Category Archives: photography


I’m wishing for a family photo. As in, of my family, duh. Have we ever had a real one done? Questionable.

What I really wish for is another photographer like me, who does the natural light, slightly casual thing, who wants to trade me services – I’ll do her family (or his, hey, I’m open) and she/he will do mine. Any takers? Anyone know of anyone in southern Arizona who might be interested? Or even just some photographer recommendations, that works too.

What I REALLY wish is that I could just clone myself for the day, and do my own. Really the easiest solution. Except for the whole cloning part.


technical difficulties – again

I has them.

I will update this post later. IF I CAN.


I don’t know what to say. I want to cry. Even though things could be worse. I think. Maybe. Forgive me, there will be abuse of capitalization.

I was having some issues with my computer (laptop) itself – the Explorer program (not the ‘net browser but the one that shows your folders and such) kept stopping responding. Part of the problem was a recent update (Vista service pack 2 is bad for Toshiba laptops! apparently!), but even on uninstalling and reinstalling and so forth, the problem was persisting. And starting up and shutting down were dicey. The issue appeared to be connected with my external hard drive (EHD). The one I keep all my photos and digital scrapbook supplies on. Why? Because there’s two-hundred-and-ten or so gigabytes of them, that’s why.

I thought all was good because I have an online backup service (I will not name them yet. Yet. I’m not ready to bad mouth them yet. YET). Except that about a month ago my EHD was inadvertently left unplugged – actually, let’s be specific. My laptop was “asleep” and in its bag, with, of course, the EHD unplugged. Somehow the computer woke up and performed a backup without the EHD plugged in. Fine, it’s happened once before. What you do is plug the drive back in and then wait (and wait and wait) while the backup re-synchronizes. It’s not actually backing up again – it’s just verifying the things that haven’t changed, and so on. The problem is, my internet here in the FREAKING STYX isn’t the best and so it was taking a long time. (And in the meantime, what about new things? Are they backing up, or what? How does it decide what has priority?) And then on top of all that, the backup started stalling, just sitting there, and I didn’t know if it was the internet connection, or what. And then throwing errors at me sometimes. So I started emailing with tech support, all the while wishing they could just back it up, revert to the backup from before the EHD was unplugged, and then go from there, backing up any changes, instead of this mindless, irritating “verification” process.

Tech support was not the happiest experience ever. It started out well, with “send us the log file” and “try updating the software.” Okay fine. But then it was “uncheck the problem directories from the backup” and HELLO THOSE ARE THE ONES I WANT BACKED UP. But okay.

Anyway, then the computer problems started this week. And the EHD seems to be causing them. And now the computer won’t read that it’s plugged in either… on and on. THE PROBLEM IS – that old backup, the one before the EHD was left unplugged, the most complete one I have? IS SCHEDULED TO BE DELETED TONIGHT. Because after 30 days they delete the old backups. I found this out when I called tech support to figure out what was going on and can they delay the deletion (I knew it was going to happen I just didn’t know it was TODAY). The answer to that last is (supposedly) no, by the way.

So I’ve been LOSING MY MIND most of the day. It feels like a conspiracy, this horrible confluence of bad timing, errors and so forth. All conspiring to GIVE ME AN ULCER. Because I can’t even start telling you how many photos and digi supplies I have on there. No, wait, actually I can. More than 90,000 files total. Almost 70,000 of which are the actual (unzipped and so forth) files. Probably almost 50,000 photos. Scanned photos, photos of my kids, on and on.

SO – This is where we stand. THANK THE LORD (I say with the utmost sincerity) that my husband is a techie. He is working on recovering the drive. I can request a restore of the early October backup – but it has to be on DVD, because, again, scheduled to be deleted. Which burns me because it costs almost $200 and I assure you that is NOT in the budget, and HELLO I PAY YOU FOR THIS SERVICE ALREADY. The problem is that the backup is so large and the free web restore is not going to cut it, particularly with my crappy internet, PARTICULARLY with that whole scheduled to be deleted thing. There is just no time for it. So I have to do it.

AND buy another portable hard drive (cuz my laptop hard drive can’t take that much and still function) AND buy another hard drive for backup. OR PERHAPS THREE. OR MAYBE I SHOULD GET MY OWN SERVER. I am now questioning the use of online backups for me, because of the volume I need and the sorry state of my internet connection (would I be able to ever restore files without paying out the nose for it?). I should start burning DVDs too but that just makes me sad because it’s a lot of work and DVDs have been known to go bad just sitting there. Though obviously EHDs have that problem as well.

