So recently I ran head-on into the pitfalls of the constant connectivity of modern life, and the impatience it spawns. I have homeschooled for several years now, and am constantly trying new things and buying books to learn about those new things. When my shelves start overflowing into my living space a little too insistently I put them on Amazon to find a new home. Most recently I sold my Complete Book of Foaling, as I don't plan to breed horses anymore. And that's when the expectations of today's world hit me square on the noggin. I opened my email Tuesday night to find that the book had sold, so I packaged it up and drove into town to ship it off the next day. I had to head down for an appointment and do some shopping, so it was a fairly long day. I got home late Wednesday night, took care of dinner, etc., and crashed. Thursday morning I grabbed my coffee, cranked up the old PC to send off the 'shipped' notice, but decided to check my email first. There were not one, not two, but three inquiries from the buyer questioning why the book hadn't been shipped yet, should she cancel her order, why is it going to take 22 days to ship... you get the picture. I replied with soothing tones and reality, and everything was better. Now, it's possible that customer-person was a frantic lady-in-waiting to a heavily pregnant mare, and was having a preparturition panic attack, which I can fully sympathize with. More likely, though, her reaction was a result of how impatient we've all become in our expectations of instant fulfillment and complete gratification. It seems any more that we get frustrated and impatient and almost panicked if we don't get an immediate call back, an immediate answer to a text, can't immediately google an answer to a question, and many people have no problem with freely (and rudely) interrupting a speaker to ask 'what does that mean?' instead of stopping to think for a minute and check their own brain for possible answers, including alternative and creative ways to solve their own problems. I also see a lot of people complaining about not being able to instantly and easily do whatever they want for a minimum price even when they don't really understand how to get what they want, whether it's their camera or their computer, the lab that is doing their work, or some other factor. Um, people? Chill. How did it make you feel the last time your boss didn't care why you were late, but only that you were late? Four car pileup fatality accident? I don't care! You should have been here! Your son barfed on your shirt as you dropped him off at daycare? I don't care! We have customers to serve! Your mother died? Big deal! We had a meeting that you didn't attend! It stunk, huh? Tell me, why would you want to do that to someone else? People matter more than stuff, so lets take some time to slow down and pass on some kindness. So next time you get all fired up and impatient and upset and worried, slow down for a minute and think of all the possiblities, don't immediately jump to the worst possible scenario and figure that all is lost. Sleep on it, if you have to. The world will become a nicer place and we'll be happier people if we just cut ourselves and everyone else a little slack.
HDR, or High Dynamic Range imaging is a way of being able to portray what your eye actually sees in a scene, rather than the limited view that a camera can handle. Usually using a tripod you take several exposures of the scene that are then combined by software and with some tweaking to add detail to shadows and highlights that wouldn't otherwise be portrayed in a photograph. Problem is, how do you know where your starting exposure and ending exposure are quickly and easily when you get your images downloaded at home? If you're like me, you take a ton of pictures of one particular scene at various apertures, etc. In order to tell what's what you don't necessarily want to have to check the EXIF data for the aperture of every picture in order to see which ones go together to be merged. Unless you're an overachiever, then have at it. I'd rather clean stalls. Long story short, get your hand in front of the camera when you start your series of exposures. Put your left hand in front of the camera before the start, put your right in your line of view when you're done. Easy peasy. Like this: I picked up this tip from one of the photography books I'm always scouring, and it solved the whole problem, quick and easy! The book was The New Complete Guide to Night and Low Light Photography by Lee Frost. The link will take you straight to where Amazon sells it if you want to pick up a copy. 🙂 Have fun, keep shooting!
