The Annual Family Photo

Yes, it's that time of year - the days are shorter, the corn fields have been reduced to stubble and all the stores are showcasing Christmas Trees.

Christmas? Already?

Yes, it seems that preparations for the upcoming Holiday season are encroaching upon the Fall season.

While I ignore all that Holiday "stuff", it does remind me that it is time for our annual family photo shoot, something we've been doing ever since we had baby number two, back in 1999.

Last year, we "expanded" things a bit and included our cats. Here's a reminder:
Away from the Rest of Us

Ah, good times, lots of scratches and hisses.

This year, no cats. Instead, we decided to go "bigger". Literally. We took our family picture with the newest family member, Caesar, our Appaloosa.

The backdrop - the pasture where Caesar spends his time doing what horses do best - eating grass. And if you look carefully, you can see his mouth full of grass:
First Test Shot
It was just a test shot, so it didn't matter......

After a few more rejects, this one came close to being chosen:
Almost a Keeper
Oops, hubby's face is covered by one of Caesar's ears.

More rejects and then this one:
The One We'll Use

Then things went downhill quickly..... Caesar just couldn't keep from eating and became a bit hard to handle.
Losing Control

Yup, the photo shoot is over:
OK, Photo Shoot is Over

We'll end up using the third photo, even though my hair is a mess, swirling around my head because of the wind. And my daughter really isn't taller than me. Really. Oh well, I don't care, I'm just grateful we were able to get the photo done.

Next task - pulling together the annual Holiday Card. I think I'll wait until after Thanksgiving to get that done.....


Camera Phone Friday - Seen Along the Road

Many moons ago, I got in the habit of posting my camera phone pictures on Friday - it was an easy was to end the week. I'm not sure why I got away from the practice, but I think it's time to start up again. Because I'm having a ton of fun with my new iPhone 4s camera.

My self imposed "rules":
The picture must be taken by a camera phone (duh)
The photo must have been taken in the past week
I can edit the photo using various photo apps on my phone. No importing to the PC for post processing. (trying to keep things simple).

This week's selections - stuff I see during my everyday commute to and from work / school, etc.

You might think driving along the prairie is boring. But for some reason, it was really pretty this week.

Bringing in the Harvest
Bring in the #Harvest iphone instagram

The Start of Another Indian Summer Day
Good Morning - Another Indian Summer Day

We had rain Wednesday night into Thursday morning. But Thursday afternoon, the skies started to clear.
Afternoon #prairie Scene
I love the white barn in the picture above. I take its picture often.

This morning, I was running late to work (the kids didn't have school, so I ended up dawdling around the house for too long). I was just leaving the subdivision, but stopped, parked the car and got out to capture the fog creeping along the slough that runs through our neighborhood.
Morning #mist #lateforwork #stoppedtotakeapicture

Another shot of the white barn, this time in the morning as the sun was rising.
My Favorite #Barn on my #commute #prairie

I post most of my photos through Instagram, but I also use the Camera+ and PhotoShop Express apps to process them before uploading. I love that I can share them easily.

Do you take a lot of pictures with your phone? If so, I'd love to see them!


Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road?

Do you take multiple exposures of the same general scene?

I admit I do, although I'm trying to reduce the number of "retakes" in an effort to "get it right the first time".

I normally shoot a frame then check the preview (yes, I "chimp"). But recently I have been focusing on the Histogram, to check my exposure.

I find landscapes to be quite challenging - expose for the sky and the land is too dark. Expose for the land and the sky is blown.
I tend to prefer the first option because I know I can bring out the detail during post processing, using the Fill Light Slider in Lightroom.

When I first shot this general scene, the sky was blown. So I adjusted my exposure and brought the viewfinder back to my eye. Lo and behold - something new wandered into the scene.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

So I'm glad I messed up the first exposure because the second shot is so much more interesting - you'll just have to believe me because I deleted the first shot.

And why did the chicken cross the road?

To meet up with the rest of his family!
Fly the Coop

Linked up to This or That Thursday, hosted by Deb Duty.


Dinner on the Prairie - Prairie Fruits Farm

Sunday evening, we experienced a unique treat - dinner on the prairie with friends.

Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery is an organic farm, promoting sustainability and locally sourced food. In addition to peaches, apples, berries, and other produce, they raise goats and make their own cheeses.

A couple years ago, they started offering Dinners on the Farm, featuring locally sourced food, served outside along backdrop of the farm and prairie.

