Friday, March 13, 2009


We were tremendously disappointed when we had to abandon our plans for a barn. From the beginning, The Husband and I had our hearts set on something smallish and modest, but we knew how we wanted it to look and it was to have been an important part of our new home. The downturn in real estate put that dream to rest. We are keeping it in perspective. As losses go, it may smart; but, it doesn’t rank very high.

Still, we knew it would be necessary to build some type of structure that would provide shelter for the horses. Yes, horses survive in the wild without protection from the weather, but these two guys have lived with shelter all their lives and it’s late in their lives to change that now. I think that I have already mentioned that they will have what is called a mare motel. (They are both geldings—do you think they will mind?)

I haven’t been up to hobbling around with the camera for the last several days, but I managed the snapshot above that demonstrates how far along things are. When it’s done the structure will have walls (on three sides, I think) in addition to the roof. They will get protection from rain and snow in winter, as well as some defense against the wind and some relief from the sun in the summer.

They probably won’t spend much time in their motel. They would much rather be wandering around in one of their two pastures nibbling on grass or leaning against the fence. Horses lean against fences because they know that eventually they can destroy the fence by doing that, and remember the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But, the best part is that leaning against fences costs horse-owners money, and if there is way to cost you more money a horse will find it. That’s just how horses’ minds work.

According to the schedule, Lancer and Night will finally be here tomorrow. For them, the transition from Los Angeles to our property in Bear Valley Springs has been a long drawn-out process. It will be nice to be greeted in the morning by not only the sunrise, but the two money-pits, as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shutter Speed at 65 MPH

Recently, Bob Wong asked if I would share a few thoughts about what I have dubbed drive-by photography. Unfortunately, Bob, I’m not your go-to person for technique. But, I’m willing to share further thoughts about my quirky habit.

The first time I started shooting through the windshield, then sticking my head and camera outside the window of the vehicle in which we were traveling, The Husband was incredulous. “What are you doing?”, he asked (the tone of voice said it all). I told him that I was preparing to enter the aerial photography field. He just chuckled and shook his head. In case you have the same reaction, I do have some reasons for this behavior: a. I love taking pictures; b. it helps me practice basic skills without interference from that nasty inner critic; and c. It is a better way to spend travel time than playing the license plate game.

Not surprisingly, most of the shots I take from the car end up in cyberspace. The point of shooting from a moving vehicle was never about making the best possible landscape pictures. (I have my eccentricities, but I’m not that far out there.) I use the time to acquire a better command of camera controls and train my eye to more quickly recognize pleasing compositions.

Partly as a result of starting to squander all those pixels a couple of years ago, I acquired the confidence to shoot in Manual mode. To most people that may not sound like much of an accomplishment; however, in the beginning, I was totally intimidated by that much responsibility for setting exposure. As a relative newcomer to photography, I have too-fresh memories of shooting exclusively in the Auto mode. Later, I continued to use the drive-by sessions for the exploration of other camera functions, including Canon’s focus tracking mode, (AI Servo) and the A-DEP mode.

Those sessions worked for me, because they freed me to step outside my comfort zones. For instance, I couldn’t take a lot of time to think about a shot. The moments were flying by and the circumstances forced me to quickly commit to choices. From the beginning, I had the sense to pursue these exercises with minimal expectations of keepers and all that experimenting, then deleting, toughened me a bit to see shots that didn’t work as just part of the learning process, rather than failures. Early on, I learned that the more I invested in a shot, the more the disappointments hurt. Sometimes the pain would be enough to temporarily shut me down. In other words, after viewing my results, I would put the camera down for a while and fritter away valuable time while my wounds healed. By shooting wild and loose, on the fly, I tricked myself into exploration rather than chasing success.

When I was shooting through the windshield or hanging partly outside the window, it didn’t matter so much if I stank at framing. It was okay to blow it on the exposure. It was no big surprise if I set the shutter speed too slow and the shot was a mess of a blur. I could experiment and toss the results with wild abandon. When shooting from the passenger seat, I wasn’t taking pictures; I was playing. Later, I could get more serious about shooting.

Clearly, I’m not saying that my approach is right for everyone, but it was beneficial to me. I needed a means of dealing with my personal blocks, and this was one of the things that helped me. (I wish I could say that I had totally stifled the voice of that inner critic, but I can only plug away at it.) The bonus of this playing is that, periodically, I am surprised by a shot that I like quite a lot. (Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, right?) Occasionally, a shot serves primarily as a reminder of a location that I want to revisit and photograph under better circumstances. (The photo above falls in that category.) More often, even the best of the losers are nothing more than pleasant little reminders of the scenery we have enjoyed while traveling. Still, even that is not entirely worthless.

Since I use drive-by photography for experimenting or playing, I don’t have any rules, but these are my general guidelines:

1. I only shoot when I am the passenger. Come to think of it, that one is a rule for me. I know some photographers shoot from the driver’s seat, but I know my limits, too well.

2. I always remind myself that I will discard most of what I shoot from a moving vehicle.

3. I frequently shoot through the front windshield. (This is a great motivation for keeping that windshield clean.) Yes, the windshield is another contributor to degraded image quality. But, shooting out the side window means you have to be more careful to avoid anything close to the vehicle. Even at high shutter speeds, you risk getting shots that are a partially blurred mess. (That being said, if you like the blur effect, you can have a blast shooting this way. On a couple of occasions, I played with this and got some fun pictures not to mention some great material for backgrounds.

So, there you have the confessions of a drive-by photographer. A woman who unashamedly squanders pixels and abuses digital shutter releases to selfishly shoot experimental photos destined for destruction. Just one more sad, but true story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Out of this World

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Would you believe that I just returned from outer space and needed some time to readjust to the earth’s atmosphere? No? Uh, how about I climbed Everest and needed a couple of days to recover? I have been on a top secret assignment with an organization that I cannot identify in a country I cannot name? Shoot. I was a finalist in the state skateboard championships? I took up bull riding and was out on the circuit?

Rats. I wish I had something exciting to report that would explain my absence. The truth is just plain dull. My doctor put me on an additional medication to even out my blood pressure. (I have been lucky. After years of listening to nurses marvel at my blood pressure readings when I went in for check ups, or whatever, the numbers went up. That didn’t happen until quite late in my life, so I can’t complain. What the heck, I just might, yet.) At any rate, the new medication produced some periodic wooziness that resulted in an opportunity to test the relative hardness of the carpet and the tile segueing from office to hallway. All I ended up with was a sprained ankle and a few aches and pains, but it certainly has cramped my style.

How much has it cramped my style? I have been watching television! Believe me, this is a profound change for me. Mostly these hours spent with the tube has reminded me why I don’t ordinarily spend much time in front of it. I think we have 250 channels with our Dish package, and approximately 240 of them are utterly useless. Channel surfing is clearly a male sport and I have never discovered its appeal; therefore, I am stuck with trying to find something that will distract me for a bit of time. But, hey, what are you going to do when you have trouble mustering thoughts that hang together? Reading? Out of the question. Sometimes, you need something to do the thinking for you. And, isn’t that what television is for?

Besides, I suppose watching the flickering light on the box is relatively harmless. The best part was getting to see one of my students in a rerun of NCIS that I happened to catch. Today, my brain seems to be working again—in spite of all those episodes of and House and NCIS. I am fairly certain that I detected the firing up of a neuron or two. It could be a false start, but I am hopeful. At any rate, I am willing to contemplate tackling something more demanding than a two-sentence comment on someone else’s post or comment.