So the quote unquote summary is:

  1. I’m really glad I didn’t delete the Halloween pics off my camera card yet, because they aren’t part of the backup I’ll be retrieving.
  2. I probably won’t lose my photos and digi supplies but OH THE STRESS.
  3. Super redundant backups are really necessary. Really. Not just one but SEVERAL.
  4. I guess I need to get back to printing more individual photos again. And uploading them systematically to photo printing sites that won’t delete them.
  5. Anyone have any advice? How do you back up your data? Where? What is the back up of your back up? Especially if anyone knows pro photographers and other people with lots and lots of files, I’d love to hear about it. Must I get a server? (As if I know anything about that.) Is that really the only answer?

Basically, even though it could be worse, I’m still stressed out and reeling. And left wondering bitterly, why computer, why? Why do I have to use a computer at all? Why do I have to love photography? Why’d I think digital scrapbooking was a good idea anyway? Isn’t there a backup solution out there somewhere that won’t let me down?



photography 101 – more or less

Probably less, really. But an old friend from high school (with a baby, and one on the way, these things are really not possible, are they?) has a dSLR as well and after our recent conversation (wherein he lamented that it was “really too much camera” for him) I will foist advice for beginners, or at least links, onto him, and you as well, my unsuspecting readers. (Much of the advice will not be specific to dSLRs, though I cannot help but recomend them.) And I couldn’t resist getting a post in on Leap Day.

A caveat — I am all self taught (net taught? mostly the internet and scrapbook magazine articles, a couple of photography books from the library thrown in; this also affects what I know. A lovely landscape or still life is all very well, but usually I’m trying to do portrait and wildlife (i.e. child) photography). Definitely still learning, so please do not mock me. Thank you.

First of all, in my supposedly humble opinion, if you want to start off slowly because you are easily overwhelmed (hmm, I wouldn’t know anything about that, oh no…) or just busy, here are my recommendations: read the first article below (Taking Better Snapshots). It’s a great place to start. And then, focus on composition first (the rule of thirds, and zooming in!), and second, lighting. You can go a long way with just those to start with. Your camera is very smart and can take care of a lot of other things on its own, at least for a while. But composition, and getting into some nice light, are the big things it can’t do for you.


Here is a wonderful article/tutorial called Taking Better Snapshots, which I think is a really fabulous place to start. He goes on and on about how film is cheap (what is this “film” of which you speak?), which for us translates to: TAKE A TON OF PHOTOS AND SORT THEM OUT ON YOUR COMPUTER LATER. There are some photo examples, which is always good. It covers getting closer, framing, composition and the rule of thirds, and other points as well. I remembered this article while my friend and I were talking, and it is even better on rereading. Go to it! Bookmark it! Go try the stuff he suggests! It is good. If you feel intimidated, please, just pick one thing (like rule of thirds for example, that’s a good one to start with) and keep it in mind for a week or two as you take pictures. Lots of pictures. Get a nice big memory card (they’re cheap, like this one if you use SD, for example) and go crazy.

Here is another photography tutorial/textbook which seems pretty good — Making Photographs — starts out talking about light! Which we will talk more about in a bit.

Composition: The above articles talk about composition some. Here is a short article exclusively on composition, and a longer, more comprehensive one. My only note — yes, the rule of thirds, use it! For the love of Pete, please, when you’re taking a photo of a person, or even better, group of people (especially a horizontal/landscape oriented photo), stop putting their heads right smack in the middle. Just stop. It’s that whole “how much of the photo is taken up by the subject” thing that is mentioned in the Taking Better Snapshots article above. Put their heads (or eyes!) along the top third line. And get way closer, too, unless there’s some compelling reason to get the background in. It’s the difference between this:

and this:


Neither are fantastic shots, but you can tell the second is much better. Here’s a second example, my brother and I a few years ago (he’s still not married, ladies!). Please disregard that the first is also blurry — that’s not the point for this example. Also I apologize for the flash. 🙂




Okay, I lied, one more thing on composition — move around! Kneel down, especially for shots of kids, go eye level; get up on things, lie down, zoom with your feet, and so on. Try different angles, and turn your camera. People and faces work so well with vertical (portrait) orientation. And my best suggestions for group shots: shoot from above if you can. Staircases are awesome for this. It’s so much easier to get everyone’s face … and? Looking up is very flattering. Minimizes the extra chin and all. Ahem, not that we know anyone who needs that….

