Thursday, December 30, 2010

15 Must For the Photographer - At Little Cost!

So excited for a photo class that Brandi and I are taking. We have already received some awesome information - some of things I knew and just forgot and other stuff is new to me. When I first started doing photography I read every book I could find and tried every trick someone told me, however at some point I just did my own thing. Some things I got tired of trying, some things made such a little difference the hassle was more than the effects I got. Just reading some of these ideas has me all reved up to take more photos and expand my photography. Just thought I would share these tips.

1. White Foam Core - At around $5 this is probably the least expensive lighting equipment you’ll ever own. The white surface can be used to bounce light into shadows, softening hard contrasty light. Or, place it between your subject and the light source to cast shadows where you want them. You can even place it behind your subject for a clean distraction free background. Buy just one from a craft store for a few dollars, or get a pack of 5 boards on for about $15.
31B1-WG8RcL._SL500_AA300_.jpg2. 18% Gray Card (AKA Medium Gray Card – Use your post processing time to get creative, not fixing basic exposure and white balance problems. A medium gray card helps you get it right “in camera” for just $10. An 18% gray card is designed to represent the average photographic scene by reflecting an average amount of light (18% give or take). Cameras are designed to reproduce average scenes, but not every scene in real life is average. Your camera can be fooled into under or over exposing pictures of very bright or very dark scenes. Using a gray card to set exposure will give you much more accurate results. You can also use an medium gray card to set a custom white balance for more consistent color in your photos.
3. Spray Bottle - The trick to shooting fresh and dewy spider webs, fruit, and flowers isn’t waking at the crack of dawn. It’s having a spray bottle handy. It might feel like “cheating” at first but when you see the results you won’t care anymore. You can’t argue with the price either. Fine mist spray bottles can be found for about one dollar.
31MnFMTtzqL._SL500_AA300_.jpg4. Lens Pen - Leave the lens fluid and papers at home. The “pen” has a microfiber disk filled with dry lens cleaner on one end. The other end has a retractable brush. Dusting with the brush removes large particles of dust. Lightly rubbing the disk on your lens will remove smudges, fingerprints and spots. A half twist of the pen with the cap on cleans the disk. I swear by this thing. I bought one for a trip to dusty Africa and used it extensively. They’re easy to use, they work perfectly, and they’re pretty cheap (around $10). I can’t believe I didn’t have one before.
5. Cloth bag of rice/beans - If you can’t or don’t want to carry a tripod around, having a bag of rice can be the next best thing. Use it to prop up your camera or rest your lens anywhere. Keep the cloth bag empty when traveling to save space and weight. When you get to your destination buy some rice or beans and fill it up. When you’re done, either eat the rice/beans, or give them to someone in need. You can buy dedicated “beanbags” filled with plastic pellets for exactly this purpose starting at about $8.
6. Remote Shutter Release - Make tack sharp photos and no fuss self portraits for around $20. A remote shutter release lets you take the picture without touching the camera. This reduces motion blur caused by camera shake. Since the cord is a couple of feet long, it can make taking self portraits a little easier too. If you spend some time on Amazon you may even find a wireless remote shutter release that gives you even greater flexibility in the same price range. The camera’s self-timer is a less flexible but free option.
51Yf6v+-cIL._SL500_AA300_.jpg7. LED Flash Light - These things are multi tasking marvels. Experiment with light drawing and light painting at night. And while you’re out there in the dark, you can use it to see where you’re going. They’re not just for night photography though. LED lights can look pretty close to sunlight. If you’re shooting outside they can be an inexpensive stand in for an off camera flash. You can get a small LED Maglite for around $20.
8. Nikon (or similar) Lens Caps - I love my Canon, but they make the worst lens caps. Nikon caps are a lot easier to use. The pinchable area on the sides of the Nikon cap are at least twice as wide as the Canon caps. You can pinch from the center of a Nikon cap as well. This makes it easier to remove/replace the cap when a lens hood is in place. The easier it is to use the more likely I am to use it. The more I use the cap, the safer my lens is. They come in a variety of sizes (make sure you get the right size for your lens) and generally cost a few dollars.
