Crazy Month of November

Been awhile for posting but have to say it has been a crazy month! Not a whole lot of photography but lots of work and personal stuff. Decided to post before I turn 38 tomorrow. You know I am getting old!

Photography has been on the back burner although I still need to sort 400 plus photos from a fundraising event at the end of October. Then need to edit which I hope won’t take too long. This event was a challenge for lighting for an indoor event. Did discover reflector tape can mess with a camera’s sensor!

Managed to submit four photos to camera club’s first competition. Improved on scores a touch from last year but this going to be another rough competition season. At the rate I am going I will be a novice till I am old and grey. You need a certain number of award of merits (AM) and honorable mentions (HM) to move up. My record stands at one AM and one HM from last year! Biggest issue is judges who will not “think outside the box”, break a rule you get deducted marks. On the rare occasion you do get a few judges who award for creativity but not very often.

This months biggest task has been dealing with the aftermath of a second flood in our apartment. This time the floor lifted in several large spots, ceiling stained in living-room and kitchen counter warped. Thank you to parents who arrived at 9pm at night from Fort Erie on a Wednesday to assist with clean-up! We had to wash every dish in the cupboards, dry out a stove and dry out lights.

This all occurred in the middle of me having to complete an emergency work project. Thankfully had an understanding boss since I had to work from home or take time off to deal with management, arrangements, keys, clean-up and packing (plus unpacking).

The big adventure was having to move two adults and three cats to a guest suite for several days. Two of our cats, Mickey & Rajah have never been anywhere but here. Mickey also has a big aversion to carriers. Mickey and surprisingly Cleo weathered the move like pros. Both adjusted fairly quickly. Rajah on the other hand was not pleased. Spent most of his time in the guest suite in the bedrooms. He was also not feeling the love from the ladies of the house. He got hissed at a lot and Mickey even swatted him a few times. Never seen a cat so glad to be home, Erica who carried him in the elevator (and is now deaf from yowls) watched him jet out of the elevator and impatiently bang head on door for in.

The two adults were okay other than having no internet at night and watching TV old school. Basic cable with a very small TV. Erica’s biggest concern was missing sweeps month. She jury rigged the TV in our apartment to be plugged in and attached to cable. Workers did not unplug cable and nothing was missed much to my sister’s relief.

Apartment looks pretty good, floors are shiny and ceiling is white. Only wish building would hire true professionals. My toes and ball of foot are immortalized in varnish unless I can figure out how to fix! Hadn’t realized a puddle of varnish (workers spilled?!) is still semi-soft. Warm sunshine and a warm foot was all that was needed to put my mark on the floor. New rule socks at all times till floor cures.

Next will be finishing up fixing the flood damage. Realized just as we finished up the last of the packing the kitchen ceiling is now peeling and cracking. Just praying that none of our plaster walls crumble like after the first flood.

Plus some decisions will need to be made about the lights that took the brunt of the water damage. Sister’s favorite ceiling fan has been soaked twice. Remote controls fried the first time the second time has added to corrosion. Only problem fans are expensive so this will have to wait till next year. Kitchen light is in okay shape will be fine after a good cleaning but will need to reassess next year too. The only light needing immediate replacement is a floor lamp, base crumpled and at the moment is being held up by a wall!

We now have the cleanest apartment in Toronto if not all of Canada. Good thing too since there is a party this afternoon. Nothing like a previously planned birthday party to speed up unpacking, reorganizing furniture and clean-up. For those who have asked will post photos of apartment as soon as I get a moment.

Crossing fingers the rest of 2011 to be uneventful, although I probably just jinxed it!

PS Had to write this while dealing with a very clingy Cleo. She was determined to interrupt my typing by banging elbow and rubbing head on iPad! At the moment she is finally napping quietly beside me. Phew!

Discovery and Learning on Thanksgiving Day

It’s been awhile seen I posted but it has been really busy the past few months. I took on a special project at work, plus my photography and my duties at the camera club. Been challenging but I have been learning in leaps and bounds both at work and with my photography.

I have made the biggest leap forward by learning how to use filters in Color Efex Pro 4 (www.niksoftware.com) and figuring out Photoshop Elements 10. Still need to have a strong photo to edit so continuing to learn how to handle my camera. I am struggling to learn manual mode on my camera which is frustrating and a big skill I need to master.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in October so my sister, mom and I took a drive to Niagara on the Lake. We decided to take the long way home via the Niagara Parkway. My sister noticed out of the corner her eye a sign for something called Willowbank. After turning around my sister headed down a dirt road for which I was wondering if we were trespassing. Then in front of us this huge house appeared. Thankfully even though Willowbank Estate (www.willowbank.ca) is a restoration school the public are allowed to tour the grounds and during off season the interior. The house is being restored and repaired. Due to some structural issues the third floor is off limits as told to us by one of the students who is assisting with renovations on the house.

This is where a wide angle lens (28 mm), filters and elements came in handy. Took a fairly good shot of what is actually the front of the house but is referred to as the back of the house after the 1930’s renovations.

