Wednesday, December 31, 2008

284/365 Closing out 2008

Goodbye, 2008!

What a year it's been!

From what I've seen online, the most common way to take on Project 365 is by starting it January 1. But in my case, it took me a couple months to decide, "Yes, I'm going to commit to taking a photograph every single day," so I still have 81 posts to go.

I don't make New Year's resolutions -- instead, I set goals for the year. It's a more positive way of thinking about what I want to accomplish in the coming year.

This year I have a long list of goals, most of which involve new activities I want to try, but one of the items on the list is finishing Project 365. I haven't decided yet whether I'll restart a new 365-day project or just maintain regular posts, but I can tell you I'll be continuing this blog.

One item that I plan to finish within the next month is my portfolio for my Photography Certificate. The photo on this post, a self-portrait, is the last one I needed to do before printing and submitting samples of my work.

Now I'd like you to tell me this: what kind of photos and posts would you like to see more of? What are your favorites?

Happy New Year!

Camera: Canon 40D with Calumet studio light, 1/60s, f/8 at ISO 250.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

283/365 The end of the season

Why is it that the holiday season flashes by so quickly each year?

It seems like we just put out all of our Christmas decorations a few days ago, but Christmas has now passed, and this next weekend we'll box it all up again.

For me, putting the decorations away is a bittersweet process. On the one hand, it's depressing to know the holidays are over, and the long, cold, dark January lies ahead. But on the other hand, the decorations have been taking up space long enough that I'm ready to have things back to normal.

If for no other reason, I'm ready to have my favorite reading chair reclaim its place from the Christmas tree.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

282/365 Ornament on display

I finally made it to the State Museum to see Mom's ornament hanging on the 92-County tree.

We were afraid it would be way up toward the top, in the back, where you couldn't see it... but no! Instead it was at perfect eye-level right next to the sign.

Recognize it?

We walked around the tree, guided by the director of the exhibit, and were really impressed with the ornaments made by the area artists. Each one was completely unique. We only saw one other quilted ornament. Others were made from glass, clay, wood, corn...

I'm so proud!

(You can click on the photo to see a larger version if you'd like to read the copy on the sign.)

Camera: Canon 40D with on-camera flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 800.

281/365 Think fast

What is it about driving around a miniature track in a go cart that is always so fun?

I went with a couple girlfriends on Saturday afternoon to Fast Times Indoor Karting, an indoor track that boasts its carts reach speeds of 40 mph.

It's a more serious activity than your standard putt-putt / go-cart / batting-cages place. You have to be 18, have a drivers license, watch an "orientation" video, and wear a designated suit, neck brace, and helmet (see Courtney above, sans helmet).

Honestly, though, even though the carts definitely were faster than your average go-cart, and we did have fun, the eight-minute race experience cost more than it was worth -- $22! Maybe if you're a more serious carter (and there were several there) it's worth it, but for me, I'll save my money and stick to the $5 putt-putt places.

Go ahead, call me cheap. At least I got some fun photos out of it.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 with flash.

280/365 Ornament exchange

For the last two years, my girlfriends and I have chosen to do an ornament exchange in lieu of buying seven individual gifts. For a group of young professionals, it really alleviates some holiday stress on both your creativity and wallet.

I always enjoy seeing the array of ornaments brought to the exchange. Since we all became friends through the Princess program, there are always at least one or two racing- or princess-themed ornaments in the pool, but the rest vary.

I like Christmas trees that have a variety of ornaments, as opposed to themed trees whose ornaments are coordinated, so it's fun to collect a new ornament each year.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 500.

Friday, December 26, 2008

279/365 Waking up from a cozy nap

My two photography-related gifts for Christmas were a gray card and a mat cutter.

It was only in my class at the IMA that I finally grasped the concept of white balance and how to correctly use a gray card. So, of course, it went right onto my wish list.

