3/365: Night Portrait Setting

The first Project 365 Challenge at ScrapShare was posted this morning. Over the next week, we are to use the Automatic settings on the camera. This is something I hardly ever do, but this evening, I used the Night Portrait Setting on my D70 to photograph Erica and Kathleen playing a Nancy Drew Mystery Game, the Creature of Kapu Cave.



I then checked out the settings the Night Portrait used and shot the same general scene, using Aperture Priority Mode. I learned that the Night Portrait uses the Slow Sync flash, something I should use more often in low light, or at least at home for static pics.



Today's takeaway - the scene modes are a good starting point to learn more about how the camera handles different exposure situations, and then you can use that information in the Manual modes.

1st picture EXIF:
Shot in Night Portrait Scene Mode
Exposure: 0.333 sec (1/3)
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 70 mm
Exposure Bias: 0 EV

2nd picture EXIF:
Shot in Aperture Priority
Exposure: 0.4 sec (2/5)
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 70 mm
Exposure Bias: 0 EV

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The Word



The end of the year brings out all sorts of lists: Best of...., Worst of...., Favorite this and that...., Goals and Resolutions for the coming year, etc, etc. I'm not one to make resolutions, but goals and "forward looking" aspirations are fine, and I was happy to find a fun, yet thoughtful spin on making more of oneself in 2009 on Sheri's blog - One Word for 2009. The concept of One Word originates from Ali Edward's Blog:

Can you identify a single word that sums up what you want for yourself in 2009?

It can be something tangible or intangible. It could be a thought or a feeling or an emotion. It can be singular or plural. The key is to find something that has personal meaning for you. This is not your mother's word or your spouse's word or your child's word - this is YOUR word.


I didn't have to think very long or hard about what My Word should be, probably because it's been My Word for a very long time. The Word? Balance. Something I have strived for over my life as a daughter, sister, friend, student, musician, employee, wife, and mother. Something I continue to work at. Balance between work and play. Balance of my finances, my home, my hobbies, myself. In a world of extremes, Balance keeps it from teetering over the edge into the abyss.

What's your Word going to be? My hope is that Your Word is not just for 2009, but becomes a part of You.

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Sunrise, Sunset

I was lucky enough to view both the sunrise and the sunset today - the sunrise on the way to work and the sunset after I got home. I had time to follow the sun descending into the horizon, but wasn't able to get an unobstructed view until after it was below the horizon. Still, it was worth the mile walk:


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2/365: Dodging for the First Time

Even though I have owned Photoshop Elements since 2005, I had never taken advantage of the advanced features it is capable of. Last year, I followed one of Jessica Sprague's tutorials and learned how to use layers for Digital Scrapbooking. The problem with written tutorials is they are often hard to follow. Enter the Video Generation and Youtube, where video tutorials abound.

This evening, I took the following picture of some prairie grass as the sun set. I had limited time and only snapped one exposure:


The grass is underexposed, so I thought I would try to dodge some of the detail out. I found an excellent video tutorial on YouTube, produced by "photoshopkid" [the things kids are into these days!] and dodged for the first time.

I'm sure this won't win any photo contests, but I like the results (I cropped it, too):

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1/356: Grandma's Glasses

I think Grandma took advantage of the bright sun today while reading her book.




EXIF:
Camera: D70
Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/5
Focal Length: 52 mm
Exposure Bias: -1/3 EV
Lightened to +1/3 EV and Curve applied in Nikon Capture

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Project 365 - A Picture a Day for a Year

Even after my endeavor to take a picture each day in December ended up, well, short, I still plan to start Photo Project 365 in a couple of days.

The basic premise? Simple - take a picture every day and post it.
I plan to post here, at my Flickr site and on Scrapshare, where a weekly photography challenge will start in the new year.

I've included some links in the sidebar of others who participate in Project 365.

Wish me luck (I'm gonna need it, I think)!

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Family Joy - Illini Basketball!



Scott bought tickets for all of us to see the Illini basketball team play Eastern Michigan this afternoon at Assembly Hall. We were in Section C, but it was a fun game and best of all, the Illini won! Last year, the beloved Orange had a rough season, but so far this year, their record is 12-1. Hopefully, we'll be able to attend more games (and I'll be able to take a real picture).

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Kiss from Hannah

Although I wish Brian's face is more in view, I love the spontaneity of this picture - it is rare for Hannah to "kiss" any of us.

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Christmas Joy - Grandma's Arrival

After 2 days in the Detroit Airport, Scott's mother, Fay, finally arrived today at noon. Fay endured 2 flight cancellations, 3 flight re-bookings, 2 nights in the Best Western and countless hours waiting. She explored every nook and cranny in the Detroit Airport (except for the men's bathrooms, as pointed out by Brian) and almost finished the book she brought to read "during lulls in the day". Oh, and she didn't have her checked luggage. In fact, it arrived yesterday and was waiting patiently at the Champaign airport.

