Who’s Ready For Some Football?

Who's Ready For Some Football?

Who’s Ready For Some Football Information:

  • Taken By: Susan
  • Date Taken: 14-Feb-2015
  • Camera: iPhone 5s
  • Lens: iPhone 5s back camera
  • Exposure: 1/800 sec at F/2.2
  • Focal Length: 4.15 mm
  • ISO: 32
  • Flash: Did not fire
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Large Christmas Ornaments

Large Christmas Ornaments

These large Christmas ornaments are found in front of the building at 1251 Sixth Avenue on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. This is along a stretch with lots of different giant Christmas decorations such as the Giant Christmas Lights. Across the street from  this display is Radio City Music Hall (you can see the reflection in the glass behind the ornaments). Also right around the corner is Rockefeller Center with its Giant Christmas Tree. Can you see a theme here? Large christmas ornaments all sounded by giant buildings. All very fitting for Midtown Manhattan.

I like the way the red ornaments pop out against the dull colored background in this picture. I also like how the ornaments reflect on the water of the fountain. In order to get this reflection I needed a fast enough shutter prevent blurring, which at night meant I had to use a the high ISO of 2000. ISOs this high can cause graininess in the picture so you have to weigh the pros and cons of doing this. A combination of knowing you camera, and looking at the situation will let you know if you can get away with this or not. In this case I thought it would work. If you look at the buildings behind the ornaments you can see the graininess, but it is not noticeable in the ornaments themselves. This works because the focus of the picture is the ornaments and not the buildings. The best way to learn if this will work or not is to take lots of pictures. Over time you will learn what you can get away with and what you can’t.

Large Christmas Ornaments Information

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Looking At You Looking At Me

Looking At You Looking At Me

This is Lucille’s I’m looking at you looking at me face. Lucille loves to be with us, she loves people, she loves to play, she (as you can see) loves laying on our bed. What she doesn’t like…is cuddling. Oh and NEVER touch her paws, she can’t stand it. So in this picture she isn’t sure what to think. Should she be excited because she is about to be played with, should she be relaxed because nothing is going to happen, should she be ready to get up and move because she is about to be cuddled, or should she be ready to run REALLY REALLY fast because her paws are going to be touched? Because of this we frequently get this I’m looking at you looking at me face.

In this picture the iPhone was both available, and much easier to use. Taking  picture of yourself is much easier with an iPhone than with a big DLSR camera! One thing we have noticed is that, no matter what camera we use, it is hard to take a picture of a black dog. Here it would have helped to use a flash to light her face, but the rest of the seen was already fairly bright with the sun shining in the window. Because of that her face may have been better lit, but everything else would have probably been washed out. I’m sure that if this picture had been planned we could have come up with some lighting what would have worked for everything, but as discussed here before don’t miss the moment while trying to make everything perfect.

Looking At You Looking At Me Information:

  • Taken By: Susan
  • Date Taken: 29-Aug-2015
  • Camera: iPhone 5s
  • Lens: iPhone 5s front camera
  • Exposure: 1/25 sec at F/2.4
  • Focal Length: 2.15 mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Flash: Did not fire
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Christmas Bokeh

Christmas Bokeh

In photography bokeh refers to the out of focus part of the picture. This effect can be used to draw attention to a certain part of the picture (by removing focus on the blurred part), such as with a portrait, but it can also be used as an artistic effect like in this picture. You can probably guess from me calling this Christmas bokeh that this is a picture of lights on our Christmas tree. This Christmas bokeh is a fun way to take a “different” picture of the Christmas tree. This effect can be achieved by using a wide aperture, making my favorite lens we have for this our 50mm lens. I have seen other pictures that have an ornament on the tree in focus while the lights are blurred which I thought looked really cool also.

Because of their color, Christmas lights are a fun way to play with this effect, but give it a try with any lights to see what you think. City shots with street lights, building lights, and cars could also be a good candidate for this. Maybe one car in focus with the lights from the other cars around showing the bokeh effect? Blurred tail lights from cars driving down a tree lined street, and the trees have blurred Christmas lights in them…now we are talking! There are tons of possibilities so get out your cameras and get creative.