An article about light — I’m looking for one specifically about it (if you know of one, do suggest) for beginners. ETA: Here’s an article from an old Navy manual. In the meantime let me summarize what I know:

  • Flash is (often) evil. PLEASE learn to turn off your flash. I know sometimes indoors at night there isn’t much other choice, but even if you do use it, first get as much other light as you can, it helps. (Lookie here! A short article about indoor lighting!)
  • Noontime or other direct overhead sunlight is very harsh — leaves things looking flat and puts harsh shadows under people’s eyes and such. In this case, counterintuitively, you want to turn your flash ON (this is called fill flash) and let it even out some of the shadows (also sometimes the case in very dappled, contrasting shadow, under trees in harsh sunlight for example).
  • Early morning and sunset-ish evening are the prime light times. If you can take advantage of them, do. This photo below was taken by my husband at the lovely golden evening time (while I was still inside, taking care of church choir things) — I’m so proud of him for seizing the moment! And taking some awesome shots as well.
  • christmas beauty
  • North facing windows and doors are good. I don’t have any right now though, so I use the overhang outside our door, and open the blinds in our apartment, but angle them so that I get indirect light, not bars of bright sunshine. (Often i warm up the shot with the “cloudy” white balance setting — see below.) And learn to walk around if necessary — the sun should be at your back, as the photographer. Sometimes that means you have to avoid getting your shadow in it, but in the case of indirect light, it makes a big difference what angle you’re shooting from.
  • Overcast days are nice even light too. We don’t get many of those here in Arizona though, either. See above.
  • Low light: Learn to hold your camera still. Elbows in. Lean against the wall or something to steady yourself, or try propping the camera on something if possible (and secure). (For some things, you just really need a tripod. And I like my shutter remote too.) Use burst mode (many point and shoots have it too) and hold down the shutter button, take several pictures in a row — often the first will be blurry, but one of the middles will be sharp. Higher ISO can help, though it means more grain. Most of all for low light I recommend getting a fixed 50 mm lens — I have a 1.8. The Canon and Nikon ones are only about a hundred bucks. Totally awesome and worth it.

Here’s a blog post about flash, just something to think about. Flash does have a place. (I suppose.) (Though my D50 flash is worlds different from my old point and shoot flash — not nearly as much red eye for one thing.) You just want to be aware of it. (And — I hear — using a flash that mounts to your SLR so that you can turn it and bounce it is much preferable. I will get one eventually. Sigh. I am used to fairly cheap hobbies — notebooks and pens, a skein of yarn, even scrapbook paper. Photography is not so cheap.) Here’s another page with flash techniques, also good info, especially for avoiding harsh flash shadow (it’s kind of technical, perhaps too technical for me at my current level, but still…). Also, here is another page about flash photography, again, technical, but it looks like a good resource, eventually.

Also about light — the more you zoom in on your subject, the better the camera can adjust for that lighting. Just one more reason to get closer. 🙂


Now I’ll talk just a little about features, etc. that I use a lot on my camera. Some of this is camera specific, but should be fairly easy to find by perusing this entertaining piece of literature I like to call your “camera manual.”

Things I use all the time:

White Balance presets. These are the little icons that help you adjust when you’re under florescent lighting for example, or incandescent, so that your color isn’t quite so wonky (green or excessively orange). I often like using the “cloudy” setting to warm things up just a little, even in regular sunlight or indirect light. Now I’m wishing I had a little more control in this area on my D50 — someday, maybe. One important note — make sure you change it back to auto when you’re through, especially from incandescent. I often end up with blue-color-cast photos because I left it on incandescent. This can be hard to correct afterward, though it’s possible. Better to do it right the first time. Because I’m lazy, and love my SOOC (Straight Out of the Camera) shots. Someday when I get real Photoshop, I will have lots of fun with actions, like Pioneer Woman. Till then — lazy.

The focus brackets. I shoot almost exclusively in Program mode nowadays, mostly because it allows me to easily turn off the flash and to switch the focus to where I want it. On my camera the focus brackets are controlled by the arrow pad on the back of the camera. This way I can tell it to focus on one of the five points available, middle, either side, or top or bottom. Very nice for shooting photos where the person is off to one side, or where I want the focus on something that is not the closest thing to me. (There are different Auto settings — usually the default is whatever is closest to you.) If you have a point and shoot you might check out what the auto focus settings are. If it’s just the center, you can play with it a bit by using the focus lock — pressing the shutter button half way down, then holding it there and recomposing the picture with the person or face or whatever off to the side or wherever you want it that is not in the center. (Using this focus lock was also the only way I could get my old point and shoot digital camera to actually take the photo at the moment I finished pressing down the button. But if the subject moved I was screwed. Ah, the good ol’ days….)

