Author Archives: Dana McCranie

Dana McCranie

About Dana McCranie

Dana McCranie writes, prays, laughs, loves glitter and will hug you even if you try to shake her hand. You can often find her behind her camera, striving to build a photography business. You'll never find her as happy as she is dancing around her kitchen with her daughter, son and amazing husband.

Clutter in closet or house

Reforming a Sentimental Hoarder: My Path to Freedom

clutter clip artWe live in a 1,600-square-foot house. Since my 5 year-old daughter was a baby, I’ve plotted and planned our move to a larger house. While one of our reasons to move had to do with school, my main desire was to attain more space. My husband always argued more space just equals more stuff, to which I’ve always had at least five counterarguments ready for anyone who would listen. My husband wasn’t usually one of those people. While a few of my points had some weight, deep down my inner hoarder has always known he was speaking the truth.

We’ve tried to sell our house on two different occasions and both times there has been an overwhelming sense within us that it wasn’t the right time. Our desire to stay in this neighborhood has grown and is now undeniable. My daughter loves her school and she cries at the mention of us moving. Needless to say, we are staying put.

Of course, one of the first orders of business is to declutter and let go of some of my stuff. My sentimentality makes this extremely difficult. I lost my father in Feburary and although he didn’t leave behind a ton of things, just dealing with this loss and what he did leave behind has completely overwhelmed me. It caused quite an awakening in my heart and soul.

I don’t want to go through my life just amassing things that my children will have to some day agonize over. My life is a story and I want it to read like a love letter to God, my family and every soul I ever encounter. I have no doubt we are in this house and neighborhood for a reason. It is time to stop viewing this house we’ve been in for more than eight years as a temporary stop on the road to something better. I have to let go of what we don’t need and organize the things we do.

With my new resolve I am facing my sentimental heart and taking it one baby step at a time toward a new way of life. I’m leaning on friends who have a gift for organization. I’m scouring magazines and books about decluttering and organization for examples of beautiful systems we can implement. I’m treating this wonderful place as a home instead of a house. Most of all, I am praying I can make our home a blessing for my family and others.

DSLR camera used by female photographer

My Three Favorite Photography Books

DSLR camera used by female photographerWhen I purchased my first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera four years ago, I decided to invest in a few books. I really desired insight into both the art and technique of digital photography. And I’ve found a few books that have quickly become go-to references. There are so many areas of photography that can and should be addressed, but these books have given me a great foundation, and continue to be of great value as I learn and grow in this field.

  1. Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography by Bryan Peterson. Peterson has written two of the books on my list, but this was the first one I read. Because of the time at which I read it, it holds a nostalgic position in my heart that I associate with those first days I really experimented with my camera. Much like a song reminds you of a specific time, this book takes me back to those initial shooting days with my new DSLR. I’ve found no greater reference for teaching me to think artistically when composing a shot.
  2. Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs With a Film or Digital Camera by Bryan Peterson. This is the best way to start thinking about manual mode. By that I mean if you are ready to stop shooting in fully automatic mode and start gaining more control over your exposures, this is a great book to help gain an understanding of how to accomplish this. He uses wonderful analogies to help understand things like ISO and its relationship to aperture and shutter speed.
  3. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. If you are going to dive into the world of digital photography, you should really know the name Scott Kelby. Not only is he the president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and an expert on all things Adobe, but he writes some of the best books on digital photography I’ve read. This particular book has three volumes and while I’ve only read the first, I plan to own the second and third. Aside from his presentation of information being easy to understand and relevant, he is absolutely hilarious. I love reading his books because they never read like an educational book; I’m constantly laughing out loud.

These books come from two authors with a long list of titles worth reading. I’m still working my way through them all and my photography is always better as a result.

What are your favorite photography books? Let me know in the comments section below.

Female photographer and camera in silhouette

New Photography Gear Doesn’t Always Equal Better Photos

Outdoor Photographer magazine October 2011

Photography magazines like Outdoor Photographer can be a good way to learn how to get the most out of the gear you already have.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be taken on as an intern by two amazing local photographers. When I first applied, there was something in the description of the internship that really called to me. It said the mentors would be able to teach me to take great photos with the equipment I already had.

