Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Before the Dawn

pIMG_9249 by Dina

Night is coming to an end, we have finished up our current exploration of Night Photography. Your explorating shouldn't stop now, however. Armed with the info I've shared you are ready to continue your photography into the night.

Take some time to explore the links below and the Flickr pool. There are so many great interpretations of "Night" to be found. Today I chose Dina's wonderful point of view on the chandelier, to remind us night isn't all about outside, interesting images are to be found with the inside lights too. Below, Brenda used the blue hour to great effect as contrast for the red beams, and Deborah reminds us of the beauty of a summer evening. I can almost feel the evening breeze and see the views from that ferris wheel. Gorgeous.

Tomorrow it's time to begin a new exploration. No more "second edition" Exploring with a Camera posts, it's time to go back to school and get back to routine. I've been surprised at how much I enjoyed revisiting the "second edition" topics with you all this summer, so I may do that once in a while for fun. For now though, I have new things to explore. Come back tomorrow and see!

Finally, don't you want to know who won the giveaway?
The postcards go to comment #22, Paula of Little Scraps of Magic
The mousepad goes to comment #16, Kathy of Kathy Captures Life's Blog
Thanks to everyone who participated!

2011-08-24 by bgottsab

IMG_8679 by Deborah T

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finding Color and Space

From scooter love yesterday to Burano love today. I am sharing "color" today, in honor of the wonderful Rachael Taylor who has featured me on her blog. Rachael is a surface pattern designer I met at the Do What You Love Retreat in May. Her work is beautiful and simple, and she loves bright colors, just like me. Stop by and visit her blog here to see me featured, and stick around to see her work. You will find something you love, I guarantee it. My favorite is this orange bag, which I brought home with me from the retreat. I'm so excited that it arrived with my goods from Italy, and I can start using it again. Orange Power!

I'm celebrating negative space on Mortal Muses today, so thought I would share some "space" here too. Have you stopped by and visited Mortal Muses lately? There's been a lot of change! We celebrated our first year at the beginning of August and now have five lovely new muses bringing their beautiful images and words your way. I have always loved how having nine different people working together creates a place of such beauty and diversity, and that has not changed. I hope you will join us there.

PS - Don't miss the giveaway on yesterday's post, there is still time to enter.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Scooter Love in the Pacific NW - and GIVEAWAY!!

Who would have thought it! I went to Portland (1.5 hours north) on Saturday with a friend to see the traveling production of Mamma Mia. After the show we headed to the Northwest section of the city and what did we run across? Vespa scooters. Not one, not two... Seven in all. Seven!! I was in scooter heaven! Especially this one, parked in an empty garage against a textured wall in some moody light. It was calling my name. Luckily, I had my little Canon PowerShot with me to answer the call.

Someday, I will have a red Vespa scooter. And I will park it in front of every texture-y wall I can find to take pictures. Until then, I will take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way to live vicariously through taking photos of someone else's red Vespa.  And I can do this in Portland. Who knew?

What a weekend though! Not only was there fabulous scooter love to be found, but we received our container from Italy. Yay! Early Saturday morning, the truck pulled up and there was the container waiting to be unloaded. All sealed and packed, just as it was as it left from our apartment on Via Matteotti. That means, however, that our lives are in disarray again. The semblance of order and routine we had been able to create for a few weeks is once again dismantled as we unpack boxes and try to figure out how to fit everything in to our house. Our house in the US and our apartment in Italy were the same size in square feet/meters, but there was so much more storage in the Italian apartment. Add the belongings that were in storage in the US to the items we collected over two years in Italy, and you have the makings of one gigantic garage sale in a few weeks. First priority is to get to the point I can walk through the house without tripping over anything though!

On top of that, the Liberate Your Art postcard swap blog hop was going on. So fun! I had such a great time hopping around, seeing where the art ended up. It provided a much needed break from the unpacking. The swap turned out better than I imagined, and the blog hop was a blast. I can't wait to do the swap again in 2012!!

Until then, I have tons going on around here...

  • Find Your Eye registration is open for the September-October class series! I'll be running Starting the Journey and the all-new Journey of Inspiration. Right now the August class, Journey of Recognition, is going on and has it been fantastic. I couldn't ask for a better group of participants. I love doing this!
  • We are exploring Night Photography in Exploring with a Camera. I had forgotten how much I love taking photos at night! I hope you will join us and link in before Wednesday. You can still get the Night Photography Camera Companion if you sign up for the newsletter too. I'm sending a "catch up" newsletter to all new subscribers this week so that new subscribers don't miss out.
  • You still have a few more days to catch Superhero Summer Camp too. Sign up for this fun and free six-week class closes on August 31. 
  • And finally - in honor of the seven Vespas of Portland - how about a GIVEAWAY!! My first one on US soil. I am going to give away a set of my new "Classic Italian Transport" postcards to one lucky reader, and a Vespa mousepad to another.

