The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

People, People, People

Now that you are visiting with so many friends and family during the holidays – wouldn't it be nice to take some really great photos of them?


Many people who love the hobby of photography shy away from taking photos of people.  It is a challenge to get a good shot of some – especially those who don't want to be photographed.  When I was little, we visited my great grandmother's house Christmas Day.  My grandmother's brother had one of those old movie cameras with the big, bright, brilliant light on it.  Did I say it was bright?   I remember seeing that light coming from the kitchen and heading toward the living room (where all the people were sitting around talking).  As the light approached, many (mostly women) would scatter, running from the movie camera, unwilling to be immortalized on film.


If you are trying to get a good photo of a small child or baby – give them something to hold on to or look at.  Have them busy with something and then take photos of them.  One of the best ways to "get them busy" is to have a young child read or look at a book.  You can get some great facial expressions from them when they are involved with a book.  Even younger children can hold a favorite toy or just a piece of fruit.  If you hand a young child an apple and they happen to stick it in their mouth – no big deal – and it could make a cute photo.   If you have more than one child – give them something to do as a group.  One could read to the others.  Try to keep their faces close.  If they are too spread apart the photo could lose interest.   At Christmas it is nice to have decorations handy for props.  Plug in a string of tree lights and place them in the lap of a child or children.  Snap away!  Another fun time to take photos with children is while decorating or eating Christmas cookies. 


When taking photos of adults – the same kinds of strategies can apply.  If you give them something to do, they will appear more natural and not "posed" or stiff.  If there is nothing handy to physically give them something to do – get them engaged in a conversation about something they find interesting.  This will also help loosen them up for more natural photos. 


Use your portrait setting on the camera.  This will make your subject in sharp focus while the background will be blurred.  But, just because it is blurred, don't forget to look at the background.  You may have the best family portrait of the whole year – but if the background is distracting – you won't be pleased for long.  There is only so much you can do in Photoshop.   If everyone is visiting and they are wearing clothing that doesn't look great jumbled all together in one big family photo – switch to black and white (you can use just about any photo-editing software to convert color images to black and white later).  In black and white, no one knows Aunt Mary is wearing bright pink and Aunt Jane has on an orange sweater with brown stripes – even if they are sitting right next to each other.  Think about lighting – side light from a window is wonderful for indoor people shots.   Lighting still an issue, then turn on all the lights you can find.  If you still need to use flash – maybe just fill flash – make sure there are no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the photo to shine the glare back at the camera.  Take photos at eye level – but that does not mean every single one – have some of people sitting, leaning forward just a little, and looking up – slightly – this is a good pose for just a plain ol' sitting & smiling photo.  If you are taking photos of kids – fill the frame with their faces.  Remember that placing the subject off center in th e photo creates more interest.  If you have them looking in a certain direction – be sure to give them "space" in the frame to look into.  When filling the frame with a face -- beware of the giant nose that a wide angle lens can create and know your minimum focus distance.  If you are gettimg too much of the "big nose" back up a little and use the zoom.


The best way to ensure you will have some good photos – take a lot of them!  Digital makes it easy.  I remember when I was using film.  It would take a couple rolls of film to get just a couple good shots of the kids – together and alone.  Now I can take however many I can fit onto the memory cards (and I have extra memory cards and batteries!).  Also don't rush yourself – take your time to see the composition of the photo that you want.   Don't forget to add variety to your photos – that is why I say take photos at eye level (but not all the time).  Having shots from different angles adds interest.


I have cute photos of my kids.  I also have some not so cute – but we won't go there.  There are quite a few good ones of my son (about 2 or 3) sitting on the kitchen counter while he was "helping" me mix up batter for a cake or brownies.  There is one photo of my daughter that I just love.  I had received a delivery of a large piece of fabric one day.  She helped me open the package.  At the time I believe she was also about 2 or 3.  We took out the large piece and threw it into the air in the living room – like a parachute.  It came down on us – we did this a few times and she was laughin g a lot.  My camera was close – so I grabbed it and went under the fabric.  When the fabric went up again – I had the camera right there for a great face shot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving -- how about a couple recipes....
Grandmother Wood's Poundcake
3 sticks butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix together salt, baking powder and flour.  Add the flour mixture alternately with milk ending with flour.  Mix in the flavoring.  Pour into a greased and floured tube pan.  Bake in a preheated (325º) oven for 90 minutes.  The cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Let stand for 10 minutes when you remove it from the oven.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack.
Grandma Lucille's Famous Baked Beans
1 (52 oz.) can of pork and beans
1 (31 oz.) can of pork and beans
1 bottle (32 oz.) King Syrup
If you can't find King Syrup -- the dark Karo syrup will work.  Pour the liquid out of the 31 oz. can of beans and half of the liquid out of the 52 oz. can.  Combine the cans of beans with about 2/3 of a bottle of syrup in a baking dish.  Top the beans with strips of bacon.  Bake in a 350º oven until thick and bubbly -- aproximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
I have a pound cake in the oven right now and the beans will be cooked later today.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trading Blooms for Bulldozers?

