Monthly Archives: August 2009

A book review and showing off what I learned from it

The camera manual just wasn’t cutting it for me. Can we say dry much? So when Stephen and I took our birthday cash to the bookstore last week I decided that I was going to get a photography book. After perusing several it came down to two books, one was about photographing babies only and the other was Photographing Your Family: And all the kids and friends and animals who wander through too by Joel Sartore with John Healey from the National Geographic publications. Since the latter was more broad I chose it, but I think I want to go back and get the other book too because it looked like it had a lot of good hints and I liked the way it had little lessons throughout. For those of you on GoodReads, please excuse my reposting of the review, but I wanted to share it with everyone…

Every family has that one person who’s running around trying to document their lives, even the most seemingly insignificant moments. This book is for that person. Get it for them. Joel Sartore is a professional photographer for National Geographic and he will say all the things to this person that you’ve been dying to. Then he’ll give them a bunch of really great, practical, easy to understand photography hints so they can get the best photographs of your family.

Some of my favorites:

“If you’re living with someone, you have better access to that person than to anyone else on earth. That’s huge when it comes to getting great shots. But should you shoot everything? No way. In fact, you shouldn’t shoot most things. Bad light, bad composition, and sensitive subject matter are all red flags. There’s a time and place for everything.”

“Because you have unlimited time and access, your family photos should be the best photos you’ve ever taken. Just be discriminating. Remember, not everything your loved one does merits photographic preservation.”

“Believe it or not, I often construct my pictures from the rear forward. If I can’t make the background look good, I move on. You can really tell if photographers know what they’re doing by looking at their backgrounds. Are there streetlights and tree limbs sticking out of loved ones? That’s the mark of a rookie.”

“Being selective about what you shoot is tough, but it’s the key to making really interesting frames. Ask yourself, ‘Should I take a picture of that?’ and most of the time, the answer will be a resounding no because most of the time the light is too harsh, or the kids or the cat or the spouse are not really doing much. Think about why you’re taking these images. Are they to preserve some special moment? Are you going to show them to people? Is it worth their time and yours? Have you captured something funny, something joyous, something peaceful, something sad? It can all be good, but you have to give it some thought and time.”

“Shoot candidly. Nothing bores me more than seeing photos of people standing stiff and smiling just because the camera is on them. They all look like bowling pins. My mother’s camerawork is gawd-awful, for example. She has this little point-and-shoot thing and drags everyone out in front of it, then lines ’em up and shoots. It’s predictable and irritating.”

“There are many, many times when taking pictures is not appropriate. Ever see a fumbling, oblivious photographer draw attention away from a wedding ceremony? Not cool. Or how about the obnoxious click of a shutter during a school exam? Know your limits at solemn ceremonies. Ask permission to shoot sensitive subjects, even among family members.”

“Please remember, they’re just pictures. Put it in perspective. A hundred years from now, nobody will know you existed. Ever see people who are videotaping every moment of their kids game? Or snapping stills endlessly at school plays or piano recitals? Who in the world will be willing to look at all this stuff? Is that harsh? Maybe, but somebody has to tell the truth, and it may as well be me, an objective observer who has had to sit through way too many bad slide shows. It’s truly mind-numbing.”(less) “

So anyway, I’ve learned a lot and will be revisiting this book several times over to make sure I get the stuff down that he’s talking about. For now I’ve already started putting some of it into practice and really thinking about my photographs. This week I decided to mainly focus on the Av (Apperature priority) mode on my camera and specifically getting some fun and candid portraits. I pretty much kept my F value at 4 or 5 all week long. Now, just because I read a book doesn’t mean all my pictures were great or worth keeping. I did get some that I am much happier with and I feel like I’ve progressed a ton in feeling comfortable as an amatuer photographer.


This shot breaks all the rules… rule of thirds is definitely broken… her ear and the little wisps of hair next to it are what are in focus instead of her face… she’s cut off in weird places… etc. But I love it. I love the expression of absolute delight at doing her favorite thing: swinging.


My white balance setting was way off on this one, but I kinda fixed it in the processing phase. I also cropped it. She was laughing and trying to grab her papa’s mop of hair and he was really out of focus to the point where it hurt your eyes to look at the photo.

Love both of these, but wish his hair wasn’t all in his face! He’s getting it cut this weekend:

Anyway, hope you are enjoying the return of Eye Candy Friday as much as I am. 🙂

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Crocked Pork Tenderloin: Night two, pulled pork sandwiches

I’m not even sure this should count as a “recipe” because it is so ridiculously easy. Here goes, anyway…

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Ingredients
• Leftover shredded pork from last night’s meal
• A bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
• Sub-sandwich rolls
• Your favorite fixin’s and sides

Directions
Drench pork in barbecue sauce. Then, heat up in microwave or on the stove. Place pork on sub-sandwich rolls and dress the sandwich as you like. I had my sandwich with cheddar cheese and lettuce. Stephen preferred tomato over lettuce. We both had sweet potato fries on the side. Coleslaw or potato salad would have been yummy too.

