Sunlight On A Rainy Day

Last Thursday, as I was putting away yet another half-read self-help book and vowing to never read another one, I had an idea for a photo. I was eager to go ahead and make it that morning, but I was taking my parents out to a bird watching place later that day, so I decided to attempt it the next day as a birthday present to myself.

My birthday dawned a rainy, rainy day, as in it rained from the time I got up at 5:30 Friday morning till noon Saturday. The idea behind this photo I had in my head was based on a goal I have for this year, which is to relax and read more, and not just books on photography. I drove to the library after lunch, checked out a ton of books (yay!) and then came on home to get to work on the self-portrait.

I knew I wanted an “early-morning-sun-streaming-in-the-window” feel to the photograph, so I set up a bare flash and set it to half power, angling it to point in towards the book case (and thank goodness that we have a covered porch to protect the light from the rain!). I then ran back inside and set to work on the rest of the picture. I was using my Nikon D750 with my 35mm f/1.8 lens and my tripod; then, at about 3:00 (I like to position my lights as on a clock face), I had the second light pointing back towards my chair modified with a small octabox without the diffuser since I wanted a harder light rather than a softer light. I set that power to 1/32 power because I was also using it as more of a fill light. My camera settings were ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/250 sec. I then grabbed my phone to use as a remote, curled up with my book and took the picture.

And lo and behold! My idea worked the first time!

That never happens!

And then it was time to open birthday presents and eat birthday cupcakes.

But it was fun making the sun shine on a rainy day. That’s the joy of photography for me, thinking of an idea, trying it out to see if it works and getting excited when it does. I only hope that this year more ideas will come to me and that they will work just as well as this one did.

 
 
 




Lost & Found

Ever have pictures that you thought you lost, but then found in some obscure folder in your photo library?

No? Just me and my lack of organizational skills?

Well, a couple days ago, I was looking through the folder labeled “Family” for a photo of me that a friend of mine wanted when I came across these photos of David from our last Enduro race we shot last September. We like to use each other to get the settings right in our cameras before the event begins, usually pretending to hunker over imaginary handlebars, leaping off of drops and running madly around the berms along the trail (I like to spread my arms out and make “zoom zoom” noises, pretending I’m an airplane).

Yep, I know how to have fun.

I thought I had lost these images. I remember the day we came home and I downloaded my card to Lightroom and saw these amongst the thousand or so race photos that I had taken that day. I guess I filed them in my “family” folder so I wouldn’t accidentally upload them to SmugMug with the rest of the bike photos and then, after telling myself I’d always remember where I put them, promptly forgot their location.

So here’s to “new” photos and being more thorough about where I store pictures from the trail in the future. 😉







New Lens Day

I’ve been thinking off and on for the last three years of purchasing a fish eye lens, but I couldn’t justify the expense and really, whether or not I would use it all that much. Lensbaby lenses would more or less do the same and they’re waaaay cheaper than a dedicated fish eye.

But then I got into mountain bike photography where the wider the angle of view is often times better (and makes the rider look like a total bad ass).

So, I did some research last weekend, took a good long run Monday morning to help me decide, came home and hit the “add to cart” button on B&H and commenced to waiting for the White Present Truck (a.k.a. Fed Ex) to arrive with my new 16mm f/2.8 fish eye lens.

As soon as it came Wednesday, I read the small instructional manual that came with the lens, packed up my backpack and headed out to my favorite hiking trails south of town where I hiked, explored and roamed, stopping to take pictures or stopping just to relish the quiet and the light shifting down through the treetops.

The lens is tiny and weighs next to nothing. The trick, and this was something that caught my eye in the manual, is making sure that I keep my hands and feet out of the frame. Something else that I had to watch was my shadow creeping into the bottom of the picture, so I had to make sure to re-adjust my position to the sun to make sure I stayed out of the picture. The great thing about this lens is that it’s teaching me so much about composition. Composition is something that has always come easy to me (it was understanding the Exposure Triangle that gave me fits), but with the fish eye, I’m really aware about doing, what I call, the “Eye Sweep” of the frame before clicking the shutter, checking to make sure that there isn’t anything included that I don’t want in the photo. I’ve always done the Eye Sweep before, but with this lens, I do it at least three times before hitting the shutter.

But I love the whole fish bowl effect, how it looks like I’m peering out into the world from my cozy little den or like I’m way on top of a mountain looking way down below me when I’m just a mere two feet off the ground.

Some of you may not like this effect. It might make you dizzy or carsick (I’m thinking of my daughter who has a hard time with my panning shots. 😉). But I like the whole fishbowl outlook on life, it makes life much more interesting.

I can’t wait to try this lens out on the next mountain bike event.

And the lens is great for making some silly portraits of Langley the Lab, too!

 
 
 

Easy As Sunday Morning

This past Sunday morning saw David and me heading up to Bentonville for David to partake in a mountain bike skills clinic put on by Rich Drew, a pro mountain biker who just happens to live in northwest Arkansas and is one of the nicest people around. It was a jam-packed day filled with basic mountain biking techniques: braking, turning, lifting and dropping, before moving on to the jumping section later that afternoon. David was always slightly terrified of jumping, but by the time the clinic wrapped up around 4:30, he could do it with a great big, little boy grin on his face.

He may be hooked.

We also had a very special guest put in an appearance to help teach alongside Rich, his little boy Dex, who is going to be one heckuva mountain biker by the time he begins kindergarten in a few years. When he rode up on his little strider bike, everyone just melted and clapped. He is truly one adorable little Shredder Boy.

