day 41 : Yesterday was Ben’s birthday, but it wasn’t very much fun. Paul is still sick and at his morning doctor’s appointment she decided he needed a bunch of tests done so we spent the whole afternoon shuttling him to different lab/doctor places. When it was time to put them to bed Paul didn’t want to sleep. When we finally did get them down I was sitting and staring at the monitor and realizing that I have a love/hate relationship with it. I like that I can leave the room and bring it and know that the babies are safe and I will be able to help them if they are hurt or scared. But I hate that we can’t even have a birthday dinner without the constant wooshing sound of their white noise machine filtering through the speaker. We never really get to stop and sit back and enjoy the evening because the monitor is that constant nagging reminder in the background… the babies might wake up. I will be very happy when they are old enough that we don’t need it anymore.
day 39: Monday is Ben’s birthday and we were invited to a potluck (unrelated to the birthday) today so I decided that as our contribution to the meal I’d bake a cake. It’s been a VERY long time since I baked a cake and it was fun to revisit my old hobby. It was even more delicious than I remember although I’m glad it was… because it took me pretty much the entire day to make it 🙂 The poorly piped lemon on top is to show that it was a lemon cake. Mmmm lemon buttercream 🙂
day 38: These were too cute to pass up… even though I just posted a baby photo. The babies each decided to spend the afternoon chewing on stuffed baby toy vegetables. Yum.
I know a few of you have left me feedback saying that the posts are great and informative, but a little bit overwhelming. I am trying to make sure I cover the basics, but I don’t want to bombard you with EVERYTHING you need to know all at once. That’s why I’ve decided to break it up a bit and save the super long posts for another day. Today will just be the first of many “quick tips” for when you don’t have time to really dive into the details of how your camera works.
Today’s quick tip is on window lighting. Unless you live in a house without windows (and I don’t believe you do) there is at least one great spot in your home to take pictures of your kids. What you want is a window that lets in lots of great bright light, but that hopefully doesn’t have direct sunlight pouring through it. Direct light can be a little bit harsh and hard to work with. What we’re looking for right now is a window that “glows”. If you have a porch or overhang the window below it is probably a good bet. If there isn’t a couch or rug or even clear space in that room near to the window you might want to do a little rearranging so that there is 🙂
The idea is that directional light (from the side) is much more dynamic and interesting than light from straight on. Set your subject so that the light hits one side of their face and shoot away. It will bring out all of that cute baby chub and give your picture way more pop than if you had the light right in front of them. There are a million and one ways to use light and use it to your advantage. This is just one of the easiest. Go try it out at home!
This one was shot with my 85mm lens at f1.8 1/500th of a second.
day 37: my two favorite babies turned 6 months old today. I may have a slight bias but I’m pretty sure they have the cutest faces I’ve ever seen. Happy half birthday peanuts!
day 36: We’ve always had problems with our dryer. It is very very poorly vented (from where it connects to the house to the outside) and it’s not our fault… it’s an old house and it probably needs to be redone. We had our landlord try to get the vent cleared out a few weeks ago because our laundry was taking AGES to dry. Well it seemed to be better but this morning I threw in a load to the dryer and noticed a funny smell. I turned off the dryer and unplugged it and tried to air out the room. We had a repair guy come out today and there was BURNT LINT in the inside of the dryer. There was so much stuff stuck in there that it started burning. YIKES!! Talk about scary! So we paid him to clear it all out and he recommended that we talk to our landlord again so we can get it actually taken care of. Um… yes. Will do. Immediately. Good thing I noticed the funky smell… and thank goodness for same day dryer repair people. We wouldn’t survive a single day without being able to do baby laundry 🙂
day 35: Today was sort of like most days. Lots of being in the house. A little more fussiness than usual thanks to what might be Paul being sick (he’s running a temperature but with little else in the way of symptoms) and a few new tricks from the babies. Today’s new trick from Amelia? Throwing toys. Check out baby-rific for the whole story
day 34: Because I didn’t take any photos earlier today and I think Ben and I were both a little loopy from lack of sleep (the babies are slightly sick and so not sleeping well) I present to you: Hair Zoo. The sun rises over bouncy seat zebra in the Ben hair savanna.
