Monthly Archives: October 2009

Halloween Lights

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Double-glowing pumpkin

Happy Halloween, y’all!

We’re looking forward to a full day tomorrow. We start with a Halloween mini disc golf tournament (I’ll be disguised as a great photographer), followed by our high school’s last (very slim) chance to win a football game this season during our afternoon Homecoming game. All of that will be, of course, topped off by Halloween.

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Neighbor Tish's skeleton (no, not her own!)

Our cul-de-sac’s tradition, started by JJ the organizational whiz, is to sit in front of her house with a table filled with candy and potluck food. Amid the glow of the streetlight and the odor of bug spray and our neighbor Marcel’s chili, we sit and kibbitz while the kids traipse past, whipped into a sugar-high frenzy. We have so much fun!

And this year it’s even supposed to feel like a real Halloween, with a low of 49 degrees! Usually, we’re sweating while we’re sitting.

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The lit pumpkin and a little skeleton

I thought I’d get into the Halloween spirit by snapping a few photos. I only found a few decorations that were worth shooting before it started pouring last night, so I had to resort to some in-house photography on my kitchen table. For the above and top photos, I used a flashlight to side light the items and add to the pumpkin’s natural light (a votive candle).

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"I'll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!"

Those proved a little easier to photograph with mostly natural light than the witch with her light-up globe, a Halloween favorite in our house.

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The globe barely lights up the witch.

As you can see, when the globe is lit, it barely provides enough light to see the witch. Even with making the witch lighter in Photoshop.

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Eerie!

But focusing on just the globe itself (which looks like there’s a ghost inside it!)? De-LIGHT-ful!

Just like Halloween!

No Sick Days for Moms

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My swinging #1 son

All of you moms out there understand this one, basic truth of our lives: Moms can’t be sick. Sure, we can try to rest while the kids are in school, but once they come home, they need us. They might not like us all the time, sad to say, but they do need us a lot of the time.

Especially when we’d rather be flat on our backs watching Oprah or any other mindless TV show.

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The #2 son ponders . . . but what?

I’m fortunate that my two sons at ages 17 and 14 are fairly self-sufficient when it comes to eating. The older one doesn’t mind driving himself and his brother to McDonald’s or Subway, if necessary.

So where do they especially need me? The computer.

Yesterday I was down for the count with some kind of stomach distress that started the night before. I could barely sit up for a minute at a time. So, naturally, both boys had papers for me to print out. Our standard operating procedure is for them to type everything on their iMac and then e-mail it to my iMac to be printed out. I had to institute this process, because of the #1 son’s tendencies to, shall we say, go off the deep end at times on papers and write inappropriately for high school.

This time #1 was having trouble with hanging indents in Word and trying to fit a set of song lyrics on one piece of paper using a typesize that was readable. It took me about an hour to do what I normally would’ve breezed through in a matter of minutes. I just couldn’t sit up long enough to finish the tasks quickly.

Meanwhile, the #2 son was doing research on Missouri for World Geography. I was able to instruct him on how to e-mail me the website he wanted printed out (so much easier if it’s a link; on a Mac you use command-shift-i to do that) from the couch. Fortunately, by about 11 p.m. I was feeling well enough to sit at the computer for longer periods of time, sweating a puddle of what I guess was the fever I had. That meant I could look through my 65 e-mails and easily satisfy the #2 son’s tech needs once again.

Glad to say I’m feeling much better today and will be ready to meet my sons’ needs when they walk through the door after school. But I sure wouldn’t mind if they’re not too demanding!

Sick Bay

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Veggies from my summer garden . . . photo taken months ago.

Here’s hoping I feel better tomorrow!

We Are the Champions, My Friend!

From left: Greg, Tyler, Erin, the #2 son, and Casey

From left: Greg, Tyler, Erin, the #2 son, and Casey

This is a photo story that tells how five fabulous freshmen boys, including my studly #2 son, won their high school’s district cross-country championship last Friday.

Tyler leads #2 and Casey at the start.

Tyler leads the #2 son and Casey near the start.

It starts with, well, the start, of course. The boys shoot out when the gun sounds for the two-mile race like they know there will be cookie cake when they finish. Which there was, thanks to our fabulous team mom and booster club rep, Eileen (aka, Clay’s mom).

Erin is about to become district champion!

Erin is about to become district champion!

And then it finishes, well, with the finish, of course. Erin, who has been our freshmen’s top runner all season, crossed the line first and was the champion.

