Saturday, February 11, 2017

Shoot for the Moon!

"Shoot for the moon, you might get there"
                                                                                                      Buzz Aldrin

Last night was a triple treat in the world of Astrology! On the menu ~ A full moon (called a Snow Moon when it appears in February); a lunar eclipse and even a comet! Around 12:30 AM, while surfing the internet, I happened upon a photo detailing one of  these astronomical appearances.  Donned in pajamas and slippers, I grabbed my trusty sidekick (camera),  found the largest, zoom lens in the camera bag, turned off all lights in the house, and ran outside. Lady luck was with me, and overhead in the jet-black, night sky, loomed a perfectly round, beautiful, snow-white, glowing moon.  My zoom lens is at least five years old and zooms to 300mm, which in the world of zoom lenses, is not that great. Thinking this would be a wasted effort, as many of my previous attempts to capture the moon's beauty have been, I did not have much faith the results produced from all this effort. The thoughts that were really flowing through my mind were, "You really should back in that comfortable bed of yours, but now that you are out here, lets give it our best shot!" So I did; I focused, zoomed, adjusted aperture, changed ISO, switched shutter speeds, and much to my surprise, some very nice photos actually appeared. Once I settled on the best shutter-speed and aperture,  the slightest adjustments to ISO made a real difference in the details, and what they say is true,  "the devil is in the details"! Until the photos were uploaded to my computer, I didn't think my Snow-Moon photo was that great...and this may not be "that great", but it is the best photo of the moon I have ever shot...thus it is "worthy of the Blog"! This is a running joke in my house; if you do something that "makes the blog", you have really accomplished something outstanding! As for the other two lunar events,  when I discovered the lunar eclipse occurred earlier in the day, around 4:00 PM, and the comet was seven million miles away, therefore, barely visible to the naked eye, my disappointment of failing to document them waned. One more accomplishment occurred in this post...look how short it is! Curbing my long-winded descriptions of life's adventures is
a challenge for me, and my new goal is to say more with less! 
In fact, I could have said it all with these simple, seven simple words!

"The full moon - the mandala of the sky"

T                                                                                                                                                  Tim Robbins

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Friday Fotos" from Guided 365 class

I am actually "doing this thing"!  (often used phrase from my little brother! "Lets do this thing" ) When I casually received an email regarding this on-line photography class that sends a daily email of instructions and requires a daily photo practicing the skill we learn, it never occurred to me the demands it would present. I know...I hard can snapping one photo a day be? If you read my previous post, you can see why some days are very easy, but other days can be totally frustrating! Regardless, I am into this now and committed to giving it my all. At the beginning of the year, my attitude was, "I don't really have to do the homework, I can just read the email, practice on my own and submit a photo when it works with my schedule"; to now ~ which is "I must take the best photo possible, using all the info I have learned thus far, and must submit my homework everyday at all costs"! My only concession is allowing myself a 24 hour timeframe to submit the photo to Instagram. If I learn as much as I have this month, I might be working for National Geographic by the end of the year! Obviously a joke, but you get the point! With that said, following are the photos from the last two weeks. Some of them aren't so great, but we are practicing skills that often compare various settings, so I am forcing myself to check my ego at the door,  and even submit the photos which are not as good as I would like. Another temptation is to edit, and since my goal is to be able to take photos straight out of the camera, I am restraining from that as well. Finally, I want to add all my daily photos to my blog recording them for posterity when I convert my blog to a book through "".  This will give me a visual record of all my photos for the year as well as the other events that manage to make their way to "The Blog"! So get a cup of coffee or a nice, stiff drink, or even click off now because in order to catch up, this post is extraordinarily long!

Day 20: Freezing motion - OK...I now realize how "bad" this photo looks, and trust me, it was the object of many inappropriate remarks after I posted it! But truly, my focus was solely on the right shutter-speed/aperture and capturing the shot before the quickly setting sun prevented me from completing my "homework". I now can see what everyone else saw immediately! But it took my sister, of all people, to post a comment that said, "Ummmm, when you gotta go, you gotta go"! And in the words of Forest Gump, 
"Thats all I got to say about that"!

Day 21: Shooting water motion at slow and fast shutter-speed

Day 22: Freeze moving subject in sharp focus: I was visiting family in Tennessee; it was fun to document the nearby park that holds many memories for me. 
It took a lot of shots with numb fingers, to get the moving swings
  "frozen in place" exactly where I wanted them!

Day 23: Show movement by "blurring" a moving subject
 against a focused background: And I thought Day 22 was difficult! 

Day 24: Shoot a moving machine; take one photo at suggested camera setting, one shot overexposed by 2/3 and one shot underexposed by 2/3: This was fun! My mother "posed" for me, and her pottery wheel was the moving machine. I took so many photos by the end of my photo shoot, she actually produced two cups! How often can you work with someone while both improve their hobby's skills?

