You don't have to be a professional photographer to take beautiful pictures. With these expert tips from 20-year National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, you could take the ultimate photo - one that you'll love and that could win you a dream prize:
Work the Reflections - Reflections always add visual drama to pictures and can make an otherwise ordinary scene interesting. But reflections require calm waters, so get out early in the morning before the winds kick up. Also, get lower and closer to the surface of the water to get more reflections. Even a small puddle of water can produce large reflections if you are right down to the surface.
Collect the Details - Detail pictures do wonders for a set of travel pictures. Not only do they offer a welcome variety in the scale of the images (pictures get dull quickly when they are all shot from the same distance and viewpoint.) They can also reveal telling aspects of a place and its story.
Keep it Simple - Clutter kills too many pictures. Simplicity is powerful. Usually that means cleaning up the background, leaving out extraneous, unnecessary detail. So watch your framing carefully, and especially watch the edges of the frame.
Keep an Eye out for Shadows - It doesn't happen every day, but occasionally a great shadow will make a great picture. Often you'll need to get up higher to see the shadows well, and you'll need to tune your eye to see how dark they can be and what sorts of interesting shapes they may form.
Move Around to the Back - Trying different viewpoints is always a good idea, but too often we don't go far enough. Going clear around to the backside of the action can make images that offer a fresh perspective. Too often we follow old habits and shoot everything from the front.
Energizer is teaming up with the National Geographic Society for the fourth annual Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest, giving photographers the dream opportunity to see their photo appear in an ad in National Geographic magazine and winning their choice of three inspiring trips at different locations across the globe. The program is part of the new Energizer campaign called "now that's positivenergy."
Enter your best shots at www.nationalgeographic.com/lithium by June 30, 2011. Contest judge Jim Richardson will review all of the entries and select two finalists in each of 6 categories. From August 15 through September 15, the public will be asked to go online and vote for their favorites. Once the Category Winners are determined, Richardson will help choose a Grand Prize Winner, to be announced on or about November 8, 2011.
Easy Ideas for Creating Custom, Memorable Holiday Cards
Even with the popularity of using e-mail, social media, and texting to communicate with friends and family, holiday cards continue to be a time-honored tradition. In fact, according to a survey from holiday cards and thank you cards retailer Cardstore.com, 43 percent of Americans prefer a greeting card from a loved one instead of $10, and 63 percent think sending a special occasion greeting through a social network is inappropriate.
While survey results show most people prefer to receive holiday cards, people mistakenly think that creating these custom cards is time consuming. Thanks to technology, new products, and online greeting card sites, this isn't necessarily the case. By following the tips below, creating custom, personalized holiday cards can be easy, fun, and inexpensive.
Picture Perfect - Getting a perfect holiday picture does not have to involve a three-hour photo shoot with an expensive photographer. Oftentimes the best holiday shots are the candid, everyday ones shot at home. For professional-looking DIY images, use natural light (if indoors, shoot near a window), get up close, and have the subjects involved in a favorite activity. Laugh, have fun, and shoot away. Even if the shots aren't perfect, use photo editing software - sometimes just simply changing the image to black and white or cropping out unwanted parts can transform the image.
Let Your Child Be the Artist - Instead of uploading a favorite photo for holiday cards, simply scan a child's favorite drawing and quickly upload to a photo greeting card site. This is an especially cute idea for classroom or grandparent holiday cards.
Collage Card - Instead of spending hours deciding which photo to feature for the holiday card, just choose several photos taken throughout the year that highlight favorite adventures and memories. Visit a favorite online card store and select one of the many templates available.
Keep It Simple - Scour the crafting and dollar stores where there are a variety of inexpensive products to make handmade cards. Use blank cards and embellish with just one or two items - any more and it can be daunting, especially if more than 50 cards need to be made. For instance, punch out polka dots in festive holiday papers using a circle punch and adhere them to the card front in a random, whimsical pattern. Or, run a piece of grosgrain ribbon across the front of card and adhere a glittered embellishment or button.
Use a Kit - For those who lack the creative bug or are really strapped for time, use pre-assembled DIY holiday card kits. Cardstore.com has embellished card kits that combine the time-saving elements of digital photo cards with the personal, hand-crafted touch of dimensional accents. Order the photo cards online. Once they arrive, decorate the cards with the provided coordinating stamps, gems, and glitter glue. Tips and creative inspiration included and no extra trip to the craft store needed!
