Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

>Photography Thursday: Rodeo Style!

>March in Texas is when the Houston Rodeo is full effect. We have Go Texan Day, when the trailriders ride into the city from all over, Texan Independence Day, and of course three weeks of the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show, apparently the biggest rodeo in the country. I had no idea how seriously Texans take their wild west heritage until I moved here almost three years ago. So today I thought I’d simply share some of my favorite photos that convey the sentiment of this month. These are all from the past couple of years.

Ending her trailride in the city
Crusty Old Cowboy
Texas Proud!
My Little Buckaroo
Ready for the Rodeo Parade
Little Cowgirls
Hatchlings at the Livestock Show
Mutton Bustin’!
Newborn piglet at the Birthing Center in the Livestock Show
If you like this, you may also enjoy my post on the Top Ten Things I Love About Texas

>Review: The Verizon iPhone


A lot of my friends think I’m way more technologically savvy than they are, so they were always shocked when I would tell them I didn’t have an iPhone. The reason was pretty simple, I’m a diehard Verizon fan. I got my first Verizon mobile phone before I had kids, when my job required me to be on a plane every week traveling to big cities, tiny towns, and very remote locations nationwide. My regular, full-time, salaried job is designing wastewater treatment plants and those are everywhere and often placed as far away from the population of a town as reasonably possible. I needed a phone that worked, that got service everywhere, that didn’t drop calls left and right. If there was anyone that truly tested Verizon’s network, it was I.

When we founded my company in 2004, my two partners and I were using Verizon and at the time we could make unlimited calls to each other and given our budget that was important. Of course competition has changed all that and now with affordable unlimited plans it doesn’t matter that we stay on the same network, but I have seen how bad the service is for both AT&T and Sprint at my house. I can even remember standing in the middle of downtown Houston on more than one occasion, talking, texting and tweeting with my Verizon Blackberry while all around me AT&T iPhone users ranted about not having service. Calling is still the most important thing to me when it comes to my cell phone and I can’t remember the last time a call dropped from my end.

Of course I was envious of all the cool stuff my iPhone using friends could do with their phones. Angry Birds? Words with Friends? Easy to navigate driving directions? Not to mention the inspiring iPhone photography from Chase Jarvis, author of The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You. My phone camera sucked, and as a photog that was a big deal to me. Plus my husband complained about the sound quality of my Blackberry. When my time came to upgrade my phone last June I seriously considered getting a Droid Incredible or X. But I kept hearing more substantial rumors that the Verizon iPhone was coming, so I waited. Last week I was handsomely rewarded.

Let me shout it from the rooftops, I LOVE THIS PHONE. The network is still incredible and the sound quality is WAY better than my Blackberry. So far I’ve downloaded the Twitter and Facebook apps, the Best Camera app and Instagram, which I am totally loving. I thought typing would be hard, but it has rapidly adapted to my typos to correct them instantly. I love the way texts are set up in little bubbles, shown as a conversation! Most of all I love the camera. The things I can do with it are mind blowing to me. So check out what I’ve got in just the past couple of days.

I still can’t believe I took these AND edited them with my phone. I may never pick up my DSLR again! (Kidding, that would never happen.) 
My husband and I have not yet been out to dinner or on a date since I got the phone, but I am going to need to have it surgically removed from my hand before we do because he used to complain about me checking the Blackberry too much. I’m trying, really I am, but if the old phone was like crack, this one is like heroin…far more lethal. 
So now I need to know what apps to download! Tell me your favorites in the comments, pretty please? 

>How To Shoot More Creative Photos

>Last night I attended a presentation at the Katy Photographers Meetup group by a local amateur photographer named Adam Watts. Adam says he only started shooting in 2009 with a Nikon D40, but in those three short years he has passionately pursued the craft. His work is really great, you can check it out on Flickr here. Flickr also played a HUGE role in my development as a photographer, as a source of learning and feedback. If you want to improve your photography I highly recommend sharing your photos in specific groups on Flickr and asking for feedback. Also immerse yourself in other people’s work and don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they did it.

I don’t want to totally rip off Adam’s presentation but I do want to share with you some of his key ideas that I wholeheartedly agree with. This is not the technical stuff of how to take photos, this is finding your vision. One remark that I agree with and often need to be reminded of is that creativity can be learned. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised or else it will atrophy. Kids are born with creativity, I see it in them every single day. Eventually though the routine of adult life gets in the way. I heard a great quote last night.

