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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Can You "Bear" It?

Summarizing today's post: Can you "bear" what life throws at you? Yes you can.


photography, bear
shot at 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/60th of a second, WB set to shade

Sometimes the things and happenings in your daily life can almost run you aground. Or, to be more plain, it may be the things that try to hoard in on you while you are trying to live your "daily life". 

There you are minding your own business, doing what you normally do during your daily grind, and WHAM...something hits. Your boss asks you to work the weekend and you have to cancel family plans...you find out that your little one is sick...or you get a call from your tax guy and he tells you "Oh, about that refund you where expecting...yeah, you actually owe a thousand bucks this year". 

The list goes on and on.

Can you "bear" it? Yes, it turns out you can.

I took this photograph of a brown bear last year while at the NC Zoo in Asheboro with my wife and son (see more here). Everytime I look at it, I think to myself what a magnificent animal! Most people are scared to death of his kind and just want to kill them so they don't harm anyone. But is it his fault he was born a bear?

And you thought you had problems. 

The reason I am writing on Sunday instead of Friday this week is that I got very ill very suddenly last Thursday and my plans of publishing a new blog post got ruined. My world got turned upside down for about 36 hours. I'm sure you have gotten a stomach virus too, so you can imagine.

It was a bad ending to a not-so-good week. I almost couldn't bare it. But with the help of my bride, I am back on my feet again. She helped nurse me back to health so that I could tackle life again.

I was going to scrap this week's (now last week's) blog post, but then that would be giving up. I had a little time this morning, so I thought better late than never. 

Life isn't perfect. You will get a wrench thrown into your plans from time to time. I think the point is to learn to bend and flex and not get so stressed out when that happens. Plans change and life's events get postponed. Big deal. We'll make it.

Can you "bear" it? Sure you can.

Thanks for reading.

Brant

 
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Friday, February 13, 2015

How Do YOU See It?

Summarizing today's post: Looking at the many different ways to view the same situation, & adjusting shutter speed to achieve different results in photography.

photography, moon
shot at 130mm, ISO 1250, f/5.6, 1/10th of a second

What makes us all unique is that we see things differently. That can be quite scary sometimes if you think about it too hard. How things are viewed so differently between groups of people can make nations go to war with each other.

Other times, it can be a beautiful thing. I do believe that the Good Lord made us all just a little bit different for reasons I am not sure of. If we all were the exact same, and liked the exact same foods, and all liked the exact same sports team (etc.), life would be pretty boring...wouldn't you agree?

What makes life so interesting, for example, is that my wife and I can be watching the same movie, or read the same book... talk about it afterwards, and interpret parts of it completely different. Pinky can bring to my attention things that I completely missed, and vice versa. Neat.

I can relate this concept to photography so easily. Look at the photograph above. It's a picture of the moon of course (at least it's obvious to me). You may see a bunch of clouds with a spotlight in the center of it, or maybe it's a freaking on-coming train in thick fog?? 


photography, moon
shot at 200mm, ISO 1250, f/5.6, 1/500th of a second
 
How about now? Yes, a little more obvious that you are looking at a photograph of the moon. It's the exact same moon, taken just seconds after the first photo. All I did to eliminate the clouds is increase my camera's shutter speed, limiting the amount of light coming in and hitting it's delicate sensor inside. You can see more detail in the face of the moon too.

Which photograph is "correct"? That's a matter of interpretation. I think they are both nice in their own way. I love taking photos of the moon, it can be so beautiful. I don't think any one way is more correct than the other personally.

Pretty neat. It makes me think about that whole concept of how we are all different and can see the exact same situation in completely opposite ways. 

Lesson? Maybe cut your spouse a little slack the next time you guys see things a little differently. After all, we are all beautifully human.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for reading!

Brant


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Friday, February 6, 2015

Doing What You Love

Summarizing today's post: Finding time to do what you love, happiness, & photography as an amplifier.

Photography, karate
shot at 170mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/50th of a sec, WB set to fluorescent

Life can be so challenging. The hum-drum of everyday work life can really get to you if you aren't careful. The old saying "too much work and not enough play makes Jack a dull boy" rings very true when you pass that 60th hour in the work week.

The same thing applies with our young ones in school. Too much school and not enough time for extra "fun" stuff is not a healthy thing. I believe it is so important for kids and adults to have time for some fun stuff.


photography, karate
shot at 82mm, ISO 800, f/5, 1/50th of a sec, WB set to fluorescent


Our little boy enjoys Karate, and it is very good for him. Four times a week he gets to take a break from school and be with kids that share the same idea of fun that he has. Martial arts is so good for young ones because it teaches them discipline and allows them to have an outlet for their pinned-up energy at the same time. And if they enjoy it...wow, you have struck gold. It can turn into a lifetime of fun for them.

