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Discovering Pinnacles National Park. San Jose Family Photographer

I have to tell you that this Summer, as a family, we did a lot of “1st time”s together. Like our road trip to Colorado. 1st time swimming in the deep end of the pool with no vests on. Cooking the whole meal without adult’s help. Visiting Pinnacles National Park.  The list can go on, and on, but for right now, I’ll focus on the trip to Pinnacles.

Seriously, I had no idea this place is so close, and SO BEAUTIFUL. With each trip we’ve been discovering more and more of its beauty. And we will be back during different seasons, that’s for sure. This time of the year the park gets HOT. Our hikes are early in the morning or close to sunset.

 

family trip to Pinnacles National Park, Ewa Samples Photography

So far we’ve been there 3 times. (and getting close to 4). All visits within one week.

The first time we went up there was 9pm to watch starts and planets through telescopes set up for their Star Party.

We came back the next day for a hike. The hike took us to the Bear Gulch Cave, and the kids loved it. Pictures below shows a little of the whole story. On that day, the girls returned their Junior Ranger workbooks and received their Junior Ranger Badges. During the entire hike they mostly talked about getting the badges, and they were excited for doing many of the activities included in the workbook. They finished some of the activities on the trail, as well as later, after we sat to have a picnic.

And after all I got to drink an iced coffee served in a beer glass. Because why not.

Second time we visited Pinnacles National Park was 2 days ago. I’ll be writing about that adventure in another post. It was just me and the girls and late afternoon sun heading to a sunset. Such an amazing hike. We made it past the Bear Gulch Cave and went higher to the Reservoir and to then back. I have to admit it was a hell of a hike but we all made it just fine. Ready for a hike number 3!

Also, I have the feeling that this is not (and never has been) the “bummer summer” our soon-to-be 2nd grader imagined.

Read more about my mission to make her Summer not so bummer:

  1. Mud Run
  2. It’s fun to be bored

How is your summer break going?

If you’d like me to photograph some of your #summerbreakadventures let me know!!! I’m here to help you create amazing memories. Even Better lets explore Pinnacles National Park together!

Even better, sign up for the membership to Ewa Samples Photography, so you won’t have to miss on any photo opportunities through the entire year!

 

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Why and how I decluttered my photography style

In today’s post for 15 Day Blog Challenge I’m connecting two days into one: Day 12 and day 13. After I listened to both videos from Natalie Sisson (the creator of this challenge) for day 12 and 13 topics I immediately knew how I want to write it and that I want to connect those two days into one post. I knew I want to write about decluttering my photography style, because it’s been a journey for me, a very important one. I can’t say the journey is finished because it feels like I have just begun….

Here are the topics:

Day 12 – “What work and life clutter are you going to remove to be more of a minimalist and free up space for you?”

Day 13 – “Which ONE thing are you going to introduce into your life that is going to help your mind, body or soul?” 

When I started my business I knew I want it to be real. I wanted to be more about how people ARE instead of about how we can IMPROVE them with our photoshop tricks and the perfect lightening. I was sick and tired of looking at photographs of photoshopped faces and liquified figures. It wasn’t me. I didn’t feel connected to that kind of photography.

With my photography I wanted to celebrate the parenthood the way it is. I wanted to encourage parents to look at the final photos from each session and feel joy, love and happiness. After trying “this and that” I have realized the only things I want to be happening during my sessions are the real emotions. I decided to go prop less if I only can. I want my clients to be themselves. I don’t want them to play a role, fake something for the purpose of the session. I want them to bring their RAW selves. I’ll make it work for them. No matter what.

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I decluttered my Pinterest boards from portraits including “fake” props. These days I almost never use Pinterest for session ideas. I think every family is unique and while it is good to have a back up plan for poses I think it is more important to let the family be REAL.

This approach has given me a limitless possibilities. With each family we can do something else. Something especial. Getting rid of all the other distractions and worries about props and what not I felt like I have finally got where I wanted to be in a first place with my business.