By following these tips, you can create easy, thoughtful and meaningful holiday cards that share the festive joys of the season.
The jars came first. Instead of sending my growing collection of empty glass receptacles to their usual fate at the bottom of the recycle bin, I did something unexpected -- something wild. I peeled off their labels and plopped them in the dishwasher.
I wanted to see just what would happen if I gave these jars another chance. Full disclosure: I was motivated not only by the thought of transforming trash into something new, something useful, even something cool, but also by the fact that jars were clogging up my kitchen. Jump to full text of article.
Kids love summer vacation, but parents often find it difficult to keep them engaged in productive activities. And most kids experience a summer learning slump during their time away from school. According to the National Summer Learning Association, at best, students show little or no academic growth over the summer, and at worst they lose one to three months of learning.
It's possible to give kids a fun way to keep up with learning by providing engaging books that feature hands-on activities. Three new books from DK Publishing will help kids of all ages fill their summer with science fun.
"One Million Things: Space" (July 2010). Perfect for backyard sleepovers and camping trips, this book serves up imagery and information about all things cosmic: from planets, moons, and comets, to black holes, nebulae, distant solar systems and more. Young readers won't be able to wait until sunset to start exploring. Elementary-aged kids will:
* Learn about spherical and irregular asteroids by playing a computer game.
* Find out about volcanoes in the solar system by comparing them to firecrackers.
* Explore the universe with stunning photographic galleries.
"I'm a Scientist: Backyard" (July 2010). Part of a new series for younger readers, this book introduces kids to the world of science with a wealth of outdoor experiments. With clear, step-by-step instructions, the book is full of bite-sized experiments that help children absorb science easily. Preschoolers and early elementary students will learn how to:
* Make a sun dial and tell time using the position of the sun.
* Find out a tree's age and then measure its height with just a stick and a piece of string.
* Learn about centrifugal force with a simple bucket of water.
"Big Idea Science Book" (July 2010). A comprehensive guide to key topics in science with a unique difference - an online component with 200 specially created digital assets that provide the opportunity for dynamic, hands-on, interactive learning. Older children can learn from video clips and interactive animations that take them:
* Inside plants.
* Around the human body.
* Deep below the surface of the earth.
Help kids flex their mental muscles during the summer with exciting projects and experiments that make learning fun. For more on these and other summer learning books, visit DK.com.
Some of you may have been wondering where the MomTalk.com events calendar disappeared to. Well, we have good news and more good news You can now find the calendar on our brand new social networking page, share.momtalk.com. You can even add events for your organization.
That's not all--once you sign up on share.momtalk.com, you'll have access to our new improved forums, live chat, groups, photo uploading and more. Share is brand new, so it's just ready and waiting for you to join and create the kind of social network you want it to be. And please let us know what you think.
If you are looking for a fun craft consider making marble magnets, which are simple to make but fun and creative. The sheer variety of marble magnet styles makes this a craft that everyone can put their unique stamp on.
Not only are they simple, but marble magnets are also inexpensive to make. Wrap a few up in tissue paper and present them to a teacher or daycare provider and you have crafted a gift that looks like more than it costs. Have the children make their own magnets that you can use to hang their artwork on the fridge. The possibilities with this fun craft are endless.
First, the supplies. To make marble magnets, you'll need the following:
♣ Flat backed marbles (found in the floral section of the craft store)
♣ Small magnets that are the same size as the marbles
♣ Clear-drying glue
♣ Simple and small pieces of art
Keep in mind that adults should probably handle the gluing for children who are under the age of about 8 or 9. Too much and the marble is ruined. As well, while you can cut out pictures to use under the marbles, children can also do simple line drawings or even use stickers under the marbles.
Here's how you make them:
1. First, trace around your pictures using the marble as a guide. Cut out the circles as cleanly as you can but keep in mind that once the magnet is on the back and the marble over the front, the overall design is fairly forgiving. If you are using stickers that are the same size as the marble, you can skip this step.