21DcB4JfU-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg9. A Flash Diffuser (or Wax Paper) - If you have to use the on-camera flash, you can at least soften its effects with a flash diffuser. These come in many styles but they all use a white translucent material to diffuse light. Want to try before you buy? Tape a ring of waxed paper around your pop up flash next time you use it. In principal this will do the same thing as a diffuser, though it’s not durable and certainly not professional looking. When you’re at home taking family snapshots it probably doesn’t matter if you look professional. But, fair warning, it might not be a good idea to let the bride catch you with wax paper on your camera at your next wedding gig.
10. Filter Wrench - If you have any screw on filters, one day, one of them will get stuck on your lens. It’s a sad but true fact of filter use. Filters often get stuck because the pressure from your fingers bends the filter a little when you try to unscrew them. Gripping harder to un-stick a stuck-on filter just makes it worse. A filter wrench distributes the pressure of your grip around the entire edge, gripping the filter tight without bending it. Get a filter wrench before you need one so you’re not tempted to force off a stuck-on filter and make it permanently stuck in the process. A set of two wrenches costs about $5.
21T+dJMsr+L._SL500_AA300_.jpg11. Reflective Emergency Blanket and/or Circular Reflector - Both of these can be used to reflect light into shadows. The nice thing about the emergency blanket, aside from it being very cheap (a pack of four blankets costs a little over $5), is that the mylar it’s made of is waterproof. Throw it over your gear in a sudden downpour, or toss it on the dewey ground when you need to get low. Circular reflectors can’t pull triple duty like the emergency blanket, but they can still be had for under $25 and unlike the emergency blanket they can be held in place with one hand. Ideally, you would have both and at these prices that’s actually practical.
12. Bulb Blower - It’s important to blow off any large grains of sand and dirt before you wipe your camera or lens. You don’t want grains of sand to scratch your lens as you wipe it. A bulb blower delivers a powerful blast of clean air to blow away any dangerous particles. Skip the wimpy brush/blower combo they try to sell you in cleaning kits. The only thing they really do is shed bristled on your camera. Giottos makes a great bulb blower called the Rocket Blower for about $10.
13. Compact Backpacking Hand Towel - This is a must have if you shoot outside. An absorbent lightweight backpacking towel can whisk drops of water away before they become a problem. It’s also nice just to give your gear a quick wipe down at the end of the day to prevent dust and grime from accumulating. Keeping dust and dirt off the outside of your camera may even help keep it from getting inside your camera when you change lenses. These towels take up very little room and they’re worth every penny of the $10 they cost. *Note: I don’t use this for the front or rear element of the lens.
14. A Flickr Account - Use for archiving, getting feedback, showing off, and tracking your progress. A free account gets you 100MB of photo storage every calender month. For about $25 a year you get unlimited uploads and storage space which is awesome if you want to archive your digital photos. I really like Flickr for the community (which you get access to wether you go pro or not). Photographers start “groups” to share photos and discussions with other, like minded photogs.
Wether you want to ask questions, start a group or just have an online home for your photos Flickr’s got you covered.
31Uh34puYBL._SL500_AA300_.jpg15. Hot Shoe Mount Bubble Level- Keep your horizons straight even when hand-holding. It’s just a small bubble level that slips into your camera’s hot shoe. Not having to constantly straighten and crop your photos could easily be worth the $5 this bubble level costs.
These make great gifts! Is there a budding photographer in your life? A gift basket stuffed with a lens pen, compact hand towel, and bulb blower is perfect for a traveler. Are they shooting family events and holidays? Lighting accessories like reflectors, diffusors, and white foam core really come in handy for portraiture. Just bought their first DSLR? A basket with an 18% gray card, filter wrench, and remote shutter release is better than any cheap “get started kit” sold at the camera store.
I’m always looking for ways to do more with less. So, what are your favorite inexpensive photography accessories?
About the AuthorKat Landreth runs a blog called Pare and Focus – it has simple, inexpensive tips to make digital photos look better. There are “in camera” tricks along side tutorials for the free image editor GIMP.

