Wednesday, April 30, 2008

47/365 Gearing up

As of Tuesday afternoon, we finally have two usable saddles with leather that actually flexes and don't weigh 50 pounds. So this evening, with the pressure of our first trail ride coming up in 10 days, as soon as I got home from work I changed clothes and ran outside to ride.

We're working with our trainer tomorrow night. It's like cramming for finals again!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, 1/60s, f/4.0 at ISO 800 in natural light at about 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

46/365 Redbuds in bloom

The redbud trees right now are simply stunning. It's the best part of my drive to work in the morning. When the sun is just rising and the light is just starting to touch on the trees, the redbuds leap out of the scene.

It's another tree, like the magnolias, that amazes me. They're so gorgeous in bloom, and then they gradually lose their vibrancy and blend into the green of summer.

This tree is straight across our pond out our back windows, so I get to see it every morning and evening. It's a photo I want to play with more to really capture the way the light hits it in those early and late hours -- before it fades.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, 1/60s, f/5.6 at ISO 200. Natural light at about 8:00 p.m.

Monday, April 28, 2008

45/365 A different sunset

I imagine this might be what sunsets in California look like in wildfire season. It was partly rainy today with peeks of sunshine, but the clouds at this time looked smoky over the sun.

Fires are one of two main topics that plague my dreams when I occasionally have nightmares. The other topic? Tornadoes.

A house right down the road from us burned yesterday afternoon. Since we live pretty far out in the country, more than two miles from the nearest town -- or any road with painted lines -- hearing emergency vehicles is an oddity. And when you do hear it, it makes you drop what you're doing to run to the window, or outside, to look for smoke in the direction they're racing.

Yesterday evening, we heard siren after siren after siren whiz by in front of our house. I stepped out onto the porch several times because they came in waves. We knew it had to be serious when we saw an extra tanker arrive from another town and then a bucket truck from the power company. Hopefully everyone got out safely.

And now I want to stop thinking about it so it doesn't give me nightmares.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR on Program setting, 1/500s, f/9 at ISO 200. Natural light at approximately 8pm.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

44/365 Dreaming big

One of Chase's main means of income comes from detailing vehicles. He's naturally really good at it because he's always had an eye for details and loves knowing the ins and outs of various machinery. Depending on the state of the vehicle and the owner's desire, he goes over every inch, inside and out, making sure every bit is maybe not looking like new, but as good as it can.

This Harley belongs to one of his regular customers. I think it's the only Harley he does, and I can tell that he always gets a little thrill when he goes to pick it up. My dad had Harleys for years while I was growing up, so when I hear Chase come up the road with this one, it brings back a whole flood of memories.

I didn't ride with Dad very often, but the one time I remember being especially excited was when he took me to one of my softball games. I got to climb off the back of that rumbling hulk of a machine, pull off my helmet, shake out my ponytail (like all the women do on TV) and go join my teammates.

Chase got to dream big for a few hours while he had this one, but in the end it did have to go back to its owner.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR on Program setting, 1/250s, f/9 and f/6.3 at ISO 100. Natural sunlight at about 11:00 a.m.

43/465 The most ridiculous toy a parent could have

When we bought our horse trailer, the dealer threw in a free cooler. But not just any cooler.

This baby has wheels. And a motor.
Yes, indeed, this is a cooler you ride.

As Chase said, after my parents said no to his taking it back to college with him, "This is the most ridiculous toy a parent could have... and you're keeping it from me!"

Watching him ride this cooler 1) like it was a high-speed bike 2) and with the joy of a 6-year-old, I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.
Who in the world thought this up? We bet it was some guy at a NASCAR race that said, "Honey, this is heavy. I'm tired of carrying it. Why don't I put wheels and a motor on this baby?"

A revelation after which you can say with me, "If your idea of a good time is riding your cooler... you might be a redneck."

