Archive for July, 2010

Today is my second to last photo class and then I promise I’ll stop talking about it.  Now that we’re nearing the end, the specific lessons are not as intense or detailed.  Instead, we spend a lot of the class showing each other photos we’ve taken and discussing how they could have been made better or little tips and tricks we can use to get certain effects. 

One thing I’ve started to play with is using manual focus instead of auto focus.  This allows me to focus on one area of the screen (like a flower in the corner) instead of having the camera choose for me where to focus (especially because it usually chooses the center of the viewing area which is B-O-R-I-N-G).  Plus, in manual focus, the actual photo-taking process is much faster.  You don’t have to wait for the camera to focus the shot, but you do run the risk of having a blurry picture.

The other thing I’ve started dabbling in is editing pictures. Basically every photo I’ve ever shown here is straight out of the camera.  I don’t have Photoshop, I don’t know much about editing, and I don’t know how much I care to learn to be perfectly honest.  I’d prefer to take a picture that doesn’t NEED any editing because I like it just how it is.  Alas, that can’t always be the case, so here is a little before and after look using a free online tool called Pixlr (I highly recommend it – super easy to use, similar features to Photoshop, and it’s free!).  You can see that the differences, while subtle, do make a difference. 

Straight Out Of Camera

Edited for Pizzazz


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Basil's new obsession/addiction: the hose

I normally don’t have many interesting stories about Basil because for the most part, he’s a boring dog who doesn’t do much but look out the window and bark when cats tease him or big dogs walk by.  But last week we had the fiasco with Basil being outside all day, and this week we have a skunk.

Last Sunday night, we were about to go to bed so we let Basil out one last time.  As Drew was letting him out, he thought he saw something in the yard, and immediately started calling Basil to come back in.  Unfortunately, that pup’s nose is just too curious and he couldn’t help himself.  In a matter of seconds, Basil ran up to the mysterious something in the yard, figured out it was a skunk, got sprayed and ran back into the house as fast as he could, bringing in with him the most insane smell I’ve ever smelt.  Or smelled. 

Beside the fact that I have no idea how this creature got into our fenced in yard (which is pretty secure given Basil’s efforts to escape through any available crack), it’s kinda creepy to know that wild animals are hanging out back there plus now I have to be extra vigilant when Basil goes out at night. 

We are now about a week past the skunking and Basil still stinks (but only when you get right up in his fur).  He has had 5+ baths, and has been the subject of a home remedy I found online that includes hydrogen peroxide (doesn’t every home remedy include this??), baking soda and Dawn.  Our house is mostly scent free, but I do notice it when I first walk in the door.  We’ve had vanilla extract-soaked cotton balls placed around to help combat the smell – another tip I learned online. 

Ok, enough stories about Basil.  I promise I’ll stop now.

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SE Asia or Bust!

I have some big news to share today.  I’ve been waiting until all the critical people have been informed and the correct permissions have been obtained, but I can wait no more.  In January 2011, Drew and I are taking off for a month-long traveling extravaganza around Southeast Asia!

The details behind this amazing opportunity and adventure are as follows.  The end of 2010 is pretty exciting in the life of Julie because I finally (FINALLY!) finish graduate school and I turn 30.  Then, my calendar is miraculously free from commitments.  Drew’s work world is super seasonal, and in the dead of winter, things are quiet and peaceful for him (unlike now, when tourists from all over kingdom come descend on Drew’s restaurant and eat lobster while wearing bibs).  We thought we might take advantage of this converging of calendars and birthdays and see if we could finagle some fun out of the whole thing.

The other major piece of this puzzle (other than the burning desire to go everywhere in this entire freaking world) is that both Drew and I work for very nice and understanding people who recognize the need for a little spice in life and who know us well enough to understand that we won’t call up three weeks into the trip having decided to ditch corporate life completely for a longer adventure.  It is remarkable what you can get if you just ask.  Several conversations with the right people and we had ourselves a month off. 

Oh, one other not-so-minor detail is that I’ve wanted to do this kind of traveling for so long that we’ve been saving money and airline points for years.  We have a specific savings account called Big Trip.  No joke.  So, the funds are there to cover us while we’re not working and Southeast Asia is actually a pretty cheap place – once you get there. 

That’s it so far.  I plan on writing extensively over the coming months about our trip plans as they come together and then while we’re gone we’ll be posting here so our family, friends and co-workers can hear all about it.  To organize myself, there’s a category on the right side under “Easily Find Stuff” called Asian Adventure 2011.  If you just want to just read old posts about the trip (and skip the rest of my babbling), just click there. 

Much more to come…

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Book version...

In my quest to read the best books ever written, I spent the past week reading Revolutionary Road.  You might be familiar with this title from the recent movie version (which I still haven’t seen but want to).  The original book was published in 1961 by Richard Yates and was a finalist for the National Book Award the following year. 

Five Sentence Plot Summary:

Traditional 1950s family lives in NYC suburbs.  Couple is unhappy but stuck in the traditionalism and conservatism of their time.  They decided to skip town and make a life in Paris.  Plans fall through.  Story ends tragically and new family moves into their house on Revolutionary Road.