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Martha Did It Again - Another Great Idea!

Was browsing Martha's web page and here is a fantastic idea for those of us who hae priceless ornaments and want to keep them safe until next  year when we can proudly display thema again. Thanks Martha!

Protect your dearest ornaments from damage as you pack up after the holiday this year. Cut a piece of corrugated cardboard to line the bottom of a plastic storage bin. Then use a hot-glue gun to attach paper cups to the cardboard. Wrap ornaments in tissue paper, and place in cups. Then stack cardboard-and-cup flats inside the container. Store smaller ornaments in egg cartons.

Article and photo from Martha Stewart website.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A wonderful Christmas!

   Here we are the whole gang! What a wonderful, wonderful Christmas for all of us. This was our first Christmas all together in a long time and we had so much fun, I can't remember a better Christmas.     
   It was a week long holiday for us, we spent every day enjoying the holiday. Although this was Jeremy's holiday to have the kids he generously let his ex have the kids last weekend,  again on Thursday while he worked, and overnight  until mid day on Christmas Eve. So some of the events we had planned for the kiddos were changed a little we still had the best of times. You can see those photos below.  What a wonderful father he is to give up his time to help the kids through the holiday and let them celebrate Christmas with their mom. 
   On Friday Brandi and the boys came from Hemingford, Damion and his family came from Sheridan  and we all went to Greg's for some of Jeff's famous chili.  The night was spent full of laughter, fun and games. 
   Christmas Morning was so much fun this year watching Lucas open his gifts from Santa. I think his folks had more fun opening gifts than Lucas, he just really wanted to play with the paper and boxes. After a relaxed morning of opening gifts and drinking coffee in our pj's we then went to Greg's for dinner. Taylor Michael drove his new pickup from Chadron and that completed our family. Jeremy had bought and cooked prime rib, Brandi and Shane cooked a ham and it was yummy good. I wasn't sure I was ready for a Christmas dinner without turkey, however it was just the best. We spent the afternoon enjoying each others company, playing games and eating until our eyes bulged. 
   Our family was just truly blessed this year and I hope that all of my blogging buddies had just as wonderful Christmas as we did. May the New Year bring us all wonderful days, true riches of family and friendship.

This is the gingerbread house we made - it was a festive little home. 

Then came the cooking baking! We had so much fun watching the little ones make cookies to put out for Santa. Bless Brandi's heart, she let them use anything they wanted to decorate their cookies. 

Emma chose to make gingerbread girls for her cookies.

Helping hands!

Can you see the cookie? This was Cash's cookie, Emma and Jaxon really decorated theirs!!

The shirt does not lie, Cash  ate Santa's cookies!!

Lucas Christmas morning with his new car.

Lucas on his new horse that papa made. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Christmas Card!

So I got a wild hair and decided that I should do a Christmas card with the horses. Now I take pictures every day; I do weddings; senior photos; baby settings; little kid settings, football, basketball and baseball action shots  but this was a first at trying to take posed pictures of horses. I thought I could throw a little Santa hat on the horses or put a little greenery around their necks and YEP get a photo. After all they are a couple of very tame, very old, very good horses. Well let me tell you that only sounded good in theory. When they saw me heading out with a Santa hat and the camera they knew something was out of the ordinary. 

Let's just say many loops around the corral, a bucket of grain, a bale of alfalfa and many photos later I  had nothing - just a couple of old goofy horses that knew something was under foot and  they weren't going to be any part of it.

So I talk Jeff into helping and now I have thrown another kink in the rope. Jeff doesn't usually ride the horses but he is the one who helps me to catch and saddle them when I want to go riding or take the grannies out in the pasture.  Those two old horses were sure something bad was coming their way, and made sure neither of us got very close. I finally ditched the Santa hats; the greenery and the bow, all the little props I was going to use for the photo and added instead myself and Jeff. 

