Sara Jensen Photography In Focus Beginner’s ONLINE Photography Course!

Did you get a fancy new DSLR camera for Christmas, but you don’t know how to use it? Did you give someone a great new camera for Christmas and you’re looking for the perfect follow up gift for Valentine’s Day? Or, do you just have a great camera that you’ve waited too long to figure out how to use? I’ve got the perfect thing for you!

I get so many requests for beginner’s photography workshops, and my schedule just doesn’t allow me to do them enough! So, I’ve come up with an online version of my in person workshop (normally $150 for 3-4 hours). The online course has all of the information offered in my workshop, but you have access to it for a FULL YEAR and it’s only $60! This course will be offered via a private Facebook page, so access to it is easy as pie, and I will be able to answer questions and give feedback to those taking the course right on the page :). I’m really excited about being to help out more beginning photographers with the basics of things like the triangle of light, exposure and in camera metering, shooting in manual mode, focus, white balance, lighting, composition and more! A full year’s access to the online beginner’s photography course will normally be $60, but for a limited time I’m offering a $20 discount on the course. And, after your year is up, you have the option to renew and keep your access to the course for only $15 per additional year. You can sign up for this course now by emailing me at sara@sarajensenphotography.com, or sending me a Facebook message through my Sara Jensen Photography Facebook page. I’ll need your name and email address to get you started in the class. I hope to see you there!

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Fine Print–Due to the nature of this course, all sales are final and no refunds can be given. Not sure if this course is right for you? Send me a note and I’ll do my best to help you figure that out!

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Climbing Kili, “The Roof of Africa” in Tanzania… The trip of a Lifetime!

dsc_8740-copy Sunrise next to Kibo, Kilimanjaro (“The Roof of Africa”) from Baranco Camp

It has taken me a while to write this blog post, trying to come up with words that will do this trip I took justice. I still don’t think I can accomplish that, but I’ll give it my best shot…

Let me start out by saying that climbing/hiking/trekking to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world (that one is particularly cool to say even if this mountain is nothing like other giants such as Everest) was never on my “bucket list” of things to do. The idea had quite frankly never crossed my mind. Despite that, when my Dad asked me if I wanted to go and do it with him and my sister, my immediate answer was yes. That was mostly because I wanted to do something this big and adventurous with them, and I think I needed to prove to myself that I was still capable of adventure. Several years before, the two of them did a trip to Everest Base Camp, and I was invited, but didn’t feel I could leave my (much younger) children for so long at that time. When this idea surfaced, I didn’t want to pass up another opportunity.

This trip surprised me in many ways, and ended up being more meaningful to me than I ever imagined possible.

First of all, these two were GREAT travel companions :). We got along wonderfully the entire time, enjoyed each other’s company, made each other laugh, and never once got on each other’s nerves…well they didn’t get on mine, but I guess I can’t be 100% sure that was mutual :).

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Having this time with them was absolutely priceless to me. I knew I would enjoy being with them on this adventure, but I don’t think I realized how very special it would become.

I thought that leaving my young children would cause complete panic for me. For 8 days of this 14 day trip, we were on a mountain where I had no ability to contact them at all–we were really completely cut off from the outside world (okay, let’s be real, our guides had satellite phones for emergencies if needed, but for practical purposes there was no texting, or phone calls, or checking in on Facebook). Instead of the overwhelming anxiety that I was anticipating, the opposite happened–I couldn’t do anything about it, so I let it go. I didn’t worry, and that’s big for me. It was a huge weight (that I had constantly put on myself) lifted. It allowed me to be very present and truly in the moment during the climb, enjoying the beauty of my surroundings, and the people around me. It was a freeing experience to be able to focus only on myself for that period of time, and I’m sure it made me a better Mom upon my return in many ways.