The chief enemy of creativity is common sense. – Picasso

One tip that Adam suggested was simply to change up your routine. Drive a different way home from work than you normally would and look for inspiration.

Another tip that has really worked for me is to change your perspective. That means sometimes climbing up high and looking down on something to see it differently, or getting flat on the ground and looking at the world through a “worm’s eye view”. This is why I always were comfortable shoes and clothing when I go to a photoshoot, even if it’s a wedding. As much as I like looking nice, wearing high heels is not really conducive to   getting into the positions necessary for truly great photographs.

Another important tip Adam gave is to “be weird and ignore what people might think.” That goes along with getting into strange positions for photos. This also includes taking your camera everywhere with you, including lots of public places like restaurants and the grocery store. If you want great pictures, take it EVERYWHERE. Take lots of pictures, even if it’s just with your iPhone. Adam said the thing that pushed his development was taking on a 365 project, where you take and share online a photo every single day, whether you feel like it or not.

I took this with a really old point and shoot camera.

Finally, forget your gear. Quit spending time thinking that if you only had a better camera or this other lens that your photos would be so much better. I can’t tell you how ticked off I get when I hear someone say “Oh your photos are so much better than mine because you have a better camera.” Gear is nice, but it has nothing to do with creativity and mastery. Master the gear you have now so that you don’t have to think about the settings to capture your vision, it’s second nature. Focus on the vision. A great way to practice this, something I do frequently, is to only take one camera body and one lens with you on a photowalk.

So now it’s your turn. Fill in the blank. “I exercise my creativity muscles by _________”

>Last Week In Photos

>Last week seems to have zipped by with lightning speed. That is, except for the three hour wait at the pediatricians office with Alex, who had been sick with a fever for six days. Got some antibiotics and BOOM! Better in an instant. So I’m going to recap last week with a few photos.

First up, last Friday night my friend’s band, Forlorn Hope, played at a local church coffee house night. Well, half the band did anyway…acoustic style. They were great.

Forlorn Hope

Then there was this killer sunrise on Saturday morning.

Alex was still sick on Sunday so I went to church by myself while Mike stayed home and played games with him.

On Monday Alex as still sick with a high fever, so I took him to the doctor. But of course one dose of antibiotics and ibuprofen had him back to his silly old self.
This is his fake mad face. 

The kid is addicted to Candylane. I played 15 times this week.

Then there was Thursday, the day Houston’s very own Snowpacolypse loomed large. Weather people were swearing up down and sideways that we would for sure have 1-3 inches of snow, starting sometime after lunch. Thankfully Nathan’s school did not close early, but I was stunned when Mike’s office closed at noon and sent them all home, before even a single flake had fallen. So he and Alex crashed on the couch together.

Unfortunately when we woke up Friday morning, there was no snow. Zero, zip, zilch. But a nice coating of ice on the entire city of Houston caused more than 800 accidents. Thankfully all schools were closed, as was Mike’s office. So we tried to make the best of it at home as a family. 
My palm tree seems to have survived the hard freeze.
My oleander kicked the bucket.
Nathan LOVED all the ice in the yard. 
Finally we ended up the week on Saturday celebrating my Granddad’s 91st birthday with dinner and cake. I feel really fortunate that we get to spend so much time and so many birthdays with my grandparents.
It was a major project lighting all those candles.

>How To Take Great Newborn Photos

>Newborn babies are so awesome, especially when they aren’t yours and you can hold them and smell their heads but give them back. Which is why I love to photograph them so much. So today that’s what I’m going to talk about. I’ll give you just a few tips for how to bring out the best in your newborn photos.

But FIRST! I must introduce to you my new niece, who inspired this post, born on Sunday morning. My mom’s husband’s daughter Jenny gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Kayla, born at 7 lbs 9 oz and with the cutest cheeks and blonde hair ever. Here she is!

