This blog captures my journey to take a break from jewelry designing to learn something new. Join me as I learn the art of photography and Photoshop Elements and watch me create through my lens. ~ Dee

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Playing around with Exposure...

Tonight after losing badly at Connect Four, I decided to walk around the house looking for anything that would give me an excuse to take a photo or aggravate my son, whichever came first.  I'm working on getting ready for a New Years challenge.  The challenge is 365 days of photos.  Welllll....I can't say I'm going to commit to 365 days, but I'm going to do my best to pic up my camera as much as possible this coming year with the goal of learning as much as possible with every shot, whether it be accidental or focused. 

I finally settled on aggravating my son, since he beat me so badly.   Slouched out on the couch,  a rip in his jeans caught my attention.  Abstract and the unexpected has been my goal the past couple of days.  So I took  this.....

well, that was boring!! 

So I decided to try to get creative by taking my exposure from the lamp behind him and turning off the flash.  I knew I'd get a much darker image with this method, just didn't now how dark.  With my camera set to manual, and my apeture set to 1.8, and my white balance on cloudy (giving me warmer tones)  I took an exposure reading from the 75watt lamp.  I then refocused my shot on the ripped jeans and I got a much darker image. With a little enhancement work in Photoshop Elements to lighting and contrast, I finally got the abstract shot I was looking for.  Much more interesting, don't you think? 

Lesson Learned: 
A photography friend said to me a couple of months ago, "once you learn how to work with exposure you can really begin to get creative."  I had no idea what he meant at that time, but I immediately went out and purchased Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson...remember anal me??  With Bryan's easy to read book and my friends advice....It all makes sense now!!  Exposure and getting comfortable with my Manual settings is King to getting creative and I'm just getting started!!

Unveiling creatively,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

You Must Try This at Home....

I was playing around the other night with bokeh after I finally put up my Christmas Tree.  The December challenge from my photography group was to do some creative things with bokeh.  In photography bokeh is the "blur" or out of focus image you see in some photography like this picture here taken at our State fair back in September.  Notice how the focus is on the game attendant and background is out of focus?   That my friends is bokeh.

  or this one of some hats at a vendors booth

Notice how I focused in 1/2 way on the middle hats and everything to the front and back of the focused object is blurred...bokeh! 

Well when you use lights in the background things really start to get cool!  My first attempt was so so.  I realized after taking the pictures that I should have used a faster lens with a larger apeture, but I'll be going back for round two before I take the tree down and hopefully have some more creative bokeh to show you, that's not as accidental as the next images coming up.   

The first shot was pretty normal. I placed the playground subjects about 4 feet in front of the tree and I was about 2 feet from the subject. With camera set to f/5.6 at 55 mm focal length this is what I got.  Ideally, I should have used a lower f-stop of 1.8, that would have rendered a better out of focus and sharper image. 
 As you'll see next, I got a little bored and remembered something cool  I learned from Bryan Peterson, so I started wondering "what would happen if I did this?". For this next shot, I moved the camera in a circular motion as I pressed the shutter button.."well cool"...

so I tried something else.....

Talk about a hot playground kiss!  For this one, I manually adjusted the lense out as I pressed the shutter button..."wow"! Needless to say, I guess you can imagine this went on for a while, just to see how many cool things I could really do!  Doesn't take much to entertain me as you can see. 

Lesson Learned:
Next time I practice, I'm going to try my faster lense. I think I'll get better background blur and maybe won't have to use my flash.  Second lesson learned is...I must try this camera and lens moving thingy on something else!! 

Unveiling in bokeh,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: From Snapshots to Great Shots

If you had the opportunity to read my very first post, you probably noticed that I already have a nice little library going of books that I've purchased over the past 7 months. While I've read all but one in it's entirety, I can say that I've been pretty lucky in my book finds. There isn't one that I wouldn't recommend to anyone trying to learn photography.

Another one of my first books was from the series From Snapshots to Great Shots Nikon D5000 by Jeff Revell.   This book really got me thinking about taking my photography to the next level.  Remember now, I'm not looking to become a professional, but I am looking to learn to take some wow photos!  The great thing about this series is that they have several books tailored to your particular Sony or Nikon camera.  Then there are others that focus on a particular task such as composition. 

What I really enjoyed about this book was the simple language that it was written in. Once again, there wasn't a lot of jargon that I couldn't follow, it was simple english with lots of explanations and it was great to be able to have my camera at my side to practice a setting right away or look at that particular feature. 

