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Photography Updates

21 Jun

I thought it would be nice to give a couple of updates on my latest photography interests and gear.  Enjoy!

1. Plate to Pixel

Did anyone else see The Pioneer Woman’s post this morning on her photography site?

I’m officially in love this this book by Helene Dujardin.  I’m dying to get my hands on a copy!

2. Battery Grip

This battery grip was potentially the best investment I’ve made in awhile.  It has steadied my hand so much when shooting, which has helped tremendously in poorly-lit situations.

I don’t know how I ever shot without it.

3. Photo Editing

I told myself last winter that when I was settled in with a job and a balanced budget, I would splurge and buy myself a photo editing program.

Right now I’m primarily using iPhoto.

Well, it turns out that having a job and a balanced budget has just made me cheap and paranoid.  There will be no splurging until I have a couple of months of saving under my belt.  Oh well!

4. Hanging Photos

We have lived here for almost three months and still do not have a ton of photos on the walls.  Bruce asked me that other day if we could print some of my stuff to frame and hang and I just about cried.  Of course!  Here are some of my thoughts …

We’re doing a nautical/beach theme in our guest room and I think this would be nice on the far wall.

In New York …
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of …

How about some black & white photos of the Big Apple in our living room?

This is one of my favorite instagram pics that I’ve taken so far – I think it would look great in our bedroom – very calming!

Bruce loves this one, too.

5. Progress

I can’t believe how far I’ve come since I took this photo.  Investing in a dSLR was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made!

***

Happy Wear a Dress Tuesday everyone!

Get A Grip

3 Jun

No, not that type of grip …

A grip for your camera!

The other day I ordered something for my camera that I have had my eye on for awhile, a Canon BG-E5 Equiv Battery Grip.  The cool thing about this grip is that it holds two batteries, which gives you twice as much battery life and power (a big plus when traveling or photographing big events).  The grip itself also does what it says – it gives you a better grip on the camera.  Bruce and I both agreed that the camera feels steadier in our hands – even with the long lens on it!

The directions made it seem more complicated to put on than it really was!

The first photo I snapped with it!

“SARAH WHY ARE YOU TAKING MY PICTURE?!”

Here is what it looks like on the camera …

The grip I bought (the one I linked to on buy.com) has control buttons on it that you can turn on and off.  There is one for the actual shutter, a crank for the shutter speed, buttons to zoom in and out and an AV.

It makes vertical shooting so easy!

My first lunch photoshoot with the batter grip!

I heated up a casserole that Bruce made a few days ago (that I need to post the recipe for!) and a romaine salad with almonds and ranch dressing.

If you have an dSLR camera, I would strongly recommend buying a grip! I love mine already!

Photo Tutorial: Catching The Movement Of Water

27 Feb

The sun was casting rainbows today!

The sun was reflecting so much light off of all the snow today.  It was so bright and beautiful!

After church Bruce and I went up to my parents house to help them eat through some of their leftovers.

I made an open-faced barbecue chicken sandwich on a croissant (from Costco – leftover from yesterday’s workshop on being an extravagant welcome).  I cut the chicken into thin slices, put them on the croissant and then shredded sharp cheddar cheese on the top.

Then I popped it into the toaster oven on 350 degrees until the cheese was melted!

It was delicious.  Open-faced hot sandwiches always remind me of cute cafes!  I heated up some rice on the side.

After lunch I took a little walk through Kent Falls, a state park near my parent’s house.  The falls are so gorgeous right now!  The big blocks of ice are nowhere near melting yet (I walked out onto some of them!) but it isn’t so cold that there isn’t any movement at all.

