Monday, May 31, 2010


*Today's Disclaimer - all of today's pictures are over 15 years old and were taken with a cheap point and  shoot that I bought at TG&Y.

One of the first things I learned as a teenager with a point and shoot was to take pictures of people.

 This was my freshman English class.

Group of friends before graduation.

Partly because those were the photos that I cherished most years later.  The other reason was that my landscapes and flower pictures didn't turn out the way I wanted.  In fact, they often didn't even look anything near the real life beauty I saw.  I pretty much gave up trying to shoot sunsets, flowers, landscapes, animals, etc.

The Grand Canyon - not looking so Grand

Mesa Verde - not looking so verde

Not any more!!  My goal for this summer is to figure out how to take a spectacular sunset.  I mean I live in the middle of the Great Plains of the US - how can I not take pictures of the gorgeous sunsets we get?  Isn't the reason I want to take pictures to share the beauty I see around me with others?  Of course it is!

So - enough with the bad pictures.  Let me share with you some of my happy accidents.  I call them that because, despite the fact that I hadn't a clue what I was doing, they actually turned out fairly well.  Of course they could be better, but I was learning along the way.  :)

I love these because they remind me of the places I visited.  Are they postcard worthy?  No, not even close.  Next time I travel to Austria, I'm going to be ready to take amazing pictures!

Tomorrow - cropping the pictures!

PS - Happy Memorial Day!  :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's not the camera, it's me!

As I talked about before, I've always enjoyed great photos.  I've been taking photos since my parents first allowed me to use the camera.  I study others' pictures to try to figure out what makes a good shot.  I'll talk about several of my discoveries over the next few weeks.  But this one was the first.  This "What the Duck" comic strip sums it up quite well.

Rule #1 - It's not the camera, it's me.

I had been using a point and shoot for years, but was getting frustrated with the auto-focus and other things that wouldn't allow me to take the pictures I wanted.  SO - I saved up and begged my husband and bought a shiny new Canon Rebel XT.  I needed something affordable, and my husband (the smart one) decided I should start with something that was somewhat simple and user friendly.

When I got it, I immediately began to shoot.  I was so excited, but I only got mediocre results like this:

This is my youngest child, and my most willing victim - er, model - so you may be seeing her a lot.  The shot isn't bad and I caught a cute smile, but it's a lot darker than I'd like and there's junk in the background.  The part you don't see is that this was shot number 9 out of 12.  Now part of that is the wiggliness of a 4 year old, and part of that is me not knowing what I'm doing!  I just figured if I kept taking pictures, those happy accidents would be the ones I would keep.

But - the next week this happened.

I was trying to take pictures of my choir at school for keepsake reasons and NONE of them turned out!  WHAT??!?  They all looked blurry and I couldn't figure out why.  I thought maybe it was because everyone was moving, but even with the high shutter speed I got things like this:

Even the people who are still in the background are fuzzy....  Shoot!  Even the stripes on the floor and the exit sign above the door are fuzzy!!! 

Time to rethink this.  What to do??  Ah!  Let's read the owner's manual!  (When all else fails, read the instructions, right?!)  You see, I was certain there was a button or something I needed to push to make everything right, but that wasn't the problem.  It was this!!


No, not the person your shooting (although sometimes they need to) but ME!  If I don't keep the camera still, it won't matter how little my subject moves.  The effect you see in these previous pictures is called "shake".  It is caused by me, the camera geek, moving my camera when I take the picture.  The manual demonstrates how to keep this from happening right at the end of chapter 1, but this webpage shows it even better:

Found here.  Please go there!  It has MANY good suggestions about keeping still while shooting.

Once I discovered this, I actually had photos I could work with -

Like this.

More to come tomorrow!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who? What? Why?


My name is Tiffany, and I am a wannabe.  I've always wanted to be an actress, a ballerina, an artist, a musician, and a photographer.  So what did I grow up to be?  A teacher, of course!  A music teacher to be more specific, so I guess the musician thing actually did work out, albeit not the way I had envisioned.

It's actually not as far off the mark as it may sound.  A teacher is a person who loves learning so much, they spend their days creating ways for other people to learn.  They also spend their entire lives continuing to learn.  All of these other dreams have now become hobbies and this blog is focusing on one of these - photography.

You might notice that being a writer was never one of my goals.  I am more a straight-to-the-point type.  Besides, I want this blog to be more about pictures than about what I have to say.  There are important things to talk about, of course, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet.

On with the show!!!!

Why photography?

Honestly, I'm not completely certain except that it is a quest for beauty and substance.  I also love to record the important moments of my life in photos.  They are wonderful for recalling those special moments and bring the emotions right to the surface.  I guess my desire to take better photos is partly because life has so much to offer and I don't want to forget one moment!

All of my life my mother collected postcards - an obsession that has since become my own.  She always used to say, "they are inexpensive souvenirs and the best pictures you are going to get."  But I would look at those postcards and think "why can't I take pictures like that?"  That was back in the days of film photography where every shot that you took cost a lot.  They had to be developed and you weren't sure if they had turned out until after you came home from your vacation.  I probably have 50 pictures of the Grand Canyon, taken at age 14 with a $20 point and shoot.  None of them even come close to comparing to the postcards I brought home.  Of course, those don't compare with the real thing either, but that's a whole different can of worms.  :)

Digital photography opened up a whole new world to me.  The instant feedback available has totally changed the things I do to take pictures.  We all do it - take the picture then look at the screen to see what we captured.  Isn't it wonderful!?!  If the picture didn't turn out as you wished, you can retake it! 

My Goal

If you are willing to follow along, I'm going to spend my summer discovering how to used my camera to better effect.  I want to figure out what all those little buttons and things are for and how to get those gorgeous photos that I can spend hours looking at.  I'm going to search for information and advice, but mostly I'm going to practice.  Being a music teacher, I know the value of practice, practice, practice..... so that's what I'm going to post here.  The good, the bad, the in-between.  Hopefully, if all goes well, by the end of the summer there will be much more good than bad!

*disclaimer - this blog is for my own benefit.  If you enjoy reading and following along on my journey, I'd love having you!  BUT don't expect me to take requests.  I will be doing what I love and enjoying every moment of it.