Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, Power Outages, and your Camera

I am sitting here in my living room waiting for Hurricane Sandy to make her appearance.  I've been trying to only check on the weather/news minimally.  When I watch too much, it starts to really get overwhelming.  But isn't social media like that?  There never seems to be a middle ground.  Either we can't get information on a topic, or it is everywhere, like a deluge of information.

Being from South Florida, I have a good idea of what to expect.  But at the last news report I saw, they are saying Sandy is 900 miles wide.  NINE HUNDRED MILES WIDE????? I've been through countless hurricanes and tropical storms, including Andrew and Katrina... but I've never been through a storm of this size.

I hope that all the newscasters and weather reports are wrong, but in the event that we will be hit by this massive storm, I figure it is better to be prepared.  We have a decent stock pile here of canned goods, water, and candles/flashlights.  So I am not concerned in that area, but threat of such widespread power outages is where my focus lies.  

The last time I went through a hurricane I was newly married and we did not have any kids yet.  I was in school at the time and remember having to read schoolbooks via candlelight.  There was no TV, no internet, no movies, no a/c... But in the middle of all of it, something amazing happened... suddenly we had so much extra time on our hands.  We played cards, talked, read books, and hung out.  I think the last lengthy power outage was with Hurricane Katrina and we were out of power about a week.  I remember that time with such sweet memories as my husband and I got to really be with each other without the electronic distractions that occupy our daily lives.

I wish I had photographs of that time... of us hanging out or cooking by candlelight.  But sadly I don't.  Even when the power goes out, your camera still works.  Don't miss out on the opportunity to capture these memories with your family.  Be creative with light.  Use a flashlight or candle to illuminate and photograph this special time.  Take advantage of the darkness and practice experimenting with night photography.  Use a tripod so you can keep your ISO low.  Find different things to use as your light source.  Take this time to be creative and experiment.  There are no excuses because there is nowhere else to be except right here.  Live in the moment and enjoy the time rather than "wishing" you were somewhere else.

Here are some ideas of things you can do with your family to pass the time should you have a power outage.
  • make a fort
  • create a "campfire" out of blankets
  • do puzzles
  • make shadow puppets with flashlights
  • start a journal
  • catch up on your magazine pile that you've been too busy to look at
  • play board games/card games
  • pull out the crayons and color with your little one

But most importantly cherish the moment.

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Patch at Belvedere Plantation in Fredericksburg, VA

Belvedere Plantation hosts a Harvest Festival that showcases an ENORMOUS pumpkin patch!  It is a 645 acre working farm just outside of Fredericksburg, VA, located right off the historic Rappahannock River.

My son in the Pumpkin Patch <3
ISO 200 ~ 30mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/125 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I came last week as a chaperone for my son's kindergarten field trip and fell in love with the plantation.  I made plans to return this week to take photos.  I was able to bring my 3y/o son with me and to say he had the time of his life would be an understatement!

Cornfield Maze
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

If you've never heard of Belvedere Plantation, check out their website here.  I could list everything that is available and offered, but it would be easier for you to just check out this map because there is seriously so much to see and do.

When we first arrived, we walked around the flower garden on the back side of the slides.  There were rows and rows of sunflowers and wildflowers.  The sunflowers were so tall.... so tall that I had to look up to see many of them.

Sunflower in the Garden
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Wildflower Illuminated from the Sun
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/640
© Corrie M Avila

Butterfly enjoying some Sweet Necter
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/4.5 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Next we went over to the Pumpkin Slide Mountain.  This is old school FUN ~ you grab a burlap sack, climb to the top of the mountain (large hill) and choose whether you want to go down the open slide or the tunnel slide.  I'm not sure who had more fun on this, me or my son :)

Pumpkin Mountain Slide
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/640 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Sleepy Pig @ Ye Olde Barnyard
ISO 100 ~ 135mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/100 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Fun Barn filled with Hay and Rope Swings
ISO 100 ~ 53mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/800 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Pedal Tractors Track
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/640 sec
© Corrie M Avila

From the slide we went over to the Cornfield Maze.  After speaking to the farmer (what they call employees, cute, right??) who was working the maze, we decided to not go very far.  The idea of getting lost in there wasn't appealing considering my 3 y/o and his ten minute attention span.  So we walked a little to take some photos, but then turned around and left the same way we came.  I'd love to come back another day to be able to go through the whole maze.  Check out the arial view, it is HUGE and has a pretty neat design!