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Tyler is about to finish second overall.

Then came Tyler running his best race of the season to finish second. By the way, bokeh’d behind Tyler is Mir, who attended middle school with most of the boys but now goes to a different high school.

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Greg, starting to show the strain of fast running, is poised to finish fourth. And who's that in the background? Why, it's the #2 son!

Greg finished comfortably in fourth. And then the real battle began for the #2 son!

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#2 is doing his best to hold off Casey down the stretch.

Usually, Casey finishes second or third on our team. But he’s been sick, so the #2 son was able to hold him off and snag seventh place overall.

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Casey is about to finish.

Coughing Casey hung on for the #8 slot.

With all five runners placing in the top 10, our freshmen blew away the competition! Our junior varsity girls team did the same.

As for my #2 son, he finally broke 13 minutes for two miles, finishing in 12:47 (6:24 pace). He improved his time by a whopping two minutes since his first cross-country meet. The Mister and I are so proud of him!

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The #2 son shows off his team and seventh-place medals.

Good thing he’s such a humble guy!

Got Shoes?

To the left . . .

To the left . . .

I walked in the front door last night and instantly froze. It looked like we had a shoe farm in the front foyer!

Sidebar: When I use a word like “foyer” to describe an area in my cluttered house, I feel like a fraud. Sounds a little too fancy for our abode, that’s for sure.

Here’s what was growing: To the left was where the #1 son always parks his stuff. That’s where he keeps his backpack and sandals; he wears sandals year ’round. But this time a small crop of sneakers had sprouted up—#1’s old sneaks that he wore to play disc golf in, as well as my “third son” Chase’s huge boats, complete with a t-shirt that he continues to leave. And that random five-pound weight? Who knows why it’s there. Just something for me to stub my toe on, no doubt.

To the right closest to the door . . .

To the right closest to the door . . .

As for the right side, is it any surprise that the #2 son  (aka Mr. Sports Store) takes up two corners with his shoe harvest? Next to the door he had his pseudo Crocs covered in mini discs (Why? Why not!). We like our fake Crocs for short trips outside where there’s a bunch of acorns ready to destroy bare feet.

The other right corner . . .

The other right corner . . .

The other right corner is vintage #2 son. His plot of foyer acreage featured three pairs of shoes that told the story of his weekend: Running shoes worn Friday at his cross-country meet, spare sneakers used at his disc golf tournament Saturday, and football cleats kicked off after his flag football game Sunday. He also had his spare disc golf bag that he had used Thursday when he was practicing for Saturday’s tournament.

Wish he had put his homework in that pile. That might have meant he had been working on it!

And, yes, we do have a shoe rack. It’s in the kitchen close to the back door. Which they didn’t walk through while wearing these shoes. Apparently, the foyer, which gets more sun during the day, is a better location for growing shoes. Think I’ll buy the boys some overalls!!

Leapin’ Lizards!

 

The #2 son is about to catch a pass.

My #1 priority when shooting weekly flag football games is, of course, the #2 son. I enjoy capturing photos of his athleticism. He’s always been an exciting player on offense, and he used to be a top-notch defender who would get his share of interceptions during the season.

 

One of the tough guys the #2 son plays against.

One of the tough guys the #2 son plays against.

But then he started high school this fall and moved to the adult division of our neighborhood flag football league. Suddenly he became, in a word, short. At about 5 feet 5 inches (a growth spurt of seven inches in the last two years), my 14-year-old is too puny to defend against some of the behemoth adults in his division. So he’s mostly stuck rushing the quarterback and trying to harass him into throwing a bad pass that one of our taller guys can try to pick off.

There aren’t a lot of high school kids in the adult division this fall, but there is one team that features all high schoolers. #2’s team played them last Sunday. The following series of photos will show why it’s an advantage to be bigger and stronger than the average ninth- or tenth-grader.

Sam and Omar both jump high for the football.

Sam and Omar both jump high for the football.

The battle for the ball features our guy Sam, a very talented collegian, vs. Omar, who is in high school. Sam is taller and more muscular.

Sam has his hands on the football

Sam has both hands on the football to Omar's one.

The pass was intended for Sam. Our quarterback, old man Matt, likes to throw the ball up high to our tall receivers, figuring that they can out jump their defenders. Or at least he hopes they can!

This is Sam's pass to lose . . . but he won't!

