Tag Archives: Nikon 50mm lens

Shooting Blind

The blinds provide a barrier to clear photography.

When my #2 son returned home the other day with his friends Chris and Marcus and told me that the three of them were going to play basketball in the driveway, I tried to stay cool, calm, and collected. I told him to have fun and waited until he closed the front door.

Then I grabbed my Nikon D700 and started to scheme: How could I get great action shots of the boys without them knowing I was shooting?

Marcus drives against Chris.

I figured #2 would be mortified if I came outside and snapped away. For some reason, he thinks that’s embarrassing. What’s up with that? Doesn’t every kid want a personal photographer?

The #2 son and Marcus talk at a party.

Apparently not!  So I decided to try my luck from inside, shooting through the open blinds in the kitchen. I didn’t dare raise them, because the window I was using is close to the driveway and the basketball goal. I didn’t want to be detected. This was furtive photography at its best.

My #2 son waits for an opportunity against Marcus.

At first I used my Nikon 50mm lens, but that proved to be too limiting. Once I twisted on the Nikon 35-70mm instead, my flexibility increased, as did my keeper rate.

Marcus shoots over Chris.

It was fun having a great vantage point to watch the action and interaction among the three sophomores.

My #2 son tries a layup over Marcus.

How is basketball played with three boys? Easy . . . #2 teamed with Chris against Marcus. It seemed fair, because Marcus plays on our high school’s basketball team.

Chris attempts to stop Marcus' shot.

Looked to me like Marcus was schooling his friends.

I had a blast with my stealth shooting. I felt so clever, putting one over on my #2 son.

"Is that you, Mom?

Or maybe not!

iThanks!

My #1 son is much too serious!

Sometimes great ideas come to me late at night (if they appear at all).

Last week I was lying in bed when a vision for my #1 son’s thank you cards suddenly hit me. Of course, it would’ve been nice if this creative thought had popped into my mind, say, when #1 started getting graduation gifts. But I’ve always been pretty pokey when it comes to my artistic process, so I just went with the flow.

I like personalization when it comes to thank you cards—makes them that much more special plus the recipient instantly knows who it’s from. I had been pondering what photo would best reflect my #1 son’s tech-savvy style. Suddenly, I could visualize it: #1 would be holding our iPad with the word “iThanks!” on it.

Get it? iMac . . . iPod . . . iPhone . . . iPad . . . iThanks? We’re such Apple fan boys that it’s a great way to pay homage to our favorite computer/music device company. Maybe I should copyright it!

Don’t let them see you smile!

So how to pull off this photo? #1 put on a UTSA shirt and wrote “iThanks!” on the iPad with the PaperDesk iPad app. Then we started our photoshoot outside. I opted for my Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens. I sat #1 on a cooler and started shooting.

Of course, he wasn’t very cooperative. Too bad he isn’t One Take #1! At first, he was much too serious. Then he was laughing when I tried to get him to smile.

Time for funny faces!

As I snapped off 20-plus shots, I still couldn’t get the photo I had envisioned.

Almost there!

With both of us tiring from the experience, #1 finally started to grin.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Cooperation at last! #1 has such a wonderful smile; I’m glad he decided to show it. Unfortunately, the photo I thought was best was one where you really couldn’t see the “iThanks!” on the iPad. So I used the text tool in Photoshop to type it in.

Beggars can’t be choosy!

Very Pro ProGrad

The #1 son’s college roommate-to-be, Ben, plays the slots.

All year my #1 son’s high school graduating class and its parents have been planning and organizing for one huge event: Project Graduation. It’s a supervised, all-night lock-in at their high school featuring fun, food, games, prizes, and a hypnotist.

My pal Betsy watches the Spin ’n Win wheel turn with an anxious winner-to-be.

Once we finished up with high school graduation Friday night, we had very little time before we were called to duty and fun at the high school—duty for me as a volunteer, of course, but really fun for both the #1 son and myself.