It has a battery-powered motor that you plug in to recharge. It reaches speeds of up to 13 mph. On the left handle is a handbrake and on the right is the throttle. If you take the curve too fast you will tip, unless, as demonstrated in the picture above, you get the hang of leaning into it. And it really is a lot of ridiculous fun to ride.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR on Program setting in natural light at about 1:00 p.m.
1st photo: 1/500s, f/11 at ISO 400
2nd photo: 1/200s, f/8 at ISO 100

Saturday, April 26, 2008

42/365 Silver lining

The way the sun is lighting these clouds makes me think of a visual representation of looking for the silver lining. The timing -- sunset -- also lends itself to that image. If I were Shakespeare, I could write three pages of iambic pentameter exploring the parallels between this image and various events happening right now, but I'll restrain myself.

Instead, I'll just tell you that I spotted these clouds in the sunset a few hours before a line of spring thunderstorms rolled through. I was hoping for ideal lightning-photography conditions, but it never happened. Or at least, it didn't happen before I gave up waiting and went to bed.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, 1/60s, f/8.0 at ISO 200. Approximately 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

41/365 Showing its age

I like looking for repeating patterns and textures, so this was what grabbed me today. When the weather is pleasant, we spend a lot of time on this deck grilling, soaking up the sun, reading a book, watching the horses... I'm looking forward to getting some nice weather on the weekends when I actually have time to get out and enjoy it.

We've been in this house for 14 years, so these original boards are beginning to warp with age and sun exposure. Something interesting happened this winter when we had several extremely cold spells. In the severe cold, while I was sitting (warm) inside on the couch, every once in a while I could hear nails snapping in the deck outside. The first few times it happened, it sounded like gunshots right on the other side of the window. Gunshots aren't uncommon here, but hearing them at night is.

Now that it's warmer, the deck is quiet again and waiting for us to get outside!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR on Program setting, 1/80s, f/5.0 at ISO 400 in natural light at approximately 7:15 p.m.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

40/365 Artist at work

My mom has owned and operated her own custom quilting business for nearly 10 years. She does her work on a longarm machine, which differs from a sewing machine in that instead of feeding the fabric through the machine, you move the machine over the fabric.

Before she started doing this, I had no idea the actual stitching on the quilt could add so much to the piece as a whole. It truly is an art form.

And Mom really has an eye for design. She free-hands nearly everything, knows when not to make lines cross, how not get stuck in a corner... it really amazes me. And she knows when a quilt needs a fancy, complicated design or when an all-over simple repeating pattern would complement it better.

In these pictures, she's working on a customer's quilt. Her goal is to eventually do only her own quilts, focusing mainly on art quilts, but until that day comes, she has a steady stream of customers lining up for her work!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR under overhead fluorescent lighting.
First photo: 1/60s, f/4.0 at ISO 200
Second: 1/60s, f/5.6 at ISO 200
Third: 1/60s, f/5.6 at ISO 400

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

39/365 Growing unexpectedly

I love flowers that pop up in unexpected places. These are actually growing here on purpose in one of our several flower gardens, but there is a patch of daffodils on my drive to and from work that catches my eye every day.

They're growing on the other side of a rusty farm fence, in a patch of land that has been left to its own devices. Surrounding this little swatch of daffodils are tall grasses laid over by winter, dead weeds, and various small trees. But out from the wild pops these pretty little yellow and white flowers that are thriving in their untamed existence.

The best part, I think, is that they're not just a pretty wildflower, which you would expect to see in an area such as this. Instead they're a "domesticated" flower, if you will, that was either planted and forgotten years ago, or accidentally migrated to their spot.

If you were feeling sentimental and contemplative, you could draw all kinds of metaphors for flowers growing amidst adversity... but I won't go there now.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/60s, f/5.6 at ISO 200 in natural light at about 7:30 p.m.

Monday, April 21, 2008

38/365 Tulips arrive

I've been waiting for these tulips for days. I've been monitoring their growth, and then finally this weekend they started blooming, but not quite enough for my taste.

But today, they loved the 70-degree weather, and they really opened up!