As we have discussed before, experimenting is a great way to improve your photography. Try taking your own Christmas bokeh pictures. If you like them great. If not try to figure out why you don’t like them and see if you can take more that you do like with this new knowledge. If you come up with a creative way to use bokeh, even if it isn’t Christmas bokeh, we would love to hear about it in the comments.

Christmas Bokeh Information

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Giant Christmas Lights

Giant Christmas Lights

You can find these giant christmas lights in front of the McGraw-Hill building, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, in New York City around Christmas time. This stretch has a lot of very cool Christmas decorations like this so it is defiantly worth checking out if you are visiting New York City around Christmas. These giant christmas lights are a very short walk from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and not too far for the Macy’s Holiday windows (which takes you thorough Times Square). All of this makes for a very interesting night of sight seeing. The giant christmas lights were one of our favorite displays. We thought it was cool how they even included a giant plug in the display to make it look more real.

I (Paul) had been to New York City at Christmas time before, but this was Susan and the kids first time. Midtown, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Christmas decorations were what Susan had always heard about with New York so that is what she was most excited about seeing. Because of this we hopped on the train right after we got settled into where we were staying and headed to the Rockefeller Center station to check it all out.

Based on advice from someone I know that lives in New York City we had decided to stay in Park Slope, Brooklyn instead of our initial plans to stay somewhere around Midtown. Susan and I are both huge introverts so this turned out to be great advice for us. We really enjoyed the site seeing in around Midtown that night, and we also really enjoyed leaving the insane amount of people when we were done and heading back to the much more relaxed Park Slope area.

Giant Christmas Lights Information

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Cherry Grove SC

Cherry Grove SC

The kids wanted to try a new fishing spot while we were on vacation in Cherry Grove SC so I took them down to the Cherry Grove Park and Boat Ramp to let them fish while I got some sunrise pictures. To get here take either Ocean Boulevard or Lake Drive/Nixon Avenue to 53rd street and turn away from the ocean. The park is at the end of 53rd and contains plenty of parking. This park in on the Cherry Grove marsh, which means during low tide there is little to no water here. So if you want to go for either boating or fishing make sure the tide is up or you will be disappointed.

We were here early enough that the sky still had the golden hour orange tent to it. I have been to this park many times in the past so I new from experience that sunrise would be the best time to get a picture here. As we have mentioned in other posts, planning ahead, and learning about what I did and didn’t like about pictures taken in the same spot on previous visits let me get several good pictures on this trip. In some cases these things need to be learned quickly because time at the location is limited. In this case we do a family trip to Cherry Grove SC every year, so I have plenty of time to look over pictures and plan from year to year. With that my pictures get better every year, however the challenge becomes keeping things fresh. With that photography never gets boring!

Notice here that even with the little ripples on the water there are no reflections of the scenery on the water. In this case I wasn’t going for that effect so I didn’t mind, but this picture does a good job illustrating what I was talking about with getting pictures with water reflections needing perfectly still water.

Cherry Grove SC Information

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Running Goals

Running Goals

In 2014 I lost about 20 pounds and improved my fitness more than I had in about 5 years. What was the next logical step? Surgery on both feet in early 2015. Three months in a boot – no exercise. So being the goal setter I am, I needed to get my 2015 running goals knocked out early.

Now, I have never been lightning fast. My basketball coaches have been known to joke about timing me with a calendar. A sundial. You get the idea. I have only slowed down since. But I can suffer for a  l o n g  time. So my running goals have gradually drifted toward longer and longer distances. I generally try to average 12-minute miles when I run. So my 2015 running goal was to get the lead out and go for a sub 30-minute 5k. That is just under a 10-minute mile.

So I trained.

I hunted for a flatter than flat race course (The Chocolate 5k in Durham, NC fit the bill).

I lost Christmas cookie weight.

Trained more.

Race pictures were blurry. And cluttered with random people who were not me.

In all fairness, Paul was wrangling a 3-month old puppy who REALLY wanted to run with everyone. Plus he was fending off all the 20-something women who wanted to pet the cute puppy. On top of all that he had to remember all of my rules about race day photography. #1 – no pictures of me running away. No one’s butt looks good that way. He had his own kind of running goals to keep track of.

