Monday, January 31, 2011

Christ on Cross Picture

I knew this would be really tough to shoot. So, while playing with my flash and lighting I tried to get a picture of this piece of art.  At first I thought I liked the one on the left with no flash better because the one with the flash looks blown out.  But, I think I should probably have worked with the flash compensation to turn down the flash a little and taken an in-between shot.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Around the House

I attended a meeting of the West Chester Photography Club on Tuesday and they have an assignment to take pictures around the house this month and submit them for review. I'm really having trouble finding good shots to take in the house.  So, today I played around with trying to just get the best shots I could of some subjects that I thought might be pretty tough to shoot.  Of the almost 80 pictures I took. I only kept less than ten.  Here's one:

Given that I don't have professional lights. I think this turned out pretty decent.  I set it on the kitchen table below our fixture that acts almost like a heat lamp and I used the flash on my camera since all the light was coming from the top of the bowl.  The colors are pretty true. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Day

School's out for Kayla.  I guess that means no one else works, either.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

White Balance Photography Lesson

Again taking some shots of the remodeled bathroom, I decided to work with the white balance setting on my camera.  Until I read the book I recently read, I had no idea what this setting was for or how to use it.  My P&S usually does a fine job selecting the white balance based on the automatic setting, or so I thought.  But, what I realize now is that often when I was getting bad results in low light shots it wasn't because I didn't have enough light but because the camera wasn't compensating for the kind of light.  The human eye compensates for the different colors of light and it does it so quickly we don't even notice.  Photographers refer to this as color temperature.  But, sunlight is different from fluorescent lights is different from tungsten (normal incandescent) lights and if we don't compensate correctly with the camera, we can end up with photos that have red or green or blue casts to them.

This shot was taken with my camera's white balance set to the standard AWB (not Average White Band, but Automatic White Balance). You may notice the orange-reddish cast to the picture.  When I was getting this before I thought I needed more light to get the shot. 

The exact same settings were used here, except I changed the white balance to "Tungsten".  Major difference.
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Lunch at My Desk

The girls were watching Star Wars on the TV in the family room so I couldn't get my normal politics fix during lunch today and instead had my grilled cheese and soup at my desk (in my cave). I decided to mess around a bit with my camera taking some close up shots of my grilled cheese sandwich. Since my cave is dark, the flash popped up. I snapped the pictures on full auto, not customizing anything. I snapped about half a dozen pictures. I noticed a few things other than the more orange cheddar is the worse it tastes.

In this shot, I pushed in very close with the camera and saw "vignetting" which I had read about but never seen.  The subject was so close that the lens actually cast a shadow on the plate in front of my sandwich.  

In this shot, I tried changing the angle to see if I could more detail from the oozing cheese.  The vignetting actually got worse.

In this shot, I backed away with the camera and used the zoom to push in close.  The vignetting is mostly gone.  But, I noticed int this shot (and the others) that the depth of field is so shallow that parts of the sandwich (the very front and very back) are actually out of focus.  I'm guessing the depth of field is so shallow because the aperture was wide open (due to the dark room) and because I was so close to the subject.

I was just messing around.  If I really wanted to get a better shot of the sandwich, I'd turn on some lights and back away a little bit.
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Shayna's in another championship

The Heat are playing up in another Sixth Grade tournament (they're a fifth grade team).  Shayna's showing a little burn out saying basketball isn't as fun as it used to be.  But, she's still playing great.  The team is 3-0 in the tournament and playing in the finals tonight, I'm pretty sure against the team that knocked us out of the Christmas tournament at McGee's.  We were up by 7 with a few minutes to go before we collapsed and lost that game.  I think the girls can take 'em tonight.

notes on photo: the Tamron lens and upping the exposure on the photo a little is allowing me to get some pretty bright shots in a very dark gym.  And, I'm able to stop the action.  There's a little blur around the ball. But, I'm at the limit of my lens.  To stop it, I'd have to take the ISO higher than I want to.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kayla's Swimming