There were so many reasons I wanted to do this, but that one statement pushed me over the edge. I’ve been taking pictures since college, but while I’ve gotten better I had never felt really in control of my exposures. I fell into the habit of blaming my camera and my lens. I just kept thinking my gear was limiting me–not my lack of knowledge of how to manipulate this equipment.

After nine months of work with The White Rabbit Studios, I found that they were absolutely right. Now I’ve gone out on my own and started my own photography business, and I started my business with the first DSLR I bought five years ago. It is possible to take amazing pictures with the camera and lens you have. I did recently upgrade my lens, but I would have had no idea what lens I really needed had I not spent the time learning what I want to shoot and how to do it with a more inexpensive lens.

Fancy gear is fun and it can help you create beautiful images. However, I’m thankful that I had to wait to upgrade my equipment. It forced me to learn more about the basics of photography without being distracted with new features and controls.

When your photos don’t quite hit the mark and you start cursing your camera, think again. Unless your equipment is actually malfunctioning, consider really learning how to use that camera before investing in another. I’ve become emotionally attached to my first camera. Through its lens I’ve seen my daughter blow out her first birthday candles and my son take his first steps. No matter what camera I invest in, it is with that Canon that I learned to be a photographer.


Remembering My Dad Through the Little Things in Life

shoelaces.jpgWhen I was 5 I had a boyfriend named Todd. There are just a few things I remember about him. He had brown hair and blue eyes. His had lost his two front teeth and he had no idea how to tie his shoes. The reason I remember this last detail is that one day he had been at my house playing and my mom was about to take him home. He slipped on his shoe, propped his foot in my Dad’s lap and said, “Tie my shoe.” My father, a big, gruff man, looked down at him and said, “You would know she would pick one that can’t tie his own &%$# shoes.” That was my Daddy. He was a great big grumpy and hilarious bear. This story has been retold in my family ever since. Anytime I’d date a guy, my Dad would ask if the boy could tie his own shoes.

I lost my Dad in February after he decided to stop dialysis treatments and his kidneys finally stopped working for good. I saw his death in the distance for a long time and when I would think of it, I thought I understood what it might be like. But of course I really had no idea. I guess I thought the moments that would affect me the most after he was gone would be the big events. I knew I’d miss him terribly and that the big days would be rough. As expected, I missed him on his birthday and on Father’s Day. I was sad on both of those days, but I was unprepared for the random moments that have disrupted my heart and reminded me of how profound his absence is in my life. I wasn’t prepared for tears to come just watching my daughter tie her shoes.

Those unexpected moments of grief are often the toughest, in my opinion, because of how unprepared you are for them. You can see the big ones coming and brace your heart, but it is in the everyday stuff that I find myself desperate to hear his voice.

Recently I realized that when I feel this loss so deeply like a hunger pang in my heart, it isn’t always a bad thing. It is a powerful reminder of the amazing relationship I got to have with my Dad and I am experiencing healing when I let myself feel whatever I need to feel in the moment. I’m starting to focus more on the blessings of his presence rather than the agony of his departure. I got to have a Dad, but also a friend who made me laugh and prayed for me and always listened to me with his heart wide open. So even if a little shoe tying brings tears to my eyes, it is a small price for the memories I have that also bring me great, sustaining joy.


Stampers’ Sampler Take Ten: Why Every Stamper Should Pay Attention to This Magazine

stampers_sampler_take_ten_autumn2011.jpgWhen my love for rubber-stamping and card-making first developed, I had no idea there were magazines dedicated to this craft. It was such a new idea to me and I found myself constantly amazed at how deep and rich this art form was. I wondered why it had taken me so long to discover its wonders. Once I was introduced to this genre of magazines, Stampers’ Sampler Take Ten was quickly a favorite. The quarterly publication features cards that can be created in ten minutes or less.

Most card makers I know love the immediate gratification that comes from being able to sit down and finish a card within minutes. There is a group of stampers, myself included, that was drawn to this craft because of our impatience. I love being able to start and finish something in one sitting. Take Ten caters to just this type of stamper.

Another beautiful quality of this magazine is its design approach. Pages of cards are organized by color. You’ll find a display of seven different cards in a spread and those cards’ common theme might be green and brown. This organizational aesthetic makes reading this publication such a pleasant and inspiring experience.

