Archive for August, 2009



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At the zoo


So the other day I was reading on a photography forum about my 55-250mm telephoto lens and person after person posted the most gorgeous shots using that lens. I was astounded. It’s not an expensive lens and I haven’t been real happy with it. A couple of my friends have the higher-quality 70-300mm or 75-300mm and I’ve been impressed with their shots, so of course I’ve been lusting after that one. But it’s out of my price range and I need to get that out of my system.

After seeing all the shots on the forum, I decided I needed to give my lens another try. Heck, if they can do it, I should be able to do it, right? So while John went to the office on Saturday morning, I headed down to the Richmond Zoo (which really isn’t in Richmond, it’s almost Amelia county for crying out loud. I guess they get around that by calling it “Metro” Richmond).

This is not a large zoo and I found out from one of my co-workers this morning that it is or was at some point, privately owned. It is larger than I was expecting, but it doesn’t compare with the National Zoo in DC or the L.A. Zoo or the San Diego Zoo. But it made for a pleasant couple of hours shooting.

I started out trying to shoot full manual and that wasn’t working well. I understand the theories of exposure but sometimes putting it into practice… I then switched to Aperture Priority and using a tip I read on the forum, set my aperture to f8.0 and f11.0. That must be the sweet spot I’ve heard about.

What do you think? I’m very pleased. I think I’ll keep it.



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Julie and Julia

Last night John and I went to see the new Meryl Streep movie, Julie and Julia. It was wonderful, I recommend it to everyone. Is there any role Meryl can’t play? I won’t be surprised if she gets nominated for an Oscar.

One thing that struck me as I watched it: I don’t know how tall Julia was and I don’t know how tall Meryl is. I’m wondering if they purposely cast people shorter than Meryl so that she looked tall by comparison (including all the townspeople). I thought Stanley Tucci was a good fit as her husband Paul and he’s shorter than Meryl.

Julie Powell’s original blog is still online: The Julie/Julia Project

The movie reminded me of a memory from my youth (before John). Between college and marriage I shared an apartment (well 3 actually) with my older cousin Donna. We had a lot of laughs during those days, one of them being this one from the Woodruff Place apartment in Bellflower:
pat the meat-500-75

Donna was the cook around our place. She thought nothing of fixing herself a multi-course meal after work. Me? I just wanted to get rid of the hunger as quickly as possible and oftentimes only had a bowl of cereal for dinner. I don’t remember the occasion in the above picture and I don’t remember who else was there. I think Donna was fixing some kind of meat loaf that needed to be a certain size, and we were measuring it with a yardstick. She summoned her best Julia Child impression and said something like, “You must pat the meat.” [to shape it and size it]. I know John is reading this and thinking, “guess you had to be there.” Well I was and it’s my memory. And considering that I have the world’s worst long- and short-term memory, it amazes me that I remember this. I wonder if she does?


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Since I’m working on my design wall, I thought I’d share a tip for keeping track of blocks and rows.


I took a bunch of flat head pins and numbered them with a permanent marker. This way I can keep track of which block is the first block in which row and then once they are stitched together in rows, I can keep the rows in order.

I remember once I had a scrappy bunch of blocks on the design wall. I was downstairs and heard the dog upstairs running back and forth along the hallway like a madman. This is not necessarily unusual behavior for him and I didn’t give it too much thought until he came downstairs with one of my blocks in his mouth. Apparently some of them had come loose from the design wall (I told you it was cheap), fell on the floor and he’d had a field day running around with them and shaking them and growling as dogs do. Amazingly, they weren’t very worse for wear, just had dog spit on them.


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What is this? Nursery school?

please flush-500-72


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I had a very productive weekend this time. The house wasn’t so dirty after having been cleaned top-to-bottom last weekend, so I didn’t mess with any of that, except for laundry. That left more time for photography, sewing and yard work. I intended to give the quiltmobile its first bath yesterday, but the sky couldn’t decide if it wanted to just spit or actually rain and get it over with, so that task never happened.

Saturday morning I headed over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for my first outing with the Richmond Photography Meetup group. Our goal was to shoot the butterflies in the Conservatory. There were about 30 people signed up, but I think a lot of people straggled in past the 9:30 meeting time, so I don’t know how many actually showed up. I don’t think anyone was taking attendance. Entrance into the Butterfly room is limited because it isn’t very big. There were posted guards at the door and I felt sorry for the older woman at the entrance side because she couldn’t seem to keep people from opening the 2nd exit door before the inner door was closed. Even though there was a younger woman posted inside for the purpose of making sure that the butterflies couldn’t escape, some people managed to get past her and went out the door without following the rules. I didn’t see any butterflies trying to beat the system too, thankfully.

The room was hot and sweaty. They have automatic misters that come on frequently so the humidity level in there is almost unbearable. Maybe that’s good, keeps people from lollygagging in there. Unless you’re a photographer with the express purpose of lollygagging. But when the misters came on, we had to point our lenses down so as not to get rained on. I heard someone say they were having trouble with their lens fogging up, but I didn’t have that problem. The butterflies were flying all around, not all of them were interested in posing for us. There was a beautiful blue one which was the prize because it was so elusive. You see, the blue is on the “inside” or top of its wings and you could see it when it was flying around. But when it landed (not often enough) it closed up its wings and it was a pretty boring gray/brown color on the outside/bottom. Nothing to write home about.

