February 29, 2012

A Little California Trivia

This is what it looks like right now all up and down Hwy 5 in the Central Valley of CA.
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almond tree dip
Miles and miles and acres and acres of almond tree orchards. 500,000ish acres to be exactish.
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The picture above is the last photo I took thru our front windshield. Too many (sad frowny face) bees splattered there.
The bee boxes (housing the bees necessary for pollination) are shown in the picture below.
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And those "dirt piles" you see in the image below, next to the processing structures, are actually not dirt, but almond shells!!!
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(for perspective, see the trees, also brown, in front of the piles)
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80% of the world's supply of almonds is grown right here in CA's central valley. But nevermind that minor little detail; I was just happy to soak in all the visual blossom splendor ...

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February 27, 2012

The View: on the Way Up and the Way Back

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The "in-between" view: at my Dad & Brother's annual business breakfast ... My brother made me promise not to throw any images over the great wide internets of him with his mouth open ... that's him: the little bitty dot up at the podium. Hey, Bro, showing that picture doesn't count ;-)

gpi breakfast

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The way back included lots - and I do mean LOTS - of preemptive potty stops. I'm happy to report that this particular roadtrip included no vomit and no emergency potty stops. TMI, I know. But I want to be able to look back on this post sometime in the future and remember that we had at least one such roadtrip. :-}

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February 23, 2012

Quotes ... The February Version

I guess my blog isn't the only place where I can find favorite quotes of Kellers. Last week, early in the morning, I found this first quote arrayed on the coffee table. I emailed Big Dude with the attached photo and my eloquent query: "???" He replied that it wasn't from him and he didn't know the quote source, but thought it sounded vaguely Shakespearean (which is a distinct possibility, since MacBeth practice has begun at school).

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Turns out it was Middle Dude's creation. Anyone want to guess the source?

Since then, a few other quotes have materialized (with proper attribution - I guess they didn't want me to be so befuddled).

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February 20, 2012

Crazy Abundant Flare + some Philosophy + Weaponry :: Aliso Viejo Lifestyle Photography

This lighting in this place at this time of day (+ a secret ingredient I'll show you at the end) is pretty much my lighting love trifecta. My Littlest Dude with his "daggers" is just the cherry on top. Speaking of his weaponry ... Little Dude's school feeds him and his fellow students a regular diet of "truth, beauty & goodness" and regularly adds a dollop of "love your neighbor as yourself". But boys will be boys, and these are the "daggers" he fashioned from leftover lunch/pizza tins. Of course.

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The secret ingredient? Check out that incredibly bright spot of sun reflecting off the back wall of our porch (as shown in the last image). That natural reflector threw light back onto Littlest Dude's face and illuminated him despite all that incredibly bright backlighting behind him. Because he was illuminated from front and back, I didn't have to "blow out" the surrounding details and flare like I usually have to in order to light his face adequately. Natural reflectors: I highly recommend them. :-)

And stats: to help with flare definition, I removed my lens protector, stopped down the aperature (some pics are f/11, some are f/16), and shot with a zoom lens (24-70), mostly at the 24mm end.

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February 19, 2012

Beauty.

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He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 29:2


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February 16, 2012

Resources for Learning Photography

I occasionally get emails asking me about my own photography education and recommended sources for learning more. I thought it might be a good idea to compile my various responses in one FAQ-ish post.

What camera did you begin with? What intro dslr do you recommend?
The Canon Rebel is a great camera - that's what I learned on :-). We bought our Rebel xt way back in 2005. And it's still part of household arsenal of photography gear. My Middle Dude especially enjoys using it. FYI, the lens pictured below is Canon's 28-105mm, an affordable and much-to-be-preferred zoom lens to the 18-55mm kit lens.

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What's your favorite "beginner's" lens?
Cameras often come with a "kit lens" or two. These lenses are fine to learn on, but you'll soon start feeling the boundaries of what they *can't* do. When you're ready for a new lens, be sure to check out the 35mm f/2 lens or either of the 50mm lenses (f/1.4 or f/1.8) These fixed length lenses have wider (faster) apertures that allow you to play/experiment/learn more effectively than with the kit lens.

Where did you "learn" photography?
Mostly online. I found Pioneer Woman's blog soon after I got my Rebel. She oh-so-authoritatively (in the friendliest way possibly, grin) ordered me to turn off my flash. That was the beginning of everything for me. The point at which I turned off my flash was the moment when I was forced to learn how to manipulate available light. Manipulating available light quickly led me down the path of learning the great trifecta of camera settings (aperture, shutter speed & iso), ending ultimately in my preferring to shoot manual exposure nearly exclusively. No more green box for me!

Speaking of aperture, Pioneer Woman has an awesome series of tutorials exploring/explaining aperture and shutter speed.

