Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Old Masters

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I missed yesterday's HSMSHS prompt and meant to do both it and today's together, but when I went to get today's prompt I saw Carve and had to share this photo that I took on a trip to Springfield, Mass. this past September.

Everywhere I looked was so rich with detail and history, and I'm afraid I gave my camera quite a workout just trying to capture the beauty of the square where we were eating our lunch. You just don't see amazing workmanship like this anymore, and when I think of the tools they had versus the tools we have now, the love and artistry of their craft blazes through even more. It may be just a building, but that's no reason not to give it your best. Building things that last, giving your best to a job, carving a place for yourself in your surroundings. Why isn't this done anymore?

PS I'll still be looking around my current space for discard and carve and will try to post later if I get any good shots.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cold and wet

Today's HSMSHS prompt is water, and if you haven't been over there yet, you don't want to miss the photos. Beautiful, lovely, peaceful water shots. I keep sneaking back to look again.

And what have I got for you? Well, since all of the water outdoors looks pretty much the same...

...and we've established that I'm pretty much a total winter wimp, I decided to try to find some water indoors (though I did look around for some interesting icicles while I was bringing in wood for the stove; I'd like points for that).

Indoor water....actually, with our wacky weather we've been having some plumbing problems the past week or two, so indoor water is a bit of a sore subject right now. This is a shame, because we all love water, and we go through a lot of it. Long hot showers, baths for the kids, load after load of laundry, clean floors and kitchen counters, dishes galore...Water, I lOVE YOU!

Most of all though, I love water to drink. It's the first thing any of us grabs when we're thirsty or hungry. And where do we find our water? Well, the fridge of course! No fancy designer or bottled waters for us, though! Nope! We have a reverse osmosis unit at our sink (yay!). The water tastes great, but both Hubby and I like our water COOOOOOOOOLD. We have these two plastic jugs that are always on the go. They've never had anything other than water in them, and one has usually just been filled and is chilling while we drink down the second one. We really love water in our house!

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(For a bonus, you get to see my milk, IN A BAG! Apparently the Americans don't have such a thing, and always act shocked when they see it. Of course now I'm wondering about my European friends. Milk--bags? plastic jugs? cartons? bottles?)
Thanks for looking at my water. I know it's not pretty, but it's pure, and it's refreshing.

Heads Up!

This was shared on my scrapbooking forum last night:

Scrapbooks Etc. magazine is doing a "Kid on the Cover" photo search. At Scrapbooks etc. we think all kids are cute, and we’re celebrating our 10th Anniversary by putting one lucky kid on the cover. We’ll hold six themed photo contests throughout 2009. You’ll upload the photos of your kids, and a panel of judges will select five semi-finalists. Those five will then be posted here for the public to vote. Get the word out to family, friends, etc., and make sure they come back to vote every day because the leading vote getter will be one of the six finalists.

This is what they are looking for now!

February/March Show us your cute kid! Upload your sweetest shots of your child enjoying Valentine's Day activities or anything you think would look perfect on our February/March cover. To increase your chance of winning make sure the photo shows just one person and focuses on the child's face. Also, the child should be smiling, relaxed, and looking at the camera.Upload your photos today at http://www.scrapbooksetc.com/kidonthecover/

I can't actually play because of this part:

Open to parents or legal guardians of children between the ages of two (2) years and seven (7) years of age as of January 22, 2009, who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, 21 years or older.

But I thought I would get it out there for my American neighbours!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tip-top shape

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HSMSHS prompt: TIP "The pointed or rounded end or extremity of something slender or tapering".

Having lots of fun this morning photographing the tips of things in my space. My favourite turns out to be the tip of this Cherry Quartz that we have. It sits on the computer desk beside the harddrive. At just shy of 17" tall, it's actually taller than the harddrive and gives you a nice point to refocus when you've been at the computer too long. Being where it is though, I rarely get the opportunity to really study the tip from above, as I'm usually looking up at it; so this was a fun change of views.

Lots more quartz tips around here to photograph, and even some amethyst. When I loaded it onto the computer though, I discovered that the camera is trying to tell me something: I really need to dust.

Thanks for that HSMSHS!

So I won't share any of those. But I would like to share some more.

