Thursday, July 29, 2010

PHOTO TIP - Catch the Action!

One of the coolest things I learned about my camera (I shot these with a Canon Rebel XTI and a 50mm prime lense), is how to capture action and keeping the focus where you want it. This is great for composition...after all you don't always want what's exactly in the middle of your photo in focus, sometime you want the subject in focus to be off center, right? But how do you do that?

This is it in a nutshell...

I depress my shutter half-way until the camera has focused on the subject, then I can move the camera to reframe the shot in any way I want, holding onto the shutter half-way. Once I depress the shutter fully, the original subject that I focused on will still be in focus.



I captured this shot of my son walking into the gates of school on his first day of Kindergarten. LOVE, love this photo...however, do you notice how the wall is in focus and my son is blurry and really this should be the other way around? Perhaps I was feeling emotional about sending my baby into the great big world for his first day of school and forgot to focus on him first, reframe the shot and the shoot? Perhaps...

In any case, I'm still a little crabby about that and this year when he walks through that gate headed to first grade I'll know to start my focus on HIM!

GOOD EXAMPLE #1 - The Swing


Catching someone mid-motion takes practice. Fortunately my son loves this swing and I get plenty of practice taking action photos!

For this shot, I depressed the shutter half-way to focus on his face and then moved my camera back and forth with the motion of him on the swing until I got the shot I wanted and depressed the shutter fully. No motion blur!

GOOD EXAMPLE #2 - The Jump


The lighting was perfect in this location, lots of open shade and a fun stump to jump off. As he was preparing for the jump, I focused on his face and then moved the camera with him when he jumped to frame the picture...and then snapped.

GOOD EXAMPLE #3 - The Jump with Action Blur


For this shot I didn't move the camera with her motion and you can see that her face is focused but her hand that was moving is blurred slightly. Perfectly acceptable to have action the right places of course. You don't often want everything else in focus and the face to be blurry.

Pull out your camera's manual (or do an online search) and read up on this, it's a basic technique that just takes a bit of practice to get right!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PHOTO TIP - Lights & Shadows

I have a fantastic front yard for taking pictures. There is a giant full tree that provides plenty of open shade. Open shade to photography = Smooth, even light on skin, no glaring sun to make anyone squint or make the image overblown with light, and lovely catchlights in the eyes.

Sometimes we concentrate so much on the composition and subject matter of a photo that we forget to pay attention to the actual light and shadow cast on my image. Here are some examples of good vs bad when it comes to light and shadow.

This image is SOOC (Straight off the camera), no Photoshop fixing. As much as I adore this photo, I hate that half of my nephew's face is cast in light. Look at the left side and see how my son's face has a smooth, even coloring and the catchlight is in his eyes. That ray of sunshine is really making a bright line through the middle of my nephew's face, distracting from the image as a whole.

To compare, here is a photo taken at the same time of day with my subjects moved to a different location in the yard, avoiding the sun rays that were peeking through the branches (see the bright spots on the grass behind them?). Both faces have a soft glow on one side as the sun was shining that day but there are no distracting rays or bright spots and both boys still have nice catchlights in their eyes.

Here is my nephew again, just outside the fence of our yard. The sun was starting to go down so the tree wasn't providing any of the open shade. See how bright the fence is and the dark shadows on his face? It's much more blown out because the sun is shining too directly on my subject.

Same spot as the photo above but at a different time of day. I took this photo in the late evening, sun was setting and therefore it was starting to get a bit too dark inside the fence & directly under the tree. I pulled my cousin's son in front of the fence, still slightly under some of the shade from the tree, but where the sun's light was being diffused through the houses across the street. The lighting is lovely, catchlights in his eyes and coloring is more true to life.

These poor children can't even open their eyes, the sun is so bright and reflecting off the lake (which they are facing). Look at all the dark shadows on their faces too.

I moved them into open shade, still keeping them facing the lake so that the light would reflect into their faces, but allow them to keep their eyes open for the photo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Swim Fun (even I went in the pool!)

Happy Birthday to my honey! He was out of town on his birthday (which was over a week ago) so we had a small celebration at home with family for him.

His brother, wife & their son were there. That baby boy is a sweetie, he is always so content and smily. A little on the shy side (but not clingy) and always ready with a grin! He was having a fantastic time, splashing on the steps & posing for photos.


My brother, sister-in-law and nephew came too. My nephew is the one with the pool noodle AND the arm floaties, he wanted to be doubly protected, I guess? He's just not ready to let them go yet...I tried...he screamed very loudly!


My fiance's daughter finally braved going off the diving board alone and of course, once she tried it a few times we couldn't keep away and she happily jumped all day! Her favorite thing is having her dad toss her high in the air inside the swimming pool...again...and again! That's my honey tossing the kids...Lookin' pretty hot in those tinted goggles, honey!


Getting tossed is NOT my son's favorite thing to do in the pool but I think he wanted to show off for his cousin so he had my fiance toss him about "fish out of water!"


We ate barbequed turkey burgers, Italian sausages on buns, baked beans, chips and Diet 7-up. The kids were starving and ate like we'd never seen before! Something about swimming for hours in the hot sun really works up the appetite.

After we retired to the front yard in the shade of our tree, my sister-in-law cooked up a batch of pancit and we sang "Happy Birthday" to my fiance with a mocha cake they'd bought at the grocery. I'd planned on baking him a cake from scratch as a surprise but 1. It was too darned hot to turn on the oven and 2. I was with him all day long the entire weekend!


