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Photography Tips for Spring

Spring has sprung, and while some enjoy documenting the dark, mysterious scenes of winter, many amateur photographers feel more confident in the bright, colorful, sunny days of spring and summer. Whether you are snapping photos with your phone or working with professional equipment, expert advice can always come in handy.

One great tip for photography anywhere is the rule of thirds. Many amateur photographers place the subject of their image directly in the center- an approach that is relatively easy but rarely creates the depth and personality that a photograph can express. Instead, try the rule of thirds by imagining a tic-tac-toe grid over your image. The four points where the lines intersect are called “points of power” by photographers, because they lend depth, interest and definition to a finished photograph. Place the focal points of your images on one of these intersections points to give your final products an immediate touch-up.

Another great way to add drama to your photographs is by filling the entire frame with your subject. Take this image by Chris Gamel, for example:

Elephant Close-Up: Thomson Safaris

The elephant’s face takes up the entire image, and in doing so allows the viewer to connect with both the subject and the photographer behind it. Gamel explains: “As she approached, I asked myself what it was that captured my interest. The answer was obvious- an elephant was walking directly towards me… The result is an image with impact that reflects my personal experience.”

Gamel suggests: “Ask yourself what you are taking a picture of. The fewer words you use to answer that question, the better. Once you have identified your subject, fill the image frame with it. Usually, this means getting closer. Fascinated by the dexterity of a local artist’s hands- get closer. Want to capture the look of joy on your child’s face just before she zip-lines through the rainforest- get closer.”

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Online Safety Tips for the Whole Family

Internet Family SafetyTechnology has a tight grip on today’s youth, and while there are undoubtedly some upsides to the digital world, there are also numerous dangers, especially for children. Internet security and privacy can impact what your child is exposed to via web searches, friends and bullies and advertisements, and can also help you protect personal information such as your home address, credit card numbers and even bank account information.

Here are a few tips to help you and your children enjoy the internet and its benefits with minimal risk:

  • Keep your home WiFi secure with a password to restrict bandwidth use as well as prevent intentional or accidental malware attacks.
  • Read online privacy policies, and encourage your teenagers to do the same. Many networks and websites require personal information in order to create an account or register, so make sure you know what the creators intend to do with the information before passing it along. Take the time to look into their security measures as well, to prevent phishing and identity theft.
  • Maintain open communication with your children, as well as with older members of the family. Make sure they are aware of the potential dangers, such as viruses, identity theft, credit card fraud, exposure to adult content and social issues such as stalking and bullying. Encourage them to keep personal plans private, including schedules, travel plans and pictures with identifiable details.
  • Keep live online gaming safe by switching on the safety measures in the game consoles and by educating your children about cyberbullying and predators. Games such as Xbox Live should be played under a fake name, and personal information should never be given freely.
  • Keeping your children in the loop and maintaining channels of communication is very important, but extra caution may be necessary. Parental Control tools such as BullGuard Internet Security or eSafely enable parents to monitor internet use and restrict certain activities, as well as block inappropriate websites.
  • Don’t underestimate hackers. Keep your online information and accounts safe with strong, unique passwords, and change them regularly.
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Nature Exhibits Fascinate Children and Adults Alike in Dallas, TX

Children of all ages are fascinated by the natural world around them. Animals large and small, unique and fascinating plants, even the skeletons of creatures long gone captivate their imaginations and expose them to different forms and stages of life on Earth. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, works to create interactive experiences to teach children about the many living things with whom we share our planet, while introducing them to new concepts, spectacular animals and new perceptions.

The museum currently has a traveling exhibit open to visitors called ‘Animal Inside Out‘, which explores the biology, zoology and physiology of creatures of all sizes. Created by Dr. Gunther von Hagens and Dr. Angelina Whalley, the exhibit teaches visitors about the skeletal structures,muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nervous systems of various animals, including cows, horses and ostriches, as well how animals breathe, eat and reproduce. Dr. von Hagens and Dr. Whalley hope that their eye-opening exhibition will inspire a new appreciation for living things and awareness for the importance of animal conservation.