Now I'm going to cut this post short, because it is yet again Dancing with the Stars time, and I'm terribly distracted!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200 in natural light at about 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

37/365 Quick on the draw

I was cruising the yard this evening checking out the latest flowers when my uncle, cousin, and his wife came out next door to do some target practice. I decided that was a more interesting photo opportunity (for the moment, anyways!) and went to watch for a few minutes.

This is my cousin, Wade, practicing a timed shoot of several targets. He started at one end on our "go", then moved down the line after success at the previous target. I was more focused on shooting him (ahem) than counting his targets, but he completed it in just under a minute, including a reload.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200 in natural light at about 7:00 p.m.

36/365 A pony and a Clydesdale

The original plan for Saturday included going to our horse trainer's house to watch as Tina worked in the round pen with a couple of her other clients. We'll be doing that in a couple weeks, so we were looking forward to a preview of what was in store for us.

But when the day dawned rainy yet again, plans changed. Tina invited us load up our girls and take them to the neighbors' indoor arena and ride with them. Because the footing in this arena isn't great, we didn't have any big new tasks to work on. Instead we just had the chance to spend time practicing the cues and work we've been doing for the last few months.

We rode with the same group as last time, including Sally and Temper, the "black stallion":Our girls did very well. Oprah kept her feet to herself this time (thank goodness), and we didn't have any big excitement until the owner of the barn came in to ride with us. His chosen horse wasn't just any horse -- it's a Clydesdale. Not many people ride Clydesdales. I imagine it must feel like trying to ride an elephant. They also tend to be "trippy" (exactly what it sounds like), so they can be rather dangerous.

All of our horses, including those of our fellow students', immediately reacted when this horse came in the barn. The stall area is actually outside of the arena and down a hallway, so the horse wasn't even in the same room. But as soon as she (it was a mare named Nikki) came inside to be brushed and saddled near her stall, all of our horses wanted to go check her out and watch. We had been walking in circles around the outside of the arena, like at a skating rink, but every time we got to the end near where Nikki was standing, our horses started craning their necks and did not want to listen and keep walking. Their attention was fully on this new horse.

I went outside to get my camera at Tina's request, because she wanted to a picture of Pat and her pony, Ginger, next to this Clydesdale. She said if she ever gets a website, she wants to put the picture on it to say, "I can fix your horse's problems, big or small."

Notice that it's the woman on the pony who is wearing a helmet -- not the guy on the Clydesdale!

The biggest excitement of the day happened when a couple guys arrived at the arena to buy some of the hay stacked inside. The owner got off the Clydesdale and tied her to a rail of the round pen. When he walked away from her, she wanted to follow, so she started walking -- and pulling the pen with her. The panels of the pen clanged against each other loudly, which made her start to freak out and pull back harder. The round pen morphed from a circle into more of a teardrop shape. Luckily the owner wasn't too far away, so he was able to get back to her, untie her and calm her down. If he hadn't, she would have kept pulling, the pen would have folded up and fallen over, and she could have run off with it. And that could have been disastrous.

So we learned a good lesson -- never tie your horse to something that can move!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR indoors under halogen lights, with additional natural light from high windows.
Temper: 1/60s, f/4.0 at ISO 800
Clydesdale feet: 1/60s, f/4.5 at ISO 800
Clydesdale and pony: 1/60 s, f/4.0 at ISO 800

35/365 Positively dreamy!

Ah, me. I love him even more now than I did before, and that's saying a lot.

On Friday night, I saw the one... the only... Michael Buble in concert at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

And oh my, was he fantastic. Actually, fantastic isn't a strong enough word. It was more like fant-abu-zing or won-cred-velous.

Michael Buble is truly a class act, even aside from the fact that he sings the great classic songs just as well as Sinatra. He has a very natural voice that was just as good -- or better -- in person than on a CD.

I would have loved him even if he'd just stood still at the microphone and sang for two hours. But he added to his greatness with a fantastic stage presence, he was very engaging with the audience -- and he was funny! He mentioned that he was awake for the 5.2 magnitude earthquake we had at 5:39 Friday morning, and he said it was the most action he'd had in a long time.