We were invited to last Sunday's dinner and while we didn't dine outside (they have a pole barn now for the chillier weather), it was a wonderful experience.

We arrived an hour before dinner, to enjoy hors d'oeuvres and a tour of the farm and gardens. It was a perfect fall evening, a light breeze and warm for the end of October.

No al Fresco Dining Tonight
This is the dining area for the outdoor dinners. We are going to have to come back next season.

We got to see the goats. Lisa is the one responsible for arranging tonight's dinner. She's a great friend (and loves the goats).
The Goats

We roamed around the gardens, encouraged to nibble from the plants. We gathered around these tomato plants and ate them right off the vine - there's nothing better than sweet cherry tomatoes.
Gathered Around

Especially with some wine.
Enjoy the Evening

With the sun setting, we gathered inside for dinner. Tonight's menu - salad course with fresh goat cheese, honey-fried chicken, shells and cheese, braised broccoli and pecan tart for dessert.
Dinner in the Barn
First Course

Lively conversation ensued.

A lovely evening out with friends.
Dinner Out

Sun Setting

Oh yeah, after stuffing ourselves, we bought some fresh gelato and goat cheese. It's all gone now.

Linked to Wordful Wednesday at Parenting by Dummies and Seven Clown Circus


Burnt Orange

A departure from yesterday's orange mums, I desaturated these for a different feel.

Then I added two of Kim Klassen's wonderful textures: Stained Linen and Warm Sun.

Shades of Fall

And here's the before:
Shades of Fall

Linked to Texture Tuesday.


Colors of Fall

Any idea what this is?


Growing in my neighbor's yard....
Sea of Purple and Green

Truthfully, I've never considered using cabbage in the fall landscape. The colors are beautiful, aren't they?
Edited: I've learned that it's not Cabbage but ornamental Kale. Thanks for pointing that out, Laurie!

But I guess orange is the more traditional color for fall....

Wishing you a wonderful, Fall-ish Monday!


Give a Hoot

Look what our backyard friends brought over yesterday - some owl treats!

These Are A Hoot

They are almost as cute as the deliverer.
But not quite.....
Thanks to Kellie, Maddie and Layne for the yummy treats!

Linked up to This or That Thursday, hosted by Deb Duty.


First iPhone Pictures

I've already raved about how fast the new iPhone 4s is compared to my old 3G version, and now I get to rave about the phone's camera.

Oh my. Again, super fast and super sharp. Even works well in lower light. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

The very first photo I snapped - of Sam, our Siamese cat.
Sam the #siamese #iphone4s
Decent, although I detect a bit of back focusing. Could be operator error, too - I think I can tap on the area where I want the focus to fall, otherwise the camera chooses for you. I'm not sure what I did here.

A shadow self portrait:
Early Morning Run

Shopping at the Old Navy, I spotted my favorite animated cat:
I Heart #HelloKitty

Fall themed M&Ms - peanut butter ones - really yummy.
Fall Treats #sweet #m&ms

This morning's coffee:
Good Morning #coffee

All photos were processed using Instagram, my favorite iPhone camera filter and sharing app. If you want to look me up on Instagram, my handle is shirley319


New Technology and a Look at Past Technology

Yesterday, I upgraded my iPhone to the latest and greatest version. I have been [patiently] waiting for the new version since the summer, when my two year contract on was up on the old 3G phone.

It's been a slow wait, filled with temptation and longing. I kept my eyes and ear open to any new iPhone rumors, and I hoped for the announcement of the iPhone 5 on October 4th.

But truthfully, the iPhone 4s is a huge upgrade for me just the same. I think a regular iPhone 4 would be a huge upgrade as well. I just don't want to be in this same position, two years from now, waiting again for another iPhone release. See, two plus years ago, I decided to go with the cheaper, iPhone 3G instead of the newest 3Gs. It's been a great phone until the past nine months or so when it has become ssooooo sllllooooww. I was restarting it at least once a day, apps would routinely crash, and it wouldn't support many of the newer apps.

After the iPhone 4s announcement, I made sure I pre-ordered one on the first day (in fact, I think I ordered mine only 3 hours after the pre-orders started). Once I received my shipping notice on Wednesday night, I started stalking my tracking number. I had to leave work early on Friday to ensure I would be present to sign for it - and it arrived about 30 minutes after I got home.