Day 25: Choose shutter-speed that best describes your story:
Still in Tennessee, I toured the family farm with my mother, my cousin and his dog "Black Jack". Love that name! Now that is one fast dog! The photo opportunities from newly emerging green, winter wheat, blue skies and a dog running at the speed of light were endless. Can you see the joy in his body, as he is unleashed, and allowed to run boundlessly, 
 wherever his fast, little feet can take him! 

Day 26: Move a sentimental object to various spots in your house and find the spots that provide the best natural light.
I used this "Remembrance Angel"~ a gift to me by my group of high-school friends that are always there for me. Given to me when my younger brother lost his very, quick battle against cancer, I keep her on my windowsill. She not only reminds me of him, but to also pray  
 for those people I know whom arenin the midst of
fighting this terrible beast we call cancer. 

Day 27: Photograph a subject using the best natural light in your house ~ I think this might be one of my all time favorite photos I have ever produced. Cajun, my Golden Retriever,  was patient with me and using a beautiful subject like her is half the battle. I love the pose, the light, the focus...and the fact that I didn't have to edit!  

Day 28: Shoot something cold and adjust shutter-speed and aperture to suit our photo ~ Nothing fancy here - just a simple cold glass of water. I like the background of shadows and reflections from the water and glass.

Day 29: Shoot something hot in the camera's "Automatic Mode" and then shoot same subject changing shutterspeed, 
aperture and ISO to improve it:
 This reminds me why I am taking this class! 
Photo on the left is obviously the "auto" mode.

Day 30: Shoot a flame on Manual setting, and pick best S/S, Aperture and ISO for photo: I picked the flame from our "Bevelo" gas lantern, which is a made from a famous old company in New Orleans, and even
 caught a "Sun-burst" to add some detail to the photo! 

Day 31: Manually pick ISO that provides best exposure for subject
I will save my breath on this explanation, as you can see my previous post, (Confessions from a professed photo perfectionist!) all that was involved to get this particular photo! 

Day 32: Shoot on Manual and shoot first photo at camera's suggested settings,  then adjust only the ISO to shoot 2/3 over and 2/3 under what camera says is correct. This was a great learning lesson for me! First of all, thanks to the newly named (by me) season of "Sprinter",
 (Spring +Winter = Sprinter), my Japanese Magnolia is in full bloom on Feb 2nd! I learned that often a subject looks better when you use the ISO to slightly overexpose what the camera meter suggests. 
See above! 

Day 33: Shoot your favorite drink using highest ISO camera offers in a low light setting ~ I was dreading this assignment because high ISO causes graininess, or "noise", as photographers like to say. Coffee is my favorite drink (in the morning), and to make it more interesting, I photographed the European style I use to make it! You have to admit, a plain old cup of coffee is pretty boring, but catching water in the air is kind of cool. The ISO in early morning light gave a soft glow to the photo...I love it. However, it took two pots of coffee, and if you look closely, you will notice I actually missed the porcelain filter
 and watered my counter in this photo! 

Day 34: Exploring the limits of ISO by using the lowest ISO setting possible in a low light situation ~ "Balance" was the word given to us to use for our photography subject.  After racking my brain, I chose this figurine holding glass balloons that are carefully "balanced" on the string/wire she is holding. My girls were often reprimanded for touching those glass balloons, and you can see that one is even broken! These settings produced another cool effect that I never knew was possible without editing; 
hip, hip-hooray ~ I am learning a lot! 

Day 35: Learning to use a histogram ~ the instructor said lots more coming on this topic later, but for this lesson, she wanted us to see how ISO affects histograms.  In short, overexposing a photo by only adjusting ISO levels after light meter is at "0",  helps in certain situations to avoid noise and histogram should move to the right. The subject was to be black and white, because noise (grain) is most obvious in the color black. I chose a favorite photo I took of my mother, wearing a hat I knitted that just happened to match a scarf she treasures 
from her father. How sentimental can we get here? Sniff, Sniff!Anyway, the top photo is at correct exposure according to my camera meter.  We were to overexpose the second photo by increasing ISO one stop, and yes,  my histogram moved to the right! Bottom photo is overexposed, but this was done to exaggerate histogram's movement. Now I know, to barely up the ISO 
for grainy blacks, and can double check histogram! 
I never knew how histograms should be used before this class! 

