Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photography: What I've learned (longest post evah!)

I feel a little strange writing this post because I don't feel like an expert in this area at all. That being said, people ask me all the time what kind of camera gear I use, how I edit my pictures, and so on. In looking at StatCounter, I've also realized that this here little blog has gathered quite a following of quiet folks who never comment. I'm assuming they came from Flickr because they find my photos entertaining. So here is the photography post I promised.

Brookie's Photo Tips:

1. Get in closer. In the beginning people always make the mistake of trying to get everything (including the kitchen sink) into a shot. The result is a lot of space around your subject and tiny heads where you can't even make out an expression. You are never going to capture a feeling that way. Try not to worry as much about cutting things out of a photo if it helps portray an emotion or feeling. Here is an example:

Too far away,

Up close and personal,

2. For pets and kiddos, get down to their level. Looking down at something is never as interesting as getting down to eye level with them.


Eye level,

3. Color. The number one thing I do when I edit photos is boost the saturation. That, and boost the contrast a bit. Almost every shot looks better with a little "oomph" to the color. You can do this in virtually every photo editing program. Try it, I think you'll like it.

4. Get away from "auto". Try using the other settings such as "portrait", "night", "macro" when applicable. It makes a big difference. If you have a DSLR, take the time to figure out aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. It will open up a whole new world for you!

5. Never, I repeat never, use the flash. Basically, think of on camera flash as the devil. Using a flash makes your pictures flat and gives them a totally unnatural feel. Indirect sunlight is the best for photographs, but tungsten (lamp) light works, too. Try taking portraits inside next to a window but out of direct sunlight. Some of the most beautiful light there is is in "open shade" Where you find a pocket of a shady spot surrounded by bright light. This makes for beautiful bright eyes with no squinting. Avoid photographing people in bright sun, shady spots or cloudy days are best.

That's it. I'm not giving away all my secrets ;)

Since people often ask about my gear. Here is what I use:

I have been taking photography fairly seriously since my mom and dad gave me a Fuji FinePix for college graduation. That camera is a step below a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera). With the Fugi you can do quite a bit of experimenting and adjusting of settings, but it does not have interchangeable lenses. 2.5 years ago, I bought my DSLR, a Canon 20D off of ebay. The camera was an older model and out of production so I was able to get it fairly cheap (much cheaper than the new 30D I was lusting over at the time). Looking back, I would have been fine with the Digital Rebel XTI which I could have bought new for the price I paid for my used 20D. The 20D sturdier and more professional, but the pictures are the same, so who cares! I recommend the Digital Rebel to anyone who asks me what they should buy.

Primarily, I use my Canon EF 85mm 1.8 for most portraits. It is spectacularly sharp and provides beautiful background blur at high aperture. It is also quite fast in low light, which is important. The only drawback to this lens, is that it is a prime lens, meaning it does not zoom in or out. The image you see through the lens is somewhat magnified, meaning you have to get pretty far back from your subjects to get a wide shot. There are disadvantages to this, such as not being able to photograph full bodies indoors, and advantages, such as being able to take portraits of outdoor subjects while giving people some comfort space. This is my very favorite lens (please don't tell my wide-angle!).

I also use the kit lens which came with my camera (the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6). It is a cheap plastic lens but it works okay for an all around lens. I use it quite a bit just because versatility of the ability to zoom.

My wide-angle is a Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 super wide. It's a really fun lens to use and you can make tiny spaces look HUGE.

My newest lens is a Canon EFS 55-250mm f/4-5.6. I bought this for nature photography but so far, I have not been too impressed with it. Its not as sharp as I would like. I probably need to play with it more.


I currently use Adobe Photoshop CS3. I used to use Adobe Elements which was is a good introduction to Photoshop where you have almost all of the same features. You can also do much of the same stuff with free web based programs like Picnik.

Now go out and take some photos!

P.S. If you find this helpful, please let me know.


I got interviewed by a Chinese lifestyle magazine yesterday. How crazy is that? They are doing a story about internet phenomenon and wanted to ask me questions about my 365. They are going to send me an electronic copy as well as a print copy when its done. I'll share it with you when I can :) They may display a whole month of my photos!

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I heard the most powerful thing on NPR today. It made me cry like a baby, right there in my car.

They were interviewing a group of African Americans about what this election means to them. This was recited by one man:

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run. Obama is running so our children can fly."

Monday, October 27, 2008


We had the big Halloween party at our house this past weekend. There were around 40 people in attendance despite the semi-frigid temperatures. There were some really amazing costumes and one very unique guest (a freshwater jellyfish that Corey's aunt and uncle fished out of their pond and brought to show us). We had a pretty good time. I went as a rather famous "hockey mom" and Corey was "Pork Barrel Spending", although his homemade barrel fell apart after a few hours.

