Onward and Upward

So…

That third class I wrote about, you know, that one where I get to show you what I’ve been doing for homework. Well, I finished it this week and I’m not going to tell you I did horribly bad.  I am also not going to tell you I did horribly good either.  Horribly good?  Really?  What does that even mean?  Let’s just say I didn’t do as well as in this class as I did in my first two classes.

It all happened on the last assignment, I was hovering around 93% – 94% ish for the last several weeks and I thought it was ok, an A or A- won’t be the end of the world, my last assignment was worth 300 points and I figured I’d get most of them and keep the A’s going.  My final was a photographic narrative  on the Marriage of culture between the United States and Okinawa.  Pretty neat idea since I live here and it is distinctly Japanese but yet American also.  Anyway, these are some of my images:

The Flags

And

The Shoes

I really like this one.

What a great sign, right?

Jake and one of his good friends, who is Japanese, at their “graduation” from C-san to B-san.

Best Friends

Anyway, there are 16 others that made the final cut, I can show you more if you want.  Maybe I can download to flickr or something like that, hmmmmmmm.  I got a 222/300 on my final.  He just didn’t see the cultures mixing in my pictures.  Of course I completely disagree if he read my write up you can totally see it in my pictures.  His comment on this last picture was that this could be from any school in America.  Really?  I mean seriously!!!!  Any school in America where the kids wear Japanese name tags on their uniforms?  Where are these schools?  My wife is DYING to get Jake in to a Yochien in San Diego but with the pay cut we’re taking it’ll be impossible.

There are two others:

Quinn at the seawall

and…

Kira at the seawall

He said these could be at any beach in California, or maybe it was any beach…regardless he thought they could have been taken anywhere.  Ok, the first one is Nemo, with Dory’s tail with Bruce and the Hammerhead in the back, and way back there is Sponge Bob, overcast day, beach, ok…I’m not going to totally disagree with it, but in my artist statement I do say something about American influence on food, drink and cartoons.  With Quinn being in the pictures I think it kind of makes it a Japanese picture and it should be in the narrative.  The next one with Anpanman or the bread faced guy, is a Japanese cartoon character and I think superhero.  With his bread face saves people from starving by letting them eat his face…What can I say…It’s Japanese.

Anyway, I don’t think he liked me very  much, I can only hope to avoid him in the future.  Kinda like the first time at PUC where you’d hear don’t take ____’s class he’s a jerk, take it from ____ he is much better/easier.

So thanks for letting me rant, I’m sure after I get over this I’ll be a better photographer at least I’ll be one who can shoot pictures of a California coast while in Okinawa.

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The Experiment Was A Success

So,

I saw this really cool thing in Popular Photography Magazine (thanks Pop and Grandma Judi) this guy did with different colored lights, flashlight, colored LEDs, penlights, that kind of thing.  Something that is easy to turn on and off and that emits light.  A long exposure, several seconds.  And some sort of prop, a table, chair, loose wires.  Anyway, since I saw that I’ve been thinking about trying it out.  I just want to see

A.  If I can do it.

2.  How long it takes to do it.

D.  What can I do with it creatively

Ok, so that’s the background, something I want to try….  Now for the set up…  For the last couple of weeks I’ve been learning about Shutter Speed and Aperture as priorities in my shooting.  What effects each has on a picture, how to convey movement to the viewer, how to isolate a subject from the background objects, that kind of stuff.  At first I was like…I already know this kind of stuff, let’s move on already.  I mean this is the second week of the same thing, it’s getting a little boring taking pictures like:

Narrow Depth of Field

And this

Slow Shutter Speed

What I really want to take is that shot of the freeway going into the city at night with all the lights blurred so you just see a streak of red or white coming from the city.  Or lightning that would be super sweet.  Oh ya, we get lightning here but it seems every time I see it, I’m on my way to from or at work without my camera and with very little time.  Anyway, on with the story.  I had to post several pictures, using the Aperture as a priority, and several more using Shutter Speed as a priority, while being creative blah blah blah.  I did that stuff last week, GIVE ME SOMETHING NEW!!!!!!!!!

I came up with the shots, I had Jake’s help, our neighbor D came out and his sister A.  I got a couple of snaps of them but I didn’t want to use them because I get to be a little leary of taking pictures of other peoples kids and posting them online and not knowing to much about both the legality and security of that…so I stuck with my own son.  Huge helper that he is, “Hey Jake, I need you to ride your bike so I can take a picture of you.” and the son replies “Ok Dad.”  “Hey Dad take a picture or me”, says the son several minutes later, after I’ve already gotten what I need…he likes to have his picture taken and then look at the LCD to see how he did.  Maybe it is how I did taking the picture.Hmmmmm

Ok, now don’t let me get to sidetracked.  I ended up with plenty of pictures showing different depth of fields from really deep, meaning the front stuff is in focus and so is the stuff in the back.  To really shallow, meaning only what I want you to focus on is in focus, unless there is something else that happens to be on the same focal plane…yaddah yaddah yaddah…technical stuff which I would be happy to explain but I won’t  put everyone through it.  You can comment or e-mail me if you need me to explain it, heck you can even call, just remember for the next month or two I’m still in Japan.  That is in the +9 India time zone, which means I’ve already started my day and have been in it for 9 hours when Greenwich, the one in England hits midnight.  Ok so maybe don’t call….

