Coffee Chat

Ever since I started getting into photography, (aside from my periods of infatuation with the iPhone and my Harinezumi) I’ve almost exclusively used only one lens: a 35mm on the D300. It’s pretty versatile, and while it has its limits, it could do most of what I needed it to, and I liked the challenge of working within limitations: it pushed me to focus on composition, lighting, framing, depth of field, etc., all within a short range of parameters, and still try to find a decent shot.

No matter what surprises life in Thailand threw at me.

Or what delights.

I stretched the parameters as near and as far as I could go, given my (amateur) abilities.

And refused to blame my tools. (ahem, mostly)

This weekend, it occurred to me there’s another way to stretch and grow. So I decided, this year, I will switch to using a 17-50mm lens, a wide angle lens, which allows more room for play, more space, and more subjects…and also more chance for distortion, weirdness, and error.

Weird can be good though. And sometimes errors are happy ones.

There will be growing pains – not the least of which, learning to adjust to the physical size of a longer lens so I don’t whack innocent bystanders upside the head when I go around town, like I did to that poor woman just yesterday.

As I ponder this, the metaphor is not lost on me: there is growth when you learn to shoot life with a wider lens.

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In other news: Dot’s mother gave birth to a whole new litter of puppies (again). The puppies are starting to wander about the neighborhood, and this morning, one stumbled, lost and terrified, into our yard (why do all the neighborhood dogs find their way to our house??). The poor critter was yowling, and Dot’s mom, instead of coming to get him, ran away and left him behind. We tried to get him back to his mother and siblings, but he sure can run fast and hide, so we don’t know if they ever did get reunited. There sure was a whole lot of yipping and howling though – and cute, fuzzy puppies! – and I think Toby feared I would push for another adoption. But no, there is plenty of drama at the Keller household; there’s no need to beg for more.

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Also linking up with Communal Global and Just Write

Scenes From My Weekend

From left to right, top to bottom:
My husband, Toby; Bangkok traffic; the view from the overnight train we took to get here
Bangkok back alley
Mongolian herbal & spicy soup
Steam rising at Nobu Shabu; the hallway in our hostel
Urban views
Toby eating lunch
Coffee at Au Bon Pain; pretty ceiling lights
motorcycles parked at the train station
Rutnin Lasik Centre where Toby will get his eyes lasered later this week
the rest is snapshots from the mall
and Toby making a face.

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Also linking up with Communal Global

Scenes From My Weekend

from top to bottom, left to right:
my dad listening to a wicked beat; orchids fresh from the market; a hint of jazz;
my first attempt at baking artisan bread;
the lead guitarist rocking out;
menu from the jazz club we went to; the bar;
orchids and more orchids;
my mom in her groove; and didn’t I mention orchids.

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Also linking up with Communal Global

In The Land of Distracted Rice Farmers Talking On Cell Phones On Their Motorbikes

It’s what you’d call a “developing world problem.”


I know I’ve been a little bit absent lately, not just from blogging but also from commenting, mostly because being in Chiang Rai throws me off my schedule a bit. On the one hand, I find I can focus on my writing a little better here (perhaps because I’m in the middle of a rice field?), but then there’s lots of other people around once the kids show up after school and we teach on weekends. I’m also just spending more time unplugged, because really, who wants to be at the computer in such an idyllic setting?

However, if you follow me on Flickr (if you’re one of those lucky 4 – though really, I don’t deserve much in the way of followers on Flickr because I’m horrible about socializing there), you’ll see I’ve been busy playing with my camera. I only just recently discovered the world of grunge/junk lenses & filters and I’m going gaga over the possibilities. I’ve been trying shots through glass Coke bottles, water glasses, and slanted open windows, or reflections off of mirrors and windows.

I especially love the ethereal, second-spirit-like quality of the reflections off windows.


Ok, this one I just like because it reminds me of 17th century Spanish and Dutch still-lifes. Kind of a combination El Greco-Kalf sort of thing.

I’ve also recently discovered the sheer awesomeness of toy digital cameras. Toby first told me about the Pick which has a USB connection INSIDE the camera, so you just open the camera up and plug it directly into your computer. However, the pictures it takes don’t seem all that interesting: just your basic low-res photo. BUT I started looking around and I totally fell for the digital Harinezumi 2++ because it takes amazing lomo-esque photos and videos. I’m also a bit tempted by this little cat-shaped toy digital, also fun for lomo-esque photography. (There are similar product in the shape of chocolate bars, biscuits, milk cartons…leave it to the Asians to take something basic and practical and give it a steroid-injection of cute! explosion.)

Unfortunately, we are in the middle of rice field land, so access to toy digitals is limited, which means I must scrape out patience from some dusty corner and wait until we get back to Chiang Mai. I know there’s a toy digital shop there, so we’ll see what they got. If there isn’t anything good, I’ll be tempted to fly to Kuala Lumpur just to get my hands on one.

We did look around the one mall in town – the battery on my Macbook decided to swell up like an Aunt Marge so we have to get a replacement. There’s a Mac store there, but alas, no battery for me. However, my day suddenly brightened when I saw these little babies:


Aren’t they adorable? They’re miniature: about the size of espresso cups, and they come with matching spoons and their own little display rack! {Gawd, Asians are the master of cute!} I about died when I saw them. And when I saw they were only $5, I said, “SOLD!” Even if I only ever use them for Virtual Coffee post photos, it will be well worth it as far as I’m concerned.

So be warned. You might see a lot of photos of these little guys. If you get sick of them and tell me to please, fortheloveofGod, put them away, I promise I’ll try.

Well, I’ll try to try.

