Lens Artists Challenge #142: You pick it, The 365 challenge

Our Lens Artists Challenges challenges can take us many places. This week, Ann Christine’s challenge took me back to 2015 which was the year I did the 365 challenge. If you haven’t taken that on, consider it. It wasn’t that I looked to take exceptional photos each day, I just took whatever was handy. It taught me discipline and improved my ability.

Not every photo was wonderful. Like the few weeks I just shot my foot that had the boot on after minor surgery. Gem, now runs out of the room when he sees the camera. The grandkids make stupid, funny faces when they see me pick up a camera. You get it, a whole year of taking the d7100 wherever I went. Taking a fast entry because I forgot. But also learning.

I briefly went through that year, 2015, and first hit the first, tenth, twentieth, etc. months and then went back to find some more. Here they are. Explanations are in the captions.

I was ready for this challenge to end and proud that I had shot a picture each day of the year. Then I was amazed at the difference in my photographic ability. If you don’t think you can do 365 days, try the 52 week challenge no matter what level you’re at. I’m glad I did!

Lens-Artists Challenge #141: Geometry

I cringed when I saw the word geometry in Patti’s challenge post. All I could think of was math; my worst subject in school. But, shapes I understand. We look for them as we do our photography. They help make our images interesting. Many give our pictures depth and help them look three dimensional.

Here’s what I found while looking through my archives.

One of my favorite buildings, the CALSTRS building in West Sacramento has many angles, lines and shapes.

And here are a couple from Fort Point in San Francisco: stairs and a shape within a shape within a shape (actually a hallway).

There are lots of triangles and other shapes at the top of the transformers at the Folsom Historic Powerhouse and in the stairs at the Great Bear Vineyard.

And the flowing structural lines at the Manetti Shrem Museum at UC Davis and The Barn in West Sacramento.

Last, a simple store entrance gives us rectangles, squares, triangles and circles. Taken in Sutter Creek.

Lens-Artists Challenge #140: A Change of Scenery

It was like this challenge from Beth of Wandering Dogs was just meant for me! I just returned from a scenery change. After a year of wandering around the Sacramento area with my photography pod, my friend Sandy, who lives in Tuolumne City, invited me to spend time with her and her sister Peg in Windsor in Sonoma County, California. I didn’t need to even think about it before I said YES!

Sandy picked me up on Monday and returned me on Thursday. We had two full days of seeing the sights and taking pictures. I haven’t been able to edit all the pictures yet, but I can show you the small town of Windsor.

Here are the small shops and buildings in the downtown area.

From the town we go into the countryside.

Day two had us go to the coast, ending up at Fort Ross State Historic Park. The next day we drove through Napa. Those pictures still need editing.

I totally needed and enjoyed my time away. A change of scenery is always a good idea, especially after a year of in and out of lockdown. And thank you Sandy for driving and Peg for your hospitality.

Lens Artists Challenge #139: Special Moments

When you’ve lived 77 years, you gather, in your heart, many special moments. There’s the usual life cycle moments that you work toward and totally enjoy, the personal achievements you’ve worked hard for and the moments that brought you fun and delight. In her challenge this month, Tina wants to see our special moments and what made them special.

I’m going to begin with our cross country trip in 2013 to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

This is the mighty Mississippi and the push boats that continually move their cargo. We were told that they move 24/7, stopping at certain points to pick up supplies. Being near and on this river was important to me because my mom always wanted to take a Mississippi river cruise on a paddle boat. We did take a short cruise in her honor.

This was also my first time using my Nikon d3100 and entry into the hobby. Next is a picture from Central High in Little Rock Arkansas. The Little Rock Nine integrated this school in 1957. When I saw that we could visit the school I needed to go. To our surprise it is now a National Historic Site, and we were able to join a tour led by a ranger. She was so graphic about what happened to those children, it broke my heart. Hate has just got to stop.

On to 2015 and a picture of photo buddy Greg Morris. He has since passed away from brain cancer, and I still have fond memories of him. He didn’t like that I rarely used a tripod. He also had a great sense of humor. He’d pick up Marlene and I in the morning, taking us away for a day of shooting. Of course, because he always used a tripod!