My wish came true, so while I was explaining to Mom how to use it yesterday, Buster got to be my subject. I love the expression on his face. He had been sleeping, curled up under the blanket, so when Mom sat down next to him, he sat up with a questioning look on his face.

He was happy to return to his nap after just a minute.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/5.6 at ISO 800

Thursday, December 25, 2008

278/365 A merry Christmas Eve

Each of my family members has at least one standard stocking stuffer that they receive each Christmas.

For Mom, that's a small box of Godiva chocolates.

For me, it's lip gloss and office supplies.

For Dad and Chase, it's fishing lures -- and camouflage duct tape.

You know there are a million uses for standard silver duct tape, but who'd have thought that you could find a hundred more for a camouflage variety?

Chase got some this year, which he was thrilled about since he'd used up his last roll.

In this photo, I believe he's saying, "Hey, I could use this right now to tie up the paparazzi over here."

Very funny.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

277/365 Stockings hung by the chimney

Per tradition, our family opens stocking gifts on Christmas Eve. When Chase and I were kids, it was a great way to satiate our curiosity.

My stocking is the same one I've had forever, with a snowman on the front. One of my great-aunts made it for me. Chase's is new as of last year and is a big cowboy boot (completely appropriate). Mom's is a gift from a friend and looks a bit like a quilt (also appropriate).

Dad's is a skinny knit stocking that does not stretch, meaning we have to place his gifts on the mantle or hearth below. He's next in line to have a new one made for him.

These stockings hang on hooks under the mantle. When we first moved to this house, we used decorative hangers that sat on the top edge. But sadly, these didn't last long, as one by one the weight of the stockings pulled them off the shelf and they fell to a miserable death on the bricks below.

Hopefully no unsuspecting decorations will die this Christmas Eve.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200.

276/365 Holiday treats

One of the treats that I wanted to make over the holidays this year was chocolate-covered pretzels.

The last time I remember making them, we lived in a different house and I needed to stand on a chair to reach the counter.

It's a great treat for kids to make since it's so easy, but for some unknown reason, I haven't made them in ages.

So I've now crossed that "to do" off my list. I made two batches, one with white chocolate and one with standard milk chocolate. The white chocolate actually came in the form of baking squares, and it worked better than the milk chocolate chips.


Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 100.

Monday, December 22, 2008

275/365 Family Christmas

We don't have a huge family, but it's big enough that gathering everyone at one table in any given house presents a challenge.

This year we hosted the family Christmas gathering, so we borrowed two 8-foot tables and kicked our regular table to the garage for the day. We were able to fit 14 people cozily around the new configuration.

I only have two cousins -- between both sides of the family -- so comparatively, our family is on the smaller side. I can hardly fathom what it would be like to have oodles of cousins.

My grandmother on my dad's side was one of fifteen children, so when all of them had kids, that made an especially big family. I can't imagine having fourteen brothers and sisters. Throw in three more people, and you not only have one baseball team, you have an entire game.

One brother is plenty for me!

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/6.3 at ISO 500.

274/365 Yuletide carols

The traditions I know have usually started in inconspicuous ways. You don't set out to do something saying, "I need a new tradition. Let's ____."

Instead, you fall into something natural and fun, and you enjoy it so much that you want to make it a regular part of your year.

Nearly every Christmas for 25 years or more, we've had a dinner with some family friends that always includes singing Christmas songs at the piano while Mom plays.

By now, it is officially tradition. This year, our singing and playing was a veritable marathon that lasted for three hours. My throat was scratchy by the end, and Mom's fingers were sore the next morning.

We sang every Christmas song we knew, then we moved on to Broadway show tunes, and finished with Disney songs. None of us professed to be good singers, so that removed any hesitation that you might embarrass yourself in comparison.

It's a small tradition, but a good one, borne of something fun that is worthy of bringing back again and again.

Camera: Canon 40D 1/60s, f/4.5 at ISO 1600.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

273/365 Morning fog

I've always known that weather in Indiana is a rapidly changing force, but if there were any doubt, yesterday morning proved it.

