8 Reasons You Should Start A Bullet Journal

8 Reasons You Should Start A Bullet Journal

With a new semester and year just starting, this is the perfect time for a new planner.
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If you have a Pinterest account, you've probably seen several "sample pages" for a bullet journal (otherwise known as a "bo jo" *cringe*). They're usually insanely artsy and beautiful and look super difficult to actually do yourself. I was a little intimidated when I decided to start my bullet journal because I knew I couldn't make my pages look like those, but since starting in May, I've learned that it's not nearly as hard as it might look (even if my pages aren't exactly Pinterest-worthy).

In fact, it can be really simple depending on how crazy you want to go. So, now that you know you can do it, here are 12 reasons why you should.

1. It's relaxing

For me personally, doing my homework and reading is all fine, but it gives me this dull kind of stress. Bullet journaling is a great way to unwind from that because it's a different kind of work. The mental break I get when I pause to fill in my pages for the week is always much needed.

2. It's a fun way to keep up with events

If you're anything like me, trying to keep up with everything you have to do is an absolute nightmare without writing it all down. But I also get bored with just a list. Cue the bullet journal full of fun colors and letters that make me not hate having to do things quite as much as I normally would.

3. You actually want to use your planner

When you've put this much work into actually creating the pages of your bullet journal, you want to keep up with it and actually use it. For someone like me who had a lot of trouble keeping up with a normal planner, this is a great way to get in the habit of using one.

4. You can format it however you want

Your pages get to be whatever you want them to be. I'm someone who is pretty picky about the layout of her planner, so being able to make my own format was one of the biggest draws for me to start mine.

5. You can track your habits

Before I started my habit tracking, I thought it was kind of dumb, honestly. But now that I do it, I realize how helpful it is. Some of the ones I like to look at are my coffee drinking, my skincare routine, my water drinking, my Netflix watching, my workout time, and my reading time. Being able to go back and look at them helps me see that I'm meeting my goals of drinking more water or going to the gym more regularly.

6. You get to practice your lettering skills

I absolutely love to do hand-lettering (or faux calligraphy, depending on who you ask), so being able to incorporate it into my weekly routine is an added bonus of the bullet journal. If you don't know how to do hand-lettering, not to worry! There are tons of tutorials all over the internet that can help you out. Most people can pick it up in about ten or fifteen minutes.

7. It makes you look really crafty and artsy

Not going to lie, part of the appeal of the bullet journal is the aesthetic it gives you. Suddenly, you give the impression of being at least somewhat artsy and crafty (and also majorly organized). So if you, like the rest of the human population, care about your aesthetic to some degree and want the appeal of being semi-artsy, bullet journaling is your new best friend.

8. It's unique

I know that everyone and their brother (or maybe sister?) has a bullet journal, so it doesn't sound like a very unique thing to do, but if you think about it, there are no two bullet journals that are exactly the same. Each one has its own layouts, colors, fonts, events, and writing styles. It's an expression of self and creativity and that's pretty awesome.

With a new semester and year just starting, this is the perfect time to start a new planner, so get yourself some colored markers and a dotted/gridded notebook and go wild!

Cover Image Credit: Lily Snodgrass

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Beauty From Around The World: Portraits

I teamed up with Natalia Taylor to shoot six different locations, outfits, and styles.

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In this article, I'm going to talk about the shots that went behind Natalia Taylor's newest video (Viewable here)

I'll share some additional images that went into each region we wanted to shoot and explain the techniques I employed for this shoot. Let's begin with Japan:

Japan - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Japan - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Japan - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

For this outfit, the emphasis was on cute poses. I wanted to emphasize the subject, so I used a small amount of vignette on the shots, and when touching up colors for the garden area, I wanted to keep the exposure bright and playful by keeping the highlights relatively hot.

Next, we have the United Kingdom:

United Kingdom - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

United Kingdom - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

United Kingdom - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

For the UK, we wanted to portray sophistication. I also focused on the framing to emphasize the old bus in addition to contrasting with Natalia's outfit. Lighting direction was particularly important in the top shot, and the side lighting created a nice dramatic outline on Natalia's silhouette. I also used a slight dodge gradient filter in post to emphasize the lighting to create a more dramatic shot.

