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Archive for December, 2009

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GardenFest of Lights

I joined the Photography Meetup group at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Saturday night to shoot the holiday light display. Every one of them brought their tripods, I was the only one with a monopod. My concern was for the safety of the crowds in the dark, but it wasn’t theirs. Turns out, they knew more than I did.

A monopod is rather worthless with a long shutter. Why? Because you’re holding it and there’s no way to not shake it. The one I bought has 3 little legs for stability, but it still isn’t as stable as a tripod and you probably shouldn’t let go of it. Also, if you don’t have a ball head (I don’t) you can’t change the position of the camera from horizontal with the lens at a 90° angle to the ground. I found that to be a problem.

The next problem was the cold. It was so darn cold out there. I wasn’t able to get another pair of gloves, so all I had were some thin ones that did nothing to warm my hands. Because of that, I tended to rush through the garden and didn’t take the time to look for composition opportunities. I felt like I was just taking snapshots, and honestly that’s what they look like.

So here are my better ones. After seeing shots that other meetup members took, I could see what I missed. I need to go back and try again (with appropriate gloves).



By the way, I’m returning the monopod. I still think it has its place and I’ll probably buy another one at some point, but it won’t have those little legs.

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Tacky Lights

This time of year, we have a thing in Richmond called the “Tacky Lights Tour.” People who put up lavish Christmas light displays send their addresses to the newspaper, which publishes them every week. You can make your own guided tour of them, or you can take a bus or limousine tour.

We had never done this before, but last night John plugged into our GPS about a dozen of the addresses on our side of the river and off we went for a self-guided tour. The GPS made it easy, except for the times it wanted to take us around the block and right back to the house we’d just seen.

One of the best ones near us is actually two houses next door to each other. I believe one house belongs to the parents, who have been doing this for years, and the other belongs to their son’s family and he has joined in, making it a spectacular display. John read in the paper that their electric bill for the season is somewhere around $3,000. They live on a tight cul-de-sac and there’s a lot of traffic. Last night we saw a Greyhound-sized bus and wondered how it managed to maneuver around there. I didn’t take any pictures at this location, there were too many cars parked in front (and too many people).

This reminded me of my childhood. I grew up on a street in Bellflower, California that was known as “Candy Cane Lane” during the holiday season. It was just one or two blocks where all the neighbors wrapped their parkway trees in aluminum foil and red ribbon to resemble, um, candy canes. (Who is old enough to remember when you had a nice shade tree planted in your parkway (the strip between the sidewalk and the curb)? After a while, the city came through and took them all down and replaced them with spindly things that wouldn’t push up the sidewalk with their roots and create liability hazards for the city. It’s hard to find a nice tree-lined street these days.) Anyway, back to my story. Some of the neighbors went all-out in their decorations, including the people across the street from us who had a long front porch. He built a false door and put a button and speaker out at the curb. When you drove by and pushed the button, spotlights would come on, the false door would open and Santa Claus would roll out, wave back and forth and the speaker would say “Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas Welcome to Candy Cane Lane.” This was so popular, our street was crammed with cars every night. Our parents and neighbors parked their cars in the alley to help with 2-way traffic on the street. This event lasted until those neighbors moved away. I’ll have to ask my mother but I think the rest of the block continued to wrap their trees after that, but it was never the same and people didn’t come to see it anymore.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to practice taking pictures. I bought a monopod this week and need practice with it, too. It takes a few minutes setup and take down and John had to wait for me to accomplish this (I’ll have to get a quick release for it and that should make it go faster). He didn’t want to get out of the car because it was COLD last night, right at the freezing mark.

This is my best shot of the night and it’s not all that good. I think if it had been earlier (dusk) it could have been better.

This is actually the back of the house, overlooking a lake. I thought the reflection made it special.

Tonight I’m going to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Gardenfest of Lights event with the meetup group.

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Christmas banner

The mother of one of my co-workers (she’s also the wife of our CFO) makes banners. I didn’t know this until Erin (the daughter) showed me a few she had brought in. Her mom does amazing work. She makes all the banners for the annual Urbanna (Virginia) Oyster Festival in November.

I needed a new one for my front yard, so I bought this one:

She makes them with the reverse applique method. If you are interested in seeing more of her product, let me know and I’ll get Erin to bring them in so that I can take pictures and send to you. Trust me, these are quality, handmade pieces.

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Fail

Are you familiar with Fail Blog? I love it! People submit all kinds of wacky photos.

I went to the mall on Sunday and found a “fail” of my own:


This person certainly has something to say, just not sure why.

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Step up and keep warm

I was playing with the new camera with the new flash attachment and caught this awesome shot. I was able to dial down the intensity of the flash so that it would look more natural. I’m loving this flash!

Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and cozy?

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I love typos!

The other day, I stepped into the Motherhood Maternity shop just to look around and see what maternity clothes look like these days.

I was looking at some packages on a rack and had the hardest time understanding what the thing was trying to say. And then I looked at another package and it became more clear:

I’m not exactly sure what the product is, they didn’t have them in my day. But I think they have something to do with helping you manage your maternity wardrobe before and after.

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New gear

Wow, it’s been a busy weekend and not much time to post.

This has also been an exciting week as I treated myself to early birthday/Christmas gifts:

There’s a reason I got them early. At church, we are embarking on a project to put our member directory online. We’ve used Olin Mills in the past for our picture directories, but this year we’re going to do it ourselves. Sandy, Ken and I will be the “Presbyterian Papparazzi,” rotating shifts taking the pictures. Sandy and Ken have more updated equipment than I do and when it appeared that the quality of the photos was going to have to sink to the lowest common denominator (me), I decided to go ahead and get the gear, which I was planning to do after Christmas anyway. The church has purchased some of the stuff, like posing stools and lights on stands with shoot-through umbrellas and we borrowed a backdrop. The rest is up to us.

I bought the camera from usedcameras.com. It’s in awesome condition (well it should be, it was advertised as “mint”). I had it delivered to the office and nobody could believe it’s used. The flash was ordered new from Amazon. Sandy already had one and Ken and I bought our own. We will be using the flashes (master) to trigger the lights on the stands (slaves).

The day the camera arrived, you’d have thought I was one of those little kids in our Walmart spot that’s running now showing them waking up on Christmas morning and running to the tree. It was delivered to my desk by lunchtime so of course I had to do a photowalk around Shockoe Slip and the state capital.



I like this shot, I wish it didn’t have window reflection. I’ll have to find out how to avoid that in future.

Yes, unfortunately this is the city and there is some graffiti.


Amazingly, the azaleas at capital park were all in bloom.

These pictures look better on my computer than they do here, there is something about posting to WordPress (and possibly all blogs) and Facebook that makes them look so washed out. And of course, this was before I even looked at the user guide, so I’m probably lucky I got any shots at all. LOL

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iphone photo 7-75

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