Sidebar: My #1 son, who isn’t very sociable, totally surprised me last fall when he said he would attend ProGrad. My reaction? Time to volunteer to help him earn the Bulldog bucks that are spent at the event.

Kelsey (pedaling) and Lexi enjoy a tricycle ride.

I had told my friend Elaine that I would help work security, as long as I could take photos, too. That meant I got to stroll the halls, walking softly and carrying my big Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens. Fortunately, the kids were so well-behaved that I didn’t need to work up a sweat showing off my (non)muscular biceps.

My neighbor Cheryl showed her Vegas side as a blackjack dealer.

About 280 kids (a little more than 50 percent) showed up and had plenty to keep them busy. There was a Spin ’n Win wheel with guaranteed prizes (#1 snagged a $10 Target gift card), a prize walk, raffles and drawings, and three hotly contested silent auctions. Laptops, TVs, dorm room necessities, an iPad, and so much more all were up for grabs to those were lucky and/or had earned mega Bulldog bucks during the school year.

Future roomie Ben, my “third son” Chase, and my #1 son contemplate their blackjack strategy.

Unfortunately for my #1 son, he was deficient in both luck and bucks; thus he only scored the Target gift card. But each participant’s duffle bag was brimming with loot worth much more than the $30 or $40 they paid for their ticket. And #1 really had a lot of fun, especially at the casino, and was glad he attended.

Who needs games when you’ve got a camera to look at?

For me, the adrenaline was flowing from ProGrad’s start at 10 p.m. to maybe 1 a.m. when I was ready to bag it and climb into bed. That didn’t seem to be a problem for most of the teenagers, though, who love to stay up late. Especially when there are prizes to be won!

I know how these kids, who are in a hypnotic trance, feel!

Just about when most of the parents were starting to nod off, a hypnotism show started. Although I almost fell asleep along with the kids the talented hypnotist was putting into a trance, I forced myself to stay awake and was glad I did. It was so entertaining to watch the hypnotist’s power of suggestion make these teens push out of their comfort zones. Oh, the stories their friends in the audience had to tell them once the trance was lifted!

#1 sits with Alayna, Josh, Chase, and Jackie in the auditorium.

It was so much fun for me to watch #1 interacting with friends, as the stress of the end of school and graduation disappeared. He might never step foot in his high school again, but he probably never will forget his final time there having fun at ProGrad.

And neither will I!

Posing a Portrait Problem

A beautiful setting for a portrait

I make no bones about it: I’m not much of a portrait photographer. When friends ask me to take their family or kids’ photos, I always tell them that there are more-talented photogs with the right equipment who will do a much-better job. Yes, they’re more expensive, but you get what you pay for! My specialty is action photography, but these friends don’t seem willing to run around and get all sweaty in order for me to snap great pics!

Every now and then, though, I will say yes to a special request, because I’m such a softie at heart. My good friend Dana lobbed one of those at me a month ago, and I fell for her pitch. She wanted me to take photos of her #1 son Nick, who is about to graduate from Texas Tech University. I’ve known Nick since elementary school—he’s a great guy! Dana didn’t want anything fancy, just a 6 x 4 snapshot to include with Nick’s graduation announcements.

It didn’t sound like too much pressure, so I figured at the very least I’d get a blog post out of the experience. But, as usual, I learned so much more and ended up being thankful for the opportunity.

Oh, oh!

The picturesque setting shown at the top is right outside our master-planned community. I knew it would make a great background for the photos . . . and then I saw this sign. Yikes! Both Dana and I were wearing sandals, so we nervously climbed towards the rocks and hoped for the best. Was I more worried about the electrical shock or the poisonous snakes? What do you think? I’m the Indiana Jones of photographers!

Nick—pose #1

I’ve checked out enough portrait photos to know that the rule of thumb seems to be to use different angles and poses. And it helps when the subject has a great smile!

