More Photography Lessons… (I need to take a class!)

Whew. Trying to figure out how to work the Christmas Camera is waaaaaay harder than I thought. I may have to completely throw in the towel and pop for a real class with a real instructor, ’cause I ain’t making any headway on my own.

Just when I thought I couldn’t combine this control with that option, I re-studied how to work with different aperture settings, and after about an hour of monkeying around, I think I get this one… (Thanks to my “Nikon D3300 For Dummies” book)

OK- here’s what I think is sticking in my brain:

  • close focus + small aperture setting = out of focus background and clear foreground, better for close-ups
  • zoomed out + larger aperture setting = larger depth of focus, better for outdoor and landscape shots
  • Less than 10 feet in the shot? Larger aperture settings just get blurry with a slower shutter speed.

So… The object of today’s practice was to see how the snacks, the cat and the rosemary outside the window would look at different settings:

Oops- forgot to bring in the focus, resulted in fuzzy pic- 26mm f/4
Oops- forgot to bring in the focus, resulted in fuzzy pic- 26mm f/4
18mm f/4.5
18mm f/4.5
55mm f/32 and a 3 sec. shutter... no wonder it is really blurry. I need a tripod.
55mm f/32 and a 3 sec. shutter… no wonder it is really blurry. I need a tripod.

Best three for explaining to myself what I’m doing:

18mm f5.6 clear cookies, fuzzy kitty (rosemary not even in the shot)
18mm f5.6 clear cookies, fuzzy kitty (rosemary not even in the shot)
26mm f/18 cookies in focus, kitty clearer
26mm f/18 cookies in focus, kitty clearer
26mm f/25 everything is fuzzy, not just the cat, do I need glasses? No, just a higher focus or lower aperture...
26mm f/25 everything is fuzzy, not just the cat, do I need glasses? No, just a higher focus or lower aperture, faster shutter… aieeee!!!

ANY AND ALL TIPS FROM EXPERIENCED PHOTOGRAPHERS WILL BE APPRECIATED. GREATLY!!!

Boring Post Alert! Learning Camera Controls (Unless You Dig Photos of Shrimp Salad and Freshly Baked Bread)

I played around with my Christmas camera tonight, trying to make some headway into my February project- learn how to operate my Nikon 3300. I swear, I’m going to figure out this piece of technology and I am paging my way through my “Nikon D3300 For Dummies” book to help. Tonight I learned about several different auto and semi-automatic controls, and that I can type the word “exposure” twenty-five times in 30 minutes, and spell it wrong each time. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I can’t spell in three- count ’em- THREE different languages. Go me.

First shot is in Manual Exposure Mode, and I have no idea what I am doing. This proves that the camera is way smarter than I am.

Shrimp Salad... better shot...
Shrimp Salad ingredients… decent shot…

This next one is too bright, but I think I am figuring out how to use the Exposure Compensation button:

Shrimp Salad ingredients, monkeying with the Exposure Compensation button
Shrimp Salad ingredients, monkeying with the Exposure Compensation button.

Hey, now it is getting better! I think I need a different lens for close up shots, yes?

Manual setting, Exposure Compensation brightening up things
Manual setting, Exposure Compensation brightening up things

This one I knocked the exposure down a tic or two. Next thing to learn is how to correctly use the technical language of photography… The daylight really looks nice here as opposed to the next few pictures of the bread.

Manual, less exposed with using the Exposure Compensation button...
Manual, less exposed with using the Exposure Compensation button…

On to the bread ingredients. OK, it’s even obvious to ME that the flash should not be used in this type of lighting (kitchen table overhead lighting, after sunset)

Flash with bread ingredients...
Flash with bread ingredients… bad.

All righty then! Not enough light in this, but not too shabby, either. I can’t seem to get the little stuff in focus- like the millet and bulgur wheat (two of the ingredients in the small bowl).

Fully auto focus. Pretty good! But it needs to be focused differently, maybe on the millet and bulgur?
Fully auto focus. Pretty good! But it needs to be focused differently, maybe on the millet and bulgur?

Switching back to the simple auto focus-

Auto Focus... (it smells as good as it looks)
Auto Focus… (it smells as good as it looks)

And with Aperture I got what I expected- better light but lost focus. Guess I need to learn how to compensate for this.

Aperture Priority auto-exposure- good lighting but bad focus?
Aperture Priority auto-exposure- good lighting but bad focus?

OK- if I use a better light source, is this the shot I wanted?

Shutter Priority auto-exposure. Too dark, good focus.
Shutter Priority auto-exposure. Too dark, good focus.

And here we have my standard favorite, my iPhone 5s. Notice the lighting is fine, the focus is fine… good depth of field, too, huh? You can clearly see the dirty napkins from tonight’s dinner:

iPhone 5s took the best shot, argh!!!
iPhone 5s took the best shot, argh!!!

Side by side- Nikon and iPhone:

Nikon- What napkins?
Nikon- What napkins?
iPhone- Those napkins, right there.
iPhone- Those napkins, right there.

So, there you have it. My iPhone and I have been doing a great job all along. I can really make it sing. This just makes me want to understand how to use the Big Person’s camera even more. I’m not (too) discouraged. Yet.

February Tourist Trip- Dragging the Family to Oceanside

It’s getting difficult to get the four of us together for a tourist day. Between college and high school entrance requirements we are more scattered than ever.
Plus, the half hour ride in the car to get anywhere means 30 minutes of butt jokes coming from the back seat.