We are so proud of Gavin for sticking with Karate for almost 2 years now. We go see him practice whenever we can. He is "in his element" when he's at Karate. (See more on being in your element here.) 


Photography, happiness, karate
shot at 95mm, ISO 800, f/5.3, 1/50th of a sec, WB set to fluorescent

I really believe in photography as an amplifier to whatever it is that makes you happy in this life. It makes us all smile when we go back and look at these photographs. I'm so glad I had the chance to take the photographs you see above of Little Bud having a good time after a long day at school.

What about you? What do you do to break the work cycle every week? It is so important to find time--even if it's just a few minutes--to do something you love to do periodically thru the week. It's good for you.

Find your element, your happy place, and slip away for a moment today.

Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend!

Brant




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Friday, January 30, 2015

A Light Went Out

Summarizing today's post: A tribute to Penelope, our beloved cat.

Penelope, pet, photography
shot at 55mm, ISO 800, 1/250 sec, f/4.8, on camera flash 1/32 power
A light went out this week. Our beloved cat, Penelope, went home last Monday, January the 26th, 2015. She was 19 years old.

Life can be rough sometimes. The little joys that make things bearable--like our pets--we can easily take for granted. I took Penelope for granted. I always thought she would be here. 

The thing is, she was older than we thought...by about 5 years. Until we talked this week to her original owner, we had thought that she was about 14 years old. And since she was in great health (we thought), I just assumed that we had many, many years left to enjoy her.

Not so unfortunately. She got sick very suddenly last weekend. It was such a shock to lose her.

I think back on how many times I walked right past her as she was sitting on the couch...and paid her no mind. How many times I forgot to say goodbye to her before I left for the day. How many times did I not give her enough treats when she was asking... the list goes on and on.

It is like a lamp that is always burning nice and bright, you never go over to it and thank it for light up the room for you. You just always assume it will be there, doing it's job, making the room liveable. It's not until the light goes out that you realize what was there. Funny how that works (actually it's not that funny at all).

We loved Peaches so much. I really don't know how we will ever fill the void that she has left. She gave us so much joy, so much love. We can't hardly wait to see her again one day. 

Is there a lesson to be learned here? I think so. Cherish your loved ones, your family. Whether we are talking about humans or pets, it doesn't matter. Don't take any day that you have with them for granted. Thank God for them everyday. 

Put things into perspective. All the things that you think are really important in your life--all the small stuff we sweat about every single day--really isn't all that important at all.

The photograph above, Penelope is relaxing on the bed, as she loved to do so often. I took this picture exactly one year before she left us. January 26th, 2014. I thought I'd share today. We have tons of photos of her, and I am so glad.

Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend.

Brant

 





 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finding Your Relaxation Point

Summarizing today's post: Finding your relaxation point, appreciating the little things, & doing what you love.

photograhy, sky, outdoors
shot at 18mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1/320th of a second
Sometimes you have to get away from all the stress in life and simply find your happy place for a while. I call it your relaxation point. Its the place you go to deliberately cancel out all of the negativity that tries to swallow you up day after day, hour after hour.

I have several relaxation points that I rely on. Primarily, being with my family. I can always recharge my batteries after a couple of hours of relaxing at home with my wife for example. But sometimes our schedules can be so hectic that we don't get to spend the time together we want. So I rely on other simple things to bridge the gaps.

You must learn to appreciate the little things all around you to achieve contentment. At least I think so. I love nature, and I especially I love taking photographs of the sky. It can be so relaxing. 

photography, sky, outdoors
shot at 20mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1/800th of a second
I have posted photos of the sky and clouds before (see here for a nice one of the sunrise) so this idea is nothing new. It's such a simple thing that brings me a lot of joy to capture.

You ought to take notice the next time you see a nice sunset, or a neat little cluster of clouds on the horizon. You can at least enjoy it for a moment. Or better yet snap a photo of it, you don't have to be a professional photographer. Your smartphone camera is more that capable of taking a nice shot for you to enjoy later.

Your relaxation point is probably not the same as mine (and probably is not...we are all different). The point is to find something you love to do and do it more often. To identify what gives you peace, so that when life gets a little rough, you know instantly what you can do to get to a place of serenity...as quick as possible. 

With all the things that can bring you down in the course of a day, its important to have little things you can rely on to help you get thru those not-so-good times. If nothing else, you can simply think about those little things until you can experience them again. I keep photos I have taken (of simple things like the sky in these examples) handy that I can view quickly when I need a quick shot of contentment. 

Have a nice Friday and thank for reading.