At some point you're going to find that you need a tripod. They are absolutely indispensable in low light-long exposure situations, and make the multiple exposures used for HDR much easier. No matter how still you think you can hold a camera by hand, there will be camera shake variations if you are human. There are a lot of different tripods on the market, but which should you choose? After all, the good ones are quite an investment, but the better made they are, the better they will last and the more stable they are. Personally I chose the Manfrotto 190XPROB. It's not the lightest tripod, but it has several features I really like. If you're looking for something light to go hiking with, a carbon fiber model would be what you're looking for. It will cost you more than twice as much, although the extra cost will be worth it on a long hike. First of all, the 190XPROB has legs that are totally independent from one another, with no stabilizing bar halfway down hooking them together. I knew that I would be using it outdoors for the most part, where the ground is not level. I can fold any one of the legs out so it's at a 90 degree angle from the head so I can find a stable position for my camera in even the roughest terrain. If you're only ever going to use your tripod on a stable surface indoors one of the models with a stabilizer in the middle may work for you, but if you're heading outside you'll probably be happiest with independent legs. There is a center bar that raises for a little more height, or that slips sideways without disassembly for vertical shots. It also has a hook underneath the center so that you can hang a weight from it to stabilize your camera in case of wind, which can get pretty gusty whether you're on a mountainside or at the beach. This particular tripod also has a leveling bubble, so I can get an idea if the support for my camera is level. Don't underestimate this, as it really stinks to get home and find that the horizon line in all your pictures is at an odd angle that you didn't intend, or the perspective is skewed from your camera pointing slightly up or down unintentionally. A couple of the legs also are slightly padded so that when you're carrying it from one spot to another it's a little gentler on your shoulder, as well as giving you a little more grip in bad weather. The 'head' is sold separately, and can vary widely in price. Some are easier to get your camera on and off of, which is a consideration if you're dealing with arthritis or some sort of disability with your hands like carpal tunnel. Some only sit at one angle, which can really limit your flexibility in the field. I chose a ball head, which is adjustable to just about any angle you can think of. These can also have levels attached, or you can get a level that actually fits onto your camera's hotshoe. I recommend you go to the camera store and play with various models, and see what you like. Ask yourself what type of photography you like, and what styles you would like to explore. Once you get one, you'll wonder what took you so long!
This weekend I had the privilege and pleasure of photographing the wedding of two beautiful young people. I've known the groom since he was a 6-year-old kid. He and my son have played together since they were little guys, sleeping out on hot summer nights, raced on dirt bikes, and argued with each other (every year) over whether the Cowboys or the Seahawks are going to win this time (with all the accompanying mockery, insults and loudness that entails). His mom was my best friend through all those hair-raising kid-raising adventures that happen in the country. The bride's family were so dear, so warm, and her father's tears touched my heart and brought me close to tears more than once. The minister who wed them is my husband's best friend and has been since they were little kids living on the same culdesac, and as I looked around the crowd I saw so many friends, so much family, so many people I loved. It really brought home to me that this is what a wedding really is. It's not just an event where you get to wear a really cool dress or a tux and show off, it's a family's beginning. It's the time we celebrate lives joined, and the continuation of all that is beautiful in raising our children to adulthood and seeing them step into their role as tomorrow's parents and aunts and uncles and one day grandparents. It's a celebration of love. Not just romantic love, which is beautiful and precious, but the love that makes a family whole, and gets parents out of bed every day to do right by their kids, and the love that makes a couple stay together and say they're sorry and get along because they're not just 'in love' but best friends, and there for the long haul, come what may. The thing that cystallized the beauty of that day was the stark contrast I saw on the Rose Parade three days later. Part of the spectacle was a young couple being married on one of the floats "joined in this adventure called marriage" by some Californian (wooohooo great state of California!) officiant. It was all about them and their 'adventure.' No family, no parents, no one giving the bride away, no close friends shedding a tear. Just a money-making spectacle. A "dream wedding". Really? An adventure? No wonder there are so many divorces. So many people are so wrapped up in their personal experience of 'their day' that they don't even think of their families, their parents, their grandparents, all the people that had a hand in raising them, who have always been there for them, but aren't important enough to them to make a part of this celebration of life and family. It was so shallow, and empty. I realize not everyone has a long family history in one place. Increasingly people have dysfunctional childhoods that have isolated them from family and long-standing friendships in many ways,, tragedies and war have orphaned and isolated many of us, but it doesn't have to stay that way, if you don't want it to. I have friends that are closer than my family ever were. They're my family now, the ones I call when I need help, and who call me back. They're also the ones that I run for when they holler. Those of you with close families are truly blessed, appreciate it, but the people I've adopted along the way are just as much a blessing, and that blessing was very much in evidence Saturday night. Thanks, kids, for letting us all be part of your lives, and your day. 🙂
Wow, Instagram's affect on users even made the national news last night! Apparently thousands of users deleted their accounts. If you haven't, Instagram is saying you can opt out on having your photos used by them by simply setting your account to private. If you just don't trust them or want to mess with them anymore, then there are other photo-sharing options available. One of these is Flickr, a site that photographers have enjoyed for years. It's not only a great place to keep your own photos and look at your friends' photostreams, but there are groups and boards that can really boost your photographic education. Want to learn more about off-camera flash? TTV? Textures? Use the search function and you'll see examples and conversations about just those things. And if you were really just trippin' on the retro effects Instagram has, Flickr has an app for that. 🙂 Have a beautiful day!