I’m Bringing Saturday Back!

I can’t lie. 2012 was a blur. I can’t remember how most of my weekends were spent. And that kind of freaks me out. I couldn’t tell you the last time that I had a normal Saturday. A day when I did laundry, exercised, went to the grocery store, relaxed, knocked out a few errands, cleaned the bathroom. My year last year was spent in a whirlwind. I did laundry when I ran out of clothes to wear, and admit that most of the time they were never stored away properly. I would just pull from the giant pile on TOP of the washer and dryer. I rarely visited friends. I didn’t set any real weekend agendas. And relax just wasn’t in my vocabulary.
The sad part? I didn’t even realize I was living that way!!

Until today.

I woke up at 6am, cooked breakfast and ate by 7am. Was out the door to meet a friend at 7:30, where I proceeded to walk/run a total of 2.5 miles. On the way home, I stopped by the curb market and picked up a box full of fresh, organic fruits and veggies. Then I stopped by my local service station to have the oil changed in my Focus. I even went by the ATM to get out some cash before I headed home. And do you know what? I was home by 10am. I felt like it should be 2pm. I had accomplished so much. So I showered, threw in a load of clothes… not because I needed to, but because I could. I wrote an article for On A Mission. I cooked an awesome lunch. I visited with my parents. I chatted with five friends (some on the phone, some via text). I took the cat outside and enjoyed the sunshine with her. I tried out my new camera lens, using Kitty as the model. I cleaned the bathroom, took all of my trash outside, read a chapter in a book, did my daily devotions, and put away my laundry! And here I sit, taking a break to blog again, and it’s only 4:30pm. I could get used to this. As a matter of fact, this is who I once was. I was a productive, efficient gal. I don’t know what happened or why my life ended up pure chaos… but I am here to reclaim the old me. Not the old, ignorant, immature me. But the me that could multitask and make the most of her time. I pray that I can spend every day, from here on out, like I have today. Knocking my To-Do list out early, spending time with family and friends, doing things I love, taking care of everything that I have been blessed with, and still having the time to sit here and write about it. 🙂

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Don’t get me wrong. There is even more work to finish this weekend, including grocery shopping later tonight. And I have to clean up other messes that I have made (metaphorically and physically), which will take a few weeks of “todays” to do. But I really feel good about the day. It’s an answered prayer. I needed this!

What are some ways that you multitask? Do you divide your chores throughout the week? Or knock them all out on the weekend? I would love to hear how you handle your busy life.

The Basics of Photography

Upon finding out that I am a photographer, I’ve had several people who enjoy photography as a hobby ask me for assistance. They have unanswered questions or need a few pointers. I am always quick to help out. I find that training hobbyist to become amateur photographers will maintain the art of the craft. Too often I see folks who acquire a digital SLR and automatically think they can start charging clients for their services. Granted, there is no law that states you have to have a certain amount of education to be a photographer… but because of that, the market becomes over-saturated with eager, yet untrained shooters and it suddenly becomes difficult on the consumer to weed through everyone.

In this blog, I want to define a few basics that every photographer – no matter their skill set – can follow to ensure you’re producing the best quality shots.

The first mistake that any photographer can make is simply not shooting enough. How much is enough? In my opinion, you can never shoot too much. It is crucial to exercise your skills, just as an athlete trains for a competition. Let’s face it… there are a lot of self-proclaimed photographers out there. Being a consistently good photographer doesn’t happen over night, so being a great photographer requires years of finding your niche, honing your techniques, and continuously educating yourself.

Composition:
Without a doubt, the single-most important factor in becoming a great photographer is composition. It is all about putting objects together in your frame to emphasize the parts you want and making them stand out in the right way. These objects include anything in the foreground, the background, and anywhere in between.

Have you ever seen a landscape photo with so many objects in it that you’ve honestly had no idea what the subject actually was?  Well, that is the perfect example of poor composition. Successful photo compositions are quite simple. Regardless of the number of objects in the frame, there is never a doubt as to what the subject actually is. Some people have the knack for capturing great composition, while others have to shoot and shoot to hone their  skills. The important thing to remember is that wherever you start, you will only get better with practice.

Lighting and viewpoint play large parts in composition as well. Before you dabble in flash photography, pay attention to direction, intensity, and color of natural lighting. Move around the subject. Look at it from different angles, heights, and focal lengths. All of these things will have an impact on capturing the right composition.

So remember, no matter how expensive your camera equipment is, without a knowledge of composition, you’ll never be able to capture  the essence of a great shot. It is completely possible that someone with a cheaper set-up, who knows about composition, will consistently produce a better photograph. Decide what your subject is, which viewpoint looks best, where to place it in the frame, and monitor the natural lighting before pressing the shutter button!

