Saturday, April 30, 2016

Some news

Warning: Very long text post ahead.

When you were younger, what did dream of becoming when you grew up? It’s probably no surprise that my aspirations varied greatly; I bounced from nun to doctor to writer to astronaut as a child. As I got older, I realized that I had a talent for writing and stumbled blindly into the world of journalism. In college, I discovered my passion: telling other people’s stories. I loved peeling back a person’s layers, getting at what they didn’t think was worth examining and showing the world just how lovely it was.

After college, I was fortunate enough to elbow my way into the world of regional magazine publishing. I was doing what I loved, even though I had to juggle three jobs to make it work, and I was busy but mostly content.

Then the magazine got bought out. My colleagues were getting laid off or jumping ship in droves, so I seized a lifesaver of my own in the form of a communications office for a government agency. After a few years, I was making more money than I ever would have imagined making before my 30s, doing a job that I was quite good at and that made decent use of my journalism degree.

And I was restless.

I dreaded waking up Monday mornings. And Tuesday mornings, and every other weekday mornings. I lived for the weekend, when I felt like my time was my own. I found myself calling off sick because I just couldn’t stomach the thought of being a cubicle drone that day. I used my vacation days liberally, desperate for any excuse to escape my life. I accepted that this was my normal, my life: Living each day as a countdown to 5 p.m., viewing my job only as a means to an end, a necessary evil that must be endured in order to live the rest of my life the way I wanted.

You, blog readers, can probably always guess when something big is happening in my life. I quietly disappear from my corner of the internet, either because I’m simply overwhelmed and need to “do” one less thing or because it’s the only way I’ll keep secret information from spilling out in a public forum. Such is the case these last few weeks.

I woke up. A series of perfectly timed events jarred me out of my complacency, which I realized was no way to live a life, and I took an enormous risk. It’ll be quite a while before I can be sure that it pays off, but I’m fairly certain it will.

I’m leaving my cushy government job for a gritty, difficult job with less material payoff but far greater job satisfaction. And starting in May, I’ll be the editor of my very own magazine. I’ll be the one-woman show running Columbus Weddings, the publication I’ve been freelancing for these last several years (and the one I was an assistant editor for right after college, back when it was called Columbus Bride). I never could give up my ties to that publication, even when I was making enough money to not need the freelance income. I feel like that has to mean something.

I’ll also be editor for several ancillary publications of the main parent magazine, Columbus Monthly. It puts out numerous niche products a year, from Best Driving Vacations and City Guide to special feature sections on the Columbus-area suburbs and several small advertising-driving features.

It’s going to be a rocky few months; I’m going to hit the ground running with two big projects from day one. I don’t know what that’s going to mean for Verbal Mélange in the long run; but for now, I ask for your patience as I adjust and keep things pretty low-key around these parts. I’ll see you on the other side :)

(Also, because I can’t skip my attribution: The quote in my post title is from Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, in case you were wondering.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekending: Virginia Beach & Colonial Williamsburg

Hey there ladies and gents (or let's face it, probably mostly ladies), I haven't disappeared! Things have been crazy lately, it tends to be when I'm not posting much. I'll get into all of that in a few days, I swear.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some photos from the trip I took last weekend. Matt was working in Virginia Beach for the week, helping open a new store, and I decided that was a good enough excuse for a road trip. I drove halfway, to Roanoke, VA, Friday after work. Emily lives there with her boyfriend, Will, and I crashed with them for the night. We all got up early Saturday and headed down to Virginia Beach. Matt ended up working all weekend, but the three of us had a lot of fun exploring the area. Sunday afternoon we started back to Roanoke, but stopped in Colonial Williamsburg for dinner on the way. Will's parents gave us a little tour of the area, which was about the most adorable thing ever.


It was pretty chilly on the beach, with the wind, but we saw some surfers from the pier nonetheless.


I was dying over the kitschy sea life taxidermy. I didn't buy this guy, but I did get a little blowfish with googly eyes and a straw hat to hang from my rearview mirror. Cam promptly ate it. (Don't worry, she's fine.)



