Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Relay for Life ---- in Manual Mode!

This past weekend I was asked to photograph my husband's band, "Northern Static," play as entertainment at a local Relay for Life event.  My two daughters were in attendance, and some friends came by to watch also.

I was very excited to get to take some fun pictures and try to really capture the moment.  Sometimes photographing a band can be difficult, because it all looks the same, so every picture is the same as the last.  At least to a later viewer.  One challenge was to get new shots that were exciting and different from the last.  Another challenge was the lighting. The band was on a stage under a canopy.  It was "dark" to the camera, relative to the surrounding light.  Metering the light on the stage from various angles was challenging as well.

It was fun to also capture the excitement of the event.  The children playing.  The walkers walking.  The tents. The workers.  While not all of these photos were "artsy" and super duper fantastic photos with lots of wow-factor (enough adjectives?), they were important in capturing the day and what the event meant to people who were walking.

My daughter (middle) and her two friends from church.  I love how they looked so captivated by the music.

This "behind the scenes" look was the only one that I really had a chance to get.  It was challenging with the light peaking through from the other side of the stage.  

I didn't realize it when I snapped this photo, but the backlighting provided a great "glow" to her already gorgeous red hair. Because she was back-lit, I kept the exposure the same for her as I did for all the shots on stage.

The walking, rounding the bend.  I was going for a "story-telling" image with this, but only had my telephoto lens with me when I went up the bleachers to capture these shots.  I think it still captures the feeling from being there, though.

Another "story-telling" image.  This one of the center of the field with the stage.  You can  see how dark the stage is  with the shade, relative to the outside.  This provided a great deal of metering challenges.

Probably my favorite photo of the bunch.  I was attempting a leading lines effect.  I like the out-of-focus people in the background. I'm not sure what story this image tells, but I know it's telling something.

Another "behind the scenes" shot of one of the musicians taping his set list to the floor.

The awesome drummer going to town. I love the slight blur on the drum stick , implying the motion that he's moving super fast.  This is a technique I'd really like to work on, and in fact have tried a few times already, but can't find the right shutter speed.

Again, you can see the drastic lighting differences.  I opted to overexpose the light areas and properly expose faces and instruments. I love the images of the musicians really jamming and rocking out and enjoying what they're doing.
 I'm not sure any of these photos jump out as real zingers, but for my first "photo shoot" in manual mode, I am very pleased with the results.  I snagged quite a few fun shots of the kids at play.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Photography Exercises

I've finished reading the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson and a now super challenged to implement what I've learned.  His book is full of ideas and examples and challenges and exercises.

One technique I tried this weekend was intentional blurring.  Not necessarily implying motion, but intentionally blurring the subject of the photo.

This was accomplished with a slow shutter speed and literally spinning in a circle while aiming at a tree branch.  I'd like to try it again when it's not as bright (and with a lower ISO) out to get more detail and less light.
Shutter Speed: 1/4 s
F-stop: f/22.0
Focal Length: 18.0 mm
ISO: 1600
This was accomplished by focusing on the steering wheel of the car all the way zoomed out (using my stock 18-35 zoom lens). With a slow shutter speed I clicked and zoomed all the way in.  It took several attempts to get the zoom speed timed with the shutter speed.  I like the effect of moving super fast; but not so sure I like how sick this photo makes me feel.
Shutter Speed: 1/8 s
F-stop: f/22.0
ISO: 1600

Finally, I practice some silhouettes.
This was my first 'real' attempt at a silhouette.  I love the idea of it, I just need to practice a little more.  I also need it to be not shady right outside the window.  That greatly impacted my meter reading.  But for a first time, I like it.  This is Audrey, peeking out the window watching our neighbors play.
Shutter Speed: 1/8s
F-stop: f/22
ISO: 1600
What have I learned:

  • I need to experiment more with my ISO when light sensitivity is an issue.
  • toddlers are cute, but don't follow direction well; they aren't the best "posed" model

Monday, June 20, 2011

i heart faces - Let's Hear It For the Boys

In honor of Father's Day, this week's iheartfaces entry is about men/boys.

Playing with my new camera, Josh had an inspiration and wanted me to take the following photo of him and Annie.

I love this photo because it shows how much Josh loves being a dad and it captures Annie's love for him.  The reaching out is priceless. This is the quintessential Josh/Annie relationship and personality.