Cornfield Maze
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Cornfield Maze
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/13 ~ 1/160 sec
© Corrie M Avila

So to celebrate NOT getting lost in the maze, we then went on the Jumping Pillow.  It is like a huge bouncehouse without the top.  There are height restrictions, but my little guy made the cut-off.  They ask adults to not jump, but we can be on there with our kids.  I've got to tell you, between the Pumpkin Mountain Slide and the Jumping Pillow, I felt like I was a little kid again.

Jumping Pillow
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Next, it was time for the hayride to the pumpkin patch.  The hayride takes you through the farm and you get such a beautiful view of the colorful leaves, the river, and the historic homes (that are still lived in today).  The farmer that joined us on our hayride was so polite and helpful.  She readily shared information about the plantation and enthusiastically answered any of the questions we had.

Entrance to the Hayrides and Pumpkin Patch
ISO 100 ~ 44mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/640 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Hayride into the Pumpkin Patch
ISO 200 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/500 sec
© Corrie M Avila

The hayride was my son's favorite part of the day.  He wasn't too crazy about walking though the pumpkin patch, but that was only because his little legs kept getting caught on the vines that seem to sneak out and trip him.  He was also concerned the tractor would leave without us.  But they waited for each of us to pick our pumpkin and I never felt rushed, even with the extra time I took taking photos.

Pumpkin Patch
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/160 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Our Pumpkin <3
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/250 sec
© Corrie M Avila

My little guy with our Pumpkin
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.3 ~ 1/125 sec
© Corrie M Avila

After picking out the pumpkin and taking our return hayride back, it was time for us to head home.  There was so much we didn't get to see and do that we will be returning at least once more before the end of the season.  The ticket prices are discounted during the week and then are higher on the weekend.  But it is worth it!  They even offer a military discount of a dollar off each ticket.  Being a military family, that is much appreciated <3

So we took our pumpkin to the Market (where there is also a bakery and gift shop) to have it weighed.  

My little guy's BIG 15lb pumpkin!
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

Market & Bakery
ISO 400 ~ 28mm ~ f/4.5 ~ 1/60sec
© Corrie M Avila

The farmers were all extremely polite and were very patient with everyone.  Even while waiting for the hayride, the farmers were asking my son questions and joking around, but at the same time making sure we were all safe.

It was a bit of a drive for me coming from the DC area, but well worth the trip.  If you are anywhere near Fredericksburg, VA and you are looking for an incredibly fun Fall experience, please check out Belvedere Plantation!

On the down side, we lost my son's sweater while we were there.  I didn't notice it missing until we were back at the car and by then I was too tired to walk all the way back to the lost and found hut.  When we got home I realized that my son swiped three rocks from the cornfield maze.  I figure its an even swap, but Belvedere Plantation, if you would like your rocks back, please let me know and I'll mail them....

"I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one.  You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy.  Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see."

If you aren't a fan of Traveling Hearts Photography on Facebook, come on over and "like" my page.  I offer tips, articles, weekly photos, free cover photos and conversations about travel and photography.

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

I have not been paid or reimbursed to write this blog and everything written is purely my opinion.

Monday, October 22, 2012


I started up this blog about two months ago and I am enjoying it more than I ever thought I would!  But I'm starting to wonder... is anyone actually reading it?  I mean, except my mom ~ "HI MOM!"

 If you are a reader, please give a shout out in the comments ~ you don't have to say anything mind boggling.. perhaps just a "hey" or a "how's it going" would be fantastic!!  I appreciate all of you and the time you spend coming to visit me here.

Trio of Amber Colored Fall Leaves
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/5.0 ~ 1/125 sec
© Traveling Hearts Photography

I hope you are enjoying your Fall <3  Tomorrow I am back to the Pumpkin Patch with my youngest son and my camera ~ the weather is supposed to be beautiful.  Wishing wonderful weather for all of you and a great rest of your week!

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The final chapter of the Space Shuttle

On July 21, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis completed it's final voyage into space ending the United States' Space Shuttle Program.  This was especially saddening to me since I grew up being part of a generation that saw shuttle launches in person and live on TV.  Thoughts flooded my mind about Neil Armstrong being the first to walk on the moon and Sally Ride being the first woman to enter space.  There was something about the Space Program that gave us hope and dreams... if we can put a man or woman into space, we can do anything.  There is also a sense of pride that came with it as well.  This was something that unified us as a country, something we could all agree on.