AE lock. This is not something I use ALL the time, but since I learned about it, it does come in handy occasionally. If the lighting is difficult, the meter can be fooled sometimes. Or if you want to be sure something is properly lit, and you don’t care about the background, then you might use it. Basically you get in close to your subject (or point the camera at something with similar lighting), press your shutter half way down, hold down the AE lock button, and then go back to your full subject and take the actual picture. Then — get this — you check your screen, and try it again if it didn’t turn out quite right. Trial and error, baby. I highly recommend it. Here’s an example:

peppers v1

The first, automatic exposure. Doesn’t look bad, but it was really too bright — not how it really looked there. (We were picking out pumpkins, bright sunlight outside, but under a canvas overhang. Backlit.) (You can also see the focus I chose on this was different than the one I ended up with.)

peppers v2

The first try with the AE lock was definitely too dark, way underexposed. The thing I chose to lock the exposure on was too light.


Here’s the one I was happiest with.

Auto ISO. Very useful, if your camera has it. (Most point and shoots do this automatically.) Low ISO (100 or 200) is very nice for smooth clear photos. But, using this feature allows me to take low light photos without having to use a tripod, though often graininess is involved (you have to decide which you want, a quicker shutter or less grain; it depends on what you’re going for). Definitely something to check out, anyway, though you might not want to use it all the time.


We could go on and talk about photoshop, but the cold hard truth, my friends, is that you have to start with a good photo. Now and then cropping and such can help, and sometimes you can use it to save a photo you made a mistake on, like for example this one:

{54/366} gap

It was blue from being on the incandescent WB setting in daylight, oops, but it was fairly well composed, and I liked her expression better on it than any of the others I’d taken, and the best way I found to make it decent was to change it to black and white; but mostly, you need to have the best raw material possible to start with. (Speaking of “raw,” har har, notice I didn’t mention shooting in RAW. That is as yet unexplored territory for me. Mostly because I’m lazy and maybe I don’t want to have to photoshop every freakin’ photo to be able to print it or put it online. Someday I will experiment with it. But not today.)

And finally, no matter what camera you have, here’s my old favorite, Why Your Camera Does Not Matter.

Other resources:

  • Ken Rockwell — many articles, also reviews (lots of Nikon, but some others), good stuff.
  • If you’d like to see some videos for beginners, the Creating Keepsakes Website has some — sorry there’s no direct link, click the triangle next to Welcome on the purple bar, and choose Picture Perfect Photography. Also if you click Magazine and do a search for “picture perfect photography” in quotes, you’ll find some articles as well.
  • This is a good beginner tutorial on some of the more technical things: aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Don’t worry if you don’t get it at first, it takes time.

hey look, purty pictures!

Trying to design a new blog header… trying out a new template. Having issues with both. I apologize for any cut off photos. Rrr.

I gotta go to bed. Can’t think. Here’s something fall and festive.






P.S. Speaking of pumpkins, get a load of this. It’s The Look, from Pride and Prejudice! Incredible. From this post, on a favorite author blog.

EVIL magnetic albums – just say NO

I am currently removing a ton of photos from a magnetic album, for a friend right now. (Why? I ask myself. Mostly because I started her on taking them out, and then felt bad because before they were all viewable, so I told her I’d take them and finish them and put them into a very basic scrapbook form. Since it’s my thing, and not so much hers. And so we’re trading — I’ll do this and she’ll be making me something… we haven’t quite settled on it yet. Some sewing, or something. She’s big on sewing, and woodcrafts. Any ideas from anyone what I should have her make me? And because I care about photos, even other people’s photos, for whatever inexplicable reason. It’s a gift — and a curse.)

So now: the Rant. Diatribe, if you will. These so called “magnetic” albums are evil. EVIL. As in, the spawn of the devil. You may have heard this before (probably if you’ve been reading here long). But maybe you’ve wondered why? Let me enlighten you.

First off, why do people use them to begin with? (Really, they shouldn’t be allowed to even sell them, but I digress.) Answer: they’re very easy. Peel up the sheet, stick the photos down, smooth down the top sheet. Yes, very easy. And nowadays they’re starting to put “acid free” on them. But please, don’t be taken in.