After doing basic fixes in Lightroom, took photo into Color Efex Pro 4 and applied a recipe I downloaded. Recipes is a wicked feature in the new software, you can apply multiple filters to get the perfect look. Adjusted recipe to fit photo then transferred photo to Elements. After several failed attempts finally figured out to fix lens distortion, remove picnic tables and take out the bare bulb over the door (probably at one time this would have been a chandelier).

Now I have to resist the urge to go back and try new techniques on past photos.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Through the Eyes of a Child

It is an interesting fact of life as you get older you forget about how it felt to have that new found sense of wonderment that a young child gets when learning a new task or just exploring their world.

On July 9th I decided the little girl we have been taking care of since she was a baby was mature enough to handle my entry level Sony a300. Kaede has over the past few years shown an interest in taking photographs with us. We even bought her one of those kid proof cameras, the ones that can be dropped, drowned or tossed without breaking. Not the greatest camera but it served its purpose.

More recently Kaede has been trying out my Dad’s Canon camera, a little heavy for a six year old but she still managed to take some pretty good photos. As expected there are still a few framing issues and the horizon is a bit skewed. I thought she would have better luck with a lighter camera.

On the Saturday at Rattlesnake Point in Milton, I set her up with the Sony and the 28mm prime. Thought a prime would be a bit easier than a telephoto. Plus one less thing to worry about getting accidently misused. I also had the camera on aperture, set at F-8 and one stop underexposed. With a 8gb card Kaede had the ability to take 1800 photos. Dad got quite the chuckle since it would be him sorting through whatever she happened to take.

I started with some pretty simple instructions, like if you want to get closer you will have to move your feet. We then had to amend instructions to include what was too close. Incredibly this photo worked for Kaede:

The only other rule was camera strap had to stay on her neck and if not in use to turn the camera off.  Kaede got the hang of it pretty quick although a faster shutter button in the hands of a six years old means a lot of photos. Still need a few extra lessons on framing I noticed a lot of heads getting chopped off!

After watching the fun she was having, Dad took the camera back to Fort Erie. Chloe and Kaede spent  nine very fun and busy days with them.

Post has been updated since photos have mysteriously reappeared from Dad’s black hole. Note the two photos posted here by Kaede are unedited except I did remove lens dirt from sunset photo. I didn’t have any expectations of the lens staying completely fingerprint or smudge free!

Next up camping in the Allegheny National Forest for five days which will be a great break from the outside word. There is no cell or wifi signal in the area (partially picked to keep Dad from working!). Biggest issue is keeping electronics charged, Dad’s new car does not have an electric plug like his old car.

A glimpse of tail turns into four tails and fun!

While on of my walks at the cottage I thought I glimpsed a tail go into a bush so I thought I would check it out. As I rounded the corner this beautiful cat makes her presence know, not sure if she was feral, a barn cat or someone’s pet but she was very friendly. Then much to my surpise bounding out of the bushes was three beautiful kittens. It was great fun to try and capture them on camera, tough since they were always moving, playing and exploring. Never did figure out where they belonged or where the family was going but it was a rare encounter I enjoyed.

I will hopefully have another posting soon, I purchased a 30 mm macro lens and will need to learn how to use it and a tripod. Tripods are not really my thing so this will be a bigger challenge then when I was learning my telephoto lens.

Till next time.

Spring weekend for the Birds

The first week in April (Easter Weekend) was a very warm weekend and I managed to get up to my cousins cottage. I decided to concentrate honing my camera skills on my telephoto lens. For some reason I have finally managed to master the use of it. I have decided after just a weekend being a wildlife photographer is a lot harder than it looks. I clearly need a higher pain threshold then I currently have. My weekend was mostly concentrated on birds but I did try to get a few other creatures (and the word is try).

I tried several time to capture a pair of Hairy woodpeckers (if I am incorrect feel free to comment correction below) which was nearly impossible even with my telephoto on the 200 mm setting. This was the best photo I had which I did crop and magnify. The woodpecker would land low on the tree then move at lighting speed up the tree!

During our long walk my sister spotted this fuzzy crawler crossing the road. My sister is pretty good at spotting the wildlife thankfully this one was a slow mover and I could take my time getting a shot.

My sister also spotted several hawks flying over head. I had a lot more difficulty getting a decent shot since they were flying fairly high and almost outside the reach of my telephoto. Thought this photo was beautiful for its simplicity even if the bird is not seen up close.

This was the first attempt at capturing a female Robin who was hanging out by the water, hunting for food and just playing in the grass. I decide to observe the Robin’s behaviour and come back later in the afternoon at what photographers call one of the golden hours. I had no idea how long it would take for me to get that perfect moment.

It was clear I had been spotted. I got quite an interesting game of peek a boo with the tree, preening and head bobbing. I wasn’t quite sure if she would even venture closer to me so I get her into the better light. I was at this point laying flat on rocks with my upper body in one really akward position. I am aware you have to take birds from their perspective but it is really painful. I was about to give up since I was hitting the absolute edge of my pain threshold and beginning to get one big kink in my neck. When this shot happened and made it all worth while.