2. If you cut pictures out of a magazine or if the paper you used is very thin, first glue the design to a piece of cardstock and cut that into the circle shape too. If the paper is thin (like magazine paper), the glue will show through and ruin the look of the marble.
3. Dab a small amount of glue on a magnet and place the picture down on top of the magnet. Then put another dot of glue on the top of the picture and place the marble over the top. Hold the marble for a few minutes so it sets cleanly over the magnet. Leave to dry.
4. You're done. It's that simple.
Here are some ideas for packing these up for a unique gift.
Pack several of these into an Altoids container that you have covered with fabric. You can also buy plain aluminum tin containers that might hold a few of the magnets. Look in the scrapbooking section of the craft store for these.
If you're giving these to a teacher or daycare provider, consider taking pictures of each child under their care. Present them with a set of marble magnets that feature pictures of the children. Or have the children make simple drawings for the magnets.
Spell things out with the magnets. You can make one magnet that says, "I", another that has a heart and then a third that is your child's name. Consider using parts of their own artwork to make the magnets. If you are making magnets for a child's room, find wallpaper or other elements that coordinate with the room.
Making marble magnets is a rare craft that is suitable for all ages and abilities.
Warning, danger. Summer break is right around the corner.
Ok, it's not riiiight around the corner, but it will sneak up and be here before you know it. Are you ready for your kids' summer break? Are you prepared to give them a great break?
Summer break is a special time for kids, and you can do much to ensure that they remember their summer breaks with fondness and laughter.
It all starts with the development of a summer box. But warning - after you begin this tradition, your children will look for their box every year.
A summer box is nothing more than a box that you fill with goodies for summer. It might include a calendar of events, treats, outdoor fun toys, new video games or movies and new books. It could include games or toys or anything that your children enjoy doing.
How to build the box
First, find a box you want to use as the summer box. You can re-purpose a box you already have (say, box from a recent purchase like a computer printer), or you can purchase one for this purpose. Think about something sturdy that can be used for as long as summer break lasts. Your children will be in and out of the box often.
If you have more than one child, you can make boxes for each child, or you can provide one box for all the children, with some items that are for specific children.
If you decide to re-purpose a box, have some fun with it. Buy a can of chalkboard paint and paint the entire box with the chalkboard paint and then use sidewalk chalk to decorate it with pictures you draw and perhaps your children's names. You might even hint as to the contents of the box.
What to put in the box?
The best thing about planning the summer box is that it forces you to think about summer. If you want to register your child in that art day camp that always fills up, planning and orchestrating a summer box now helps remind you that now is also the time to sign up for the camp.
As you go about signing your children up for things and booking summer travel, start a summer calendar for each child. Add dates and activities as you plan things, and keep adding to the calendar until the last day of school.
Now is the time to get the best summer goodies before they are gone. Children of all ages enjoy these kinds of summer toys:
♣ Water balloons
♣ Beach balls
♣ Sidewalk chalk
♣ Flashlights (for those all-important late-night flashlight tag games)
♣ Art supplies
♣ Sand toys
Then, think about the specific interests of your children.
If you have one child that's a video game fanatic, you might include a new video game. Of course, you can still remind that child there will be limitations on playtime, but adding a game to the box is also a subtle way of letting your child know you are interested in their interests.
Have a child that would spend every waking summer moment on his or her bike if possible? How about a new bike horn or helmet?
If your kids love going to the movies in the summer, you can add some movie candy to the box, or even some inexpensive DVDs for those days when it's just too hot (or stormy) to be outside much.
To balance the box, make sure you cover all the bases:
♣ A calendar (so your child can know what's on the agenda as far as vacations, day camps, swimming lessons and parties go)
♣ Some fun and silly toys like the water balloons and beach balls
♣ Something to read (new books or magazines)
♣ Special items your kids might need for camp or vacation
♣ A photo album or special box for your child to save summer keepsakes
♣ Special items that are specific to your child's interests and hobbies
Finally, one great advantage of planning the summer box now is that you can take advantage of coupons and sales to get good deals on all of your summer box items.
Have your box ready by the last day of school and include a special treat for that day's afterschool snack. Your kids will need their nourishment before they head outside to play with all their fun summer box goodies.
Editor's note: how do you plan ahead for summer? Use the comment area below to share your ideas.