Day 36: Determine highest level of ISO you can use for a photo 
The word given for the subject to use on this assignment was "Compromise"!
This class is hard enough without giving us words to figure our models around! I get why the word was chosen. I had to compromise "sharpness" to capture the ambient light for the tone of this photo. However,  my already overloaded brain cells were close to an intellectual explosion! A bit of a stretch, I chose "Pound-Cake", our very demanding cat that came from the local animal shelter. We compromised;  if he would continue sleeping,  while I adjusted the various settings required to capture the setting sun and waning shadows, I would use him instead of our dog as a model! Feeling quite neglected having not yet been used for a homework assignment, he co-operated, 
resulting in this photo. How totally relaxed does he look? 
Why can't I be a cat????

Day 37: Using the same subject and setting, take photo changing the three components of the "exposure triangle" (shutter speed, aperture & ISO) . Goal is to keep exposure looking as equal as possible. ~ We were literally in the middle of tornado warnings, and "Toula" my very energetic six month old Golden Retriever puppy, kept giving me these pathetic, wistful looks as she begged me to go "play" outside! These were the two photos that had equal exposure with different settings. We were so lucky that day; a tornado touched down less than fifty miles from us and did major damage, but we had no problems except a dog that was bored to tears as I took thousands of photos of her!  

Day 38: Practice shooting a motionless object by taking a photo at every aperture stop, largest to smallest, while balancing S/S and ISO to keep light meter at "0". Used my beautiful eggs from my Aracauna chickens for a subject and the top photo was taken at wide open aperture (f/2.8)
 while bottom photo take with the smallest (f/16), and felt the exposure was equal on both.   After posting this on Instagram, I was surprised how many of my online 
photography classmates had not seen green eggs before! 

Last but not least ~ Day 39:  Same assignment as yesterday, but we had to use slowest to fastest shutter-speed, and take a photo at each stop using exposure triangle to balance exposure. Whoo -hoo!!! I am caught up now,  and have learned my lesson to keep up on a weekly basis!  I promise to keep up, as this post nearly killed me! We were supposed to use "games" as a I used my neighbor's Mardi Gras tree in his yard! 
How did I justify this? Simple...  
     Mardi Gras = Fun ~ Games = Fun                                         
therefore Mardi Gras = Games!!! 
 Good thing we aren't really graded here, or I think the teacher would write a big, fat, red "F" on the assignment for not following instructions! However, my photo is an A-plus in my opinion...what was even cooler than learning to keep the exposure balanced regardless of shutter speed, was how the background magically disappeared with the large apertures.  I did not move the camera at all while taking the first of the the whole photo series. First photo on left taken at 1/50th of a second~f/1.8 to the last photo on right, taken at 1/4000th of second~f/16. If I didn't take this photo myself, I simply would not believe a lens with a wide aperture could literally blur items right out of background.  And that my friends, was yesterday's homework! I will not subject myself or anyone else to this many of my "Guided 365" photos in one post again! Now I have to go take today's assignment, and then get something besides photography and blogging done today! 
Have a great weekend!!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Confessions from a Professed Photo Perfectionist!!

I am working harder then I ever imagined when I casually signed up for this online photography course at the end of last year A promotional email from
  "Guided 365" ~ an online photography class promising to considerably improve my photography skills ~ caught my eye.  The icing on the cake was the 50% discount; I bit - hook, line and sinker! My New Year's resolution was to resurrect my blog. If I could produce a daily photo, bringing my sadly neglected blog back to life should be fairly simple. 
"Great idea...just do it"! I thought, "how hard can it be to learn one new skill a day, and take a daily photo"? What I wasn't thinking about is all the effort it takes behind the scenes to produce that perfect photo; one you aren't embarrassed to post on Instagram for not only the instructor to view, but the other intermediate and professionally skilled classmates, as well as your personal friends. On top of that, I quickly realized that despite not being graded on daily homework, my photograph was ranked by "Likes" and maybe, if it was really good, 
people would even comment! No, I wasn't planning for that at all! 
So here is a peek into what it takes to get such a photo! Yesterday's photo idea came to me when I saw "Toula" (my six month old Golden Retriever) on the floor looking extremely adorable. Homework for that day was to shoot on manual, and although I am pretty good at juggling shutter-speed and aperture, we now had to integrate ISO levels into the mix. When I saw Toula laying there, 
inspiration struck; "Hey, I will wait for Toula to fall asleep,  have plenty 
of time to adjust all three settings, and voila ~ I will post the.......
  perfect, best of show, gold star, A-plus 
(you get the picture)"!  

I couldn't believe my good fortune when she actually began to fall asleep. Very slowly and quietly, while holding my breath in hopes that she was just drifting off to sleep, I got down to eye level with Toula. You can see from the photo above, that she was almost asleep...but not quite.
 Now in position, with camera in hand on properly adjusted settings, thoughts of
 "only one more minute!", ran through my mind! 