The tips of the trees outside my window. Bleak wintry day...

My cactus. Makes me think of octopi. Especially the second shot.

Speaking of underwater creatures, how about the aloe. Tentacles anyone?

How about you? Any tips to share? ;)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mmm, Mmmm Good!

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The search for the right deodorant seems never ending, but when I saw this one I knew it was love. Vanilla is my absolute favourite aroma, and hopefully the only one you're smelling when you see me in person.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sometimes it's hard to come up with a clever title

Just playing a little HSMSHS catch up.

Yesterday's prompt was "Instruct" and I thought of a good one--Monday's are Princess' piano lessons, so I'd go with her and get a sweet shot of her with her teacher at the piano.

Then scccccccccccrittch! (it's that needle scratching sound)

The piano teacher called late afternoon to reschedule, as she'd just come from the dentist and was feeling poorly. There'd be no piano instruction.

Fortunately for me, I was quick enough to grab a shot of something that has been happening more and more around here:

Yes, those are all three of my children, gathered around Hubby in the office as he instructs them on the fine art of playing RPG's.

They love every second.

Do they come see me when I'm spending hours on Photography websites? Well, yes, but they ask who that is, and when I don't know leave. But give them some "dire wolves" and a few elves and they'll stand around for hours, giving advice and asking questions. As someone who's never figured out the appeal of those games, it baffles me. But it delights me that they enjoy doing this with Hubby and that he can share something he enjoys with them. Plus it's got to be fun to have your own cheering section every time you get in a battle, right?

Now for today's prompt:

That may not look much like fruit to you, but that's the preferred form of fruit in this house. We buy plenty of fruit in both it's natural and frozen forms, but the absolute favourite for the kidlets are these fruit cups. Sweetpea's favourite is the peach, and the Boy loves the "country berry", but they'll both eat all the flavours, and we go through a lot of these each week. (Princess hates fruit in any form. She's a challenge!) We're careful to only get the unsweetened ones, and pick them up in bulk when they're on sale, or the President's Choice version in a pinch (half the price but half the flavour options too). So in my space, this is what fruit looks like.

And the Boy was doing quite the little dance of anticipation while I did my imprompu photo shoot this morning. As soon as I got my photo, he got his fruit.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Well if that's all...

Thanks to the team at DPS (if you've never been there, and you're into photography, run!) I was lead to Chase Jarvis' amazing blog. He really seems dedicated to helping the aspiring photographer "make it"; in whatever way they define making it.

Anyway, working my way through the archives, I find that he has posted the Secret to Success in Photography. That's right, it's no longer a secret!

So I'm well on my way to number 2, it's just a matter of figuring out number 1.

How about you?

Portrait Practice

I've been booked for sure as the second shooter at my very first wedding this summer, and of course I'm nervous. I'm making lists and checking them twice and I'm spending hours on flickr and various blogs and photography sites gathering info and ideas.

Most importantly though, I'm conscious of the fact that what I need most is practice, practice, practice! So yesterday while the kids were lounging on the couch I pulled out the camera. I sat on the floor in front of them so they could still see and started shooting. Here are a couple of favourites:

I had on my 50mm 1.8 for all of my shots, as I'm still getting to know it better. I did my favourite lens exercise: set your camera to AV, choose a pretty stationary subject, and then open your aperature. Wide open! Take your shot. Move your dial one stop, shoot again. Do this for every single f-stop. You'll get a real quick feel for what the lens can do and what settings you're going to like. Of course, you should do it again and again at different distances, but it's a great exercise and you'll really know your lens when you're done.

Anyway, both of the above shots were taken at f/2.3, so I guess I know what makes me happy.

Guess what I'm practicing for here?

(Don't you love how she's willing to hold out her hands for me but not take her eyes off of the television?)

So while I'm practicing and playing, I'd love to know a couple of things:

1) Who's your favourite wedding photographer? Why do you love them? Link me up!

