This is the "before" picture of an unfinished wall in our detached garage. Hopefully you will see a transformed "after" shot when I check in again later this week. DD and I are quite excited for me to build some shelves rather than have all of our garage stuff piled in a heap.
No, in keeping with the photography theme, I have a couple of comments.
After doing some reading, I have learned a little more about lens distortion which you can readily see in this 18mm shot of the wall by looking at the top and noting the curve of the horizontal beams which are actually not curved like that. I don't think I'll become too much of an optics snob with this new-found knowledge because this is not the type of thing that typically bugs me about poor lenses. Usually it is flare, chromatic aberrations, and lack of sharpness. That's a good thing because then I don't have to spend $1800 on the higher-end Nikon lenses, at least for a couple more years. I hope you know that the last sentence is a joke, DD.
Welcome to our hippy garden.
Most of the green in the yard there consists of clumps of the native grass. DD's heirloom rose bush sits at the end of the patio. But this year we went really hippy and added some raised beds with vegetables and sprinkled more wildflower seed including flax, sunflowers, penstemon and yarrow. Totally drop by some time for a wholesome hippy meal--guaranteed to be gluten free!
Come to think of it, we're probably more yippy (fusion of yuppy and hippy) than hippy if you're willing to still consider us young. I'll be hitting the 38th birthday next week. And maybe this is just a justification to myself but I'm still finding that each year is more fun--I'm a tiny bit more skilled each year and seem to enjoy a little more freedom as well. And if the birthday fairy deems my behavior over the last year satisfactory, I might just find myself the happy owner of a new Nikkor lens next Saturday!
For a long time I have thought that it might do me some good to have other photographers critique my images so that I can improve. DD encouraged me several months ago to join our local camera club and even promised to keep her busy schedule clear for the monthly meetings.
So, I joined just in time to enter last Thursday evening's contest. There were two categories and four levels. The categories for this contest were an assigned theme ("Say it with Flowers...") and open (anything you want to enter). There are four levels and I was placed in the intermediate category based on some sample images I submitted and the fact that I have relatively little contest experience. Members could submit up to two images in each category.
For the "Say it with Flowers" category, I entered the following:
And for the open category, I kept with London as my personal theme:
One of the things that I have found over time is that people that see my images often pick as their favorites those that I thought were "just ok." And the photos that I thought were best, most others identified as "just ok." I was curious to find out what the judges thought.
Going into the competition, I convinced myself that the rose garden and bag pipers were my stronger entries. However, true to the past, expectations were foiled, in a rather happy and unexpected way:
- Rose garden--no award, not even an honorable mention. This is the judges' kind way of saying, "not so compelling compared to the others..."
- Bag pipers--honorable mention. Given that there were six to ten other photos in each of my categories/levels, this was the judges' way of saying, "You tied for third and in the re-judging, the other photo was better..." I did get some helpful feedback, however. The pipers in the background are not blurred enough to make the piper in the foreground really stand out. Drat--this is a limitation of the lens that came with my camera.
- Bleeding Hearts--2nd place to the image that won "best in show." What?! There were at least 100 images in the contest. I only submitted this one because it was the closest thing I had to the theme and DD convinced me it was a good choice. Thanks, DD! I thought that the details in the background were distracting and in fact, I'm hoping to get a 50 mm f1.8 lens for my birthday so that if I took this again, the background would be much better blurred to help the flowers stand out. This lens would also have helped with the piper image.
- Trafalgar Square--First place in the Intermediate Open category. Surprise! I like this image but thought it might not compete well because I didn't have my tripod with me when I took it and as a result, was not able to get the water in the fountain to blur as much as I would have liked. Further, there's a distracting building under renovation *almost* concealed by the fountain. If only I'd moved a little to the right... Alas, the judges liked it and the funny thing is that one of the other entries that ended up as an honorable mention in this category/level was also an architectural shot of some old european buildings. I think the judges preferred this one because of the wide angle and somewhat unusual placement of the two fountain elements in relation to the building (the National Portrait Gallery). Wide angle shots tend to add interest to scenes like this because they distort the perspective in a way that you don't normally see with your own eyes. In truth, I was about 4 feet from the statues in the fountain to the left though they look farther away.
I was delighted with the awards. Once again I learned that I really need to have others critique my proposed entries. Fortunately, DD filled that role this time inasmuch as I allowed her, encouraging me to enter the bleeding hearts when I suggested that they weren't the best choice.
So now, if you'll all humor me as I fish for comments, which of the following catch your interest and why? Which don't do much for you and why? Be honest, I can take it:
For those of you living in the western US, I don't have to recite the weather conditions for the Memorial day weekend this year. We had a very nice family (and photography!) trip planned for Southern Utah to include Bryce Canyon, Boulder Mountain, and Capitol Reef.