Nick—pose #2

I opted for my Nikon D700 and the Nikon 50mm lens. I was torn between it and my Nikon 70-200mm, which I know portrait and wedding photographers use. I, of course, love it for sports shots, but I wanted the wider angle the nifty 50 provides.

Nick—close-up of pose #2

One piece of equipment I really needed in my arsenal was a reflector. It’s so helpful in shooing the shadows away from the eyes.

Nick—pose #3

But there’s no need for reflectors when you’re shooting action, of course. Although it might be fun to have an assistant following me around with one!

Nick—different shirt for pose #4

Even though we shot in the late afternoon, the sun was still a little too strong for these poses in front of the water. Dana said she liked the photos on the rocks better, as did I.

The entire shoot took less than a half-hour, and I think I accomplished my goal: I got a good snapshot for my friend of her son. Not that my ace portrait photographer pal Christine Meeker is worried, of course.

Today I go back to action photography at the #2 son’s high school track meet. I’ll be back on familiar turf . . . without having to worry about any snakes!

Recapping My Second POTD Month

The birthday boy with a present: iTunes cards (February 3 photo)

When I wrote about my first month of posting a photo every day to this blog, I looked forward to February for one reason: It only has 28 days. Which means I would only post 28 photos. A breeze compared to January’s 31, right?

Wrong! I still was playing catch up at the end of the month. But, once again, I didn’t miss a day without snapping at least one photo.

In February, I tried my best to make every photo meaningful, one I would look back on and recall why I took it. Two of those pix were tricky to execute. I wanted to document what I did on those days . . . while something was being done to me at the same time.

Miss Kim concentrates on cutting my hair. (February 23)

Like this photo. I risked Miss Kim cutting my hair crookedly, so I could grab the shot. It will always make me laugh when I look at it! Miss Kim is trying so hard not to crack up!

Tina’s hand looks so much better! (February 26)

And this photo. I wanted to document Tina giving me a massage and how much better her hand looks from the POTD I took of it a month earlier. Tina thought that she should take a pic of how my face looks as she applies pressure to my aching iliotibial band. But I didn’t want to repel folks from looking at my blog!

For the second straight month, I used my Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens for the majority of my photos. Just can’t beat that combination for sharp, bokeh-producing, everyday pix.

But what about my favorite photo of the 28? While I liked them all and all have special meaning to me, my absolute fave pix of the month is (drumroll!):

The #2 son checks Winter Olympic results on my MacBook.

This one of the #2 son taken on February 13 as he and I watched the Winter Olympics together. I love the way his face is illuminated and how he’s concentrating on what he’s doing during a commercial break. And the beanie he’s wearing—indoors—makes me smile!

So now it’s on to March, and once again I’m faced with a 31-day month. This is day two and no surprise—I’m already falling behind on posting!

Oh, Baby! Random Super Bowl Snippets & Apertures

Super Bowl XLIV

Oh, baby, that was an enjoyable Super Bowl XLIV game last night! And I’m not just saying that because the team I was rooting for, the New Orleans Saints, won. I’m a fan of well-played, exciting football games, which the 31-17 Saints’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts was. And any team gutsy enough to start the second half with an onside kick deserves to win!

The Colts defense makes a Jeremy Shockey sandwich.

Our family’s Super Bowl experience was divided into two parts. We pulled on our social pants and spent the first half at a party at our disc golf friends Jessica and Eric’s house. Good food and good gambling via pool squares (we managed to squander only a buck). We left at halftime, because their cats’ dander set off my asthma’s wheeze-maker, and I could hardly breathe.

The Saints’ Lance Moore breaks the goal-line plane with a two-point conversion pass.

Once back home, I settled into my favorite chair, armed with my Nikon D700 and 50mm lens. With the boys playing a card game at my feet and the Mister on the couch, what better place could I find to document the game off our HDTV? Much less crowded than being on the sidelines, drooling over those 600mm lenses!

Terry Porter runs a game-changing interception towards the end zone to score for the Saints.