I will draw for the postcards on Wednesday morning when I write my blog post, from the comments left on this post. Let's make it fun, you can have more than one entry. How about a whole bunch of entries!! Leave a separate comment for each of the following:
1. Just to say hi!
2. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook
3. If you are a newsletter subscriber
4. If you have registered for a Find Your Eye course (past or present) 

Good Luck!

Linking in to Creative Every Day and Creative Exchange, as always. Happy Monday! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap - The Blog Hop

1020 pieces of art
170 participants
37 US states
13 countries
2 homes
1 swap

I am struggling to find the words to describe how wonderful the Liberate Your Art postcard swap turned out to be. I set a crazy-big goal, to make myself reach farther and higher than ever before. You all came and answered the call, joining in to liberate some beautiful art and brighten someone else's day. I knew it would be fun. I never anticipated what you all would give to me. At a time when life could have been sad, with my move from Italy to Oregon, your mail filled up my post box with love and encouragement. Color, beauty, passion, peace... your art helped me through a difficult transition. The image above is the art that many of you gave to me, unexpectedly, unasked, along with the swap. I am honored to have them. I am honored to have met so many of you through this swap. I look forward to hopping around this weekend, visiting your blogs and seeing your swap experiences. Seeing what liberating your art and making connections brought into your life.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Share Your View: Night Photography (2nd edition)

Barn Dance 3
Barn Dance 3 by tim mcmurdo

The nighttime views of the world are quite varied! I hope you are having fun exploring Night Photography right now. You can tell the folks in the Flickr pool are! I had a hard time choosing a couple to share today. 

We have another week of exploring the night, so you can still get out late in the evening or early in the morning and show us what the night looks like in your area. You can link in below or share your images in the Exploring with a Camera Flickr pool until the end of the day Tuesday, August 30. 

Are you enjoying your Night Photography Camera Companion? Has it helped? Don't worry if you missed it! I'm sending a "catch up" newsletter just to new subscribers in order to get the Night Photography Camera Companion in your hands! If you haven't subscribed yet, do it now and you'll get the Camera Companion via email on Sunday. (If you don't know what a Camera Companion is, you can visit this post or sign up for the newsletter here - you'll get the Basic Composition Camera Companion as a gift for signing up.)

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year by Sharon Furner Fine Art

FYI - Links will be moderated. Please use a permalink, ensure that your linked image is on topic, and include a link back to this site in your post through the Exploring with a Camera button (available here) or a text link. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Day, A New Outlook

A new day has dawned, and my outlook has changed from fearful to ready to take on the world. Thank you all for the support and encouragement provided on yesterday's post! It's good to know that I am not alone, when those attacks of fear come along. So much wisdom and encouragement was shared yesterday, and I know it was meant for more than just me. The comments were filled with messages that we can all take to heart.

Here are just a few:

Diana said... I agree that fearlessness has to keep being relearned. (for me, too) Taking small steps takes energy and letting fear take over halts any progress forward.

Cheryl said... Fear does paralyze and then we begin to fade. Fortunately, we can reverse the fading and renew ourselves. New chapters in life mean new challenges and that is a wonderful process.

Gina said... Yep, you hit a chord here....being fearful is something we all have to fight. It does get easier as you age because you realize you want to make the most of the time left. Better to take the risk than live with regret. 

Gilly said... I think we all feel fear a lot of the time and about a lot of things, and we have this idea that there are all these successful, competent people out there who never feel that way. It isn't true, of course, but often the scariest thing is simply to allow ourselves to be who we really are.

There are so many more too! You can read all of the comments hereI am so lucky to have such wonderful friends online!

Today though, a break from crab pots! Even I, with my current love for them, can't do three days in a row. I also found inspiration in this view of a fishing boat in Newport, capturing the reflected light, color and lines of the nautical world. While the paint was fresh and clean, the boat couldn't hide the evidence of the effects of the sea. Textures abound. That's my eye!

Do you know your eye? Find Your Eye registration is now open for the September-October series, if you want to find out. I think opening registration today has influenced my outlook for the better as well - I'm so excited to do this again! I am having so much fun with the current series going on right now.

Learning for today: Excitement and fun are great ways to overcome fear too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Afraid... We Fade

When did we, when did we get so careful?
When did we, when did we lose ourselves?
Afraid... we fade.
We fade out.

-- Matt Nathanson in his song "Love Comes Tumbling Down"

This quote is from the bridge in my favorite song off Matt Nathanson's new album, Modern Love. These words have just stuck with me... "Afraid... we fade." 

So true, isn't it? When we are afraid of something, we shrink back. Hide. We stick to the tried and true, which over time becomes the boring and predictable. And we slowly, bit by bit, disappear.

As I've worked through some of my feelings around moving back to Oregon, photography, creative inspiration and blogging, I've realized I've been afraid. Afraid I wouldn't find photographic inspiration. Afraid I would lose my stream of creative ideas. Afraid I wouldn't have anything interesting to write or show. Afraid I would lose my blog readers.