This was the one magic moment and the one I had been praying for. My first really good bird photo and my realization that I not so sure I am all that into wildlife photography. I ended up with sore ribs, sore shoulder, kink in my neck, a lot of mosquitoe bites and a sore hand! Yes I said mosquitoes, think this is going to be a bad season for bugs if it stays warm.

Just before we departed I was surprised to see a group of ducks playing in the water and flying up and down the river at really fast speeds. I only managed to get one okay photo I needed something closer to a 300 mm to capture these birds. I have not yet been able to identify them either and this is the first time I had personally seen them at the cottage.

I had a lovely Easter weekend and there is another blog post coming based on this weekend. Had a mysterious object show up and once I figure out an editing technique will post the story.

Till next time!

Shooting in the rain on a cold Sunday afternoon

Sunday was a great day. For the first time this year managed to get out to an informal camera club get together that included a workshop on getting know your camera then some time to shoot at Edwards Gardens in Toronto. Lived in the city most of my life and I am quickly realizing I need to learn to explore more. Even on a cold wet Sunday in late winter Edwards Gardens is a fascinating place to have some fun taking photographs. I look forward to going back to Edwards Gardens when the spring flowers have begun to bloom and during the warm months of summer.

I was even more excited about the fact I managed to hand hold my Sigma 55mm to 200mm f4-5.6 telephoto lens and got photos in focus. Something I failed at the first time I tried. Have no clue why this time I was a lot more successful. Maybe it was because I was tired and not over thinking what I was doing for a change. Even better I got a few creative shots with the help of our fearless leader of our little gathering. I am looking forward to refining my skills with the telephoto lens so I can use it while camping this summer.

Here are some of the photos I took on Sunday:

(my attempt at a lens blur)

(reflection on glass tweaked in Lightroom 3 Beta)

Surprise! I managed to write two blogs in one month, not sure when the next one will be but it probably won’t be in two days! Hope I get more chances to  have a little fun with my photography but it has been really really busy.

Musings of a busy mind (and at times confused!)

I have begun to realize how difficult it is to keep a blog up and running. Especially for me I find I get all my thoughts jumbled up and then I am unable to put anything on paper. My blog is more about my life in general, musings on my growing love of photography and occasionally a random blog post about anything that catches my fancy.  Just hope I don’t put anyone to sleep while reading my posts!

It has been a very busy time since I wrote last. Christmas in my family is a lot of crazy running around and lots of visitors. The holiday was also a great time to get some photography fun in. I was unable to blog earlier about a fun studio session I had with two girls of a family friend. We had done it to surprise their parents with some photos as a Christmas present. It was a tough session with a steep learning curve. Photographing a two year old and five year old is quite a challenge. Especially since the five year old was in an interesting mood the day we decided to do the photos. I used a white sheet as a backdrop and my 50mm lens. Literally my dad corralled them and I just took as many pictures as possible. Thankfully I got a few that captured their personality. The best photos to illustrate the day are the outtakes:

(Dad was trying to get them to sit with not a whole lot of luck)

(oldest girl had squishing down pat on this shoot!)

I also had a great time visiting Henry’s for a special sale. To make a long story short, I won my dad a $500 gift certificate which he put towards a new Canon Rebel T1i. A pretty sweet camera and one he is already having lots of fun with. He is insisting at the moment on keeping his five year old rebel but I am pretty sure it will be gathering a lot of dust soon. His new camera is far better for his creative and artistic drive when it comes to photography. Me I just bought a camera bag appropriate for travelling and a light weight tripod with a gift certificate my cousin gave me for Christmas through our family exchange. I got thoroughly spoiled, I also now have a small portable flash. It appears I am pretty outfitted with camera gear for awhile.

The next adventure was the debate on bringing my camera for a short business trip to Dallas. With the new security rules I was nervous on whether or not I could carry on my equipment. Thankfully the new LowePro bag I bought was the right size and made the hand check by security pretty easy. I just made sure I only had my camera bag. I am pretty shy and find it difficult to photograph in unfamiliar situations. I had decided to bring my camera to my division’s award night, mostly to just practice indoor shooting with my 50 mm lens and the new flash. I quickly got recruited to be the official photographer for the night and ended up taking well over 50 group shots. This was a huge challenge since I was using a stage which had large speakers in front, and roaming spotlights above. In hindsight I should have tried to get the spotlights turned off.  Unfortunately could not move the speakers so when I edited the photos tried to mostly crop them out. At this point I have the 100 plus photos edited but still awaiting instructions on how everyone wishes for them to be presented. I do know eventually I will have to create a photo presentation that will play on a very large screen at the next meeting in the spring. A new challenge since it is not something I have done before.

Sorry for the long post but I’ve had a busy couple of months. Next up is creating a cheet sheat for the functions of my camera, a cool idea from my camera club! I also need to spend some time learning the telephoto lens I bought in November before buying another lens. I also need to find a  good course on lighting and using a flash, a big problem for me technically.

Till I write again!