Of course, as wonderful as the football game turned out to be, everyone knows that it’s the Super Bowl ads that usually have fans talking the next day. I wasn’t impressed with too many of them. I could’ve done without all the sexism (GoDaddy.com and Motorola), telling guys to man up (Dodge, Flo TV), and lots of undies (Career Builder, Dockers).

Cute in-house plug

But I did like CBS’ shameless plug for “How I Met Your Mother,” featuring Lothario Barney. As well as Google’s Parisian Love, Hyundai’s Brett Favre still playing in 2020, and Bud Light’s takeoff on “Lost.”

Toys come alive for the Kia Sorento

I guess I’m just a kid at heart—I really laughed at the toys coming alive in Kia’s joy ride ad.

Gotta love a sock puppet!

Especially the sock puppet!

President Chicken gets bad news.

Denny’s squawking chickens (they’ll need to lay more eggs due to free Grand Slam breakfasts) were cute.

Love that E-Trade baby!

I’m always a sucker for babies. Whether they’re in ads . . . .

MVP Drew Brees holds his baby boy Baylen after the game.

Or being carried by their proud MVP dads . . . .

Tristin Lee isn't into the Super Bowl.

Or resting on their dad at a Super Bowl party . . . .

The #1 son

Or who are remembered fondly when they were a baby . . . .

The #2 son

Or who always will be my baby.

Was there an ad for a memory booster? I’ve totally lost my train of thought!

“Lost” No-Spoiler Zone

Jacob, the spiritual center of the mysterious island—he has beautiful, blue, mesmerizing eyes

This has been an amazing week for our family so far: The #1 son’s birthday was yesterday, and the final season of “Lost” started Tuesday.

The #2 son watches intently.

Watching “Lost” is a wonderful family tradition for us. We really enjoy discussing what’s going on during the commercials (thank goodness there are so many of them, she says sarcastically) and anticipating what to expect next week.

Jack

Last year in this very blog I analyzed every “Lost” episode. It helped me to get my head around what was going on, since all Losties know how complicated the series is. By the way, all that confusion that fills our days contemplating the “Lost” conundrum? We have none other than the show’s creators and writers, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, to thank for that.

Kate

“We’ve always felt that one of the compelling elements of ‘Lost’ is the intentional ambiguity,” Cuse says. “The fact is it’s open for interpretation and discussion, and we feel like we would be doing a disservice to the fans and viewers to say, ‘No, you must only look at this in one way.'”

Sawyer

Or it could be that they don’t have a clue about what’s going on either!

Hurley

Now the new season has begun, and I’ve decided not to do any “Lost” analyses until the season finally ends. Why? Mainly because of my friend Karen K. She’s a London transplant right now, and she told me that “Lost” is a week behind in the UK. She would appreciate it if I didn’t spoil “Lost” for her in my blog; otherwise, she won’t be able to read it.

Bogus Locke

Fair enough! I’ve decided to be content with taking photos of my TV with my trusty Nikon D700 and 50mm lens and posting pics that won’t give away any of the plot. Happy, Karen?

I will say that based on parts one and two that aired Tuesday, this season is going to be another edge-of-your-seat roller coaster ride every single week. I loved the new storytelling device and can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you’d like to read great, insightful “Lost” analysis, check out Nikki Stafford’s Nik at Nite (even the comments are eye-openers), Doc Jensen (“Entertainment Weekly”), and Doc Arzt’s “Lost” blog. All three will help you connect the dots and discover nuances and hidden meanings that will enhance your viewing enjoyment.

Oh, and Karen, spoiler alert! Please close the page. I have to note that whiny, obnoxious Neil (aka Frogurt) had a small role in the season opener. I knew it was him the minute I saw him despite the sleep mask that he was wearing. It was fun watching him be whiny and obnoxious yet again.

“Lost” seems to be coming full circle. Let’s hope that really will be true after the season finale on May 23.