So today as I debated on whether or not to post another crab pot photo, as I heard in my head, "Who would want to see another photo of crab pots," this song reminded me to just get over my silly fears and get on with it. Do what I love, write and share what interests me, as I always have. When did I get so careful? Why is this so hard? I seem to have to re-learn this concept over and over again.

"Afraid... we fade. We fade out." 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Deeper than the Eye

The heart sees deeper than the eye.
- Found on my Yogi tea bag Friday

Inspiration... sometimes elusive, other times abundant. As a creative person, I'm always aware of my sources of inspiration. It comes from the reading I do, the playing in my craft. It comes from exploring the world around me. Inspiration is everywhere.

Let me repeat: Inspiration is everywhere.

This weekend, inspiration was found in crab pots sitting along the bayfront in the coastal town of Newport, Oregon. Aren't the colors and textures just amazing? I spent quite a while exploring the crab pots with my camera. A few years ago I took one picture of a stack of pots in this town, and for some reason that image popped into my head before my excursion. I was on the hunt for crab pots.

During my hunt I found a number of other things... some interesting texture, brought on by the salt water and proximity of the ocean. I found interesting colors, from the quaint buildings to the stacks of containers in the fish processing warehouses. I found interesting contrasts, in the people working in the processing plants in their rubber boots and the tourists in their flip flops. I found inspiration in the process of taking pictures, with three new Exploring with a Camera ideas coming to me. Thank goodness for my little notebook and pen, always with me in my camera bag.

Most of all, I found a deeper truth, finally understood with my heart instead of just my head. My inspiration comes from the process of creating my art. It is found when I am out and about, hunting for photos. Seeing the world through my viewfinder and lens. Translating something that just catches me out of the corner of my eye into something that is beautifully presented. It is the process of photography -- of exploring, capturing and then making those little tweaks in post-processing to perfect an image -- that matters to me. It is the process of creating that is the whole point to all of this artistic stuff. Sitting at home, inspiration doesn't come for me. It takes getting out and doing.

For some reason, a year ago or more, I had this idea that I would move back to Oregon and still share mostly photos of Europe on my blog. I have gazillions of photos from my two years of living in Italy on my hard drive - many unedited and just crying out for review. Who knows, I might even have ones I like better than my favorites hidden in the folders. So I've had this idea stuck in my head, that's what I would do... Edit my photos from the last two years and continue share them here. For some reason, I thought it was Italy and Europe that was inspiring me photographically, and that just the sharing of the images would be inspiration enough to carry me a good long while.

Not true. I know now: It's the creative process itself that inspires me. What living temporarily in Italy did was get me out regularly with my camera, to new places. It exposed me to new and different things. It got me out and doing. It got me writing and sharing. Trying new things, like painting. Once I was doing all of that, the rest took care of itself.

Inspiration is everywhere I go, because it's found within me. 

That lesson, learned with my heart this weekend, may be the most important one I've learned to date. I hope you can take it to heart too.

Linking in to Creative Exchange and Creative Every Day today.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Playing with Night

Since we're exploring Night Photography right now, I had a couple of photos from my recent trip to Venice open to edit. Usually for night photos I do very little editing - cropping and a tiny bit of levels adjustment. I like the light of night as is. Looking at this one though, I started to see some "vintage" opportunities. There is just so much going on here, the store windows, the alleyway, the signs... not to mention the interesting light -- it's very well illuminated for night. I played around with some conversions and really like this one using Pioneer Woman's Heartland action. Couldn't this be from the 60's? With the exception of a couple of modern details, I bet it could. I liked the photo before, I love, love, love it now.

It's so much fun to do this type of play! I hope you are out exploring with your camera this weekend, staying up late and catching the night light. Maybe playing around with some edits, to see what happens. It's all fun! Tomorrow the Night Photography Camera Companion will be sent in my newsletter too - yay! I'm so excited to send this, and I hope it helps you get some great night shots. Keep exploring the night!

PS - If you don't know what a Camera Companion is, you can visit this post or sign up for the newsletter here - you'll get the Basic Composition Camera Companion as a gift for signing up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Two-Wheeled Adventure

This week, I rode my scooter to work for the first time! The first time out of the neighborhood, in traffic, stoplights and all that. I was nervous, but I had plotted out a route that was mostly 25mph streets with just a couple of 35mph, so I didn't have too much to cope with. I'm not one for posing in pictures, but I had my husband take a couple of photos of me when I got home just to prove that this scooter I've talked about is real and all!

A friend asked if I had all kinds of pics of the cute scooter in different places, and the answer is no. These are the first photos of it! I've been focusing so much on learning to ride it and practicing that I haven't taken pics. You can expect to see this little Honda Metropolitan in more photos soon... I'll have to find some good scenes to place it in just to get my scooter photo "fix" on a regular basis. Even though I have no cute photos of it yet, I'm linking in to our great new "Muse Mosaic" at Mortal Muses on the theme of TWO with my two-wheeled transportation. You can participate with your photos too!