Happy Sunday!

jess

One of my good friends is 37 weeks along, y’all. 37 weeks! And honor of all honors, she asked me to capture this moment of their lives for them. I’ve never done pregnancy photos before, but with such a gorgeous subject, who could fail right?

Isn’t she stunning, y’all?

The baby is coming so soon and I’m so excited for her and her husband (and her adorable mother) for this next phase of their lives. I know it will bring in change, but I have every confidence that it will all be for the better and it will turn out to be an amazing time for them. Life transitions are never easy, and they can be downright nerve-wracking. But as my parents just told me, I’ll now say for them: focus on getting to happy, whatever happy means for you. Forget about what anyone else thinks or wants, shoulds ifs or oughtas, and just do what your heart tells you is right. Whatever decision you make from the heart, it will be the right decision.

Love,
J

5am photo expedition

Here are some other shots from my early morning escapade.

I like this shot of the moon:

This one was saved by post-processing.

I suspect the only part that works in this one is the s-curve of the hat leading the eye along with the curve of the elbow.

So it turns out composition can be tricky when you’re setting up without the subject in the frame. Well. It was good practice anyway, especially trying out new styles of post-processing.

And I’ve saved the best for last: this week’s You Capture post.

(Um. Don’t get too excited.)

i push a button

I’ve been asked to do a blog post on my photography equipment and software, and so, my beloved readers…ask and ye shall receive. I should mention that I’m definitely nowhere near being a photography expert. An art degree in college does not a photographer make. (Did I just say that? Hope none of my old profs read this!) I’m just very lucky to be married to a professional photographer so I have access to his tools. But my expertise is more along the lines of “I push buttons until it looks pretty”. I’m also a creature of habit. So what that boils down to is I have a handful of techniques I know work for me and what I usually want to do and rely on them heavily. I ask my hubby’s advice when I want to branch out, do that, and then promptly forget how I did it.

When I say I’m a creature of habit, I mean of all these babies to play with:
Technophiles, keep yer pants on! Or don't. Whatever.

the one I almost always use is this one:
Actually I get grumpy when I have to use something else.It’s a Nikon D300. And I pretty much stick to the 35mm f 1.8 lens. It does really well for about 90% of what I would use it for. The rest is a need for more long range lens for greater distances, but we don’t have one of those. (I’m trying to get my hubby to go on a safari with me in South Africa at some point. If we do, we’ll definitely need a lens for that.)

Hehe…actually there’s a difference between me and my hubby. I’d say, “Let’s go on safari! Oh…we’ll need a new lens.” My hubby would say, “Let’s get the long range lens! Uh…we can go on safari to justify buying it!” (I kid, I kid.)

In most of my photography I like to try to work with natural light as much as possible to reduce the photo editing I need to do. There’s a book called “Light – Science & Magic” by Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua that explains a lot of the physics behind using light and I found it enormously helpful.

But whatever I don’t get SOOC (straight out of camera), I fix with Photoshop CS3. I especially love to shoot in RAW format and then I use this tool:
Oh musaman, you were so tasty!When you open up the raw files, this window pops up and you can see large previews of your photos, pick and choose the best ones and then manipulate them. It’s a nice intermediate step between trying to squint at thumbnails and opening up the full file. I might adjust the temperature a little bit, or the color balance and shadow/highlight contrasts just to play things up a bit. But usually, I don’t do a whole lot to them. So the RAW file might look like the above, and the finished piece looks like this:

I et the hell out of you.While the purple of the background in the RAW file nicely complements the yellow of the curry, I decided to tone it down some to reduce the headache-inducing bokeh of the purple competing with the green of the limes. (“Stunning” might quite literally be an apt word for that.)

I also like to play around with split-toning. With that tool, I can take an ordinary photo and bump up the highlights with red and the shadows with purple to give it an old photo effect circa 1970.
Going old school

or bump up the greens and yellows for this:
Hipstamatic style! P.S. I think he's sexy.

Some people use that option to great effect. I’m not one of those people.

However, once you’ve tweaked that RAW file all you want, there are other options when you open up the full file too. You can take a photo like this:
Man I love where we live.

and with the photo filter option, you can make it sepia toned:
Gosh that's pretty!

Or there’s an option to go ahead and make it all black and white:
Old photo style circa 1900

Finally, one of the parts I really love is the actions tool:
For lazy people like me.For actions you do routinely, like for example, when I prep photos for my blog, you can preset them in the Actions folder and then all you have to do is press play. I do a final sharpening mask, and resize the photos to fit within the space limits of my blog and then save them for web use. Instead of doing each action individually, I press one button, the program does it for me and then I give it a name and hit save. It really comes in handy when you’re processing several photos at a time. An excellent device for lazy efficient people like me.

Et voila! I’ll be here all day if you have questions or would like to give me your homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Mmm…COOKIES.

Man Down.

rodeo_man_down

One of the things I love most about having a blog is having a creative outlet where I can play with both words and imagery. Not only do I get to have daily practice for my writing, I also get regular opportunities to play with the camera and to try to find ways to combine the two effectively and evocatively.

It doesn’t always work, of course. Some posts are definitely better than others. But I’m always thinking of new ideas, stretching new boundaries, and discovering new combinations of words to capture the emotions and concepts that fill a life.

The above photo is one with which I am immensely surprised and pleased that it turned out the way it did. We went to the rodeo last weekend, and I had to squeeze my camera between people’s heads and hold it just so to try to get something worthwhile in the frame. I wanted to capture a dynamic shot, so I slowed the shutter speed way down. And out of a multitude of hokey shots came this one. One so painterly it no longer looks like a photograph.

It makes me smile and think that maybe – just maybe – my degree in Art hasn’t gone completely to waste.

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