He sang a variety of his songs from all of his albums, as well as his latest hits. During "Home", they showed video clips of sights from around Indy behind him. The crowd loved it, and it turned into a very telling snapshot of the current spirit of the city. When a shot of Peyton Manning's poster on the side of the RCA Dome made everyone go nuts, it actually made him turn around to see what was on screen that had garnered that reaction. It was the same for the next shot of the new Lucas Oil Stadium. But a few seconds later, when a view of the spinning Pacers logo at Conseco Fieldhouse came on screen, no one cheered. You could have heard the crickets chirping had it not been for the song. Even a shot of the Chase tower -- just an office building, mind you -- got some applause.

His opening act was great, too. They were an a capella group called Naturally 7. When they first came out, I was a little surprised, because they didn't seem like the kind of group that would fit with Michael Buble's style. Their first song was a little more hip hop than the rest of their set, but when they started singing some songs that showed off just how good they were, it made more sense. Here's a video of one of their songs at another Buble concert. Everything you hear is a capella!

I could go on and on here about how amazing he was. If he were to come back to Indy with the exact same show, I would pay to see it again. Two words sum it up for me: positively dreamy.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Thursday, April 17, 2008

34/365 Messy trees and long shadows

One of the perks that came with this property when we bought it was a huge, healthy cherry tree. Every year it packed itself with these perfect sour cherries that would make your lips pucker and your mouth smile at the same time. I'm not normally a cherry fan -- whenever I get a milkshake at Steak n' Shake I offer my cherry to whomever will take it. But these cherries won me over. I loved to just stand on one side of the tree and search for the perfect selection, then eat handful after handful of them. We never even bothered trying to pick every single cherry because there was no way we could have handled that many.

Then, tragically, one summer afternoon, a particularly violent storm hit our area with marble-sized hail and straight-line winds. When we emerged from the house to assess the damage, we discovered that the cherry tree, heavy with fruit, had fallen victim to the strong winds.

We mourned our dear tree.

I requested a magnolia tree be planted in its place. Magnolias are my favorite trees in the spring -- they fill with big pink and white blooms and while in their peak are spectacular.

But, after they've peaked, and all of those beautiful petals fall to the ground, it causes quite a mess and hassle for anyone who needs to mow under and around it.

So I was overruled and my idea was rejected.

But, instead, we got this magnolia bush that isn't quite so messy and is actually quite pretty. It's certainly not the same as those glorious trees, but I conceded the battle and accepted the compromise.

And on my way back from the barn this evening, I snatched a picture of my l-o-n-g-legged shadow.
Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR at 7:00 in the evening. All natural light.
Magnolia pictures: 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 100
3rd picture: 1/200s, f/8, ISO 100

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

33/365 Sidetracked by curiosity

I was heading outside to photograph some grape hyacinths in the yard this evening when I looked out and saw the horses helping Dad clean the lawn mower, so I took a detour. The girls were both gathered around the tractor, picking up clumps of shorn grass that Dad tossed aside, licking the top of the deck, checking out buckets, and just being curious.

Oprah was, of course, first in line with curiosity, and as soon as I crouched down to try to get her silhouette in the sunset, she abandoned Dad and came to check out what I was doing instead.Shep is much more practiced at the "I'm going to do my own thing and come to you when I darn well please" look, so she gave me a nice broadside view:

I want to try this again when we have an even more dramatic sunset.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, Program setting at about 7:45 in the evening.
1st photo 1/200s, f/9.0, ISO 200
2nd photo 1/400s, f/11, ISO 200

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

32/365 One step up from blocks

Today I took a break from thinking about composition... the rule of thirds... quality of the light... time of day... shutter speeds and apertures... everything.

Today's picture is a snap-and-run.

You've heard stories -- perhaps you've seen real-life instances -- of backwoods homes with a car up on blocks in the front yard? Well, this is a step above that.

Yes, indeed, this is a car on the roof of the house.

