We've finally made it to 36 weeks pregnant! Now I can breathe a huge sigh of relief as labor will no longer require me to transfer to Tucson (where the level 3 NIC Unit is located) AND my husband is home from his business trip. So with all of these stressful factors now behind us I am busy trying to wrap up loose ends. The restoration of these 7 portraits was my last official job before beginning my much anticipated maternity leave. They come to me from one of the Fort's headquarters buildings as they prepare for Hall Of Fame week coming up this spring. There was extensive damage, goodness knows how long these images have hung in their hallways. Scratches, dust, fading, you name it, it was present. Here are the before and afters, which of course are too small to reveal the hundreds of imperfections, and appear quite a bit more contrasting than they do in print. However, the obvious improvement is evident:

I found my key to low light level photography: returning to monochrome. Whenever I find myself in low light situations, I end up hating the yellow cast that results in all of the pictures. I have found that by setting the camera up to a "user defined" monochrome setting with high contrast and high sharpness (I'm using a Canon 40D), the results are much more fun and require little to nothing in the Photoshop stage of editing. This week I find myself trying to capture everyday moments in our house before I run out of opportunities and free hands. I'm shooting at ISO 1600 most of the time (at night our big old house is like a tomb) and most shots are between F1.4 and F3.0. Regardless of the fuzzy noise from the high ISO, I still think I've caught some keepers.

If these projects are all complete before baby's arrival, the post will be titled "It's a Miracle!". You'd think that God made pregnancy last ten months (yes people, for those of you who haven't been pregnant, it really does come down to 10!) to allow for enough time to assemble cribs and gliders and decorate the nursery. And, you'd think that having a third child of the same sex would make it easier because you would bring out the old stuff, wash it, and just set it up. However, what they don't tell you, is that on baby number three you start to feel guilty. You start to feel like if you aren't neglecting one of your children, you're neglecting another, or worse, you've forgotten that you are married! Not to mention, I've been looking at the same nursery decor for the last four years and Mommy The Artist is bored! So here they are, my best laid plans, or at least the fabric I have chosen for them. I was also hoping that I could do some wild editing on some of my safari photographs for wall decor, but the recent death of the external hard drive may have saved me from that time consuming project. Perhaps I should stop blogging and start sewing...

The Boy has just celebrated the most anticipated Star Wars themed birthday of his little life! He says "Please" and "Thank you" with frequency, laughs and smiles easily, can empty the silverware tray from the dishwasher, and baffles me with his never-ending stream of questions. He drives his preschool teacher crazy by refusing to write his numbers and letters properly, but surprises us at dinner when he chooses to discuss the "interface" on Daddy's computer. He has mastered the ipod. Happy Birthday to my Big Boy, I am so proud of all that you do, but especially fond of your loving heart. We MUST be doing something right...
I have been working so hard lately, to finalize every business oriented task prior to the new baby's arrival, that I had no intention of posting these. Alas, when I awoke this morning at 5:05am, eager to assault the restoration images I have waiting for me, I discovered that they were not on my computer ready for me, but rather locked up on my sleeping husband's computer. I didn't have the heart to wake him, and that is how the birthday blog came about. You might also notice that these pictures look a little wacky. Well, have you ever seen an Army facility? Usually concrete, usually old, always painted white or cream, sparsely decorated, nasty fluorescent lighting and no windows, in one word: UGLY. We held The Boy's party at the Army Arts and Crafts Center. My husband and I agree that it was the most relaxed, easiest, and most enjoyable party we've hosted yet. We didn't have to clean our house for guests, a simple ziti dinner, a kid friendly craft (they glazed ceramic "fighter jet" piggy banks, and a space to run around where the kids couldn't hurt anything. Too easy! Back to the UGLY part though, I decided that I would tinker with some filters that would modify the backgrounds. I can't say that I love the effects, but I certainly learned a little in the process, and that's always good!

At last! Here is a selection from last week's "18 Annual Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering", a celebration that took place right here in Sierra Vista, AZ, including artists from all over the United States and Canada. I had the exciting task of capturing the artists during several performances as well as during an after hours jam session held at the Windemere Hotel. My only problem was finding the right time to go home each night! I hope they will let me return next year, and hopefully I won't be 34 weeks pregnant, and hopefully I will be able to stay late into the wee hours of morning because the jam session shots (the closer candids) are some of my absolute favorites. Where I was able, I tried to list the name of the artist in the image. All of the images I captured during the weekend (there are at least a hundred more) will be available to view and purchase coming this March. When I have a link for that gallery I will post it here. In the meantime, if you wish to be notified when those images are ready, please email me your contact info. And please, feel free to leave comments!