I may be a diehard Runner Girl, but I even learned a thing or two Sunday. Thank you, Rich, for sharing your knowledge so freely and so kindly. Your spirit is infectious.


Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Inspired by the Instagram account, @dancersanddogs, I set out to re-create my own version of a dancer and a dog this past Tuesday afternoon. Yes, the dancer was the (very!) energetic five-year-old daughter of my good friend and yes, the dog was our sweet Langley the Lab, and yes, we managed to pull off a similar scene that the Dancers & Dogs folks make look so easy. It took two large carrots, graham crackers, goldfish, cranapple juice and lots of laughter and patience, but Dana and I managed to wrangle our respective charges into sitting still for the second it took for me to press the shutter button on my camera.

I also managed to take some sweet portraits of little Ellie in all her exuberance. A fun, fun day all around. 

 
 
 

eureka!

I've always been intrigued by self-portraits. I think they reveal so much about a person, their life, their thoughts, their emotions. I've done a few, some pretty good ones, but some really, really, REALLY bad ones, too. Plus, I always feel silly and horribly self-conscious when I set out to try and capture myself.

That's why I always do self-portraits when no one is home.

The number one thing that I struggle with when attempting self-portraits is achieving sharp focus. I usually put a light stand where I plan on being, stand right next to it and measure from my eyes over to where the nearest knob on the stand is with my finger. I then go back to my camera and set the focus point on the knob, go back to the stand and place a piece of gaffer's tape underneath to act as my mark. I then get my remote, double check the focus, then very carefully remove the light stand and then place my feet exactly on that piece of tape, aim my remote at the camera and proceed to hope and pray that all that rigamarole worked. 

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't and then I start all over again.

BUT! Today I remembered that I had a Nikon camera app on my phone that I've been reading about lately on blogs and Facebook group pages and decided to give it a go. I had just received my latest book order from Amazon and had plopped down on the kitchen floor to decide which book to dive into first (that really is the hardest part of getting a new book order. Same with a brand new pile of library books!). I thought that this little moment might make a good self-portrait project. This little corner that I'm sitting in is my "spot" in the kitchen: it's where I sit after my runs to gulp down Gatorade, it's where I sit and pet the dog, it's where I sit to talk to Meghan when she comes over, it was where I was when my BIL called to let me know that my sister had entered Hospice and she wasn't expected to live past the week. I sat in that little corner and wept for two hours after he hung up that afternoon. This little corner is very much a part of my daily living.

I set up my tripod on the kitchen bar with a sandbag anchoring it above me with my 24-70mm lens on my Nikon D750 set to 35mm, ISO 1250, f/2.8, 1/80 sec. I had gone into my camera's menu and had activated the WiFi on the camera, then I went into the settings on my iPhone and opened up the Nikon app and set the WiFi on there as well. This was the first time I had ever used my phone as a remote, and I am super excited to say that it worked like a charm. 

SO COOL!

You can change focus on the phone screen and use the home button to activate the camera's shutter (you might see my finger in some of the pictures below hitting the home button) and presto! chango! you just took a picture with your phone. I'm pretty sure Canons have the same sort of app since those were the cameras most mentioned in the articles I had been reading. And those of you that are reading this, you might already have known about this, but like I said, I had never used the app to the fullest before, but I know from now on, I most definitely will.

And for the record, I still haven't made up my mind as to which book to dive into first!

playing with light

Yesterday, I set out to understand the Inverse Square Law and how it pertains to off-camera lighting in photography. I also wanted to learn how to make a white background black, or at least darker, but realized that my office (Meghan's old bedroom) isn't big enough for that to happen, so instead I settled on a dark grey and was happy with that.

The inverse square law is complicated and full of mathematical equations and angles and squaring numbers and I think only rocket scientists can really understand it. Basically the inverse square law is:

any physical law stating that some physical quantity or strength is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity.
— tutsplus.com

Like I said, it's kinda complicated, but when has that ever stopped me? And for a more detailed explanation, you can watch this 15-minute video by Peter Hurley which makes much better sense.

I understand it better than I did before I tested it out and got the background to go from dark grey to pure white, which was what I was after,  but I think I did it a little backwards, moving my subject back and forth instead of my light, but I still got the same effect that I was going for. And now that I know I did it a little backwards, when I go back later to try again, I'll have a bit better understanding as to how to achieve it the right way. And for the last photo, I had a second light behind Teddy to make the background pure white.

And as an added bonus, Joe agreed to let me direct him and take his portrait, helping me out with my headshot practice. I was so thrilled and giddy that he agreed, that I let the toothpick slide.

Sometimes, you just gotta let the little things go in life, right?

Daily Therapy

I do five sets of eight push ups every morning after breakfast, then run 5-6 miles after Joe leaves for school at 8:00. Once or twice a week I'll throw in a 7-8 mile run to help with distance and will gradually tack on more miles as the year progresses, culminating in me running my ninth half-marathon in the fall. 

It's the best form of therapy and self-help around and I've been doing it for over 34 years now.

(Settings: Nikon D750, 50mm, ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/800 sec. Flash was set on the floor directly in front of my camera, power set at 1/16 power and was modified by Joe McNally Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 Plus. I was going for the dark and gritty look here, and wound up doing 45 minutes worth of planks trying to get this shot. 😜)