My next favorite aspect of the book was the photos...lots and lots of photos, and with the photos came explanations that made me go "ooooooohh, I get it!"  In each chapter there were at least one or two, one or two page photos called "PORING OVER THE PICTURE".  Here the author would point out several aspects of the photo in text boxes explaining the how, what or when such as the next two photos:

And when he wasn't "poring over the picture" there were many more photos explaining the chapter's lesson such as this one below:

The focus here was taking wide environmental portraits. The author was explaining that sometimes the subjects environment is of great significance to the story you may want to tell, additionally he gives the camera settings used to capture the photo. The pictures here are a little exotic, and action packed, but there are may more everyday photos and lessons that you can really relate too. 

The rest of the book was full of great shots and wonderful learning and my favorite - assignments!  It covered everything from taking your camera out of the box to advanced techniques of the pros to include action, landscape, portraits, mood lighting and composition.

I can't say enough great things about this book and all of my yellow highlights and pencil notes tell you exacatly the same thing!  So, if you're looking for a great book to go with your new Nikon or Canon camera  get to the book store and pick up this great find! 

Unveiling great books,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Animal Madness at the Metro Zoo

This weekend, I did a photowalk with the photography group I belong to.  We visited the local zoo here in town, in hopes of capturing the animals at their best.  It was a bit chilly, but they soon warmed up to the many photographers that were out. I'm in the process of saving for a good zoom lens, so I already knew I would be limited in what close ups I'd really be able to get, but I went anyway. 

As I was walking around, I knew I would have to look at things differently, as I wouldn't be able to get up close and personal with my 18-55 lens.  As expected I wasn't able to get many close up's of the animals as you can see in my first picture of the zebras.  I did however catch a beautiful peacock who was strutting around freely and allowed me to get up close and personal...but I was able to capture some great shots in the gift shop and still had fun enjoying the animals...what do you think? 

As you can see...sometimes you just have to approach things differently!  Don't allow what you don't have to be your handicap, work with what you've got, the best you can, and the results will be worth your while.   

Unveiling at the Zoo,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Manchester in Black and White...

In my previous post I talked about a photowalk that I did in the Manchester area of Richmond, Virginia.  Below are a few of the best shots of the day in black and white.  

This was my first capture of the day.  As I was walking around, looking up and down the street, I spotted this cutie sitting in the window, watching all the activity below.  From the sidewalk I aimed my camera up and it was my best shot of the day I believe with the following settings:  f/9, exposure 1/60, lens at 55mm.   

This is the black and white version from my previous post.  The sky on this day was rather weird, so the post processing worked out great in capturing the scattered clouds to match the industrial feel of the area.  With camera settings at the following I was able to really capture the historic feeling I was looking for: I didn't
have a tripod, so I chose a f-stop of 11 which worked out well in making sure everything was in focus.  the remaining settings were: Exposure 1/160 at 48mm lens focal length. 

 The great thing about an afternoon shoot is that there are plenty of shadows and the reflections, if you're near water is perfect.  My goal here was to capture the reflection of the building in the water. With my camera set to the following here's what we get: f/11, Exposure 1/80, lens focal length 29mm. 

Here's that great sky again.  With some post processing in PS Elements we got a dramatic sky: f/22, Exposure 1/160, lens focal length 48mm. 

Unveiling in black and white,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Letting Go of the Training Wheels in Manual Mode

Do you remember the first time you learned to ride a bike without training wheels?  If you're anything like me, it was a scary moment.  The crutch of having those extra wheels meant I didn't have to think about falling, balancing or how fast I could go...I just went with only one worry of making sure I didn't run into a tree!  In a sense, learning photography is very similar, especially with digital photography.  With today's camera's one can quickly turn to the automatic dial and snap away all day, with only the worry of a battery running low or running out of memory. 

Most digital camera's have several shooting options to make things easy.  First there are several scene modes, that include auto, portrait, landscape, close up, sports, food and the list goes on.  In auto mode, the camera selects the best settings," thought free", mode as some call it.  Here the camera chooses the best possible settings according to your focus.  In the other modes, the camera has fixed settings based on the type of subject you are shooting at the time.  Again, not a lot of thought goes into these modes, but the camera does allow limited setting changes depending on lighting.  

Then there are the "dreaded" professional modes to the beginner of P (program), S (shutter), A (aperture) and M (manual).  In the professional modes, you can begin to get creative with your photography, depending on what you want to do. Some allow limited changes to setting, and one in particular, puts you in the drivers seat with no training wheels. assignment was to let go of the training wheels and begin exploring in manual mode. In manual mode, I had to evaluate the subject, determine what I wanted to capture as a final image, then set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and shoot!   Manual mode made me think through what I was doing, very similar to camera's from way back when.  While I shot the original photos in color, I converted to black and while when I got home. I was shooting in an industrial area of town and wanted to capture some history. With some post processing to the black and white,  I'm going to say it was a great first ride without the training wheels.

