Happy Thanksgiving (NaBloPoMo Day 20)

NOT turkey

Before I forget… Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

I have to wish you a happy Thanksgiving now, because I’m taking 4 days off. Four days off from NaBloPoMo – is that allowed? You probably wonder… 😉

First, let me share my experience with NaBloPoMo with you. For those who just joined us, NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Post Month – signing up means you’ve decided (promised?) to blog every day in November.

I was nervous before signing up. I didn’t know if I could make it; I didn’t know my followers would like to read a post a day in the whole month. But I had to do it; I owed that to myself, sort of.

I wrote down 4 or 5 potential topics for possible don’t-know-what-to-write days. The first two weeks were tough, not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I had to constantly deal with an internal voice saying “Are you sure you want to continue? It’s okay to quit, you know.” Yes, every day I thought of quitting; every day I told myself I would quit on the next day. That trick worked. 😉

Two weeks later, I began enjoying this writing daily thing. I appreciate the opportunity to write family stories, which I’ve intended to do for several years. I have a lot of fun coming up different stories. And I learned that we all have something in common — how wonderful that is!

Of course there are tradeoffs. For one, I didn’t spend as much time as I would like to working on XDrive Photography Lesson assignment. I also commented less on other bloggers’ post, even though I do read them and wanted to say something to the authors.

From the very beginning, I knew I wouldn’t be available around Thanksgiving. No big deal. I could write several posts and schedule them to be published for those 4 days. But… I didn’t expect those swans to be here, and they are lovely! 😉

So, I choose to fail NaBloPoMo, and I am happy that I will spend time with my family. 😉 I hope you will have a great time with your family too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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My so-far Journey in Learning Photographing (NaBloPoMo Day 19)

When I grew up, not many people had their photos taken, not to mention owning a camera. Photo day was a special day. We dressed for the occasion. I remember feeling different (excited?) on those days.

When I was a senior in high school, my brother Chris brought an old camera home. I took some photos of my friends. For me, camera was a tool to record our youth. Later I used the tool again when I was a senior in college.

My husband started taking photo when he was in junior high. After we got married, he automatically became our family photographer. Many years into our marriage, he started persuading me to play with a camera. I bought a point-and-shoot and loved it for many years. Of course that wasn’t what my husband had in mind. He bought me a big camera; I complained how heavy the new camera was every time I used it.

So, I was a happy point-and-shoot photographer for several years. I knew nothing about composition, exposure, DOF… Taking photos was “click, click, click”. I enjoy looking at my photos, but most of the time, I probably only looked at them two or three times.

Then I retired. Didn’t want to be bored, I decided to give photographing a try. Nikon D7000 wasn’t as heavy as others; that helped. I started watching YouTube, reading articles… A lot of time I had no idea what I was seeing or reading, but I didn’t stop. I became serious in photographing, and made some progress in recent years — this is what I really want to share with you.

1. Cee’s Photo Challenges

I was a blogger since 1999 (I believe.) I started blogging because I wanted to practice writing. By accident, I discovered Cee’s Photo Challenges (in 2013?). It took me at least 3 months to build up the courage to submit. When Cee featured one of my photos, I was thrilled. Other bloggers were very friendly. Every “like” or “comment” gave me a reason to continue shooting.

This was probably one of my biggest turning points. I really appreciate what Cee has done for many of us.

2. Photographer bloggers

I have benefited a lot from my online photographer bloggers. Whenever I had a question, I would post it here and soon an answer would arrive. It never failed. (Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.)

3. Otto’s online workshop – Finding Your Photographing Voice

One problem I was facing was: I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I needed a direction; I wanted to take control. Taking a workshop seemed like a logical next step, so I signed up for Otto’s workshop.

I’ll be honest; I almost quit photographing after taking Otto’s class. I struggled a lot with my homework. Otto was helpful and nice. But it was clear to me that I didn’t have a bright future. If photographing was not for me, I wanted to start something new, maybe painting, as soon as possible.

It was many months later that I realized how much I had gained from Otto’s workshop. It gave me a solid foundation to build up my knowledge base. Even today, I remember what he had taught us.

4. Blogging Community

Our blogging community is great! I continued participating Cee’s photo challenge and met more blogger friends online. It has become a big part of my life.

5. 1-1 tutoring/ read manual

BUT, I still wanted to be a better photographer. Maybe a one-to-one tutor was what I needed? Finding a private tutor wasn’t easy. I didn’t know any local photographer then; long distance – I wasn’t sure it would work well.

Finding a shooting partner might help, I thought. By now, my husband had given up on me 😉 (Don’t worry. I have earned his respect back.) And I didn’t find any friend who needed a shooting partner as bad as I was. Oh well…

I started reading my camera manual line by line (the first time 😉 Knowing my camera, watching tutorial videos, and reading articles… I finally made some progress and became more confident.

6. XDrive Photography Learning

From Amy’s blog, I found out about Raj’s XDrive lessons. It is one of the best things happened to me for many reasons (other than the lesson itself): (1) it provides me an organized way to learn photographing. After reading Raj’s lesson, I usually search Internet to learn more on the subject. (2) it gives me a way to ask questions, and Raj always takes time to answer them. (3) after we do our assignment, Raj gives us his constructive feedback on each of our photos. Constructive feedback is hard to get nowadays. (4) I learn from other participants, too.

That’s it – my journey so far. I still have a lot to learn; I am getting better in learning. I want to share my experience, because I’m hoping it will help others. Since this is Thanksgiving week, please allow me to take a moment to thank everyone. Because of you, life is good.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo, photo and thoughts, Writing | Tagged | 24 Comments

XDrive Photo Lesson 15 – Backlit Photography (NaBloPoMo Day 18)

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 15 – Backlit Photography. All photos were taken with Nikon D750.