This is Sam's pass to lose . . . but he won't!

Omar had great defensive position on Sam, but he just wasn’t strong enough to come away with the ball.

Omar tries to hold on for dear life!

Omar tries to hold on for dear life!

Sam’s advantage besides height and weight? Had to be those gloves! Look cool, play cool.

Give it up, Omar!

Give it up, Omar!

Sam has won the battle! And his and #2’s team also won the game. It was fun to watch and photograph.

True confession time: I must admit that I didn’t completely concentrate on the #2 son’s team all the time.

Remember the last time I took photos of flag football and showed them here? Well, guess who was on the next field busy distracting me again?!?

#1 reaches over the defender for the pass.

#1 reaches over the defender for the pass.

Yep, there was my old friend, #1. He’s tall and strong, and he showed why it’s smart to throw him the ball in the end zone. He doesn’t have to leap very high to grab it, but he does anyway.

#1 keeps his eye on the prize.

#1 keeps his eye on the prize.

The man can juggle, too!

Touchdown!

Touchdown!

Leapin’ lizards! It definitely pays to be taller and stronger in flag football. As for having a gorgeous body, well, that just means you’ll be pictured in a certain blog a lot!

Sinking or Swimming Photographically

Please lift your head so I can identify you!

Please lift your head so I can identify you!

Action photographers often opine that volleyball is the toughest sport to shoot, and I wouldn’t argue with that. Poor lighting and fast action with the ball going every which way but where your focus is. Yep, volleyball is a photographic toughie.

Please breathe on the OTHER side!

Please breathe on the OTHER side!

But then where does that leave swimming? Heads in and out of the water, breathing on the side you’re not shooting from, arms blocking faces, impossible angles, can hardly identify any of the swimmers. Oh, and don’t forget the humidity! Shooting swimming definitely can be a tough, sweaty proposition, too.

Luisa dives in to start her butterfly race.

Luisa dives in to start her butterfly race.

But if you get lucky like I did and photograph an outdoor meet, as I did recently for our high school’s swim team, you’re bound to get clear faces captured at the peak of action. Well, until the light starts to fade during the meet-ending relays.

Emily powers through the backstroke during the individual medley.

Emily powers through the backstroke during the individual medley.

I also was fortunate that the venue had a balcony to shoot from. I used my Nikon D700 (the better to capture those high ISOs as the sun was setting), along with my beloved and much-used Nikon 70-200mm lens. I added the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter for much of the meet to give me more reach. Where’s that 400mm lens when you need it?!?

Allie heads for the end of the pool in the freestyle.

Allie heads for the end of the pool in the freestyle.

Here’s a tip for parents who want to make sure that photographers know which swimmer is their child: Have your kid wear distinctive goggles. I always could tell which swimmer was Allie (shown above) by her pinkish eyewear.

Johnny flies through the water during a relay.

Johnny flies through the water.

A swim meet is kind of like a three-ring aquatic circus. There might be one or two swimmers from your high school in one heat, one in another, and none in a third. Athletes are hurtling through the air from the blocks, powering through the water, and there’s little down time from one event to another. Snap city all the time.

Amanda

Amanda stays ahead of her competitor in the free.

As long as all the water in that aquatic circus stays away from me and my photo equipment, I’m glad to document it!

Zach is on his way to an easy victory in the 100 free.

Zach is on his way to an easy victory in the 100 free.

While I was snapping away, hoping the swimmers would breathe on my side and trying to time my shutter so I could capture their faces, I couldn’t help but think how much easier it is to shoot cross-country on a nice fall day. And so much easier to identify the athletes!

Jessica splashes towards the end of her freestyle race.

Jessica splashes towards the end of her freestyle race.

But, as always, it was fun trying to meet the photographic challenge before the darkness and dim pool lighting made it impossible to get good pix. Even though I did sink at times with my shots, I found that it all went swimmingly in the end.

Need a Football?

Football #1

Football #1

Having a sports-crazy kid like my #2 son means that sometimes I feel like I live in a sports store rather than a one-story house. #2 likes having sports equipment close at hand, the better to swing a golf club and putt while he’s watching golf on TV, pretend to be pitching with a glove and ball during the Major League baseball playoffs, etc.

Football #2

Football #2

Which is all fine and good. The Mister and I stepped on stuffed animals and action figures in our family room back in the day; now we leap over lacrosse sticks, baseballs and gloves, stopwatches, and golf balls.