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, in 2016, saw me climbing through Laura’s sunroof to capture the eagle below. He was on a tree limb that crossed the road and looking straight down. Laura’s seats are leather. I was trying to balance a heavy lens while trying not to slip on the seat. But it was worth it!

In 2017, I did use a tripod to capture these wine barrels at the Ironstone Vineyards. Shooting in a dark place was a first for me. My shutter was at 1.6 seconds and my ISO was at 1000. And, of course, I used a tripod!

Every year we photographers travel to find Fall color. For me, these trips are more than to shoot photos. They are fun time and memories made with friends. Marlene and I found this patch in 2018. It was one of the best trips.

This last photo was a total surprise for me. I guess I happened to be doing the right thing at the right time. I was taking a picture of this train in Old Sacramento, October 2019. I was shooting at night and decreased my shutter speed and increased my ISO. I was just practicing on getting this train at night with ambient light. As I pressed the shutter the train moved. My exposure was 2.5 seconds What a treat! I call it trainsparency.

So these are just some of my special photographic moments and their meaning to me beyond photography.

Lens-Artists 138: Natural Light

Awareness of natural light is essential in photography. Some photographers only go out when the light is optimum. I go out whenever I can and make the best of it! I’ve become good at reducing shadows and highlights in post. This week Amy wants us to show images taken at various times of the day.

Since I rarely get out for a sunrise, mid morning is the time you’ll find me out shooting. Here’s a picture of a painter doing a mural during Sacramento’s Wide Open Wall festival. The sun was in position to show his shadow on the ground and on the wall as he’s painting.

We’re getting slightly later in the morning. This blue heron is facing the sun which lights up his face and beak.

This building along the Sacramento River Walk is in bright sunlight and shadow.

The sunlight streaming through the foliage at Effie Yeaw Nature Center gives this tree expression and beauty. Moss grows where sunlight rarely hits.

And then there’s no sunlight. Folsom Prison looks especially formidable on a foggy day.

We are now approaching sunset time. This is when the light begins what will be a beautiful sunset.

And let’s not forget the darkness. We may not be capturing natural light, but manmade light can be fun and a challenge like this long exposure at Sunrise Mall’s small carnival.

Thank you Amy for this archival trip. It was fun.

Lens Artists Challenge #133: My Photography Journey

Life’s journey seems to take twists and turns, but it’s been my experience that important happenings come at a right and perfect time. Amy has given us the challenge of describing our photo journey. I started this blog at the very beginning of mine.

For me, photography came as I closed down my part-time speaking and writing business. At age 70, I didn’t know what to do with all the extra time I would have. Friends suggested sewing, quilting and crocheting. No! I’ve sewed and crocheted before, and it wasn’t fulfilling.

After several weeks, I remembered how much I enjoyed the photography class I took at Pierce College when I was a returning student (My youngest was in first grade). All the journalism majors had to take the photo class and the photography students had to take a journalism class. We had to use an all manual camera. Fortunately, Richard brought back a Minolta from his time in Vietnam, and I used that camera. What fun I had developing the film and making prints.

During that time, I was also writing for a newspaper and started taking the pictures for my column. I always wrote tight so the editor wouldn’t cut my articles. The only time he cut one was to run one of my photographs a half page. After graduating and moving, I stopped taking photos except of family with a point and shoot.

Fast forward to my retirement decision to purchase a DSLR. Not sure about the decision to make photography my new passion, I bought an entry level Nikon, the D3100. I didn’t know anything about crop sensor vs full frame or even how to use the camera. And, what was ISO?

From the archives, a picture taken with my D3100 shot on auto because all I could see in the dark was the green “A!” This was taken at one of my first outings with my new camera.

I found that photographers were more than willing to share their expertise, and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. I found out that ISO was like the film camera’s film speed and much more. I didn’t take a class because I didn’t want assignments and homework. Come on, wasn’t I too old for that?

The more I learned, the more I understood the limitations of my 3100. So, within a year, I bought a Nikon D7100. I could bracket automatically and it had two card slots. I liked that camera and used it until 2020.