I noticed that I often had a good laugh when I worked on XDrive assignments. Laughing at myself, that is. We had many (too many) miserable gray days lately, so I thought maybe I should start looking for some back-lighted photos in my hard drive. Soon I heard myself keep asking: “is this backlit?” I finally showed my husband one photo and asked for his opinion (You know I usually don’t do that 😉 He said, “NO.”

“But, the sun was in front of me, not behind my back,” I said.

He went on explaining to me what backlit is. As we all know, learning from our own spouse is not easy.

So, do I get a backlit photo if I place my subject in front of 1-pm sun? Well, I know it is not a perfect backlit, but does it count?

Anyway, the light source for the first two photos was a flashlight behind and low to the subject.

The third photo was taken by the window (the sun came out! Yeah!)

The fourth photo was shot with flash on (fill light).

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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SMNPPA Print Competition Event (NaBloPoMo Day 17)

Last night, I attended The Southern Minnesota Professional Photographers Association’s (SMNPPA) Print Competition event. I didn’t submit any photo for the competition; I just went to find out how it worked.

There were about 20+ people in the room. In front of us, there was a curtain (backdrops?) and in the middle lower part of the curtain, there was an opening with a revolving board (which I colored green in my photo). One person (a photographer) would place a photo on the board behind the curtain, and then turned it around for judges and us to see.

Two bright lights pointed at the photo; one on the left, and the other on the right. (In the above photo, you can see a light pole on the right side of the photo.)

Each of the three judges (who sat right in front of the board) would record his score and the fourth person would average out the three scores and announced it as the final score. (One judge would comment on the photo for audience to hear.) Each judge was allowed to challenge the final score, if he strongly disagreed with the number. In that case, judges would each give reasons why he scored so low or high and after the discussion, each would score again. This process would repeat if necessary, until they reached an agreement.

Two pieces of paper were taped on the curtain: “Image Scoring System” and “12 Elements of a Merit Image”. Image Scoring System: Exceptional 100-95; Superior 94-90; Excellent 89-85; Deserving of a Merit 80-84; Above Average 79-75; Average 74-70; Below Exhibition Standards 69-65. 12 Elements of a Merit Image: (1) Impact (2) Creativity (3) Style (4) Composition (5) Print Presentation (6) Center of Interest (7) Lighting (8) Subject Matter (9) Color Balance (10) Technical Excellence (11) Technique (12) Storytelling.

Lessons learned: (1) since there will be two bright lights pointing at the photo, if you want to submit a photo for print competition, you should make it a little darker than normal (because the lights make the photo brighter than how you see on your monitor.) (2) try to make your subject stand out more (3) sharpness is a must (4) noise is bad.

It was a fun night. Fun and educational – just the way I like it.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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A Professional Photographer? (NaBloPoMo Day 16)

We walked into one local camera shop one day and had a nice talk with one photographer who is working there. At one point of our conversation, my husband said to Dave, “We are amateurs, not professionals.”

Dave looked at us and said, “Well, it depends on how you define professional-photographer. Have you made any money with your photo?”

Knowing what he’d implied, I quickly said, “Ah, in that case, I am a professional, but my husband is not.” (Ha ha ha… W definitely is a better photographer between the two of us. He is a perfectionist; I am an experimentalist.)

Dave questioned me with his eyes.

“I didn’t lie. I made 25 cents. Someone had downloaded my photo from a stock photo website, so I earned 25 cents,” I said. Actually, 3 or 4 photos were downloaded, which added up to, maybe, a dollar. But who cares about those minor details.

(I haven’t uploaded any photo to that website for a long time… too busy for other fun things.)

Dave laughed. From the sound of his laughing, I knew he knew exactly how professional I am ;-). I laughed with him.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in Memoir, photo, Writing | Tagged | 19 Comments

An Empty Box (NaBloPoMo Day 15)

An empty box showed up in our front yard.
The wind brought it here.
Should I pick it up?
Nah, the wind will take it away soon, I am sure. 😉

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in Writing | Tagged | 3 Comments

XDrive Photo Lesson 14 – Post processing #2 (NaBloPoMo Day 14)

This is my second submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 14 – Post Processing.

I decided to try post processing again: (1) randomly process like I always do (2) do it in Raj’s way. 😉

Here is the original photo:

With two LED lights, I thought ISO 1600 would be enough, even though I was using shutter speed 1/1600 Sec., F4 and and in shutter speed mode. (I guess I probably should use manual mode. If I did, I could immediately tell that ISO 1600 wasn’t enough. Oh well…)

And here is the result after I processed it in my usual way.

When I finally was able to see the photo clearly, I immediately got upset with myself. I love this photo; I wish I was more careful with the exposure setting.

Next, I would follow Raj’s steps: 1) Horizon/Level adjustment 2) Cropping 3) White Balance 4) Brightness 5) Contrast 6) Highlights 7) Shadows 8) Saturation 9) Sharpness 10) Noise Reduction. (As I explained before, the first two steps have to wait until later.)

And here it is the photo after my second try.

It looked much better on the second try. I guess the possible reasons are (1) I didn’t check white balance the first time – I didn’t realize it was needed (2) I did double noise reduction the second time: one by using PS noise reduction function; the other by using Dfine (Does anyone know how to use brush with Dfine? I haven’t taken time to figure that out yet.).

One thing for sure is, like Raj said, with a list of the steps in hand, the post processing had gone much faster.

I am convinced and I am happy. 😉

(Thanks to Molly for letting me use her photo here.)

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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