2) What editing software do you use and why? I'm still trying to choose. I downloaded the trial version of PSE7 before Christmas and played with it a bit but really spent most of my time weeping and wailing and knashing my teeth. I'm going to download Lightroom today and see if it annoys me less. I can't afford the full version of Photoshop. I'm even considering Gimp because--FREE! Of course I prefer to get the shot as perfect as possible in camera, but everyone needs a little buff and polish, right? I want to be comfortable with whatever software I choose long before the wedding so I can edit quickly but carefully, so I'm going to have to decide and buy in the next month. (I just don't think Picasa can handle it.)

Thanks everyone! Have a happy weekend!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not so square....

HSMSHS is up a little late today.

Why? Because my Hubby, who most people assume is totally square, decided to be fun and spontaneous today. He got up and got ready for work, went out to start the car...and it wouldn't start. Something about batteries losing power in -32C temperatures (yes, that's before the windchill). So he had to come back in the house and work from home. He worked steady through the day, and then came out of the office at around 2:30 to say he was going to try the car again. It started, so he was off to town to see about getting a booster for the next cold day. Then he suddenly stopped and said "let's do something fun".


Unexpected, and all the more exciting because of it. The kids wanted to go bowling, and off we went! So here is my square for today--with our abysmal scores. I should be ashamed, but I had too much fun!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Feeling the joy

Today's HSMSHS prompt: JOLLY, defined as "merry, full of fun, delightful and enjoyable", so I have to share one of my favourite photos with you:

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That's my Princess, taken on the very last day of August this year as she played on the mini trampoline where we were visiting friends. I loved this shot as soon as I saw it, but don't remember ever sharing it with anyone. All that joy shouldn't be kept to one's self though, should it?

P.S. I thought it was well past time I linked to my fellow HSMSHS players so I've made a bit of a blog list and added it to the sidebar. I'll try to keep an eye out for anyone I missed but if you're not there and you should be, give me a heads up!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


First of all, thanks for all the well-wishes in the comments. I'm fortunate in my depression that I've been through it enough times to know what's happening and to know, even at my worst, that it will lift. I can even roughly predict when. It's just a matter of getting through it, one day at a time. Part of that is making myself get up and do things, like blog!

The last couple days have been about delighted discovery, thanks to the prompts at HSMSHS.

Yesterday's prompt was "handle", and before I could start I had to "get a handle" on myself. I was so discouraged at first, thinking that I surely didn't have any good handles in my space (whatever a good handle is!). I just live in a boring house in the country! No fun handles here! I had the vague idea that if I waited for the girls to get home from school I could pose one of them with the shovel to get an interesting handle, but they were totally uncooperative with that idea.

Kids these days!

So I stayed indoors and started searching. Much to my delight, I started finding all kinds of handles! Besides the obvious door handles, there were all kinds of handles on briefcases and bags, shovels, sleds, appliances, the piano lid, the wood stove, the grandfather clock. I spent a good hour quite happily snapping photos of handles at different angles and settings. I now have a fun little file of handles and a new way of looking at my space. Here's my favourite:

These are the handles on our fireplace tools. Usually I hate them. The holder takes up a lot of space and wood, though economical, is a very dirty way to heat. But just now I'm appreciating their curves and lines and this particular angle (which cleverly disguises the mess!).

Then this morning I did it again! Went to HSMSHS and saw that the prompt was "sport" and immediately started having a little fit in my head, as we're none of us into sports at all. I thought I was going to have to dig into the summer photos, but remembered the experience of yesterday. I asked the kids at breakfast: "what could I photograph for sports?" and they had a ton of ideas. Once they got me started, I began remembering more and more sports equipment we have (and use!). I took a few shots and decided I like this one the best:

These are Sweetpea's new skates, still in the box, waiting for her skating term to start at school (next week!). She's got weak ankles like her mom, and the one time I took her skating last year was a disaster, so I tried to talk her into hockey skates (they have a lot more ankle support) but she wasn't having it. Nothing would do but the pretty white figure skates. So they're sitting waiting for her to discover hidden talents, while her mom discovers there's more in her space than she ever dreamed!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wheels on the bus...

Go round and round, round and round, round and round....