Unfortunately she’s way up north and I live way down south, so I won’t be able to meet her until maybe this summer. She’ll look much different by them I’m sure. 
Ok so now a bit about photographing newborns. The best time to capture them in all their new, sleepy, cuddliness is within the first two weeks. After that they become less sleepy and easily curled up into a tiny ball, and they start to get that baby acne and cradle cap that moms hate to see in their photos. The exception to this is with preemies, like this little one who was five weeks or so early.
Another tip of mine is to make sure baby has a full belly before you start the shoot. That definitely helps him sleep. Also he is used to the warmth of the womb so it’s a great idea to crank up the heat in the room, so high that you may start sweating. I’ve even used heating pads or hot water bottles underneath a blanket. 
Speaking of blankets, make sure you have extras on hand, because naked newborns WILL pee on them. I have several colors, blue for boys, pink for girls, cream and chocolate brown. More than that actually. All very big, solid colors and with fuzzy texture. I will either wrap them around a pillow and stuff them in a basket, as seen above, or drape them over a bean bag chair, which is how I got this shot below. 
With newborns, I go very easy on the props and backgrounds. Simplicity is my M.O. I like naked babies, with the except of the occasional tutu or bow on baby girls like this one. 
Also don’t forget to focus in on the details of these newborns, because they grow SO fast and you will want to remember every little thing about their tiny fingers and toes. I do a slight amount of skin smoothing in my post-processing with Lightroom but I don’t go overboard because it’s the realness of their delicate skin that makes these photos great. I don’t like photos that are so retouched they look like plastic dolls. 
One more very important tip! Use natural light. Window light is the best, so pick a time of day that the sun shines brightly into a big window…french doors even. Then make sure the flash is off, use a prime lens if you can, like a 50mm at f-1.8 and as low an ISO as possible, ideally 200. Play around with the aperture to find the shot with exactly what you want in focus and the rest out of focus. Sometimes if you want the whole baby in focus, or in the case below…both babies…you will need to make sure the aperture isn’t TOO low. I’ve made this mistake before with portraits of multiple people and been disappointed with the results. Don’t trust your LCD screen either, it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s tack sharp and what’s not on that tiny screen. 
If you’re like me, you will beg people to let you take photos of their brand new babies. Go for it, practice, practice, practice! Oh and if you can, bring a baby handler along with you to help rock and pose the baby while you get ready, aim, and shoot. 
I hope this post is helpful to someone, even if it is just an excuse for me to show off some of my favorite photos. There are tons more where these came from!

>Just Because I Like These

>I haven’t posted a lot of photography lately, and this morning I just felt like I wanted to. These images are apropos of nothing, I just like them.

Sunrise over my backyard

Christmas eve bokeh

Monkeying around

Up on daddy’s shoulders

>Photography Thursday: A Note About Shutter Speeds

>In previous posts I’ve mentioned that the aperture (or f-stop) of your shots is a crucial element to getting good portrait photographs. In fact, I often recommend setting the camera to an aperture-priority mode if you can. But if you only did that and paid no attention to the shutter speed of your photos, you might find yourself with a lot of slightly blurry photos. This is especially true of kids, because even when they are sitting still…they aren’t.  So here are a few tips to remember about shutter speed.

  • When shooting portraits, even adults, try to keep the shutter speed under 125…that’s 1/125th of a second. That should prevent even the slight blur of someone moving a hand slightly while they pose. 
  • When shooting wandering kids, speed it up even more. If there is enough light I might set my shutter speed to 1/250th of a second. If there isn’t enough light, bump the ISO higher to 400 or 800. 
  • Soccer mom or dad? I used to think 250 was good enough when I was outside at my son’s soccer games, but I heard a professional sports photog speak once and she shoots at a minimum of 500, sometimes up to 1000. So I cranked the speed to 500 and I was AMAZED at how much better my action shots were. 
  • I shoot a lot of concerts, which are really tough because they are very low light, you can’t use flash, and the musicians tend to move A LOT. This is where you really test the limits of your camera with high ISO, because if you don’t you can’t shoot at a minimum of 125. 
  • Wanna freeze moving water, like in a fountain? That’s a shutter speed of at least 500, sometimes even 1000. Check out the dolphin show I shot below. 
Outdoor kid candids. ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/250 sec
No blurry concerts! ISO 3200, f/1.8, 1/200th sec
Freeze! Stopping action, ISO 400, f/5.3, 1/1000th sec
I really hope this helps you out at least a little to get better shots! 
As always, all photos are Copyright 2010 Sarah Hubbell, Enlightened Photography, All Rights Reserved. Seriously, that means do NOT steal them.