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Friday, October 31, 2014

Capturing Our Happiness: Off To The Zoo!

Summarizing today's post: Photos from our recent trip to the NC Zoo, happiness in photography, & some tips for taking full-on sun photographs.

zoo, family
shot at 50mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/200th of a second, ambient light mixed with on-camera fill
It has been forever since I have been to a zoo. I remember going when I was in middle school, but can't remember exactly when or where (it was a field trip I believe). Talking to Pinky about it one day a few months ago, we decided to make a plan to go. She hadn't been in a very long time either. 

We did a little research, and decided it only made sense to go to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, since it is the closest place to us (here's the link if you are interested). It's a little more than an hour's drive from convenient! Can't believe we've never been.

I think having kids gives you an excuse to do things you wouldn't otherwise do sometimes, and this was no exception. We talked it over with Gavin, and although he went to the NC Zoo a few years ago with his mom and stepdad, he was all excited about it. Hooray! 

African Lion
shot at 200mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/100th of a second
We arrived at the zoo at about noon on a Saturday and the weather was beautiful. We had loaded up with sunscreen because the sun was out in force. The temperature was very comfortable in the mid 70s, and we never got overheated at all during our trip. 

The photograph at the top of the page is of my two babies leaning up against the railing outside the lion's den. Shooting in full sun can be a challenge (see here). The first photo I took was horrible because Gavin and Pinky's faces turned out too dark (I tried using only available light). This was due in part to the hats they were cast a nice dark shadow across their faces. 

I didn't have loads of camera equipment with me to solve this problem, so I simply used my on-camera flash to lighten their faces a bit. Problem solved. I used this technique thru-out the day whenever I wanted to take a photo of them when we were out in the sun. It's all about balancing available light with your own added light.

It makes me smile to look at that photograph. They were having a good time...can't you tell?

I had to include a photo of the king of the jungle as well. You can see this stellar African lion just relaxing in the shade. I had to zoom in on him because he was in the back of the den. He wasn't interested in socializing. 

Afrian elephant, zoo
shot at 170mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/500th of a sec, ambient light only
Now it was a different story with this sweet girl! This young African elephant was all playful as her trainer was telling the crowd a few things about her daily routine. Talk about personality...she had it. It was awesome to see this beautiful 800 pound creature interact with him (and with us as well).

There was so much to see, I could never show it all here. So much to enjoy, to learn, to soak in. It was a nice day to say the least. I remembered to take my camera to capture some of it, and therefore we can look back and smile from time to time. Happiness increased and prolonged by photography? Yes, I would say! I'm still smiling :)

ice cream, zoo
shot at 56mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/80th of a sec, ambient light only
Before leaving we stopped to enjoy some ice cream from one of the local vendors. What a refreshing treat. Little bud sure did enjoy it (may have been the best part of the trip for him!)

It was a nice day. We encourage you to try it sometime!

Some tips for your trip to the zoo:
  • Take sunscreen and a hat
  • Wear some good walking shoes
  • Take a bottle or two of water and pack it in a backpack, it'll save you a buck (or twelve!)
  • Plan your trip in fall or spring
  • Arrive early
  • Remember your camera!
Thanks for reading, and have a nice Friday!


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Wore Out

Summarizing today's post: Working too much, dealing with stress, and a wildlife photograph thrown in for good measure.

shot at 200mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1/250th of a sec, full sun
Some days at work are harder than others. I seem to have had a string of such days myself, and I am flat wore out. The stress level is peaking. Not much time to post today unfortunately.

I bet that's never happened to you has it? Nah. 

I feel like the goose in the above photograph...I could take nap right where I stand sometimes, I truly believe. [I took this photo about 4 years ago at a local park and just stumbled upon it today. I thought it was fitting.]

I wish, for everyone's sake, that we could all have "good" and non-stressful days at work every single day. But that's just not in the cards. We are going to have some bad days mixed in there from time to time.

The best advice I can give you for dealing with stress at work is to simply take one thing at a time. Forget that "one day at the time" cliche...sometimes is comes down to taking one hour at the time, or even one minute at the time.

And remember, the longest day will have an end. 

Thanks for reading, and happy Friday of course!


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Photo Tip Monday: Keep Your Background Clean

Summarizing today's post: Photo tip for wildlife photography, snapshots, & carrying your camera with you always.

colorful bug photo
snapshot using available light
Happy Monday! 

Yes, even if you have to get up and go to work this morning like most of the world, it's still a happy Monday. You're vertical aren't you? Some folks are not so lucky!

Let's be thankful to the good Lord that we have jobs to go to so we can keep the heat on and food on the table. I know I am.

So it's Monday and that means I have a quick photo tip for you. This one is so simple, but important none-the-less.  

Take a look at this beautiful little insect at the left. I had stepped outside one day at work and saw this colorful little creature just sitting on the side of a car taking a break. Of course...I had to take a quick photo.

Look at him, then look at his surroundings. What don't you see? 

How about clutter and even dirt particles in the background? That's right.

