Friday Focus: What I’ve Learned

Hello!

I’m always curious to know what friends, family, and fellow Photographers have learned. Maybe it’s a technical tip in photography, or maybe it’s a diy tip for my next project. As many people reading this know, I moved from the Seattle area to the San Diego area last summer. I’ve been tackling projects around the house since August, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

I’d rather refinish a piece of furniture than buy something new. Not only does it fit my eclectic style, I’d rather reuse something instead of discarding it. With that in mind, I set out to breathe new life into discarded pieces left here by the previous homeowner. Two pieces in particular were stainless steel, commercial grade, shelving units. One being five shelves and stationary, the other being three shelves and on wheels. Ahh, I found my herb shelf (my gardens are spoken for), and my mobile bbq cart. After a good cleaning, and a coat of spray paint, they were perfect! I was not. We get an afternoon breeze here, almost like clockwork. The breeze was welcome as we were in the middle of the first heat wave of the year. I’ve found that 90°, in the shade and with a breeze, isn’t too bad in this dry heat. The breeze, while refreshing, also makes an ideal paint particle delivery system. I had a fine mist of paint all over me. My tip, don’t spray paint on a breezy day!

This isn’t a tip, but rather a discovery I made several months ago. Two discoveries. Doves, at least the ones which have taken up residence in my eaves, look like pigeons. They’re not the stark white birds you imagine, they’re peachy grey, and messy. Oh, and the coo of a dove? Yeah, no. They sound like owls, if owls hooted all day long. Not to worry, I also have parrots. Wild parrots! Now those guys I like, but boy are are loud!

What have you learned recently? Leave a comment below, humor encouraged! I’ll be posting more of these in the coming months, especially what I’ve learned in the diy realm.

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Friday Focus: Camera Bag Necessities

Hello!

This is a topic I should have written about years ago! I realized I never mentioned the necessities that live in my camera bag. They’re not fun or exciting gadgets, but I’m never without them on a shoot. Regardless of your level of interest in photography, if you’re going to be shooting, you should include these with the rest of your equipment. Here are a few of mine:

Lens caps. I can’t tell you how many I’ve lost over the years. Seriously, they’re like socks that disappear in the dryer. Considering the amount of money you can spend on a camera body, plus the lens, having backup caps is essential. If you can attach a lens cap to it, have an extra for it.

Sand bags. Wait, what? Just weight for it… This particularly applies when you’re using a tripod, and I’m going to assume you do. The center pole, on the opposite end of the attachment point for your camera body, should have some style of ring. This is to hang photography/videography specific sand bags. They help to weigh down your tripod so it isn’t as top heavy. The last thing you want is to be all set up for a shoot, and then have a gust of wind or errant foot knock your equipment over. Weigh it down so it’s less likely to fall down.

How does that old saying go, a dull pencil is better than a sharp mind? Don’t underestimate the value of a pencil a notepad. Those little things you know you’ll remember? Well, I rarely do. Will you, at the end of a long shoot? I won’t, but I do remember to look at my notepad at the end of the day!

What’s the one thing you need on a shoot? Grab your gear, and the few odd essential items, and get out there… just stay a safe distance away from people.

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Friday Focus: Changes

Hello!

Keeping with the strategy of a photography blog that isn’t always about photography, this week is no different. In looking for projects around the house, because that’s what we’re all doing, I found a whopper. The backyard. Yikes! I have a vision but I cannot stress the yikes factor enough. As someone who doesn’t enjoy gardening, this was daunting. Was… oh I crack myself up. It is daunting. Still.

For the past few weeks its been raining, and I use that term loosely. What I should say is the sky opened up and my street turned into a veritable river. I kid you not. It moved my neighbors trash bin. (Granted it was empty, but it was one of those big, wheeled bins.) Well, the rain stopped and it’s now hot here. I realize I’ve been living in southern California for less than a year, but it’s 90° while I’m writing this. That’s bloody hot in my book! I’ve discovered the heat is particularly noticable when roto tilling long forgotten garden beds. Whew, that thing is a beast… but it did a great job. My clay-like soil is now ready to be topped with soil I can plant vegetables in. I was glad I put on sunscreen. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed the throwback Thursday photo I posted yesterday. I almost missed the snow. Almost.

I’ve many, many more projects to tackle in the yard but I can see that vision becoming a reality. What projects are you tackling?