I ended up a little short on the amount of shutter speed shots I needed to turn in.  Those can get a little boring, because he wants us to use a tripod and have the movement blurred while the camera stays still…to me this is boring…I mean who cares about the background?  It’s the BACKGROUND.  The thing that’s moving, that’s the interesting thing.  Every time Jake rides by on his bike I want to pan (technical stuff).  Every time I see someone pictures from class with all the movement I want to pan.  It’s difficult to master this technique, and right now I’m hit and miss, but when I hit…WHOOOOOOA DADDY!!!!…It’s AWESOME.  Wait…sorry…ya…I was short on shots showing shutter speed and I decided right then and there I needed to take a chance and try this new thing….

So, that’s the story.  I’ve got a neat thing I want to try and shutter speed.  Here is what I came up with.

Cursive

if you look closely you can see the time on the stove clock….  And this…

Print

And this…

Print and my mug

And finally I had Joelle help me with a little more light, she was able to “paint” my face into the picture.

It's the last one.

It was pretty cool, and fun to watch the way I got to move around and actually have create my own thing with this effect.  My shutter speeds ranged from 10 to 30 seconds, although 30 seconds was a little long.  I moved around and the shutter was open for so long I mostly didn’t get caught until I wanted to.  I did have to practice writing my name a couple of times.  I wrote it backwards so I wouldn’t have an arm in the way of the light, and besides that way the light would be shining straight into the camera.  I did use a tripod, and my camera remote(Thanks Dad).  If I can find some, I know they exist, I’d like to try some different colored LEDs, maybe even try to figure out some slow sync flash and some sort of prop or scenery.  Anyway, when I get that stuff figured out I’ll be putting it here so you who are interested can check it out.

Real Homework, and I Love It

So,

I started my third college class a couple of weeks ago, it is Principles of Digital Photography and is taught by a professional photographer who I am still trying to figure out.  Figuring him out isn’t my focus over the next several weeks, my focus is the stuff you will see pretty soon.  There are roughly a dozen people in my class, all photography majors, some have quite a bit of experience and others have very little, some listen to instructions and others just do their own thing.

This last week I’ve had to do some “practice” with aperture and shutter speed.  I was surprised with the results because I did it with my kit lens, the 18-55mm.  Now I’ve known how to make certain effects happen on my pictures…I can stop a speeding car, I can keep the car in focus and blur the background, or keep the background focused and blur the car.  I know how to get bokeh in my pictures.  That is that wonderful blur in the background while keeping the subject in focus.  I can get waterfall to show it’s drops of water in midair or I can make it have that whispy flowing look.  All this stuff I know how to do, I’ve known it for some time, I’ve just have never been forced to HAVE to do it.

With aperture and shutter speed  changes here is what I came up with.  First let’s take a look at the shutter speed:

Shutter Speed

I have Joelle to thank for this.  She helped me by driving in circles through the parking lot at the youth center over and over and over and over and over….  It was raining, and I managed to mostly stay out of the rain by being under this eve that stuck out about 2 feet by a door to the gym part of the youth center…not much but it worked.  Honestly though Jo’s job was much more difficult than mine.  I had to just sit there and change the camera settings, she had to drive the same speed through while making sure no kids came running out in front of her.  The top picture is the blur, you can barely see the van but it is there, and the bottom one isn’t completely frozen in time it was rainy and getting worse and I could have made a couple of adjustments to get it stopped but…rainwater…electronics…Hmmmmmmm.

The next part we did was aperture.  This is where that stuff called bokeh comes from.  Bokeh is that wonderful artistic blur you see where the person in front is in focus and the people behind are a little(or a lot) out of focus.  This is also where I can let less light into my camera so I can slow my shutter speed down enough to catch that whispy ghostlyness from the waterfall, or that crazy blur while I try to pan and keep Jake in focus while he is riding his bike.

Here are the results from those shots.

Wonderful blur

Both of these things I’ve known how to do since I took that photography class that got me hooked.  I had to have 2 other contact sheets with 15 photos each showing the little steps I took to get from the top picture to the bottom picture.

Actually the biggest problem I’ve been having is putting together a slide show in Lightroom 2 that is in a jpeg form small enough to put online that doesn’t take 3 days to download…and multiple page PDFs…and….