Space Shuttle Enterprise
National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Prior to being moved to NYC 
ISO 1600 ~ 30mm ~ f/5.7 ~ 1/25 sec
© Juan Carlos Avila

Apollo 13 was launched into space on April 11, 1970, with the mission to land on the moon for the third time.  However, an oxygen tank explosion critically damaged the service module.  Through creativity and injinuity, the crew of Apollo 13 and Mission Control, were able to come up with a solution to "fix" the damage and the entire crew made a miraculous return home.  Then came the tragedy of Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.  There was widespread devastation as the country mourned together for the loss of the entire crew.  After the Challenger disaster, everything was quiet until Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart upon reentry into the atmosphere on February 1, 2003.  I remember watching it live on TV..... just waiting, hoping, praying that Columbia would just appear somewhere.... but it soon became evident that she was just gone, along with her entire crew.

I know there was a lot of controversy about the Space Shuttle program and how the Shuttles were extremely outdated and in need of great repair.  So it makes rational sense for NASA to focus on other areas of Space Exploration and Research that it is better equipped to manage.  But it doesn't change my heart.  I want my kids to grow up seeing shuttle launches and hearing the live feed of the astronauts talking to mission control... I want my son to grow up wanting to walk on the moon, and having that be a possibility... but now he either needs to be a millionaire or move to another country if he ever wants to set foot in space...

Space Shuttle Enterprise 
National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center 
Prior to being moved to NYC
My son and his friend looking out towards the Enterprise
ISO 80 ~ f/2.8 ~ 1/60 sec
(taken with a point and shoot)
© Corrie M Avila

When I heard about the Space Shuttle swaps that were planned for this summer, I was ecstatic.  Since I am in the Washington DC area, I immediately began planning where I would go to get the best viewing spot.  I took my family and we brought chairs and breakfast to the park just north of Reagan Airport and waited.  We knew an approximate timetable that the Discovery would be doing it's flyby, but we were not informed of an exact flight plan.  So just imagine the excitement and thrill of being with so many people all feeling the electricity of the moment along with the sadness of the end.  I had my camera ready as we waited for this epic and final flight of Space Shuttle Discovery as it circled the DC area on it's way to it's final resting place in the Smithsonian Museum.

Space Shuttle Discovery Passing by the Washington Monument 
and the Jefferson Memorial
ISO 100 ~ 105mm ~ f/10 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

When we got the first glimpse of Discovery as it was riding piggyback on a NASA equipped 747, tears filled my eyes and my hand shook as I took in the magnitude of this moment.  It flew over so close and so loud, my heart stopped.  Everyone was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  It was as if the crowd gave an unspoken moment of silence for the Space Shuttle Discovery.

The crowd looking on as Space Shuttle Discovery 
flew over Reagan National Airport
ISO 100 ~ 22mm ~ f/14 ~ 1/160 sec
© Juan Carlos Avila

There were several challenges photographing this event.  The first was that we did not know the flight plan.  Several spots were released as "good viewing" spots, but that was it.  It would have been fantastic if I had a crew of about eight who all had cameras so that we could document the entire event, but that was not realistic.  I had to work with what I had, and that was just my husband and myself.  I really wanted to get a good photo of the Shuttle passing by one of the monuments, but again not knowing the flight plan made this difficult to anticipate.  Finally I chose to go to Gravelly Point because it gave a pretty good unrestricted view wherever the flight plan actually led.  The second challenge was not knowing where to stand ~ this may sound petty, but there were photographers fighting over space near the Potomac River.  And the third challenge was the sun.  Shooting in one direction provided great color, but shooting in the other direction produced washed out results.  Thankfully there was cloud cover, so the intensity of the sun wasn't too bad.

Close up of Space Shuttle Discovery
ISO 100 ~ 135mm ~ f/10 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

After the arrival of Space Shuttle Discovery, there was a ceremony where the Discovery and the Enterprise were nose to nose.  The Discovery was then moved into it's final home at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.  Here is a link to some photos of this historical event.  Shortly after, Space Shuttle Enterprise began it's voyage to the Intrepid Museum that included a flight on a 747 and a boat ride down the Hudson River in NYC.  The third and final space shuttle voyage is of the Endeavour.  After making several flights across the country from Cape Canaveral, the Endeavor landed at the Los Angeles International Airport.  What I find to be so amazing is how they moved the Endeavour from the airport to it's final destination at the California Science Center.  Here is the link to an amazing time lapse video of how they accomplished this fantastic two day feat of moving the Space Shuttle Endeavour through the streets of Los Angeles.  I would have LOVED to see this in person!  They moved trees, electricity poles, and the margin of error is ZERO... simply amazing.

