Tag Archives: Photoshop Elements

A Photographic Disc Golf Dress Rehearsal

The #2 son putts.

Recently, #2 played in the aptly named Dress Rehearsal for Texas States at Houston’s Tom Bass Park. Texas States is a huge, two-day disc golf tourney (that happens to be this weekend!) at that location. The one-day, 36-hole dress rehearsal gave players a chance to check out the course. And it gave me an opportunity to prepare for shooting photos at the real deal.

Ryan’s drive flies off the tee on top of a hill.

I was looking forward to making sure I was ready to take decent disc golf photos. I hadn’t shot at Tom Bass since last year’s Texas States, but I soon remembered why the course is so tough for players and photographers alike: It’s swampy (this was a muddy, warm day) and long. I was dragging by the end of 18 holes, and I hadn’t hoisted a disc!

T.J. putts uphill.

But I wasn’t complaining, because I was getting my fill of two of my favorite photo subjects: The #2 son and wildflowers! It was too early in the year for an abundance of flora. But there were enough to make me take more pics of the flowers than the players.

These delicate, small white flowers were all over the park.

I used my Nikon 105mm macro lens with my Nikon D700, because it does a good job with action and flower close-ups. There were a few times when I wished I had opted for my Nikon 70-200mm lens on shots of the players putting (I needed the 70mm range), but I was willing to sacrifice for the 105’s macro capabilities.

Even weeds can be pretty!

I’ll be using the 70-200 this weekend, because the disc golf action will take precedence. But I’m sure I’ll still get some close-ups of different wildflowers that have sprung up since the dress rehearsal. They’re so easy to capture, because they don’t move!

Yellow flower

Shooting flowers gives photographers a great opportunity to work on bokeh, that lovely blurring of backgrounds.

These little yellow flowers looked shiny close up.

The key is to open up your aperture (set it on the smallest number, e.g., f/2.8 or f/4), move in close, and focus on one spot.

They’re the same type flower, but one is white and one is purply.

And don’t forget that if you can’t effectively crop when you’re taking the photo, you can always cut out the excess in photo-editing software like Photoshop Elements. It’s not cheating to crop! It’s still your photo; you’ve just made it a more-effective picture by zooming in on what’s important. Our high-megapixel digital cameras are made for cropping; you don’t lose any resolution, so your photo stays sharp.

Brown, reedy stuff

The dress rehearsal did give me a chance to kick that nature-photography jones temporarily out of my system.

A branchless tree looks stark against the sky.

Just like the disc golfers, including #2, I’m going to be rarin’ to hit the course and see what I’m capable of at Texas States. Let’s hope I take more photos of the active players instead of the inactive wildflowers!

Photo Friday: The “Perfect” Camera for Gift-Giving


Nikon D40

Nikon D40

My friend Kim asked me for advice: What kind of camera should she buy for her teenager’s birthday present? With Mother’s Day Sunday and graduation and Father’s Day around the corner, let’s ponder a key question: Is there a “perfect” camera for moms, dads, grads, and anyone having a birthday?

Of course, the answer is no. There’s no perfect camera for everyone, but there are excellent solutions. First, let’s talk category: Point and shoot, fixed zoom, and digital SLR (interchangeable lenses).

Nikon Coolpix S230 point and shoot

Nikon Coolpix S230 point and shoot

Point and shoots: There are lots of good ones, and they’re very-capable cameras if you’re not shooting action. Definitely the handiest of all the camera categories due to their size but also limited in their capabilities for the same reason. You can’t go wrong with just about any manufacturer’s P&S.

Canon Powershot G10

Canon Powershot G10

Nikon Coolpix P90

Nikon Coolpix P90


Fixed zoom: These compact digicams, which Digital Photography Review likes to call “enthusiast cameras,” are a big step up from the lower-end point and shoots. This category includes the Canon Powershot G10 and the Nikon Coolpix P90. They’re more expensive than a conventional P&S ($400-$500), and they can do almost as much as a dSLR. Almost. With their multiple settings (auto, manual, etc.), plenty of megapixels (at least 10), and a good zoom, they’re a great choice for an amateur photographer who wants to do more than just point and shoot. Plus they’re a natural progression for anyone who wants to eventually move up to a dSLR and lessen that more-complicated camera’s learning curve.