How much would it have detracted from the photograph of this little guy if the surface he was perched on was filthy? Probably a lot. If he were sitting on the side of a nasty car that hadn't been washed in 3 years, it may have been enough for me not to even bother to take the shot. The dirty surface would have easily taken away from his beauty. I would have just enjoyed a few seconds of watching him and then walked off in that case.

So this got me to thinking. While there's not a whole lot I can do about the cleanliness of things away from home, I can do something about it on my own property. How many times has it happened that I haven't taken a photo of some cool-looking creature that landed on my patio table because I hadn't taken the time to wipe it down in a a week or so? (Admittedly, I still may have snapped a photo, but I'd never show it to anyone!)

Photo tip for today: Take notice of where you often see insects and wildlife stop off around your home (for the sole purpose, of course, to allow you to take a photo of them). Then make it a point to wipe down those areas from time to time and remove the clutter. You will thank yourself later when your little friends return.

You'll make your snapshot (which is all that my photo above really is, truthfully) into a much more appealing piece of art that you can show off.

Have a great Monday and thanks for reading. Don't forget to carry your camera with you today as you walk out the door!


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Have You Had A Break Lately?

Summarizing today's post: Taking short breaks with family, finding peace & contentment, and carrying your camera with you always.

lake photograph
Overlooking Lake Phelps

On Saturday I had the privilege to visit one of our state parks not too far from where I grew up. Pettigrew State Park is right on Lake Phelps, NC and is a beautiful place. Check it out if you like by clicking the here: 

My dad, our little boy, and myself had been planning a little camping trip over the last couple months and decided Lake Phelps was the place to go. Not too far away, and there was plenty for us to do to occupy our time while there. I wanted to post a few photographs I took while there. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to snap a few photos to capture the moment.

Dissipating clouds over the Lake Phelps
Happiness to me is being with family, as you have heard me say before (see here). I love taking short breaks throughout my busy week and recharging my batteries with my wife and son. It's an extra special treat when I can spend time with my parents as well. This little trip was Gavin's first official camping trip away from home so I was extra excited to get away with him.

A little Lake Phelps history lesson
We all had a wonderful time. And although we had to dodge a few storms while there, we made the best of it and had a dry night's sleep in our tent. I couldn't ask for a better experience for Gavin's sake.

I think it is so important to break from our hectic schedules and "recharge" a bit from time to time. It can be compared to sleep at night between our busy days...we all need it.

I sure hope that you get to break away from your busy life this weekend and do something fun with family. It doesn't have to be a long, eventful trip either. A simple hour-long walk in the park during this awesome weather we are having right now might be enough.

Whatever you do, just make sure you bring your camera with you to capture the peace and contentment that such a little outing will give. You'll be pleasantly surprised of the warm happy feeling that will come over you when you look back at your photos later on.

Thanks for reading, have a great Friday!


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Friday, October 10, 2014

I Need Your Help: What Makes You Happy?

Summarizing today's post: Happiness thru photography, & a petition for your story.

shot at 44mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1/800th of a sec
As I have said before, I am convinced that happiness is escalated by the use of photography. You can look at my recent post where I wrote about our wedding anniversary (here) for a concrete example.

Time is escaping out from under us, and I believe it is so important to capture 'on film' the little things that make us glow. 

Thru my blog, I have provided many, many examples of things that make me happy. My family has been the main source of these happy times that I have shown you. But I have provided other examples as well. I have shown photographs of our pets, provided neat little shots of nature, and a couple off-the-wall things thrown in for good measure. 

This wonderful hobby of mine--photography itself--gives me a jolt of happiness as well. Only the tech-weird amateur photographer can appreciate this one (and that's okay).

Nine-nine percent of what my blog has been about up to this point is what has made ME happy. Granted, I hope you have gained something out of this and projected my examples onto your own lives in some small way.

But now it's your turn.

I need your help. I am asking my readers for some examples of what makes them happy. What floats your boat? What have you taken photos of that when you look back on them, you smile from ear to ear? I would like you to share that happiness with me so I can provide yet another example to my readers that happiness is indeed linked to photography.

Here are just a few things to get your mind stirring:

  • Do you have some photos of your son or daughter playing sports who you are super proud of? 
  • Does your husband like hunting/boating/fishing and you have a story along with a photograph to share? 
  • Does your wife love baking and have you managed to sneak up on her and get a candid shot of her in 'her element' that you'd like to share?

It's your turn to broadcast your happiness and I need some examples...can you help? I'd be tickled to turn your example into a blog post for others to see if you'd like. (Note: Your photos don't have to be perfect, snapshots will be just fine.)

Contact me thru Facebook here,
Or thru Twitter here,
Or leave a comment below (if you have a google account set up).

I look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for reading, have a great Friday.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Photo Tip Monday: Using Ambient (Available) Light

Summarizing today's post: Using only ambient/available light in photography & keeping your camera handy at all times.

shot at 120mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/30th, ambient light only
Happy Monday guys!

I've got a quick photo tip for you today. Nothing earth-shattering, but important.

First, I'd like to start off with a thought for those of you who hate Mondays.

A colleague of mine at work told me this when I came dragging in early one Monday morning...he said: "You know Brant, one of the best things about Monday is that it is the absolute furthest day of the week away from the next Monday". 

Pretty neat thought. Maybe it made you smile.

