New Photography Gadget

I got an exciting new toy yesterday, and I’m in love! We had an Amazon gift card that we agreed to split, and I couldn’t easily think of what to do with most of my half. I got a 5-in1- reflector right away, but didn’t know what else I wanted.

Also, it’s been bumming me out for a while now that I can’t take pictures inside, and since the weather has been horrrrrrrrible most days in Texas, we’ve been stuck indoors way too much for picture-taking. Well now I don’t have to only be outside to take photos nor do I have to settle for washed out flash photos. I didn’t get a Speedlite either. *drumroll please* It’s a Lightscoop!

Even though I’d like to get a Speedlite eventually, it just isn’t in the budget for the immediate future unless I’d like to sacrifice making other purchases first. Anyway, the Lightscoop is only about $30, fits on the hotshoe of my camera, and reflects the light from my built-in flash onto the ceiling! It won’t work with high/dark ceilings, and you’ll need a light colored wall just 3-4 ft away to do a vertical shot. It’s not meant to work outside, but I saw someone post photos of shots taken outside with it. It’s so great, you just never know! I would definitely recommend checking out the product site and the Flickr group where users have uploaded sample photos taken with a Lightscoop.

I took a bunch yesterday morning after taking it out of the box. These aren’t great photos since I just snapped away randomly to play with my new toy while Cady was going through her morning routine (milk and Barney), but I did a lot of before and after shots to give an idea of what a big difference it makes.

These are what the shots look like straight out of camera:

Lightscoop

Lightscoop

Lightscoop

Lightscoop

Lightscoop

Did I mention that I took these photos INSIDE while it was DARK and RAINING out? Yes, our prayers for rain in Texas have been answered, and I was still able to take photos in our home. Fantastic.

I played around with my settings a bit after initially taking photos with the exact settings on the instructions. It says to shoot wide open, but that can vary from lens to lens.

Just to note, I took these in room with yellow lights on, hence the warmth in the photos. I didn’t use the warm version of the Lightscoop. These were taken with the standard version.

P.S. I was even thinking these would be great for taking pictures of food for cakes since there’s never enough light when I try to shoot those inside!

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RAW

Ok, so I know I’m way behind on this since I’ve had my camera for, um, almost a year now, but I finally made the switch to taking RAW photos, and it’s so much easier! I guess it makes a difference that I finally (kind of) learned to use the PSE that Tim got me at Christmas instead of relying on Picasa (although I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg and making lots of newbie mistakes, I’m sure).

I was afraid to make the switch to RAW because it seemed so intimidating, and gave it so much thought that I even had a dream about it!

I decided to shoot in RAW + JPEG the other day to feel “safe,” and I realized RAW was so much better after just a handful of shots and checking them out on my computer.

My first RAW shot after editing:

Cady

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Milestone

I’ve been way behind on blogging and just haven’t been in the mood for a while, but here’s a milestone I just wanted to remember:

As of tonight I have now shot over 10,000 photos with my first DSLR (purchased 8/29/10).

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Borrowing Lenses

[ Trying out the lens before the trip. ]
Cady

I decided to rent a lens for our spring break trip to San Diego (I coincided my bloggy break with our vacation). I thought it would be nice to keep one lens on as we walked out and about, and I also wanted to try out a lens that I might want to purchase in the future.

[ Another one from before we left. ]

Mom & Dad's Porch

I borrowed the Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC LD AF (IF) Macro for Canon from BorrowLenses.com for two weeks for $69 (+ $6 insurance and shipping both ways). We considered it one of our travel expenses, and I really enjoyed being able to check out the lens for a little while without having to make a long-term (and expensive) commitment without being sure.

[ San Diego Zoo. ]

Bird

My photography teacher from whom I had taken the “Fundamentals of Photography” class and learned how to use my SLR in manual among a few other basic pieces of information had actually recommended that we rent a lens first before buying it. She said there had been many times she rented a lens that she was considering buying and realized that it wouldn’t have been much use to her in the long run. She said there had also been times that she rented a lens repeatedly before finally making a purchase to own it. This makes a lot of sense considering lenses start at a few hundred dollars but go upwards of several thousand.