Here’s a shot taken with my 7100 in 2014. Now I know how to reduce the white at the bottom.

I was still learning, experimenting and asking questions. In 2015 I did the 365 Challenge, and I’m so glad I did. My photographic ability jumped after that year. That in itself was a journey.

Here’s a picture I took during week 10 with my new/used macro lens.

My passion for photography never waned through the years. The more adept I became, the more I realised my need for a camera that would be better in low-light situations. If I was to get another camera, it would be a mirrorless for the size and weight. Marlene bought a Fujifilm X-T2, and when I saw her pictures, I knew that was the camera I wanted. The color was outstanding and the clarity amazing.

In 2020 I bought a Fuji X-T3. I’ve always bought new cameras, but used lenses. This time I came home with a new camera and three new lenses. I have not regretted that decision. I still use the Nikon for ultra wide and telephoto shots. I’ve sold my wonderful Sigma macro lens since I have one for the Fuji.

Here’s an image taken in 2020 with the Fuji.

So, here we are in the present. I’m still learning and growing in ability. I do need to conquer Photoshop and other plugins. When an outing is sort of blah, I still come home with an image or two that are worthwhile. I now see things differently, and I’m more aware of my surroundings. Most of all I’m having fun. What an amazing journey that’s still twisting and turning while moving forward.

Lens Artists Challenge #132: Striped and Checked

Just look around, patterns make up our scenery. It may be buildings, trees or seating. As photographers, we all look for repetitive lines whether linear, curved or squared. Or, as Ann Christine says, “striped and checked” in her challenge this week.

Before I was able to look in my archives, I read JohnRH’s post on the challenge. His was of trees. I thanked him for the idea! Here are trees from Calaveras Big Trees State Park and its giant Sequoia trees. And a leading line too.

I love textures, and wood has so much, including lines. The horseshoe is there for luck!

Windows give us a checkerboard of reflections. I found these at Mare Island, a former Naval Station.

How about a line of squares, a square monument to those lost in the Vietnam War, or the lines on the grate of an old train?

I’ll end this post with diagonal lines.

I don’t see squares, but I do see rectangles! Thanks Ann Christine for this fun challenge.

Lens-Artists #131: Emotions

Patti’s challenge of Emotions was a true challenge for me. Wow, where do I start? Right now here in the U.S. emotions are all over the place from the pandemic to politics to what do I make for dinner! I went out on a photo shoot this morning to ground myself. It worked. Photography is my get-away-from it all.

While searching in my archives for street photography, I realized there were none from last year. I’m thinking I’m lucky to have photographed what I did in 2020. So here are images that I think depict or evoke emotion.

Anticipation. My younger granddaughter is waiting for her birthday party guests to arrive.

Delight. This young girl is in total delight on this bungee ride on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Hopelessness. Taken on the same trip as above.

Patience. Husband waiting outside of store for wife.

Attitude. Taken at the Sacramento Zoo with her mom’s permission.

Joy. This is Tom Rigney at the Sacramento Music Festival. He and his band Flambeau were favorites. The festival was discontinued a few years ago.

Love. This feeling can extend between humans and their pets.

My personal emotional challenge this next week is to let go of fear and concentrate on joy and gratitude. Stay safe everyone!

Lens-Artists Challenge #130: It’s a Small World

Think big! Don’t sweat the small stuff! Did you want to super-size that? In today’s world, we are taught to think BIG. We go for the big SUV, the big sale and the big burger. In photography, we learn to shoot large landscapes with a wide-angle lens. 

Donner Lake in Winter

But what about thinking small? Let’s talk about macro photography.

What is macro photography? What is micro photography? Are they different from close-up photography? Have I confused you? I’ll give you a hint, two are the same and one is different. Let’s delve into the subject.

Close-up photography takes a subject and zooms in on it. Usually the subject is small, like a plant or an insect, but it could also mean getting close to someone’s eye or face as a subject. The picture is taken with any lens. I’ve taken close-ups with a nifty fifty on a crop sensor camera.