Even if the glue and paper are acid free — which I wouldn’t take their word on, there’s no one actually policing it — even if the plastic doesn’t contain PVC or other harmful chemicals — it’s still just not a good idea. First of all, it’s best not to put adhesive all over the back of a photo. (Only in the corners, or along the edges if you must — much like labeling the backs; it’s not a bad idea, but use a very soft lead pencil or a special labeling pen, and only write on the edges, not in the middle right behind people’s faces. Ahem.) Yes, you want it to stay put, but the less chemical reactions the better. (Photography developing being it’s own chemical process — the fewer things we add to the mix the better.) Also it’s good if it’s as reversible (non-permanent) as possible. If you ever need to make a scan or copy; if the album gets wet and you need to take the photos out of it; and also documents need to breathe a little. (This is why they don’t laminate old photos and documents — it’s non-reversible, chemically complicating, and so on.)

But returning to the evil albums: they’re not actually magnetic in any sense, they just have tiny bits of adhesive all over the page. And when you lift that plastic sheet, it has adhesive on it as well — and it goes down on the front of your photographs. Not a good idea, even if it isn’t terrible acidic glue. See all the tiny spots of glue on the photos below?


Yes, those are all over just about every photo. Which mean they stick together if you stack them. And some of them look like someone also rubbed them with a kleenex or something — little white fuzzy bits stuck all over them. Any writing on the back of the photos – labeling, or notes from classmates on the back of those ubiquitous school photos — is pulling off and can hardly be read. And these are not that old.

There are so many ways the emulsion (which is the very thin part with the color – the actual picture on it) can be damaged here. The corners split when you try to get them enough to pull the photo off. The emulsion can bend excessively and wrinkle while you’re peeling the photo off the back. It can tear right off WHEN YOU LIFT THE FREAKIN PLASTIC SHEET, see below. If these had been home printed, the ink probably would’ve pulled right up, in an irreparable and unscanable manner.



Ironically, older magnetic albums, while more prone to having rubber cement and the like, are also sometimes easier to get the pictures out of, since the glue has dried more. The albums I rescued from my husband’s grandmother, some of the photos were falling right out.

Even with my trusty Undu and Undu photocare kit, this is an onerous task. It can be done — this is, I believe, the fourth full album I’ve done it on — and if you do have photos in these things please take them time to get them out, sooner rather than later. It’s almost as easy to just use slide in sleeves; or photo corners or double sided splits (only put the adhesive in the corners, or along the edges — that will be sufficient) and plain white cardstock for a simple presentation of your photos. (And then you can add just a bit of labeling/journaling: see my other entry.)

Prevention is definitely the best remedy. Please – just don’t use them. And don’t give them to poor innocent newlyweds as gifts. FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS USE MAGNETIC ALBUMS.

SPC #14 – black and white

{I like my new header photo. Yes, I took it. Yes, that is a slinky in the branches of a tree. No, I didn’t put it there, I just found it while wandering the apartment complex. Cool.}

February at SPC — go there to see more black and white.

self portrait with wheat carving

This is another found type object, two end of a bedframe that has been sitting out for a couple of weeks now. It’s lovely; I don’t know whose it is or where it came from really. But I always want to feel those carvings.

bathroom cupboards – run away!

Here’s my contribution to Heather’s challenge @ OMSH: under the bathroom sink. (A horror flick… it came from beneath the sink!) (And, an aside: doesn’t OMSH sound like a mother doing yoga? “Ommmm… shhhh!” I wonder if I’m the first person to think of that. I really hope so.) (I know, I know, it’s really Oh My Stinkin Heck, which is awesome in it’s own right. But I amuse myself, and I’m one of those readers who sort of hears all the words in my head as I go.) (Different than hearing those voices… 🙂 )

This is the hall bathroom. In my defense, both these cupboards (as well as the kitchen ones) have child locks on them that are pretty cool. (I can’t seem to find a link, maybe I’ll update it later…)


Here’s the master bathroom (thus titled because it’s inside the master bedroom, not because it’s any bigger or different in any way).


(This is what happens when your apartment has NO LINEN CLOSET. Or hall closet, or bathroom closet, or pantry… Not that I’m bitter or anything. But HONESTLY. When they build a three bedroom (okay, technically 2 with den) apartment, do they not think that maybe people will be living there? Maybe more people than in a smaller apartment, even. And that, just maybe, they’ll need places to put their stuff? It boggles the mind.)