So when it came time to scrapbook these, I wanted to use a technique that made the blurriness look purposeful. Then added cute pictures of the puppy to distract.

Oh yeah – and I hit my goal! 29:07! And surgery? Well, those photos are not quite as pretty!

Running Goals Information:

This scrapbook page was created by Susan using Adobe Photoshop CC.

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The Shade Tree

The Shade Tree

On a hot day in Fort Fisher North Carolina while we were waiting for the Fort Fisher Ferry to arrive and take us back to Southport Tyler went looking for a shade tree. The shade tree that he found also happened to be a great climbing tree. Of course the shade tree + climbing tree + 11 year old boy means he is going to be in the tree until the ferry arrives (although to be fair the 16 year old was also climbing in the tree so it wasn’t just the 11 year old).

As far as portraits go, Tyler loves to have his picture taken so he usually makes it easy (although sometimes he cheeses too much!) which is the complete opposite of Anna. What can be tricky about portraits with Tyler is he loves to wear a hat. His hats often leads to shadows on his face which is a problem because in a portrait I want the focus to be on the eyes and face. This is where using brushes in Lightroom can be helpful. A brush can be used to “paint” over the face and/or eyes to increase the exposure, lighten the shadows, or both of the section that is painted. With this if the exposure of the rest of the picture would be too bright if the face is lightened, the brush allows for only brightening the face, leaving the exposure of the rest of the picture un-effected. Just remember to have suability as a goal while doing this. Too much editing and the picture will look fake.

The Shade Tree Information

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Ground Zero Memorial

Ground Zero Memorial

This is our JFK assassination. Our Pearl Harbor. Where were you when…. moment.

The moment that changed a generation.

So when Paul and I took the kids to New York City before Christmas 2013, the Ground Zero Memorial was on my short list of places to see. It was our last full day in NYC and raining. We stood in line for about 45 minutes. While we stood in line, snaking through the vinyl cords separating the up line from the back line I could not stop the flashing back. To the first plane – what the hell? Second plane – no way this is a fluke! Pentagon – is my best friend’s husband ok?! PA takedown – (breathless).

Meanwhile, Tyler did not want to be rained on anymore and Anna was hungry. They were just being typical tweens, but I about lost my head. I’m sorry, but several people were so struck with fear that they thought it was better to jump to their death than stay in the tower… and you want to leave because you are a LITTLE DAMP?! Survivors were buried for days before being discovered alive in the rubble by heroic, nameless first responders and YOU WANT A SNACK?!

Then we entered the security building. The kids had been through TSA shenanigans before – they knew not to joke about well, anything. We emptied backpacks. Removed shoes. Got scanned. Reassembled like the vacation-style Avengers we were. Kids crabbing all the way. “Why do we have to take off our shoes?” “Why isn’t the museum open – its been 12 years?!” “Are we almost done now?” Then we exited the security building onto Ground Zero.

I am sure the term “ground zero” has been used before. Where devastation happened? Probably. Where a crime spree started? Sure. But now we are talking capital G, capital Z – Ground Zero. Rain felt like the tears of a nation coming down on us. Tears slid down my face like they slid down the granite markers with the names engraved of each victim. It took my breath away. Decades of life reduced to 10, 15, 20 characters engraved in stone. Stone that middle schoolers would overlook on their way to a snack bar in the dry shop. What would I do differently having seen it? How would my 40 years be worth more.

What if it is worth less?

Knees buckling I could only lean on the granite for support as I tried to take photos to remember the desolation. The fear. The panic. And that was for us that were not even there. Not even in the time zone when It Happened. I took this photo as a reminder that – some day we are reduced to a name in granite. What is left behind is how those of us Left Behind remember us. Do they remember us sheltering them from the rain or ignoring their discomfort? Do they remember us passing over our last snack that we just happened to have because the thought of Ground Zero made us lose our stomach?

These are the moments, people. The moments are today. They are NOW. They are before breakfast and on the way to soccer practice. Be awake. Be alert. Be present.

Be.

Ground Zero Memorial Information

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