In order to capture the movement of the water, I used a tripod to steady my hand and a slow shutter speed.  I thought I would use these photos as an opportunity for a quick photo tutorial!  My camera settings are below …

Setting: Manual
ISO: 100
F/Stop: 29.0
Shutter Speed: 1/6

Setting: Manual
ISO: 100
F/Stop: 32
Shutter Speed: 1/8

 Setting: Manual
ISO: 100
F/Stop: 32.0
Shutter Speed: 1/5

 

Setting: Manual
ISO: 100
F/Stop: 29.0
Shutter Speed: 1/10

Setting: Manual
ISO: 100
F/Stop: 29.0
Shutter Speed: 1/10
When I am getting ready to shoot something I always try to think about what I want the photo to look like – and then go from there.  So when I arrived at the falls and decided that I wanted to capture the movement of the water, I knew that my starting point would be a slow shutter speed.  I adjusted my settings from there.
My biggest issue today was that the sun was shining and I had TONS of light.  Ironic, right?  A photographer complaining about light?  But with a slow shutter speed, lots of light gets let in already.  So I lowered my ISO as low as it would go and cranked up my F/Stop as high as it would go.  With those two settings letting in the least light as possible I could get away with a slower shutter speed.
It sounds complicated, but I promise it’s not!  Photography is all about (1) light and (2) knowing what you want your final outcome to be and thinking backwards.
Alright, I’m going to quit and hit publish before I confuse y’all even further.  Good luck!

Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Shadow

24 Feb

I have decided I want to take one of these photos every time I’m taking part in a new and/or fun adventure.

Location: Washington Depot, Connecticut
Date: September 18, 2010
Activity: Apple picking
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Date: November 18, 2010
Activity: Walking to work – because it was the city and I lived close enough to walk to places
Location: Captiva Island, Florida
Date: January 27, 2011
Activity: Walking the beach while my family shoveled show in Connecticut
Photo Tip:  Any sun works great for these!  The first photo was taken late morning, second one early afternoon and the third one early morning.  Try underexposing the photo a little bit so you can pick up a darker shadow.
Don’t be like Peter Pan!

Calling All Macro Photography Lovers!

17 Feb

I love macro photography.

When I was working at the hospital, I reflected on how macro photography was very much like chaplaincy.  You get up close and personal with patients, their families and the staff.  You see the good, the bad and the ugly.  You can’t hide anything.  And yet – it’s beautiful.

Beautiful.

This morning I decided that I would push myself a little bit and use the new macro extensions that Tim is letting me borrow when photographing my breakfast.

But first … 

I pushed myself a little bit in the kitchen!

(Note – these photos were taken without the macro extensions.)

I made an egg white omelet for the first time!  I usually make omelets with two eggs, but since I was only using the whites, I used three egg whites. 

I whisked them the whites with a little bit of milk and then poured the mixture onto a skillet that had been heated to medium-medium/high heat with melted butter on it. 

 I flipped it when it was cooked on the bottom and then added diced ham and shredded cheddar cheese.  I folded it over, let the cheese melt and garnished the whole omelet with sea salt and pepper.

And paired the meal with some Sister’s Blend coffee.  It was delicious! 

Bruce and I were talking about eggs while I was eating and decided that the key to egg white omelets really is what you fill it with.  The whites themselves don’t have much flavor, so you have to get it somewhere!  I’d love to fill the next one with some spinach and mushrooms.

Now … here are some of the shots I got WITH the macro filter!

Obviously, the macro filter isn’t good for “whole meal” (or even “whole dish”) shots.  It’s good for close up, meticulous detailed shots.  In many ways, macro photography isn’t good for food photography at all.  But there are certain details – like pepper in this case! – that cannot be picked up without macro capability.

Some notes on the extensions:
– The set Tim let me borrow is a Kenko set.  Here’s a link to them on amazon.
– Macro photography is a practice that you have to build yourself up to.  There are three tubes that can be used by themselves or in conjunction with one another in this set.  For these photos, I just used the 12mm attachment (the smallest) on my 50mm lens.
– For those of you with the 50mm/1.8 lens, these attachments are awesome for food photography with this lens!  The one complaint I have always had about the 1.8 is that it has zero macro capability and lends itself virtually useless in detailed shots.  The macro attachments allow you the ability to pick up detail AND still gives you the big f/stop for more light and more narrow depth-of-field.
– You’re not going to get perfect shots the first time you throw these on your camera.  Be patient – hopefully over the next couple of days you’ll see my photos improve!

I think that’s it for now on macro photography!  For those of you out there with dSLRs – do you have macro extension tubes?  Or did you skip the tubes and buy the lens?  Any tips?

