new house, new look

Hello out there! When last I checked in here my kids were three years younger, we had one fewer pet, and we lived in a completely different space. Let’s start again, I’m Jan, mom to four intelligent and gorgeous girls and an angel baby boy. I’ve been a portrait and wedding photographer for the last 10 years and I love all things interiors and DIY.

My girls, photography, and general life keep me busy but with my youngest nearing full-time school status, I’ve been itching to get back into sharing my projects and places over here again.

We moved last December to a new home in the same small California city. We have a little more room to spread out here and a few rooms desperately in need of furnishing and styling! I’ve been sharing my #slowdecorating over on my Instagram account, but I really want to share more than just a photo or two a day.

Here’s what we are working with.

Much more to come!

i moved a tree today {re-landscaping a front yard}

Ok, so it wasn’t actually a tree, it was more of a many-trunked shrub. Yesterday it was a small, spreading shrub. Still, I’ve done more digging in the past two days than I have since I was an archaeologist in grad school. My muscles hurt.

But, if the transplant process works (and I currently have lots of faith but zero proof that it will), I think all my digging and plant swapping will add to the curb appeal of my house.

So, pictures. Here’s my house, complete with baby in exersaucer and small, timid dog.

Because of our prime location at the end of a cul de sac, we have an absurdly large front yard. This is great for soccer practice and playing catch, but it means lots of mowing, water use, and a huuuuuge planting area we need to pretty up. Some of our plants are from our builder and some are ones we’ve put in.

To get an idea of what you’re looking at, these should help.



Pardon the discarded branches in these, I was impatient to get to work and skipped over the “take before photos” step of the process.

I think design guidelines that we are used to applying to our homes interiors also apply to our landscape areas. I try to keep scale, balance, and rhythm in mind when I’m looking at a space. For a landscape, you want to set the foundation with large trees and shrubs and add color and variety with more seasonal annuals or perennials.

We have a large white garage on one side of the house. It fronts the street and is the closest thing to visitors as they approach. We balance that out with the two large coast redwoods at the opposite end of the yard directly in front of our fence. Our builder had originally planted one in the little pie wedge area next to the driveway, but we moved it a few months after we moved into the house. (Our neighbor also generously allowed us to dig out the one the builder had planted by her driveway and drag it over to our house to plant). The two together add a lot of visual weight to that end of the property and provide a nice division between our yard and the one next door.

At the time, I filled the hole in the driveway planting are from the redwood tree with a flowering jasmine I bought. We already had two in the yard, so I figured three would be more balanced. I didn’t plan for the type of plant it was, though, which is a vining, spreading shrub. My husband was constantly mowing over the ends of it and it just looked scraggly.

We also have three crepe myrtles in the yard from the builder. One is completely hidden behind the redwood trees and out of sight. So I came up with a brilliant plan.

First, to balance out the jasmine in front of the main window, I moved the one from the driveway planting back into the main bed.

Then to add height at the front of the yard and balance out the weight on that side, I moved the hidden crepe myrtle out of the shadows and into the driveway planter.

*dazzling after photos*
Sadly, after all that digging I’m not walking so great this evening, so I didn’t get a chance to get pretty photos of my finished work. But I promise to share them tomorrow! I’m looking forward to working with the pretty light in the morning anyway. If I can walk. 😉

Been doing any work in the yard lately?

simple yarn monogram in a pink and navy nursery

simple yarn monogram DIY at impressions by jani

impressions by jani easy DIY yarn monogramGoodness, these last (almost) two months have been a blur! Remember how I declared the week before my due date baby week and promised tutorials and posts on all my nursery projects? Clearly I was suffering from late-pregnancy-delusions/denial, since I got one project posted (my hot air balloon mobile) and fizzled out. Almost all of my projects are finally done, though, so I’ll add them over the next few weeks as I get them photographed. Cuddling my sweet baby girl is so much more fun anyway. :-}

Today’s project is super simple and can be adapted to almost any decor style or room–check out my yarn monogram! Inspired by this birthday photo prop idea, I decided to upsize it and use Eleanor’s initial instead of number.

simple yarn monogram DIY at impressions by jani

I didn’t even take photos of the process of this DIY, it’s that simple. Simply draw your letter of choice on a large piece of cardboard and cut it out. I free-handed my lower case “e,” but you can also print your letter out in the font you want to use to create your own template/stencil. The process is then the same as when I wrapped the hoop for my hot air balloon mobile–glue down the yarn at an end point, then wrap and wrap and wrap, pulling the yarn tight as you go.

simple yarn monogram DIY at impressions by jani

I used a thick, chunky yarn that came in 5 yard skeins, and this letter used about three and a half skeins–you need a lot of yarn for this project! It also takes a while to wrap, so fire up the DVR and wrap away. The ends and corners where the different parts of the letter connect are the trickiest. You can see how I wrapped in several different directions to make sure everything was covered.

impressions by jani easy yarn monogram DIY

Glue down the yarn ends on the back and hang it up. I tacked mine up with a few small finishing nails–they’re hidden behind the yarn and work perfectly.

impressions by jani simple DIY yarn monogram

I realized as I was snapping these photos that I never shared any images of the beautiful crib that baby Ellie is enjoying (she’s been in the nursery since day 1 home from the hospital–she’s a noisy sleeper!). I love the graphic quality of the crib bumper and skirt paired with the modern feel of the medallion crib sheet. My sister crocheted the color blocked gray and pink afghan for me and I love it.

impressions by jani pink and navy nurseryAnd really, what good is a crib without a baby in it?

pink and navy nursery yarn monogramAnd did you notice I have the same taste in swaddling blankets as Kate and Wills?

impressions by jani pink and navy nursery Of course, I think my sweet babe is just as beautiful as His Royal Highness!

