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I’ll bet you’re asking yourself how I come up with the settings for each picture, right?  I promise, i barely know what I’m doing, but when I explain this to you, you’ll thank me for it being so easy.

I just meter, and set my settings for the correct exposure.  That’s it.  Nothing special, no lists to remember, no particular rules to live by.  Just…metering.

Okay, there are rules, but they depend on what you’re trying to achieve artistically.  Par exemple, if I’m trying to freeze motion, I know I need a faster shutter speed.  Therefore, I set whatever shutter speed I want (manual mode, of course…always use manual), set my ISO, then point the camera at what I’ll be shooting, meter, and adjust my aperture until the meter says I have a correct exposure.  Easy as pie, I say.  It’s helped me tremendously in getting my exposures correct.  Now, you can throw all that to the wind if you want to get artsy fartsy with you pictures, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.  Just remember that the meter is your friend, and it’s tres useful, so use it!

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Making a silhouette

One of my class assignments was on making a silhouette.  I’ve always thought that silhouette pictures were pretty cool, so I was happy to oblige.  I figured it would be much harder than it actually was, which was easy.  The hardest part is figuring out the exact window of opportunity in order to get it just right.  I gave it a shot at sunset instead of sunrise, because well, I like my sleep.  I haven’t been able to play with trying again since this shot, but I will now that I know how easy it is to do.  You just have to remember to put your subject in front of the sun or you’ll get the lens flare on the pic.  

I call this one ‘Father and son’.  I love how you can see my husband’s smile.  Very cool.

 

f/11, 1/80s, ISO 100, 18-55mm @ 55mm. PP – blacked out his feet a little bit

My husband is starting a new company with his cousin.  An engraving company to be exact.  He wanted me to come out and take pics of the laser while it engraves. “Suuuure” I say, knowing that it will be a huge waste of everyone’s time, b/c trying to catch a laser beam is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.  So I go out, lug all my gear and set up in front of the machine.  Mind you, it’s in a room with no windows (bye natural light, I’ll sure miss you), backed into a dark corner, and the only lighting is a very green and ugly flourescent light. Ah, heaven.  Fortheloveofallthat’sholy, God help me on this. I took 127 pictures and came up with about 4 that I liked.  But then, I did get a jewel out of it.  I’d like to say that it was due to my mad photographic skilz, but no.  Sheer, blind, dumb luck.  It turns out to be one of my favorite pics.  Ever.  And I do believe it was engraving ‘Jen rocks’ on a piece of stainless steel.  How cool is that?

By the way, when my instructor critiqued my photos for this assignment, he said that this photo was phenomenal, and that he’d put it in his portfolio if it was his.  Holy crap!  Well that’s a feather in my hat, for sure! *squeal*

 

f/5.6, 1/25s, ISO 400, 55-200mm @ 200mm.  PP- blacked out a little area around the laser beam, boosted the blue saturation, crop

A study in motion.

So my assignment for class this week involves various states of movement. Freezing and panning, to be exact.  Honestly, I didn’t even try panning.  I really wanted to work with the freezing part.  For some reason, I’m enamored with freezing and bulb work.  I decided I’d try to wow my instructors and fellow students with catching water drops in mid air.  “How hard can it be?”, you might ask yourself. Well, let me tell you…3 days and 226 pictures later, I have about a dozen pics I’m rather fond of.  Here are a couple results of my blood, sweat and tears.  Rest assured this won’t be my last hoorah with this…

 

f/9, 1/200s, ISO 400, 18-55mm @ 55mm.  PP- contrast and sat boost, original Sunshine in your hands action, crop.

 

f/9, 1/200s, ISO 400, 18-55mm @ 55mm.  PP- contrast/sat boost, SIYH, crop.

