Monday, July 29, 2013

A New Lens

When I got my first DSLR camera last year I also purchased a basic "how to use this complicated piece of machinery" book. One of the chapters in the book talks about "Lens Lust". Hmm, I thought, not for awhile. My camera came with two basic lens, one for close ups and things only a moderate distance away, and another telephoto lens, for landscapes and other things more distant. I thought that would be plenty for the foreseeable future. After all, I didn't really know how to use the camera at all. It would take me awhile before I felt like I really knew how to use these two lenses. Maybe then I would be ready to expand my equipment.

So I took a few photography classes and tried to practice as much as I could. I LOVE my camera. It can do so much more than a point-and-shoot. At first my only limitation was my lack of expertise.

But eventually I came up against a major frustration and yes, I started to lust for a particular lens. One of my long-time photographical annoyances has been trying to take pictures when the light is less than ideal. With a point-and-shoot, eventually I learned to not even bother if it was dark out at all. They simply don't have the capacity to take decent pictures in low light. With my DSLR I had better luck, but certain situations still caused me problems.

There are several ways to get a better camera to take pictures when there isn't enough light. You can, of course, use a flash, but I don't like the way a flash makes your subject look. There are ways to improve on flash photography, but that is a story for another day.

With a DSLR camera, there are three other ways to get more light into your camera. One way is to slow down the shutter speed. The trouble with that is that if your camera shakes at all while the shutter is open your picture will be blurry. So then you need a tripod. That's all well and good, but not great for, say, walking around a city in the evening and taking impromptu pictures.

The second thing you can do is increase the ISO. Remember film cameras? (some of you do). Camera film comes in different speeds - 200 ISO, 400 ISO, 800 ISO and up. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light the film and the better it performs in low light situations. DSLR cameras have that sensitivity built right into the camera. It is easy to increase the camera's ISO on the fly, and I do that a lot. The drawback to increasing the ISO is something called "noise". Noise is that graininess you sometimes see in photos. Its not terrible, but once you know about it, its bothersome.

The final way to get more light into a camera is something called "aperture". Aperture is how big the opening is where the light gets into the camera.  For those of you that know a little bit about cameras, you might have heard of something called "F stops". F stops are a measurement of just how big that opening is. The bigger the opening, the more light comes into the camera, and the easier it is to get a decent picture in low light situations without increasing the ISO or using a flash, or resorting to a tripod so you can use a slow shutter speed.

My basic lenses both have a maximum aperture of F5.0 at the very most. The measurement of apertures is confusing. F5.0 is really a fraction, 1/5. A larger F stop is actually a smaller aperture, that is, F11 is really a fraction, 1/11, so its smaller than F5. Better lenses have larger apertures, but it gets expensive, very expensive.

Earlier this month I went to St. Louis to visit my mother. One day while driving around doing some errands for her, I drove past a camera shop. "Hmmm," I thought, "Maybe a camera shop would help me decide which lens exactly I'm lusting after." I pulled into their parking lot and walked into the store.

Now I feel a little bad about this, because I was just window shopping that day, and had no intention of actually buying a lens. In fact, if I could find something affordable I planned on asking for it for my birthday, and Lee would in most likelihood buy it on Amazon. But who knows? I am in St. Louis fairly frequently; maybe I'll buy something at this store eventually.

A very nice woman was glad to help me. She showed me several lenses with larger apertures. It was very, very easy to go over $1,000 and up when purchasing one of these lenses, and I had no intention of doing that! So I kept saying I wanted to stay under $600, or lower if possible. Finally, she showed me a very nice lens, by Sigma, designed for medium distances (17-55mm), with a maximum aperture of F2.8. She attached the lens to a camera and let me play with it a little. WOW! Things really jumped into focus through that lens, even in the rather dimly lit interior of the camera store. And it was on sale too! I knew what I wanted for my birthday.

My birthday was July 22nd. My wonderful husband answered my wish. I've been having a great time with that little lens. I can take pictures in lower lighting situations without increasing the ISO or needing a tripod to handle the camera shake at slower shutter speeds.

I really am enjoying the process of learning to take better pictures. I think I will be lens-content now for quite awhile, although a macro lens for taking close ups of flowers and bugs and things would sure be fun....and someday a larger telephoto lens, with maybe a monopod to hold it steady would be great....

PS. All the pictures in this post were taken with the new camera lens, just wandering around our yard, enjoying the profusion of blooming plants in late July New England.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fourth of July Sailing Celebration

I'm sitting at the computer in our New Hampshire house on a late July afternoon, listening to the rain pattering down outside the window, with even a bit of thunder distantly rumbling thrown in. It's a typical rainy summer day in New Hampshire, with highs in the 70's and lows in the 60's. Its kind of nice, but its nothing like the summers I remember in Missouri growing up.

Summers in Missouri are, for the most part, hot and steamy. I can remember them before the advent of air conditioning, when summer evenings could be too hot to sleep, even with the doors to the back porch flung wide open, and my grandmother's exhaust fan going full blast. And a thunderstorm meant flashing lightning, violent winds, and pouring rain, not this gentle dribble we're getting today.