And... we can't forget it's Paint Party Friday! I must be the slowest painter in the group. I posted this painting I started over a month ago and have had nothing to link in since then...

This week I added a couple more layers, purples and reds. I like the depth of the added colors but it needs more light/dark contrast so I'll be working on that.

After looking at it for a while, I started to feel like it really goes this way. We shall see, more layers to come. I'm just having lots of fun!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Exploring with a Camera: Night Photography (2nd Edition)

[Author's Note: This post finishes up the "Second Edition" Exploring with a Camera posts I've been doing this summer.  In addition to the link up at the end of this post and the sharing in the Flickr pool, for this topic I am creating a special "Night Photography" camera companion that will come in Sunday's email newsletter.  Don't miss it! You can sign up for the newsletter here.]

I discovered night photography about a year ago, in October 2009, on a trip to Florence and Tuscany. I'd taken the odd night photo here and there before this, and some even came out great, but it wasn't until we began traveling in the winter months that year that I really fell in love with it. When you travel in the summer, you have these long days to run around and see everything. By the time the evening comes along, everyone is worn out and you head back to the hotel room as the light fades, especially if you have kids. In the winter, however, the days end early and you find yourself out and about in the darkness, seeing the world in a totally different light. Amazing, beautiful, atmospheric light that is like no other. And just like the quality of light in the daytime, which changes from place to place, the quality of light and atmosphere of places at night changes too. You can see this in the photos I shared as part of my Six Days of Night series last year.  The photo above is one of my first attempts at night photography, in Florence.

My definition of "night photography" covers a broad range of light. As soon as the sun goes down and the lights start coming on, to me that begins the night. This is the time that the flash would start automatically coming on in your camera or you might just put it away, if you are used to using natural light.

Let's look at how light progresses from day to evening. This image of London is from very early evening. You can see that the sky is still quite light, but the phone booth is lit, the streetlights are on and the windows are starting to glow with light. There is still a lot of light at this time for your photos, but you start to get the warm glow that makes night photos something special.

The transition from day to night is called twilight or also the "blue hour" because you see the sky transition through a wonderful range of blue. The contrast of this blue sky with the warm yellow of artificial lights is especially pleasing, as in this photo from early evening in Split, Croatia.

Toward the end of the  "blue hour," the skies are an amazing deep blue, as in the photo below taken the same evening in Split, just later. The blue also changes as you look toward the west, where the sun just went down, versus toward the east. You can see the variation in blue in the sky of this image below, from bottom right to top left. I can't image a prettier blue color! No color adjustments done to this at all.

After a while, you will find yourself in full night, where the background skies are black. This has a completely different feel in the photo, all illumination is from the artifical lights around, as in this photo of Piazza San Marco in Venice.

Guess what? The blue hour happens twice a day, before dawn and after sunset. There is a great website,, that gives you the times of the blue hour for anywhere in the world on any day, so you can plan ahead!

Now that we've talked about light, let's talk about how to use it creatively at night. There are so many ways to photograph the night! Looking through my photos last week I came up with lots of ideas. To start off, you know that reflections are one of my favorite things, whether the smooth as glass reflection of my favorite Venice photo (I had to slip this one in!), or the ripples of the bay in Split.

Reflections don't only come from a large body of water at night as I've shown above. The pavement of the sidewalk, streets, rain... at night there are unending sources of light reflections. Not only are they cool to capture, but they increase the light available for taking photographs. Keep your eye out for them! We had a rainy night during our visit to Bath, and the reflections were so interesting. The really highlight the stone walkways and streets.

You might also note how yellow the light looks in the above photo, I did not do any adjustments to white balance to change how it came out in the camera. In my night shots I like the yellow glow of the lights, because that is part of the feel of night for me, although sometimes I do tone it down just a bit. You have to be careful when you adjust white balance on a night shot, because you can make the image look weird. The image below is an example. Left is out of the camera (quite yellow), Center is the color correction I like (still slightly yellow), and Right is over-corrected (no yellow left at all). While the flowers are white in the right one, that adjustment ends up creating an overall blue cast to the photo, and it no longer looks quite like night.

Night is a time for wonderful light bokeh. Since you often need to shoot with a wide open aperture to keep shutter speed down, you can capture the bokeh of lights in the background. This photo of the Chapel Bridge and the Lucerne water front is a good example. Since I've focused close to me, on the bridge, the waterfront behind is out of focus with nice bokeh. I've decided that I don't use this effect enough, I need to play with it more in my night shots.

Watch for light pools or effects. Some of the paned windows in York provided wonderful shapes of light on the ground. I would love to go back and focus some shots just on those!