Basic Photo Editing

25 Sep

Ahhhhhh – Bruce and I just spend the last two hours without power!  I’m not sure what happened, but apparently there were around 4,500 people in our area blacked out for awhile.  Now that everything is back up and running we actually still have the lights off and are enjoying the candlelight, but we are definitely appreciating every bit of our air conditioning, cable and internet. 🙂

I know … I sound pathetic.  I need to find a way to ween myself off of electronics.  The second the power went out, the first words out of my mouth where, “I was just about to send a tweet!”

I’ll work on it.

Anyway, when I was getting my mom set up on her new macbook last week, I was showing her some of the basic photo editing software on iPhoto and she was amazed at how easy it was to take a good photo and turn it into a great photo.

Now, I’m NOT talking about making skin smoother and waists smaller.  I honestly think that we live in an over-photoshopped world.  I hate the fact that what you see on the cover of a magazine isn’t necessarily reality.  It gives people unrealistic ideas about body image and beauty.  But I do think that there is a certain beauty that often doesn’t get captured when the shutter closes and there is room for some tweaking.  And these are times when I think it’s okay to bring in some basic (basic basic) editing techniques to sharpen your photos.

So because I apparently have nothing better to do on a Friday night than think about photography (that’s another post for another day) here is my first (and if you like it and want more, let me know!) attempt at a quasi-tutorial on basic photo editing techniques.

For starters, I use iPhoto.  It’s the free software that comes with apple computers.  I have a feeling that PCs probably have similar options for basic editing in their media package, so it’s just a matter of finding where everything is.

Here is the photo I am going to use for this quasi-tutorial.  In the spirit of fall, I pulled one of my apple picking pics from my trip to Connecticut …

Here it is SOOC (straight out of camera).
I actually really like this photo.  It screams FALL.  I think I could frame it in a chocolate brown or orange frame, throw it on my wall and pretend I’m living in a place where the weather is autumn year round.
Wow … I wonder if heaven is like that … 
Here’s what I like about the photo:  
– I love the narrow depth of field (the fact that the apple is sharply in focus and the background is blurry).
– I love that the one apple is the main focus – so simple!  
Here’s what I don’t like about the photo:  
– I don’t really like that my eyes wander to the other pieces of apples in the frame (the one behind the main apple and the small piece on the very bottom).
– I think the color is a little dull.  Maybe it was my sunglasses, but I feel like the color was much sharper in person.
Let’s see what we can do … 

Here is the photo opened in the editing software in iPhoto.  What I love about iPhoto is that it is a combined library and editing program.  It keeps things super organized and has a really easy interface.

The first thing I usually do is click on the straightening tool (third from the left).  The straightening tool is a photo-saver when you’re shooting people, buildings, etc. (subjects with distinct lines) but it’s also a good tool to use when you’re just trying to see a subject from a different angle.  So here is what we’ve started with …

… and here it is moved counterclockwise just a little bit.  You can see that even doing something so simple as this brings your focus solely to the main apple.

Then I click on the cropping tool (second from the left).  Ohhhh, I love the cropping tool.  I think my second quasi-tutorial post should be an ode to the cropping tool.  You’d be amazed what you can do.  But hold that thought and look at the apple.  I’m going to use the tool to tighten the shot on the apple and then move the frame so the photo is covering exactly what I want it to.

I love that you can visualize what it’s going to look like before you hit apply so you can adjust as much as you’d like.  Once you’ve got the box exactly the way you want it, hit apply …

… and we’ve managed to solve my issue of the busyness of the photo.  There is one point of focus – the apple.  No distractions.

But the color is still dull!  In order to adjust this, I pull up the adjust box.  When I’m annoyed with the richness of color, the first tool I adjust is the saturation.  It takes colors that already exist and just give them a little bit more oomf.

I adjusted the saturation from 50 (where every photo SOOC starts at) to 70 (cranking it down to 0 will take out all the color and give you a black and white photo).  And with one simple click, I’m seeing an apple that looks like the one I picked that afternoon!

Now before I click “done”, I want to adjust one more thing.  When saturated the color, it made the photo a little bit dark …

… so I increased the exposure from 0 to 0.30 and it gave it just a touch more light to give the photo a nice and polished look.

Then you click DONE!

What do you think?

Do you think it looks better?  Am I kidding myself in thinking I improved the photo at all?