It was a snap-and-run picture because I had to actually pull into the driveway to get it. I'm pretty positive the house is empty and abandoned (I can't imagine sleeping knowing a car was perched on the roof over my head), but even so, it made me nervous to be passing the "NO TRESPASSING" sign for even 30 seconds to snap the picture. So I got it, turned around, and high-tailed it right back out of the driveway.

Study this a little more and think about it. How did it get up there? How long has it been there? And WHY in the WORLD is it up there?

It doesn't look like it was in drivable shape before it got up there, and there were no storage sheds or small buildings around that could be used as a ramp. A dumpster was sitting about 20 yards away, outside the frame -- I've never seen a dumpster delivered to see how it's done, but might the guys who delivered it have thought it would be funny to put the car up there? It also seems like a teenage-boy kind of stunt, but how would they have managed it? A lot of people have tractors in this area, but that car is higher on the roof than any tractor I've seen could handle.

Crazy, huh? What do you think?

(And NO, I don't normally see stuff like this.)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 6:15 p.m.

Monday, April 14, 2008

31/365 Christmas in April

SightSalad is a month old! Thirty-one posts in, 334 to go!

This is a Christmas Cactus that is probably as old as I am. Right now it lives in our living room near the south windows, and it's thriving. As you can guess from the name, it normally blooms at Christmas -- but it's loving the sunshine, so it's still blooming mid-April. When the Christmas tree is up, the cactus gets moved to the foyer to greet holiday visitors with its friendly pink flowers that, oddly enough, don't look Christmasy at all, but are welcoming just the same. Beautiful!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 1600 in natural light.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

30/365 Mouth watering

Tonight we had one of my new favorite dinners -- ultra-thin turkey tenderloins (with True Lemon) and wild rice... YUM. I read the nutrition information on the turkey when I moved it from freezer to fridge, and it's crazy good for you! I knew it was extra special to begin with, but that just tops the cake because it's better than I thought.

Actually, tonight was a modified version of the true greatness -- leftover white rice substituted for wild rice (bummer) and green beans added as a side. The return of Spring Green Things continues!

It's one of those meals where I have to force myself to put my fork down between bites because otherwise I tend to eat it like I've been stranded on Survivor for a month and haven't had anything but raw fish and coconut milk.

It's that good.

It's also one of the few leftovers that makes me want to break my Work Lunch Rule (read: I don't want to have to waste any of my 60-minute lunch break to stand at a microwave and heat something up).

It's that good.

Is your mouth watering now, too?

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 1600 under overhead fluorescent lighting.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

29/365 Music to my eyes and ears

When I think of string instruments, the first ones that come to mind are violins, cellos, guitars... but not pianos. And yet, they're one of the most complex and common string instruments. With the strings enclosed in the body of the instrument, hidden from everyday view, this fact slips to the back of my mind.

When we first got this piano, one thing I loved to do was stand at the side with the lid open and watch the hammers strike the strings as Mom played. It still fascinates me, but I've become more accustomed to it, so I don't watch as often anymore.

Today I reclaimed my post and not only watched but photographed the music emanating from the piano.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 1600 in natural light at about 6:30 p.m.

Friday, April 11, 2008

28/365 Green with envy

When I got home from work this evening, I took a walk outside in the wooded area behind our house. We had some rain yesterday and last night, so today was the day that leaves everywhere decided to pop out and brave the new season. I love it!

The woods still retain that harsh edge from winter. It's peaceful as can be and hints of green are sprouting, but the wind caused the still-bare limbs above my head to creak and scratch against each other. It reminded me of a combination between a calling bird and swinging door in a haunted house. I'm not sure what kind of plant this is, but its vines intertwine and twist all over the trees and paths in this area. They're tough as can be, too.
And on my way back to the house, I spotted fresh, clear hoof prints in the mud that were defined by the sun and the evening's deep shadows.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, all shot around 6:30 p.m. in natural light.
1st photo: 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 100
2nd photo: 1/60s, f/8, ISO 100
3rd photo: 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 100

27/365 Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

I finished my portrait class last night! It was a session mainly of questions and answers; we didn't do too many new poses. This was the only one. I think it's an interesting pose, but if I were to do this with a subject outside of class, I would modernize it and make it a little more contemporary and nontraditional.