Night is also a wonderful time for silhouettes. Either from the fading light of twilight, or an artificial light source. The silhouette of the person walking by the bookstore in Padua, in the shot below, gives interest to the colorful background. And the strong light coming out the store front made this easy to get.

Strong light can also create shadows, sometimes in multiple directions at once if there are multiple light sources, like in this photo of my son's legs and feet. Pretty cool! You don't see this in the day, since we only have one sun. :)

Another great thing to capture at night is motion - in the form of blur. Because of the longer exposures you need, moving things will be blurred in your frame if the camera is still. You can also try to capture a moving object as still, with the background blurred to show motion, if you pan along with the moving object. This takes a lot of practice and trial and error. I don't have any great examples of this, although I've tried, but the photo below from Venice shows the idea. I was on a moving boat, trying to get the bridge over the canal still while the rest of the photo was blurred. More practice is obviously needed, but hopefully you get the idea.

Sometimes, when you have just gone beyond the limits of any clear, in focus shot, just play. The photo below is from that same Vaporetto ride in Venice. Since I was moving on the boat, I played around with longer shutter speeds and intentionally moved the camera to get some cool effects. Kind of neat how the background buildings are still clear and "still" while the bright lights are moving - completely unplanned.

And finally, don't be afraid of the dark. This is night, you can have large areas of your photo completely black and still have an amazing photo. Throw away the idea of the the entire frame being exposed when you are shooting at night, and just go for your focal point. It can create a dramatic image, like this one, another all-time favorite of mine from Venice.

My main mode of operation is to handhold my camera for night shots. I just am not willing to haul a tripod around with me all day so that I can have it handy at night, so big and cumbersome. So I've learned quite a bit along with way that I can share with you for optimizing your ability to get good "Handheld" night shots. (By the way, these will work in any low light situation, such as indoors, not just as night.)  The tips below will be incorporated into the Night Photography camera companion that will be sent on Sunday to newsletter subscribers, so you can have them in your camera bag wherever you go!

Tips for "Handheld" night shots:
  1. First off, turn off your flash! Turn your camera to a mode that won't allow the flash to come on.
  2. Camera shake is your biggest enemy here - just the movement of you holding the camera while the shutter is open. A rule of thumb to avoid camera shake is that the shutter speed should be no slower than 1/[Your zoom setting]. So if you are at 50mm zoom, your shutter speed shouldn't go below 1/50. At 35mm, shutter speed of 1/30.
  3. Increase your stability by taking a wide stance with your feet, tucking your elbows tight into your sides, and hold your breath while you take the shot. I can sometimes get good shots down to 1/20 or 1/15 with this method. You can also lean against a pole or the side of a building for increased stability.
  4. You can also increase your stability with an "assisted handhold" - use anything stable around, like a railing or bench or fence, and use that to help hold your camera. I put my hand under the lens, spreading my fingers and moving them around, to support the camera with the right angle. I also have to plan for more straightening and cropping in these shots, because you don't have as much control. Most of my Venice canal shots were done with the assitance of a bridge railing for stability. Another option that is less cumbersome than a tripod but provides more stability is a monopod.
  5. Set your camera on Aperture Priority, with the setting as wide open as it will go. This will help keep your shutter speeds as fast as possible.
  6. Or, set your camera on Shutter Priority, to a reasonable shutter speed. I often do this to set it at 1/50 when we are just walking around a town. I've found that this setting works consistently well for avoiding camera shake on the go, and it forces the camera to choose the best aperture for the exposure. This works when my camera is choosing slower shutter speeds but not using the full aperture range of my lens.
  7. My last resort is to bump up my ISO setting. This is one of the most wonderful things about digital, that we can adjust our ISO setting, instead of being stuck with whatever is set for the film that is loaded. When you're wide open on aperture and your shutter speed is still too low, then increase the ISO setting. I kind of think of ISO increase as a last resort, because with every increase to ISO you also increase the noise. I purchased my current camera (Canon Rebel T1i) partially because of the increased ISO range, 3200 and beyond, but the more I've gotten into night photography the more I realize that I would rather not use the ISO settings higher than 800 if I can avoid it. But - when faced with either not getting the shot or having a noisier shot - I'll always choose to get the shot, even with the noise.
  8. If all else fails, underexpose. By underexposing, you can drive your camera to shorter shutter speeds. As long as you don't underexpose so much that you lose the vital pixel information of your focal point, you can compensate exposure in the computer using software.  I've learned that I can easily underexpose 2/3 to 1 full stop on night photos and recover them in post processing.
  9. Constantly check your settings, especially shutter speed, if your camera is in an auto mode for exposure. You have to be aware of them as you shoot at night, even more so than you might normally, because the lighting conditions change so much from place to place.
  10. Always take multiple shots, because with several you might get one that one perfect one. There is a lot more room for error with night photography. And happy accidents too! Review in camera using the zoom feature, because sometimes a shot might look perfect on your tiny screen only to have some camera shake when you view it larger on your computer.
  11. Finally, if you just reach the limits of your equipment and don't want to go the tripod route, there is nothing that can help your handheld night photography more than upgrading your equipment for a lens with a wide aperture. Night photography is one area where your equipment really does come into play a bit more, so you will have to experiment and find the limits of your camera/lens combo.When night comes, I switch to my 35mm f/1.4 lens. This has given me an extended range of light I can work with at night. Consider trying out a 50mm f/1.8 lens as an inexpensive first step into this arena, if you have a dSLR. And if you have a point-and-shoot, well... you might want to think about a dSLR or use a tripod.
As I've progressed further with night photography, and especially after my photo lesson in Paris, I can see the benefit of the tripod. You can decrease your ISO and increase your shutter speeds significantly and take your camera limitations mostly out of the equation. The cost of it is carrying the tripod, so for me, I see this as an option when I am intentionally traveling to photograph rather than when I photograph as I travel (the latter is my normal mode of operation).