To see more Manly Faces, head on over to iheartfaces.com.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Water Droplets - Freezing motion

Playing in the sprinkler last night with my daughter I attempted a fast shutter speed technique to freeze the motion of the water coming from the sprinkler.

With my telephoto lens attached to my Nikon D3100, I took the following.

Focal Length: 195mm; Shutter Speed: 1/4000; F-Stop: f/5.3

Focal Length: 122mm; Shutter Speed: 1/4000; F-Stop: f/4.8 
Focal Length: 75mm; Shutter Speed: 1/4000; F-stop: f/4.5

In order to shoot these photos, I used "Shutter Priority" mode on my camera.  Focusing on the water droplets instead of the car or trees in the background was challenging.  In autofocus I had to first focus on my husband holding the sprinkler and then focus on the water that was at the same distance from me.  Or I had to use manual focus.  Using manual focus was challenging because the water was moving so fast and was so small I couldn't see it very well to tell if it was in focus.

I'm please with these photos, but of course want to do better.

Thoughts for next time
  • shoot with the sprinkler on the ground (someone holding it was too chaotic)
  • get some sun spots by shooting at sunset and have some backlighting or frontlighting effects
  • I'd like to try for a faster shutter speed to stop motion even more.
  • Go for a slower shutter speed and make it look like flowing water, not frozen movement

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why shouldn't I buy cheap cloth diapers?

I read the following from Jennifer Labit of BumGenius (and Flip and Econobum). I have nothing to add ... just sharing.

Why shouldn't I buy cheap cloth diapers?: "
A retailer wrote me an email today asking why our cloth diaper brands weren't selling for $10, like the Chinese-made knock-offs sold on eBay. I drafted a response to her question, but after I re-read what I'd written, I decided to go ahead and share my answer with you here on our blog because it contains valuable information that you, as the consumer, deserve to know. Keep in mind that this was written to a retailer with my 'manufacturer hat' solidly in place. Onward....

Dear Retailer:

Thank you for your question. While most companies move to off-shore manufacturing to increase profitability, our goal in opening an international facility was to bring our brands to the rest of the world (like Europe, India, China and Africa) in an affordable way. Due to the high cost of domestic labor, duty and international shipping, this is nearly impossible to do this using domestic manufacturing. Knowing that our customers valued products made in the United States and wanting to preserve all of our U.S. based jobs, we took the step into limited off-shore manufacturing while also maintaining a full-time manufacturing facility in North America that still produces most of the products we sell in the United States. This resulted in overall higher costs as compared to brands made exclusively off-shore.

The factory is clean, large, well-lit, safe, equipped with plenty of restrooms, safe drinking water, a cafe, and a place away from the sewing floor where workers can take their breaks. They are provided with positive leadership, on-the-job training and transportation to and from work. The management cares about each individual and ensures that they are trained with their future in mind. The factory operates based on 5-day, 40 hour work-weeks and workers are paid over-time if it becomes necessary. We meet or exceed all of the requirements of international law. I have been in other garment factories all over the world and can honestly say that our factory is the only place that I have ever seen like it. It is a place that I would like to work.

In spite of higher costs, we maintain very fair price points relative to competing brands while also being recognized by consumers as offering the best customer service in the industry. Our products are tested heavily and made with quality materials primarily sourced in the United States. Each brand is backed by a one-year warranty and maintains it's value nicely, supporting eventual resale by the purchaser. We spend a great deal on advertising and promoting the concept of cloth diapers - a project we're in the process of expanding with the goal of increasing the visibility of the product category. We invest heavily in product development and industry growth. We care about the less-fortunate and are deeply involved in giving-oriented projects to help low-income families cloth diaper their babies. We make decisions knowing that we are affecting people and businesses all over the world... while the bottom-line plays a role in our business decisions, it isn't the most important consideration.

We've reflected our values as we've grown our brand portfolio. Knowing that bumGenius was an option that wasn't reachable for many low-income families, we also created Flip & Econobum two years ago with the goal of bringing more affordable, quality diapering solutions to the marketplace. We felt like low and middle-income families deserved options that were consistently well-made, backed by a recognizable company, a warranty and good customer service. I wasn't willing to accomplish that goal by compromising quality or customer service.... so we created a concept and a product set to meet that consumer segment's needs while being consistent in our commitments to all consumers. We were successful in our efforts. Using data from a recent LCA study conducted in Europe, we recently made some interesting calculations. If a family has a stash of 24 total bumGenius Stay-Dry one-size diapers and assuming use from birth, each cloth diaper is likely to be used approximately 138 times putting the cost per use before laundry at approximately $0.12. With a stash of 24 Flip Stay-Dry Cloth Diapers, the cost per use before laundry is approximately $0.06. With a stash of 24 Econobum Cloth Diapers, the cost per use before laundry is approximately $0.03.