I had forgotten a huge part of who I was before I had kids. I loved to travel, I loved to camp/hike/backpack, I loved adventure. Having kids made me protective and cautious, and for a long time, honestly afraid to leave my comfort zone, or theirs. For a decade of my life, the adventurous side of me was put away, as my main focus was taking care of children and keeping them safe. I’m excited to rediscover pieces of my past, and hopefully instill a love for adventure and travel in my children as well.

First stop, Amsterdam airport :)…

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Next stop, Tanzania!!

After an two nights in Arusha (including a briefing and gear check with our guides), we began our journey by checking in at the Londorosi Gate (we were forewarned that this would take a while as our guides worked very hard to make sure everything was in order). This is the first trek of this kind I have taken, but I was very impressed with how well regulated everything was at the park. There are weight limits for porters, everyone must check in, and everything the tour groups bring into the park is documented so it can be accounted for again at the end of the journey to help make sure that trash is not left on the mountain.

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I could have sworn that I got a picture of our whole group of hikers together at the beginning (while we were still clean), but apparently only ended up with various groupings…I did get us all together at the end though…

From there, we went on to the Lemosho Gate where we officially started our climb. The first day was a half day hike through beautiful lush forest to Forest Camp, where we slept amongst the monkeys surrounded by trees :)…

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Day 2 of our trek started in the forest, which as far as just hiking goes, was my favorite part…

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Before long the scenery was changing. The trees were shrinking to shrubs, and although I missed the beauty of the forest, we were suddenly awarded amazing views–that just kept getting better as we got higher.

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For the first time, we could see a blanket of clouds below us, and this kind of view from above the clouds never got old to me, it fascinated me every single time.

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Then, around a curve came our first real view of the mountain…an exciting moment for us all, but I think we were all a little concerned with how far away it looked. We had to make our way around to the other side, and then climb it…in just a few short days.

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Our camp for night #2 was Shira 1, on a massive plateau. We had stunning views of the mountain, and started to feel the cold temperatures we were expecting even though our daytime hiking was still plenty warm…

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Sunrise on the morning of Day 3…

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These pictures show how quickly the landscape changed on this journey…the route we did took us through several different ecological zones–forest, moorland, and alpine desert to mention a few (thank you to our guides who were very knowledgable about all of this and shared tons of ecological/flora/fauna information with is along the way!).

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Here’s a little peak into how daily life went on (and around) the mountain…

We were served excellent food (thank you to the cooks on the team!) in a dining tent that was set up not only for dinner in the evening at camp, but also for lunch on the trail somewhere. That tepee like tent in the corner is the kitchen tent, and these guys did amazing things in that tiny space with limited tools!

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The “long drop” toilets are kind of infamous on the trail (holes in the ground that smell very bad), but we were spoiled with a portable toilet carried up the mountain for us and set up at every lunch and camp…

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And our home (my sister is pictured in the tent she and I shared) for the 8 days on the mountain…it was actually very comfortable and I never got sick of it :)!

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On day 3, we came across a very cool semi-cave in the rock that had more greenery than we had seen in a while on the trail…

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And our guides :)…these guys took such amazingly good care of us during the trip! I can’t speak highly enough of them…they always went above and beyond for us throughout the trek. Miss you guys :)!!

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And they weren’t the only ones who took good care of us. There was a whole crew of porters, cooks, and more who traveled up the mountain (much faster than we did), taking care of every detail for us. Here’s a look at (most of) the group of men who helped us get up the mountain (44 in all I believe, including our guides, for the 7 of us hiking in the group). On the right, they are welcoming us (with song and dance) to Moir camp for night #3. It was one of my favorite camps because of how few people were there from other groups…

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More amazing view of the mountain slowly getting closer at Moir Camp…

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And that evening, the sunset in front of us (with two lovebirds from our group making a nice silhouette :))…

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And 180 degrees behind us, the moon rising over Kili…

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The next day, the scenery continues to change, and the cloud blankets below us become more common…

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A very important rule to have that appears to have cleaned up the mountain a lot compared to previous reports I had heard about big problems with litter on the routes…

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Lava tower was our lunch spot today, on the coldest/cloudiest day yet…