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While many people think their photographs will get better if they get better (and more) equipment, I think my photography gets better if I take the time to look deeper with whatever I have, or just simply BE in the moment. Real life is not always crystal clear and tack sharp, and I like to emphasize that.

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The ONE THING I decided to introduce into my life that has been helping me to do just that is my old friend. This tiny fellow is as made of gold for me (it actually a sturdy piece of metal, anyway). It has been laying in my drawer for the last 10 years until I figured out how to attach it to my DSRL. Why I hadn’t think of it earlier, don’t ask me. I’m pretty embarrassed about it myself.

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I rarely use this little guy during my sessions with clients but when I decide to do it, I think magic happens. I know how important “crispy sharpness” is to people these days and how stress about it they can get. That’s why I  use this lens only for a short periods during some of my sessions. It’s more for my own pleasure then for anything else, although I have heard many wonderful words about photographs taken with this lens from my clients. And that makes my little heart sing!

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This lens is permanently attached to my camera when I go out with my kids these days. If I was a poet I would definitely write a poem about this lens.

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But instead I’ll use someone else’s words describing my thoughts:

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

Yes, this little fellow is worth gold to me. It helps me to feel good about photography when I feel like I’m burning out. This ONE small thing has helped me to shape my passion way better then any $1500 lens would had done it.

How about you? What does make your heart sing and keeps it inspired? 

Ewa

 

if you’d like to chat about your session with me, please email to ewasamples(at)gmail.com 
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I’m packing to Vegas but meantime {Day 8 of 15 Day Blog Challenge}

Yesterday I wrote about the ONE thing I want to focus on in the nearest future. And the one thing is to run my business while not allowing the business to run me. What that also means I want to make more time for personal life, projects, maybe trips.

Today is Day 8 of 15 Day Blog Challenge, and today’s topic is to list 3 major goals that will help me to achieve that ONE thing. It will be short, as tomorrow we are leaving for mommy and daddy weekend away in Vegas and I have packing to do. For that time I will take time off from this project.

So here we go:

Goal no. 1

I will get back to my regular yoga schedule as well as “me time”, like reading for example. 

It used to be 5 day a week. These days if I do something in the morning for 3o minutes twice a week I call it a success (but it’s not). I also miss a good book. Good science fiction one. Know any?

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Perfecting bridge pose from my vision board

Goal no. 2

I will do at least one PERSONAL photography related project every 3 months. 

Once in a while I will plan photography projects completely for my own pleasure.

Goal no. 3

I will get organized.

Organized my daily and weekly schedule for everything starting from “me time”, yoga, work, personal projects, networking. No more feeling like this:

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Don’t we all feel like that sometimes? Well, I am determined to feel less and less like it and more and more in peace.

Wish me luck!

Ewa,

 

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Q: What do you call a business that isn’t run like a business? A: A hobby.

This is Day 6 of 15 Day Blog Challege and we are to talk in it about our Ideal Business Model. Natalie Sisson fro “The Suitcase Entrepreneur” says that we should run our business to support our style of living not the other way around. In my life it’s the other way around, so far. There is a whole lot of living and doing just to support my business. And I am not talking about myself but also about my husband who’s supported me financially when I needed it. And I needed it, believe me!!!

Lets be honest here. Running a business is tricky, especially when you start it not knowing that the part you want to do the most (like taking pictures in my case), is only a very small part of running a successful business.

For every successful establishment there is another that didn’t make it past the first five years, shows data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I have run a hobby for a long time while all I wanted was a profitable business which would support my lifestyle. I have fought my husband who would always say, “you’re running a hobby, not a business, be real about it”. Until I realized what he was saying is right. The realization didn’t come easily as it meant big changes. In photography business people are afraid of speaking about what’s behind their business in public, in front of the clients. They hide within photography forums and groups and over there they let the worst  frustrations out. Sometimes they direct the frustrations toward another professional, someone who’s cheaper, someone who is not as good in posing people as they do, someone who hasn’t been in business for as long as they are therefore he/she can be run into the ground for asking for an advice.