Brant

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Friday, January 16, 2015

In Your Element

Summarizing today's post: Being in your "element", doing what makes you happy, and going back to basics.

photography, family, park
shot at 36mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100th of a sec, ambient light only
One way contentment can be defined: Being in your "element". Ever heard that phrase? It simply means to be somewhere, and to do something that comes natural to you. Some place, some thing, some task that naturally brings you to a happier state of mind.

Like a fish in water. A dog curled up at the feet of his master. A painter at her canvas. The list goes on.

I just love being with my family. They are my world, my reason for getting up in the morning. I love spending time with them, and I feel like I am in my element when we are together. In the photo above, Pinky is about to 'release' Little Bud to go play on the playground at a local park. I told him I needed a smile first before he went :)

These little trips to the park (or simple walks together around the neighborhood, etc.) are extremely special because of several reasons. Namely, it increases our bond together and puts us all in a happier place. I wonder why that is?

The reason is this: we are all in "our element" at the same time. Gavin is in his element, playing on the playground, hollering at us to join him. Pinky is in her element, laughing at Gavin running around and chasing him. And I am in my element, for sure. Watching them play and snapping photos of them. (It's a double-whammy for me actually...I'm combining my two passions, my family and photography.)

It's important that you catch the fact that we are all in our element--our natural state of contentment--at the same time. This is how bonds are formed between people.

I challenge you to do something with your family this weekend that you all enjoy doing at the same time. It could be something as simple as watching a movie, playing cards or a board game, or going for a walk. Get back to basics. Get into your element together and let the sense of happiness that comes over you wash away all the troubles of the workweek. 

Don't forget the camera...take a moment to capture your happy times while you are at it (more on that here).

[Sidenote: Everyone's family is different. Your family might just be a special friend or two. That's okay, the point is to spend time with the people who are important to you.]

Thanks for reading and enjoy your Friday!

Brant

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Our Loyal Companions

Summarizing today's post: Overhead, off-camera lighting using our loyal companions (the pussycats) as models.

Photography, off camera lighting, pussycat
46mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125th of a sec, off-camera lighting using softbox overhead
Who are your companions...your true everyday loyal followers? I say followers in the literal sense because I'm referring to the pets that most of you have. And, yes...they are followers, especially puppy dogs and pussycats. If you are home right now as you read this, look beside you: You probably have a pair eyes looking at you. 

Right now our sweet ole pussycat is sitting beside me watching me work, completely satisfied with just a simple scratch on the noggin every few minutes. "Kitty", as she is known by, is shown above in one of her traditional positions. She's almost 18 years old and been with me since she was a kitten. She is a true companion, we love her dearly.

I love to take photographs of our kitty cats in there natural state. They make such good models because, for the most part, they don't move! If you ever wanted to play around and develop your photography skills, I highly recommend using a pet as your subject when they are just lying around. It's just hard to mess up, and you can shoot and shoot a hundred times until you get your lighting right. 

It's all about lighting you know. Photography is basically painting with light...in real time. I have spoken plenty of times about off-camera lighting and you get can get the basics by scanning my past posts (start here). If you want to let your creativity shine, you need to move your lighting source off-axis (away from your camera). It's a wonderful way to turn a snapshot into a photograph.

In the photo above, I moved my strobe (I call my flash a strobe when detached from my camera) directly above Kitty. Moving your light source from side to side, over and above, behind or in front, all effects the mood of your image. One of my favorite positions is directly overhead. It really creates a dramatic effect.

cat, photography, off camera lighting
48mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125th of a sec, off-camera lighting using softbox overhead
Off-camera lighting truly does add a different perspective to your photographs. It adds a 3 dimensional aspect that's hard to manufacture any other way. The positions of your light source is infinite, and is limited only by your imagination. 

Here's another shot of Penelope, our other loyal pussycat, all curled up in her bed. This is where she spends a lot of her time. She blends right in with the bedding, and its hard to get a good photograph. I captured this image using the same off-camera lighting technique, but my strobe was off to one side slightly. The lighting setup gave dimension to an otherwise flat image. Try it.

What to do if you don't have a "fancy" camera and equipment? That's no excuse, you can still play around with off-camera lighting using your point-and-shoot camera or cell phone. Here's how:

First turn off your flash. Find your subject (a worthless pussycat will do just fine). Have an assistant shine a flashlight over your subject, but filter the light by shining it thru a piece of copy paper. This will change the color to a nice white and also soften the light. Then back up a few feet and shoot away and see what you get. I bet you'll be surprised.

You hear me talk about how happiness is linked to photography all the time (see here). When you look at your results, I bet you can't NOT smile. It's so fun to play with lighting.  Put your pets to work and go try this, you can't mess anything up...except maybe naptime.

Have a nice Friday and thanks for reading!

Brant


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