We toured the old Cape Henry lighthouse, which was the first federally funded lighthouse in the country. It's not in use anymore, but the newer black-and-white one nearby is. We toured the inside of the old one.



Would've been a great shot without the graffiti. Damn kids!



Colonial Williamsburg was so, so pretty and quaint in the best way. We were there just before sunset and got some amazing light as we were exploring.





I recently won a new Panasonic DMC-FC1000 bridge camera, and I took it with me to test it out. I thought it might be a nice camera to take on vacations and trips, instead of lugging (and risking) my Nikon and a few lenses. It's a nice little camera, can go fully manual, and it's super lightweight. But I felt like it just had a couple of limitations that I couldn't get past. It does do fantastic macro shots, though.

I took Monday off to drive the rest of the way home, making a pit stop in good old Athens for lunch on my way. It was a great weekend :)

Now I have to dive back into another crazy week. I'm hoping to get my 52 Week Challenge photos posted soon (I haven't fallen behind on that yet), as well as some good news to share with you!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 13

This week was another portrait week, and it should have been a breeze because portraiture is my main photography style and the one I'm most comfortable with. However, the theme was "high key" and while I thought I knew what that meant, turns out I was wrong. Kind of.

When you Google "high key portrait" or "high key still life," the first thing you'll notice is that there's a lot of white and a lot of brightness. "Okay," I thought, "high key is just a nice, bright image." I wound up shooting three different models for this one, because despite the simplicity of my understanding of the theme, I wasn't quite satisfied with how the photos looked.

I learned photography with natural light, and when I shoot indoors I'm typically working with babies and toddlers so I tend to flood the area with light. That was my initial approach for this week's challenge, but after my second shoot I decided I wanted stronger shadows. Which is how I got this:


I think it's a great shot. It achieved exactly what I wanted it to, thanks in part to the model following direction extremely well. However. It turns out my instinct to bump up the shadows was incorrect; a true high key photo has relatively low contract in terms of the ratio between light and shadows. In that respect, my second shoot was more of a technical sucess:


So there you have it! Have you ever shot high key photography? What challenges and successes did you experience?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 12

It's an artistic shot this week, and the theme is "transportation." I had a couple of ideas, but one didn't pan out and another I didn't have time for, so we're left with my third option:


This little car has lived on the outside sill of our garage since we moved in. I'm fascinated by it. Where did it come from? Who put it there? The previous tenants of this duplex lived here for five and 10 years respectively, and they didn't have kids. How long has this little guy sat here, unable to leave without a working wheel?

In other news, I had a couple of photo shoots this weekend. If you're interested, you can check out some adorable first birthday photos and some beautiful maternity photos on my business blog in a week or two. Having clients this awesome makes my job easy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 11

This week, the challenge was a landscape that features a reflection. Initially, all the rain we got for the week had me thinking I'd do a puddle reflection. Ultimately though, I decided that that kind of shot would fit more into the "artistic" category than a true landscape one, and after my totally lazy portrait-as-an-artistic-cop-out, I had vowed to stick more to the true spirit of each week's challenge.

So I headed up to Antrim Park with Cam, attaching her leash to an old climbing harness so I could shoot with both hands, and had a nice stroll around the lake. The clouds rolled in about halfway through and I thought I'd missed my chance at any good reflections, until this happened just as we were about to leave:


How serendipitous, right? As always, there are a few things I wish I could change--my shutter speed was a little low, because it was so overcast and I was mostly shooting the actual landscape, not the birds. But hey, I'll take what I can get.

Someone in the Facebook group for the challenge suggested I crop it in tighter on the ducks. I thought about doing that during my initial edits, but again, the shutter speed wasn't quite right. See what I mean?


Close, but no cigar.

Of course, that wasn't the only good shot I snagged during my walk. The following was a close runner-up, but ultimately I decided that while it was pretty and well-composed, it just couldn't compare to the action in the duck shot.