I drug out the halters and  lead ropes, grabbed the tripod and decided that it would be ok to have Jeff and myself in the photo. I didn't plan on my old horse Nugget thinking that a camera and flash on a tripod was a threat. She snorted, pawed, pranced, smacked me in the head, stepped on my foot and did anything to NOT get in the photo. However, we made it. I look a little worse for the wear, Jeff was past the smiling and thinking they were funny stage but dang the horses looked pretty good. It made for some good laughs, helped to pass the day away and I hope friends and family can get as much a kick out of the cards as we did taking the photo.

Thank goodness I hadn't thought about getting the cat and grand dogs in the photo !!

MMM - need a  bigger hat!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welcome to our 3rd Progressive Supper. My daughter and some of her friends started this tradition with me three years ago and it has just become a high light in my holiday list of seasonal cheer. I was saddened that we had lost one of our original members when she moved away from the area. My wonderfully talented niece Mandy, made the move over the summer so was unable to attend. We also lost our little Angie, who didn't have a babysitter. Angie's home had always been on the list of homes to stop at. She, like Mandy, has a talent that rivals no other and shares my love of Christmas. Our little Lisa didn't come,  I am not sure why. She was host  one of the years and yum, yum can that girl cook. My niece Phaedra was on the list to come and even host if she got into her new home, always full of sprite we  missed her happy go lucky personality. I hope her other party was everything she wanted it to be. HOWEVER when I stopped boo hooing because we lost friends, I rejoiced in the new faces that we were so happy to have join us. Fish, a Chadronite, came all the way over with Jess to help us celebrate. Her name really isn't Fish but what a fun nick name it is. Also new on our list is Tracy, her stay was cut a little short so you won't see her in the photo but believe me we enjoyed her company and I hope she continues to share with us our little tradition. Amanda was also new this year, she so graciously opened her home to us AND did the main meal. Thanks Amanda.
 So here goes a little picture story of our dinner.

Our first stop was at Becky's. We had some yummy appetizers at her home and her eye candy was just beautiful as always. Becky added a new tree to her living room and I didn't take a picture - sorry! I think I was so enthralled with her big tree and the view that I forgot.

You can't really see the church's steeple in the window, I tried to capture it,  really you just had to be there. Becky's home is on a hill and when the sun was setting that evening you could see the outline of the church steeple, surrounded by Becky's tree lights - it was absolutely blazing beautiful.

When you have been host for  a couple of years you feel like you need to mix things up a little with your decorating.  Becky made this cool little centerpiece from twigs and candy. Sorry I didn't get a full shot where you could see her pretty decorations on the bottom of the jar. All pretty and blue it was a really sweet centerpiece. After a few bottles of wine, some hilarious chit chat we were off to the next house.
Thanks Becky & JEFF for opening your beautiful home to us. It was so much fun.

Amanda's home was so warm and inviting, I could have snuggled up to that fire and never moved. Her table was set in reds and gold and the food - was oh so yummy! Glazed ham, creamy mashed potatoes; green beans and a pasta salad that I really needed to take a photo of. It was as pretty as a Christmas picture.

Here is the ham. It was cooked to perfection and just melted in your mouth. I think some of the thanks goes to her husband Joe, who  was bustling about the kitchen when we got there. Amanda also had some gorgeous Christmas trees in her home too. It is a HUGE home - thank you Amanda and Joe for opening your home to us.

Our last stop was my house for dessert. It wasn't what I had planned on it being but it looked festive...that counts doesn't it? Well I had the best help making my jello and brownie desserts from two little grannies. What they didn't eat they decorated and it was fun in itself.
It wasn't all frosty at my house, I also had some warm hot cocoa in the snowman jar. Isn't he cute? This little snowman belongs to my daughter and if ever I can find one like him I am buying it johnny on the spot, even if it isn't on sale. 

So here is our group minus Tracy, who ran home to help with some baby sitting issues. She was with us in spirit though and I want to thank her for helping to make the night so much fun.

So here we are - back row: Becky, Misty, Amanda and Brandi. Front row: Myself (Deb), Fish and Jess. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh Christmas Ornaments!

I think more than putting up the tree I enjoy taking photos of the ornaments. Here are just a few that I have been playing with to get me in the spirit.