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Many might assume that to climb this mountain, you have to go up, up, up. But that is not entirely the case. Our route took us through a great deal of elevation change, and often it meant going pretty far down too. This was really important to get us acclimated before our final ascent to the summit, giving us the best chance possible of making it to the top without feeling (too many) affects of altitude sickness…

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This is a pretty cool side note (thanks again to our guides for their knowledge on all things about this mountain and it’s inhabitants!)…this plant actually makes its own insulation in order to be able to survive at the higher altitudes we were now hiking at. You could actually see and feel it up close–like a downy coating, that I believe was inside it as well!

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Here you can see our camp for the night below as we approached…tons of colorful dots show how many people are camped here. We have now joined up with some of the more populated trails that lead to the summit and experience a lot more people for the rest of the way. This is not hike of solitude for sure, but that didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might…

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Baranco Camp was one of the most beautiful camps on our trip…the views were amazing of both the mountain, the valley, the clouds below, and Baranco Wall that we would climb the next morning…

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Baranco Wall was very crowded, and there was a lot of work by our guides to help us keep our position “in line” on the wall. If it hadn’t been for the crowds though, it would have been my favorite section of the climb. It was one of the most “technical” sections as we did some scrambling and pulling ourselves up on rocks. I don’t have any pictures of our ascent up the wall unfortunately, because I needed both hands to maneuver, but I do have some views from the top…

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My Dad once joked that he took a picture of the scenery he saw most on his trek to Everest Base Camp…his feet and the rocks on the ground. I had to include a similar shot from this trip, but I felt like the “pole, pole” approach (it means “slowly”, and they were serious about it) made it possible to take the time look up and enjoy everything around you. This slow approach was another method of helping to avoid altitude sickness as much as possible.

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The day we did Baranco Wall was one of the most challenging (besides summit night) portions of the trek, and we made it to lunch/camp later in the afternoon. This is where our group split as we had two different itineraries for summiting Kili. It was surprising how sad we were to see them go, but we would meet up again after summiting :)…

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Just an idea of what the porters did as we (and a lot of other hikers) headed out towards Barafu Camp…our last stop before the summit, our base camp…

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One of our last meals before summit night with our head guide Sauly :)…

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We left for the summit right around 11:30pm (we were supposed to sleep before hand, but really couldn’t sleep much, if any, from the excitement and anticipation). Our first landmark was Stella Point, which we reached right around sunrise (a very welcome sight after a long cold night of trekking), and then we hiked another hour plus to the true Summit…Uruhu Peak, 19,340 feet high, arriving at 7:45 in the morning.

I started to really feel the affects of the altitude somewhere on our way to Stella Point, and it increased consistently as we made our way to the summit. I wish I had felt better to enjoy this section more, but grateful for the help that got me to the top, and for Sauly taking my camera to get some pictures that would not have happened without him…and we all know how important pictures are to me :).

Photo credit to these images goes to Sauly (except the one he is in with us at the top, and I honestly have no idea who took that one!)…thank you!

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My favorite picture from the top (well, besides the ones showing us at the summit :))…such a cool shot with the glacier, the moon, and Mt. Meru in the background. Perfect artistic self portrait by Sauly…

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This is Steven (I hope I spelled his name right!), the porter who helped carry my day pack part of the way, and led me quickly down the mountain after summiting since I was feeling symptoms of altitude sickness…so grateful for all of his help!

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Then, far too quickly, summiting was over and we were heading down. We went up about 4,000 feet on summit night, and by the end of the day we would come down over 9,000 feet, having been awake for about 36 hours and hiking more than 15 of those hours. It was mentally and physically probably the hardest thing I’ve done, especially due to the cold (all of our water froze on the way up), and the altitude. And, I would love SO MUCH to do it again :). I can’t say enough, our guides and porters were amazing…they helped us eat when our fingers felt frozen, warmed our gloved hands with their bare ones, and never stopped encouraging us. They truly cared about us, and about us making it to the summit. It was very emotional to share this with them, and to know that we could not have done it without them.