The next two challenges are going to be pretty interesting, I think. I've got a few ideas for both (and some new gear to try out on one), so I'm pretty excited!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hello from the other side

I don't want to jinx it, but I think we might have winter behind us. HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIIIIIIIIIIIDE! Yes. I did that.

I'm very excited about this, obviously. Not that I don't love my light therapy lamp, but I'm looking forward to some REAL SUNSHINE in my life for the next several months. And the temps! Oh god, it's 7 a.m. and the window is open right now. I don't think I can even begin to describe how happy that makes me.

Anyway, I took this photo at the dog park last night because it is officially light enough for long enough after I get home from work to take Cam to the dog park! Huzzah!

IMG_0531 copy

Welp, I'm off to spend the day staring wistfully out my office window and wishing that it opened.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 10

Well guys, if I had any doubt about making my portraiture my photography style of choice, those doubts were erased this week. The challenge was to take an environmental portrait; that is, an image of someone in his or her "natural environment." I originally was going to do a photo at the dog park, but after last week's dud of an image I decided to push myself a little more.

After a little bit of thought, I settled on the idea of a vintage/junk shop. I liked the idea of creating layers around my subject, and a nice, messy junk shop seemed like the perfect setting. The first few I stopped into this weekend were entirely too curated and tidy. I wanted chaos and age and the sense that a treasure was just waiting to be found.

The second I walked into Down Memory Lane, I knew I'd found it. It felt like walking into a grandparent's basement. Boxes of seashells or buttons were stacked on the floor, piles of jewelry and jars of marbles were tucked into shelves. Little piles of kibble were hidden away to satisfy the shop cat. I was in love. I waited until a few customers cleared out, then approached the women who had been helping them. She directed me to the older gentleman puttering around the store; her father, the owner.

I tried a few posed shots, which didn't work as well as I'd hoped, then eventually wound up just following him around the store as he continued to putter.


That was the image I shared as my official photo. It immediately became the most popular photo I've shared in the challenge to date, with more than 100 "likes" in the first 24 hours I posted it to the challenge's Facebook page. On Instagram, the challenge creator "liked' it and I literally dropped my phone in excitement.

It's just been such a relief to finally nail a shot; I haven't felt this good about a challenge image yet.

I had a few other favorites from this shoot, but I liked them all so much that I decided to share them on my photography blog. You can check them out here. (Sorry for the clickover. It sucks, I know. I promise not to make a habit of it.)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 9

I'm a little disappointed in myself this week; I definitely copped out a little. The theme was "artistic" and the prompt was "shadows," and I had a really cool idea based off of something I had seen in the discussion group associated with this challenge. But then I got lazy, and I wound up basically taking a portrait of Cam. In my defense, the weather last weekend was ideal: Warm temps, bright sun and not a cloud in the sky. We spent a lot of time at the dog park.


If I have time this weekend, I might try to do my artistic shadows shot anyway. After all, this is supposed to be a challenge. I want to keep pushing myself, instead of just checking shots off the list.

Week 10 is a portrait, and the prompt is "environmental." I have to take a photo of someone in their natural environment. I originally was going to do a photo of Cam at the park, but now I feel like I have to do something different. Maybe I'll do a little photo walk on Saturday with my new zoom lens (a 70-300mm, which I absolutely LOVE) and see what I can come up with.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: February

Soooo I know I said I was going to try not to spend any money on clothes this month, because I went over last month's budget by about $80. I tried. I failed. Hard.


1. OU sweatshirt from College Bookstore in Athens. I went down to visit my sister for Sib's Weekend early last month, and the first place we stopped was the bookstore for some OU apparel. I found this gem for a steal, and it's the comfiest thing ever. | $18.04 (the year OU was founded, natch) {exact}

2. OU flannel PJ pants from College Bookstore. Speaking of comfy...woah. I love these pants and have been wearing them pretty much nonstop. | $26.99 {exact}

I was going to make the above my only purchases for the month and still try to save some face in terms of my budget...and then I discovered ThredUp. It's an online consignment store and I swear it will be the death of my clothes budget forever. I snagged a first-time shopper discount and used it to get the following steals:

3. White House Black Market dress. I've realized that peplum is just My Thing. I had a huge aversion to it at first, which is unfortunate because us hip-less gals need a little oomf in our figures. This one has a great cutout on the back. | $13.80

4. Ab Studio dress. Wrap dress ftw! I can't believe I didn't already own one of these. | $8.10

5. Saks Fifth Avenue skirt. This was totally unnecessary and I wasn't even sure it'd fit, but I loved it and that was enough for me. Bonus: It does fit! | $17.08

Grand total, with tax: $93.47. So I mean, I'm *technically* under-budget for the month. That's something, right? Right??