MMM - shiney red

I just love how the lights shine through these ornaments. 

And my tree wouldn't be complete without some red. Lots and lots of red!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baby Lou - the BIG 1!

Baby Lucas turned 1 year old!
So hard to believe that one whole year has passed since the young man entered the world, but it has and he is the 'cats pajamas' in our world. Here are some photos - I will let them speak for themselves.
Happy Birthday Baby Lucas!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Waiting for the rug to dry!

What a stupid title I know, but it is what I am doing. Yesterday began the chore of taking down the fall decorations, cleaning and starting on Christmas/winter decor. As always I am overwhelmed. I don't know what frustrates me the most, having no room to decorate or having no room to store decorations. Anyway, does anyone else have a tiny home? What do you do? I would appreciate any tips that are out there. 
   I will admit my depression always sets in this time of year because I feel so limited, trapped, crowded....I don't even have enough words to describe the feelings of entrapment I get in the winter. During the spring, summer and fall months I just extend our home outside but brrrrrrrrr it is just too cold to do that. 
   So I woke up this morning and told myself - work with what you got. Be glad you have a snug little roof over your head and quit feeling sorry for yourself. So the fall decor is down; the rugs are cleaned and wet -- thought I would give them a little wash and Jeff is on his way home with one of 3 trees. I am giving up two of my trees this year, hopefully to allow more room for living. With our growing family now up to 15, we get a little squished, and then we all want our friends so let's add about 10 more and believe me the house fills up fast. 
  I know that it is just a matter of time when life won't be so full, and I just need to take a breath, enjoy the fullness of my life and - shucks, call Jeff and tell him to bring the other two trees.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The kindness and honesty of others!

Had to run to the grocery store last night - to get the goods for my new diet. I get to the cash register and no checkbook. I knew, knew, knew that I had put it in my purse, I used it moments before to get gas and now - GONE. Lucky for me I did have another checking account and checkbook to use and was able to check out - but what the devil happened to the other I wondered and worried? I retraced my steps, nope nowhere was it to be found. I was still digging in my purse, the back seat, under the seat, my coat pockets when I heard this very quiet voice say "I noticed it looked like maybe you lost something". And there he was, this very shy young man holding my checkbook. He was on his way into the store to turn it in when he saw, a somewhat frantic woman I must say, searching like a hound dog in her car. I would have given him a hug but he WAS a stranger and very shy one at that. It is so great to find honest people in this world. I should NOT be surprised because I know some wonderful people, but in today's world, we don't always get to experience that. So thanks young man, whomever you are. Not only did I find my checkbook but a renewed faith in mankind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A new day...a new diet!

I don't usually blog about things like diets however I am told that making a public statement helps you to stay committed to a diet since everyone is looking on. Mostly I need a challenge, that is when I get stubborn and competitive. So here goes - my new goal. I really need to get my blood pressure under control that is priority no. 1. And then priority no. 2 is, of course, is to be thinner.

This is the new diet that I am trying. My friend Becky gave me this diet as her daughter-in-law has been using it to lose weight before her trip to Mexico and her wedding. She looks fabulous and made a beautiful bride. Becky also said her co-workers have been doing this diet and they are all looking good so here goes. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Special Buy

I never considered myself a collector, however pottery, plates, dinnerware......they all seem to be piling up in my cupboard. Being on a small budget I am not one of those people who can go out and buy a whole set of something at one time. Things have to come in small doses and well, they have to come cheap.

I fell in love with a set of dishes that belonged to my friend Becky, who died suddenly at the early age of 55. She has this wonderful set of 'corn' dishes and I just thought they were cute. Becky had an antique store and sold a mish mash of antiques, collectibles and the like. Recently they had an auction of all of her store items and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of her treasures.

This cookie jar was a steal at just $15.00 dollars. I wanted the tea set also but it was cracked and still went for a little more than I wanted to pay.

I think this is a casserole dish. Not really sure but that is what I am going to call it. Can't you just see  a table setting in late July or early August or heck all fall using these items?