She shared several stories from her travel escapade. First, what happens when a flight is canceled and the traveler needs to get on another flight - instead of rebooking with a live person, the traveler is herded over to a cluster of phones which are patched into the airline's 1-800-reservation service. Isn't that personal....

The kicker - many of the phones didn't work, or the 1-800-reservation system was so clogged with calls that it was hard to get through. Fay's travel anecdotes reinforced the reason why we choose not to travel during the holidays, especially to-from snow-prone areas.

But Grandma has arrived and that in itself is this year's best Christmas present!


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Eye Candy

The steps leading to the Gingerbread house:

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Family Joy - Christmas Eve Activities

The ice storm from last night tapered into continuous rain this morning and finally moved to the east, leaving us with a skating rink for a driveway, and still no Grandma.

Scott's mother, Fay, who has spent Christmas with us over the past 6 years ran into major travel delays - she spent last night in Detroit and was scheduled to arrive this morning. But, alas, more flight cancellations and flight issues has resulted in more delays and another night in Detroit. Hopefully, she'll arrive tomorrow morning - things look clear now on the weather front.

We seem to be in a funk with our Christmas activities without Grandma, but the kids still decorated the gingerbread house:

Erica concentrates as she adds a silver bead to the top of her snowman:


And adds gumdrops to the rooftop:


While Erica was amenable to my picture taking, Brian wasn't as nice and copped an attitude every time I brought up the camera. I captured his attitude anyways:


There's still a scowl on his face, even though it is a picture of his hands:


Brian's completed side:


Another Christmas Eve activity is the opening of one selected gift. I managed to "bribe" a nice picture out of the kids just prior to the big present reveal:


Which was Mario Kart for the Wii:


And all three kids are playing....

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Today's Joy - Fun and Games with the Kids


Today I took some time away from blogging, cooking, cleaning, baking to have some fun - playing the Wii with the kids. I haven't played since June, and it showed. My Mii was on page 3 of the list of Mii's, and I had a hard time remembering the basics of the Wii-Mote.

I played tennis against Brian and promptly realized how bad I was! He whupped my tushie. I didn't fare much better against Erica in Baseball. I slightly redeemed myself in boxing by orchestrating a brilliant KO win against Erica.

We had lots of fun and wore ourselves out - boxing can be quite strenuous!

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Ice, Ice, Baby

Truthfully, I abhor that song / artist, but it makes for a somewhat witty title this icy, wintry evening. Today's weather was a repeat of last Tuesday's - freezing rain and ice. Scott and I rode together to work and we left early because we didn't want to get stranded at work with the kids home.

So, some more icy pictures from today:



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New Blog

I decided to spend some time today, the start of my Christmas break, to create a second blog dedicated to my Daily photo challenge and general photography.

I managed to tweak the layout and hopefully that won't impact any pictures I post.

The header picture is a panoramic of Nanchang, JiangXi Province, China, taken from the top of Shengjin Pagoda. Hopefully, I'll change out the header picture every now and then.

That's it for now - hope you come back to visit!

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Joyful Find - Pandora Radio



About a month ago, I was given the link to Pandora Radio from a fellow scrapbooker at ScrapShare. I just now took the time to navigate to the site and set up a custom radio station, based on Sara Bareilles' music style. I have been itching to discover some new artists and music, as I have tired a bit of the 15GB of music currently stored on my iPod (I know what you are thinking - sheesh - what is she complaining about?).

So far, I have decided to check out these artists and their albums
Missy Higgins - On a Clear Night
Rachael Yamagata - Happenstance
Jack Jackson - In Between Dreams

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Joy to the World - Beaker Style

Something to warm you all up this frigid first day of Winter.
The mercury dipped down to 0 degrees F this morning and hasn't increased by much during the day - the temperature is now a whopping 2 degrees F and the wind is whipping out on the prairie at 25mph.

My college friend, Armando posted this on his Facebook account, and I found it on YouTube. It reminds me of another college friend, Chris (we called him Beaker).

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Friday's Joy


These are as pretty as they are tasty. Pomegranates - tart-sweet and juicy. Not a fruit you get to eat every day, but I have been enjoying them since they showed up in the stores this fall. Somehow, I feel "healthier" after eating the juicy arils (that's the ruby red seed-like nodules).

That was part one of today's joy. Part two is the news I received from my friend Mark, announcing the arrival of his new bundle joy, Priti, baby girl, born on Wednesday. Priti (pronounced "preethee") is the first baby for Mark and his wife, Anita. What a joyous event, even more special during the holiday season.

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Ice Storm Joy?

This week's Joy theme is "Glitter and Shine". I think these picture qualify:





Now, if only I could weave these pictures into some sort of Joy post! Ice storms don't normally sound very joyous and yesterday's drive home with the Defrost cranked all the way up, barely keeping the windshield from icing over certainly does not qualify as an exception. Then there was the accident on the highway which resulted in a motor boat in the median - off its trailer and splayed on the grass. But I didn't read about any serious injuries in the paper, and the ice glittering in the sun this morning was beautiful.