A parting view of Kibo on our way down…

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The trip down was a little fuzzy…we were all tired, and I for one was a bit saddened knowing that each step down brought us closer to the end of the journey. I was excited that I was closer to seeing my family again, but I could not have anticipated how much I was going to miss the mountain and the people we met on it…

Mweka Camp, last night on the mountain…

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In the morning, we had our first of many goodbyes as the whole crew sang and danced for (and with) our whole group (now reunited) to celebrate our summit.

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The trip down brought us back through the lush forest…

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Cate and Skip :)…

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Fortunately none of us needed one of these (used for rescue off the mountain) to get down :)…

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And the end…

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But not before celebrating my sister’s birthday (yes, she voluntarily spent her birthday hiking down a mountain, which I think is pretty cool :)). They even made her a cake…I’m still not sure exactly how, but these guys could do anything. Did I mention they sewed my Dad’s hiking boots back together when the soles started coming off?!???

And, getting our certificates of completion, again to song and dance (but this time the dancing was by my Dad :))…

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Our very dirty group of 7 at the end :)…

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If climbing Kilimanjaro is not on your bucket list, I highly recommend you put it there. This was the most amazing journey of my life, and it has left me with an eagerness to trek more parts of the world, and eventually, to get back to this very special mountain. A HUGE thank you to all who helped make this dream (that I never even knew I had) into a reality and all of those that shared it with me. If you have any questions about planning your own trip to Kili, feel free to contact me! Coming soon…a blog post on our post-hike safari :)…

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Holiday Mini Sessions!! {The Woodlands, TX | Family Photographer}

I’ve had such an amazing year and have such wonderful clients!  I am almost entirely booked for the rest of 2012, and am excited to offer Holiday Mini Sessions this year to help accommodate everyone who would like to get in before Christmas and otherwise might not be able to.  Details of the Mini Sessions are below, spots still available will be on a first come first serve basis.  If all spots are filled, I might open up additional time slots for additional demand :).  Contact me at sara@sarajensenphotography.com or 281-475-5389 to book your spot!

Right now, the only remaining time slots available are:

Saturday October 20th:  7:30am, 8:00am, 8:30am, 9:00am (Rain date of October 21st)–AT NATURAL FIELD/FOREST LOCATION IN THE WOODLANDS, TX

Saturday November 10th 3:30pm, 4:00pm, 4:30pm, 5:00pm (Rain date of November 11th)–AT EAST SHORE IN THE WOODLANDS, TX

And a little peak at just a couple of the Christmas Card templates that will be available (4-5 more choices with options for different backs will be available as well!) by Photo Card Boutique… LOVE their templates :)!

It’s Personal :)….When the Camera is on my Kids {The Woodlands, TX | Photographer}

I managed to quietly get my camera and capture this peaceful moment of my daughter “reading” one of her books after dinner tonight.

Because of my job, my kids are acutely aware of my camera and when it comes out, so I have to work pretty hard (and/or very stealthily) to get an image like this.  Case in point….the image below.

As soon as she realized the camera was on her (mere seconds if that of course), these are the kinds of antics I get…

And then, seconds later, my son is standing on his head to get attention as well…

 

Literally:

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful weekend, and I hope this brought a smile to your face :).

Sara

When is the Best Time to have Portraits Done? {The Woodlands, TX | Family, Child, Baby Photographer}

When is the best time to have portraits done, whether it’s family, child, baby, etc.?

….Now.

