Photowalk Notes – finally

In early October, I was in Seattle with my husband. While I was there, and he was off doing MVP stuff, I went on a photowalk. I blogged about it already, but didn’t include all my notes from Pat Wright’s (@sqlasylum) session on taking photos before hand. I’m finally getting around to including those. I will do my best to translate my notes into a coherent post. I hope that anyone else who was there (or knows a thing or two about photography) will correct any mistakes I make.

One of my favorite quotes from the day was “The best camera is the one you have.” What this means, is that if you only have your cell phone camera with you, then that’s the best one you have. If you only have a point and shoot, then that’s the best you have. If a fancy schmancy camera is what you have, then that’s the best you have. Any or all of these is better than no camera at all.

When you are taking a picture, hold the camera as firm as possible. Many people make the mistake of holding the camera with one hand, or just use a couple fingers to hold the camera steady. Try to use both hands to support the camera without letting a finger end up in front of the lens or flash. If you keep both feet planted on the ground, lean back a bit, and hold the camera close to you (rather than holding it out at an arms’ length), you will have the most stable position you can create. Of course, a tripod or other way to stabilize your camera is best.

Camera Modes
Most of the time, leaving your camera on auto is the best choice, especially when you are just getting started. Features such as white balance will have the best results if left on auto. White balance can make people look orange if adjusted incorrectly. If you are using your cell phone to take pictures, you will get best results if you don’t zoom your camera. Don’t forget to let your phone or camera auto focus.

On a point and shoot camera (also known as a “drunk and shoot”), there is often the option to push the button halfway down. Doing this will allow the camera to automatically focus. You also need to keep in mind that your camera needs a point of reference to be able to use auto focus. Your camera will have a difficult time focusing on solid colors (especially white, black and blue). If you want your camera to be able to focus on a certain object, center your camera on that thing, push the button half way down, then move your camera to get the shot you are looking for. The object it focused on will remain in focus. Sometimes, a photographer may want to create “boca” – an effect where the central object in the photo is in focus, and the background is blurry. This can be best created using a long lens.

Become familiar with the different modes on your camera. I can speak from experience that buying a camera before a trip, and not becoming familiar with it first, is going to lead to disappointing pictures. Take some time to play with different modes on your camera. One of the great things about digital photos, is that you can play around with your camera without wasting film. You can delete the pictures that don’t work out, and not feel guilty.

If the camera thinks you might need flash, you probably do. There are times though, that flash is pointless, such as during fireworks, or taking pictures of things in the distance. Your flash is typically only good for about 30 ft. When you use digital zoom, you need lots of light. There are tricks that professional and amateur photographers like to use, and that is to use a beer cozy to create a “snoot”. Yes, I said a beer can cozy! You can put it over the flash, and use the other end to direct the light. He did a demonstration of how light reflects off everything around you. Focusing your flash can help eliminate glare and/or colors getting washed out. For outdoor pictures, sun and overcast skies are best. Clouds can act as a natural soft light filter.

If you are noticing shadows in the background, move further away from the object of your photo. You can also use a Voice Activated Light (VAL) activator. This would be another person helping direct the light behind the subject of your photo. Stand close to the back lighting too. This will eliminate the shadows in the background, and/or make sure the lighting is the best it can be.

Shutter Speed
I never really understood what shutter speed was. I now understand it to be related to the distance away your subject is from you. The distance you are zoomed to should match the shutter speed, or your photos will end up blurry. If there is movement you are trying to capture, you need to use a higher shutter speed. The higher the speed, the darker your picture will get. To get the best quality photos (with movement), you need to use a higher shutter speed, and make sure you have lots of light. It’s a good idea to use a shutter speed of at least 200 to get a shot with decent lighting and good focus.

For most people, a 6 mp camera will be sufficient for your needs. You will be able to get a decent 8×10 size picture from it. If you want to blow up a photo larger, than a higher definition camera may be needed. There was a group discussion on the firmware that comes in different models of cameras. The consensus seemed to be that Kodak firmware is not great. It’s ok, but Nikon seemed to be the preferred camera of the group.