And on the subject of making a pose more contemporary, I actually have the option to go back for one last class session next week... but I think I'll skip it. I found out what the class focus will be -- glamour or fashion photography -- which initially piqued my interest, because if nothing else, I think would be fun to try with my friends. But I got a preview of the "glamour" photography we'd be doing, and it was more along the lines of Glamour Shots than Glamour magazine.

You remember Glamour Shots -- feather boas. Sequins. Soft lighting and fuzzy edges. Loads of makeup. Making 12-year-old girls look like they were 18. And I think of big, teased, permed hair. When I think of Glamour Shots, I think of a teenage girl who was our neighbor in the 80s and early 90s. I used to walk into her room and just stand and stare in awe at her collection of hair products -- crimpers, aerosol hairsprays, picks, curling irons, you name it, she had it. And she had the long, permed hair and three-inch-bangs to support it.

Glamour Shots was a huge success in its heyday, and more power to them for finding a business plan that worked. But my interest leans toward more contemporary -- or even classic old-Hollywood -- styles of glamour photography. So I think I'll save my gas and consider the class complete!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/60s, f/8, ISO 100. One studio light off-camera right and one reflector behind the subject.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

26/365 Another sign of spring

My Signs that Spring is Here list appears to be growing by the day. Here is yet another one.

Buster loves for us to leave the door open that leads from the kitchen to the screened porch. This is his favorite spot when winter eases its clutches on Indiana and lets spring get some elbow room. He sits so he can oversee the back yard but keep an ear open to what's happening in the house.

Seeing him sit like this makes me feel calm and peaceful. He's an ever-alert watch dog, so when he sits here, the perfect picture of serenity, I know that all is routine within a few hundred yards of the house.

Now, granted, an event that makes him raise the alarm that all is NOT routine may just be an especially large robin on the deck rail... but I can't fault him for doing his job!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR (on Program setting) 1/40s, f/4.0, ISO 200 in natural light at about 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

25/365 Spring cleaning

It's that time of year -- time to clean out the flower beds, tidy up the gardens, and get the lawn mower ready! I caught Dad in the backyard this evening starting the myriad of spring prep activities. The red gazing ball is a new addition this year. It was a family birthday present for him. I was shocked when he mentioned a few months ago that he liked them -- we've always held a pretty strong aversion to lawn ornaments of any shape and kind. But this one has won me over!

If it had been a ceramic goose with interchangeable outfits... it would have been a different story.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, Program setting 1/50s, f/4.5, ISO 200.

24/365 Night Sky

It was finally warm enough for me to spend some time outside last night and work on night sky photography. I discovered last year that I had the ability to do this after I read a couple articles in Popular Photography (here and here). I had previously figured that you needed a fancier camera than mine to pick up the light from the stars... but no!

The problem I've found is the noise I get (shooting digitally, anyways, I haven't tried film) with increasingly longer exposures, mainly in the form of blue and red dots (some call them "hot pixels"). At first I thought, "Wow! It's even picking up the blue and red stars!" But alas, it isn't that exciting. I've done some research, and some people say that cooler temperatures help alleviate the problem. I'll just have to keep experimenting.

Regardless, I love doing this. For one, it's great to be able to run outside on a commercial break of Dancing with the Stars, set up the camera, trip the shutter with my cable release, run back inside, watch the show for 20 minutes or so, run back outside, close the shutter and voila! It wows me every time.

This first photo is of the north sky. The six brightest star trails in the right third of the frame are those of the Big Dipper. I love that this shows the rotation with Polaris at its center. This is approximately a 20-25 minute exposure at f/11, ISO 200.
This second photo is of the west-southwest sky. The brightest stars make up Orion -- see the three main stars of his belt? This exposure used the same settings but lasted about 40 minutes.

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR.