Canon Rebel XS

Canon Rebel XS

Digital SLR: Finally, there are the big kahunas, the top of the digital camera food chain: the digital SLRs. Every dSLR, from the least-expensive consumer model to the too-expensive-for-the-likes-of-us pro version, gives photographers great versality and potentially great results. The ability to change lenses from, say, a 50mm prime to a 70-200mm zoom enables you to get the most out of your photography and capture that terrific photo. And the consumer dSLRs, like the Nikon D40 and the Canon Rebel XS, cost just a little more than the fixed zoom digicams at $500-$600, which includes the low-end 18-55mm lens. They can be used on automatic or program while the confidence is building to get more hands-on.

You’ll notice that I’ve only mentioned Canon and Nikon for two of the three categories. That’s because I think they make the best fixed zoom cameras and dSLRs. Which one is better? That’s like the ubiquitous Mac vs. PC debate! The one that’s better is the one that you’ll use a lot! I started with a Nikon D70, because my buddy Deanna had bought one and let me use it. I fell in love with its ease of use (it helps that I have a film SLR background), bought one immediately, and have followed a Nikon upgrade path ever since (moving on to the Nikon D200 and then to my current D300). I have plenty of friends who have been happy with their Canon dSLRs, too. The best advice is to go to a store where you can hold both cameras; one may feel better in your hands than the other.

I’m told all the time that I’m a good photographer because my camera equipment is so good. Nice of people to discount almost 40 years of SLR experience! It’s almost a conundrum: Yes, the photographer needs to have good skills, but it’s almost impossible to take great photos with substandard or the wrong equipment. Tonight I’m going to be shooting an indoor dance show at the #1 son’s high school; I’d hate to try to tell its story with a point and shoot instead of my D300 and my Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens. Good photography truly takes good skills and the right equipment.

What’s most important in buying a camera is getting one that you’ll use. The more you use it, the more proficient you’ll become. Experience is so important in getting top-notch photos. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you pick up your camera.

My answer to Kim is to have her daughter kick in some birthday money and buy a digital SLR. It will give her maximum flexibility and growth, putting her on the road to a rewarding, lifetime photography experience. As for which dSLR, Canon or Nikon, beginner or mid-range? Go to the store and check ’em out—one might just feel perfect!

Speaking of Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms; hope you have a wonderful Sunday that includes either taking pictures or having your picture taken, no matter what camera is used!

It’s a Sign



I made someone very sad awhile back . . . and I didn’t even know him.

I had gotten out of my car and was about to mosey on over to Chipotle, the greatest place on earth to eat, when I noticed that a crew was putting the finishing touches on an awning over Jimmy John’s sandwich shop next door. What I saw written on the awning stopped me in my tracks: “Gourmet Sanwiches.”

Suppressing a chuckle, I walked over to the guy supervising the two awning installers and said, “Did you misspell it on purpose?”

“What?” he asked.

“The word ‘sanwiches,'” I replied. “It should have a ‘d’ in it.”

You should have seen the look on his face. Titanic sadness visibly washed over him.

I continued on to Chipotle. After I finished eating the most-delicious food on earth (a veggie bowl of rice, black beans, peppers and onions, pico de gallo, corn relish, guacamole [the best part!], and lettuce), I walked to my car, got in, and stared through the raindrops at Jimmy John’s. This was what I saw:



Yep, the awning was gone, and the installers were packing up to leave. I don’t think I made their day at all!

A few days later, all was right with Jimmy John’s and the awning:

cpd-final-jj-signAt least it’s finally correct. Unlike this sign at our local Nestle’s Toll House Café:

web-sandwitchSigh! Guess I need to stop in and make someone else’s day.

