Sunday, July 08, 2012


This is my second summer break with no real obligations since the summer of maybe sophomore or junior year in high school.  I've had a job or classes every summer since, which seems a bit weird as a teacher.  I've only been teaching for 3 years now, but contrary to popular belief, we have a lot going on in the summer most years.  Last summer I took a class every week day in July, and the summer before I was working as a substitute teacher.  This summer I have it pretty easy, and although I've already spent a handful of days in my classroom, and most days I think about how I could improve my students' learning, I have already felt the boredom of having too much time.

Griping about having too much free time isn't going to win me much pity, but having too much time is an interesting thing to me.  All school year I am slammed with obligations right and left, and I have to make time for myself, at the cost of other, possibly more important, things.  And then summer hits, and time slows to a crawl.  The problem isn't really the free time, it is more that I have free time and nobody else does.  Girlfriend is working and busy with rec. soccer and other things.  Housemates are busy working.  I find myself doing things by myself a lot, learning guitar, taking photos, jogging and biking--which are fun, but I am realizing again that I am a social animal, and I wish I had more events during the week that I am doing with others.

Having nothing planned for this day and the next few is also a bit of a bummer.  I like free time, but I think having at least one or two things a day to look forward to makes life much less lonely.  That said, I didn't have anything planned yesterday, which turned into a few hours of pickup ultimate and then going to an amazing Sounders game with my housemates who had an extra ticket--which broke me out of my loneliness slump pretty quickly!

I'm planning on biking out to Mercer Island today, which is about 20-25 miles round trip (my longest bike ride ever?), and then dinner with the folks.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Dog Days

I walked down to the park this evening and asked a guy if I could take some photos of his dog, which seemed a little less awkward than asking the baseball team of boys 10 years old if I could photograph them. I still had a majority of blurry photos, and I didn't notice until after the fact that the ISO was on 1600 the entire time (which lets in more light, but makes the quality grainier).

The following photos are a burst of three, showing off Finn's quickness!


Monday, July 02, 2012

Photography Quiz (F-stop blues!)

((Apologizing in advance for the weird formatting, I've previewed this post a few times and it looks weird every time, but I am tired and tired of hassling with it...))

More fun with the camera this evening, trying to figure out this whole F-stop and depth of field thing. I tried mightly this weekend, at one of the largest ultimate frisbee tournaments in the world, to capture some of the action on the field, but when I took a look at the pictures afterwards, nearly every shot was blurry.

I was a little frustrated, because I tried just about everything out at the fields to ensure at least a few of my photos would turn out nice. I tried automatic setting, manual setting, single shot, burst shot, and I even tried burst shot while manually changing the focus of the camera as the burst was shooting... but nothing I did made any difference to my blurry photos! If you couldn't tell already, I'm a bit of a newbie...

Last night I did some reading in the camera manual and found that what I needed to be changing is the F-stop. For some reason the automatic setting on the camera reverts to usually the smallest F-stop setting, because at that level, there is less light needed for optimal shooting... the problem lies in the fact that a small F-stop means a very narrow focus range, which means someone's elbow might be in focus but the rest of their body isn't... which makes for a lot of blurry photos!

So why not shoot with a high F-stop all the time to get everything in focus? Well, a lot more light is needed. I'm learning various tricks to get more light, but you always have to give something up to get more light. The longer you expose the photo, the more light you get, but the harder it is to keep the camera still. The higher ISO you use, the more light you get, but the picture gets grainier.

Here are a couple of examples, and then a quiz!

Here are the specs for the above two photos:

top(left?): f-stop 5.6; exposure: 1/6sec; iso: 400
bottom(right?): f-stop 20; exp: 2sec; iso: 400

The bottom picture is a whole lot crisper, and it has to do with the f-stop being much larger, but you see the camera shutter was open for two whole seconds, which means I HAD to have a tripod for this shot or my hands would have shaken the camera into drunken blurriness! If you think (like I thought) that the top photo might have just been blurry, take a look at the difference between the line on the right with "Bill Clinton" and compare the blurriness of that text to the text in the bottom left or top right of the page--THIS is what was happening to my photos at the frisbee tournament--a little bit of focus, but usually not on the action, and the rest of the shot was blurry, which wasn't what I was going for!

Here is another example.

Tilted the page back a bit more in these shots to show the loss/gain of focus--here are the specs:

top: f/5.6; 1/5sec; iso: 400
bottom: f/29; exp: 5secs; iso: 400

Again, in the top photo there is a fine band of somewhat focused text. You have to look close near the Bill Clinton line and compare it to the text at the very top and bottom of the page. The bottom picture is much more in focus throughout, even though the ISO is the same, but you see an even bigger f-stop and now a five-second exposure, 30x the length of exposure of the top photo! Again, thank you tripod.

Now for the quiz! Let's see if anyone still reads this blog and has any interest in photography...

I took seven photos of my computer screen as I began typing this post. The photo was from about six feet away, and zoomed in on the text with a white background to help with light issues--this time I took the photos hand-held, which is a very big factor in the blurriness of photos (which I realize I didn't get into much in this post, but it does help answer this quiz correctly!). I will give you the specs of the seven shots and you tell me which photo you think came out the most in focus, also, which photo came out least in focus--only from reading the specs. I will post the photos Friday!

1--f/45 exp: 1/6sec iso 1600
2--f/45 exp: 1/4sec iso 1600
3--f/29 exp: 1/10sec iso 1600
4--f/5.6 exp: 1/80sec iso 400
5--f/29 exp: 1/5sec iso 800
6--f/20 exp: 1/10sec iso 800
7--f/20 exp: 1/20sec iso 1600

Good luck!