Monday, April 7, 2008

23/365 First solo portrait photo shoot

Yesterday, on what has to this point been the most gorgeous day of 2008, I did my very first solo portrait "photo shoot"! My friend, Beth, needed some photos of herself for a special event. But she found, as she dug through her options, that in nearly 100% of her photos, she's pictured with a group of people. That's great for filling frames on your desk at work and your wall at home, but it doesn't work so well if you need something a little more professional.

She explained the situation to me one day a few weeks ago as I was telling her about the studio/portrait class I've been taking. And she asked me if I would mind helping her by doing some portraits for her. I was floored and said, "Absolutely!" I was so honored that she even asked.

My mind immediately started turning over ideas -- locations, poses, and that completely unpredictable Indiana spring weather. We decided to try to do the shoot outside, especially since I don't have studio lighting equipment. We picked a few dates, one for our first choice (yesterday afternoon) and a couple this week for backup in case the weather was miserable. We lucked out, it warmed up to 67 degrees, hardly a cloud cluttered the sky and the breeze was manageable.

She was a little nervous about the occasion, I was a little nervous about my first real portrait attempt, but I'm very pleased with the results all around. We both benefited -- she got some solo portraits to use, and I had a willing model to practice with! Here is one of my favorites, converted to black and white:

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/30s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 between 4:45 and 5:30 in the evening. This photo was taken under a bridge in the shade with natural light.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

22/365 Bonding and bowling

I'm a terrible bowler. I think I'm actually getting worse as time goes on instead of better. The extent of my bowling experience is rather limited. I've never had a lesson, though I look like I know what I'm doing (before I step up for my turn) because I bring my own shoes.

They're actually my mom's old shoes from the days when my parents bowled on a league together. The shoes are white and blue -- a welcome escape from the neon-orange and brown that you find on most rentals. They save me a few dollars and a lot of discomfort.

Luckily, my bowling companions yesterday were the type who don't judge my skills (or lack thereof). I bowled with my girlfriends at an official 500 Festival Princess/Partner outing. We, the old has-beens, got an organized chance to talk to the current group of 33 and socialize amongst ourselves as well. My bowling score may have been low, but my spirits were high!

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR, natural lighting on Program setting.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

21/365 Horses of many colors

I took the afternoon off from work on Friday, really felt like I was playing hooky, and went to the Hoosier Horse Fair & Expo at the state fairgrounds. We had a l-o-n-g list of items we needed to look for and didn't buy a single one of them!

Every vendor you could imagine, from both in- and out-of-state, was there selling clothes, boots, saddles, leather items, water buckets, trailers, signs... you name it. It was kind of like being at a flea market, where after a while all of it starts to look the same.

Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun touching and feeling everything, writing down items we wanted to come back and shop around for online and elsewhere, learning why in the world you might want tail extensions... It could be pretty overwhelming.

I didn't get to see as much demonstration as I'd hoped, because we spent so much time with our group walking around shopping and chatting, but as we were on our way back to the car, Mom and I stopped briefly to watch a demonstration happening in one of the arenas.

*Now, I'll insert a caveat here -- keep in mind that I am very inexperienced (as I've only been doing this for 3/4 of a year), have a lot to learn, and have my own opinions and ideas about what I like and want to do.

This demonstration: we think it was of the Western Pleasure style, but I'm not sure. (We ride following the John Lyons training method.) I have heard of Western Pleasure but have never seen it for myself. Well, my initial impression of this is that it's ... wrong. These horses actually looked depressed, forced, and like they had no life in their eyes any longer.

The style mandates that they keep their chins down near the level of their knees in all gaits we saw -- walk, trot and lope. The lope was the most awkward-looking. The horse's back and front legs looked like they were off rhythm and moving independently of each other. The back legs actually looked like they were limping and dragging their feet, and their heads were forced to bob in a beat that was jerky and unnatural. I actually found it disturbing to watch, especially when I think about how they must have been taught to do this.

I've heard a few stories from various people about ways horses are "taught" to do certain things. Apparently one way to "teach" the horse to lope like this, with their head down so far, their chin into their chest, is to tie a rope from their chin to their back feet while they're loping. The thought of it just makes my stomach turn.