When I stood at Gravelly Point watching the Space Shuttle Discovery pass by right in front of me, all I could think about was how worn and distressed the exterior was.  But as a true hero, she was returning home, wounds and all.  Three Space Shuttles, three trips, that began April 17, 2012 with the Discovery and ended on October 14, 2012 with the Endeavour.  I will never forget the anticipation of shuttle launches as mission control counted down or the breath of relief when the shuttle landed safely back to ground.  It is the end of an era, but the memories will always be in our hearts.  Perhaps we need something new to unify us as a country...

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Edit on 11/8/12 ~ I failed to mention the Space Shuttle Atlantis that retired to its final location at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Since this Space Shuttle didn't play musical space shuttles with the other three, I forgot to include it.  But she holds an impressive resume all the same.  Space Shuttle Atlantis was the last space shuttle to fly and was the last space shuttle to make it's final "walk."  Atlantis was moved on November 2, 2012 with fanfare, fireworks, and reverence to it's final resting place at the Visitor's Complex.  Here are photos of the event from Fox News.  The exhibit there opens on November 11, 2012 ~ just a few days away.

For a map with the locations of all 4 retired space shuttles click here.

Some additional websites:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Instagram ~ love it or hate it?

Instagram is a photo sharing application in which you can edit and share your photos instantly.  It is an online community such as Facebook or Twitter, but specifically for photo sharing.

Morning Coffee on a Cold Fall Day
© Corrie M Avila

Instagram has taken photography to a whole new level.  I was hesitant to join in on the bandwagon for a while.  I felt like it devalued what we do as photographers.  But since I was always taking photos on my iPhone ~ suddenly Instagram seemed very appealing to check out.  It provides a way to do quick edits and thus opened up a whole new world of composing and editing photos on the go.  I started out just sharing my photos through Instagram on Facebook with my family and friends... but have more recently started exploring more of the functionality of the program.

Mason Neck State Park bathed in Autumn Colors
© Corrie M Avila

Instagram has some minor editing that you can do within the program, but there are also additional applications (some free and some paid) that you can use in conjuction with Instagram to further edit your photos.  Three of my favorites are Camera+ (full editing), Instaeffect (ability to use textures), and Instaframe (frames and collages).  I know there are other programs such as Camera Awesome, CameraTimer, SocialCam, and Postagram.  It seems like every day, there are new photo editing apps popping up all over the place.

My Photography App Folder (not including Camera+ which I have since added)
© Corrie M Avila

Now that you know what apps you need to edit your photos ~ it is time to post them on Instagram.  Just as other programs, you have those you are "following" and also "followers."  It opens up a whole new audience that you would not reach otherwise.  You can hashtag (#) your photo and it shows up on certain feeds where those with the same interests as you will see them.  Another perk is that you can upload photos from your real camera and use those on Instagram as well.

Photo Staged by my Littlest <3
© Corrie M Avila

So now to my absolute FAVORITE part ~ I can open up Instagram and see photos from around the world!  This truly speaks to every part of my traveling heart.  I can see someone on a bike ride in Paris, what the clouds looks like in Spain, or an Italian vineyard under the setting sun... the possibilities are endless <3

Jars of Clay Concert (one of my favorite edits)
© Corrie M Avila

Some of the negatives I have found are that there is a lot of spamming.  You can keep your Instagram account private to avoid this if you choose, but then that limits your exposure.  Since I am using Instagram as a social media tool for my business, I need to keep my account public.  But just as with spam all over the internet, don't click on anything that looks fishy and there are ways to report it.

NYC always on my Mind <3
© Corrie M Avila

I have only recently started Instagramming, and I know I still have a lot to learn, but I truly do love it.  Head on over and say hi and "follow" me and I'll be sure to "follow" you back <3  Find me on Instagram at TravelingHeartsPhotography.  Please comment below if you've got a favorite phone photo app to share or also your likes/dislikes about Instagram.