It’s all ok though, I’ve gotten it done before so I know I can do it again, it may just take a a while but that is ok.  I’m having fun getting all this done, the shooting, the post processing(which at this point doesn’t exist), putting it together so I can get as many points as possible, posing it and responding to other people’s work.

I’m getting done this time ’round….

The Decision

So….

Thanks to my wonderful parents, which also includes the in-laws, GranDee, Pop, and Grandma Judi, I have 2 new lenses for my camera.  They are the new Nikkor 50mm prime.

the Nifty fifty

and the zoom.

the 55-200 Vibration Reduction Zoom

I also have been encouraged to head back to school and get a degree.  I am having a hard time keeping up with posting here, working and going to school.  Something has to give.  I’ll try and keep posting some pictures to my picasa web album, I’ve got a few in there from when I first got my camera and I just put a few in there last-night when I posted some pictures with my Career Profile.  I’m not saying I’m quitting just probably slowing down for a couple of weeks.

On that note, we drove for an hour to go to a couple of places this weekend for an adventure, but I ran into a problem I’ve never have before and I hope to never have again.  More on that in a sec.

And this adventure wouldn’t be complete without one of those crazy phallic symbols I love so much with all the Kanji

The crazy Kanji phallus thing

From there it’s a short walk up a stone path

The short walk up a stone path

The greenery was green, the path was stone, maybe a little slippery but I had my sneaks on so I was confident.  Jo was waiting at the top pointing to something and I kept looking up and back to see what in the world she was being so mysterious about.  I couldn’t see a dog-gone thing, I’m walking up there looking back thinking to myself WHAT, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT!!!!!!  WHAT?????  They waited patiently at the top of the stone path….

Waiting patiently for Dad.

When I got to the top of the short stone path she pointed to a tree and said look butterflies, can you see them.  I turned and I still couldn’t see anything.  So…I got my camera out and zoomed in…sure enough, butterflies.  I took 2 pictures.

One

and

Two

Now at this point my back LCD comes on and doesn’t seem to be going off.  Wait I didn’t push any buttons, and I’m trying to take some pictures of butterflies, I turn it off.  I’m getting ready to take another picture and it comes back on.  What the heck???  You stupid SOB camera, stay off, I’m trying to capture the beauty of the butterflies here.  It comes back on, now at this point I’m starting to get angry, but this time I really take the time to look at what is going on.

Earlier in the day, just before we left the house, I thought I’d put my spare battery in so I could take some practice pics on the way down and make sure I have my White Balance set correctly and which one is going to be better for shade or clouds or bright sun.  As I search through my camera bag I’m realizing I took the battery out and put the fresh one in while we were camping last weekend.  I put the other one on to charge when we got rained out and moved into the room.  Hmmmmmm, the spare wasn’t in my bag like I’d thought it was.  In fact I still can’t find it.

So…as I looked at the back display I noticed the battery symbol was blinking, “oh that can’t be good”, I tried to turn it off and then back on and focus, no joy.  I tried turning the back display off and focus, sorry Charlie.  I almost threw it down the short stone path, totally could’ve made it to the bottom, to see if the jarring would work but thought better of that.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  My battery is dead and I can’t find my spare.  Even if the spare had 1/2 a charge I could get through the day with it.  This is the first stop.  Unbelievable…I looked through my camera bag 3 times there at the top of the short stone path, and my camera bag isn’t that big.

Lesson learned.  Keep better track of the battery packs.  Maybe get an extra one for the extra one. A veritable backup for the backup for the backup.  A double or triple back up.  Speaking of backups, I should think about getting some extra memory cards also.  I don’t shoot in RAW yet but I will probably start, that will cut down on the amount of pictures I can take.  Aaaaaaaaugh.  Back ups and back ups for my back ups.  This is crazy.

That is the latest adventure we’ve had here in Okinawa, I’ll make sure I keep you posted on what is going on in this tropical island paradise.  Even if I am a little slow in doing so.  Especially since we are quickly approaching the next step in our island adventures, Whidbey Island.(but that’s a different post)

It’s my birthday month

As I’ve gotten older…man isn’t this one starting out great…I’ve gotten interested in some stuff, and disinterested in some stuff.  Sometimes even in the same week.  For just over a year now I’ve been into photography, which is good for keeping with it, right?   (How do you know how long before you know you won’t quit something you started?)  I have a Nikon D40 with the 18-55mm lens that comes with the camera.  My Awesome father-in-law, Pop, handed me a manual focus prime lens and an AF telephoto lens that is MF on the D40.  Are you with me so far?

I’m going to be 40 this year (on the up side I read somewhere that 40 is the new 30 or something like that) and had been saving diligently for a big screen Plasma or LCD TV.  Until, that is, I found out that I might might might get to go to Naples for my next duty station.  At that point I thought, “How silly to get a TV I won’t even be able to use for 3 years.”  You see the US is NTSC and Europe is PAL, so they don’t even go together.  Are you still with me?