Ten-Minute Task

box_pse6_150x150It’s day 3 in the Search for the Photoshop Elements 3.0 Install Disc saga. I worked hard for 10 minutes during my TMT yesterday to no avail. Apparently, that disc grew legs and walked away from the clutter like so many other things have done over the years. So I explored my options and decided the best course of action was to order PSE 6 from Amazon.com. It should arrive tomorrow, and then the #1 son and I will have to figure it out; I know there are a lot of changes from version 3.0. There are manuals for $30 (yep, even on Amazon.com!) available, but I plan to check out Half-Price Books and see what they have. I don’t want to spend almost half the price of the software for a manual. Fortunately, there’s always lots of good information and tutorials online.

Get ’er dones

Today is that every-other-week very-important Kitchen Wednesday . . . the cleaning crew comes tomorrow, so I want to do as much in the kitchen as possible in terms of going through the mail and papers and shredding. Tonight is another track meet for the #2 son, who again will be running the 100 and 200 meters as well as triple jumping. Hopefully, he’ll be able to triple jump earlier, enabling me to get better photos. There won’t be a fence around the field event area, so I’m looking forward to roaming with my camera!

Middle-School Potty Time


I’m blogging today from an unfamiliar post . . . sitting on a hard-backed chair with a clear view of the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms at #2 son’s middle school with no wifi signal. Today starts the infamous TAKS testing time in Texas for students in grades 3-11 (grade 12 for those who didn’t pass as juniors). Kids have to pass in certain grades to move on to the next grade; #2 has to pass all four of his TAKS tests this spring—reading (today), math, science, and social studies—to graduate. #1 also has to pass all the grade 11 TAKS tests (called Exit tests) in order to graduate in 2010. (Cue the weeping!)

Most parents, students, teachers, and administrators hate the TAKS. It puts pressure on all of them, and at times it forces teachers to teach to the test instead of for knowledge and advancement. There’s been talk about eliminating the TAKS, but right now all it is is talk.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the TAKS. It stressed out both sons in elementary school, making #2 actually cry in third grade when he was afraid he was going to fail. I don’t see why the education Powers That Be can’t just use the standardized Iowa tests that everyone has taken practically since schooling first began and the district assessment curriculum exams to judge whether or not our kids are learning what they need to know. But last I looked, no one was asking my opinion.

Meanwhile, I’m at my potty post this morning, making sure that no more than one child enters the bathroom at a time. I’m all alone here at the end of the eighth-grade wing; usually there are two of us patrolling, but we only got the word yesterday that we were needed today. Looks like a lot of parents already had made plans or listening to kids go to the bathroom didn’t float their boat.

Random observation

These eighth-graders use the hand dryer A LOT! They can be in the bathroom for several minutes drying their hands. Think they’re stalling?



“Big Bang” a big bust

As regular readers know, we love CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” However, last night’s show clearly pushed the limits of the 7 p.m. bogus “family hour,” almost making us turn it off. It used to be that there was a clear demarcation in TV shows’ content: Before 9 p.m., pretty much G- and PG-rated; after 9 p.m., just about anything goes. But now shows that are on early are crossing that G/PG line with regularity (we had to turn off “How I Met Your Mother,” which was on after “TBBT”; #2 son had warned us that the show would get too racy for us).

We hope that the producers and writers of “TBBT” will consider its 7 p.m. audience and not be so visual and verbal with its sexual references. Otherwise, it’s time to move the show to 9 p.m.


pseTime to turn off the caps lock! After a somewhat sloppy search during which I envisioned the upraised eyebrows and disapproving look of my neighbor JJ, the organizational wiz, I failed to find that pesky Photoshop Elements install disc. I’m going to give it the good, old Ten-Minute Task try today and then consider my options:

• Go back in time with Time Machine on the boys’ iMac and figure out how to restore PSE (probably not as easy as it might sound).

• Figure it’s time to upgrade from 3.0 and just buy the newest Mac version.

• Install my copy of Photoshop CS3; not a great option, though, because it’s not as easy to use. #1 son is whining that he wants PSE, not CS3.

After 10 minutes today, I should have my answer!