[ Cady looking out an open sliding glass door. ]

Cady

My first rental experience was great. The lens arrived on time. I requested it 3 days before our trip just in case it was a little behind schedule, but it came when I was told it would. Then I had it for another 4 days after our 1 week trip before it had to be postmarked to ship on the final day of my rental period. Front cap, rear cap, UV filter, and lens hood were included in the rental package. The lens was in great working condition. They provided the packing material and shipping label. All I had to do was drop it off at a Fed-Ex location, and there is one conveniently located down the street.

[ Flower at Grandma’s house. ]

Flower

Also, their customer service is great. I forgot to pack the lens hood when I shipped the lens, and after an email, they quickly responded and let me know I could still mail it back to them.

[ Bluejay eating peanuts. ]

Bluejay

Note: I don’t get anything in return for writing this review, but because of my good experience, I am joining their affliate program and recommending their services to my friends.

lens rental

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San Diego Zoo & The Tamron 18-270mm

Koala

I rented the Tamron 18-270mm lens for our San Diego trip, and I loved it! It was especially useful when we visited the world famous San Diego Zoo. It was my first time, and I was so bummed that my battery died 30 minutes before closing (I’ve learned my lesson for next time).

Bird

I did experience one of the problems I read in the reviews, which is that it gets a little tight halfway. I only noticed it mildly when I first got the lens, but then it went away. I definitely wasn’t used to using a telephoto lens, and it felt a little crazy trying to focus on something really far away. I had been so used to using a prime lens for most of the life of my camera. It definitely took a little getting used to, and it really underscored the fact that I need to practice holding my camera in a more steady position.

Gorilla

Once I got it figured out, I realized it was awesome! I really want to have one of my own now, but I’ll have to wait a little. I love being able to zoom really far because I can’t always just run over there. Also, I didn’t know what to expect with the 3.5-6.3 aperture, but I was still able to get great bokeh. Not only did I get close to animals at the zoo, but I took pictures of my family doing what we do. Hah. I made a rhyme. I still got great portraits, and unlike with my 50mm (no offense to Nifty), I was also able to fit more into the shot if I wanted. Also, I love the candids I took of Cady when she didn’t know I was taking her picture. Samples of those to come soon.

It really is a good all-purpose lens. I didn’t have to take it off my camera as we walked out and about on our trip. It was also very lightweight and small compared to a lot of other lenses. The new version is supposed to be even lighter and smaller. Not to mention it’s price is really reasonable for what you get. I’m really glad I got to try it out, so I could find out about it for myself. Now I know that when I get it, I’ll love it!

P.S. I didn’t get anything in return for writing this review, but I did throw in some affliate links. I’ll talk more about the actual renting experience and post more picures soon.

If you like my blog, take a second and please vote for me just by clicking this link, and Top Mommy Blogs will know you were directed from my site. Thanks!

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Busy Bees

I’ve gotten that feeling that I know happens to a lot of bloggers. You go away for a little while for one reason or another, and then it seems like so much has happened to catch up. The more behind you are the more overwhelming it seems, but at the same time, you want to record what happened because you don’t want to forget. That’s what this log is for to begin with.

My right arm has been really hurting despite using my left hand for everything I can do one-handed. Don’t know what I’ll do about it yet. In the mean time, my husband is doing a lot of typing and checking things online for me along with a lot of other little things when he’s home. I’ve been kind of bummed on and off that I’m not doing all the things I’d like to be doing when I’m bored at home, especially since I had such a long list of goals for the new year that is being put off until later. On the bright side, I’ve still been doing a lot that I planned on doing like getting out more.

Here are just a few of the things we’ve been up to lately…

I took family photos for a friend.

Ybarra Family

After our photo shoot, we all went to Cici’s pizza, which was Cady’s first time. Also, she’s been wanting to wear pearls lately to copy me.

Cady

I made cupcakes for my sister’s 21st birthday.

Pink Mini Rose Cupcakes

We hung out at the lake where the ducks like to hang out before we went to a rodeo themed playdate party with the playgroup we recently joined.

Cady

Then in more news, we visited toddler time at the library for the first time. We also did a free trial class at the The Little Gym and have since decided to sign up.

Cady also had her 18 month checkup, and she is BIG– 29.4 pounds!
Weight: 95th percentile
Height: 97th percentile
Head: 97th percentile

If you like my blog, take a second and please vote for me just by clicking this link, and Top Mommy Blogs will know you were directed from my site. Thanks!

