Texas Style Council’s Summer School (Part 2).

If you read yesterday’s blog post, you know all about my wonderful (and busy) first day experience at Texas Style Council‘s Summer School. If not, head on over here to catch up!

Day two of the blog conference was much the same – full of speakers who had brilliant information to share. What made day 2 especially amazing was that it was filled with some of my favorite bloggers and blogging inspirations. The day started with a keynote speech given by the lovely ladies (and sisters) of A Beautiful Mess, Elsie and Emma. As is the case with many of today’s bloggers, Elsie and Emma’s blog was one of the first I stumbled upon when I began reading blogs, so it was especially exciting to hear what they had to say. The two had a great presentation on all the things they’ve learned from blogging, and shared some of their key tips, including “challenge yourself constantly,” “write the blog that you would want to read,” and the all important “don’t drink & blog.” I had a blast listening to them, and know that I’ll be keeping their tips at the forefront of my mind.

Following Emma and Elsie’s keynote, I started out for another long day of listening (but as I said, I was even more excited for today, so I totally didn’t mind):

Pitching and Working With Bloggers | Turns out, this session put on by Alison of Yoked was more geared towards brands interested in working with bloggers (if you couldn’t tell from the title), but I actually found some value in it as a blogger. It provided me some good insight as to what brands are looking for in a blogger, and I plan to utilize that information should I ever get to a point where I’m ready to work with sponsors.

Creative Brand Collaborations | I could barely contain my excitement for this session, y’all, because it was being led by one of my absolute favorite Austin bloggers, Camille Styles. She has one of the most gorgeous blogs on the web, and when it comes to brand partnerships, she is brilliant, so I knew this session would be completely inspiring and educational (and it was). Camille  gave a talk about the right way for bloggers to create successful partnerships with brands, and how to best approach those dream brands (essentially what I learned in the session previous, but from the other side of things). It was pure gold. Plus, I met Camille afterwards which was even better than pure gold…we’ll go with platinum.

Work + Life + Blog Balance | Led by Julie of Orchid Grey, this session dove into the best ways to manage a job, a hobby, and a life (in my case a boyfriend, a dog, and friends) without getting too overwhelmed. What I found most interesting here was her suggestion that we need to stop thinking about how to balance everything because finding balance implies that each of the parts may be uneven, which is not always the case; instead, Julie recommends that we think of it as making each aspect of our life fit because we always find time to fit in the things we love. Interesting, no?

Small Steps: Secrets To A Start-Up | You’re likely looking at this and thinking, “What the heck, Rachael? You’re not planning to start a company.” You would be correct, reader, I’m not. But, you’re also forgetting the part in the story where the speaker for this session was Kendi from Kendi Everyday, and I’m mildly obsessed with her blog (which is interesting because I usually shy away from fashion blogs), so I was going to be listening to her session regardless of the topic (she could have been talking about spiders, and I would have been there…I think). In a way that’s just as witty as she is on her blog, Kendi shared the secrets and lessons that she learned while opening her own retail shop. Despite not having plans to start my own business, I was completely engaged. The best part? I got to talk to Kendi after her panel, and I’m not kidding when I say that she is just as nice as she is on her blog. 

The conference ended with a final convocation where a handful of the weekend’s presenters took the stage to answer any lingering questions that we attendees had. It’s too bad that I was too mesmerized by all the brilliant minds on stage to ask a question because I could only imagine the kind of thoughtful responses I would have received from those ladies. 

I left the conference feeling totally reinvigorated about blogging, with tons of amazing ideas a brewin’. Not to mention I made some great new blog friends who I look forward to continuing my relationship with, both online and offline.  Basically Texas Style Council is a win, and I can’t recommend it enough  – I sure as hell know I’ll be there for the next one during SXSW.

If you went to Texas Style Council’s conference and have any inspiring tips or fun memories to share from weekend, please do in the comments!

Words, Photographs and Competition.