It started with a freezing rain and ice storm overnight. That changed to rain in the morning (which is about the time I had to get out for a couple appointments). A couple hours later, temperatures began to rise toward 50 degrees, during which fog rose over still-frozen ground.

As the day progressed, temperatures started falling again, and tomorrow we're supposed to have afternoon chill in the single-digits.


That fog rolling through a cemetery in Brownsburg struck me as I was sitting at a stoplight. I was able to capture it before the light changed and I had to drive away.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 9:45 a.m.

Friday, December 19, 2008

272/365 Seeing stars

I get an email newsletter that has loads of fun DIY photography projects, and one of them linked to another blog explaining how to make a bokeh. Last night, I finally got a chance to try it.

A bokeh (called by various other names depending on who you ask) is just a hood that fits over your lens, with a shaped cut-out in the center through which you make your photo.

I chose a star shape for my first bokeh. I used black construction paper and a star paper punch I've had since I was a kid (also handy for making confetti).

The bokeh fits over your lens, then every light point in your frame that is out of focus becomes shaped like the hole in the bokeh.

So this photo is simply out-of-focus lights on our Christmas tree. Cool!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and handmade bokeh, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 1600.

271/365 Movin' on up

As of Wednesday at 5:00 p.m., I closed one chapter of my life and am opening a new one: I got a new job!

My last day was Wednesday, so I said my goodbyes, cleaned out my desk, boxed up my picture frames, and rubber-banded my Sharpies for transport home.

This was my first job out of college, and I stuck with it for more than two and a half years. That fact alone feels like a huge accomplishment, because the majority of college graduates I know only stay in their first jobs for about a year or so.

I really believe the era has passed, and I think most people would agree, when your assumption was that you would find a job and stay there for 30 years, safe in the knowledge that the company would take care of you.

Yep, that doesn't sound very likely anymore.

Nowadays, if you don't find the opportunities to advance your career in one company, then it's time to move on.

And that's what I've done.

I'm taking two and a half weeks off between finishing this job and starting my new one, so it's my first real Christmas break since college. I have all kinds of fun activities lined up, so hopefully I'll have some great photo opportunities while I'm at it.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash, 1/250s, f/2.8 at ISO 100.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

270/365 Tiny world

What is it about snow globes that so fascinate us?

This one appeals to me. But the blown-up versions that are strewn on yards all over town? Not so much.

Out of curiosity, I looked up snow globes on Wikipedia, and was amazed to learn that they appear to have been invented in the early 1800s. I had no idea they've been around for that long, and that the main idea has stayed intact.

This one, a modern version with music box attached, has glitter mixed in with the snow, causing the turquoise reflections. It's mesmerizing, and I enjoy having it displayed at this time of year.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 1000, lit with a flashlight at camera left.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

269/365 Curling ribbon

I enjoy wrapping gifts -- so long as it's not for too many hours at a time.

When I was a teenager, I made a little extra money at Christmas by wrapping gifts for a woman who went to our church. She would pile her kitchen table high with all of her gifts, tape the recipient's name to the outside, provide plenty of paper and tape, and leave me for a few hours.

All I did was the paper -- no bows, ribbons, decorations -- just the basics. Then at the end of the day, she'd pay me for my time, and we'd both be happy.

I generally don't do much with fancy bows, but I do love curling ribbon.

As a kid, I longed to be able to curl the ribbon with a swift swipe of scissors just like Mom did. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but ever since then, I've loved piling on the curling ribbon.

Maybe it's for that reason that I really like this photo.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 200.

268/365 Christmas ornament

Each year since the year I was born, I've collected a Hallmark ornament.

It's fun to pull them out of the box each year. Many are just cute or funny -- like the one pictured here -- and others follow a theme that lasts several years. For a while I was into puppies and kittens, other years I chose Crayola ornaments.

Lately (for the last three years), my ornaments have been shoe-focused. As in shoes hanging from little trees like ornaments.