Aperture:
Aperture is nothing more than the unit of measurement that defines the size of the opening in the lens. This can be adjusted to control the amount of light reaching the image sensor. The size of the aperture is measured in F-stop. What is slightly confusing with F-stop is that with each increase in number (for example f/5.6 to f/11) the amount of light passing through the lens decreases. Therefore, the higher the F-stop number, the smaller amount of light that will reach your image sensor.

F-stop plays a huge role in determining depth of field, or the zone of acceptable sharpness in a photograph. When you shoot with a DSLR, you have the ability to control which subjects in certain distances are sharply focused and which are not. Since the human eyes cannot distinguish small degrees of unsharpeness, some subjects either in front of or behind the object in focus can still appear sharp. Increasing the depth of field increases the sharpness of an image. Using smaller apertures (higher numbered F-stop) will increase the depth of field.

Shutter Speed:
This term is used to discuss exposure time – meaning, the length of time a camera’s shutter is open. This length of time determines the amount of light that reaches the image sensor. In addition to its effect on exposure, shutter speed changes the way movement appears in a photo. Very short shutter speeds can “freeze” fast moving subjects, where very long shutter speeds on the same subject create a blur. Some common shutter speeds are 1/60, 1/125, and 1/250. A good rule of thumb for hand-held cameras to reduce noticeable noise and blur caused by camera shaking is to select the shutter speed numerically closest to the lens focal length. For example, if you are shooting with a 50mm lens, the closest speed is 1/60. Any shutter speed below this may require a flash or a tripod to reduce your risk of blur.

ISO:
ISO is actually a common short name for the International Organization for Standardization. ISO settings date back to film cameras. Remember those? When you would purchase film, the box usually said 200, 400, or even 800 on it. That number indicated the film’s sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive the film was to light. In other words, the film with the lower number had to be exposed to light for a longer period of time than a film with a high sensitivity in order to properly expose the image. However, the lower ISO produced a better quality image. Film rated at 100 or 200 worked beautifully outdoors, but take it inside and photos – without a flash – would be quite dark.

Jump ahead to digital cameras. Instead of being locked to a certain ISO for 36 frames, you can now change the ISO setting for each shot you take. However, I wouldn’t recommend this… especially for a hobbyist. It could get too confusing. So why would ISO even matter now that there is no film? ISO still plays a key part, when combined with aperture and shutter speed, to get a great shot. As I stated earlier, the lower the number (100-200) the better quality your photo will be. In film days, you may remember a sort of grainy effect on some images. Digital images can have their own grain too. It is referred to as noise, and can be seen as a flat block-y area, typically in very light or dark shadowy areas. If you see this in your photos, check your ISO. Always shoot at the lowest ISO possible, using your aperture and shutter speed to get the right exposure, and then move up to the next ISO setting if your previous settings didn’t work.

Ultimately, the best way to better yourself as a photographer is to begin shooting outside with the automatic settings on your digital SLR camera. Play with all aspects of composition until you understand what to look for, and how to do it quickly. As you shoot, and composition becomes more comfortable to you, start taking notes of what settings your camera uses based on your location It isn’t a bad idea to take a notepad with you, or keep track of your favorite photos’ settings in your smartphone. Use these settings as a basis for you to advance over to the manual mode, remembering the tips I mentioned above.  Above all, SHOOT!! Take every opportunity to photograph in random environments. It will allow you to get more comfortable with your camera, to develop better compositions, and make faster decisions.

PHOTO SHOOT: The Everhart Family

After the winner of our B.Pretty contest (March 2011) shared her photos with her husband, they decided to schedule a second photo shoot with me for family portraits.

Tim, Beverly, and Bailey joined me at Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC for a fun afternoon. This may have been the easiest photo shoot I have ever done. The family worked well together, are extremely photogenic, and had great ideas of their own. I am very pleased with the outcome of this photo shoot, and hope that the Everharts will be as well.

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Here Comes the Bride!

The past few weeks have been tiresome but fantastic. This spring has certainly been a season of nuptials, from remarriages to the infamous Royal Wedding which took place yesterday.

This afternoon, I was honored to be the photographer at my family’s own ceremony fit for a princess, the wedding of my niece Jessica to her Prince Charming.

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Hello from Savannah

I am here in my favorite city of Savannah, GA for the wedding of my friends Jillian & Bruce. I drove down on Friday and plan to head home tomorrow. I wanted to spend most of today walking around the city taking photos with my new Canon DSLR but there is a line of pretty nasty thunderstorms coming through right now. I’m passing time on my iPad2 while hail and lightening dance outside my hotel window. This weekend was the first time that I have been able to test out the SD card reader adapter for the the iPad2 and play around with some simple photo editing apps that let me crop & post photos quickly.

I will share with you a few of the photos I did manage to get this weekend:

 

Adventures of the iPad2

With all of the recent media hype, I knew that my wait was over. After spending nearly a year pondering the decision to purchase an iPad – and more so pouting over not having the money to get one – I had finally reasoned with myself to invest in a new iPad2.

