted a little more.

Ok, let me really really look it over. And let’s have Michael take a look.

And that was it really. He fell in love with Martinez. Maybe it gave him a little bit of rose colored glasses looking at the house, because it was truly a hot mess. But we knew it would work. It came with a few compromises. But we’d be apart for months. I was tired. I wanted a home.

And then began the long process of dealing with 1. a realtor who did not work weekends and 2. a seller who lived in the middle of nowhere Montana, near Canada, and used messenger pigeons to get the word out.

This is only a slight exaggeration. It took weeks to get the signed contract. And then we waited for the financing. And we held our breath. A lot. But we had some hope and faith.

We had a home under contract. Finally.

And when we saw the end in sight, we booked tickets back down to be together again. I missed my husband. So much.

Warning: Mass Photo Content below. And I had a hard enough time narrowing it down to 35. Because, Alaska.


Read Part One

Read Part Two