New Phone
Seriously, it was like Christmas in October.
Unboxing Event

It was a cinch to activate and set up. I had to re-sync my old phone to iTunes and then sync the new one up in order to transfer all of my apps. That's it.

Compared to the old iPhone 3G, it is blazing fast - no delays with the apps, no freeze ups with the camera, and that Siri is really pretty cool. I used her to text my son and husband.

But this isn't a post just about the iPhone 4s - we do have another new smart phone in the family - a Droid phone that my son picked out.
[yes, I can hear the thoughts now - what kind of mother gets her 12 year old son a smart phone? Truthfully, he saved up all his money for it. I even had him fork over money to prepay 12 months of the data package fees.]

Our assortment of old and new technology:
From left to right: the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 4s, the Droid Bionic and in the back - a Seagate external disk drive.

A closer look at the Droid Bionic:
Droid Bionic
I told my son that I wouldn't be able to help him with this device, but he hasn't had any problem downloading all sorts of free stuff from the Droid Marketplace. It's a powerful, fast device. If I wasn't so partial to the iPhone, I might have considered one. Oh, but my favorite camera app, Instagram, is only available for the iPhone. So that strikes the Droid...

A look at the Seagate GoFlex drive:
One TB in There
It holds 1 TB of stuff. Wow. And see that the blue in the connector port? That's a USB 3.0 port, also known as SuperSpeed USB 3.0. This can mean higher data transfer rates, although you need a USB 3.0 port on the computer to take full advantage of the increased speed. You can distinguish a USB 3.0 port as they are marked by the blue components. I am using this drive to house my photos while I work with Lightroom and PhotoShop Elements and I haven't seen a decrease in processing speed.

Finally, with all this new technology, I thought it would be fun to look back at the devices we used in the past, just to get an appreciation of what we have now.
Devices of the Past
On the left: my first cell phone, a pink Motorola Razr, from 2006. That's right, I managed 39 years on this planet without a cellphone. Since it was only a phone, it really didn't get used all that much, even though I carried it with me all the time. In the center: a Palm Pilot IIIx, from 1999. I bought this cutting edge device right after the birth of my son. It was totally rad back then, with it's pea green screen and stylus. It synced with the Palm Desktop software. I remember storing my shopping lists on it. We always said back then that these computing devices would eventually be combined with phone capability.
Finally, on the right, my husband's first cell phone, purchased around 2002. With a simple, dot matrix screen - I don't think you could even text back then.

Looking at these old devices, I guess my old iPhone 3G represents major technology advancements in a mere 6 years. And I wonder where technology will take us over the next 6.


Canon PowerShot XS40 HS

One of the advantages for being known as the "hobbyist photographer" at work - sometimes the folks at work give you fun photography-centered assignments outside your normal job scope. Case in point - I was asked to spec out a replacement for the facility's aging point and shoot camera. Aging, indeed - the current camera is a circa 2003 Kodak Easy Share model.

The requirements - something that wasn't too small, with a decent zoom and low light capabilities.

I chose the new Canon Powershot XS40 HS with 35x zoom, IS stabilization and sized smaller than a compact DSLR.

They even let me play with it first.

PowerShot SX40 HS

The handling is decent, with an articulating live display screen and an electronic view finder.
In addition to full Auto, there is a command dial, with DSLR modes - P, Av, Tv (Shutter priority in Nikon speak), even Manual Mode and some User Defined modes.
I tried to use some of these modes, but found myself extremely constrained due to the lens capability, especially in Av mode.
New Toy at Work

But I'm not the main user of this camera - the engineers in the plant are, and they don't care about having shallow depth of field!

They want the zoom and this is where this one shines.

The view of the bookcase in my office, as I stand behind the desk, using the camera's widest setting:
The Wide View

A mid-zoomed view, still standing behind the desk:
Zoom A Little Closer

Zoomed all the way in:
Zoomed In

All photos SOOC, taken in AUTO mode and no flash.

I also tested out the camera's Macro Mode:
Real Leaves
Meh, it didn't do much for me - I couldn't zoom in to get the detail I wanted.

So this work assignment was a fun change of pace from my normal every day work duties. I also learned a bit about myself and my camera preferences. See, I've been considering a more compact camera to take with me when I can't take my DSLR. I learned that these pseudo-DSLRs aren't a fit for me.

In summary, the camera is great for those who desire a wide zoom capability, decent low light capability in an easy to use package.



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