Kayla had two meets this week.  She swam back and breast stroke in the first event.  Two of her least favorite strokes.  She held her own though considering they are pretty specialized strokes.  In the big meet this weekend, she swam back again and knocked five seconds off her best time.  Her coaches are really excited about her progress.  We are starting to see that "eye of the tiger" as she chased a girl down in her first relay race.

note on the photo:  I'm really happy with my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens.  There's very little light in these swimming venues.  I've been playing around with settings to get a shutter speed fast enough to capture the action (including the water droplets) but to get enough exposure to brighten up the picture and not have to use such a high ISO setting that I get a lot of noise. A shutter speed of 1/125th seems to be fast enough.  I'm also boosting up the exposure 2/3 of a stop.  The 2.8 aperture lets me get shots I couldn't get with the Canon 18-55 kit lens at f/3.5-5.6.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shayna's Birthday

Shayna turned 11 on January 13, 2011.  Now, fully a year past into her "double digits", we no longer have a baby in the house in any sense.  No one who believes in Santa, no Tooth Fairy.  Shayna even said Christmas was missing a little of the magic this year.

Shayna chose to go to bd Mongolian grill for a birthday meal.  Afterwards, we came back to the house for chocolate fudge cake with whipped cream and cherries on top.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brrr... the furnace is on the fritz

Today's picture isn't exactly artistic. But, I'm too cold to think about art. The furnace decided to take a break this morning.  The house got down to about 60º on the first floor and a chilly 57º in the basement.  The furnace repair guys are on the way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day (Another)

Kayla had her third Snow Day of the year- all they allotted for this year.  It's only January 11 and I'm already sick of snow.  Ty and I made a trip to Lowe's to buy (even more) hardware for the bathroom remodel. The girls were supposed to be sledding.  But, in the 45 minutes it took us to get to Lowe's and back they were already back inside playing Life and looking for hot chocolate.  Oh, the lazy kids these days.

Interesting silhouette shot created by the light background.  Just a quick snapshot with my P&S camera

Check out those fancy boots on this chick.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kickin' It

Kayla  talked me into getting a couple of pairs of Chuck Taylors recently.  What were the coolest shoes to have about 30 years ago are back in vogue now- in all kinds of designer colors and fabrics. When I was doing P90X I was looking for a pair of shoes to save my knees and ran across the concept of "barefoot shoes" like the Vibram Five Fingers.  The idea is to use a minimal amount of support because our feet and leg muscles get lazy from all that support and by working out without the support we build strength.  I ended up going a different way for shoes then.  But, when I got my first pair of Converses (well the first pair in about 30 years), I got that barefoot feeling from them because they have zero support.  LOL. 

I got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for Christmas from Ty.  But, because of my genetic deformity of having very long toes and second toes that are longer than my big toes, I cannot wear them.  I did wear them around in the house for a while and they felt pretty much like my Chuck's at over twice the price.  Chuck Taylor's, decades ahead of their time.

photo notes:

This was taken with my new Tamron 17-50mm lens.  I really like the bokeh effect, now that I know what it is.  By zooming in on my shoes all the way out to 50mm and being so close, everything in the background is way out of focus, forcing your eye to look at the shoes in the frame first.

this is a shot I took before I readjusted the light metering setting from my shoot the day before. I have to get used to tweaking all of these settings because leaving just one wrong for the conditions can completely ruin a shot. 

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Light Metering Modes- A Lesson for Me

We're having our bathroom remodeled which is a perfect opportunity for me to play with challenging lighting conditions.  Last night I took several shots with various white balance settings (now that I know what that means) and with various shutter speeds.  This morning I went in to take more shots thinking that with the sunlight coming in it would be easier to get great shots. But, the sun streaming through our new glass block window presented another challenge. 