Here's hoping you all did better on your spending goals than I did this month...or if you failed like me, here's hoping you at least got some good deals :)

P.S. ThredUp gave me an "invite friends" offer. I can send you a link to get $10 off your first purchase (and I get $10 off too). Shoot me an email at verbal.melange {at} gmail {dot} com if you'd like one! (This post isn't sponsored by or affiliated with ThredUp. I just found something I really like and wanna share it.)

Monday, February 22, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Weeks 7 and 8

Due to a weird series of events — a big freelance deadline, a sick puppy, etc. — I totally failed to post my week 7 photo. Oops. Anyway, things are settling down a bit so here we go!

Week 7 was a portrait (my favorite!) and the prompt was "faceless." I snagged this shot during an unnaturally warm weekend that I spent at OU, visiting my sister. We went bouldering in the hills with her boyfriend and his sisters. (It was Sib's Weekend, natch.) This is one of the boyfriend's sister's tackling a tricky little slab problem.


Week 8 was a landscape (my least favorite, if only because I have no idea what I'm doing) and the prompt was "panoramic." I do panos all the time on my iPhone, but I'm really pushing myself to do this whole challenge on my DSLR. So I got to learn about Photoshop's panoramic stitching feature! This shot is of downtown Columbus. I had scouted a location via Google Maps, and arrived only to find out that it had the perfect elevated walkway from which to take my shots.


(I realize that photo is very tiny; here's a link to the full-size if you'd like to see it.)

This challenge also has me getting out my camera more in general, not just for challenge photos, so I'm hoping to put together a post or two of just random things I've been shooting. I've caught some really cool stuff at the dog park lately especially; shooting there is really great practice because you have to be fast or you'll miss your shot.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 6

This week's challenge was an artistic shot, with the theme of "candy/something sweet." The challenge creator suggested trying out macro photography, which I was all too happy to do. I first tried using a tube extender I had, but frankly the quality was poor and I just wasn't feeling it. So I took that as a sign to pull the trigger on two lenses I've had my eye on for a while: The Sigma Contemporary 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Macro OS HSM, and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro.

I bought the Sigma to be my new walkabout lens, and the main lens I take to Europe later this year. The Tamron is my first telephoto lens, and I am in love with its macro work. While the Sigma does have macro functions, I found the Sigma to be just a bit more of what I was looking for. All three of the photos below were taken with the Tamron.


That's my main image for the challenge. I used my favorite candy — a dark chocolate bar with freeze-dried raspberries in it — and some fresh berries to add a pop of color and texture. I'm not 100% on this image, either, but it's possibly the best from the two separate shoots I did.


That was from my first shoot. I got some feedback from other challenge members on it and used their suggestions to style my second portrait. Mainly it was about removing those crumbs (which I actually liked, womp womp) and adding the raspberries. I might still like this photo more. What do you guys think?


And just for funsies, here's my setup. I made my own light tent by cutting out the sides of a box and taping tissue paper over the holes. Then I set up my two flashes on their stands and put them in slave mode so they'd fire when my on-camera flash went off. (The on-camera flash had little to no effect on the image itself, thanks to the camera's distance from the subject and the brightness of the off-body flashes.) The backdrop is just two pieces of computer paper that I layered inside the box. Viola! Easy-peasy.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Verbal Mélange feature

Hi all! This week, Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge. featured me in her Style Bloggers < 3 Budgeting series. Make sure you click on over and check it out :)

Monday, February 1, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Week 5

Welp, they can't all be winners, and last week's photo proves it. I posted this photo in the Facebook group for the challenge and asked for feedback, with the intent of going back to re-shoot it. But then the snow/ice all melted and I went to a crazy wedding this weekend that left my Sunday a bit...unproductive, to say the least. So I guess I'm stuck with this. Womp womp.