Next, I'll post some photos from my walk and describe to you what I was thinking before I released the shutter button. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

I'll Never Forget Again - WB and Preview

The best lessons learned are the hard ones. You know those hard lessons that make your heart sink or maybe make you want to hit something, or maybe just make you want to say a few choice words?...yeah those lessons.  The hardest so far for me was the lesson I learned about the importance of white balance and playback.  Here's the story ~

Let me put the lesson into perspective for you.  It was the end of June, forecast was 97 degrees and I had signed up for a Walking Tour of the Canal Walk in Richmond Virginia.  I'm not sure how long the walk was in miles, but at 97 degrees and high humidity, I'd argue with anything less than 3 miles!  People were dropping off like flies at different stages of the walk, my feet were hurting, I had run out of water and I was HOT, but I hung in there til the very end. 

There were two goals for the day - practice using the aperture priority mode and learn about the history of the James River Canal. I knew with all the tall buildings downtown, it would be a great opportunity to play around with depth of field.   What I had not counted on was what I saw when I got home.......

This is where my hear sank....

This would be where a few choice words came in....

The good thing is, I was back and forth between automatic and aperture priority modes that day, so I do have some salvageable photos.  The bad news is everything that I really, really liked that captured great depth of field...WAS BLUE!! The other good news is...remember black and white??...saved the day again! 

Lesson Learned:  Every time I take my camera out, I need to remember to check the settings and I need to learn which settings aren't automatic in the professional modes and always check before shooting.  The second thing is check my shots often in preview.  If I had done that earlier, I would have seen the blue photos and been able to fix the issue from the start.  And third...white balance, white balance, white balance....get it right!!!  So...what happened? 

Prior to this outing, I had been practicing with different white balance settings indoors.  The photos taken on this day while in automatic mode came out great.  I have very little control in this mode, the camera chooses the settings it feels are appropriate and that's that.   However, in aperture mode, that's a different story.  The camera allows me to change many more settings, and our friend white balance, just happens to be one of them.  The blue you see in these photos, are the result of taking pictures outdoors in bright sunlight, using an indoor white balance setting called Tungsten B.K.A....household light bulbs. 

Needless to say, I haven't made that mistake again, and I preview just about every shot before moving on to the next one if time permits. It may take longer, but it is so worth it in the end.  Do you have a hard lesson to share, have you made the mistake more than once?  Please share I'd love to hear.   


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Photo Walk - Down By The River

Richmond is very historical and there's definitely no lack of photo opportunities to be had down near the James River.  If  you will allow me to refresh your memory, my last walk was a complete bust, so, this particular Saturday I left with the purpose of capturing some history and hopefully more useful shots than my last walk. I can remember putting a little more thought into looking through the lens and only when I was ready did I press the shutter release. I also only used Auto mode on this walk.

Again it was another very hot day in June, but I felt so much better this time when I got home and reviewed what was on my camera. Although the original shots came out a heck of a lot better than last time, I just couldn't resist adding some creativity with Photoshop Elements.   What do you think?  Can you see the progress in a week after reading  Scott Kelby's book

I saw color and I had to take this shot.  This rack of canoes capture the essence of what was happening on the river that day. I cropped in tight (photoshop) and this is what I got.  Next time, I would crop in before taking the photo, would have come out so much sharper. 

I saw windows, I saw brick, I saw stairs...I saw a great photo.  Not a lot of doctoring done to this picture, but definitely not as sharp as it could have been.  I was zoomed in to 35mm, but was still quite a distance away.

The original came out great, but the black and white is so much more eye catching.  This is a bronze statue in real life.  I was fairly close to the subject which is probably why it was so clear.  This photo was taken with my 18-55mm at 55mm.

Bricks, bricks bricks, photoshop!  I used style match in Photoshop Elements to get this effect. 

This old reuined wall at Tredgar Ironworks spoke history to me..what better way to capture it than with the use of Lomo Camera effect in Elements. 

As I stood on the side of tracks I saw an endless journey for someone...going someplace. When I was looking for a photo for this blog, it was a no brainer to use this image.   

possibilities in Photohop Elements...Lomo Camera effect again. 

Lesson Learned:  Take my will come. 