I got better shots than I expected. I was using my 55-250mm and shot in either manual or shutter priority because I wanted to keep a fast shutter speed to avoid shake (on my part) and also to freeze the butterflies in flight. It was a little cloudy overhead and I suppose there could have been better natural light than there was, but I had my ISO cranked up to 1600 in order to get a proper exposure on my meter. I didn’t want to use an ISO that high, my camera is not one of those high-end ones that are noiseless at high ISO settings. The butterflies were flitting around so much that shooting them in flight was pretty much not working for me, so I dialed down my settings and concentrated on getting them when they landed on something.


This next one is a moth, probably the size of my hand. It was stunning. There were two or three of them on this tree and they were very obliging for the cameras.

After I left the Conservatory, I wandered around the rest of the grounds for about an hour, stopping to talk to other like-minded photographers. It was a beautiful day, even with the humidity the sky was blue with fluffy clouds. I left around noon, having taken almost 100 shots.

John took the dog for his annual shots in the morning and then spent the rest of his afternoon at the office. Saturday night we went to Mimi’s with friends from church, had a wonderful time.

Sunday found me out in the yard, finishing some cleanup I had started the day before. We weeded the crabgrass out of the front bed on the corner as it was threatening to take over the drainage ditch. It’s always something, isn’t it?

I got a lot done on the unnamed quilt. All the blocks are trimmed and positioned on the design wall. Putting the top together is probably my favorite part of the process, probably because it means it’s almost done LOL. In this picture, the row on the floor has been stitched together. I put 2 more rows together this morning before work and at this rate, the top could be done by week’s end. I really do think it needs borders and I’m thinking seriously about one with scallops. I’ve never done one before, but I’ve seen it demonstrated on TV several times. I’ll have to play with it in EQ6 to make sure it’ll look good.


John bought the new Wii Resort game yesterday and we played best of 3 in table tennis. He won, 2-1. It was fun. He spent his afternoon going through our old audio CDs and loading them into iTunes on his media center computer. I spent my afternoon weeding through the bazillion photos on my computer and getting them organized. I am going to start uploading more of them to my flickr account, so stay tuned for that.


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Attention Bloggers

I follow a LOT of blogs and I frequently see photos that look terribly washed out, which is a shame if the pictures are landscape shots that are meant to look good. Scott Kelby posted to his blog that he figured out that if he let WordPress reduce his photos to fit the maximum allowable size, they didn’t look so hot. I went back to some of my photos and while I couldn’t force every one of them to improve, this one had a pretty dramatic difference:
heidelberg doorway-75heidelberg doorway-500-75

So if you have the same problem, whether your blog is on WordPress or one of the others, try sizing your photos to *your* maximum (in my case it’s 500 pixels on the long side) before you upload them and see if that makes a difference. The downside to this is that your visitor won’t be able to click on the photo to get a larger view. But 500 pixels is a decent size, don’t you think?

(And my apologies in advance if you get a bunch of old Wordless Wednesdays in your feed. I went back and changed them all to 500 pixels.)

[UPDATE: It seems that whether or not you see a difference in these two photos depends upon your browser and operating system. I can see it on my Mac in Safari, Firefox and NetNewsWire. My husband cannot see it on his Mac with Camino. At the office, I cannot see it on my PC with IE6 or Firefox. So now I don’t know what to tell you.]


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Identify this plant

Does anyone know what this plant is called? Theses picture were taken at The Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia but I saw another one at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and it didn’t have an ID tag.


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Yes, I’m sewing

I’ll bet you never thought I’d get back to talking about quilting. (Me, too. Although my husband and his brother, maybe not so much.) I’ve been sewing every day for the past few weeks, just not talking about it (how boring would it be to read a post that says “Finished 8 blocks today” over and over again? sounds more like something for Twitter).

I put the current project over in the sidebar, it doesn’t have a name yet. I’ve finished the 41 red “nine-patch alternative” blocks:

and the 40 scrappy nine patches:

And now I just have to square them up before sewing them together. Gag. I really hate the square-up process, but it really is worth the extra effort when the blocks fit together ever so sweetly. Believe me, I quilted for many years before I ever heard the term and I struggled with seams that had tucks in them because one block was larger than the other or seams that I had to ease in because one block was smaller than the other. And it’s nice to know that these blocks are pretty accurate, I’m not having to trim off very much at all:

I haven’t had anything on my design wall in a long time. My studio is in the room over the garage which has two dormer windows on the front-of-the-house side. So I tack up one of those el-cheapo vinyl tablecloths with the flannel back between the dormers and that’s my design wall. I would love love love to attach masonite panels to this wall to use as a design wall, but I doubt that John would go for it. The tablecloth isn’t very attractive and it does hang over the outlet that everything’s plugged into. But oh well, like I said, it was cheap.


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