After we got through this information, Pat gave us time to experiment with our cameras before we headed out to take pictures of the city. My friend Jes (@grrl_geek) acted as a model for experimenting with portraits. Shortly after, she suckered me into posing with her. We had a TON of fun, and I learned a lot!


Thanksgiving Day

People are posting all over the internet what they are thankful for. I am thankful for so many things: my kids, my husband, my family, my newly extended family, my friends, my job, our new house…

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was always at my grandma and grandpa’s house. Everyone was there, and we ate lots of food. I can’t recall anything other than turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and rolls. I know there was other food too, but I can’t remember what else. I also remember that I was often sick on Thanksgiving. I’d eat, and then sleep on the couch, trying not to breathe on anyone else. Once my grandma died in 1997, Thanksgiving traditions changed. We started going to my mom’s husband’s family. Then, I started going to my ex-husband’s family. The food was delicious. We ate too much, football was on TV, the kids got crazy, and naps were taken on the couch.

Fast forward a couple of years (like 10). I got divorced, and went to Thanksgiving at my Mom’s husband’s family again. It was weird, being there without my kids (they go with their dad on Thanksgiving). People kept asking me how I was doing… I was doing fine until I kept getting reminded that things were different than any other year.

I digress… I made it through that first Thanksgiving post-divorce. Here I am a few years later, re-married, and on year two of my new Thanksgiving tradition. We had Jason’s family over to our new house. Two of his brothers (plus one’s wife), two nephews, his mom and dad, and my brother came. We made turkey, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, scalloped corn, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberries, rolls, and broccoli/cauliflower. The food was great.

Last year, we crammed all these people (except my brother) into a house that was too small for all of us. We had room in our new house for everyone. It was so relaxing. After dinner, we all went downstairs for a few games of the newest version of Scene It. I suck at that game, but it was fun. Jason and his middle brother get pretty competitive, so we had to get a new version. The level of competition didn’t decrease. Jason’s mom even got in on the fun. After getting our butts kicked, we went back for pie. We had pumpkin pie, apple crumble, and fruit whip salad.

Once the day was done, we cleaned up, crammed the fridge full of leftovers, and then sat down to digest. We watched The Adjustment Bureau. It was a good movie with a bad kiss. The day is over, and it was a good one. I’m thankful for that.

Butterfly Wishes

Did anyone else notice there seemed to be more butterflies than usual this past summer? Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be butterflies of all sizes – yellow tiger swallow tails, painted lady butterflies, cabbage whites, red-spotted purples (which are neither red, nor purple), etc. I don’t remember a summer with so many butterflies – ever!

The only kind of butterfly I didn’t see an abundance of, was monarchs. I’m not sure what happened to them all. It seemed as though the orange beauties that normally signify summer were replaced by the larger yellow swallowtails and giant swallowtails. We had a monarch caterpillar on a milkweed in our yard. We were so excited to see it. We watched it every day for about a week. Suddenly, one day, it was gone. There was no chrysalis, it was just gone. We were really bummed.

On our wedding day, there were two butterflies, one monarch, and one yellow butterfly of some sort. They were fluttering around behind my grandpa (who officiated the ceremony). I enjoyed watching them fly around together. They were two very different butterflies, yet, they seemed to enjoy being there together in that place. Having those two creatures flying around somehow made the day seem just a little bit more magical.

My Two Blogs

Almost a year ago, I decided to split blog into two. My original blog was meant to be more about teaching/parenting. I was finding that some of my posts were more about my family, dance, travels, the SQL Community, etc. I wanted to be able to include pictures, etc. When I decided to split them, the idea was that this blog would be more about my life in general, and the other one would be my more “professional” blog (teaching/parenting). My struggle has been, in that I don’t really know where to put my SQL Community posts. Sometimes they apply more to my life in general (such as travel-related). Other times, they may be considered more “professional” type posts, or overviews of the professional event, which end up on the other site.