I have witnessed photographer after photographer being crushed by another peer, by somebody who should be looked up to for their knowledge and experience but they choose to be angry at the newcomers and therefore loose the credibility. Nobody wins in a such situations. People get hurt in both ends. I experienced it first handed. It hurt. Tremendously. It didn’t last long as I decided to cut off all the groups and forums where I saw it happening. I wrote about it in my last post.

It’s unprofessional to complain about our clients. Yes, I agree!

It’s unprofessional to talk about how hard it is and how many hours and sleepless nights we work and how much time we have to spend away from our families in order to earn some money. Yes, I agree. All small business owners do that. We are not any different. We do not work more (or less) then any other entrepreneur out there. Hell, all you full time working people do that.

The thing I don’t think it’s unprofessional is to share some (because not all) insights into photography business, and educate people about it.

There is this conviction that photographers are hobbyists and charging people an arm and a leg for their services is unacceptable.

I also think that artists don’t have to be starving in 21st century. Few days ago I saw this on Facebook, and I shook my head in understanding.

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I’ve started writing this post yesterday during our road trip to see a potential home to buy. Yes, your read it right – it was a road trip because it’s way up North from San Jose. We can’t afford buying a home in Silicon Valley, and we are outgrowing our present place, so we are looking into different options.

I though and though about the way I want to write this post and if I really should write it the honest way, or simply list what would be the ideal model without going into anything else. As you can see I went for the most honest way.

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A bridge you would have to cross to get to our place

A bridge you would have to cross to get to our “potential” place 🙂

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Moving to a different city away from Silicon Valley might bring to us new possibilities. We will be able to achieve more for less. One of the houses we looked at had this wonderful first floor, which we both agreed, would be perfect for my small studio and an office.

Yes, I am dreaming about working space, and a small studio. Not because I particularly want to switch to studio photography, but because I want to have options, and because there is this more creative troll hiding inside me and wanting to have a studio for more personal and soul freeing use.

One part of my ideal business model is to have a studio. Another part of my ideal business is to be able to travel to photograph people. I know that the market is oversaturated with photographers so the possibility for someone from Texas (just because I’ve never been to TX and would love to visit there) wanting to hire me to do their family portraits is equal almost 0.09% (just because there is always hope, right?), and we all can dream.

But I can’t just sit and hope.

[ctt title=”If I want something to happen then I must do something towards it so the probability of the happening rises” tweet=”If I want something to happen then I must do something towards it so the probability of the happening rises” coverup=”2UqQ4″]. Got all philosophical here.

If I want to do stuff then I need to be able to afford it. To be able to afford it I have to earn more. To earn more I have to change my business model and charge more, or find a different job.

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This is a view from our "potential" backyard

This is a view from our “potential” backyard

With my ideal business model I wish to be able to work with many non-profit organization donating my time and my work to a bigger cause. My dream is to be able to travel to other countries to be involved with helping people in need or supporting a cause I feel strong about. Just this year I got involve in working with CleanBirth.org, La Leche League South Bay and Alzheimer’s Association and would love to do more of it in the future.

My ideal business model is not a discount base business (although it started that way). If I run any specials they stay between me and my subscribers. Sign up while you can!

My ideal business model is based on families who come to me year after year after year.

My ideal business is based on trust and respect,  not on a “good deal” philosophy.

My ideal business is based on my professionalism and support.

My ideal business model is to run a business not a hobby.

Thank you for reading

Ewa,

 

P.S while we are at talking about trust and respect here is short “testimonial” like video of a returning clients of mine who are explaining why it is important to work with a photographer who knows the family and have work with the family in the past.

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Which ONE distraction would you be willing to remove from your day? {Day 4 of the 15 Day Blog Challenge}

no facebook today, ewa samples photography

No matter if you’re a business owner or a parent who juggles a busy life full of kids, pets, and you name it, we all get distracted by things. These days more then ever.