After trying to fit it into my schedule during the past couple weeks, I finally made it to Line Creek for the fall foliage a couple days ago. 


Driving west on Highway 54 – as I approached the turn for the nature area – I was amazed at the amount of construction (or is it destruction?) going on at the entrance to the drive to the nature area.  In fact, I did not turn in to the old Days Inn parking lot as I usually do.  I made a U-turn and went in at an unmarked spot.  In a place with signage marking so many stores and shops, you have to know where you are heading to find the nature area, but if you are looking for Best Buy it is easy to find.  With the new "detour" I had to take, if you had never been there before, you would not be able to find it.  I had to be very careful that the large earthmovers and dump trucks were not coming my way as I drove over humps and bumps they had cre ated in the small dirt lane.  Speaking of dump trucks – the blue one on my bumper as I sat at the light waiting to make the U was not making me nervous – I think that was the intent.  Why is this needed?  Well, it is not "needed," is it? 


The drive back through the trees made me feel like I was leaving the commotion behind.  I parked the car and got out.  As soon as I got out of the car, I realized that the noise of the heavy machinery would continue with me.  I walked down the pathway toward the duck pond and could not believe how close the "progress" came to the other side of the pond.  Is this really what the people of Peachtree City and Fayette County want?  The next thing you know we will really become the "Gwinnett of South Atlanta."


I headed down the path to the creek.  It was a beautiful day – warm with, sun and a few clouds here and there.  Who could tell it was the middle of November?  It was not the ideal time of day to head out for photos.  I arrived just past lunch time.  I would have preferred to be there at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. but I did what I could.  When I heard the weather forecast for the coming days – rain perhaps (if only) and wind – I figured the leaves might fall much faster and I would miss some of the beautiful color.  Walking along the trail by the creek I was happy to see such brilliant color – t here were oranges, reds, yellows, and rich golds on the trees.  There was a certain spot I was heading toward.  This spot is where I have taken photos of the bare trees in February, green-leaved trees in June and July, and now I wanted the same view with the colors of fall.  The level of water did not seem any less than the last time I was there in July.  I was pleasantly surprised since I was expecting barely a trickle.  In some places it was barely a trickle – but it had been that way months ago.  The sun came and went behind the clouds as I took plenty of photos standing (and sitting) on the rocks that had been covered by water in February.  I walked down the rocks to get a sh ot of a leaning tree in the distance.  You know, I forgot to take along my Croc kneepads!  I remembered them as I kneeled on the rocks.  To get the shot in a different perspective, I sat on the rock so I could peep through the viewfinder.  As I sat there I heard a rustling in the leaves on the Coweta side of the creek.  The rustling kept getting louder and closer!  I had visions of a fox or coyote.  I decided to keep my seat and be very still.  Just then a chipmunk jetted out of the woods and skittered across the rocks to the Fayette side of the creek only to disappear into the woods again.  Did the construction on Highway 54 colla pse any tunnels of chipmunks?  Were there squirrels' nests in the trees that were pushed over?


At the edge of the woods an unusual color for this time of year caught my eye – a pretty blue flower.  I got closer and noticed a bright yellow butterfly on a bloom.  The butterfly was to fast for me – I could not tell exactly what it was – perhaps a Cloudless Sulphur or Southern Dogface.  The plant blooming was a Stiff Gentian (Gentiana quinquefolia) or also known as Agueweed.  This plant blooms purple or pale blue.  It is an 'endangered' species in Maryland and Connecticut and 'threatened' in Vermont and Michigan.  I think of the "improvements" happening close to the creek and wonder how long before it is threatened in Georgia.  Standing there near the plants you can barely hear the equipment tearing up the ground and leveling everything in their path.  Did they shove red clay over any blue blooms of the Stiff Gentian?  Couldn't Fayette County use more blooming wildflowers than retail space?


Last night I was showing the fall foliage photos to a student.  I contrasted a certain photo of the creek with one taken of a similar view last February.  I was showing the bare trees versus the fall colors.  The first thing she noticed was the difference in the water level.  The blooming wildflower made me remember the beautiful blooms I had seen along the roadsides all during fall – the pinks, yellows, purples.  Now I see this beautiful blue wildflower.  All of these blooms when we are experiencing the worst drought in years – how could it be?  These must be incredibly hardy plants.   They can stand up to almost anything – anything except a bulldozer.