Next up is Russia:

Michael NealRussia - Natalia Taylor

Michael NealRussia - Natalia Taylor

Michael NealRussia - Natalia Taylor

For the Russia shots, we wanted everything to be traditional and fierce. Positioning was important here because our location was relatively tight and the lighting (being indoor) offered a little less to work with. Positioning helped to shield elements that didn't fit the aesthetic we wanted (such as a candy machine in a couple of shots.) Additionally, in post, I converted to grayscale to help bring out contrast and separation between the model and the setting, and I metered for the backlight when shooting to avoid blowing the white and highlights and detracting from the model.

Next up is Brazil:

Brazil - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Brazil - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Brazil - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

For Brazil, I think: Color and contrast. The black staircase we chose really help to set off the red accent pieces and red dress. The lighting added dramatic flair, and movement captured helped to add an additional element to the shots. We took a two-tone approach by shooting some images against a colored wall, and also contrasting with a simpler setting against the black stairs and gold accent pieces to tie everything together.

Next up is Australia:

Australia- Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Australia- Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Australia- Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

For Australia we wanted elegance. Shot against a simple gray wall, the shots allowed the colors to tie in nicely with the flowing blue dress and the golden blonde hair. In the landscape orientation shot, I wanted to leave room for copy in case that would be added later, and for the other two shots, I focused on movements, using a fast shutter speed and proper metering to capture poses that would draw the viewer's eye and attention to the subject.

Lastly, United States:

United States - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

United States - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

United States - Natalia TaylorMichael Neal

Reaching the end of the day, we wanted to utilize the golden hour for these shots, and I cut the sun's reflection from a building window across the street in several of the shots. Here I wanted to focus on that zone of lighting while also capturing poses and quick movements that would fit the more laid back style of the denim downtown.

This shoot was a ton of fun and a great challenge in shooting so much content in different styles. Be sure to check out the video linked in the intro to see more about the shoot, and the thoughts that went behind it.

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Using 'Tradition' As An Excuse For Blood Feuds Is Not Okay

Respecting culture should not include the allowance of massacre.

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Bloods feuds are different from your typical family argument. They generally occur in the Northeast or Central region of Albania and can take many people's lives.

A blood feud begins when a person takes another one's life in the midst of an argument or disagreement. When this happens they are not settled by a civil court or lifetime in prison; they are settled by using murder as revenge over an over again.

If not prevented, the two families in conflict will go back in forth taking someone's life from the family that wished to spite them, just to even the score.

Eventually, families run out of men to use in these blood feuds, and to make sure that the conflict is resolved, the women begin to dress up and act as males so they too can go out and kill each other. This practice has historical significance in their culture and should always be taught and remembered, but that does not justify allowing the practice to continue.

Sure it's insignificant, that I, as a female living in a developed country, would find this practice barbaric and want to stop it. But it's important to take a closer look at the families and realize how much they struggle and desperately need this to end to allow them to live.

Just in Albania's Shkodra region alone, there are estimated to be 68 families unable to leave their house in fear of what awaits them. People are unable to continue what would normally be a successful life if they are dragged into a fight that's not their own, by tradition alone.

In class today, my professor discussed his high school years, most of which were spent in Albania. He was exposed to, and friends, with many of the people trapped in this nightmare.

One in particular, he told us, would drive down in a van with tinted windows to a different city every day to carry out his life where no one knew him. He would work with them, hang out and play soccer, and drive home every day. This continued for months, until one day he stopped showing up, and eventually, my professor discovered he had been killed by the family that his family was in combat with.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event, and it is still happening while the rest of Albania develops around it. People want help to solve this issue and truly need it...

In this issue, awareness is key and can allow humanity around the world to step in an attempt to prevent this from continuing. If this goal is achieved, imagine the renewed life that the people trapped in this tradition would be able to discover.

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