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Friday Focus: Backdrops

Hello!

Last week I touched on a few adjustments you can make in order to allow this sudden work from home, thing, to go a bit smoother. Now that you have a few ideas, let’s talk backdrop. For those of you who don’t utilize video conferencing with colleagues, this may not apply. However, you might pick up a tip or two for those virtual get together’s.

First tip: know where your webcam is located. (Yours truly didn’t bother checking, and the results were baffling to me.) I bought a new laptop a few months ago and didn’t realize the built in webcam was located at the bottom of the screen instead of the top (like my last one). Oops! Made for a rather humorous virtual new home tour with family this past weekend. For those of you who don’t know me, unless it’s my camera gear, I’m not that tech savvy. For everyone else, I happen to love my keyboard! Yeah… keep laughing! On a serious note, sit where you intend to and turn on your webcam. You might need to adjust the height. (A stack of books works great.) If that’s the case, and you’re using the built in webcam on your laptop, consider having a wireless mouse and keyboard handy, makes things easier.

Secondly, make sure you’re properly in frame. We’ve all seen (alright, done) those awkward, too close to the screen adjustments. Much like my keyboard, no one really wants to get up close and personal with your nose. On the other hand, don’t be too far away either. If you’re clear across the room, the people in the video conference might as well be looking at your photo while you’re on speakerphone. We’re aiming for close, but not too close!

Lastly, now that you’ve made those adjustments, look at your background. That vase of flowers behind you may be beautiful but, if all people see is a flower or two sprouting from your head, you might want to move it to the side. If you have the option of being in front of a bookcase, or a single large scale piece of art with a plant on the side for visual interest, great. If you’ll be in front of your windows, close the blinds and turn on your lights. The light could overpower the sensor and you could end up looking like a silhouette. Dramatic as that sounds, your weekly office meeting probably doesn’t call for such flair.

I hope these help, I for one will be stacking several books under my laptop before our weekly happy hour! Bonus tip, which is more personal preference. When it comes to Fido or Mittens taking the stage, let them. It will probably make one or two people smile. Hint, hint to those of you I’ll see on Sunday!

 

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Friday Focus: Home Office

Hello!

 

A lot of us are now working from home, which can be challenging. Today I thought I’d talk about a few ideas to make it a bit easier since not everyone (myself included) has a dedicated office space at home.

If you happen to have a guest room, that’s a logical place to set up shop for the time being. However, for those of us who don’t, here are a few things to try.

First being, find a dedicated place to work from. For a lot of people, that’s the dining table. Unless your dining chairs are ergonomically correct, you might need a few adjustments. Two things that can help are a throw blanket and a pillow. No joke, these can work and don’t require wait time from ordering online. Try rolling up a throw blanket to use for lumbar support. Bonus! You can take that blanket to the couch when you’re ready to stream the shows you’re not caught up… after work. The second is a pillow. Hey, not everyone chose padded dining chairs!

Since we’re not having people over for dinner right now, consider this: you’re probably not using you’re serving dishes. If you’re anything like me, you have a decent amount stored in your kitchen or dining room. For the time being, you could move some of them from a cabinet to a closet in order to free up the space. Now you have a place to store your office equipment so you’re not looking at when you’re not working. It helps not to see work all the time!

Small tips, but sometimes little things make a big impact. Look around your new found office space and see what will realistically work for you.

Next week I’ll be back to photography but we’ll still be in the home office! Check back on Friday to see what that entails!

 

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Friday Focus: Texture

Hello!

 

Needing a new photography project isn’t new, but there are challenges at the moment. I thought about things I hadn’t tackled and found one. Photos showcasing texture have always interested me, but I’ve never made the time to explore them… until now!

I’ve challenged myself to start a new Instagram series called: Tuesday Texture (debuting this coming Tuesday, April 7th). In this series I’ll post two photos: one featuring an interesting texture, and the second of the original object. What can I stay, needing to stay at home necessitates thinking outside the box! I don’t know if this series will last once all this is over, but it should prove interesting in the interim. 

These won’t be the typical macro shots I take. These truly will focus on the texture of things around my house. To give you a better idea, I’ve posted one of my macro shots below. To see the contrast between this and the texture photos I’m talking about, check out my Instagram post on Tuesday!

This week I’m focusing on texture, what will you focus on?

 

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Welcome to the Friday Focus!

Hello again!