I’ve got a way with words. Be it putting pen to paper or verbally stringing sentences together, I’ve always seemed to have a natural affinity for the art of storytelling.  So it makes sense that I would be drawn to blogging – a hobby that lends itself to weaving the tale of my interests, dreams and opinions.  And maybe it’s just my personal bias, but I feel as if I have the writing part down. Although as every blogger (and avid blog reader knows), there is much more to blogging than words.  Photography plays a large part in blogs (many of my favorite blogs have photos heavily integrated into their design).

I’ve always included photographs in my blog posts, although up to this point, my focus has been on writing compelling content. But to have the kind of blog that I’m working towards, I need pictures that do more than just complement my words – I need pictures that take your breath away. And try as I may, I just haven’t been able to achieve that make-you-gasp-and-drop-your-jaw photo with my iPhone camera. So I’ve decided that it’s time to make an investment in my blog and myself – and I bought a camera. Say hello to my new baby:

The Canon Powershot SX40 HS

My new Canon Powershot SX40 HS.

While still a point-and-shoot camera, the Canon Powershot SX40 provides many of the features of a professional grade DSLR, while still catering to a semi-pro like myself. The low light performance and high-sensitivity Megapixel sensor allow for stunning image quality and the 35x optical zoom makes it possible for me to take even the closest shots with ease. Probably my favorite part about my new Canon is its 2.7-inch multi-angle LCD screen, which will allow me the flexibility to capture any shot regardless of the angle. I can’t wait to take my camera with me everywhere and really learn the art of making art.

This camera purchase really comes at an ideal time, and not just for the expansion of my blogging capabilities.  In order to stay jinx-free, I’ve been keeping this on the hush-hush, but I recently applied to a blogging competition put on by ProBlogger and Tourism Queensland where 10 lucky bloggers can win an all-expenses paid trip to Australia!  Not only has traveling to Australia always been on my bucket list, but the opportunity to spend time with (and learn from) Darren Rowse, one of the web’s premiere bloggers, is an absolutely priceless experience for an up-and-coming blogger like myself.  But I digress. If (or should I think positive thoughts and say when?) I win one of those 10 coveted spots, my new camera and foray into photography will be essential for capturing the beauty of such an amazing country.

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Australia

The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

I promise every one of you readers that if given the opportunity to go to Australia, my point-and-shoot will bring that country to life on the page.  Readers, it’ll be like you were right there with me, so keep those fingers crossed! But until that day comes (if and when), I’ll be busy building up my skills at home.

Stunning snapshots, here I come!

Turning My Phone Into A Professional Camera.

In this day and age, it’s pretty much expected that a girl will always have a camera on her, ready to capture that “picture perfect” moment.  I’m not that girl.  I used to own a camera, but it sat in my room untouched.  Finally, I took it on a summer trip to Israel…where I broke it.  That was four years ago, and I’ve yet to replace my camera with a new model.  I find no need.  I can almost guarantee that one of my friends will gladly carry the burdensome camera whenever we go out.

But now that I’m blogging, I’m starting to see the value in well-taken pictures.  My iPhone lens, while good, just doesn’t produce the quality photos that I would hope for in a quality blog such as this :).  So, I began shopping around, looking for a new camera, disappointed at the high prices.  I couldn’t quite convince myself that my new-found hobby was worth such an extravagant cost. With an impending dread that I would never find a camera to meet my needs in a price range I could afford, something caught my “i” – the iPro Lens.

iPro Lens with case

The iPro Lens for the iPhone, courtesy of iprolens.com

The iPro Lens is a special case for your iPhone that includes easily attachable lenses, giving you the opportunity to take professional quality photographs with a camera that you already have.  For me, this is wonderful!  I love the idea that I wouldn’t always have to carry around both my phone and a camera. Instead,  the two can be combined into one SUPER device. The iPro Lens comes with two lenses, a wide-angle lens and a fisheye lens and the case also can double as a tripod mount or a handle.  The best part of the iPro Lens system? It’s only $199 – nearly $100 cheaper than any decent camera I’ve seen.

I’m obviously going to keep shopping around, but this is a strong contender in my camera hunt.  Although, I’d really like to try out the lenses and test the picture quality before I commit to the iPro Lens.  If you’ve ever tried the iPro Lens or own one, please let me know your thoughts.