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I Heart Faces- Innocent Wonder

Cady

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A Cool Day at the Park

I decided to start my study of possible portrait locations with my husband as my first posing subject. I don’t consider the baby one since I have to capture her in a purely photojournalistic style. She doesn’t pose. She just does what she does, and I’m on my own as far as making the picture happen. She’s a baby. Not a model. I’m happy with that.

So far we’ve been focusing my area of study at a park. There is a lot at that park, and there are many spots where I could put someone for pictures. I think I’ve barely scratched the surface of it, and I’m looking forward to going back to continue my study of it as well as trying out other locations.

We started off by running a couple of errands and eating lunch. Then I just let my husband play his guitar while I took his pictures. Every once and a while, I’d ask him to move to a new spot. Just twice I asked him to turn a certain way or move his foot, but I figured I’d mostly let him pose naturally the way he would while playing.

I really enjoyed myself, and it put me in a good mood. We wouldn’t be able to do something like that most days since at least one person would have to be watching Cady, but she was hanging out with my parents. Plus it was another not so crowded day because of the weather. Cold, cloudy days are not so popular there, but I like them for taking pictures.

Tim

Tim

Tim

Tim

Tim

Tim

Tim

For those that wonder where Cady got the red in her hair, it’s from Tim’s beard! It’s like a calico cat. I told him it represents his past, present, and future hair colors (red, brown, white).

Tim 

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Z Family “Photoshoot”

Alicia and Ray

{ Alicia and her husband, Ray }

For Christmas, a friend from high school arranged for me to come visit her family at her husband’s grandmother’s house to take their photos. I was really nervous and tried to refer to professional photographers I know who are in the area, but she had a lot of faith in me and was really interested in me taking the photos.

I was a little worried since was a new experience for me. I take mostly candid photos of the baby, sometimes pictures of our food, and a few photos of my family here and there. All people, places, and things that I’m familiar with. Here I was in a new situation with new people in a new place. Also, since it was a special time because everyone was together including relatives from out of town and out of state, I really wanted it to turn out well.

We shot inside since the time that everyone was able to meet was midday, really bright, and a lot of light even inside. I wasn’t sure how to pose everyone, but luckily, my friend Alicia new exactly what she wanted and had lots of great ideas. She was the one directing the group, and that helped me out a lot.

As soon as I left I thought of things I could’ve done better and would think of more once I saw the photos. I definitely didn’t know what to expect when I looked at them at home, but they actually turned out fairly well. It wasn’t anywhere near the work of the professional photographers I have seen, but I could at least send her the nearly 200 shots to choose which ones they liked best.

I didn’t know what she would think when she saw them, but luckily, about a day after my confirmation email from USPS that it was received, she sent me a very happy Facebook message with a good review. Yay.

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Photo Editing

Cady

My husband got me Photoshop Elements 9 for Christmas. I was debating on whether or not I’d put that or one of Adobe’s other photo editing softwares on my wishlist since it seems like the other programs are the ones for serious photographers. Well, I decided that Elements 9 would be plenty for my needs for a while, and now I just need to learn how to use it.

I’ve heard before that the learning curve for their programs are steep, but I’m willing to try. There are so many things I’d like to be able to do that I currently can’t. I used to use Photoshop Elements 5 just to remove blemishes, but since I realized I can do it on Picasa, I’ve been using that.

Picasa is pretty easy to use for someone like myself who doesn’t yet understand the details and technicalities of photo editing. My pictures are either straight out of camera (SOOC as I see photographers calling it), or enhanced with the “I’m feeling lucky” button on Picasa. If the “I’m feeling lucky” button makes it look worse, I undo it. I try “auto contrast” and be done with it.

I know. I’m kind of a caveman in the subject of photo editing. In fact, I only started doing it more recently, and my old photos have nothing done to them. I look back and think, “that could’ve been better.”

I know photos have to be good in the camera. I know that spending hours correcting photos on the computer is not what I want to do. However, it would be nice to enhance some of the photos that need a little help. I was reading a blog earlier that showed the before and after of how some “mediocre” photos that would’ve been in the “delete pile” could still be saved using editing.

Even just “I’m feeling lucky” has added some life back into really old photos from when I was a kid that I recently scanned and would like to save digitally.

Plus, there’s just some neat stuff I’ve seen that I’d like to be able to do, too.

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