Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bowl of Thankfulness

Sorry for the late Thanksgiving post, but better late then never right?  Just as we have done in years past (2008 and 2009) our family spent the month of November filling our bowl of thankfulness.  Every night at dinner we each write down what we are thankful for that day (no repeating!) and read them aloud on Thanksgiving day.  Every year the kids understand the concept a little more and I'm so proud that they really thought about what they are thankful for.  They came up with things much more meaningful then basketballs (what Ethan was thankful for 99% of the time last year).
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm so glad we started our bowl of thankfulness tradition.  We have so many things to be thankful for that dedicating one day to thank God for all our blessings just isn't enough.  And hopefully as the Christmas season begins my children will understand that they are already blessed with so many things that giving to others shouldn't be a big stretch.  Of course they are six and four so I know that we have awhile before the idea of giving gifts is more appealing then receiving them.

This was my first year officially hosting Thanksgiving.  I think we may have had it at our house in 2007 but I have no photographic proof nor do I really remember it (I had a two year old and one month old...cut me some slack!).  This was my first time roasting the turkey, that I am sure of.  It turned out just lovely, as did the rest of the dinner that everybody contributed to.  It's not Thanksgiving without a mound of mashed potatoes, the disgusting sweet potato casserole everbody but me and Brian loves, my favorite cran-raspberry salad with the marshmallow cream topping, and of course plenty of pie.  I'm a firm believer in high pie to person ratios, this year we scaled back to four pies to 7 adults and 2 kids.  If cherries weren't so expensive I would have added a cherry pie too.
And this year's sampling of thankfulness:
* Paper and Crayons -Ethan
* Rain -Kellie
* Having Friends -Grace
* Lazy Saturdays with Football -David
* "Golden Hour" Sunlight -Kellie
* The Bathroom -Grace
* My Bride finding and doing something she loves -David
* Eating Breakfast -Ethan
* David's Dungeons and Dragons Group -Kellie
* The Earth -Grace
* Chicken Noodle Soup -Ethan
* Mrs. Wagner -Kellie
* Pajamas -Grace
* Good Beer -David
* Quiet -Kellie
* Doughnuts -Ethan
* Summer -Grace
* Netflix Instant Watch on Sick Days -Kellie
* Visiting Friends -David

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas for Photographers

I'm a part of a women's photography group and we we met this morning and the topic of reasonably priced photography accessories to add to the Christmas list came up.  Most of us don't have families who are able or willing to plunk down large chunks of money for dream lenses (wishful thinking!) but there are plenty of budget friendly photography accessories and gear that you have a chance of finding under your Christmas tree!  Here's a list of ideas that won't give your husband a heart attack when they see the price:

1. Wireless Remote
Useful for self portraits, or even low light photography when you're using a tripod and slow shutter speed to reduce camera shake.  You can also get the wired variety, which I own, just know that wireless would be much easier and you're not tethered to your camera!  Make sure to get one that works for your camera make and model.  Here is one for the Canon Rebel series.

2. Gray Card
You want your gray card to be 18% gray, you can find it for $5 at Focal Point (our local photography store).  Useful for setting custom white balance, and since they're cheap there's really no excuse not to have one!

3. Reflector
I use mine a TON.  It's really a staple and something I bring to every photo session I have.  I even have a "low tech" one that stays in my kitchen just for on the cuff shots of my kids!  You can totally go low tech with this and use a white poster board or silver auto windshade, but having a real reflector is pretty nice.  You can find a bazillion of these on Amazon, they come in every size and shape under the sun.  I'd stick with a reasonable size to start out with, probably 32" or so.  Here's a link to just one of the zillions of options on Amazon.

4. Pop Up Flash Diffuser
There are several low budget alternatives to purchasing a pop up flash diffuser, but there's something to be said for easy and durable!  The Lightscoop, Gary Fong, and Lumiquest are all good affordable options.

5. The Lens Pen
Have you noticed any dust or smudges on your lens?  Funny spots in the same spot of every photo?  Then it may be time to clean your lens.  The Lens Pen (or similar knock off) is a good way to do it yourself that's not completely scary.

6. Camera Strap Cover
Sure you can use the functional but not very aesthetically pleasing camera strap that came with your camera and it won't affect the quality of your images one iota.  However there's something to be said about using pretty things, so a camera strap cover isn't very necessary but it sure can be fun!  They are also fairly easy to make, so you could even make them as Christmas presents to give yourself :)  My husband bought me mine from Etsy for my birthday and I love it!

7. Extension Tubes
If you'd love to experiment with macro but a macro lens isn't in the budget (darn!) then add a set of inexpensive extension tubes to your wishlist!  I've never experimented with extension tubes but they are similar to my ghetto macro technique, they just allow you to use one lens instead of two lenses with one held backwards.  The cheap ones will require manual focus (just like the ghetto macro technique) or you can buy the expensive ones with built in auto focus.  Of course if you're going to spend that kind of money you can probably go ahead and just buy a macro lens!  Here's a link to an inexpensive set of extension tubes for Canon and Nikon cameras.

8. Filters
There are a lot of different kinds of filters, some that do fun effects (starbursts etc) and others that simply protect your expensive lens!  Make sure when you add these to your list to specify the size filter you need (check the back of your lens cap to find the size).

9. Memory Cards
Who doesn't need more CF cards (or whatever memory card your camera takes)?  I prefer to use several smaller ones then one or two big ones so that if something happens to my card I still have some images to work with.  My preferred card size is 4gb which are pretty cheap!

10. Card Reader
I'm ashamed to say I only recently bought one of these handy devices and it is a lifesaver!  It zips the photos off my CF card in no time flat and is soooooo much faster then just plugging my camera in to my computer.  Seriously, if you dread pulling images off your camera because it takes forever you will want one of these!  I think this is the one I have, it's currently $10.54 which is so worth it.

11. Bokeh Kit
Want to play around with fun shaped bokeh?  Sure you can do it yourself by cutting out the shapes in perfectly cut out cardboard circles, or you can ask for this bokeh kit and get started playing right away!