 

For those of you who follow (err… followed) my blog, thanks for sticking with me! It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted, and about time I did so again.

Today isn’t about a tip or instruction. Instead, let’s take minute to collect our thoughts. It’s easy for a lot of us, myself included, to lose our focus. Not only with the news right now, but whenever life overwhelms us. Losing some of the desire to tackle projects, even creative outlets, happens. There’s a lot of that going around right now, and it was beginning to frustrate me.  I spoke with someone recently who reminded me that we’re all in this together, and we are. Let’s take a deep breath, whilst practicing social distancing, and focus on something fun. Photography! No, it won’t fix the state of the world. However, it might just lift your mood, and that’s a start.

At the end of the day, if you can focus doing something, you’ve taken a step forward. I can’t promise to make this a weekly blog, but I’m going to focus on it.

What are you going to focus on?

Oh, the flower? No reason. Happy Friday!

 

Terri Johnson

Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography

The Right Angle Matters

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Rule of Thirds

In my last post, I talked about the importance of framing your photos to draw your attention in. Today I’ll address one of the most recognizable photography rules, the Rule of Thirds. While I’m more likely to bend (err… break) the rules, this one I do try to use. Alright, I also frame my photos. Perhaps I’m not quite the rule-breaker I envision myself to be!

Imagine a grid overlaying your photos with two horizontal lines, and two vertical lines, thus creating a total of nine equal areas. If I’ve lost you, think of a tic-tack-toe board on top of your photo. In the photo below, notice how the grass at the edge of the pond is roughly where the lower horizontal line would be. In general, try to line up the most prominent horizontal area with either the top, or bottom, horizontal line. In this case, I went with the what was in the foreground. (A mountain range would be a good idea to use as a horizontal top line.) Now, you need to do the same for vertical lines. In the case, I used the right edge of the large rock, and the right edge of the tree above it as a guide.

Rule of Thirds

With that in mind, your subject should line up within one of the four intersecting lines. In this case, I used a clump of lily pads, and the clouds above it, for two of the four intersecting lines. While I could have focused on any number of things within the photo, I chose to use the Rule of Thirds as a guide to highlight the entire scene.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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Frame Your Photos

No, I’m not referring to when you hang them on your wall. I’m talking about how you want your photo to look. I was at Kitsap Memorial State Park last July, and noticed the haze on the mountains across the water. There was just enough to make the mountains appear more like a painting than a photo. However, had I only taken a photo of the mountains, there wouldn’t be any visual interest to the photo. Instead, I framed the photo with the foreground.

Take a look at the photos below, your eye naturally wants to look for something within a photo. Without framing the second photo, it falls flat.

Example 1 Example 2

When you set out to photograph something, try to envision what you want the end result to look like. As in the photos above, I wanted to capture the mountains. While both photos contain the mountains, the second one is downright boring. Framing adds a reference point, which is needed for a photo like this. Now, go out and try it yourself!

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

 

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Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed… Oh My!

Now that you have a brief overview of Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed, let’s bring it all together. The first thing I do is either adjust the Aperture, or the Shutter Speed, depending on what my subject is. Once you decide what you’re going to be photographing, you can then decide if the Aperture, or the Shutter Speed, needs to take priority. Due to how a higher ISO can degrade an image, I adjust this last, and keep it to the lowest setting I can.

For an image where your subject is moving, it’s best to determine the needed Shutter Speed first. Once you’ve decided that, go ahead and adjust the Aperture accordingly. Noting that for faster speeds, you’ll need a wider aperture to allow more light into the image. This is due to the fact that your shutter won’t be open for long. If your image is too dark, open up the aperture further. If you skip this, and go straight to raising the ISO, you have a greater likelihood of a grainy image. Keep in mind that the lower you set the aperture you’re decreasing the depth of field, thus keeping your subject in focus while blurring the background.

Alternatively, if you’re photographing a sweeping view of the mountains on a sunny day, you’ll want your aperture on a smaller setting. Not only will this allow less light into the camera, helping to avoid an over-exposed image, it will also allow for the entire image to be in focus. Since your aperture would be smaller, you’ll want to decrease the shutter speed to allow more time for the light to enter the camera. Again, if you skip lowering the shutter speed in favor of raising the ISO, you’ll probably have a grainy image.

Now, get your camera, and try it out! Look for my next post on where I’ll dive into another camera tip.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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