July 1, 2015

Get More From Your Camera: ISO


Oh ISO, you elusive pixel pixie, what do we do with you? Do we even know what you are?

Kids, once upon a time, disposable cameras weren’t just wedding reception novelties. You actually went to the store and had dozens to choose from, for all those special occasions like birthdays and vacations and first t-ball games. And they had these numbers on them – 100, 200, 800, 1600 – and if you were 13 years old and didn’t have parents who were really into film photography (like me) you had no idea what those numbers meant and why they cost different amounts or if there was any real difference. So, you bought the camera with the highest number you could find, because 1600 HAS to be better than 100, right?

Sigh. I’d weep over my high school scrapbook, but it’s a PCS casualty and hasn’t been seen in years.

Out of the Big 3 functions we’ve explored thus far, ISO is the least-manipulated, for me. It’s pretty “set it and forget it,” and you may hardly ever need to pay much attention to it. Still, it’s important to know what it is and why it’s there.

As with all things photography, it comes back to light. ISO manipulates your camera’s sensitivity to light. If it’s a lower number, it’s less sensitive. If it’s higher, it’s more sensitive. So, yes, BIG difference between 100 and 1600.

When your camera is on Auto, ISO will usually stay very low, probably 100. This is because, if you’re outdoors, there’s lots of natural light. And if you’re indoors (or it’s night time) the Auto will engage the flash to make up for all the missing light.

However, if you go full-on Manual, you can manipulate ISO to accomplish several goals. For one, you can step up your ISO if you’re in a situation where there’s not bright, bright sunlight shining down – but you also don’t want to use (or have) a flash. For another, I do know photographers who prefer a higher ISO setting in general, because they like the effect it has on photos. Lower ISO lends to smoother pictures, high ISO to grainy/rougher pictures. Examples:


Aperture: f/9
Shutter speed: 1/320 sec
ISO: 100
Already I had a very small Aperture (remember, large numbers = small Aperture opening) and a pretty quick shutter speed to limit the insane amount of sunlight going on. ISO is on the lowest possible setting also, and so the image is very smooth, even when you zoom in or print in a large format.






Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter speed: 1/250 sec
ISO: 2000
You might have to click this one to enlarge it, to really see what I mean. I took this right as Baby G was waking up from a nap, so the lights in her room were off. The only light source was from the hallway. I cranked the ISO WAY up so I wouldn’t have to use the flash and screw up her natural expression. Because the ISO is super-high, the picture has a rough grain to it as the camera is grasping for as much light as possible to capture the image.

Again, this may not be something you need to mess with very often, but there have definitely been times where changing the ISO has saved my pictures when my aperture and shutter speed capabilities were insufficient to the situation. Also, some people just like a grainy old-timey look to their shots. You might, too, when you play around with it.

And that’s the end of the technical part of this series. Next time, we’re going to start looking at theory. We’re going to have some Come To Jesus moments, y’all. Get ready.

June 24, 2015

Get More from Your Camera: Shutter Speed


Shutter speed is a funny animal. On the one hand, it’s the easiest (in my opinion) to conceptualize. I don’t math good and even I know that 1/640 seconds is a faster time than 1/6 seconds. On the other hand, while that’s nice to know…what do you do with it?

Shutter speed opens up a range of options for capturing moments in interesting ways. It’s often manipulated by the “Action” function on your camera (the little guy running), but to shoot in Shutter Speed Priority, where the only thing you adjust is the shutter speed and the camera takes care of aperture and ISO, you would set the camera on “S” or “Tv”.


Aperture: f/1.8
Shutter speed: 1/250 sec
I wanted a nice, shallow depth of field here, but it was a very bright, sunny day at Disney. A lower f-stop means LOTS of light coming in that lens, and we could easily have been whited-out. Solution? Faster shutter speed = less time for light to enter the camera = evenly exposed picture!


