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 #137: Soft

When I hear the word “soft” in photography terms, right away my mind goes to a beautiful bokeh background. This week’s challenge from Ann Christine is on things soft. She gave many examples on how we can interpret this challenge, but I’ll stick with the pleasing muted backgrounds.

Flowers with a bokeh background was the first type of shooting I wanted to learn when I started photography.

But then I started thinking that animals can also have a bokeh background too.

Let’s see what else I can find.

There are some very small daffodils outside my front door. If it wasn’t so windy, I’d go out and shoot them for inclusion in this post. Thank you Ann Christine!

A macro lens: Thompson Building Materials and Nursery & Green Acres Nursery

A good photographic practice is to go out on an outing with only one lens. That’s what I did recently with a couple of photo buddies. Since I recently did a post for Lens-Artists on Macro, I thought I should take some macro photos.

That’s how we ended up at Thompson Building Materials and Nursery in Sacramento. This is mainly a commercial business. They had a large amount of outdoor statues and other ornamental items. With my 80 mm prime lens was slightly restricted, I had to move back (get a wider angle with my feet) or get a partial of the item. A macro lens can be used for other types of photography!

Now for the flowers. Some of these may be from Green Acres Nursery also in Sacramento. Being more of a residential nursery they had more flowers. So the following is a mixture from both businesses.

I do love macro/close up photography. Take care 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 #125: You Pick It!

For me, this challenge is like giving a kid a bunch of toys and saying okay pick one! Which one do you pick? Why do you pick it? So, what subject do I pick? What photos do I pick? Yikes!

This challenge by Tina Schell of Travels and Trifles caused me to think about how my photography progressed through the years. I went back to 2012 when I bought my Nikon D3100. This was a used entry level consumer DSLR. I was closing my business and looking for a hobby and didn’t want to invest a lot into something I might not enjoy.

I took the camera on a Mexican cruise that year and had fun photographing the colored lights aboard the ship.

I was still using my 3100 in 2013 when I made my first visit to a wildlife preserve (Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge). Fortunately this little guy was on the ground and close. My post processing hadn’t reached the Lightroom stage yet.

In 2014 I had my first experience shooting light trails. I had upgraded my camera to Nikon’s D7100 which was Nikon’s highest level consumer camera. This was taken in Sacramento. I did have freeway shots, but I wanted to show you something more.

In 2015 I went to Bodie, a State Park and old ghost town, where I experienced my first bout with altitude illness. There I practiced HDR, popular then, on the old structures that were in danger of falling. By then I was processing with Lightroom and Photomatix Pro.

My first shot at the Milky Way came in 2016. I’ve had better success since, but astrophotography has never become a favorite of mine. This is strange because my husband is an astronomer!

Sometimes you take a leap of faith. This picture taken in 2017, provided me with an entry for what I thought was a small town photo contest my friend told me about. This was in Sonora in the Gold Country. Little did I know, the best of Sacramento were also entering. Two of my photos made it to the wall and one made it to the final choice table. My friend had one image make it to the wall. She was delighted to have been chosen among the talented photographers and so was I. This was the one that was so close to being a top winner in 2019. I didn’t enter that contest this year because it was nerve racking, and with COVID my nerves were already under pressure.

I love slow shutter photography and would go to our local mall when they had small carnivals to practice. I captured this in 2018.

While I’m not a birder, I can’t resist an easy shot. My friend took me to what I call the nesting trees. Egrets and other large birds choose to make their nest in the cluster of trees and put on a show for photographers. By then I got an old-used prime F/4 300 mm. Although heavy, it has clarity. So, here’s my 2019 entry!

And here we are in 2020, the year we thought we’d never experience. Photography is a little more difficult these days, but it still provides the relaxation and mental stimulation it always did. I’m so happy I started back in 2012. This has become my passion. I hope you enjoyed my photographic journey.

Lens-Artists Challenge #123: Found in the Neighborhood

Oh my, this one is easy since I walk my neighborhood every day. Actually, I don’t have a choice, Gem will follow me until I take him out for our daily mostly 2-mile jaunt. It’s his walk and his choice where he goes. And where he goes, I follow. So Ann Christine, thank you for this topic!

Flowers are abundant in my community. From roses to tulips, they are beautiful.

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of goslings even though I’m not too fond of their parents. We have an abundance of wild turkeys too. I keep reminding them that Thanksgiving is near, but they don’t pay attention because they know they are protected.

And finally we have mushrooms. Ana of Anvica’s Gallery reminded me of them in her current post, “Time for Mushrooms.” Here are two varieties taken at different times. If you live in a senior community, take a sign saying “I’m okay!” with you as you lie face-down in the grass!

I don’t bring my camera on my walks with Gem. He wants all of my attention. When we first went on lockdown, I was grateful for living where I do. All us dog walkers, would stop and talk. I didn’t feel alone. Take care everyone!