Monday, November 7, 2011

What I'm Reading - The Digital Photography Book

As you may have already guessed from my first post...I love to read - especially when I'm learning something new.  Periodically I'll share with you some of my favorite photography books since I've been on this journey.  There are a couple of great websites out here as well, but with my book, I can highlight, turn pages, take notes, ets and that's exactly what I've done with one of my first books The Digital Photography Book Volume I by Scott Kelby.

Photo courtesy of Barnes and Noble Books
Not only is Scott Kelby a great photographer, teacher and writer, but he is very funny!  His witty humor and great personality immediately draws you into this 240 page book.  This book is packed with an abundance of information from start to finish.  Mr. Kelby's style of writing is so easy to follow. The book is written in english and actually reads in english...translated to mean -  it's makes sense! There's no jargon and language you won't understand, he gives a subject and tells you how to get it.  Want to take photos at night...not a problem, he'll tell you what to do and you won't have to understand how the cow jumped over the moon to get it!

In addition to the easy read and loads of information, there are photos...many photos that aid in the learning process and if that isn't enough...there are a ton of tips and tricks that he shares that works for the pros to make things easier, such as how to take better flower photos, faking rain drops on flowers, tips to keep your subjects from blinking and many many more.  The book covers major everyday topics that you want to know, like how to take better landscape photos, people shots, night photography, sports, weddings, etc.   

The photo recipe's is another great section.  Here you're provided a photo and the recipe to take that photo in plain english along with camera settings.  How easy is that? 

If you've struggled with how to use your new digital camera, and you want to learn how to use it better, and your itching to take better photo's I recommend starting with this will not go wrong...I promise!  Priced at $13.99 it's a must have.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Photo Walk Bust!!....

One thing I promise to do, is to be honest about my hasn't been pretty sometimes and here's my first story.....

On my second walk and shoot to a much larger local park in town (Maymont Park) I spent hours walking and taking photos.  It was hot, there were a ton of hills, but I was determined to make a day of it.  When I returned home and started reviewing my day -  photo, after boring photo was all that I saw.  Out of over 100 shots, I probably had 5 or 6 that were worth showing (and these aren't the ones)...the click through my day went pretty much like this..........
after bland and unclear....

after what was I thinking....

after bland....

after...okay...not too bad

have you had enough yet?  I had, and I was not a happy camper.  I've seen the possibilities of Maymont Park, why wasn't I able to capture any of it?  This last one was probably my best shot of the day, and I didn't realize why until month's later!  

Leason Learned:
I needed to find a book on taking great pictures. Everything is not what it seems to be when you get home.  In the learning stages I wasn't approaching my walk and shoots with a purpose, I was just shooting and hoping for a great capture. I wasn't comfortable with my camera settings and needed to move beyond automatic.  My first books purchased after this outing was Nikon D5000 from Snapshots to Great Shots by Jeff Revell and The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby.  I've read both twice front to back...and I can't wait to tell you about them next!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

My First Walk and Shoot...

Okay, so after taking as many boring photos as possible around the house I headed out for my first walk and shoot at a local park. Not your best park for scenery, but photoshop helped turn what I thought were a few boring shots into some interesting captures...what do you think? 

Lesson Learned:  Photoshop is a great tool for fixing photos, hiding some bad shots and getting creative, but my ultimate goal is to learn to capture the right shot the first time and to learn how to be creative when taking the picture using the camera settings.  These photos were taken 6 month's ago and I've learned so much since then. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Blog!!

As if I needed anything else to do, I've started another blog...or maybe I should call it a journal?  Either way I'm doing two things I love...writing and taking pictures. 

My journey to where I am now, started with taking photos for my son's Elementary School Year book with a nikon 5400 point and shoot...three years of snapshots, gave me the itch.  I learned about photoshop, cropping and pixels.  My next phase, came with taking photos of my jewelry for my I learned a few things about aperture, lighting and macro shots.

 Annd then  I entered the world of DSLR....WOW!   I could have continued taking good, great shots, but what's the point in upgrading if you can't blow all the whistles?   For me, with any new toy comes a learning phase and that's what has brought me here blogging about my deeper journey into photography and taking a break from my at home business.

Just to give you an idea of who you're dealing with...yes I'm a bit anal when it comes to learning.  I figure if I'm going to get a new camera, bigger and better, what's a few extra bucks to learn how to use it?  Okay...maybe I went overboard, but these books, along with one other on my Kindle has opened my eyes to all the possiblities in the art photography. 

"This is how I learn"

Sooo, I invite you to join me as I learn about photography, show my progress and hiccups and share tips and secrets along the way. I welcome your feedback positive or negative (constructive would be nice)  tips and advice. But most of all this is my time to enjoy what I'm doing without the pressure! 


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