Fortunately, DD watches the weather closely and noticed on the previous Sunday that the forecast was not looking good, at least not for tent camping. Seeing as how we planned one night in a cabin and two nights in tents, DD continued to watch the weather closely. When I say "DD watched the weather," I should note that this involves sophisticated triangulation techniques as the National Weather Service doesn't forecast for our little valley directly. And, our weather seems to differ somewhat from Salt Lake, Park City, and Evanston Wyoming, our three nearest weather-worthy cities in the eyes of the weather service.
So on Wednesday we had to make the tough call to postpone. But not all was lost. We made a lovely anniversary dinner at home including Chicken Piccata with a lemon, butter, caper sauce, French potatoes with gruyere chese, wilted garlic Kale, and home-made chocolate mint ice cream. And despite the less-than-perfect weather, I did manage to capture this shot of the peaks to the west on Memorial Day evening.
And then we all caught a persistent little head cold that kept all of us at home this weekend as well. So, now that I'm feeling pretty much back to normal Sunday evening, I went out for a few minutes at sundown to have a look at some of the recently sprouted wildflowers. It appears that most of them hide in the evening so I'll need to give that another go in the morning. But I did find this feistly little red and while looking at one of the as-yet-unidentified wildflowers in the front meadow:
By feisty, I mean that these specimens bite. We have many fond memories of playing frisbee or catch in the front yard until one of us yelp in surprise as one of these little guys, having climbed up onto our bare ankles, takes a healthy sized bite for a creature so small. Well, ants, you have now been officially documented with my most powerful portable flash unit. Shall we call a truce?
PS--Two new episodes of Dingy Room are up: CJ3 dodging the questions and later coming clean.
First a disclaimer: This blog entry is in no way a complaint.
With that out of the way, let me tell you a bit about our last few days of weather. This morning I spent about an hour clearing snow from our driveway. That represents a pretty solid snow and the time investment is partly due to the fact that our gravel driveway is somewhat longish.
Yesterday, however, was even more exciting. I went out to shovel at about 7:30 AM in an effort to attend to my clerking duties. Approximately 2/3rds of the driveway had 24 inches of snow. I don't think it actually snowed that much because other sections only had 6 inches--the wind played somewhat of a role. In any case, I found that after two hours of shoveling that the parts that I started on now had 3 inches of fresh snow and new flakes continued to fall rather persistently.
I found myself inventing novel new ways to clear deep snow while my toes and nose experienced that feeling that reminds you that you are most definitely alive. That feeling also seems to stimulate one's mind. For example, I had not previously considered removing only the top 12 inches on a single pass and then returning on the next round for the remaining 12 inches. I suppose at some level this is a good example of how somewhat unpleasant conditions make one think new thoughts.
In the end, we decided that we were officially snowed in and had a quiet morning at home. Turns out that this was a good call as we watched one of our neighbors attempt to return to their home at about noon in their BMW AWD SUV only to slide off the road into the snow bank (a sentence with three legitimate three-letter acronyms is worthy of a prize). Fortunately, the ending was happy as they also have a 4WD Jeep that pulled the BMW out and returned it to the safety of their garage.
Life in the mountains keeps things pretty fresh for us. We'll gladly take it.
Thanksgiving was a quiet day at home for DD, EV, and I. The girls were both recovering from some sort of tenacious bug that refuses to let go. Fortunately they're both making progress toward better health.
On the bright side, I was promoted from sous to head chef this Thanksgiving. I have never taken primary responsibility for roasting a turkey but took some comfort in the fact that DD still played the role of executive chef from the couch quite effectively. Her mom found a great recipe, or might it be better called a technique, for roasting turkey from none other than Martha Stewart. The goal, of course, is to get completely cooked yet moist, tender meat. And not just moist dark meat--I'm talking about white meat that is downright juicy.
The secret? Cheesecloth and lots of basting--every thirty minutes with a butter/wine basting juice.
The final word: Martha's technique delivers again! The white meat was, indeed, tender and juicy. Mmmmm.
I'm sure glad that Martha's out of jail...
A few weeks ago, Grandma and Grandpa invited us over and invited me to bring along the camera to take some shots of her garden. I happily agreed and spent probably an hour and a half trying all sorts of shots.
I find it pretty tough to capture good landscape shots in such a confined space that convey something interesting. Nevertheless, the experience pushed me to try some new approaches. I learned later that DD and Grandma had actually expected more macro shots so I'll have to spend more time on that next time. In any case, these are a few of the resulting images:
Utah's state fair is coming up and one of my co-workers noted that it includes a pretty nice photo contest. I'm thinking about entering a couple of images but could use some advice on which photos to enter. I think my best bet is to enter something that immediately captures the interest of the judges and then impress them further with additional subtle features. Which of these or any of the others might you suggest? Don't be shy, leave a post!