Short and simple I know, but it’s true.  Sure there are ideal ages to capture your little one’s growth and development, but if you miss those, it shouldn’t be an excuse to just keep waiting for the next stage.  Sometimes it feels like there’s never a right time…as we all know, life just keeps finding ways to get in the way, and before you know it you’ve missed huge gaps of time instead of just small deviations.  I would be the first to tell you that 6 weeks is probably one of the hardest ages to photograph a baby–they aren’t sleepy and poseable like a newborn, but they still can’t really do much of anything themselves yet.  Is it a reason to just skip it if you missed the newborn stage–not at all.  Check out this gorgeous little 6 week old and tell me this picture isn’t just priceless for Mom and Dad…

If it’s been more than 6 months for babies/toddlers, or one year for older children/families; I encourage each and every one of you to set up a portrait session with someone as soon as you can–even if it’s not me.  Theses aren’t just images, but memories stored away safe from time, and chances are you will deeply regret not having them someday.  I’ve heard far too many sad stories lately of opportunities to capture these memories lost forever, so please  make it a point to put this on your agenda…it’s always the right time.

Happy Wednesday! Free Coffee Winner and some Summer Fun! {The Woodlands, TX | Photographer}

Congratulations to comment #5 Nicole Kinniry!  Your number was chosen by Random.org as the winner of the $5 Starbucks Gift Card…a little coffee always makes the day better!  Contact me within 48 hours to claim your prize at sarajensenphotography@hotmail.com!  And now, for a little Summer fun from a recent family outing :)…

Feather headband by http://www.babycakebowtique.com

Winner Announced! {The Woodlands, TX | Photographer}

 

First of all, thank you to everyone who left a comment and/or subscribed to my blog–I really appreciate it!  I used the random number generator to pick a number as the winner of the $5 Starbucks card (I left my comment replies in, but they were obviously not eligible to win).  The winner is:

Lucky number 13!  Diana McCranie–you were comment number 13, please contact me within 24 hours to claim your prize!

A Great Cause…Baby V and Cystic Fibrosis

Some of you may remember precious Baby V…I captured her with her family last August and will be back to photograph them again this year–they are such a beautiful and special family with hearts of pure gold!  It’s hard to notice past her cute as a button good looks and fiery yet sweet and bubbly personality, but Baby V has cystic fibrosis.  Her parents have amazed me with their strength, courage, and determination to shed light on Cystic Fibrosis and help find a cure for their little girl and all of the others afflicted by this cruel disease.  I’ve known Baby V’s Mom for years, and follow her journal updates about Baby V–she’s brought me to tears more than once with her raw, honest emotion in her accounts of what it’s like to find out, and then live with the fact that your sweet baby has an illness that will make the day to day so much more difficult and likely cut her baby girl’s life all too short.  You know what they say though, anything worthwhile is hard work; and they have embraced the hand they have been dealt with love, compassion, and determination–they are parent’s, and they love their little girl.  They are highly involved in the Cystic Fibrosis community and work hard to do what they can to help find a cure.  Next Saturday they are participating in the Great Strides walk to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  If you have a few dollars to spare, please click on the link below to help donate to the cause.  Thank you!

http://www.cff.org/Great_Strides/dsp_DonationPage.cfm?walkid=7200&idUser=438368

Does Size Matter? {The Woodlands, TX | Photographer}

Yes it does–but that’s not to say that every image needs to be the biggest size available.  What really matters is that the size you choose fits the space you want it to go.  It’s a good idea when you’re trying to decide how big you want your image printed to get out the tape measure and the painters tape and mark it off right on the wall where you want to put it.  It will give you a good visual idea of what your final product is going to look like.  A lot of times people think that 16×20 sounds huge, but when they get it and put it up on a large wall, it looks kind of small and gets lost.  Not to say that there isn’t a place for a 16×20 or even an 8×10 for that matter–everything has a place, and it’s just about figuring out what fits where!  I’ve included two images–one of a 32×48 canvas hanging above a king sized bed, and then the same bed with a 16×20 over it.  This should give you a good visual of what sizes translate to in real life.  In this case, I like the bigger image better, I love the 32×48 canvas–it’s huge and makes a statement.  If you have trouble picking just one image though, another great option is to do a cluster of smaller images together to fill the same amount of space (I’ll try to post an example of that in the near future!).  Hope this helps some of you out!