It's appropriate.

Camera: Canon 40D 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 100 with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

267/365 Rejoice

One of my Christmas traditions involves going to the annual Butler University Christmas music special, "Rejoice."

For five years now, I've been going with my mom and grandmother. We meet up early, drive into Broad Ripple to have dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, then grab our favorite seats at Clowes Hall to watch the performance.

The selections are different every year. This year the highlighted selection was Bach's "Magnificat."

The performers did a great job, especially some of the student singers. Normally the faculty is showcased more often than the students, which is disappointing, so I was glad to see students have the chance to shine.

Honestly, though, while the performance was very well done, it left a little to be desired. The point of the show is to feature holiday music. But not a single Christmas song could be found in the entire night. Instead, it was all classic religious music, mostly in Latin.

I appreciate that they vary the selections every year to keep the program from becoming stale, but is it too much to ask that we get to hear something recognizable?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/5.6 at ISO 1600.

266/365 Bright and beautiful

I noticed the incredible full moon this week before I started hearing about it on the news.

I get up at about 5:45 each morning for work, and on Wednesday or Thursday, I immediately noticed how bright the moonlight was.

It looked as though I could have driven to work in the glow, unaided by headlights, and would have been able to see just fine. The crisp, defined shadows cast by the light alone were amazing.

As it turns out, this is the biggest and brightest full moon we've had in 15 years. It has happened because of the moon's proximity to Earth at this point in its egg-shaped orbit. Full moons occur every month, but this one is especially spectacular.

I don't have an especially long zoom lens, but I nevertheless made sure I photographed it. (I did some generous cropping to get this close-up.)

Camera: Canon 40D 1/1000s, f/4.5 at ISO 400 at about 10:45 p.m.

Friday, December 12, 2008

265/365 Missed sunset

Last night, the sunset was so striking, I watched it all the way home on my drive from work. I monitored it constantly, hoping that the colors wouldn't have faded by the time I got to a point where I could pull off and get a photo.

I definitely missed it at its peak last night, but it was still good enough to constitute stopping for this shot.

What I really wanted was a moon-at-sunset shot, but the moon was too obscured by clouds by the time I got to my DSLR. My point-and-shoot camera doesn't have the zoom capability that I wanted for that. So I'll try for that another night (or morning).

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 5:40 p.m.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

264/365 First Christmas card

I got my first Christmas card of the season this week, a Charlie Brown caroling card from one of my girlfriends.

I always have the best of intentions when it comes to sending Christmas cards each year, but then I forget about it until I'm too overwhelmed with other activities, so it doesn't happen.

The cards I DO get are great, and I'm glad there are still a lot of people who take the time to send a handwritten card. It means a lot!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

263/365 Tick tock

What strikes me in this photograph are the deep colors. I've photographed this clock before, but the finished product was black and white, so it didn't show off the rich gold/bronze color.

This is a close-up of one of the weights that keep the clock running. The pendulum swings behind the three weights, and the chimes are the vertical lines in the background.

It's really a work of art, and it reminds me of older times, before the harsh green and red digital displays became so common.

This clock is much more inviting.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/250s, f/4 at ISO 100.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

262/365 Craft supplies

A couple years ago, I was shopping at the mall, and a salesgirl at a store was wearing a really cool necklace. It looked like fabric-covered ping-pong balls with a knot between each one.

So I went home and made one. Instead of ping-pong balls, which seemed a little large, I used wooden craft balls. These are about the same diameter as a dime.

I have quite a few left, so for this photo, I grabbed a handful and sat them close together on a table. They remind me a little bit of farm-fresh eggs, except for the wood grain that you can see on those that are in focus.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash bounced off the ceiling, 1/250s, f/2.8 at ISO 200.

Monday, December 8, 2008

261/365 Toys from Christmases past

Did you ever have a Koosh ball?

I have five. They're just your standard balls, no extra bells and whistles, three of which came with a game book.