My Littlest Taking a Snooze in the Car
© Corrie M Avila

The best camera is truly the one you have with you.  Sometimes I will use Instagram to capture something that I will go back and shoot with my DSLR later on.  Other times I will be fully content with the image and memory obtained with my phone.  Life is fleeting ~ capture every moment <3

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


What comes to mind when you hear "freestyle?"  This is a term that can be used to describe swimming, singing, cruising, wrestling, or even picking.  Picking you may ask?? YES!  Have any of you seen "American Pickers" on the history channel?  If not, it is an absolutely addicting show.  The two co-hosts go and "pick" items from all over the country to sell in their antique store.  Sometimes they have a destination in place and other times they "freestyle."  This is when they have a general direction in mind, but just drive around until they see something that peaks their interest.  Sometimes their freestyling produces fantastic results and other times, they leave with nothing.

This COMPLETELY applies to photography as well.  I think as an photographer, there are times we have to stay within certain parameters.  Maybe you are shooting a wedding or an event... these are times when it is probably a good idea to show up.  But there are other times when you may have an idea of a type of photograph you want, but aren't specifically sure where you want to shoot... insert here --> a PERFECT opportunity for freestyling.

I also think as an artist, it is important to allow for creative inspiration.  It is easy to get caught up in needing to photograph certain places because they are historic or iconic ~ but don't put your creativity in a box.  Allow yourself opportunities to just explore with your camera without preconceived ideas or expectations.

Here is a photo I took in my neighborhood, on my way to the mailbox ~ you never know where you will find beauty <3

ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/2.8 ~ 1/1000 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Tomorrow I am going freestyling <3 No, not the rapping kind, or the swimming kind, but the type of freestyle that puts my camera and I, in a new place, to just explore.  I have a few ideas of places I want to try, but I am going to see how the day goes and where my feet take me.  My only goal is to capture the beauty of Autumn and all the Fall colors that are just about in peak color... but where will I go and what will I shoot??  Only time will tell!

Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Sunday, October 14, 2012

American Bald Eagles and More...

Yesterday my plans were to take the boys to the National Zoo in Washington DC.  When we were getting ready to leave the house I looked up into the sky and saw FOUR, yes FOUR bald eagles soaring high above.  They were soaring in pairs of two, so I was unable to capture all four in the same photo ~ but it was absolutely magnificent to watch.  I love this time of year when the leaves are changing color, the weather is brisk, the farmer's markets are filled with yummy pumpkin items (like pumpkin fudge <3), and the animals are all out and enjoying the weather just as much as we are.

Here is a photo of the first pair.  Even with my 70-300mm lens, the eagles were too high to get a really good photo ~ but wanted to share.

ISO 100 ~ 300mm ~ f/11 ~ 1/250 sec
© Corrie M Avila

This next photo I took last month as the eagle was just getting ready to take off of his perch.  

ISO 100 ~ 300mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/400 sec
© Corrie M Avila

There are many challenges to photographing birds and Bald Eagles specifically.  You are at the mercy of the location of the bird and the sun.  When the Bald Eagles come to visit and hang out on their perch, they are where they are.  I can't ask them to turn around or move to a better position.  I know that I can move, but all that does is make the Bald Eagle nervous and many times fly away.  Since this is not what I want, I usually stay in the location that I am in.  But what I am able to do, is observe the animal's behavior so that I can anticipate what the Bald Eagle's next move may be.

For example, I know where the Bald Eagles like to hang out.  I know that many times (before nesting season) they will often be in a pair.  I also know that once one takes off, the other will usually follow behind very shortly.  I also know that once they take off towards the Potomac River, they will usually circle around and soar overhead for a little while.  So I can plan my position and where I will direct my camera based on what I "anticipate" they may do.  

Get to know your subject... observe, research, practice... and soon you will be getting better and better shots.  Also remember, most of the time you will have many other chances to get the shot you are looking for.  Maybe the subject will return a few minutes later (as many butterflies do), or even later in the day, or possibly another day.  Get to know the pattern of your subject and you may be surprised at how predictable they really are.

Next week I will return to the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.  I plan on bringing a chair and planting myself somewhere so that I can hopefully catch some Bald Eagles and other wildlife just going about their business.  The trees should all be nicely changing color as well, so it should provide for some magnificent shots.