I hope this helps some of you!  Most of the photography editing tutorials I see on blogs feature photoshop and/or lightroom and those are expensive!  I would love to make the investment one day, but for right now, I really do have fabulous free features at my fingertips.  It’s just a matter of figuring out how to use them.

***

What do you all use to edit your photos?  I know people love picasa and I think it has more features than iPhoto, actually – I’ve tried it before, but I’ve been trying to clear out the extra programs off of my computer lately.

On Labor Day, Craigslist and Silhouettes

6 Sep

Happy Labor Day!

Thanks to an early-morning plea I put on facebook, I think I finally (at the age of 25) understand what exactly we’re celebrating on this holiday.  Click here for a good article that kind of spells it out if you are just as confused as I was.

I was up and at ’em around 8 this morning.  A couple of days ago, I saw a lens attachment that I wanted to try for my 18-55mm lens, so I ordered it and crossed my fingers that it would fit.  Well, it didn’t – whoops.  On a whim, I posted it on craigslist to see if I could get any hits.  Guess what?  I did!  I was able to sell it and cover the cost of the attachment AND the shipping costs I paid!  Bruce and I met the buyer at 10 about 15 minutes away from our apartment and he was thrilled that it fit his camcorder.  I was thrilled that I didn’t waste any money on my lack of research when I made the purchase!

Have you all ever used craigslist (to sell or buy) before?  This was my first time trying and it was really easy.  Now I’m looking around my stuffed apartment and trying to figure out what else I want to sell.  Nothing is safe!  (Okay, well maybe Bruce and Lilly are …)

On a completely unrelated note, I was going through iPhoto yesterday and thought I would update you on my recent attempt to learn how to shoot silhouettes.  We were out in Buckhead on Friday night and I shot the following photo …

I think I’m almost there!  It’s not an exact science, though, so it’s kind of difficult to explain.  In order to black out the buildings, I need to pick up on the back light, but not enough to light the buildings themselves, so this photo is under-exposed.  In order to trick the light, I needed to shoot in manual.  Here were my camera settings:
ISO: 800
Shutter Speed: 1/320
F/Stop: 10.0
If my camera had its way, the shutter speed would have been much slower to “properly” expose the photo, which wouldn’t have gotten me the effect I wanted.
I desperately would like to try this out with a sunrise, but my lack-of-morning-person is prohibiting me from allowing that to happen.  Maybe once the days get shorter?
I’m off!  I know Labor Day is supposed to honor the work we do by taking a break, but I have a LOT to do!  I am going to alternate between being chained to my desk working on ordination stuff and picking up around the apartment and doing laundry.  
Does anyone have any better plans?  Lord, I hope so (for your sake!) … 

Photo Tip: Sunset Clouds

26 Aug

I was out for a walk with my camera last night* when I saw the most beautiful reflection of sun-setting light coming through the clouds.  I immediately went trigger happy, only to realize that every photo I took looked like one big cloud and a couple of trees.

Frustrated, I started throwing all of my settings to their opposite extremes (I’m not sure what that says about me), hoping to figure out what I needed in order to capture this dusk light.  I finally was able to snap this …

Turns out the secret to capture this backlit sunset is a fast shutter speed.  The settings on my camera were as follows:
ISO: 800
Shutter: 1/400
F/Stop: 8.0
I love the way the fast shutter speed was able to trick the light and black out the trees and power lines to give a cool silhouette** effect.  I wonder if that’s how the Pioneer Woman is able to get those cool morning cowboy shots that I love so much?

I wish I hadn’t gotten annoyed by my initial photographic ineptitude and deleted the “before” shots, because it really shows how important that shutter speed is.  So much for not being a perfectionist.

FYI – most point and shoot cameras can be put on manual settings and the shutter speed can be controlled.  Read your manual to find out how it can be done and experiment a little!

I’m hoping to get an early morning hike in on Saturday so I can see what happens when it’s sunrise light, as opposed to sunset light.  Cross your fingers that the weather cooperates!  I’d love to have more time to experiment and really figure out what I’m talking about.

Has anybody else ever experimented with silhouettes?  It’s a cool shot, but I’ve never been able to figure out how to get it!

*What?  Doesn’t everyone take walks with their cameras?
**That’s a really hard word to spell.