Linking up with Home Stories A to Z and Not


a Housewife!

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photo tip tuesday {exposure part 1, shutter speed}

Welcome back for photo tip Tuesday! The main answer to last week’s question “What are you interested in learning about photography”?” seemed to be “Um, everything!” That’s kind of a lot of ground to cover, so we’re going to take this slowly with time for you to practice along the way.

This week, I’m starting a three part series on getting the correct exposure in your images. If you set your camera to Auto, this is exactly what it is trying to do—read the scene you point it at and get the correct exposure. Indoors, this often happens by firing the on-board flash, which typically leads to less than stellar results. Rather than simply telling you to turn your flash off, I want to explain the three on-camera variables that go into producing the correct exposure and how you can manipulate them to get the results you want.

One little caveat at the outset—you’ll probably want to keep your camera’s owner’s manual handy if you’re truly serious about learning photography. I am not an expert in every camera body out there, so I can’t tell you how to physically make the changes to your settings like I’ll suggest. Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly how to do that.

Let’s start by defining the three things that go into getting a correct exposure: shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO. This week I want to focus on shutter speed and what it does to your images.

The shutter speed is the setting that decides how quickly your lens opens and closes to allow light to reach the sensor. Shutter speed is measured and shown on your camera in increments of seconds or fractions of a second. A larger number (1, 1/50) leaves the shutter open for longer and allows more light to enter your camera than a smaller number (1/200, 1/500). A large number can also add blur to your image, either of your subject’s movement if you’re shooting a non-stationary object or from blur if you’re holding your camera with too slow of a shutter speed. The opposite is also true—a faster shutter speed will freeze motion, whether it be a fast-moving child or droplets of water falling through the air.

Let’s break this down a little more.

Fast shutter speed: 1/400 or faster means action frozen in time. Depending on how fast things are actually moving in your image, you may be able to freeze motion at a lower shutter speed, but this is a good rule of thumb for sports photography or moving water. (For all my photography posts, each image will have a caption that shows the shutter speed (ss), aperture (ap), and ISO for your reference. The shutter speed is in bold.)

ss 1/3200, ap 2.8, ISO 100shutter speed 1

ss 1/500, ap 2.5, ISO 100shutter speed 3

ss 1/500, ap 2.2, ISO 100shutter speed 2

ss 1/1600, ap 2.8, ISO 100fast shutter 1

Slow shutter speed: Anywhere from 1/125-1/400 can freeze slow or non-moving things fairly well, but subjects that are quickly moving may be blurred. A shutter speed of 1/100 or slower means more likelihood of generally blurred images.

ss 1/320, ap 2.8, ISO 400slow shutter 4

This image is very similar in subject matter to the black and white above. But the shower shutter speed (1/320 in the color image and 1/1600 in the black and white) blurs the rain drops in the one and freezes the spinkler’s water droplets in the other. You can still tell that both are water drops, but they are much more clearly defined with a faster shutter speed.

A few more examples:

ss 1/200, ap 2.5, ISO 3200slow shutter 1

ss 1/200, ap 2.2, ISO 100slow shutter 3

ss 1/125, ap 2.2, ISO 3200slow shutter 2

See the blurred frog and ribbon in this image? And the less-than-crisp legs and feet? Slow shutter speed.

A good rule of thumb when hand-holding a camera (not using a tripod) is to not let your shutter speed number (the 100 in 1/100) fall below double the focal length of your lens.

If reading that last sentence just made you go “HUH?”, here’s what I mean. If you’re using an SLR, you have a lens on your camera that has numbers on it. For my favorite lens, here’s a shot of what those numbers are and where they’re located.

“Canon Lens EF 85mm 1:1.8”Focal length

The “85mm” part is the focal length. It tells you not only the length of the lens, but also the amount of zoom that your lens provides. For larger numbers, there is more zoom, or less of the scene in front of you included in your shot. For smaller numbers, there is less zoom, or more of a scene included in a shot. If you’re photographing your child on a soccer field from far away, you’ll want a bigger number to get zoomed in close. For photographing a room interior, on the other hand, you’ll want smaller numbers, or a wide-angle lens, to get the whole room in the picture.

So once you know the focal length of your lens, keep your shutter speed at least double that number (so for my 85mm lens, that would be a minimum shutter speed of 1/170) to avoid adding blur from my own movements.

Now, the easiest way to get a photography concept down is to take about 1000 pictures and practice. I don’t recommend jumping into Manual mode just yet if you’ve never tried it and don’t know how to read your in-camera meter (that’s a future post!). Try putting your camera on shutter priority mode—this is the setting that allows you to change the shutter speed and you camera will select the aperture and ISO for you. On Canon cameras, this is the Tv setting, on Nikons it’s S mode. Then you can wander around your house and try different shutter speeds in different settings. Your flash will not fire in a shutter priority mode, so be aware of where the light is coming from—practice near a window with indirect light if you can. Chasing your kids around a park is another good way to practice making adjustments. They won’t stop moving and wait until you get your settings just right, but you can play and practice at the same time.

I’ll be back next week with aperture and reading your in-camera meter! If you practice with different shutter settings this week, I’d love to see your results. Link up in the comments or drop me an email at jan [at] janiphotography [dot] com. I can’t wait to see your images!

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