COVID & election depression: Green Acres Nursery

One warning: never go to Costco or any other big box store when you’re in a depression, especially a COVID and election depression! I did and I gave into buying a bunch of breaded chicken patties that I’ve been able to resist for about 10 years. So now I have a whole sleeve of patties, that are probably not good for me, to eat.

When I get into a funk, I wallow. That’s why I took myself and my camera to Green Acres Nursery in Roseville for a pick me up to shoot macro. I enjoy shooting macro. The management at this particular store enjoy having photographers take images of their flowers. I was a little disappointed in the flower choice, but I did find some good candidates (Oh, when is this election going to be over. Even my word choice is out of control!).

My little trip did help me step out of my funk and lunch today with a friend also helped. And, I think the chicken patties will also help. Yes? No? Fun food! Again, don’t go to the store when you’re depressed!

Lens-Artists challenge #110: Creativity in the Time of Covid

Creativity: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. I’m concentrating on the words imagination and original. Does creativity have to be imaginative and original. I think so. That’s why I say I’m not really creative, but I do see opportunities and make something from them.

Oh Tina, you are leading me into a soul-searching moment with your topic of “Creativity in the time of Covid.”  During this pandemic, depression creeps in and divisiveness pushes us apart. We need something to bring the sunshine back into our lives. For me that is photography. I’ve been trying to get out at least once a week with my camera. Now the weather is creating a barrier. Temperatures have been in triple digits and will continue for about another week. Today it hit between 110 and 112 in Sacramento. Typically, we shoot indoors during times like this, but many stores and museums are closed.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a studio or light box set up in my home for indoor photography. Additionally, I lack the creative ability to set up a still life. It’s just not my thing.

I don’t mean to depress anyone, but this is the way it is during the summer of Covid! Prior to this heat wave, I got out so let’s take a look at some images I have been able to capture during this pandemic.

Recently photo buddy Ray and I went to the California State Capitol World Peace Garden. I’ve lived here for 19 years and had never visited. It was beautiful. The Vietnam War Memorial was particularly moving.

And the flowers in the garden were just meant for a macro lens.

The small town of Fair Oaks is known for its chicken population.

More recently, I took a trip into the countryside to visit the CR25 Ranch in Esparto.

These and other outings brought joy and my type of creativity into my life. And when we get back into double digits, I’ll be taking my camera out again.

Lens-Artist Challenge 108: Sanctuary

Sanctuary, for me, is where you seek refuge from things that may be bothering you, where you relax and rejuvenate, where you find peace. This challenge was selected by our guest host Xenia of Tranature and posted by Ann-Christine.

I gave it a lot of thought. Where do I find peace? Where do I get away from it all? Where? Where? I came to the realization that I find peace and rejuvenate when I’m out taking pictures. My camera is my calming mechanism. When I’m out shooting, I concentrate on taking the best pictures, I forget what’s bothering me, I forget my physical problems. When the outing is over then my hip hurts and the world situation comes back into my head.

So I began the daunting task of finding pictures that would be my interpretation of sanctuary. These Lens-Artist challenges can lead to great introspection. To my surprise, I kept coming back to the Sacramento Historical City Cemetery! Now that’s odd, you’re probably thinking. Me too! This cemetery is beautiful, has history, it’s not crowded with tourists, has places to sit, has lovely flowers, and old head stones and statues to photograph.

My photo buddies and I usually visit there at least once a year, maybe twice. Things don’t change much so the challenge is to find new ways to shoot and create difference. It was built in 1849 and its architectural style is that of a Victorian Garden. The grave stones tell us about how life was lived back then and the people who lived it.

You can see, beautiful sculptures rather than head stones. And head stones that tell the sad story of two children lost, and one simple stone telling of what I assume to be a still born child.

The lovely flowers are maintained by a volunteer organization, and they are beautiful.

During our last visit, I tried to capture the flowers around the headstones.

And I finally found the cemetery cat!

I’m due for another visit. Maybe this week. It’s supposed to be in the 80s on Wednesday! It’s a great time to visit my sanctuary.

Lens-Artist Challenge #105: Spring

Photos are our memories, and I’m glad to have images from Ananda Village‘s Crystal Hermitage Garden. Each year, volunteers plant tulips on the terraced hillside, creating such beauty worthy of a yearly visit. However, this year they didn’t open to the public because of the Pandemic.

Ananda Village is just north of Nevada City in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The village is run by a spiritual association that provides a range of tools to strengthen spiritual lives of individuals of all ages. It follows the teaching of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple, Swami Kriyananda, to meet the needs of spiritual seekers. They also have retreats and rent cabins to individuals who just want to get away and meditate.

A group of us go up each year to take pictures. These are from last year.

Thank you Tina Schell of Travels and Trifles for this Spring Lens-Artist Challenge!