Aperture: f/3.5
Shutter speed: 1/60 sec

The motion blur Teacups picture is a Disney tradition for us. Here the shutter is slowed down to 1/60 of a second, to allow time for the camera to “see” movement behind me, but still be fast enough that the foreground (me) is clear. I was shaky, but the shutter was too fast to see me moving, too. If you don’t have easy access to giant spinning teacups in your everyday life, a good way to practice this technique is a kid on a swing.


Aperture: f/5.3
Shutter speed: 1/4 sec

This is probably my favorite reason to manipulate shutter speed: fireworks pictures. And this isn’t even an awesome one, but it gets the idea across. Slow that shutter WAY down to let the camera see those streaks of light. If the shutter is too fast, you get little dots of light as the camera only “blinks” while the light is in a single position.

I’m trying not to be redundant here, but basically: the slower the shutter is, the more movement you get, and movement is what makes fireworks pretty.

There you go.



Yay! Just in time for Fourth of July fireworks, you are ready to get out there by the power of Shutter Speed! (And a tripod. Or otherwise steady position for your camera. Because if YOU are moving while you’re holding the camera, it’ll “see” that movement, as well.)

June 22, 2015

InkWELL Press LiveWELL Planner: Six Months Check-In


You may remember that at the beginning of the year I switched from my tried-and-true Erin Condren Life Planner to an InkWELL Press Planner for 2015. When I got the new planner, I did a review/comparison here:

We’re now halfway through the year and both InkWELL and Erin Condren are announcing their new planner changes. Now that I’ve used both (not the new versions) I wanted to give a “used” review of my InkWELL.

Probably my favorite unique thing about the InkWELL is the extra pages at the front and back of each month. The dashboard helps me take a good look at the month, the lined sheet is where I record my daily gratitudes (I should probably do a post just about that), and the “after” pages are good for general note-taking.

I thought I would like the hard cover more than I do. My embossed name still hasn’t rubbed off, contrary to claims online, but the cover itself is starting to bow thanks to the enormous amount of stuff I keep in the pocket/accordion folders. I think I still prefer it to the soft bendy-peely EC cover, though.

And I love the quality of the paper. It just feels nice.

That being said, I miss the Erin Condren personality. Those planners are just more fun. I decorate up my InkWELL because I’ve started using it also for journaling our Hawaii adventures. But….it’s not the same. Not even a little.

EC is famously making changes to their planners for the new year, several that mimic the InkWELL – but not the features I like most. The extra planning pages (dashboards, which I’m sure are copyrighted), the hard cover, the integrated elastic band, the wider coil, the obviously more expensive paper. None of that. Also, interchangeable covers are a gimmick.

But they’re just so much cuter.

I don’t know. I do love my InkWELL. And I’m probably 60/40 IWP/EC when you come right down to it. I just wish they were prettier. :) I said in my review video that I wasn’t “sophisticated” enough to appreciate the InkWELL color schemes. That hasn’t changed.

Have you see the new designs for IWP or EC? What are your thoughts?

June 19, 2015

Happy Father’s Day, SoldierMan

fathers day-3

Yeah, I know this is early. Your present (such as it will be in this hotel life) will be, too, if I can get to the store.

I remember how nervous you were before she got here. I wasn’t nervous for you. I knew you’d be a natural. I was right.

I can’t imagine a child more loved and more enjoyed by her father than Baby G. I know she’s not usually in snuggly-cuddly mode with you (right now, the day will come) but no one can make her laugh the way you do, or SQUEEEEAAL with excitement, or light up when you walk into the room. No one, not even me, gets her to that level of delight.

That’s all you.

You have a special tenderness for her that doesn’t come out anywhere else. Watching you two together is my favorite.

You carry her on your shoulders and chase her whenever she wants and feed her too much ice cream. You are the best Daddy she could have.

I love you and I’m so thankful you’re my daughter’s Daddy.

Happy Father’s Day.