I'll be the first to admit that landscape photography isn't my "thing." I've seen a ton of great landscape photos, but I have a hard time defining why I think they're great...and it's next to impossible to incorporate those unknown elements into my work.

Do you like landscape photography/take a lot of those images yourself? Any tips for me in the future? (Every third week is a landscape theme, so I have lots of opportunity to improve!)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: January

Oh man you guys, I was bad this month. My clothes budget is $100; I spent $186.30. And I spent it all in one place: At REI's Garage Sale on January 2. I mean, I guess it could have been worse; I managed not to spend any more on clothes the rest of the month (despite several Target excursion). And I did score some sweet gear!


1. REI Co-Op down jacket. I've been wanting a midweight down for a while, and something like this is perfect for a trip to Europe that Matt and I are planning for later this fall. We'll be flying in to Reykjavik, Iceland, and eventually making our way down to Italy and Barcelona, so I needed something that would be both warm and easily packable for when it's not needed. Bam. | $60 {exact}

2 & 3. REI Merino wool socks. These were a total impulse snag as I was waiting in the 20-plus-minute checkout line. (Garage Sales get CRAZY.) But I only have one pair of Merino wool socks for hiking/camping, so they weren't an unwarranted purchase. I got one of the long pair and two of the short. | $9 long, $7 short {exact long, exact short}

4. Mammut Traleika soft-shell pants. So the whole reason I braved the Garage Sale was to find a good pair of winter-weight soft-shell pants. These babies are PERFECTION. They're windproof but breathable (with vents in the sides in case you get too warm on a tough hike) and they're super comfortable. They're great on their own when the temps are near freezing, and layered with a pair of leggings (fleece-lined or regular), they're indomitable in colder temps. They've been a lifesaver at the dog park and on walks when the thermometer is in the teens. Best purchase ever, and they're still on sale! | $70 {exact}

Not pictured: A light purple Columbia down vest that was in the Garage Sale simply because it hadn't been sold first round. Most Garage Sale mega-discounts are on items that have been returned, but not this one. It was such a sick find. And it was only $20! {similar}

(It's worth noting that in addition to sale prices, I got an additional 10% discount on my purchases because Matt works at REI and spouses get to share employee discounts. I hope Matt never quits this job, haha.)

So there you go. Way overbudget, so I probably won't spend much (if anything) on clothes in February. #worthit

How did you do on your clothes budget this month?

Monday, January 25, 2016

52 Week Challenge: Weeks 1 through 4

I'm caught up on projects for the moment (literally for the moment; I have to delve back into things later this week) so I thought I'd share my first few weeks of the 52 Week Challenge I'm doing this year. You might remember that in the past I've attempted a photo-a-day 365 challenge, and it was hard. I missed a lot of days. I'm hoping that this one-a-week format might be a little easier for me to adhere to; I plan to shoot mostly on the weekends when I have a little more wiggle room in my schedule.

Each week, I'll take either a portrait, landscape or artistic shot, with each category featuring a smaller set of guidelines to follow. I'm the most confident about the portraits, because that's 90% of my paid work, and I'm least confident about the artistic shots because that's about 1% of the work I've done since getting a DSLR.

Week 1 (portrait). Theme: Selfie.


Verdict: Not a bad shot overall, and I achieved most of the look I wanted with the natural light coming through my glass storm door. Could have used more fill on the right side of my face via a reflector, but somehow I managed to nail the focus (which is hard to do with a remote).

Week 2 (landscape). Theme: Traditional landscape.


Verdict: Great sky and reflection, though I wish I'd had a wider lens on me to avoid cutting off the bridge on the left and the reflection at the bottom. Also, I could have made the grass a touch greener in post-processing. Shadows are a bit harsh, but my only chance to shoot this scene that week was on a lunch break during a work day.