Boots, courtesy of Dennis Gaines, Kerrville, Texas.

Poet Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks, Sevier, Utah.

Co-Chair Mike Barker awaits his next introduction.

K.W. "Skelly" Boyd, of The Desert Sons, Tucson, Arizona.

Dawn Moon and daughter, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Ken and Lyn Mikell, Cottonwood, Arizona.

Tie detail; everyone came out wearing their finest duds in support of Cowboy traditions!

Doris Daley, Alberta, Canada.

Michael and Dawn Moon enjoy a tune during Saturday night's jam session.

Laurie and Cora Wood, in my humble opinion the toughest act to follow, Encampment, Wyoming.

Cora Rose Wood, is an energetic second grader who has released her very own CD Cora's Cowgirl Yodel. Bright eyed, adorable, polite, with a big voice and an even bigger heart!

Cowboy Poet of the Year (2000) Larry Maurice, Reno, Nevada.

Folklorist Tony Norris, of Flagstaff, Arizona, improvises during a jam session at the Windemere.

One of my favorite images, musician Jon Messanger.

Buckaroos eager to serve a hot cowboy lunch!

Son of Michael and Dawn Moon, showing his talents during the jam session late Saturday night.

I LOVE dancing. It's how I met my husband, at a lindy-hop workshop in Tucson. Hard to imagine right now with 34 weeks of pregnant belly starring back at me, but we used to fly to other states to swing dance for three days straight; think big band music, flowers tucked behind the ear, vintage hair and clothes, the works. Ahhh, life before kiddos...

The theme for this week's I ♥ Faces photo contest is "Dancing". Unfortunately, when we attend these awesome, very picturesque venues, I seldom take anything of value as it is ditched in the corner for the night, so very few pictures have come home with us. But as I have posted previously, some of our very good swing dancing friends recently got hitched and somehow, even at 1250 ISO, F2.8, and no flash, I still managed several fantastic action shots, this dancing sequence remains my favorite from the past year.

Come back later this week for a look at Southern Arizona's award winning "18th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering". For my last shooting engagement prior to maternity leave (which is feeling very overdue at this point!) I teamed up with local photographer Pauline Fredericks to cover the three day event. I've got over 700 amazing images to sort through, of the most sincere, wholesome, entertaining, country folk, you could ever hope to meet and hang out with! I LOVE me some "unlimited access"!!

Things I don't have this morning: a name for our third baby boy, a sweet nursery set-up for the new baby boy, cooperative children who want to go to school, a friend with whom to call for coffee after school drop-off, a babysitter for Valentine's Day, time for a shower...

Things I DO have this morning: a hilarious shot of my husband and his twin and a good kissy face picture for the I ♥ Faces "Kissing" contest:

Go get in the mood for the most romantic day of the year!

This week finds me launching into a rather extensive restoration project here at Fort Huachuca. I'm restoring some portraits of former commanders for one of the headquarters buildings. After studying the images I was struck with the creative energy to take some wedding portraits from last Labor Day weekend and give them a vintage vibe. The bride and groom are swing dancing friends of ours, so I thought a little unusual editing might strike their fancy. Here is my attempt at creating a WWII feel, without the wear and tear that an actual old photograph would have suffered. These were taken in San Diego, my favorite is the second image down, the bride getting into her dress, and all I can think of when I see this picture is "Vogue"...

I put blogging on hold over the weekend as we tended to my "nesting instinct", including the unpacking of teenie tiny baby clothes, some major vacuuming, and the rearranging of nursery furniture. The Baby, who shall lose his title in the coming weeks, has officially graduated to his very own "big boy bed". He is smitten with both the bed and his new found freedom outside the bed. Overall I would say the transition has gone perfectly. But there is an instigator lurking in the room and we can hear him whisper "Baby, climb out of your bed..." Mommy has created a twisted little game of her own: Mommy sits at the top of the stairs and waits for little boys to sneak out of their room and into the hallway, where upon Mommy coughs a loud "ahem" and secretly laughs to the core as those same little boys scamper back into their room, The Baby sporting the most terrified and hilarious expression on the face of the planet. Couple the expression with the striped footy pajamas that make his legs look tiny and his diapered rump enormous, I simply have to catch it on video, the whole shebang is priceless, as are the adorable shots I have been hoarding this week- enjoy!