That was, until I heard the sound of a barking dog outside, and just like that ~ Poof ~  my highly anticipated and structured pose went out the window! Toula's head popped up, and she was now wide awake. However, by this point, the exact image of 
the photo I wanted to take was burned into the left side of my artistically challenged brain, 
and already counting the many "Likes" my photo would generate!
 Determination to make it happen was even stronger, and my
 "To Do" list for the day went out the window.

"Plan B" began to form: I stroked her head, spoke in a soothing voice and carefully coaxed her back down to a good position on the floor. She must have been ready for a nap, because it didn't long for her to drift back to doggie-dream land. "Wow, this is my lucky day", I thought! Clicking away on my camera,  I was on my way to a 
perfect, Ansel Adams like, award winning
 sleeping dog photo...
that is, until I stopped snapping and took a peek at the back viewfinder screen.  It was perfect; except for one thing - do you see it in the above photo? 
Her very visible ear was flopped over,  displaying dirty, rust colored, 
under ear hair that seemed to glare at me!  This would not do. 
The perfect photo was clearly within reach; if only I could rearrange that uncooperative ear. 

Very carefully, without disturbing her deep slumber, I slowly stretched my hand and silently began to rearrange the one thing standing in the the way to my success. Just as the ear was back into
its God-given designated spot, and I was back down 
on the floor at eye level with camera in hand, my luck ran out. 
She yawned and performed a huge, big doggie stretch! 
It was the kind of stretch that originates from the front toe-nail of a paw, and ripples 
all the way down the body until it disolves at the tip of the tail. This stretch, combined with rolling over onto her back and a frantically wagging tail, revealed it was all over! At least, for the time being; but not in the artistic (and stubborn) left part of my brain. By now, it was clear to me, that I MUST have that shot!  For the next few hours, I let her play outside in the yard, took her on a walk, threw the ball for her, fed her a nice big meal, and stopped just 
short of slipping some drugs into her drinking water (just joking here!)
 Finally, after three long hours, signs of an 
impending nap were becoming evident! 
As she lay down in her dog bed and started to get comfortable, my brain was in high gear: "No, not there! The gold wall is a terrible background, and the dark-blue dog beds won't highlight your beautiful, golden fur. In a voice dripping with honey, I said, "Toula, don't you want to leave that comfortable, soft bed and lay down on the cold, hard, wooden floor in this exact spot; where the window on the North side of our house produces soft, diffused natural light that  bathes your body, allowing your coat to shine like spun gold? Where the rich tones in my hardwood floors will complement the golden highlights of your fur, and the plain, (but surprisingly clean, especially when I can "blur my background") white, walls have no visual distractions to the viewer, enabling you to 'POP" from the photo?" Clearly, this was not what she had in mind. Every attempt to move her there resulted in a trip right back to that comfortable bed of hers. Hmmm., what to do now? Give up? Not an option at this point! I enticed her to my "Perfect Spot" with her favorite treats, sat on the floor with her head in my lap, while using the most soothing tone 
I could muster to tell her what a wonderful dog she is.
After about fifteen minutes, I felt her breathing slow down and body go limp. 
Success ~ maybe I should be a "dog whisperer" 
What I can do is get that perfect photo now! 

I had already moved her body into the correct angle while sitting with her, correctly positioned her floppy ears, and stroked every hair into its perfect position. It was TIME! She didn't bat an eye when I slipped out from under heart was beating fast and adrenaline flowing while I moved at a snail's pace to slip back into position for the big moment. Every muscle was tense as I sat in place willing her sleepy eyelids to slowly drift downward. And believe me, it was ever so slowly! Just when her eyelid was millimeters away from being perfectly closed, they would crack half-way open to look at me,  and restart the process over again. "Patience is a virtue"; there is way too much time invested to give up now"! Instagram "Likes",
"Comments",  and maybe even an "Emotive",  were just a click of a shutter button away now. 
SNAP..... CLICK.... SNAP on my silver camera button.....adjust some settings, click, click, click, adjust and click, adjust and click.......

Did I get it???? A double check the viewfinder revealed the photo above.
Yes, that is is exactly what I had in mind!

Nothing to it, right? I only have to take one photo a day for the rest of year now! Piece of cake! 

Within that perfect minute, I managed to snap about ten photos on 
various settings, and then, all too soon ~ it was over! 
She popped up, and ran right back over to jump in bed with our other dog, "Libby"!!
And wouldn't you know it, with no preparation, staging, planning, coaxing, bribing, petting, or any other form of encouragement, I glanced over, saw this photo opportunity
 above and quickly snapped it. 
I took a good photo in less than thirty seconds...which tells me there is hope for the rest of the year. I  won't spend half a day, working on a dad-gum photo, that no-one but me can truly appreciate!
A quote I have heard, and often repeated to others, comes to mind right now...
"Perfection is the enemy of Progress"!!!!