Aren't they just so cute together. I just wanted to start using them right away so I have cookies in the oven right now and later this afternoon I am thinking a corn casserole would be nice for supper.

After looking on the Internet I decided I had better see if my corn pottery are original and yes, they are! I think I could really get into collecting, and I just saw some items on EBay so I am off to shop.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Upcoming Events!

Just when I think it is slowing down I find it's NOT! I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that November is here and well...on it's way out. Here's what is going on in my world.

Baby Lucas will turn 1 on Nov. 21st. His birthday is on a Sunday and we are five hours away. Jeff has to work Sat. and well probably Monday so it will be a short, fast trip but I can't miss it.

My days are spent getting ready for the Historical Christmas Dinner. Getting entertainment has been and will always be my biggest challenge. We have tapped out almost all of our local resources, the college, the churches, the schools, friends.......but still I have some great entertainment on the line up this year. Last year the bell ringers were a great hit, hard to top that but I have some wonderfully talented people coming this year.

As always decorating is such a big part of Christmas. Besides decorating Brick 17 I have to decorate for the Historical Dinner, the employee Christmas party and if any energy is left, my house. No I am NOT complaining because I love, love, love to decorate - time however plays a big part on enjoyment of the season. AND it can get really chilly in the highranger putting lights on a 3 story building in the middle of Nov.

Cutting up greenery and making wreaths, centerpieces and decorations for 200 people can take some major planning but it is well worth it. This year has a patriotic theme along with the usual Christmas decor. 

I am excited to decorate my tree this year, I don't know if I will ever tire of this chore. I have to be careful because Jeff hates &  complains so much about early decorating. In his world perfect would be decorating on Christmas Eve, take it down Dec. better yet, don't do it at all. Not that he helps in anyway but he sure let's me know how much he hates me doing it. What is with that??? I have never understood. Oh what the heck, at this point I think we are home alone for Thanksgiving so why not decorate on my 4 day weekend, or better yet, next week when  I am home alone during deer season.

Then there is deer season, now  why would I have this on my list of to do's? I hate guns, and more than that, killing something, but working for Game and Parks during hunting season is like being a quarterback during football season. We work long days and stay open 16 hours a day 7 days a week.

And then there is Thanksgiving.....I will be cooking rather it is a 20 lb. turkey or 8. I will still be cooking something for Jeff and myself and maybe two of the boys. And when Jeff takes off to the station up comes the tree if it isn't already. Tee Hee!!

And then I did it...yes I did! I agreed to host something at my house for the progressive dinner. I can't wait for that. We get to see all these beautiful homes, we get to decorate and then eat, drink and be MERRY!!

So what's on your plate in November? 

Friday, November 5, 2010

1910 Historical Christmas Dinner

We are so excited once again for our Historical Christmas Dinner here at Fort Rob. Our 200 tickets sold out by Monday night.  We will be celebrating 100 years this year, highlighting the year 1910. Fort Rob was an active military post at that time and we will be eating foods cooked right from the original menu served to the soldiers.
This is one of the groups that will be performing for our guests. They dress in 'Dicken's Costume' and sing  Christmas music. Their first appearance will be on the front porch of the Buffalo Barracks at 5:30. If you were one of the 200 lucky ticket takers you will also get to hear them perform on stage after a yummy bigger than life meal.
Also the lights will be turned on from all of the wonderful sponsors of 'Light Up The Fort'.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween 2010

We are 'Off to see the Wizard....The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'

The Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Dorothy and Tin Man went looking for the Great Oz. Look at all of the characters they found.

The Great and Powerful Oz; Cowardly Lion; Dorothy; Tin Man; The Bad Witch and Glenda The Good Witch. What a fun Halloween we had. 
Our whole group.

Fun at the zoo! We went to spooktackular Friday night.

There were some pretty scary creatures at the Zoo.

We also went to the Halloween Parade for some costume fun.

And then we carved pumpkins - and some of us had a little pumpkin snack.

Some of the finished products after a long night of carving; eating chili and making somores. 

And finally we went Trick or Treating!

What a busy weekend we had!


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