The Perot Museum recently ended the ‘Recycle Reef’ summer exhibit, and has additional exhibitions on the way, including ‘The World’s Largest Dinosaurs’, presented by Highland Capital Management with Co-Founder and President James Dondero.

“Dinosaurs rock!” Jim Dondero explained. “The science and fantasy of dinosaurs inspire children of all ages. We are proud to help bring the World’s Largest Dinosaur exhibit to Dallas.”

The ‘World’s Largest Dinosaurs’ exhibit is scheduled for next April.

 

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Rain, Families, Pets- Oh My!

winterdogShort, dark, wintery days can be a problem in a family household. Both children and adults get restless from a lack of exercise, sunlight and outdoor activities. What many people forget is that the gloomy indoors can have a significant effect on more than just the humans of the household- they can depress pets as well. In fact, many dogs exhibit ‘uncharacteristic’ anxiety and agitation during winter months.

This is generally a result of boredom and pent-up energy. Dogs and cats need to be kept stimulated in order to remain happy indoors. Making sure to keep them busy will also protect your furniture and clothes from bite marks. So, what can you do?

First, invest in some brain-stimulating chew toys, like the KONG genius toy. These will keep your dog entertained with an ongoing challenge, and satisfy his primal instincts to work for his food.

Next, have your children play indoor fetch with your pooch. Toss a tennis ball up the stairs- your dog will really burn energy and bask in the extra attention.

Another fun family-related pet activity is setting up an obstacle course. Lure your dog under cushions, over broom handles and between pre-arranged furniture with a tasty treat.

Of course, preparing for nasty weather with waterproof gear is always a great option (as long as your pet doesn’t mind the rain). Plan a family walk through the neighborhood and offer a prize for those who splash in the most puddles!

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How to Give Your Home a Pre-Spring Makeover

The winter months have left your home looking rather gloomy, and while spring might seem rather far off, a great project to get started on now is a simple home makeover. Try to involve your children, as well, to give them a good reason to ditch the computer or TV for a few hours after school.

The first step in touching up your home is, of course, a paint job. Don’t try to tackle the whole house, this will end up costing an arm and a leg, and will also stretch your patience with the process. Choose a few areas or rooms that could use a change; the difference in color will change the entire space, saving you the cost and effort of repainting everything. Of course, spend the little extra you may need to fix up any scratches or areas that have peeled.

This season’s popular colors are pastels and deep jewel tones. These will help brighten up any space, as well as give them a completely different mood. Try to match your choices to the white or cream bases that are already used throughout your home. A deep minty turquoise, for example, looks stunning with white walls, shelves or rugs. If you’re hesitant to commit to a new color, or too lazy to paint full walls, go out and buy some stencils and add a little bit of color and personality that way instead. You can even paint on children’s furniture, too, like a desk or a dresser. Wall-stickers are another great option to achieve this look.

Next, work on the more specific décor. Look around your main areas, and revamp your photo collection. Buy an eclectic bunch of new picture frames (mix colors, shapes and sizes), then sort through your photos and choose some favorites to put on display.

Now, move on to your furniture, rugs, cushions and other living room accessories. Don’t bother buying anything new; try to work with what you have. If the stuff looks kinda shabby, why not try removable covers? This will give you an opportunity to try new colors and styles without committing to the new look. You can even dye them yourself. Add ribbons, lace, tassels or designs to your cushions- if you’re intimidated by sewing machines, you can use hot glue instead.

Third, think about adding some plants to your interior. Beautiful potted flowers, or leafy vines like ivy, literally add life to a room. At your local nursery, ask for sturdy, indoor plants, that perhaps have a pleasant smell. Put some on top of the refrigerator, by the stairs, in the bathroom and on the piano, and make sure to put a bit of thought into the pots you choose.

Last but not least, think about the curtains, towels, bath mats and shower screens. These little things give the room its finishing touches, changing the atmosphere from hectic or messy to appealing and organized. While you’re at it, buy some new plastic drawers to keep in children’s bedrooms, bathrooms and the den to help keep things in reach but out of sight.

 

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