On a totally separate note, I've been thinking I should do a post on photo tips that I use and that others might appreciate. Just a little heads as to what I have in the works :)

Have a happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I got high today

Its not what you are thinking. Get your head out of the gutter. I took a ride in a 4 person airplane. It was so cool! We even buzzed over our house :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I entered my"Dog Guitar" photo into a contest. I'm hoping its just strange enough to get noticed. Please vote for me :)

Vote for my photo!vote

Saturday, October 18, 2008

*Coupon Update*

Yesterday I took my trusty stack of home printed coupons to Marsh for my weekly shopping. I had checked out Marsh's weekly ad to see if I could double up any of the deals. Turns out, I could!

The results are in: I saved $8.66 cents on an order of $43.54 by using a combination of coupons, store specials and credits for my re-usable sacks! Woo hoo! I was careful to only buy what I would have been buying anyway, non of that "oh I'd better get that, its a good deal" stuff. To top it off, I used a coupon code from that website to get a free movie rental (Baby Momma) from "Red Box". Woot!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What a deal!

Lately we have been saving our pennies to help finance our ever growing adoption expenses. The state of the economy doesn't help the situation, either. So, my ears perked up when I heard this story on NPR. I'm off and on with coupons but I never can find the best deals (using a coupon on top of an in-store-special). My mom swears by Walgreens and their freebie deals, she has a bathroom full of goodies to prove it. Unfortunately, we don't have Walgreens around these parts. Anyhoo, the woman interviewed in the story has an awesome blog where she has great tips on deals and steals, something all of us could use right about now. I also checked out which allows you to print free coupons at home eliminating the whole sorting through the newspaper part of the deal. Pretty cool.

Since I hate to post without a photo, here's a webcam shot while I type this...

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm in love...

I don't think I've ever loved any of my creations quite as much as I love this. Pure, felty love.


I'll take and post a proper photograph soon!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I finished up the bag and the handles tonight. I just tossed them into a hot wash cycle and I'm crossing my fingers, hoping the felting turns out right. You never know how it'll go.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oh noes!

My first maternity shoot and the mother went into labor! Just kidding ;)

This was so much fun! Doug and Jennie were such good sports to put up with me all afternoon, I figured I'd better give them a little peek at a few of the shots.

Is this not the most adorable couple ever? They are going to make such awesome parents. I can't wait to meet their bundle of joy in a few short weeks!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Stripes, stripes and more stripes.

More progress

Oops! Forgot to post the progress I made on my piece before bed. Sorry you get a sleepy morning shot while I wait for the dogs to "do their business".

Began working up the sides and started on a new color.

Alternate use of the bag?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New project

It's that time of year again. When the weather turns cool, I get the itch to knit. My current project is to knit this cute little felted bag. I thought it would be fun to track my progress here on the blog. So here it is, so far. The flat, bottom part is almost complete. Then I will pick up stitches around the edge and start knitting it in the round.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I'm into the food shots lately. Now that I'm done with my 365 I'm branching out. This is the homemade sketti sauce we canned this summer.

Before and after

We harvested all of our peppers from the garden and made them into Hot Pepper Relish, which we canned. It's delish with cream cheese on a cracker.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Turn up the volume and wait for her to hit the pole. Good stuff.

To make your life easier...

I know most of you probably already know about the nifty feed readers out there. If you are already using one, please stop reading now or I will almost certainly bore you to death.

For those of you who don't have a clue what I'm talking about, feed readers are a simple way to keep track of all of the blogs and websites that you follow. Feed readers are like a "one stop shop" where you can see updates to all your favorite sites without having to click each and every one to see if there have been any updates. The one I use is Google Reader. I've found Google Reader to be the easiest to use but there are plenty of others out there. Check out this LifeHacker post for a nice rundown of some of the most popular ones. You can thank me later...

Check it out, yo!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Whatever you do...

"Its rampant like herpes...but for positive."

Life lesson 42,351... Back up your shit!

Wait, that doesn't sound right. But seriously.

So here's the bad news:

I've always been one of those "It'll never happen to me", folks. Well, two days ago, it happened. Out of the blue, my hard drive crashed. Pretty much ever photo I've ever taken and lots of things I couldn't bare to lose were on there.

The good news:

Last year I started running out of space on my computer (on account of all the pictures) so I bought one of those "external hard drive" thingies. It just so happens that Leopard, the newest operating system for Mac has a program called "Time Machine" which automatically backs your stuff up without having to really even think about it. All you have to do is plug it into the external hard drive every once and a while and *poof* its backed up! So after getting my MacBook back from Apple warranty repair, and some sweating (I wasn't sure if I'd hooked it up since our trip out west) I was able to get EVERYTHING back :)

If you do not have one of these external hard drive doodads, I HIGHLY recommend getting one. If you don't have a Mac running Leopard, it will take a tiny bit more effort to save your stuff, but trust me, it will be well worth it. Just imagine losing all your precious family photos and such. It can happen! In fact, it will happen, its just a matter of time.

What I'm planning to do from now on is to store my external drive at my office and then take my laptop in every week or so to let it back up. That way, if there is a fire or something, my stuff will be okay.