So, I’m going to just keep the money I’ve saved for the TV, so I’ll have a start when we go back to the states, and use money I get for my birthday plus a bit from my bonus for “Staying Navy” to buy a lens for my birthday instead.  Because I bought the entry level D40 (with no auto-focus motor in the body) I am stuck buying AF-S lenses for the ol’ camera.

I looked on a website and found a short list of lenses that the guy recommends.  I’m hoping I can get a couple but I’ve got no idea what I want to get.  Maybe only 1 but maybe 2.  Let’s just say that I can get one, which one?  Or, what if I can get 2 what then?  Should I even try to get a speed light?  I like shooting the boys so a good zoom is a great idea, but I also wouldn’t mind having a faster lens I can shoot in low light, like at the aquarium.  How about a 10-24mm or something like that?  Is the 55mm part of the 55-200mm to zoomed in for comfortable shooting in the house, what the heck, why not just change lenses?  Should I care about having to change lenses in the middle of shooting because something is to close?

Maybe none of this matters.  Since I don’t have the dollars to get the big stuff or the expensive stuff or both.  Then again, if I am going cheap anyway, of the cheap stuff what do I get?  Why couldn’t I decide that I’d like to do something that isn’t so expensive.  Like knitting.  Nothing against you knitters out there, I like some of your sweaters.  I live in Okinawa so it’s the perspective of the thing.

I guess really the answer lies mostly in answering the question, what am I going to be shooting.  The boys, the family, inside, outside, some landscape type stuff, some food some close up macro stuff…maybe.

I AM getting closer to a decision.

Thanks for bearing with me on this, I’ll keep you updated.  Jo wants me to hurry up ’cause I’m driving her nuts talking about it so much.

Which one to get??? Aaaaaaaaaugh!!!

So, I don’t know if you have noticed or not but I have gotten into taking pictures.  You see it starts out like this.  I enrolled in this photography class here on Okinawa.  Not a big deal just one of those classes they offer down at the Arts and Crafts Store here on base.  4 classes, 1 a week for 4 weeks.  It ends being taught by this airforce guy that is into photography and really does know quite a bit could be a pro but hasn’t said it yet, he has a job already in the Air Force, photography is more of a hobby.  He shoots Canon and loves it.  He really did make it interesting and quite fun.  I ended up borrowing one of my friend’s cameras for the class (He was with us in England, and now he is with us here in Okinawa and he is a good friend).  Anyway, I borrowed his camera, Canon…again, and have shot in the M mode pretty much ever since.

I’ve got 2 friends here that are pros: one is Aviva, who shoots Canon, and one is Kimberly, who shoots Nikon.  I asked around between the 2, Canon vs. Nikon and liked the answers for Nikon much better.  Of course when you are starting something new like this with opinions galore what kind of questions do you ask?  Ummmm, which one is better?  If that’s not a loaded question I don’t know what is.  But the bottom line, EVERYONE said, was “Whichever one you decide…stick with that.”  My choice…Nikon.  I really have no good reason for that other than my Dad had just gotten a Nikon.

So starts the search.  How do you search for something that you know nothing about, only that you know it’s Nikon?  Ebay?!?  I put in my queries and watched the auctions so I could get a good average price range, Amazon.com, B&H photo and only a few others so I didn’t get overwhelmed.  After all that how did it end?  I just went down to the BX on Kadena and bought one there.  A Nikon D40.

I read some books, and took some pictures and I still, a year later, really have a good time shooting(the camera).  Anyway, so we’re at the Aquarium the other day and we were inside, then hurriedly outside, and I wanted more zoom than I had, blah, blah, blah.  I decided at that point I was definitely getting a bigger zoom lens.  Nikkor and Sigma seem to be the main 2.  Sigma has a new 18-250mm, Bingo.  I’m getting that.  Now, a couple of days later, I’m wondering if that is a good decision.  Maybe I want something like that new Nikkor 50mm prime AF-S lens.  My father-in-law handed me a 70-210mm AF.  Very nice.  Over the last weeks I’ve taken it out and have done some shooting with it, but it is manual focus with my camera and I’ve ended up with some almost fantastic shots.  Just a little blurry.  I think with practice I can get used to that, so now that question is do just keep practicing with that and get the new Nikkor AF-S 50mm prime? or the AF-S 35mm?  Which for the sensor in my camera is what you see with the naked eye?  Those I can get in something around 1.4 or 1.8(that is a technical thing) for some low light situations or portraits type shots and amazing bokeh.

Now I realize that not a lot of people are going to be looking at this, and furthermore most of you aren’t going to really care but I am hoping that by writing this down and reading it will help me to make my mind up.