A close-up image taken with an 18-200 mm lens, shot at F/5.6.

Typically, these types of images fill the frame. However, I’ve put flowers or part of flowers off to the side. Shooting with a 200- or 300-mm lens can give you almost macro quality.

This flower was shot at 200 mm at F/5.6.

Macro photography refers to a picture taken with a dedicated macro lens yielding a magnification ratio of 1:1. Meaning, the image depicted on your camera’s sensor is in its actual size. When printed, the subject appears life-sized. This type of photography is used especially when we shoot something exceedingly small or want to capture an extremely small part of it.

Hint: If you want just part of a subject in focus, use a lower F stop (meaning F/number) to get the entire macro subject in focus, use a higher F stop.

The praying mantis in this image appears life-sized as does the part of the flower it’s feeding on. It was shot with a 105 mm macro lens at F/16.

The leaf in this image was shot with the same macro lens, but at F/2.8 creating a more shallow depth of field.

Micro photography is the same as macro photography. Camera manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. You might say that a macro lens takes a picture of a micro subject! I borrowed that last phrase!

One big difference between close-up and macro shooting is breeze. For close-ups you can shoot in a slight breeze because the regular lens isn’t as sensitive as a macro lens. When shooting with a macro lens, any movement in the subject will result in blur. Often, I’ll just take my 55-200 mm lens out when there’s a slight breeze. I can still get nice close-ups.

Oh, yes, everyone says you need a tripod. Confession, I’ve never used one for macro. In fact, I hardly use one at all. However, you will need a steady hand and fast shutter speed.

Now we’ve covered the macro, micro and close-up differences, and you are wanting a macro lens, let’s talk about options. Macro lenses are expensive but there are less expensive alternatives. Extension tubes or reverse ring adaptors to turn your regular lens around are much less expensive options. Personally, I decided against either option and bought a used macro lens for my Nikon D7100. When buying used, be careful. Buy from a store that will let you return it within 90 days if not satisfied. Also purchase one that will give you a 1:1 ratio.

For my Fujifilm camera, I treated myself to a new macro lens, knowing I would use it a lot. It’s a prime 80 mm but still shoots at a 1:1 ratio.

So, which two are the same and the other different? The answer: macro and micro photography are the same and close-up photography is different!

This week’s challenge is to take your camera for a walk around your yard or home and shoot some close-up or macro shots. Too cold, too wet, too busy? Feel free to choose some images from your archives. Be sure to link your response to my original post, and to use the Lens-Artists TAG to help us find you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Thank you Tina, Amy, Ann Christine and Patti for this amazing guest host opportunity!

Lens Artists Challenge #129: Favorite Images of 2020

This challenge from Tina Schell of Travels and Trifles seemed easy at first, but when I started digging through my photos, the challenge became emotional and difficult. The pandemic wove its way into our lives touching all aspects even photography. There were fewer outings, no lunches afterwards, less day trips. Picking the favorites out of a challenging year was tough.

The year 2020 started out great with one of my best sunsets taken at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, and an eagle shot at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I didn’t make it back to either place that year.

Before the first lockdown, we did make it to Mare Island (A former Naval installation) where I spotted the perfect natural frame for an old brick building. I do love structures.

I did win an honorable mention for this photo in the McKinley Rose Garden contest.

Our photo shoots mainly consisted of meeting at the designated place shooting masked and then going our separate ways. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the World Peace Rose Garden in Sacramento reached deep into my soul since my husband served in Vietnam. This piece particularly touched me. A prisoner waiting for what?

I did take two longer trips. One with husband Richard as we searched for the beautiful California poppy and one with my friend Jean as we looked for Fall color, but instead found this beautiful lake.

Out again with our small group, we searched for Fall color before it disappeared. As we were going home, we came upon this.

But my favorite is the simple love of a child for her mother. In this case the child is Glory, 6-weeks I think when this was taken, and her mother. This was taken at the Sacramento Zoo. I call it, “This is MY mommy!”

And so, we are now two days into 2021 and things are looking up. We have vaccine choices in the works and hope. Take care and stay safe!