Sidebar I: Leap?!? Did I really use that as a verb to describe two doddering parents in their latter 50s? It’s really more like a shuffle and avoid move while trying not to pull a muscle.

Sidebar II: I don’t think the Mister will ever forget the day he stepped on a metal Harold the helicopter from the boys’ beloved Thomas the Tank Engine days. I think the boys learned a couple new words that evening!

Football #3

Football #3

I definitely don’t mind #2 keeping a football near by, because this is football season (aka Texas’ state religion). #2 loves to watch the sport on TV, where “watching” means he runs around the living room tossing a football to himself for most of the game. Plus he’s always working on plays for the younger-division flag football team that he coaches. Got to have the ball close for that kind of action!

But three footballs in one room?!? It’s not that big a house!

The #2 son catches a football he tossed to himself.

The #2 son catches a football he tossed to himself.

Thanks to the #2 son, we never know when we might turn an ankle tripping over a football or rudely feel that faux pigskin beneath our butts when we sit on the couch.

#2 tosses the ball in the air.

#2 tosses the ball in the air.

But if we ever need a football? We always know where to find one!

The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over

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Back in May I wrote about my trials and tribulations with shooting our high school’s dance show in the school’s auditorium. Saturday night found me back in that same location trying to take decent photos of our high school’s play, “Laughing Stock.”

The #1 son and my “third” son Chase wanted to see the play (#1 was determined not to laugh during it), and I decided to tag along (because really what high school senior doesn’t want his mom hanging around with him?). I knew several of the actors, which meant I knew that their moms would like good photos that are impossible to take with a point and shoot.

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I tried my best to sit as far away from other people in the audience, because, well, my camera’s shutter is very loud. Especially in a quiet auditorium. Plus I knew I would need to chimp (e.g., check my LCD) periodically to make sure my settings were correct. Those lighted cell phone screens that are annoying in the dark? Well, my LCD monitor looks like a torch in comparison!

I remembered from taking pix of the dance show that the lighting is funky on stage. That’s where exposure compensation comes into play. Exposure compensation (the +/- button) lets you add or subtract light without changing your aperture; it allows you to adjust for the bright lights that are on stage, as well as backlighting outdoors.

Eyes glazing over? Sorry!

I was using my Nikon D700 (which does a wonderful job with high ISOs with Noise Ninja’s help, of course) and beloved Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens to let in as much light as possible (no flash photography necessary). My ISOs ran from 1000 to 2500 when it was pretty dark. At first I tried a mild exposure compensation of –.33 but quickly went to –.7 and –1 to try to darken the effect of the overwhelming overhead stage lights.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of -1.33.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of –1.33.

An exposure compensation of –1.33 worked pretty well, but as you can see above, sometimes the photo still was blown out. In this case I quickly chimped and reset the e-c to –1.67.

Alec at -1.67

Alec at –1.67

Wow, what a difference!

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

Once I finally got the e-c set to either –1.33 or –1.67, the photos looked pretty good, and I could just snap away.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

The negative exposure compensation even worked well when there was smoke on stage.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Photoshop did play a role in getting the best quality out of these photos. Sometimes I had to add more light, while other times I had to darken a little using Levels. Photoshop wins the award for best supporting actor!

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

“Laughing Stock” is a comedic play about actors who rehearse/perform three summer stock plays (“Dracul,” “Charley’s Aunt,” and “Hamlet”) in a barn in New Hampshire. During the play, the cast performed “Hamlet” in the background behind a mesh screen. It made for interesting photos!

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

All of the actors were extremely talented and put on a very funny performance.

The cast applauds the audience.

The cast applauds the audience.

I’m sure I would’ve really enjoyed the play . . . if I hadn’t been busy compensating for my photographic exposure!

Get This Song Out of My Head Now!

A hibiscus from our backyard

A hibiscus from our backyard

Marching band bass drum mallets at the ready

Marching band bass drum mallets at the ready

Kansas City flora

Kansas City flora

Roses use a cheerleader's megaphone as a handy vase.

Roses use a cheerleader's megaphone as a handy vase.

No, there isn’t a connection between the four photos. It’s just that I’ve got that “Five dollar footlong” song from the Subway commercial stuck in my head, playing on an endless loop all the live-long day.

Until it decides to exit my brain, I’ve got a Monday disconnect kind of day going on.

And, no, I’m not having lunch at Subway today! No five dollar footlong for me!!