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Here is my story:

This morning as I open my email to remind myself what the topic is for day 4 of my 15 Day Blog Challenge, I also checked Facebook and Instagram. I have to admit, I lost almost an hour from my day after I got on FB. Again.

I get up every single day and I tell myself I won’t be there (on FB) for long, only to check the likes, respond to comments, quickly scroll through the feed, and leave. Yeah, right. You know how that ends. Every Single Time.

Just as I started writing this post I got lost in Facebook for about 10 minutes after I saw one notification popping up. Ugh.

I have contemplated the option to remove FB app from my phone for sometime now. Today’s topic “What ONE distraction are you going to remove from your daily life?” for the blog challenge was like a gift.

Not only I compare what I see on there to what I have or don’t have, how many followers I have and how many the other photographer has, etc, but I get so distracted by it (aren’t we all?), it’s just crazy.

So after I saw what the challenge topic is I decided to do an experiment. I didn’t block it. I did’t remove it. I simply logged out and decided not to log in for 5 hours. I put my phone away in a place that I didn’t see it but could hear it in case if someone called.

You won’t believe how much work I was able to do. Almost all mammas who participated in my mini-sessions during last Sunday’s South Bay La Leche League  “Live, Love, Latch” event received their pictures before 1pm today. AND I did the laundry (didn’t fold it though 😉 )

[ctt title=”I didn’t use or look at Facebook for about 5 hours today, and I’m so happy about it I even created a hashtag to celebrate  #ididnfbtoday. ” tweet=”So, I didn’t use or look at Facebook for about 5 hours today. I’m so happy I even created a hashtag to celebrate  #ididnfbtoday. ” coverup=”84zMb”]

I think I’ll keep using it to post pictures on Instagram of what I was able to achieve during the time of not using Facebook at all, because that’s already decided, I am going to log out of this platform for several hours a day, every single day for the next 11 days (at least).

Are you in?

Ewa,



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My tools to be more productive {Day 3 of the 15 Day Blog Challenge}

As some of you know, I am on the mission to finish the 15 Day Blog Challenge led by Natalie Sisson from “The Suitcase Entrepreneur“. I also started reading her book “The Suitcase Entrepreneur. Create freedom in business and adventure in life“. And I am sold on her vision of the dream life and career. The book took me to the day in which I packed my bag and left for an adventure to USA.

ONLY TODAY (and yesterday), YOU CAN GET a KINDLE VERSION OF THIS BOOK FOR FREE.

Anyway, today’s topic of the challenge is:

Which ONE tool are you going to use to become more productive?

Well, my first thought was, “does cup filled with black coffee count?”, but as I watched her video in witch she’s explaining the topic I got my answer… 😉

So, honestly I am a Google Everything kind of person. Before this assignment I actually didn’t think of it that much.

Beside a professional business software for keeping track of my clients and invoices looking at all the other things I use for my business and not only, they are almost all based on Google.

I use Google Forms to ask my clients for their feedback as well as for signing up to campaigns. I love it. It’s simple, and I don’t need to use any additional software on my computer or I don’t need to remember one more password. I also use Google Sheets and Google Drive. And of course Google Calendar for keeping reminders of my tasks, appointments and such.

Another tool, and I know we were asked for one, but this one deserves the mention here, is Canva. No matter if you’re a business owner of a parent who would like to add a twist to your Facebook or Instagram pictures, this is such a cool and easy to use tool. It saves me hours if I want to design an add for my newsletter or Facebook.

Like this image. Created on the spot for the purpose of this post with no need of opening Photoshop and trying to come up with an interesting design.

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So, if you want to get more productive with your creativity then Canva is the place to go!

Also log off from Facebook, like I did.