I did receive our annual Kringle from my boss, John, who makes these buttery, tender pastries every Christmas season. He gives away one for each of his direct reports. As the Tech Manager at our plant, he is making a LOT of Kringles!

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Back with Some Joy - Cookie Give aways

I have been so busy these past days I haven't had any time to blog. But I have been thinking about Joy, and I have been taking pictures, so I will try to catch up.

Sunday - I finished off the cookies.
First, I made the sandwich cookies:
1. My original standby - Raspberry and Chocolate. (shown below)
2. New this year - mint chocolate - melted Nestle semi-sweet morsels with mint extract. Wow, these were to die for.


Then my ribbon cookies (aka my signature cookies). Here are the ribbon cookies before I dipped them melted chocolate and then chopped pecans.



Finally, the lemon cookies were finished with a drizzle of lemon icing.

A picture of the fruits of my labor:


The best part? Packing up these up into tins and giving them to our friends. I also sent two containers out to my parents, as my sisters' families will be spending the holidays with them.

Yeah, we keep enough for us to enjoy. I think the troops would mutiny if I gave them ALL away!

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12 on December 12

I'm late posting this because of the activities I've been caught up in these past few days. Presents to be wrapped, cookies to be baked, music concerts, choir rehearsals, just a sampling of the past few days.

Friday morning started with hot chocolate and waffles for the kids' breakfast. It was lightly snowing outside - nothing major, just enough make things pretty in the air.



I had to get gas, and the prices have held steady around the $1.65 / gallon mark. No complaints here!



Some holiday displays around the house - our collection of past and present Holiday cards, set upon the piano. It shares this space with the Nativity set.


Also displayed on the Dining room table - various Ruldolph characters.


Outside, some remnants of this morning's snow, swept on the patio bricks.


After dinner, I started this weekend's major project - baking of cookies. As I write this on Saturday night, I have made over 240 cookies. The common basis for the cookies - these three ingredients - butter (has to be Land-O-Lakes Unsalted), confectioners sugar and flours.


This cookie extravaganza is only possible because of my Kitchen Aid Mixer (a wedding gift from several of my MIT friends). Having creamed butter with sugar and flour by hand, I know what a great tool this thing is.


Tonight's accomplishment - a layer each of almond and chocolate dough, which then are placed on top of one another and rolled together for pin wheel cookies.


While I make the cookie dough, Erica helps out by washing the dishes - she was a big help!


Another task that I need to get on - addressing and sending out the Christmas Cards!


Finally, we have been nibbling on these treats over the past week - the colors are so Christmassy, and they taste great, too.

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Frosty Leaves

Last night's frost combined with early morning sun provided a glittery, golden landscape for this morning's commute to work. As an added bonus, the sun burning off the frost caused a hazy mist of fog above the prairie. Really beautiful. But alas, I did not bring my camera with me (still working on that!), so I only get to describe it to you.

When I got home in the afternoon, I found some still-frosty patches of grass in our back yard. I searched and found what I was looking for - frosty leaves. The ice crystals look cool if you zoom in on them.



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Joy - Packages Under the Tree



I received a surprise this afternoon when I got home - Erica announcing that she had dragged in the big package that had been delivered to our house. It was the Christmas present I had purchased for Scott (no reveals - you'll have to wait for Christmas!). I was surprised because I had been given an estimated delivery date of 12/23, and because the package was HUGE. Erica and I had a fun time wrapping the monster - we used an entire roll of wrapping paper on it and then tucked it under the tree.

That's today's Joy that falls into the Red Category AND today's Picture of the Day.

Hope you have a joyous evening!

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Christmas Cactus Blooms


Scott bought this Christmas Cactus in 1993 from a HS girl selling them for her volleyball fundraiser. It was our first Christmas in our first house (back in West Virginia). It was in a little 4" pot, with lots of flower buds developing. He didn't realize that these plants are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and after we had the plant for a couple of days.....whump.... all of the buds fell off.

15 years later, what started as a little plant is now almost 4' wide, with fabulous blooms each Christmas (sometimes it blooms around Thanksgiving). Nothing nicer than some pretty flowers this time of year (now, if only my Amaryllis would start to do something!)

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Joy - Our Family, Elf Style

These have been making the rounds not only in the blog world, but at work. Scott wanted me to make ours and he specifically requested that I add one of our cats, Hannah.

We were rolling on the floor laughing.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

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Bonus Joy - Jingle All the Way



Scott and Erica are enjoying tonight's ABC Family feature, Jingle All the Way. Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger run around, getting pummeled as he tries to procure a Turbo Man Doll has both of them laughing hysterically. Scott does a good Arnold impersonation as well.

Just too funny and joyful that I had to share.

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