Building a Better Yearbook

Last year I took over as the yearbook advisor (adviser? This is one of these words whose ambiguous spelling haunts me) for our middle school.

I love graphic design and bookmaking and yearbooks. I do. And I was once the editor of our school yearbook — our middle school yearbook, when I was in eighth grade. (I started to do yearbook in high school, but the story of that disaster is a whole blog post unto itself.) So sure. Definitely qualified.

Well… let’s just say that we ended the year with a yearbook. And honestly, it’s not bad. Some people even thought it was good. I love the cover art, I love that there are few enough mistakes that no one has brought any to my attention yet (I’m not so crazy as to assume there really aren’t any), and I love that we got it done on deadline.

But there are so, SO many things that I would have done differently. Fortunately I get that chance this year. Some of my thoughts as I forge ahead:

  1. I still am not sure what to do about my staff, but at least I have my applications in hand. I have too many good 8th graders applying and too few good 7th graders, too many girls and too few boys. I can take them all and have an enormous staff; I can cut some excellent applicants in favor of a smaller, more manageable group. I haven’t decided and I’ve had months to do so. Sigh.
  2. I’m not going to ask the staff about the theme. I know what our theme is going to be, I know approximately what the yearbook is going to look like, and I’m not interested in reopening a yearlong debate with fourteen-year-old girls. They’ll still have creative control of their own pages, within reason, but I’m seizing creative control of the cover, dividers, etc.. Someone may complain now, but they’ll thank me in May.
  3. REALLY hoping I can have my yearbook staff at least 1-2 times a week during Advisory… please oh please… will make such a big difference in terms of communication and organization.
  4. I want to highlight some of the previously overlooked groups and activities in the school. There’s a lot going on that gets skipped in the yearbook due to other, “bigger” organizations and lack of pages. But I think I can address that this year.
  5. I need to figure out how to teach rudimentary design to really young designers — specifically the idea of working off a grid instead of plopping down pictures willy-nilly. Last year, I was really in the “let’s just get it done” frame of mind. This year, I want to get it done well. I want them to have learned something by the time they finish it. I want them to have designed something that they’ll be proud of when they graduate high school.
  6. Definitely going to be more conscious of and deliberate about photography. I’m going to do some direct instruction on photography, and now that I’ve unraveled the mystery of the yearbook cameras we’ll have much better equipment. Last year’s photography was a fiasco. This year, I’m going to be proactive and protective.

Speaking of photography! We have one big D-SLR with some good lenses that will probably rarely be in anyone’s hands but my own. Then we have a set of Nikon CoolPix cameras that are sturdy and surprisingly good. I found the Nikon interface a little confusing, so I took the newest one with me on a family vacation to master it before trying to teach its use to students. I’ll tell you what; for a smaller digital camera without the ability to swap out lenses, the CoolPix was pretty impressive! I loved playing with the epic (yes, epic) zoom capabilities; when other people reached for binoculars to spy on distant sea lions, I grabbed my camera instead.

Here’s an example. Check out this sunset photograph I took on August 7 in Bandon, Oregon:


You may not realize it, but there’s a boat in that picture. Here, I’ll circle it for you:


See it yet? You can click on the photograph to enlarge it, if that will help.

Anyone who has ever tried to photograph the moon knows that objects appear much smaller through a camera lens. I could see that boat with the naked eye, but it certainly wasn’t clear — just an obviously manmade object, moving slowly along the horizon. I decided to use my camera to get a closer look.


From this vantage, I had about as much detail of the boat in my camera as I did with just my eyes. So I zoomed in closer. (By the way, none of these pictures are cropped or zoomed in after I took them. They are original files straight from the camera.)


I love this picture, but I knew I could see more because I hadn’t even started to play with digital telephoto yet.

I kept zooming and got this:


Look at the detail, kids. Look at that. Just look at it. Wow.

And the thing is, I think I could have zoomed in until I saw the people on the boat, if I’d had a tripod. The problem with super duper zoom is that you can’t keep the subject in your viewfinder without steadying the camera, and in this case I had the added problem of a drifting subject. This is one of several different shots I took, each with the boat careening out of view, except this one.

So yeah. I’m pretty happy with these cameras. I think we can do some really good work with them this year. I’m especially looking forward to some good sports and performing arts photography.

And no, Nikon didn’t tell me to write this. But if someone from Nikon reads this and wants to adopt my yearbook staff and give us new gear, I’d be delighted to review it. 😉

Anyway, wish me luck with my yearbook staff and with doing a good job with yearbook on top of my other responsibilities. This is my year when I’m going to kick things up a notch, or at least when I’m going to try. Lots of ideas, lots of blank slates…. whee!


Say Cheese

Before I begin writing this, I need to say that I’m talking about my personal preferences here, and that I’m offering no judgment on what other people like — just the same as how some baby names don’t appeal to me for my kids, but if they work for you and yours, terrific! I’ve seen a lot of beautiful maternity photographs that are much-loved by the people in them, and I love them for those people. Just not for me.

Well… actually… I offer some judgment on what some other people like. But then again, there are entire websites devoted to people who are similarly judgmental…

The thing is, I’m not a big fan of formal maternity photography. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I have no interest in pictures of me with big blue bows tied around my belly, or with ABC blocks propped across the bump, or (heaven help me) with a baby photo double-exposed upside-down onto my torso. And while I appreciate the artistry of tasteful nude photography as much as the next person — and actually totally like and am intrigued by the way my body looks now — I really don’t want to strip down and bare all for the camera, even if artfully draped in chiffon.

Not to mention — have you seen some of these pictures? Not a single stretch mark in sight! Exactly how much Photoshop do we need?

The thing is… for me, a photo that exists for the sole purpose of capturing my abdomen on film doesn’t really seem like something that I want, and definitely doesn’t seem like something I’d want to hang on my wall. And it isn’t because I’m ashamed of or unhappy with the way I look; quite the opposite. I guess I just think I’d be embarrassed!

That said, I don’t want this journey to end and to look back and realize that it hadn’t been documented. I have loved being pregnant, have loved being a part of something so extraordinary and that I’ve wanted so badly. And while I don’t want any photos that look like R and I are already working on baby #2 up over the mantle, I wouldn’t mind a few pretty pictures of me (NOT just my stomach!) to have somewhere down the road. So tomorrow (at which point I’ll be 36 weeks and 1 day… hmm, maybe I ought to do a 36 week post?) I’m going to meet up with my mom, who takes beautiful photographs, and I’m going to put on a pretty outfit, and we’re going to go to the park and take some pictures. And none of them are going to look like this:

Fully clothed photos for me, please 🙂 Sorry, Ryan! You’re not going to get the chance to bail me out for indecent exposure in a public park this week.

Although I do have one slightly silly prop that is bound to make an appearance… 🙂

Anyway, I will probably share a few on here in a little while.

I guess I didn’t have much of a purpose behind this post, other than to unintentionally offend a bunch of people, so probably I should go on to bed.