My First Month of Photos Every Day

My final photo of the month: The #1 son and Chase at Pei Wei. (January 31)

Whew! Here we are at the second day of the second month of 2010. I finally caught up with posting all my January photos of the day (POTD) last night, and that made me stop to think about this project.

When I decided to try to post a photo every day to be found under the (duh!) Photo of the Day tab, I figured it might be a little taxing. But, really, how hard could it be for someone who snaps hundreds of pix every month?

Black and white trees? (January 18)

Sometimes very hard! At times it was the process of just getting the photo from the camera into the iMac, then into Photoshop and finally the blog. Organization and timeliness aren’t my key strengths, unfortunately. Other times it was deciding which photo to choose. Some POTD aficionados believe that every photo should be a reflection of what’s going on in your life that day. But let’s face it . . . my life is pretty boring. Even though I love it, that doesn’t always make for compelling photography.

Makes you wonder! (January 27; iPhone 3GS)

Not every photo was amazing, but at least I didn’t miss a day. That’s an accomplishment for me!

Mile 11 is a good time for prayer! (January 17; iPhone 3GS)

Even when I ran the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon, I was able to take a POTD. Now that’s dedication (with a touch of insanity)!

As for which one of the 31 photos was my favorite  (drum roll, please!) . . . .

A melting icicle on the side of our pool’s waterfall is frozen in time and space.

It was this one. Capturing a drop in mid-air from a melting icicle on January 9 after the Houston area endured freezing conditions. I hated the cold, but I loved the lucky photo.

For most of the 31 pictures, I used my Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens. The Nifty 50 is the glass most often used on my D700. It has great versatility and wonderful bokeh (background blurring). I do love my prime lenses (50, 85, and 105mm)! Yet I’m always glad when I can use my iPhone 3GS. It doesn’t offer the best resolution, but it’s great for those spur-of-the-moment pix.

Now I’m looking ahead to this month and am already wondering what today’s photo will be (I have a sneaking suspicion that it will have something to do with “Lost,” one of our favorite TV shows that starts its final season tonight). One thing that makes me very glad as I ponder February’s photos of the day: There only will be 28 of them!

Hitting the Bottle

The #2 son gets ready to throw.

It all started so innocently last night. And it ended up being so much fun. Plus it proved yet again that it doesn’t take much to amuse this family.

The Mister can't bear to look.

The Mister, the #2 son, and I were watching “The Rookie” (for the 50th time) on TV (the #1 son, regrettably, was at work). Suddenly, the Mister put the almost-finished Diet Coke bottle he had been drinking on his head. So, of course, #2 picked up a soft ball near by. It was time to play a carnival game!

Sidebar: Concerned wife that I am, I immediately asked the Mister, “Are you sure the cap is on tight?” The cleaning crew had just come, and I didn’t want soda spewed all over the family room. It was.

It’s a miss.

#2 was sure he was going to knock the bottle off his dad’s head every time. However, more often than not, he was off target.

The Mister tries the pillow defense, as the bottle flies off his head. But where’s the ball?

Of course, I picked up my Nikon D700, which already had the Nikon f/1.4 50mm lens on it, to try to capture the action. The ISO was set from 1250-1600, giving me a shutter speed of at least 1/300th of a second. It was quite a challenge to try to have the ball and the bottle in the same frame, let alone the ball actually hitting the bottle.

The ball barely misses hitting the bottle.

Which explains why out of, oh, 100 shots, I ended up keeping maybe 15.

Success for me and the #2 son!

In order to have any chance of capturing both the ball and the bottle in the same photo, you have to start snapping (thank you, burst mode!) as the ball leaves the thrower’s hand. Which you can’t really see, because you’re concentrating on keeping the bottle in focus. When the thrower misses, as #2 did more often than not, you’ve got at least five photos to delete.

#2 does a great job getting the ball and the bottle in the photo.

All three of us took turns tossing the ball at the bottle. I hate to brag (which means I’m going to), but I knocked the plastic off the Mister’s balding head on the first try. And the #2 son actually got a pretty good photo of the ball taking direct aim on the bottle! Proud photographic mom moment!