In the summer 2011 issue of the magazine, I was drawn to a few features. My favorite highlighted an approach to watercolor and stamping. In the article, “A New Way to Watercolor,” artist Glenda Giguere showcases a technique where she applied wet watercolor pencil directly to her stamps before placing them on the paper. The results are exquisite. One of my favorite techniques in stamping is to apply multiple colors of ink to the stamp before making the impression, and I love Glenda’s twist on this idea.

At the end of this issue there are a few little special sections and surprises. First you’ll find a piece of decorative paper for your use. If you’re like me, the magazine had us at free paper. Then you’ll find a section entitled A Second Take where cards found throughout the issue are revisited but in close-up snippets, each with a caption explaining a technique or detail used in the card. Finally, I was thrilled to discover a double-page spread devoted to sentiments you can use for different occasions. You’ll find wonderful quotations and little sentiments that you can place inside your handmade cards.

This magazine is a great place to learn techniques, but I think its greatest strength is providing inspiration for card makers. It is a great resource to keep with your supplies. Allow the creativity of others to give you a jumping off point. We could all use a little help from our friends.


Facing Kindergarten With Tie-Dye Therapy

dana_mccranie_kindergarten_tie-dye_1.jpgThe year I turned 30, I decided to head off the emotional breakdown I saw coming at me like a train in the distance. I planned trips with friends, they threw me a rockin’ ’80s party and I got in shape. I spent most of the year before my birthday trying to make the day something I wouldn’t dread. It worked for the most part. Recently, I decided to try this approach with my daughter’s entrance into kindergarten.

My daughter is my oldest child. She never stops talking–ever. If I don’t listen, she turns to one of her gaggle of imaginary friends and continues on. When she is not around, it is very noticeable. A month ago, I began to acknowledge that kindergarten might be a little hard on me. However, in the back of my mind I kept thinking I was actually really ready. I knew logically I’d be sad, but I was looking forward to the extra time and since she’d been in preschool for four years I thought I might not struggle that much.

Then last week we attended orientation. The meeting began and with every word that sweet teacher spoke, my breath quickened. Then her words shot into the middle of my heart: “We know they are your babies. They are our babies too, but we never tell them that. We always call them big kids.” I felt weak and nauseous and a little bit crazy. My husband and I went to the car and I sobbed. She’s a big kid. She’s my baby, but she is a big kid and now I have to let her go a little.

That was when I came up with the idea of making a shirt for her first day. It was something special we could do together and a lovely distraction that also allowed us to celebrate this event. I never wanted her to sense my anxiety for fear she would become afraid of going. So, we tie-dyed. We spent an afternoon tie-dyeing shirts for the whole family and then we bought an iron-on fairy pattern and made her a magnificent first day of kindergarten shirt.

dana_mccranie_kindergarten_tie-dye_2.jpgMonday morning she sat in front of her mirror brushing her short brown hair for probably 15 minutes. She asked if she should wear a braid or wear it down. Excitement twinkled in her brown eyes and I was so thankful for this enthusiasm. She looked so beautiful in her blue, tie-dyed shirt. I included one accessory. It is a tradition we started at preschool when she didn’t want me to leave. We have a special bracelet that I give her when I leave and she wears it to remind her how very much I love her.

Monday morning we took her to her room and she hung her panda backpack in her little locker. She sat down in her plastic chair and she looked so big. Her little brother had his own breakdown, which I was not prepared for, so Daddy had to take him out. I reached down and slipped the silver bracelet from my wrist onto hers and told her goodbye. She smiled a genuine smile back at me and I quickly walked away. She is ready for this day. I held it together until I got almost to the car and allowed my tears to come as I played a mental slideshow of our best days in my mind.

Making a shirt and all the activities we planned leading up to this day did help, just as my year of pre-30 fun did. In the end, the sadness that comes from both these milestones is really a nostalgic emotion steeped in the awareness of the passage of time. She is my bright little shining light and watching her grow has enriched every part of my being. She is the height of my laughter and the depth of my heart. She is my magical, creative little kindergarten girl.

Photo credit: Dana McCranie