I took a quick video with my camera of this demonstration. One rider was a little girl who looked like she was about 4 or 5 years old, cute as could be with her turquoise chaps and blue fingernail polish. She's seen here loping her horse. It's a lope but is a little closer to a trot, so it doesn't show as pronounced a head-bobbing as some of the others and doesn't appear as exaggerated.

It just makes me thankful that we found this particular natural horsemanship method when we did. The people who practice the Western Pleasure style probably see us and think we look sloppy -- but call me what you may, I like it!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000, indoors.

20/365 Dawn of another rainy day

Thursday morning, as I was driving to work, the sunrise was gorgeous -- and only lasted for a couple minutes. When the sun had risen higher in the sky, the day's clouds obscured it and the vibrant yellows, oranges, pinks, reds and blues dissipated. I stopped my car on the road to snatch this remnant before it disappeared.

Thursday evening, I went to the fourth of my six weeks' class sessions. This week we practiced posing and lighting children. We had hoardes of them at class -- a couple of my classmates brought their kids (and their neighbor's kids), and the instructor brought her 3-year-old grandson. I grabbed a couple chances at the helm but chose this week to step back a little bit. I recorded each pose without the use of the studio lights for my library of ideas, but since there were parents in the room, I let them have much more time actually photographing.

The rules for kids built on the basics we'd learned in our previous weeks, except the imperative is to work faster! The 3-year-old was especially squirmy but cute as a button.

Camera for this shot: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 7:30 a.m.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

19/365 Fresh fruit is making a comeback

A kiwi is one of those fruits that makes me scratch my head when I think about it. Who was that first person who spied this brown, hairy, baseball-sized (well, it was probably before they made baseballs, so they probably said it was egg-sized or stone-sized) fruit and said, "Hmm. That looks like it might be tasty!"? Do you think it was a person stranded in a forest, on the brink of starvation, who stumbled across this one plant that finally had something besides just leaves growing on it -- and they figured, "Well, it's either try eating this or die, and I'm already going to do the latter, so what do I have to lose?"

And when they bit into it or sliced it open and found this bright, almost neon-green juicy flesh inside with perfect rows of black seeds in the middle, I bet they thought they were hallucinating. Who would have thought that this ugly berry (yep, apparently it's a berry!) would be so great -- and beautiful?

And, on a side note, whose idea was it to start calling New Zealand natives Kiwis? Perhaps some of them look like brown hairy fruit (or flightless birds), but I've seen several who are quite attractive. So I doubt that's the reason.

Regardless, I love kiwis -- both their sweet, tangy taste and their vibrant color -- and I am super excited for fresh fruit season to return to Indiana. I'm tired of being restricted to oranges and frozen blueberries. Bring on the fresh strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, sour cherries, pineapple, peaches... !

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 on macros setting under fluorescent lighting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

18/365 Practicing Couples Poses

I did my homework for class this week (I didn't last week... shhh... don't tell!). Our assignment was to practice some of the couples poses we covered over the last two weeks. I coerced Mom and Dad into being my models for five minutes and was pretty happy with my first solo attempt!
Now it's Dancing with the Stars time, so I'm going to make this a short post. :)

Camera: Canon Rebel DSLR 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 1600 to compensate for low lighting and no flash.

17/365 Spring Storms

Before I went to college, I wanted to be a meteorologist (and not one on TV). Storms fascinate me even to this day. Every time I went to Barnes & Noble, I made a beeline for the science section and scanned the stacks for any new weather-related books.

When I was in junior high and high school, at the height of my meteorological obsession, March signified the start of the spring storm season. It kicked off with severe weather awareness week at the beginning of the month, which meant a special section about tornadoes in the newspaper I could cut out and savor for the rest of the year. I think I still have all of those!

When I started taking up photography as a hobby, it came naturally for me to turn my camera toward the sky. So this definitely won’t be the last of my weather/sky photos for the year.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at 5:30 in the evening.