Happy Shooting!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Looking at the world through a Macro Lens

When I first started seriously getting into photography I was often asked the dreaded question, "what type of photographer are you?"  And as I fumbled around with my words, basically naming off every type of photography out there, I realized I needed to find my niche.  I started experimenting with all different types, ranging from portraits to nature and everything in between.  I also experimented (and practiced) with my different lenses.  My husband is the one who insisted we get a macro lens and at the time I wasn't the least bit interested.  I actually became quite frustrated with it because I did not understand the technical side of the lens.  But now.... I am in love <3

Frangipani Bloom after a Summer Rain Shower ~ Ft. Lauderdale, FL
ISO 200 ~ 60mm ~ f/7.1 ~ 1/80 sec

If I could shoot only with my macro lens I would be in heaven.  Some say that macro photography isn't real photography because you don't have to hike to the top of a mountain to get a breathtaking photo such as in landscape photography.  I would have to disagree.  I think macro photography is a beautifully artistic form of expression and vital to the world of photography.

When shooting with a macro lens, your depth of field is very small, so your focus and composition have to be perfect.  There is also the issue of light and the sun.  Even more so with macro photography, you have to have the sun in the perfect spot or your composition will look dull and boring.  Sometimes I would see something I would want to shoot, but would have to wait and plan for the sun to be in the perfect spot and come back and shoot then. And then there is the topic of the wind.  Even the slightest breeze can blur your subject.  Usually I use manual focus when I am shooting macro, and when the breeze moves my subject I find myself frustrated because I don't have a third hand to stabilize what I am trying to shoot.  

It is the combination of patience, focus, composition, lighting, and a love for it that will make your macro photos stand out above the rest.  In a time where social media and phone applications like instagram, flood the photography scene with images that are less than professional, it calls us to step up our game to make our images rise above.

What I love most about macro photography is that it takes someone with patience who will slow down and look at everything on a detailed level.  I find that it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life... that being forced to slow down and "smell the roses" so to speak, is just what I needed.

Yesterday I had plans to shoot some macro photos of the gorgeous fall leaves in my neighborhood ~ but with the 20+ mph winds, I had to scratch that plan.  So today I will try again.

I always have my macro lens with me wherever I am going because I never know when I will see that diamond in the rough <3

I also wanted to add a blog post on this very subject that I love <3  Check it out -> Anne Rusk Photography Blog

Happy Shooting!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Secret Service, Security, and the Police

It seems that every single time I go out to take photos, I am getting into trouble.  It's not like I have a menacing look about me.  I generally get the opposite reaction from people.  But for some reason, when I have a camera in hand, I am a target from security guards, police, and yes, Secret Service.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I live in Washington D.C. and there are just more Secret Service here or maybe I get too close to monuments for their comfort level.  Oh, I know ~ they must think that I am in disguise and I am trying to plan a sneak attack with my green camera bag, ponytail, and flip flops.  I'm not really sure.  But in the process of seemingly always getting in trouble, I start to expect it.  I was always the one who didn't break the rules, was on time, and tried to blend into walls so that I didn't get singled out.  So, at first this new source of attention (negative at that) was a little unsettling to me.... but now I am starting to find it hilarious....

It seems that when you are out shooting, there are all kinds of "unspoken rules."  Don't photograph this, don't stand there, no flash, no tripod, spin around in a circle three times before taking a photo... I mean they seem to get rediculous.  Some of the rules are obvious because there are signs.  Other rules are not so obvious.  I've been in situations where I can see out of my peripheral that I am being watched by security.  And you can tell they are wagering whether to say something to me or not.  Before I would catch their eye and ask if what I was doing was okay.  They almost always said "NO!!"  So I stopped asking.  Not to be rebellious, but I just got tired of asking.  I figure if I am doing something they don't like, they will come and let me know... and that they do.

My most common infraction is climbing on stuff to get a better angle.  I'm not talking about climbing on buildings or anything.  Just maybe a bench or the side of a tall curb.  Seriously ~ this is what gets me in trouble.  I was in Rockefeller Plaza in August taking photos and I wanted to get a better vantage point to photograph the plaza.

Rockefeller Center Plaza
ISO 100 ~ 20mm ~ f/13 ~ 1/60 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I climbed up on a bench and was about to take a photo and a guard came over and told me to get down.  So of course I did.  Then I asked him if I could stand on the other side of the bench (which would still give me a better view than where I was standing) and he said "no."  I'm like, okayyyyy.  I then give up the idea of trying to get that specific spot and moved to take some photos of these gorgeous flowers that were in the channel garden (the spot where the angels are during Christmastime and New Years). 