Week 3 (artistic). Theme: Red.


Verdict: My first-ever attempt at light trail photography. I loved making this photo, though the limitations of the bridge I was on were pretty frustrating. I wound up having to kind of dangle my camera on the tripod out over the freeway, which was terrifying. I could do without those headlight artifacts in the red lane, and I really wish I had been able to stand directly over the tail light section of road instead of off to the side.

Week 4 (portrait). Theme: Headshot.


Verdict: My favorite one so far. This is my awesome friend Emily, who obliged when I surprised her with a photo shoot at lunch. I added the steam in post-processing, which was another first, and I think I got the angle a little too harsh in an attempt to avoid covering her eyes. I kept the rule of thirds but intentionally had her looking out of the frame to prevent the photo from being too rule-following. Overall, a really nice shot.

This week is landscape/black and white. I shot a few frames this weekend, but I'm not 100% sure I love them. We'll see how they turn out, I guess :) Have you ever done a photo challenge like this? Any words of wisdom to share?

(P.S. You can follow along in real-time via my photography Instagram account, @elfiephotos. That's also where you'll find highlights from all my paid photo shoots!)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Where to go from here?

Hello out there in blogland! I hope everyone's been doing well since the last time I popped in with a post. Did you have a lovely holiday season and a sparkly New Year's Eve?

I wanted to take a moment to type up some thoughts I've been having lately about Verbal Mélange and blogging in general. I started this blog in April 2011, when I was not-quite-23 years old and about six months in to my first Real-World, Big-Girl job. I had practically zero sense of style and almost zero budget to expand said style. (True story: When I got my first RWBG job, I opened a New York & Company credit card and frantically threw $200 of semi-professional clothing on that I ended up barely wearing because I had no idea what I was doing.) My point is, I needed to figure myself out, sartorially.

Now, I'm nearly four years in to my second RWBG job. I have a semi-carefully curated closet of easily mixable business casual basics. I have a decent clothing budget, but over the last few months I've been using it on a few high-quality "investment" type pieces instead of trendy flash-in-the-pan statement pieces. I started this blog, in part, to help define my style, and I think I've done that. (Not that I could put it into words for you, but I know what it is and I like it, so that's all that matters to me.)

The other reason I started this blog is because for the first time in my adult life (really, since I was about 15 years old), I had a lot of free time to fill. I was working full-time and doing a small amount of technical freelance writing on the side. I needed a hobby.

When I changed jobs in 2012, my main hobby became freelance writing for the magazine I had just left. And I loved it. Then I took up photography as well the following year, and I loved it even more. Now, when I'm not at work, doing housewifey things like cleaning, taking Cam for a walk or to the dog park, or cooking (another hobby of mine), I'm usually working on a magazine article or taking and editing photos, either for my portrait business or just for funsies. Blogging has very much taken a backseat for me, particularly style blogging.

So where does that leave Verbal Mélange? I'm really not sure. I don't want to let it go just yet, mostly because of the fantastic people I've met (virtually or IRL) because of this blog. And if I'm being honest, I also just like talking about myself. #sorrynotsorry

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you come here just for the outfits, you might be disappointed. That, I am sorry for. But if you come here for my rambling, and for weird little peeks into my life like what I made for dinner or how I redecorated my living room or the weekend trip I took with Matt and Cam, then I guess you're still in luck. Because I'm always down to ramble. (And who knows. From time to time I might get really excited about a random outfit and decide to photograph/post it.)

That said, I feel that I'm freeing myself up quite a bit here to showcase my photography. Yes, I have a blog over at my professional site, but I think I'd like to keep that less personal for now. So you can expect to see more of my funsies photos around here, from trips to the local botanical gardens to the 52 week photography challenge I started this year. (More on that in a future post.) And if there's anything in particular that you think would make a nice addition here, let me know! I like knowing what you guys like reading.

So...that's it, I guess. Thanks for reading this rant all the way through to the end, and thanks for sticking around as I figure out what I'm going to do with my little corner of the internet.