Tips for "Tripod" shots:
  1. You need a good stable tripod that will not move with normal winds and can hold your camera. My 24-70mm lens is a big one and so most of those little, compact tripods you can buy won't work for my camera. Also recommended with a tripod are a quick release feature (where you don't actually screw the camera into the tripod, but into a piece that you can easily connect and disconnect from the tripod) and a level that can help you keep your camera straight (something I need!). There are multiple types of adjustments available, but you want to make sure that you can do both horizontal and vertical orientation easily. There are so many types of tripods out there, if you can visit a store and try them out with your camera before you buy, that is recommended. I have a simple tripod that is strong enough to hold my camera stably, has quick release, but is as light as I could manage.
  2. Ensure flash is off.
  3. Set your ISO lower, to reduce noise. Try as low as the camera will allow you to set it, and work up from there as needed.
  4. You have more flexibility in your aperture and shutter speed settings, so play around here. You might still want to set your aperture wide open, to reduce the shutter speed, just to avoid really long exposures you will need for a low ISO setting. You are still subject to camera shake with a tripod, just less so. The longer the shutter is open, the more likely you are to have an issue.
  5. Use a remote shutter release. You can still shake the camera on a tripod just by pressing the shutter. Remote shutter releases (cable or wireless) are available inexpensively for many cameras. This removes you completely as the source of the camera shake.
  6. Use your camera self timer. Another option, if you don't have a remote shutter release, is to use the self timer feature that most cameras have these days. This doesn't work so well, however, if you are trying to time the shot with movement in or out of the frame. For example, in many of my Paris shots, I had to be ready to shoot as soon as my frame was clear of people. If I used the self timer, I could never have been able to hit the shutter such that 10 seconds later the frame was clear.
  7. Again, review, check your settings and take multiple shots. Once you get everything set up perfectly, you don't want to be disappointed if you discover on the computer that it was slightly out of focus. It's hard to use manual focus at night, so I use auto focus as much as possible but that isn't always fool proof either.
[2011 Update: After using my tripod several times on photo excursions since this original post, I find I don't enjoy photography using my tripod very much. In some way it disconnects me from my subject, and while I can get technically great images, I don't love these images or the process of capturing them as much as I do when the camera is in my hand. For that reason, I mainly do handheld night photography. The lead in shot is a handheld image from Venice taken in June.] 

If you stuck with me here to the end you must be ready to start exploring night photography! Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to receive your portable camera companion on Night Photography this Sunday. You can link your recent or archive images in below, and put them in the Flickr pool for the opportunity to have me feature them here on the blog. I can't wait to see your view!

FYI - Links will be moderated. Please use a permalink, ensure that your linked image is on topic, and include a link back to this site in your post through the Exploring with a Camera button (available here) or a text link. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Out of the Frame

throught the window
through the window by olive.villarreal

We've finished up our exploration of Frame within a Frame, and did you find out what a great tool it is? I love how a frame within a frame can lead you through a photo to a subject. It's a tool that you can use in many different situations to great effect.

It was fun seeing the images you linked in (below) and shared in the Flickr pool. If you haven't already, spend a little bit of time visiting the other links for examples of frame within a frame images. Today I'm sharing a few from your fellow readers.

Join me tomorrow for my final "second edition" Exploring with a Camera of the summer. If you haven't signed up for the newsletter yet, this week is a good time. Sunday's newsletter will have a special camera companion that goes with tomorrow's Exploring with a Camera topic attached to it. This topic is another of my all time favorites, so don't miss it!

Paris, France
Paris, France by Christine E-E

hairsalon VIII
hairsalon VIII by rakusribut

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Planting Flowers of Generosity

These lovely flowers grace the doorstep of a store in Carbondale, Colorado. They put here for all to enjoy, freely shared with the passersby. They are meant for everyone, not just one, hence the sign in them, "Thank you for not picking me." I found this sign cute and amusing, but it's a polite little reminder that by a simple inaction - not picking the flowers - you can give the beauty to others as well.