Rockefeller Center Channel Garden
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/100 sec
© Corrie M Avila

While I'm taking photos of the flowers, sitting on a bench, I see the guard come back over and stand about two feet from me... he was just standing there.  I'm not sure what he thought I was going to do... yank all the flowers out and run away with them?  He was ruining my creative flow... so I gave him the hairy eyeball.  He eventually wandered away.

So now for my three isolated incidents with the Secret Service. I've been in trouble with them at the White House (I was taking a photo too close to an imaginary line during a tour outside on the South Lawn), I was followed by them at the US Capitol Building, and then was watched very closely by them during a Presidential Motorcade.  And these were just the instances where I noticed the Secret Service...

Presidential Motorcade along Pennsylvania Ave, DC
ISO 100 ~ 135mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/200 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I then got in trouble with security at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island.  I was taking this photo and then got booted out of the area.  Thankfully I already got the shot, because this is one of my favorite photos from the event.  (To see the full portfolio click here

Jazz Age Lawn Party, NYC
ISO 200 ~ 105mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/160 sec
© Corrie M Avila

So the moral of this story is to do your homework before going.  Do a general search of where you will be and see if there are any rules.  When you are out, be respectful of posted rules regarding photography, but don't be obsessive about "asking" for any further rules.  Even though I imagine I am on the Secret Service black list of photographers, I've never had any real issues as long as I adhere to their "requests" while in the field.  There are some other rules regarding tripods that are equally as confusing and non clear.  In many major cities you need a permit to use a tripod (which is an entirely different ordeal).  Many museums don't allow tripods at all inside... so it pays to check it out before lugging all your equipment out there only to have to lug it all back home without the shot you were hoping for.

With all that being said ~ Never question the Secret Service and Happy Shooting!

Corrie <3

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ISO is going to be the end of me...

What is ISO you may ask?  Well unofficially, it is a thorn in my side.  Officially, it is the sensitivity of your image sensor.  Early on my road to understanding the technical side of photography, I left the ISO on the "auto" setting because it was one more thing I just didn't understand.  I figured if I left it on auto, the camera would do what was best... I couldn't have been more wrong.  If you are shooting on a bright and sunny day, your ISO will be at 100 or 200.  If you are shooting indoors (without a tripod) or the light is very dim, your ISO will be much much higher.  My camera has ISO settings of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, and 6400.  You want to keep your ISO as low as possible or your photo will start having what we call "noise."  Basically it looks like grain on your photo.  If you are using a tripod, even in darkest lighting situations, you can keep your ISO low.  What will happen ~ is your shutter speed will be slow... but since it is on a tripod, your image will still come out crisp.

On my first nighttime photography photoshoot, ISO got the better of me.  I left the ISO setting on "auto" and since it was so dark, the camera "decided" to set the ISO to 3200.  This action basically rendered all my photos pretty useless for anything except my personal collection.  Here is an example.

ISO 3200 ~ 28mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/30 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I overexposed the above photo so that you can see the grain better.  Click on the photo so it opens larger and look at the sky.  It's really bad.  There are some options in Lightroom and Photoshop to address grain in a photo ~ however when it is this bad... there is really no way to fix it.  The only solution is to cart all your equipment back out and redo the shoot.

ISO 200 ~ 60mm ~ f/7.1 ~ 1.6 sec
© Corrie M Avila

When you click on the second photo, you will see that there is no grain.  The black is truly black without the "noise."  My ISO is set to 200 and my shutter speed is much much slower, but since I was using a tripod, the photo is crisp.

I no longer keep my ISO in the auto setting.  I have it set to 100 and then if I need to change it, I know that I am doing it.  I try to keep my ISO on 100 or 200, but will go to 400 if necessary.  Anything higher than that will cause noise. 

Oh, and one more thing.  I read somewhere that it is a good idea to have a series of settings on your camera that is your "baseline."  No matter what you are shooting, you always put it back to this when you are done so that you aren't caught unaware when you grab your camera to do something else.  This is something I have started to do and recommend you doing it as well.  My baseline settings are that I have my ISO on 100, my camera mode on "M" for manual, my focus on autofocus, and my timer/remote OFF.  This makes it so much easier when I am running through the house for my camera because I see the bald eagles back out on their perch.  I don't have to waste the time changing my settings, my camera is ready to go!

Here are a few links that help explain ISO a little further

Hope this helps explain the elusive ISO!

Happy Shooting

Corrie <3