As frustrating as off-brands can be to retailers, it is important to recognize that, they do serve a purpose within the expanding cloth diaper market. Unlike other product categories where off-brands are typically consumed and disposed of, consumers are investing in cloth diapers as a way of saving money and because they want to provide better care for their baby. Unlike most other garments, cloth diapers are subjected to rigorous, continual use and cleaning practices. Off-brands are usually poor quality and can fail quickly with little follow-up support available from the retailer or the importer of record (IOR). Even though U.S. law requires the IOR to have proof of component testing at the batch level, these diapers are being imported and sold primarily by very small, home-based businesses who may be unaware of or simply unable to complete the required testing. The IOR is likely to have a very limited understanding of component ingredients and manufacturing practices. While this may seem of little initial relevance, it can become extremely important when a child develops a latex allergy and the consumer discovers that their off-brand diapers were made using elastomeric components containing natural rubber (our products are latex-free) or when low-volume consolidated international shipments are fumigated during import (we only ship full containers to avoid fumigation). Additionally, off-brand cloth diapers are unlikely to have a resale value beyond 'free for shipping'. We've repeatedly seen that consumers who learn this the 'hard way' are more likely to make a second investment later in a good quality cloth diapering product with maintainable resale value knowing that this will save their family additional money. Additionally, parents have expressed their desire to purchase good quality, safe, baby-care products that meet the requirements of US and international product safety laws.

As the economy has taken steps towards improvement over the last six months, we've seen an overall corresponding trend up both in sales growth and consumer reports of satisfaction with their purchases. Our customers are clearly demonstrating their commitment to their baby's overall well-being and a clear understanding of how their investment in cloth diapers will affect their family's bottom line, both now and when their baby potty trains.

I hope this information is informative and helps you educate your customers towards better product choices.

Kindest regards,

clothdiapers.blogspot.com - by Cotton Babies, Inc.


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Zoo

I was inspired by this post on iheartfaces and when I got my zoo membership, had to go try it out.

I was using a Nikon D3100 DSLR with a 70-200 mm lens.  It was super busy (Memorial Day Weekend) and on the warm side with quite a bit of sun.  Most of the animals were being lazy, with a few moving around.  The spider monkeys were going crazy, the chimps were walking around and the goats in the petting zoo were trying to decide between being loved by the kids and not being tortured by them.

I had both girls with me and no helpers, so it was tricky to be both a photographer and a mom.  But I had a lot of fun.  It was my first real chance to use my new lens.  I am excited for an opportunity to go back when it's less busy and maybe with a helper and look at different animals.  (Because it was late in the day when we went and really busy, we didn't get around to everything.  We spent a lot of time at the children's zoo and didn't do much else - I'd love to go back and look at the elephants and some of the other large cats.

At any rate ... here are some of my more favorite photos.  I'm also practicing my photo editing skills.  I have a hard time knowing what needs to be fixed, so I usually just crop it and call it a day.  I played around a little bit more to get some different effects with my photos this time.  I am showing edited followed by SOOC.  Enjoy.

Tiger - Edit

Tiger - SOOC

Audrey watching Bird - SOOC

Chimp - Edit

Chimp - SOOC

Audrey looking through turtle shell - SOOC

Audrey climbing through shell - edit

Audrey climbing through shell - SOOC

Audrey watching tortoise - edit

Audrey watching tortoise - SOOC

watching Lemur - edit

watching Lemur - SOOC

alligator - edit

alligator - SOOC

watching turtle - edit

watching turtle - edit

Ants in sidewalk - edit

Ants in sidewalk - SOOC

Alligator on land - edit

Alligator on land - SOOC

Sun bears eating  - SOOC
(I could NOT figure out how to get a good image for them.  They were off to the side and very close and the sun hit only half of them.  I just couldn't figure out how to shoot them; but was pleased enough with the images I got to display them.)