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Week Forty Eight

Nothing really new to report except that Bean eats like crazy lately. For example this morning for breakfast she nursed for 20 minutes. Then she had a bowl of cereal and fruit as big as mine. Then she had an 8oz sippy of diluted juice. This has been going on the last month or so.

Last night during dinner Bean started laughing hysterically. We couldn’t figure out what she thought was so funny. She just kept laughing and laughing and we were trying not to look at her, or eachother and laugh more because that would make her laugh even more. We didn’t want to keep encouraging all this crazy laughter because we don’t want her to laugh a bunch and then choke on her food. We still don’t know what it was all about, but it was quite fun.

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Crocked Pork Tenderloin: Night one, carnitas burrito bowls

I am really excited about this recipe and the one I will be sharing tomorrow because they are both super easy things that a busy mom can make and get double the mileage out of them. Plus, since both meals are pretty different you will be able to appeal to those loved ones that refuse to eat leftovers (I am very thankful my husband isn’t one of those, but I know several wives/moms who have to deal with this problem).

Everything starts out using your crock pot to slow cook a pork tenderloin. You’ll use the meat for burrito bowls and then for pulled pork sandwiches. It’s going to be scrumptious.

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin
Ingredients
• 1 pork tenderloin (I’m not sure the weight of the one we used, but it was fairly small. I only have to make meals for two nights for two people though so choose the size based on your family and how much meat you think you will need to feed them for two nights)
• 4-6 peppers (I used 3 small red bell peppers and two Anaheim peppers. Choose according to your family’s tastes for spicy or sweet)
• 1-2 onions
• oregano
• ground cumin
• salt
• pepper
• hot sauce
• 1/4 cup chicken broth

Directions
Coarsely chop peppers and onion(s). Place in bottom of crock pot to form a bed for your meat.

Place meat on top of veggies. You may need to cut it into smaller pieces or fold it to fit. Pour chicken broth over top.

Season meat according to your family’s tastes with spices and hot sauce. For example, I’m not a huge fan of too much cumin, but I know that a bit gives a flavor that I’ll later sense is missing without it. As you can tell from the picture below I basically used a few dashes of each thing.

If your family likes things spicier, feel free to use a ton of hot sauce. If they like things milder, use a tiny bit or none at all.

Cover your crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Remove meat from the crock pot. Shred using two forks or whatever method you typically use to shred cooked meat. Add a little cooking liquid to the shredded meat and then discard the remaining contents of the crock pot.

Now you are ready to incorporate this yummy goodness into the first meal: burrito bowls with carnitas.

Everyone loves Chipotle, right? But not everyone loves spending $15 for two people to eat out. Ever since Steph shared the recipes for Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice and guacamole I don’t think we’ve eaten out at Chipotle and these homemade burrito bowls have become an almost weekly staple in our dinner menu.

I think I’ve come pretty close to the black beans recipe, so I’ll share it here. Then all you need is some shredded cheese, salsa of your choice (though Steph has said that she and Cale are working on the recipe for that yummy Chipotle corn salsa, so keep an eye out on her blog) and sour cream or whatever else you usually get on your “burrito bol” at Chipotle.

Almost Chipotle Black Beans
Ingredients
• 1 can black beans (do not drain and rinse them)
• 1 jalepeño, finely diced
• couple dashes of cumin, oregano, salt and pepper
• juice of one lime
• 2 bay leaves

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until warmed through. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s really, really easy recipe for pulled pork sandwiches.

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The new camera, the good and the bad…

Alright so this post is going to take the place of Eye Candy Friday for this week. I wanted to talk about my new camera.

A few months ago my dad let me go onto his commission points redemption site and pick out a new camera for my birthday because I had been complaining about how much I hated our Canon Powershot G5, specifically the lag time on it. Eventually it stopped being on backorder and it arrived at my door the week before my birthday.

After a lot of great input from all my photog friends I decided on the Canon Rebel XSi. It came with an 18-55mm lense with a built in image stabilizer.

So here is what I think about it after using it a couple weeks…

Things I like:
-No lag time. The shutter speed is really fast too. So great, especially when trying to photograph an on-the-go baby girl.
-The auto settings on here really annoy me. Which is kind of good because it is forcing me to learn how to do things manually and that will make me a better photographer in the long run.
-The color and crispness of the photos it takes is WAY better.
-I love being able to adjust my zoom with my hand on the lens body, instead of using a little toggle. I just find this to be so much more intuitive.
-Because I went from a Canon to another Canon a lot of stuff is the same.

Things I miss from the old camera:
-The easy to locate and adjust flash on/off button. On all the XSi’s auto settings you aren’t even allowed to turn off the flash (one of the things that annoys me about those settings). To do it in the other modes it is a bit of a more complicated process which involves going into the menu and finding the off place. I do not like this. On the PowerShot there was just a little button that you could push to turn the flash to always on, auto on, or off. I have never been a big fan of the flash because it always makes my pictures look overexposed. I like using natural light much better so having a complicated process to turn off the flash is a bit annoying.
-No video. I knew this before I bought it, but I still miss the ability to capture little videos. Guess we’re just going to have to get a little video camera now. 🙂

Anyway, thanks, Dad, for the camera. It is definitely an improvement over our last one.