Aside from bringing The Girl to her friend’s house in Oceanside (pre-licensed teenager days), the only thing I associated with this city was a long drive down the coast to my great-grandparents condo when my brother and I were younger. We had nothing to do but read the books we brought along. Our other option was to slip and slide down a long iceplant covered hill, cross a highway and buy candy at a 7-11 mini mart. When the great-grandparents’ health began to fail, I don’t remember helping out with any of moving or cleaning… we were probably just under foot while others took care of the work, but then again, we were just flaky little punks back then. My brother did a complete turnaround not long after that, and since then he’s the one the family can count on when the older family members have needed anything.

Clear at the start of the walk...
Clear at the start of the walk…
15 minutes later at the end of the pier.
15 minutes later at the end of the pier.
I'm guessing this is a California Brown Pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can, you know...
A California Brown Pelican? His beak can hold more than his belly can, you know…
Egret posing for my camera on the Oceanside pier.
Egret posing for my camera on the Oceanside pier.

Today we spent the afternoon driving through beach towns before arriving in Oceanside. We walked to the pier with the sun in our faces only to have the marine layer roll in by the time we reached the end of the walk. After five days of Santa Ana conditions, I was in heaven! My kids played on the boardwalk like I did decades ago. They loved seeing the sand underneath give way to the rocks then the waves. We snapped pictures of birds waiting to snatch the catch away from people fishing on the pier. I busted them before they could spit on the surfers below. Fourteen-year-old boys are such… fourteen-year-old boys. Especially when egged on by the big sister.

“OK, now we don’t have to go to Oceanside again.” That was The Husband’s observation.
He prefers the Encinitas, Cardiff and Del Mar scene.

There are about 25 surfers just to the right of this photo, taken at 4:15ish...
There are about 25 surfers just to the right of this photo, taken at 4:15ish…
There are still at least 25 surfers and one BIG sea lion in this pic taken at 4:45
Still at least 25 surfers and one BIG sea lion in this pic taken at 4:45, I swear.
Robert's Cottages are available to rent on a weekly or monthly basis... details found here:
These cottages are available to rent on a weekly or monthly basis… for details click here: robertscottages.com

February Theater with The Mom- The King and I

I can’t believe it- this will make two months in a row that The Mom and I have made it out to a theater venue. Last year we thought it would be a great idea to try to see some production each month and we got in a grand total of ZERO. Hot Damn, mom, we are on a roll!

Picture form the Welk Resort's website for their production of Rogers and Hammerstein's "The King and I." Click to go to the site...
Picture from the Welk Resort’s website for their production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” Click to go to the site…

I’m actually the tag-along on this trip with my parents as they already had plans with their marvelous friends to go see Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” Off I drove to meet them at the Welk Resort for the show. This is a great theater, not a bad seat in the house! We all really enjoyed the production, I mean, really- you can’t miss with classic American musicals, can you?

This is the best thing in the world for me, I never want to go out in the evenings. I have long said that I turn into a pumpkin after 7:30 PM. There is a fabulous Mom’s Club at my church, and I usually don’t make our Mom’s Night Out each month. I’m just too pooped! The Husband, thoughtful man, encourages me to get out in the evening with friends, but I rarely do. Even The Boy and The Girl, when they were younger and emerging independents, tried to reassure me that they were fine home alone. I never intended to be the hovering type, I just liked being home with my family, and still do. And actually, I’m pretty sure the kids just want a night at home by themselves to binge watch on Netflix with microwave popcorn… thanks for getting your brother hooked on “Arrested Development,” dear daughter.

February Read: “Nikon D3300 for Dummies”

I have had good luck with the “For Dummies” book series when I need a general, basic introduction to random subjects. Maybe their “Nikon D3300 for Dummies” will be an appropriate place to get acquainted with my Christmas present? I have no idea what white balance is, and don’t know the difference between aperture control and depth of field.

I am familiar with what an F Stop is, that’s a subway stop on Boston’s Charlie, right? ┬álol…

I’m going for basics, here, obviously.

All of my favorite photos are a result of being in the right place at the right time- totally luck. Sometimes they turn out fabulously, where I wouldn’t change a thing:

Tidepools along the 17 Mile Drive, Monterey, CA
Tidepools along the 17 Mile Drive, Monterey, CA

But sometimes you can see that if armed with a better camera and a little knowledge, what is simply a neat-o photo could have been quite fabulous. Maybe both spiders could have been visible? Could the lighting/focus/depth have been adjusted to really make these beautiful contrasts pop?

A green garden spider on red coleus. provides striking contrast.
A green garden spider on red coleus provides striking contrast.

Maybe by the end of the month I can learn the techniques of how to take much less sucky photos of foods, too! Housework be damned today, I’m off to read and snap some pics.

February’s Project: Learning to use a Nikon DSLR

January has come and gone so I need a a project for the month of February. I am ready to jump into learning how to use this fabulous camera that the family gave me for Christmas- a Nikon D3300. I have no goals to set with this project because at this point, I have NO idea how to use this grand device. But Imma gonna learn!!

I’ve been interested in photography for some time and am blown away with what I have captured using either a Blackberry or iPhones-

Blackberry, 2009; Treasures Collected, Morro Bay, CA
Blackberry, 2009; Treasures Collected, Morro Bay, CA

I love this photo of treasures we collected from Moro bay in 2009.

Taken with a Blackberry Curve

I went on to snap even better pics with iPhones- 3s, 4s and 5s models-

Cedar and Mistletoe Idyllwild, Ca iPhone 4s
Cedar and Mistletoe
Idyllwild, Ca
iPhone 4s
Boston All Saints Way 2011
Boston MA North End, All Saints Way iPhone 4s
Jelly Beans
Feeling snacky? Easter, 2014 iPhone 5s

I started a board on Pinterest to keep my favorite photos that I had taken all in one spot:

…or two:

I can’t wait to see what I can learn to do with a much better camera!