Last week the wheels fell off my bus for a few days. I watched the HSMSHS bus pull away from the station without me. Actually, I watched all the buses coming and going without me, and sat and had a little pity party about it. It's winter, and despite my attempts to avoid it, depression has found me again. It's cyclical, and though I dodge and weave, it always seems to find me. Traditionally, January isn't a good month for me. Actually, I can usually fight my way through January and then February delivers the knock-out punch. I struggle back to my feet in March and we're back to normal by April. Heck, I'm downright giddy by May. Summers are awesome. Fall is fabulous. I just have to endure through January and February.

The secret to coping is twofold:

First, lower your standards. If just getting out of bed makes you feel brittle and exposed, then get out of bed. When you can. No rush. You're up! Congrats! Anything else you manage today is bonus. No guilt allowed. Guilt only feeds the depression, so it is banished.

Second, try again. So yesterday was bad. Here's another sunrise, another chance to do something right. Not everything, just one thing (see rule one above).

So with Spring only 67 days away and the sweet knowledge that I'll be kicking depression in the face before that, I'm back to playing along with today's sweet prompt: technology.

How I love technology! I love my appliances, I love my OTT-Lite, I love my digital camera and my printer...and mostly I love our computer and high-speed connection. Incidently, we only got high-speed last year, and the cut off is just past our house. We still have friends on our road with good old dial up. I never take my connection for granted. Thanks to our computer and our connection, I have sisters in scrapping, photography and motherhood. I can keep in touch with old friends and family and make new friends all over the world.

So here's our sweet technology. Purchased in 2006 when our old 'puter died, I remember thinking that no one could ever use that much memory. I was wrong, because we've already filled it up, along with an external hard drive. Now we need another. One thing about technology, it's always changing, isn't it?

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Snow Exposure

Yesterday was our first snow day of 2009. It was actually a wimpy sort of a snow day, Hubby made it into work just fine and the kids spent lots of time outside playing. Of course I had to get photos of the kids outside! It was my first time bravely taking the Canon out in the winter instead of the old P&S, and I'm really glad I had read a lot of articles about shooting in the winter first.

First shot, I left the camera on the settings I had been using indoors:

Yikes! What a mess! Obviously my settings are so very,very wrong. Let's start with White Balance, shall we?

Oops, had it set on cloudy. It's definitely not cloudy out! In fact, with the sun hitting the fresh snow, it's the exact opposite of cloudy. The world is one giant reflector!

This is going to be an example of making adjustments on the run. I'm walking and adjusting...

So much better! Wow, that WB sure makes a difference, doesnt' it? A simple switch from Cloudy to Auto makes a world of difference.

Now we're still a little blown out. Does it seem bright to you? It seems bright to me! You know what's a quick fix? I'm going to dial down my Exposure Compensation, see what that does for me...

Much better! And just in time, since now I'm nice and close to the kids!

These photos are SOOC just for you (and me), to illustrate the differences and the adjustment process I made. Learning to think on my feet has been one of the biggest parts of understanding my camera and getting great photos. All photos shot using the 50mm, AV setting, f/4....ISO 800? Is that right?

Oops! Guess I should have checked ISO before worrying about Exposure Compensation. Yikes again! That's what I get for going from shooting indoors at night to outdoors in sun and snow. Now we've really learned something--check all your settings before shooting! If I had realized I would have changed that first thing!

Next lesson to learn: spot metering. Because my closeups turned out great, but backing off a bit....

Oh, how that 800 ISO is messing me up! Fortunately I shoot in RAW, and just dialing back the Exposure Compensation a couple more stops in the software that came with the camera....

Saves that one from the dreaded delete key. They're right you know, once you go RAW, you'll never go back! It can allow you to save yourself from even the most boneheaded mistakes...like shooting on ISO 800 on a sunny day.

Thanks for learning along with me! For those of you wondering where my HSMSHS is, well, so am I! Yesterday's prompt was "Homemade" and I was determined to get a scrapbook page done to share with you, but never quite got there. I'm going to see if I can do it today and post a double, otherwise I'll just do today's prompt and post later.

PS: shot of the day:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Around the house

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Today's HSMSHS prompt: sphere. In a house with kids and cats and rock hounds, spheres come in every size and material imaginable. This little crystal ball (onyx actually) sits on my scrapdesk to help inspire me.