Okay, on to the photo tip.

With all the many, many ways that you can adjust lighting in photography, don't overlook the lighting that's already there. The ambient/available light can be (and often is) sufficient to light your subject. This is good news to those of you are a little timid with using flash photography.

Take a look at Kitty above (her actual name is Pepper, but she wouldn't know it...I've always called her Kitty). 

We had a chilly night sneak up on us last week and I didn't have the heat on just yet in our home. Therefore, it was a little colder than normal inside when I got up and moving. I found Kitty soaking up the heat from one of the sun's rays streaming thru our porch door. 

Maybe she was dropping me a hint. "Turn on the heat daddy!"

Anyhow, I thought it was a pretty neat photo opportunity so I grabbed my camera (I always have it handy, especially around home...don't you?).

With the sun illuminating her face and chest just right, I didn't want to add any light (flash or otherwise) to the image. I simply went with the ambient light. It turned out very nice I thought...and it took maybe 30 seconds to capture. 

Sometimes you do need to add your own light to the ambient (see my post here for an example), but many times you can get away with what's already there.

Don't over-complicate things. Just have your camera ready at all times.

Have a great Monday and thanks for reading!


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Friday, October 3, 2014

Our Wedding Anniversary: Happiness Defined

Summarizing today's post: Photos of our wedding from a year ago, what happiness is to me, & how photography and happiness are closely related.

shot at 62mm, ISO 400, f/4.8, 1/250th, ambient mixed with 2 off-camera strobes (TTL)
This past Tuesday, the 30th, my wife and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful day relaxing and reflecting on this past year and how quickly it went by. 

As part of the day, we looked at some wedding photographs...such happy moments! I wanted to share a few of them with you. [Now why would I do that? Read on...]

Pictured above is a sweet little photograph taken on the back porch of our mountain cabin just after the wedding ceremony. While I was taking a few shots of Pinky in her pretty white gown, one of our friends who accompanied us grabbed my camera. He made me sit down for a moment while my new bride jumped in my lap. He snapped the photo. Nice shot I thought.

Photo by wedding photographer
This next photo is from our wedding album, and it shows the energy and excitement that Gavin brought to the event. It makes me smile to look at it :) Sweet youngin...he did so good as ring bearer.

I never knew how much effort could go into planning even a very small wedding. Not only did we need to decide on the place, but then who would marry us, how many people were going to come, how to feed everyone, etc. The list goes on. (I don't know what I'd have done if I didn't have Pinky's help!) 

After much deliberation about where the ceremony would be held (deciding ultimately between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the mountains of Tennessee) we decided that Gatlinburg, TN would be where we were going to "tie the knot". And it was a wonderful place indeed.

We found a wonderful little wedding chapel tucked away in the the hills of this nice town, and it was perfect. It provided for us exactly what we wanted...a small, classy place where we could exchange our vows in the presence of God. And of course...we arranged to have plenty of photos!

Photo by wedding photographer
We decided on Gatlinburg for many reasons. One of which was that we didn't want a big wedding at all, and didn't want to trouble a lot of folks with coming. The way we accomplished this was by moving the event 300 miles away! Only a handful of our friends and family followed us up there.

The seclusion of the mountains is soul-soothing. I have spend a lot of time as a child visiting the mountains, starting from when I was just a child. I have learned how simply being up there can change you. It's hard to explain unless you've been there. To be able to gaze up at the nighttime sky and see the brightest set of stars in your life looking back on you is priceless. 

We wanted this simplicity and serene environment for our special time. We spent several days up there in Gatlinburg (and neighboring Pigeon Forge) after the ceremony was over and the family went home. This gave us a chance to rest a relax after the hectic events leading up to our trip. We so desperately want to return very soon to visit again. I highly recommend you make plans to travel up there soon if you are looking for a place to get away for a few days (especially this time of year with the leaves about to turn colors).

Finding Pinky and then getting married to her completed me...for I was lost for a long time. Discovering someone who fits you like a puzzle piece can be a gut-wrenching journey. We all go thru it, and some of you may not have found that perfect person yet. But don't give up, keep looking. (By the way, there is no such thing as a perfect person... but there is such a thing as a perfect match for you.)

I have talked many times about happiness and photography (see here for most recent post) and how they are closely related. I am absolutely convinced that photographing events--that already make you happy--will increase that level of joy. And here's the will EXTEND and lock in that happiness. As long as you have access to those photos, you can get a quick little "happy fix" whenever you want!

This is the reason for my post today. I wanted to show you by example something that gave me extreme happiness. Our wedding day. And that by taking the time to get some photographs of this wonderful day (either my me or someone else), I extended that happy and content feeling.

What ever gives you joy...capture it forever with a photograph.

One last photo before I go. This one is a group shot of all our loyal friends and family who made the long journey up into the hills of Tennessee to share in our joy that day. (Not pictured here is my brother Bryce, his wife Krista, and Gavin...poor boy was too wore out to pose for yet another photo.) I love all of you.

shot at 20mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/60th of a second, ambient mixed with 2 off-camera strobes (TTL)
I hope everyone has an awesome Friday. Thanks for reading!


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