While I still haven’t quite decided what to do about that dilemma, I am thinking about other options. I am trying to decide whether to re-combine my blogs and just have separate pages, or add a SQL page to this blog (since most of the SQL Community knows me as @Dancem0m anyway). I don’t want to add another site to manage. I’m open to ideas, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

As always, thank you for reading what I have to say!

Why I walk The 3 Day

Just over a year ago, my good friend, Carrie Malicki, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Carrie is my age, and has two young boys. She had no risk factors, yet still, there was a triple negative lump in her breast. Luckily, doctors were able to remove the lump, and through chemo and radiation, there is no active cancer in her body as of right now. She lives with the reality that at any time, the cancer could return. Six short weeks after Carrie was diagnosed, her mom, Peg Traeder, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Hers was completely different than Carrie’s. She opted to do a double masectomy, and is still in the process of reconstruction. These two women have made it their mission to be advocates for breast cancer research and education.

Last summer, a few days after our wedding, we found out that my husband’s grandma had been diagnosed with both breast cancer and colon cancer the same week. Her diagnosis came the week before the wedding, but she didn’t want us to know until after our special day. I admire her for keeping such a secret for that week. Rosie underwent surgery to remove the cancer from both parts of her body, and doctors are sure they got it all. She also had radiation therapy for her breast cancer.

As I started training for last years’ 3 Day event, I thought about all the people I knew who were touched by breast cancer. My husband’s uncle’s girlfriend, Brigitte; her sister, Debbie, who I never met, as she lost her battle a few years back; my friend Holli, who I used to sell Partylite with; my friend Sherri, from the dance studio; my best friend’s aunt Jodelle, who lost her battle several years back; a family friend of my ex’s, Kathy, who lost her battle’ leaving behind two young children. That list is too long!

I want to join the fight once again for all the women I know who are fighting their own battles! While I don’t personally know any men who have had breast cancer, it is possible for men to get it too. In fact, one of the members of the youth corps from last year had lost their grandpa (I think) to breast cancer. I walk because “Everyone deserves a lifetime.”

If you’d like to contribute to my 2012 fundraising efforts, please visit my fundraising page.

3 Day For The Cure – Day 3 2011

Well, I promised I would finish out my 3 Day series a while back, but my life has continued to be insanely busy! Following #the3day hashtag on twitter during this weekend’s Dallas walk has inspired me to finish writing about my experiences this past year.

I started out the 3rd day of the walk barely being able to move. My hip was hurting so bad, I could barely walk – literally! I knew the line for the medic tent would be long, so I got up early, and headed right over. I was able to get in, but had to decide which was worse, my blisters or hip. There wouldn’t be time to get both taken care of. My hip was going to be the bigger problem. I could bandage up my own feet, at least good enough to get me through until the first pit stop. I sat in line for quite a while, and finally was able to see a chiropractor. She fixed me up, and I was able to walk right over to the self-help tent and bandage up my feet. While working on my feet, I ran into two of the women who were on my first training walk in Chippewa Falls. (I thought I had blogged about it, but I couldn’t find it to link it.) We were all walking on tender feet, but we had all made it every mile so far!

We've got the capitol in our sights! Getting closer!