Today I am thinking of generosity and service and how this fits with creating our best work and our best lives. I started thinking on this from an idea in Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, which I am still reading and loving. She writes:
How to be Lucky: Be generous. I don't use that word lightly. Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you. If you're generous to someone, if you do something to help him out, you are in effect making him lucky. This is important. It's like inviting yourself into a community of good fortune.
Doesn't that quote just feel right? Generosity is luck flowing out. We get as much, or more, from that outflow than when things are coming to us. And I think the kind of generosity she is talking is not about money, it is about spirit and heart. What do we have to offer others? Is it a smile, a phone call? We can be generous with our time and our attention. Our knowledge. Our encouragement, support and enthusiasm. There are a million ways we can be generous every day, and the first step may be leaving the flowers alone so that others can enjoy them too.

Building on this, another idea came my way this morning, via the Brave Girls Club "Daily Truths"emails (you too can sign up for these, go here). The email says:
Dear Influential Girl,

There is a beautiful and little known secret to happiness that it sometimes takes us way too long to finally learn....and it is one that we can start practicing today, fabulous friend.

When life feels overwhelming, upsetting or grim...we can instantly change our outlook on things by getting out and serving someone else. Somehow, when we turn our focus to someone else, and especially to making their load lighter, or their day comes back to us ten times stronger even than what we put out. That is some sweet math, isn’t it?

If things are tough right now, even if you feel like you don’t have time......just try it out. Make a phone call, write a kind note.....bake some cookies or make a piece of art for someone. Take time to really someone do something that is hard for them and easy for you. Something so beautiful will happen that you will forget about your own sadness for a while...and when things start feeling tough again, you have the power to get out and serve mankind in little ways all over again.

Just try, my friend. It will be worth the effort.

This is one of the most magical facts of life....and it works every time.
I like what they wrote, " something that is hard for them and easy for you." That feels right to me too. Generosity and service don't have to be hard. They don't have to be a huge sacrifice in order to "count." Maybe it's as simple as sharing something we are good at with others. Maybe it's just sharing a piece of our art in the form of a postcard in the mail, or a technique on a blog post. I think of these things, because they are how I share. They are what I enjoy doing. I hadn't quite thought of them quite in the light of generosity and service before.

At the moment we give of ourselves, we are outside of ourselves. We become part of the larger world and are contributing to a greater good. We make the world a more beautiful place. And, while it's not often our intent with generosity and service, we gain too. We forget our sadness, our own personal issues, and make room for that good fortune Twyla talks about to come our way.

If the first step toward generosity is not picking the flowers, the second step is surely planting and tending a few of our own. I'm pondering what flowers I'm planting today, through simple acts of generosity and service. How about you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

When a Plan Comes Together

Cheerful flowers and colorful paint make me smile!
Carbondale, Colorado
Guess what today is? Monday, yes. The middle of August, that too. It's also the day I link in to Creative Every Day and the Creative Exchange. But it's even bigger than that: Today is the first day of my part time work schedule. Woohoo!!

Last week everything was finalized and agreed, and as of today I will be working at my "day job" Monday through Friday ~11am to 5pm-ish. I am so excited. I have been working toward this change for a very long time.

For those of you who may be new around here, I fell in love with having my mornings as my personal time while in Italy. My work schedule was afternoons and evenings, due to the need to work with both the Italian and US folks on a daily basis, which left my personal time as the mornings. Some time ago, as part of a series called Lessons from Abroad, I wrote about how changing my schedule this way led to some great realizations for my creativity. Mornings are my creative time.

When I finalized my schedule and transition date with my new manager last week, I realized how long in coming this transition really was. It was almost a year ago, last October, when I first started talking to my former manager about going part time on my return to the US. It was before that, while writing the Lessons from Abroad series for Jenny Shih's newsletter and blog, that I identified the schedule change and aligning to my creative energy cycle as a key factor in my personal transformation. And it was part of writing the specific article, Change up Your Schedule, that I really started to think about how I could maintain my "mornings free" schedule upon my return.

So, over the last year I've been having periodic conversations with my husband, my management at work, and myself about how this could work. I've played with different schedule ideas, "trying them on" in my imagination to see what would fit for me personally and at work. The Monday-Friday/11-5 schedule is the one I settled on recently, and when I proposed it last week it was a win-win for everyone. My new manager likes that I will be there every day instead of taking a day off; I like that I have 5 more mornings a week for myself. Can't beat that.

This is a great example of how long it can sometimes take an idea to come to fruition. The idea of part time/ mornings free was a seed planted a year ago. Nurtured, the seed grew into a plan that I took small steps on over time. It is a good reminder that if you stick with an idea, turn it into a plan and take baby steps toward it along the way, you can make it work. Things may not happen immediately, but with action, things do happen. Without action, it's just daydreaming. Yes, I was nervous when I first started talking about part time at work. Yes, I was nervous to have the conversation on my schedule last week. But all of my groundwork and planning and patience paid off, and here I am this Monday morning, free.