And how could I not use that font? (CK 8 Ball for anyone who's wondering)

Update on yesterday's kijiji find: The speedlight works just fine with my camera, but the lenses are the old blade mounts. I'll be looking around the internets to see if there's any sort of adaptation to make them work, and otherwise I guess I'll buy some film and play around old skool.

I've got to get some food before I run the Princess to piano. It's one of those crazy days where I have the car and lose my mind.

Keep clicking!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I heart this morning!

Not only is it Little Christmas, which means I can finally take down all my decorations and clean house without guilt, but look what I found when I did my weekly peek at kijiji:

Canon T 70 35mm camera with multiple program AE / dual metering system
two Vivitar telephoto zoom lenses (28-90 and 70-210)
one Canon Speedlite 277T flash unit

But how sweet is it? Can I use that Speedlite? Are those lenses any good?

While using my powers of google-fu to find the answer, I discovered this amazing resource: Photography on the Net; a forum for Canon users to discuss...well, everything Canon by the looks of things. You can bet I'll be playing around there! Anyone else already a member?

And I found my answer: yes, I can use the Speedlite. It's not as good as the ones out now (direct flash, no pointing it at the ceiling) but I can use it until my pennies are saved for a better one. AND the lenses will work too. They have mixed reviews, but since the seller is only asking $35 (yes babies!) even if they're absolute crap I'll be getting my money's worth!

It's a good day! A day of hearts and flowers...which, incidently, is the HSMSHS prompt!

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So what do you heart today?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's a brand new year, though it didn't really feel like it until today. Up until now it's just been one big holiday hoopla with lazy days and feasting and trying out new toys and games.

Today though, I sent Hubby back to work and the girls back to school. Today I fell back into habit and routine. Today I faced the laundry and the dishes.

Also today, Her Space My Space His Space came back from their holiday break. I guess it's really back to work now!

Today's prompt is perfect for the start of a new year: beginning. What kind of beginning can I share? I photographed my girls getting on the bus today for Project 365, but that's not so much of a beginning as a continuation. I photographed my new calender, but that just didn't feel monumental enough.

So I got brave and photographed this:

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Oh. Ouch.

The last time I saw that number I was about to squeeze an 8lb+ baby out of my body. All year I've been trying to deny it, but all year that number just kept rising, and with my mother's wedding looming this summer (along with the requisite trips to the dressmaker), something must be done about this number and all that it represents.

So today is my beginning. My beginning of healthier choices, of fitness and portion control, of watching that number go down instead of up. The next time I post a photo like this one, I expect that needle to have moved (to my left please).

What's your beginning? Anyone else beginning their year by staring at the scale (or mirror) and wondering what happened?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Towel, I am so tempted to throw you...

I just had the BEST two days. A really wonderful, fun, relaxing New Year's Eve bash, followed by a really wonderful, fun, relaxing New Year's Breakfast hosted by my church. Breakfast turned into a mini piano recital, then a mad volleyball game, then lunch at McDonald's before we all finally parted ways.

Of course, I took a ton of photos.

That I'm very unhappy with.

I can't say I'm all that excited about the photos I took over Christmas either, and that's just sad.

I'm sorry, but since I first picked up a camera I have been unable to figure out how to take photos in low light settings or gymnasiums. It is my giant Achilles heel of photography. I keep trying, I keep experimenting with lenses and settings, but I have yet to hit upon that magic formula that will get me great photos.

The fact that the teenagers with cheap point and shoots who were also snapping photos like mad have already posted their photos to Facebook...photos that are WAY BETTER THAN MINE is just salt in the wound. When the camera phone photos are better, it's probably time to throw in the towel.

I've read books, I've practiced and practiced, I've listened to friends (the suggestion at the party was that I turn my ISO all the way up, and it helped a bit, but the noise is still gastly), but unless I drag my subject outdoors it seems I am a very incompetent photographer indeed.

Can you help me? What do you do to get great party photos? Be specific, what settings do you actually use? Or do you leave the dSLR at home and just take the point and shoot?

I'll be anxiously awaiting your ideas. In the meantime, I'll keep dragging my kids outside if I want a photo. Who cares if it's winter? Oh, and I think I'll be saving my pennies for an external flash. And maybe converting some of my photos to black and white.

Oh, and seeking therapy.