My thoughts:

Thumbs way up!  I didn’t give away the end of the story because honestly, the book is really good and you should probably read it (or just watch Kate and Leo in their first film post-Titanic) to find out the end.  For a book written in 1961, the dialogue and language felt quite modern.   Since the story takes place in the 1950’s when dads worked and families lived in the suburbs, there is a very 50’s feel to the whole thing – lots of drinking, slightly formal relationships within families and among friends.

The themes of the story – including feeling like you’re in the wrong job/wrong industry/wrong life, and shaking things up seems like the only way out – are pervasive in today’s culture.  Actually, Yates described the theme of his book as: “…most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy.” 

Regardless of how you define the theme, this is a great book about the (sound effect here) AMERICAN DREAM and what happens when you wake up and find yourself in a life you didn’t mean to create. 

movie version

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My friend and coworker Alicia is an amazing photographer.  She’s not a professional (yes!), but she’s well on her way.  She does family portraits regularly, and is called upon by friends to do engagement sessions frequently.  She even shoots the occasional wedding.  Yeah, so I guess that actually makes her a professional.

A few months back, Alicia was booked to shoot the small wedding of a friend, and at the time we joked that I could ‘second shoot’ for her.  That’s the fancy way of saying I would be her assistant and take some pictures.  Neither of us really knew what to expect except that the bride didn’t want a ton of posed family photos and was pretty laid back (hence, hiring a friend and her awkward ‘assistant’). 

I was super nervous driving to the wedding.  I wore black so I would look like I belonged in the secret club of wedding photographers.  I made sure throughout the event to adjust my camera regularly, so I would look like I knew what I was doing.  I actually shot most of the pictures in honest-to-god manual settings, but then I had to keep looking at them to make sure they were turning out okay.  I stood back a lot while Alicia directed people. 

Here’s what I learned:  It is much harder than I thought.  I always thought wedding photography looked fun and breezy but really it’s hot an sweaty, and you have to take a lot of photos to get a few great ones.  It’s hard to keep up the momentum.  I was so excited at the beginning that I took tons of pictures, but by the end, I was tired and kept thinking, ‘that won’t be a good shot, so I just won’t bother.’  It  is really fun to witness a wedding where everyone is strangers.  It feels like you’re peeking into these lives and on a couple’s most important day, too. 

Here are some of my shots:


Thanks in two languages

Best prop ever!

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So, Drew’s going to die when he knows I wrote this here, but whatever.  He doesn’t really stay up to date on my blog anyway, so maybe he’ll never know.  I will also preface this story by saying that this was an accident and everyone involved seems to be doing just fine now.

I leave for work at about 8am.  Drew leaves for work at about 9:30.  He has this very routine morning where he hangs out with Basil in the living room, and at 9:15  or so, he lets Basil out in the backyard while he gets ready.  Usually by the time he’s ready to leave, Basil is barking in the backyard to be let in.  He’s nothing if not impatient.  Drew lets Basil in and takes off for work.  This has been happening almost every day for 5 years, with no incident.

Last Thursday, I came home from work early, since I had an afternoon appointment.  I could see under the fence that Basil was in the backyard.  Drew wasn’t home.  I was confused, wondering if Drew had come home for something (without his car?), or if he had stopped in during the day (again, with no car?).  Quickly, I put the obvious 2 and 2 together and realized that Drew never let Basil in before he left for work, and our poor little guy had been outside for seven hours!  (And yes, before getting all concerned, we have plenty of shade and water out there…and it wasn’t 90 degrees like it has been lately.)

Basil was excited to see me and starving like usual.   I fed him and called and texted Drew at work until he finally picked up.  He didn’t specifically remember NOT letting Basil in, but if Basil was tired and sleeping in the yard, Drew wouldn’t have had his normal barking alarm to remind him to let Basil in before leaving.  That’s probably what happened. 

Also, Basil doesn’t seem to have any residual issues about this abandonment – he wanted to go back outside immediately after I came home.  But, he did sleep extra well that night, maybe because of the over stimulation.  So, now Drew’s in the doghouse and wondering when I’ll stop bringing this up and telling everyone I know.  I told him I’ll think about it.

An old picture, but he looks the same!

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Today is my weekly photo class! Last week we discussed white balance, and our assignment was to take pictures in different white balances.  The term ‘white balance’ is actually more like color balance.  When you take pictures in different types of light, colors can look skewed, like a little too blue or a little to orange.  You can see these skews when you take a picture of something white, and the white doesn’t look quite white enough.  Most cameras (all types not just DSLRs) have several settings that adjust the white balance of a photo.  In my camera, I have “Daylight,” “Indoor,” Fluorescent,” and “Cloudy.”  By picking the right adjustment in the right type of light, your colors can look true, and your whites can look really white instead of ‘white with a slight blue tint.’

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are four photos I took in our photography classroom last week (it’s a chemistry lab during the school year…)

Option #1

Option #2

Option #3

Option #4

As you can easily see, Options #2 and #4 clearly look ‘off.’  I think Option #3 is the one taken using the proper fluorescent setting (though I wrote down the settings in a notebook I don’t have right now).  Fun stuff!

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