after the storm

after the storm
After the storm, this little one started to drink the rain gathered in the ribs of the fallen saguaro.

Monday, March 28, 2011

look who's been hanging out among the saguaros today...

{I feel the need to say these colors aren't enhanced. They are just as Mother Nature intended them to be.}

How could I possibly be lonely?

Friday, March 25, 2011

among the hummingbirds...

Have to start this post with a "GO WILDCATS!" "ELITE EIGHT, BABY!" said in my very best Dick Vitale voice. Moving on now...

As you know, this winter was a c-o-l-d one for us. I know many of you would scoff at that description, especially my friend, Debbie, who spent 26 winters in North Dakota. For us though, it was cold and our normal way of gardening was thrown for a loop. We are still in a wait-and-see mode. Will the lemon tree survive? Did the bougainvilleas make it? Will that silk oak ever come back? Almost every day in the last two weeks, I see something new making its appearance again. The hummingbirds really don't care about the lemon tree, the bougainvillea or the silk oak but they sure are happy about the salvia.

On any given day, I can usually sit for a few minutes and soon will see a hummingbird or three. Happy hummingbirds make me and my camera happy too. They barely notice me. They are sometimes so close that I need to step back because my lens won't focus so closely. Yesterday, I tried to read outside. The sun felt so good, the garden showing such signs of life and the temperature just perfect. How could I read when the hummingbirds were posing for me?

Look who is out of hibernation and HUNGRY!

Hope spring is finding you too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the cutest Wildcat fans ever...

We made the Sweet Sixteen today! To celebrate, I'll share a picture of the cutest fans in town. I wish you could hear how great these four are at singing "Bear Down, Arizona".

Saturday, March 19, 2011

hope you enjoyed the supermoon...

I sure did! (click on it to make it larger)

shooting the moon...

Tonight is a supermoon. If you want to try to capture it with your camera, here is a reprint of an article that I wrote for the Mortal Muses.

Ah, the moon. Mankind has been endlessly fascinated with it. Photographers always want to capture it. It can be a frustrating process. What we see, often isn’t what we capture. Normal rules of getting a good exposure just don’t apply. It can be difficult to get an accurate meter reading when you are metering on a very bright object in a very dark sky. I finally gave up metering and just started experimenting. Your equipment, your location, your sky conditions will all play into getting a good shot.

Here are a few tips to help make that process a little easier:

1. Make sure your flash is off. If you don’t know how to turn it off, check your manual.

2. Use a tripod. Your exposures are apt to be long ones and you won’t be able to handhold your camera without some camera shake. If you don’t have a tripod, use any flat, steady surface, like the top of your car or the top of a wall. Don’t forget that long exposures can drain batteries more quickly so make sure your battery is fully charged or you have a back up.

3. If you have a filter on your lens, take it off. A filter may cause a ghosting effect.

4. Use the longest focal length you have. In most cases, the bigger you can make the moon look, the better. These shots were taken with focal lengths of 150mm (shots that included more scenery) to 400mm.

5. If you are comfortable shooting in manual, do so. The higher the f/stop, the sharper your photo will be.

6. Use manual focus, if needed (there is a switch on the side of your lens to turn the auto focus off). Some lenses really have to hunt in low light and may not be able grab a good focus. Since the moon is so far away, you will be able to set your lens on infinity and get a sharp focus.

7. Bracket your exposures. It is possible to over or underexpose by more than two stops by shooting manually. I recommend starting with your meter reading and underexposing from there. I usually shoot at -1/2 stop intervals to ensure that I get exactly what I want.

8. Use the lowest ISO possible, especially if your camera has noise issues.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be in the middle of the night when you shoot the moon. It is often up early in the morning or before it is quite dark. During the blue hour (more info here), the moon can look quite dramatic.

You can see the drama of the blue sky but the moon has little detail and looks small in the sky. Many (probably most) of the photos you see in magazines that have the huge moon in a cityscape are actually two photos put together either as a double exposure (using film) or in Photoshop (using digital). It is very difficult (and often impossible) to get a crisp edge and proper exposure on the moon while getting the proper exposure on a building. For me, I don’t like putting together photos like this. I’d rather get what I get. To show you a hastily put together example, here is the moon from my first photo with the picture above.