I have pretty much left my camera in automatic mode with all of my point and shoots- only changing to their preset modes like portrait or food (yes, my camera has a food mode for snapping pictures of your dinner in a restaurant).  But, this is a shot I could have never gotten with an automatic mode or known how to get a couple of weeks ago. The normal white balance mode "evaluative metering" takes into account the light from the whole frame and was underexposing my photo trying to tone down the window.  Armed with my knowledge from my manual and the book I just read about my camera, I knew I could either crank up the exposure or try the spot metering mode and focus on the wall knowing the window would be "overexposed".  Here are a few of the shots I took.

Normal white balance and normal metering mode.  Note that while you can see detail in the window, the wall looks pretty dark and underexposed. 

This one is a little better. I think I had changed the white balance mode on this one.

On this one I had set the light metering to "spot" mode in which it only meters the spot I choose to tell it to meter.  But, as you can see I missed the wall and metered the window. The camera did exactly as it was told. You can see all of the detail in the glass block. But, the rest of the frame is black.  A "mistake" photo that I would normally throw away.  But, it's amazing that this is the exact same light as in all the other pictures.

And, I finally got it.  Spot metering turned on and I took a light reading from the wall just to the right of the window, then recomposed the shot.  The window looks washed out.  But, the color of the tile is true.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

California Dreamin'

A couple of weeks ago Kayla watched a special about the hippies at Haight-Ashbury.  After that I introduced her to the song "California Dreamin'" which I'm doing today.

all the leaves are brown
and the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
on a winter's day

I'd be safe and warm
if I was in L.A
California Dreamin'
on such a winter's day

On this shot, I used a trick I learned by accident during a snowstorm a couple of years ago.  If you use the flash, it reflects off the snowflakes making them really stand out in the shot.  My dog was actually outside with me and got in the shot.  But, I wanted the feel to be one of solitude so I Photoshopped her out of the picture.
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stupid Snowmen!

It's bad enough we had one of the snowiest Decembers on record.  But, Ty's all into these snowmen.  She usually puts them up for Christmas and last year didn't take them down until Spring.  Like I need a constant reminder that it's cold outside.  Every year I threaten to toss them all in the trash.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Another Swim Meet

For some reason, the coaches decided to put Kayla, a (just turned) 14 year old freshman, in the heat with the senior swimmers.  She held her own though. She's improving so quickly.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Home Stretch

It'll be two years next month since Kayla got her braces. I think she was about 5'5" when she got them.  She's almost 6' now.  Today we finally scheduled her last appointment, March 9th.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shayna's Basketball Tournament

Shayna's team finished third in each of their Christmas/New Year's tournaments which wrapped up today.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 1 of Round 3 of P90X

Today I began my third round of P90X after having completed a round of Insanity in June of 2010.  So far I've lost about 20 pounds of weight, put on muscle improved my endurance and lost about 2 inches off my waist.

People ask me if P90X works.  There's no magic to it.  Anything you work at for an hour to an hour and a half a day, six days a week that burns calories and gets your heart rate up along with a sensible diet is going to work.  The thing I love about having a program to follow is I know exactly what I'm supposed to do each day and I have something to hold me accountable (the calendar) if I don't do it.  In the eight months I've been doing the programs I've only skipped one workout that I didn't make up later.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year in Pictures

Can I manage to post a picture a day in the year 2011?  I'll give it a try.  Above is a picture of us before we went over to the Wesley's for our 13th annual West Chester Station New Year's Party.  It's always fun ringing in the New Year with friends, family and I love being able to celebrate with both Ty and the girls every year.

On New Year's Day, I made Belgium Waffles and fresh fruit topping for Ty and the girls (who finally rolled out of the rack at 11 o'clock after I woke them up.

This is the Christmas ornament Shayna got this year.  We have already gone through "baby's first" (through fifth) Christmas ornaments and the Kringles collection which we couldn't find this year.  Since she loves penguins, this one was great for her.