I spent one Thanksgiving break from school teaching myself to juggle with Koosh balls. They're fairly easy to juggle because they're light and easy to hold on to.

My five are still close at hand, because I still find them to be lots of fun. And, judging from the little bit of Googling I did about them, nearly 40% of those sold in the late '80s and early '90s were sold to adults -- so I'm not alone in hanging onto them.

As you can tell from this photo, I also discovered that they make very interesting macro subjects.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/11 at ISO 100, with the flash bounced off the refrigerator to the left.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

260/365 Holiday baking

A friend of mine threw a holiday cookie exchange party, so last night, in preparation, I needed to prepare 6 1/2 dozen cookies.

I chose to bake peppermint meringues, which aren't really a traditional cookie, but that's the closest category for them. They've become a family favorite over the years, and they've become my sort of specialty because of my ability to artfully wield a pastry bag.

(Courtesy of a year doing cake decorating in 4-H.)

Each person at the party packaged 11 individual half dozens of their cookies for everyone to take home, and a dozen for taste-testing at the party. Tasting 11 different cookies is a LOT in one sitting, and I don't know that anyone actually did it, but I tried about four or five. Yum!

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100, flash bounced off the ceiling.

259/365 The fire is so delightful

At this time of year, the seasonal song that I sing the most is definitely "Let It Snow."

Watching the weather, and the meteorologist predicts snow? "Oh, the weather outside is frightful..."

Temperatures fall below 32 degrees? "But the fire is so delightful..."

Looking forward to a relaxing weekend? "And since we've no place to go..."

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

The more snow that falls, the louder I sing.

So, this is definitely on my list of favorite holiday songs. We had about an inch of snow this weekend, and it only served to put me in a cheerier Christmas spirit.

Strike up the carols!

Camera: Canon 40D 1/125s, f/4.5 at ISO 800.

Friday, December 5, 2008

258/365 Break out the Christmas music

I have a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to Christmas music: absolutely none until the day after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a perfectly great holiday that deserves to be celebrated for what it is -- not just the start of the Christmas season.

But the morning after our Thanksgiving meals have settled in our stomachs? Bring on the Christmas music!

The house is now regularly filled with piano music for the season, mainly played by Mom, but I'll dust off my rusty fingers, too. I've played the piano for years, but I've gotten out of the habit of doing it regularly. I really need to get back into it.

Mom and I have a few four-hand duet books that require us to sit side by side and play together. It's one of my favorite things to do in the evenings during this time of year.

Last night, I left the playing to her, and I photographed her while she did.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 2s, f/11 at ISO 100.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

257/365 Between books

A friend and I formed a book club a few months ago, and for our third meeting (last night) we read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. It's one of those books that leaves you mulling it over long after you've finished it.

Our next book is Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, the series and movie that have teenagers everywhere completely enthralled. It was already on my list of books I wanted to read, so I'm excited to do this one. I plan to start it this weekend.

Camera: Canon 40D with external E-TTL flash, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100.

256/365 Barn lights

I was so bummed on Tuesday morning when I saw on the news that I missed a rare alignment of the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter.

Usually I make it a point to step outside and see all of the cool celestial events, so I'm disappointed I missed this.

I stepped outside Tuesday evening to check it out, but by then I was too late. I had my camera ready, so instead of getting a shot of the night sky, I focused on the barn.

This shot reminds me of a pair of eyes gazing out, and I like that some of the light is spilling onto the little bit of remaining snow.

Camera: Canon 40D 1s, f/11 at ISO 400 at about 7:45 p.m.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

255/365 Lights on the square

Christmas lights are strung in full-force, and it's only the second day of December.

The town square in Danville has white lights strung from each side of the courthouse in the middle to the other side of the street, so you drive under a canopy of light. It's beautiful!

This is a photo of the lights, with a long enough exposure that the small movements of my hand holding the camera formed a pattern.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 7:15 p.m.