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Week Forty Seven (a day late)

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Crumbling walls…

Recently, I’ve done some research about the mainline churches of America. Having mainly attended non-denominational churches, there were some things that interested me about these more traditional churches:

• More tradition. While tradition doesn’t save us and tradition for the sake of tradition is just vain repetition, it might be nice to go to a church that does have a bit of tradition. I really like old hymns and honestly don’t mind liturgy. Many churches try too hard to impress people with cool advertising, events, flashy media, etc. Sometimes simple is better. Give me old ladies and sewing circles any day.

• More separation between politics and the church. I tend to have a mix of views on politics. I can take any political ideology test and I usually fall pretty squarely in the middle. That is usually how I tend to vote. For me it really isn’t about voting the ticket. I don’t believe any of the current political parties in US politics have a right to claim to be the Christian or the more righteous of the two parties. Prior to Pat Robertson and the Moral Majority movement during the Regan election, Christians used to be split pretty evenly between the two parties. Carter is, afterall, a Christian too. I think both parties have their successes and shortcomings when it comes to issues the church should care about. So, I don’t understand why it is often implied or suggested that voting for one party or another is the more moral/right/Christian/etc. thing to do. And I really don’t understand when the church takes positions on issues that  don’t concern the church.

• Acknowledgement and accurate teaching of both church and US history. Newer denominations don’t tend to connect themselves with church history the way the mainline churches do and because of this, sometimes things seem out of context. Newer churches also don’t tend to find strong roots in US history. Since joining the church in high school, I’ve often been told by fellow Christians that the US was started as and always meant to be a Christian nation. When I explained what I learned all throughout elementary, junior high and high school is contrary to that position, I was told that my teachers and history books were wrong or biased to the liberal side of the political spectrum. However, when I read historical documents and find that the revolution was started by a bunch of rebels that got drunk together and torched English government officials’ houses, I have to question this position.  I understand that there were many devout Christians amongst our Founding Fathers, but we’ve never had a Christian state and I think the Constitution makes it very clear that we were never meant to have such a state in the First Amendment when it says that “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of a religion…” I think this is a good thing. Is there a single brand or denomination of Christianity that we can all agree on? Can you imagine living in a place like China where attending a non-government sanctioned church can get you thrown into prison?

• Valuing and not putting down education. Many non-denominational churches tend to place more of an emphasis on being called to served and tend to undervalue education. Whereas in mainline churches, education is emphasised as being very important. I’ve often heard the statement from mainline church friends that, “The world will still be there to save after you get your degree in divinity.”

• Preservation of church history, art, teachings, liturgy, music, etc. for centuries. To me, there is just something really deep about singing a song that perhaps millions of other Christians before me have sung for hundreds of years. Or looking at a beautiful sculpture, painting, piece of stained glass, etc. that was inspired by a great Biblical event and has been preserved for generations of people to marvel at and reconnect with that event.

• Positions on social issues easily accessible. It is difficult to find statements of belief on non-denominational church websites. In contrast, here is an example of a widely available position from the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) on capital punishment. Because there is no unified source of documentation, the views among the pastoral staff at a single church can vary greatly within a non-denominational sect.  So, you can go to one congregation and hear/experience one thing, and go to another of the same type and get something totally different depending on the views of the pastoral staff there (though most attendees will try to tell you this isn’t the case).

Unfortunately, many of these mainline churches seem to be in huge amounts of turmoil right now over the aforementioned social issues. Many have recently split (Episcopals), or are on the verge of/threatening a split (Lutherans, Presbyterians) as they consider legislation pertaining to social issues like openly homosexual clergy.

For example, this week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is having their big conference to vote on a variety of things. One of the biggest and most controversial pieces of legislation they are voting on is whether to allow openly and practicing homosexual clergy to serve in the church. Yesterday they decided to repeal the 2/3 majority required for changing the rules on this issue in favor of a simple majority. They voted on this issue at their last conference and the vote was very, very close. I think the fact that they are changing the voting requirements is a huge compromise and one that will result in the legislation getting passed. I also think statements like these from Rev. Peter Strommen who chairs the ELCA’s Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality, give us a further glimpse as to where the ELCA is headed on this issue:

“When a great deal of traffic flows on a critical social issue, the church inevitably finds itself wrestling with how to best understand, teach and articulate the meeting of faith and life’s realities, which undergirds a response.”

“We can no longer assume that people in our society, or even many in the church for that matter, hold a shared understanding of Christianity’s core beliefs, let alone those of Lutheran ethics.”

Personally, I find it disheartening that these mainline churches have managed to be a fortress of faith preserving history, art, teachings, liturgy, music, etc. for centuries only to have their mighty walls crumble to the pervailing culture in the last 50 years or so. Many are seriously hemmoraging members and I think in part that is due to the flock of people to the post-modern appeal of many modern non-denominational churches. Choosing to ignore what Scripture says, they are compromising their long-standing positions in an effort to bring back the people and the culture to their buildings.

There are many things I find appealing about non-denominational churches too and I pray that they embrace some of the strengths of the mainline churches instead of tending to focus on the next big thing. Maybe there can be a happy medium between tradition and new movements.

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