The Mister scores a bullseye!

We figured that the Mister would be the most accurate of our threesome, because he excels at these kinds of games.

#2 cringes as the ball nears the bottle . . . but doesn't hit it.

Even so, #2 seemed very nervous when the bottle was sitting on his head. As he should’ve been . . . the Mister missed way more times than he hit.

Aha! Finally got the picture I wanted!

We spent about 20 minutes playing knock the bottle off the Mister’s or #2’s head. It was a great stalling tactic by #2, who was putting off doing his World Geography homework, and a wonderful photographic exercise for me. Plus we had a blast!

When our family says we’re hitting the bottle, we mean it literally!

Rooting On the Houston Texans

Reliant Stadium, home of our Houston Texans

Last Sunday we decided to have a small, intimate, family outing . . . along with, oh, 71,000 other noisy people. We traveled to the “big city” (aka, Houston) to root on our Houston Texans in their NFL season finale. The opponent? The always-tough New England Patriots.

Sidebar: Our family’s company has had season tickets since the Texans were born back in 2002 out of the ashes of the Houston Oilers, who were ripped from our fine city by a greedy owner. The last time we attended a Texans game as a family was in that inaugural season. The #2 son, a mere seven years old, hated the noise, and he and I spent most of the game on the mezzanine level watching the game on one of the overhead televisions. Since then, the Mister has taken one of the boys to a game each year (we usually only have two tickets, and others often claim them), while I’ve stayed home with the other one. But this time we had four tickets, and, hopefully, a great game to see!

It's never too cold for my shorts-loving guys!

The temperature was in the 40s when we got to the game, so I was extremely hopeful that the retractable roof would be closed. Mercifully, it was.

Down in front!

We have terrific seats—they’re 15 rows up and on the 35-yard line. But that means that sometimes the TV cameraperson is blocking our view.

New England’s Tom Brady hands off.

This was a key game for the Texans. A victory meant both their first winning season (a 9-7 record) and a chance to advance to the playoffs (which they didn’t, unfortunately). I checked the stadium’s rules for cameras and learned that lenses longer than 12 inches weren’t allowed. Even my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens is shorter than that! However, I opted for Nikon’s 105mm and 50mm lenses—no chance to be hassled at the gate with those two pups.

The Texans’ Glover Quin and Brian Cushing make a crushing tackle!

I used the 105 in the first half, and it proved to be pretty capable (albeit not as great as those 600mm lenses the sideline photogs use; not as expensive either). It was great for stopping the action on this fine defensive play.

Head over heels!

And its aftermath!

Down in front II!

But it was frustrating having to shoot around and between the people who insisted on standing in front of me.

Down in front III

I wish I could’ve tied them to their seats! I also wish I could invent a crane system that would lift people out of their seats and deposit them on the mezzanine level, so they’d stop going back and forth in front of us (we always have to stand to let people get to the stairs). That would be a boon to stadium society!

Everything’s bigger in Texas!

The 105 also came in handy to document what life is like for the fans. Like with the food and drink vendors, who sport these huge buttons. Don’t need the reading glasses for these!

A sweet treat

A sweet treat

And especially the cotton candy vendor. The #1 son really honed in on him.

The #1 son enjoys his cotton candy.

#1 is a fervent cotton candy fan. When we would attend Houston Astros games when he was younger, the sweet treat would keep him quiet and happy for, oh, a good inning or two. He has more staying power these days, thank goodness, but he still enjoys that colorful tangle of sugar.

Looking funny coming and going!

I enjoyed seeing the fans who go all out for our team. It takes true devotion to completely paint your face in team colors, as well as wear some ugly face on the back of your head!

The #2 son likes to take photos, too.

Of course, what the outing was all about was having a memorable moment with my sons. We had fun being together and yelling for our home team.

And it sure didn’t hurt that the Texans won 34-27! We’re psyched for next season!!