The rest of our group had been shooed out of camp, so they were already on the road. My Mom and I headed out, and ended up walking “with” a group of people that had a radio with them, and they were blasting The Black Eyed Peas. Since this was some of my main music during training, it pumped me up, and I felt great. We were all singing and dancing our way to that first pit stop. Note to self: Next year, get one of those speakers that connects to belt, and have MP3 player loaded and ready! We met up with our group at the pit stop, ate, filled our water bottles, peed, and kept going. My feet were feeling ok, so I skipped going to the medic tent. The 2nd pit stop, I had to stop to get my feet re-wrapped. My feet were in bad shape! Another girl and I were there getting our feet pretty much completely wrapped. It took so long, they were almost going to have to bus me directly to lunch. There was a “caboose” that rode her bike at the back of the pack. If she caught up to you, you would have to get bused to the next pit stop. Because of how late we were running, it was going to have to be lunch. I had my Mom go ask her to wait. I had made it every mile to that point, and I did NOT want to have to get bused. She came over and told me she would wait just a couple more minutes. I asked the nurse to please hurry popping the blisters and wrapping them up. The caboose was about to get back on her bike when I yelled out, “Go pull her pigtails! Don’t let her get on that bike!!” She came over, and said, “Here’s the deal, the next pit stop closes in 45 minutes. It’s about 2.5 miles away. Do you think you can make it there before it closes?” I guaranteed her I would, and she waited until my toes were wrapped. The first few steps were rough! We learned on Day 2, that immediately after having your feet wrapped, it will feel worse. The first half a mile is tender, but then, you settle back into a stride, get used to the bandages, and you’re good to go. Not only did my mom and I make it to the next pit stop before it closed, but we passed a couple dozen people along the way!

The cheering stations on Day 3 were great. We saw some of the same people that had been out the other 2 days, and a bunch of new ones. The cheering stations – especially when there were people we knew, were incredibly motivating! The Crew had a ton of energy too that last day. They were so helpful, I tried to thank each one of them along the way!

One member of our fabulous safety crew. He had us all laughing every time we saw him.

The 2nd half of the day didn’t go so well. At lunch, I discovered I was now growing a huge blister between my toes. I went to AGAIN get my feet re-done. The girl I was in the medical tent with before was also back. She had to have the front half of her shoe cut off. I guess I was lucky mine weren’t that bad! I felt like I was going downhill quickly after that. My steps were slower, my energy was much lower. I’m not sure if I didn’t drink enough or what, but I struggled most of the time from lunch, to the State Capitol. The sweep vans were so tempting to get on and just take a break. Just when those thoughts would come into my head, I would think of all the people that donated money for the cause. Then, I would look at Carrie, who was not only walking with blisters too, but also with scars that remind her daily of her fight against cancer. This was nothing compared to what she’d been through – physically and emotionally. Every step I took was for her, for her mom, for Jason’s grandma, for my friend Jessie’s aunt, for my friend Holli, for my friend Sherrie, for Brigitte and for her sister who lost her battle, for a past family friend who left behind two small children… Every step was painful, but I didn’t have their battles. As I gingerly stepped my way to the closing ceremony, my mom was feeling nauseous. As she was fighting back throwing up, there were people being whisked away by ambulance. There were also many people taking the sweep vans. There’s no shame in taking the sweep van, yet I was still surprised by the number of vans that went by with a “full” sign in the window. I was also surprised by the number of people I saw walking in sandals that last day. In talking to most of them, it was much more comfortable than cramming their swollen, blister filled feet into tight tennis shoes. With the huge blister between my big toe and the next one, there was no way I was going to put on my flip flops! Next year, I think I am going to buy a pair of Teva’s to wear on Day 3 – at least after lunch.

Yep, this was one of my feet after the walk!

We finally made it into the “holding” area, where we got our shirts for finishing. We then paraded to the capitol grounds. It was so amazing to see how many walkers (2500), and crew (450) there were. In the Twin Cities, we raised a total of $5.3 million for Susan G Komen. The ceremony was inspiring. The “regular” walkers (with our white shirts) formed a circle around the perimeter of a raised platform where “The Cure” flag would be flown. In between us and the platform, the crew came in (safety had orange shirts, I think all the rest [food, water, loading/unloading, etc] had blue). Finally, all the survivors walked in wearing pink shirts. Everyone kneeled to the ground, raising one shoe in honor of their fights. The survivors filled the platform in the middle. It was a feeling I can’t even describe!

Carrie and Peg in the inner circle of survivors.

BTW – Yes, I was crazy enough to register to walk again in 2012. I am hoping members of our previous team will walk again, in addition to other family members and friends who will be joining us to Walk for The Cure! Please consider donating any amount to help me reach my goal of $2500. Sarah’s fundraising page.

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