Line Creek is a beautiful place.  A nice trail is there along the creek.  There you can find many types of trees, vines, wildflowers, plants, animals, – in the creek; fish, and yep – mollusks.  I know we are all tired of hearing about mussels – with the drought and the releasing of water from Buford Dam to help keep them alive.  I can understand the weariness of it – but what about the decline based on sediment and runoff from the deforestation for the sole purpose of construction of retail space?  Is it worth it?  Freshwater mussels in Georgia have declined – they are sensitive to pollution, sedimentation, and other human-induced habitat alterations.  Are the people of Fayette County trading serenity and blooms for bulldozers and parking lots in the Line Creek area of Peachtree City?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Don't Buy Paint on a Sunday Afternoon

Don't buy paint on a Sunday afternoon. 


I bought some paint last Sunday.  After I got home – I painted a few test streaks on the wall where I am interested in having this color.  It looked very light to me.  But, hey – it was wet.  I decide to walk off for a while and let it dry.  Surely when it dries it would match the paint chip, right?


It dried – it still looked light – but I went on to paint some test colors in other rooms.


Monday morning I place the chip on the wall in the kitchen – the darker gold color I chose for that room is a perfect match to the chip.  The color is nice too.  It is a little darker than what had been in the kitchen.  I like it.  My husband likes it.  I plan to finish the kitchen and sitting area in the darker gold this week.  The "real name" of this color is Carolina Inn Crossroads Gold.  The dining room test color (Carolina Inn Lobby Yellow) is an exact match as well and a nice color.  I plan to use it on two accent walls in the li ving room as well as the dining room. 


Upstairs the sewing room and "daybed room" (I call it that – technically it is our guest room.  In the near future I plan to have the sewing room as a guest room – slash – sewing room – slash – library.  Both of these rooms have a fresh coat of Paris Mint on them.  The color matches exactly to the color chip.  By the way, I love these new paint chips with the square cut out – it really makes matching or just checking the color and how it matches with other colors and fabric much easier!  There are two other rooms upstairs that need a coat of Paris Mint.  That will come soon.  The hall bathroom is a wash of some kind of green that I did hastily one day.  Soon this room will have a fresh coat of white on the walls.  It may take a couple coats to cover that green mess I used to like.


So, upstairs is "going green" and the kitchen/dining room is awash in gold, both light and dark.  The breakfast room (which was my morning room – now my daughter's school room) will go green.  I chose Belle Grove Moss for this room.  It was on the chip card with Paris Mint – a little darker – I like it.  Also I like this Belle Grove Moss for the powder room.  The powder room is now a crimson color that is nice – but I am ready for a change.  These greens and golds (all except for Paris Mint are National Trust for Historic Preservation colors) come from a piece of fabric I purchased a few months ago.  This fabric is my road map for the colors in the house – the new paint and still to find new furniture.  I see, I see, (looking in my crystal ball here – or is it a Magic 8 Ball?) a trip to the furniture store in my future.  The ball says, "Ask again later."


The chip for Belle Grove Moss does not match – the next day – it is dry – it is too light.


We are redoing the hallway bathroom upstairs; new vanity, new sink/top, tile, the works – so of course we have to head to Lowe's (how many times have I been to Lowe's in the last two weeks???).  When we are getting ready to go, I grab the paint chip card and the gallon of not-really Belle Grove Moss.  I stood in line at the return desk at Lowe's for a long time, long enough to see the girl behind the counter count, and scan about a million little copper pieces of pipe that this guy was returning – three times!  My husband had traveled throughout the store, found what he needed, and was heading back in my direction.  The look on his face was utter surprise that I was still in line and had, in fact, not moved an inc h since we came in the door.  He volunteered to take my place in line while I went to the paint counter to have them make a new gallon of for-sure Belle Grove Moss.  Finally, my husband was being assisted – I saw him move over to the side – so I walked up across the aisle and asked what was going on.  He said, "I found out you can't return custom colors."  And he laughed – I laughed – this was not the "custom color" I had been looking for – that was why it was being returned.  The paint guy had to see it and check it out.  The same paint guy who was busy making my new gallon.  Once he got the paint and checked the gallon I was returning with the gallon that he had just mixed – yo u could see a major difference.  The gallon I returned was too light.  OK, so you – just as I did – wonder how that did happen.  That paint mixer is pretty automated – you put in numbers, or letters, or something and the different colors squirt out to make the "custom color" you asked for.  Well – I bought that gallon on a Sunday afternoon – a lot of people paint on the weekends.  A lot of paint is sold on the weekend.  I bought mine near the end of the weekend – the tints some times run out – and some times the person mixing may or may not pay attention to that.  If he/she is not paying attention – you can get the most custom of all colors!  I did get one of those one-of-a- kind colors.  Lowe's marked the can $7.  It became a bargain.  So if you bought a can of not-really Belle Grove Moss at Lowe's, it is a nice green.  It was just not the green I was looking for.

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