Have a wonderful day,
Ewa



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My Daily Success Plan. What’s yours? {Day 1 of the “15 Day Blog Challenge”}

 

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Starting today we are having new routine in this household. Getting up at 7am (in opposite to 9:30ish), and sending our older daughter to Kindergarden. With that being done I have so many new plans for the days to come, as well as new hopes for getting more things done during those days when she isn’t here. Especially business wise. I need to catch up with projects that have been laying and waiting for me to come to them and finish them. I have new projects coming up, and new ideas. I have it all, but the only thing it feels like I don’t have is the time to do it.

The Kindergarden doesn’t mean that I’m completely child free. But our second kiddo is perfectly happy without having to be entertained all the time. Ufff…. Right.

So to do more things, or to learn how to do more things, or simply get into a habit of doing more things I have joined this challenge “15 Day Blog Challenge” hosted my Natalie Sisson from “The Suitcase Entrepreneur” .

This means that for a little while my blog posts will get a little more personal, and probably less “pictures from my sessions” like, and more about what’s behind running my business, what I struggle with, what I would want to improve, what I use to keep up with things, etc.

I joined the challenge mostly for myself, but if some of you find it helpful and inspiring I would love to start a dialog about your daily routines and what helps you to be more focused on things during the day and what not.

I invite you to follow my “15 day blog challenge” and get to know me better.

So, lets get back to today’s 1st day challenge topic “My daily success plan“.

My daily plan contains activities that are important for my personal growth and health as well as my business and parenthood.

Realistically looking at it, it’s not about the time (which we all have the same amount off), but about the plan how to make things done. Mostly it comes to having plan for the business and personal stuff because the parenthood part just comes naturally, I guess. Things need to be done. Kids need to be fed. Laundry needs to be folded (although we struggle with that a lot here). Kids need to go to the park, museum, playdates. It just happens.

With the business part and the personal growth it’s a little different. I can always put things aside for better time. I can always not edit photos today because I can come back to them tomorrow. I don’t really struggle with editing though and with sending the photos on time to my clients. I struggle with different things that are very much related to running a business, and I work hard on improving them.

So beside the things like making breakfast for kids, (taking a dog for a walk used to follow that, but since she passed away we don’t do it anymore), helping them dress up and taking them out to the park or a library, I do some things for myself.

I start with a cup of morning joe. Simple. Nothing can be done without it here. One cup. I don’t need more.

I check my emails and social media. I know I shouldn’t be doing so early in the morning, as the moment I open it it’s hard to do anything else.

During the breakfast I talk to the girls about their dreams and about our plans for the day.

I turn on my computer to return some emails.

Then I do some yoga. If not at home then in YMCA where the kids can play at their Kids Club. I LOVE IT!!!

The routine in practicing yoga took me from here:

August, 2008

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to here:

August, 2015

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And this month is my 8th anniversary of the accident… The time flies, people!

My somehow new routine is getting at least 2 liters per day of water in me. Sometimes more. No excuses. I don’t enjoy it so I rarely drink plain water. More often then not it’s lemon and fresh ginger water. Sometimes mix of fresh strawberries and kiwi. Once a week, sometimes more often as I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this, I have apple cider vinegar detox drink. More water equals less headaches!!!

All of that while or in between of editing photos, taking photos or scouting locations. Many of those with my girls on my side. Look at this little helper 🙂

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Also a big part of my daily routine is spending some time in the evenings with the husband. After the kids go to bed we sit comfortably on the couch and watch our favorite tv-shows and eat some ice cream. Recently we are hooked to “Humans”, “The Strain”, “Mr. Robot”, “Brotherhood”, so to name a few.

Sometimes I even skip the dinner because I feel like I will enjoy the ice cream more. Often I look forward to that peaceful time of the evening. It feels like it became our tradition. Even if the day sucks I know that at the end I will be able to indulge in slightly melted bowl of cookie dough ice cream and that makes me feel better, way better.

And when I’m done with the ice cream, I crochet.

So, yes…. these are the most important things I try to include in my daily plan. Some of them energize me while some simply help me to relax. They make me happy.

Do you have a plan for your days to which you try to stick? What keeps you motivated and energized?

Ewa,



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