If you look hard enough, you can see my name in the 2 drops in the last pic.  I realize I need bigger and bolder letters next time so it will show up.  I still think I get an A for coolness. 🙂

Get your butt outside…

…and take some pics.  Really, there’s no better light than natural light.  I have realized the error of my ways regarding my entire lifetime of taking pictures.  Indoors, with the flash…say it isn’t so!  It’s blasphemy to real photographers in the know.  Want good pics?  Lose the flash and get outside and find some shade to shoot in.  If your composition is good, then you’re almost guaranteed great pics (if you have your settings right, of course).  If you’re like us, and stepping outside in the summer here is like walking on the surface of the sun, then stay inside and get near a window with good light.  You won’t be disappointed, I promise.  Luckily, we have a good shade tree in our back yard, so I like to get my son out there for pics.  Unfortunately, since he can’t sit up yet, all he does is lay there…so my pics of him are pretty much all the same except for the change in clothes.  Now I realize how important it is to get a ton of pics when your kid’s brand new.  It’s much easier to pose them, and they sleep most of the time.  Then you can make the cute pics of them in baskets and such.  Thank God Tracy came over and took pics of Colt when he was 2 weeks, or else I wouldn’t have anything decent from his early days.

This was actually taken in her front yard one day, sitting in her son Q’s Bumbo chair.

 

f/2, 1/1000, ISO 400, 50mm prime. PP-Sunshine in your hands (SIYH) action, TRA’s Punch it! action, curves adjustment, selective color boost on the reds, dodge catchlights in the eyes, crop.

I’m a tweaker.

My friend and fellow photographer (though she shoots circles around me any day of the week, and is an actual pro) Tracy mentions post processing to me one day.  “What?”, I say.  Imagine my surprise to find out that most photographer touch up their photos in some way before printing.  To be honest, it never dawned on me that this might be standard practice.  Now I’v Photoshopped a few things out of pictures, or lightened up a pic that was underexposed, or boosted contrast before, but I’d never really gone past that.  Tracy immediately directs me to one of her favorite haunts, Phaunt.com.  I can’t say enough good stuff about this site…the people are great, the info’s even better, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount in my short time there.  That’s it for the shameless plug.  Go.  Join.  Learn.

Now, back to post processing.  I have deduced that Photoshop is a program that God wrote himself, then had the angels hand deliver it to us earthlings for our photo correction pleasure.  Seriously.  Want to take out that double chin?  No problem.  Want to change your hair color?  No problem.  Want to get rid of those pimples?  No problem.  You can do it all in PS, I swear.  If you don’t know your way around the program, don’t sweat it.  That’s why God made actions!  Just click and voila!  Instant change at your fingertips.  I happily encompass my new ‘tweaker’ moniker.  Here’s an example of my already-beautiful niece after some tweaking:

Before:

 

f/5.6, 1/50s, ISO 100, 55-200mm @ 110mm.  

After:

PP – SIYH, curves adj., Portraiture at normal level, then layer masked and brought back the facial details, boosted colors in her shirt via selective color layer, TRA’s Punch It, and Burn It at 40% opacity.  Spot healed the tears off her cheek.  Dodged catchlights and whites of her eyes.

 

Amazing, isn’t it?  I know what you’re thinking and I’ve already done it.  There’s now not a single picture of myself on my computer that hasn’t been tweaked.  Now if only the developers could make a ‘takes 30 lbs off’ button, I’d be one happy mama.

The state fair.

On our way to the state fair.  I can’t ride any of the rides because of the whole broken tailbone thing, but I’m really excited about taking some pics of everything at night.  I’m hoping to be able to work on my freezing action.  Hopefully I’ll come home with something to show for it.

11pm…Okay, so I took some cool shots of the ferris wheel while it was moving. I really like the effect that a long exposure can create, and I really played around with it tonight.  I think the pic is cool, but I was mad about the trees.  There was no vantage point to get around them, either.  Oh well.  You absolutely have to shoot with your camera on a tripod, or your pictures will suck and be blurry.  The longer the exposure, the more trails you’ll get.  I’d like to try to get a nighttime sky shot, but we don’t see a lot of stars here in the Big D.

f/16, 15s, ISO 100. Tried to keep the ISO as low as possible to avoid the grain at night.  Didn’t need more light coming in, so 100 was alright.

PP- crop, photoshopped out a light pole that was in the bottom right quadrant.  Sat boost.  That’s it.