One of the questions I get asked most is what camera and what lens to buy. I don’t like telling people what they should or shouldn’t get because equipment choices are BIG decisions with a lot of pros and cons to weigh. I think that a lot of people get tripped up with all of the options. They don’t know what the different lenses are good for and they don’t know which ones they need. I can’t tell you what lenses you need. Only you can decide that. What I can do is try to give you a little bit of insight into what the differences are between lenses and help you try to understand which ones you might like best.
So lets start at the beginning. There are two main kinds of lenses. Prime lenses (also known as fixed focal length lenses) and zoom lenses. Your camera kit lens was probably a zoom and probably had a range of somewhere around 18-55. That’s pretty standard. A focal length of around 50mm is said to be the most similar to the way that our eyes perceive the world. Anything from 21mm-35mm is commonly known as “wide angle”, anything from 35mm-70mm is said to be “normal”, and from 70-135 is “telephoto”. A lot of kit lenses try to give you everything in one lens, all the way from wide angle to telephoto. The drawback to these lenses is often that they suffer in their aperture capabilities, opening even less when you are zoomed in (remember I said that your kit lens probably doesn’t go any wider than 3.5, well if you zoom in to its longest focal length that number will probably change to 5.6!) They make lenses that zoom and have wide apertures but those are usually very expensive AND very big, bulky and heavy. Take Canon’s f2.8 24-70 lens. That bad boy is over $1000! It is easier to make lenses with wider apertures that are fixed or prime lenses, so you can usually find those with much more reasonable price tags. The trick is you might end up needing a whole camera bag full of lenses to add up to one zoom lens and there went your savings.
So which is the “right way” to shoot? Zoom or prime? It’s one of the most commonly debated topics in photography and you will find people on either side fiercely defending their position. But which do I use? Primes if you must know. One of the little “bonuses” of prime lenses is that they often give you just a little bit more sharpness and open up just a little wider than your zoom lens. I also prefer to “zoom with my feet” moving closer and further from my subject to get the look that I want.
One of the common misconceptions among new photographers about zoom lenses is that the point of them is that you don’t have to get closer to your subject to make it bigger in the frame. What these new photographers are failing to realize is that the focal length has a HUGE impact on the look of your image. To help illustrate this point here are 3 images of my son. All taken with his head filling approximately the same proportion of the image.
The first image was shot with a 24mm lens. See how animated it is? The wide angle shows tons of the background plus makes the play mat look fun and exciting and very 3 dimensional. I love photographing babies with wide angle lenses because of the sense of whimsy they lend to the shots.
Next up is the 50mm lens. I was further from the subject (to get him to fill the same amount of the frame) and you can see that the image has started to flatten out a bit.
Here it is again, this time with an 85mm lens. Telephoto lenses compress space, making everything appear closer together and flatter. See how much closer he appears to the china cabinet in the background compared to the first shot?
Just to give you an idea of the change in distance between me and my son during this series, here is the 24mm lens again at the same distance as the 85mm shot.
Each of these lenses has their place. You obviously couldn’t get close up shots of your kid’s soccer game with a wide angle lens, and you probably wouldn’t want to photograph your mother with one at a close range either (wide angles tend to exaggerate features, making people look “cartoonish”). There is no catch-all one perfect lens. It’s important to realize the difference that the focal length is going to have on your final image. If you are using a zoom lens it’s easy to fall into the trap of using your zoom to determine how much of the frame the subject is going to fill. I could have stood in one spot and taken both of the last two shots without even switching my lens. But what I would have missed by doing so is the fun and whimsical nature of the first shot, something I could only achieve by moving MYSELF closer and not by zooming. Take a second to play with your lenses (whether they be zoom or prime) and really notice the effect that a different lens has on the mood of your images. Only once you’ve really started to notice those differences can you start to decide which ones best fit your style.
day 33: I do so love the 24 1.4 and I am sad to have to return it tomorrow… but I only had it for the weekend. Sigh. Maybe soon I can buy one. If anyone is looking for a ridiculously expensive birthday present idea for me (that maybe you want to give me a few months early) I won’t object… hehe… Today was sort of back to business as usual after Ben’s big day (and night) of being super-dad and watching the babies on his own. I was too tired after the wedding yesterday to drive all the way back to LA so he spent the night with them solo and was even in great spirits when I came home this morning. What a pro! I am so glad that the peanuts have such an amazing daddy (and I have a pretty swell hubby myself!)