What will I create today?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One Step at a Time

Today I'm doing something a little different, sharing this awesome and inspiring video from YouTube, which comes to me via new Mortal Muse Lindsey. Tell me how you feel after watching it! I'm going to try to share it with every woman I know.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Reality of the Situation

A group of colorful bike racks in a Carbondale, Colorado city parking lot.
I'm back in Oregon this week. I don't just mean back from vacation, I mean as of this week, I'm really here, back from Italy too. This is the first week where the reality of our situation - living here permanently again - has really sunk in. A few people have mentioned to me that things seem to be going pretty well with our return. It's true, they have been going surprisingly well. The adjustment has been much easier than anticipated in many ways. But I don't think it was until this week that "reality" hit.

Here are a few things I've noticed this week:

Travel. For the first time in two and a half years, I don't have a vacation coming up in the next couple of months.  No visits to new countries on the horizon, no next trip in the works. Just a stretch of several months with no vacation time left at work and no firm plans yet for future travel. It is odd. I found myself hurrying at work to get something done before I left for... nowhere. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I've gotten used to working to that next deadline of time off. Even moving back, I had three weeks here and then we left again to visit Colorado.  It's not bad, it's just different and something I need to get used to. This reminds me I need to get some plans on the calendar, if only for some weekend excursions. I love to travel too much!

Transport. We are down to one vehicle, living in a place where we've always had two. When we moved to Italy, we sold our car and had a friend keep our truck. We had always planned on buying another car when we returned, but several months ago I started wondering if we needed to. We had been living in Italy with one car, I could ride my bike to work (I used to commute by bike all the time), and our town is small enough to easily get around. Between bike, bus and scooter I figured we could get by. After returning home from Italy, we had a rental car for several weeks, which was returned the day before we left for Colorado. This week is the first week we are truly living with one vehicle. It's a different feeling to bike to work because I have to rather than because I want to. It's different to ask if a friend can drive because I don't have a car. Not bad, just a little uncomfortable at the moment. Not to mention that I have discovered that my body is not in the best shape to go from riding zero miles to 60 miles (6 mile commute each way) in a week. I couldn't quite make it through the week, I caught a ride on Wednesday to give my legs a break.

Finances. We've gone from a completely unique financial mindset in Italy (two years = no regrets), to a temporary mindset moving home (get our lives set up ASAP), to me starting a part time schedule next week. Back to reality, and getting ourselves on a long-term budget once again. We didn't go hog-wild while on our assignment, but the "no regrets" mentality did change our handling of money. That can't stay in place forever without serious consequences. I tend toward being financially conservative so my budget-minded, practical side keeps me in line, but my impulsive, emotional side is feeling the tension of restraint. Working part time is nothing new and living on a budget is nothing new... It's just like the bike though, we're out of shape and it's a little uncomfortable at the moment.

So there you have it in a nutsell: Reality has set in. When first moving back, it was all about the physical changes that come with location. Now I'm feeling real changes that make me internally uncomfortable. I know I'll get used to this new reality, but that doesn't eliminate the discomfort of changing habits. It only makes it manageable.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Share Your View: Frame within a Frame (2nd edition)

Pitcher by Dorian Susan

I approached picking photos for this post with excitement this morning. You see, I've chosen "easing" over "jumping" back into things this week, and I hadn't looked at any of the Exploring with a Camera: Frame within a Frame shots yet! It was so fun to go through the pool and see how you all were using frames within a frame. 

Today I'm sharing a few I enjoyed so far, and I'll be commenting on those linked in so far over the next couple of days. You still have almost a week to study this concept in your archives and with your camera, and then come back to link in below and share your images in the Flickr pool. Have fun!

Llanberis by carolynphillipsuk

FYI - Links will be moderated. Please use a permalink, ensure that your linked image is on topic, and include a link back to this site in your post through the Exploring with a Camera button (available here) or a text link. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Answer

So, what's your guess for today? USA or Europe? Just kidding, I won't drag you through another day of suspense!

Today's image is from Carbondale, Colorado.

Yesterday's image was from Old Colorado City, Colorado. Old Colorado City is the historic part of Colorado Springs.

Monday's image was from Burano, Italy.

What do you take away from this little exercise?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where in the World

Here is part two of yesterday's little "Where in the World" quiz. I'm not going to give you the answer yet, but this is the opposite place. After seeing this image do you revise your answer on which image is from Europe and which is from the US? Tomorrow I'll tell you which is which.

It's an interesting comparison, isn't it? I have enjoyed finding that my images are not as different as I would have thought between the two places. Sure, there are definitely differences in the details. That's the fun of photographing places, finding those little things that make each place unique. But at the core, my "eye" remains the same, and I'm loving the discovery.