This shot was exposed for the scenery. It was taken near dusk. The moon is sharp but over exposed. A graduated neutral density filter (and lots of practice) can help with this problem. For more information go here.

This was taken right before sunrise in January. The moon is in the western sky and the light just starting behind me in the east. The mountains and cactus are in silhouette. If I had exposed for the scenery, the moon would have been overexposed with no detail.

This was the view a bit later with a wider look, exposing more for the scenery than the moon.

This image was taken at night. The variety of the colors lit by the moon in the clouds drew my eye.

This shot was taken with the moon purposely over in the corner like this so I would have room for text. I have used this image for cards, changing the text to fit the recipient.

For more information of moonrise and set times, these sites are helpful:

Remember the key to shooting the moon is experimentation. Bracketing is key. Try different exposures. Most importantly, have fun!

Friday, March 18, 2011

it's all about the light...

Some of you have been asking me about my lighting technique to get black background photos. Since it seems impossible for me to answer your questions without photos, I thought I would write about it here.

If I am photographing one object, I often do it on my dining room table, in the morning. I have a big glass door in there so the light just pours in. It is east facing, so in the mornings, there is strong light (eastern and northern light are the best for photography - not as overly strong as west and south can be). My dining room furniture is rather dark.
You can see in this picture that I have exposed for the whole room. Because the lighting is so streaky, anything in the room that is in that strong light is over-exposed. The exposure is made for the darker parts of the room. If I wanted to get a properly exposed photo of my overall dining room, I would not take it this time of the day. Notice the bowl on the table. You can see that it is overexposed in that light (click on the photo to make it larger). If you look at the rim and what you can see of the part of the bowl that is in the light, it looks almost white with this exposure. I can use this light to my advantage to photograph single objects like this.
When I want to get a photo like this, I get in close and expose for the object. This works in the opposite way of the first photo. By exposing for the bowl instead of the dark objects, the bowl is properly exposed and everything else is underexposed. Everything that is underexposed goes black. I use a wide aperture. In this case, f/2.8.

Now I know you may not have a set up just like this but I bet you will be able to find one. Look at the light that comes through the windows in your home. Our eyes don't really see things like this but our cameras do. Look at different times of the day. It will change during the day and also as the seasons change. My "dining room studio" works best during the spring and fall.

Hope this helps and you can find your spot! I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mother Nature works quickly...

I know, I know. I have no right to talk about how cold our winter was. It wasn't that we didn't enjoy it. Nights with a bowl of soup for dinner in front of the fire are perfect for us. We love having a chance to wear cold weather clothes. We were filled with wonder when we actually had snow. This spring has just been so different than usual. We are inspecting all the plants to see if they made it through the rare string of freezing nights we had. I feel like every day I go out and see more and more. We didn't lose as much as we thought we had. I have been waiting for the salvia to pop back. I knew they had made it through the winter but the blooms are what make the hummingbirds happy. A week ago, I could count five blossoms. Today, there are thousands. And look who is back to hang out with us again:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

here comes the sun...

After a much colder winter than usual, spring needs a little help around here. Our bulbs are doing well, daffodils, hyacinth and our first tulips, but not much else survived. Even the iris are looking a bit surprised at the unexpected string of low temperatures.

It was snowing last Sunday and the garden is getting planted this Sunday.

"The smiles are returning to their places."

Thank you, George Harrison, for a song that never fails to make me smile.

Find more flower photos here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

march forth...

Today is my son's birthday. He has grown from a shy little boy, interested in so many things into a man, interested in so many things. He holds his friends and his family close with an open, loving heart. He loves books, music, basketball and the outdoors. He makes me laugh and think. I would love hanging out with him, even if he wasn't my son. He has traveled the world and dedicated his life to the public service of our country. March forth, indeed.

This is one of his photos (I believe from London), taken on film with my father's old camera.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

we had snow!

Snow in the desert is rare and indeed, a sight to behold. It is rather surreal seeing cactus covered in snow. This is what we woke up to Sunday morning. I can't begin to describe it with words so will share a few pictures instead.

Even the skies were amazing.

Most of it was gone by mid-morning but oh, it was wonderful while it lasted.