Months of speculation, research, and brainstorming found me leaving work at noon yesterday – March 11, 2011 – with a plan to find a retailer who would have plenty iPad2 in stock when they went on sale at 5pm. I was determined to have one in my hand on launch day. Rumor that morning was that WalMart had not received a full selection, and still being unsure of the model that I wanted, I ended up in line at Best Buy.

I was approximately 45 in a line of 60 and growing. I was shocked at the questions being thrown out by folks in line around me. Had these people not done their homework? Were they really going to buy an iPad2 and not know what all it can do!? It was apparent that they weren’t the Fangirl that I was. I spent the next hour being the nerd, explaining the differences between the iPad and iPad2 and sharing out-of-the-box ways of using this wonderful invention. The one thing I couldn’t say confidently… would I buy the 16GB or the 32GB? I knew that I was buying the WiFi only, since I already own an iPhone that has 3G service. I knew I could also jailbreak my iPhone and use it as a personal Hot Spot. I couldn’t justify the 3G option on the iPad2.

The more I chatted with fellow buyers, the more I felt confident that I would end up with a 32GB. I kept texting my friends Angie & Shawn, who were standing in line at Best Buy in Greensboro, for opinions and updates. The more texts I sent & received, the more I began to worry. They were already being issued wristbands that confirmed they would be taking home an iPad2. I hadn’t seen wristbands at the Winston Salem store, or many employees for that matter, during any point that afternoon. Finally, at 4:50pm, six employees emerged with manila folders in hand. Each employee had two stacks of paper: one for the white iPad2 and one for the black iPad2. The first pair of employees had papers for the 64GB model. One employee had the WiFi only stack while the other stack was the 3G/WiFi model. Without hesitation, I asked the employee with the 64GB WiFi only stack to hand me a ticket for a black iPad2. Just like that, I had made my decision. I was going for the big one. It wasn’t until the next pair of employees came through with the 32GB tickets that I realized what I had done… but it just seemed right to have the 64GB. I was planning on using my new iPad2 for many things, including my photography. Card reader adapters are available for $29.99 which will allow me to unload my SD card from the Canon DSLR onto the iPad2 in virtually minutes. This will come in handy during long photo shoots.

Despite having the ticket in my hand ensuring that I would soon be the owner of a brand new iPad2, I still had a long road ahead of me. It was just past 5pm and we were still not allowed in the store. Once we made it inside, we were snaked through the entire store from front to back to front again. I finally made it to the register at 5:55pm. With one quick exchange, the paper ticket in my hand was replaced with a white box. At 6:03pm,  I walked out of Best Buy a very happy iPad2 owner. I am very excited to put this thing to use. Although I’ve had a small amount of guilt for dropping so much cash on a tablet, I have already used it as a gaming system, a video streamer, an iPod, and a laptop. I don’t doubt this won’t earn it’s value. I’m even writing this blog on it now!

If you’re looking for a great purchase, well worth every penny you spend, I suggest investing in an iPad or iPad2. I would assume the older models will drop in price, though I don’t anticipate it being by much. I believe after the frenzy yesterday, you may have a difficult time finding the new iPad2 for a week or so. If you can stand to wait while stocks are replenished, start putting back money and researching this tablet further. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I certainly am not!

Changes from the iPad to iPad2:
Thinner – down from 13.4mm to 8.8mm.
3G – AT&T and Verizon service available.
Processor – updated to A5 dual
Camera – Front & Rear-facing
Gyroscope
HDMI output

Jessica & Chad – Engagement

With chances of snowfall lingering in our North Carolina forecast, the beautiful blue January sky over Old Salem welcomed today’s photo shoot. Aside from a chilling wind, the historic town nestled within the city still proved to be a stunning backdrop for Jessica & Chad’s engagement photos. The photogenic couple made this shoot extremely effortless. What a pleasure it was to work with them.

Jessica & Chad are planning an April 30, 2011 wedding.

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White Christmas 2010

The snow that started falling on Christmas Day here in NC has accumulated to about 6″ and counting. Those of you reading this who live in the north or midwest will get a kick out of the following:

Lt. Gov. Dalton, in consultation with Gov. Perdue, declared a State of Emergency for the entire state due to this winter storm.

I typically do not care for winter weather. I can become quite pouty if the temperature drops below 70 degrees (it’s 31 right now) and the artist in me cannot stand to look at an all-white canvas for too long. I keep hoping a Cardinal will fly by the window soon. However, it is rare that we get real snow. Our typical winter weather consists predominantly of sleet or freezing rain… and everything becomes a solid sheet of ice. It is refreshing to have powdery snow for once, and as crazy as it sounds, I have to admit I’m kind of okay with it.

I trekked out this morning with the DSLR to capture this unusual winter wonderland. My pup, Bogey, tagged along for the fun!

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