But over the Fourth of July we had invited our kids to come sailing with us. They usually visit over Christmas, which although fun, doesn't give us a chance to show off New England's glorious summer weather. So we enticed them with a promise of blissful sailing on the cool ocean breezes, and they bit.

Sarah and Erik decided to spend the first couple of days of their vacation in the city, taking in a Red Sox game. A couple of days before they were due to arrive, we received an email from Erik, subject matter "Top Secret". He told us he was planning on proposing to Sarah while they were in Boston, and we were ordered to say nothing until the deed was done. Lee was down working on some last minute fixes on the boat, so I had nobody to talk to except the dogs. I proceeded to jump up and down madly in the kitchen for a minute or so, uninhibitedly shouting "YES YES YES" before I calmly responded to Erik's note. There was no-one to tell and nothing to do except keep the secret as best I could.

The day before the Fourth we picked Daniel up at the airport. As we were waiting for his plane to land I received a phone call from Sarah. "Do you know why I'm calling mom? " Sarah said smilingly. "I think so!" I replied. So, we have an engagement, and its pretty darn exciting. The sailing trip turned into a 4 day celebration for all concerned.

We spent the afternoon and the evening of the
Fourth on the boat with Daniel. I had been doing some reading about the best way to get good pictures of fireworks. I wouldn't have an ideal situation, on a rocking boat without a tripod, but I would do the best I could. The best advice I found was to use a flash, and to take lots of shots, so that some of them would get the fireworks in full "bloom", so that's what I did. Some of them came out pretty good in spite of my limitations. But that's the trouble with learning more about photography. I know my pictures could have
been so much better, if my technique was more advanced. There's a lot to learn about photography, and my aging brain is having a hard time taking it all in.

On the fifth, Sarah and Erik took the ferry from Boston to Salem, Mass, where our boat is located. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny, HOT day. It was really, really hot for New England, with highs in the 90's every day on the boat. We stayed hydrated, and tried to stay in the shade. It cooled off a bit at night, but this weather was not what we had expected when we were bragging about New England in the summertime.

Out on the water, however, it was pretty nice. We repeated parts of our trip with Gail and Phil
from last fall, enjoying all the improved features on the boat. The electronics are new this year, the sails have been cleaned, the mast painted, and the rigging replaced. There are still things that need to be done, but its very nice having a good GPS and a depth sounder that really works.

One afternoon we went into Gloucester,  searching for fish for dinner. It was incredibly hot, and I started worrying about the dogs burning their feet on the sidewalk. I finally decided it was better to take them back to the park when our dinghy was docked. Along the way a nice business had put out a bowl of water for passing dogs. Both dogs drank deeply, and then Cosmo stepped right into the bowl with his front feet! Realizing that he couldn't get his back feet in as well, he proceeded to splash water all over the adjacent sidewalk and then laid down in the puddle he had just created. Sometimes we think Cossy isn't that bright, but this was absolutely brilliant doggie thinking!

Back at the boat, Sarah and Daniel had had enough of the heat. The ocean in New England is not normally swimmable, in my opinion, unless you are a native. The average temperature is about 60 degrees, way too cold unless you are wearing a wetsuit. But when it is 95 degrees and the sun is beating down, 60 degree water can feel pretty good. Only Sarah and Daniel got in the water in Gloucester, but by the next day in Marblehead we were all in there with them. I stayed in for awhile too and it felt absolutely great.

The last afternoon in Marblehead, I took the dogs for a walk in a nearby park. I had it in my head to take a picture in the same spot as I had taken a picture of Harper last year, but while we were there a brief thunderstorm blew through. We took shelter under a wisteria vine. Wisteria is beautiful, but it is very massive and heavy. I'd like to have one but it would need a more sturdy structure than anything I have in the yard right now. Maybe someday...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What's Blooming on Shore Drive - July 1st Edition

In Missouri the month of June is summertime. It gets hot and muggy and everything is in full bloom. In Texas, heck, May is summertime, and sometimes even April. But in New England June is still spring. This has been difficult for me to get used to. I start to get anxious because some of the plants that would be blooming if I were still in Missouri are just not ready. I start to think they aren't going to bloom for some reason, forgetting that in New England summer doesn't really start until July.

So, a couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the pause in blooms in my garden. Lots of things were ALMOST blooming...

....but many things were not. Then all of a sudden this week, the summer flowers started to show their pretty faces.

I have Monarda....




And Hostas....

....all starting to bloom.

The wild blackberries are even starting to form fruit.

The first year we were here we tried picking them, but they are so small and seedy, its really not worth the trouble. Now we leave them for the birds, and wait for the blueberries!

I even have a few very teeny tomatoes!

That's another thing that is difficult to adjust to. By June in Missouri the lettuce has bolted, and the cucumbers, beans and tomatoes are going great guns. By the first weeks of July I may even harvest a tomato or two.

But in New England I am still getting lots of lettuce and snow peas. I'm not complaining, its just different. By mid-August we will be up to our ears in beans and cucumbers, and Lee will be subsisting primarily on BLTs. That's not a bad thing, we just need to be patient!

And in the meantime I'll continue to enjoy my flowers as they progress throughout the summer.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...