I found HUGE amounts of inspiration on Flickr. There I discovered a plethora of photographic images/techniques/effects, as well as a community of enthusiastic photographers who are happy to share their methods, settings, gear data, etc.

For a tangible, in-my-hand, reference book regarding exposure, I very much appreciated Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

What software do you edit your pictures with?
99.5% of the time I edit my family images solely with Lightroom (free demo available here). And more often than not, I'm using One Willow's gorgeous presets. Any images that need skin touch up or cloning or textures make a side trip to Photoshop.

How did you learn Lightroom?
I firstly worked my way thru a Scott Kelby book (it was Lightroom 1, at the time). I then additionally watched about a bazillion instructional videos at Lynda.com (I got a free one month subscription with my purpose of PS CS3). I can't rave highly enough about Lynda.com. For $25 per one month period (or a slightly discounted $250 per year), you can watch unlimited numbers of very thorough educational videos on all sorts of different softwares. I learned oodles in just one month. When I wanted to learn an efficient workflow specifically for my photography sessions, I purchased Kevin Kubota's Lightroom workflow dvd set. If Photography Concentrate had been around when I was learning, I would have seriously considered their training course.  And, Julianne Kost's tutorials are superduper amazingly helpful.  And free.  Be sure to check them out.

Do you have resources that you recommend for learning photography?
Yes, I do! I adore I Heart Faces! It's a great website/community with oodles of tutorials, weekly themed contests, and tons of encouragement. They have a [free, supportive, HELPFUL!] photography community with boards where you can ask all sorts of questions and get answers from a variety of people.

I have some various tutorials on my own blog:
my miscellaneous photo tips

I haven't seen this particular video series, but I think Photography Concentrate puts together fantastic tutorials and makes things accessibly understandable. They have a video series that explains camera essentials.

Don't neglect checking out your local camera stores. They often offer half day camera classes.

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What's in your camera bag?
I have a whole post (old, but updated) with all those details!

What do you make your collages with?
Lumapix's Fotofusion software (free demo available!)

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There you have it. My FAQ-ish post of resources for new-ish photographers. I hope it's helpful :-).

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February 9, 2012

A View thru the Back Door ...

Dog Dude is possibly missing his puppy friend and he did quite possibly entice The Teen into running around a bit with him. And yes, Yes! That might quite possibly be a grin or two or three on The Teen's face. I may need to frame this series HUGE somewhere in the house ... ;-)

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February 7, 2012

The Lazy Man's Floral Macro Technique ...

Or I guess I should say lazy woman's technique, because this is my "lazy" technique. I say "lazy" in quotes, because, by that, I mean that I'm not hauling out and setting up the tripod, which would be the proper photographer's tool of choice for macro photography. Don't get me wrong: the tripod is wonderful. And in a perfectly fastidious, slow-paced world, I would use it every time. But I don't use it every time; sometimes, I just want to take the picture. Without the extra hassle. And so this is my stand-in-the-gap ["lazy", if you prefer ...] technique for taking macro photos without the tripod.

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ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/500sec


The key to the equation is to keep the shutter speed high enough to override the camera/hand shake factor. Because macro is sooooo close up, camera/hand shake is amplified. In each of the following pictures, I bumped my ISO just high enough to buy me a fast enough shutter speed. All pictures were taken with my 100mm macro lens. All images were taken hand held. All images were shot "wide open" (except as noted) at f/2.8 , which also helps to buy me extra shutter speed.

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ISO 640, 1/640sec

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ISO 640, 1/320 sec

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ISO 640, 1/640sec


In the picture below, I wanted a less shallow depth of focus. At the very least, I wanted the entire center of the flower to be in focus (thus, my smaller f/stop of 4.5). Oftentimes macro photography will require small f/stops like f/8, f/11, even f/16. Those small f/stops will NOT work with my technique, as they require a slower shutter speed to let in enough light to compensate for the smaller aperture. But for the picture directly below, I had enough light to use a slightly smaller f/stop while still maintaining a fast enough shutter speed to handhold the camera.

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ISO 500, f/4.5, 1/400sec

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ISO 400, 1/640sec

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ISO 800, 1/250 sec (this is about as slow a shutter speed as I can handhold effectively)


There is an added benefit to my "lazy" technique for outdoor macro photography. If there is any wind at all, a tripod + slow shutter speed combo is going to get you nothing but a blurry-blowing-in-the-breeze flower picture. A fast shutter speed, however, will override not only your shaky-hand-held-camera effect, but also will "freeze" the movement of the flower. Both pictures below were taken, handheld, in breezy conditions...

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ISO 400, 1/1000 (fast!)

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ISO 640, 1/400sec


FYI, all these flowers, except the last two outdoor ones, are all store-bought bouquets from Trader Joe's. So feel free to go buy yourself some winter cheer and try some macro photography. Oh, and if you don't have a macro lens, experiment with reverse mounting a prime lens you already have ...

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