The day ended sweetly with a rare treat bought from the ice cream truck. And we all had a slight souvenir of the day on our bodies in the pinkness of our skin!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pictures that make me giggle

It's been a rather stressful week and I need a giggle, don't you?

Instead of thinking of how my son had a lousy first two days at his summer day camp, how busy work is going to be for the next two weeks, how I promised myself I'd be going to the gym at least three times a week that I've not actually stepped in there for two weeks, how truly bad my eating has been, how much I miss my honey (he's been out of town for 11 days, yuck!), how a charge bounced this week because I though it was coming out next week and wrote it down wrong on my calender...I could go on but I won't. I'm going to look at these photos and get a laugh and try and move past my bad mood!

We'll start off with two baby photos, the first is my nephew and the second is my son.

You might think that this picture was stretched horizontally in Photoshop but no, his cheeks really were that wide!

I adore the expression on my son's face as he's trying to take the melon out his big brother's hand. His love affair with fruit continues to this day...

Two food-inspired shots. It's actually difficult to find a photo of my son where he ISN'T stuffing his face!

We went to a Princess luncheon at Disneyland and my son is eating something in just about every photo, even the prospect of having pretty girls around wasn't enough to keep him from his food for two seconds. In this shot he's offering Cinderella a ranch dressing-covered carrot... she politely refused.

And this was his third birthday. "Sweet cupcake, you will be mine...bwaahhaaa!!!"

Out and about, these kids are sure to make going anywhere an adventure.

Road trip! Not really, I think we'd only been in the car for 20 minutes but apparantly they were exhausted!

I don't blame them, the flamingos at Sea World STINK!

And this photo is an all-time favorite. Two years old at Knott's Berry Farm...screams his ever-loving head off the ENTIRE time (notice the white knuckles?). Gets off, walks over to us casually and says, "I liked it!".


Monday, July 12, 2010

Nickle & Diming it at the Fair


A week ago today I had the day off work. We had been given free tickets to the San Diego County Fair (-$26 value) so my son & I drove up there for the day. My fiance had left early in the morning to take the 12 hour drive to New Mexico to visit his dad (two whole weeks!) so I knew this would be a good opportunity for my son & I to have a little fun alone together. He's still young and craves alone time with mom that is few & far in between so I was happy to accomodate!

We parked for free at the Horsepark (-$10) and took the shuttle over, which dropped us off right at the entrance. Nothing better than free parking and curbside service, seriously so much better than paying for parking and still having to hike a half-mile out to your car!

We started by walking through some of the livestock barns, feeding goats (+50 cents), and headed over to the infield where the kid's rides are (+$20). My son was in hog-heaven! Generally he's not a big fan (his words) of fast carnival rides, but something must have gotten into him that day because he was ready to jump in and ride anything.


After a lunch (burger for me, +$7 and a turkey leg for him, +$9, free soda from the coupon book -$3.50), we headed over to the kid's art tent. My son had drawn a picture in the theme of the day and the judges were impressed, in particular with his description of it I think, and awarded him a first place ribbon! I have to be honest and say that this isn't his best work but it's adorable. As he describes this, it is a bottle of water, a plate of spaghetti & meatballs, the top of an asparagus, and a hamburger, all sitting atop a red & white checkered tablecloth. He is so PROUD of his ribbon!


We saw my fiance's grandma, who is a concessions supervisor and she refilled our drink (-$3.50), thanks Nana! Watched a funny little puppy show & he ate more off the turkey leg, which I'd kept wrapped up in my shoulder bag.

Instead of trekking back through the crowds, we decided to take the sky lift and save ourselves some walking (well worth the +$6!). Watched a band play, bought some Tasti Chips (+$6, another free soda from the coupon book -$3.50). Wandered around in the garden section and hawkers (wooden snake toy for the boy, +$3), watched pig racing and demolition derby while eating cotton candy (+$4), which was his one "sweet treat" request. Finally decided to dump the turkey leg, which at this point had been well-gnawed. After the monstrously LOUD demolition derby we were both feeling tired & headachy and decided to head home. We'd been at the fair for 8 hours, on our feet for most of that time and had had a wonderful time.

Final score:
Spent $43.50
Saved $46.50

I don't think we made out to badly on that deal...and a day with my boy & a blue ribbon to top it all off is priceless :)


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fourth of July SPARKLERS

A few quick photos from our holiday festivities. We had a bbq earlier with lots of delicious food, none of which I took photos of because it was eaten quicker than I could fetch my camera! See, honey, I told you we wouldn't have many leftovers, everyone was eating thirds!

My nephew

My son

The boys with their sparklers

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July, rinse & repeat!

Fourth of July, 2005

Last Fourth of July, we swam, we bbq-ed shish kabobs with chicken and shrimp, we ate fresh corn casserole, then after the sun set we sat on the front lawn and watched the fireworks show that they set off from our town center.

Fourth of July 2009

This year, just change 2009 to 2010 and you have pretty much the same plans! We are mixing up the invited guest list a bit though and hope to have a few more join us this time. I'm also making a few more dishes, including my award-winning pasta salad, a potato salad, raspberry limeade, a strawberry cake and a blueberry cobbler. I'm of the persuasion that you can't have too much variety when you have a party but the guy tells me "don't go overboard"....ha!! Of course, I'm sure he'll be glad when I do go overboard in the end because nobody wants to run out of food when you have guests! He'd have them all eat edamame and granola bars and drink bottled water if I weren't planning the menu!

And doesn't all that variety sound DELICIOUS?!


I certainly don't mind having a Fourth of July rerun of last year, it was a great day.

Happy Independence Day to you and your family this year.

County Fair, 2007