A Day at the Rodeo

No trip to Texas is complete without a visit to the rodeo. So, while in Austin, I made sure to get my ticket to the final day of Rodeo Austin.

I didn’t get too many pictures of the rodeo itself (see future post re: needing a better zoom lens), but I did get some fun pictures of the prize-winning livestock. Enjoy!



As Seen in Callahan’s General Store

This past weekend, I was down in Texas. The following is a photo I took while in Austin, at Callahan’s General Store.

When I took this photo, I wanted to do it as quickly and as discretely as I could. This was because I was afraid of being seen taking pictures in the general store, where real Texans really go to buy their boots, their hats, and their feed.

Thinking more about this fear of being seen, I realized that I still need build my confidence when it comes to taking photos, and I’m just not sure how to get more comfortable doing it.

In some cases, having the fancy camera gives me more confidence to take pictures. For example, in a tourist setting, an impressive camera can help me fake that I know what I’m doing, and I like to imagine the other tourists are looking at me with envy, thinking I’m a serious photographer. This allows me to feel more comfortable getting up close, or taking my time getting that just-right photo. On the other hand, sometimes I’m afraid to call attention to myself and my photo taking, and I want to just snap the picture quickly from afar. Especially everyday scenes, where I am afraid to feel like an intruder.

How do I become a more confident photographer? How do I balance getting photos that are closer to the subject and more intimate with not overstepping boundaries of being an “outsider” or being that obnoxious photographer? Is this something other photographers grapple with?

I wonder.

Photographing Kids is Hard

Last month my cousin, who also recently got a Canon Rebel, asked me if I wanted to sign up for a photography class with her. The class was taught by Amy Tripple, (who does some gorgeous child and family photography), and was designed for parents who want to take better pictures of their kids. I figured although I don’t have kids of my own, it might be fun to learn some new techniques that I can apply to my own photography, and maybe even take some good photos of my friends’ kids.

During the class, I learned a lot about the buttons and features on my camera, and also some good tips for focusing on moving children. That said, some of the tips I found to be the opposite of what I need to do for the kind of photography I find myself working with most often. In order to practice my new skills, I was going to need to borrow some children.

Lucky for me, my boyfriend has the most adorable nieces and nephew ever. And they have a mom who likes to take a lot of photos, so they have a lot of practice at being models. That said, they are still living, breathing, real-life kids, and they’re always on the go. So getting some great shots of them can be challenging.

I started by trying to use the manual setting and getting everything just right to take the perfect photo. But, when they’re running from room to room (and the lighting is constantly changing), it starts to get a little difficult.

For example, I took this adorable photo when Annaliese ran into the bedroom, and before I could get the settings adjusted for the lamp that was sitting on the floor shining on her cute little face.

And even when I gave up and switched to the Portrait setting, it’s hard to get that perfect shot. Like, when Reese had her hands full of frosting, but by the time the flash went off, she was already mid-lick:

Eventually I gave up and just started taking a bunch of photos, hoping I’d get some good ones. And, I did end up getting several that turned out really great.

However, my absolute favorite one of the day was of Jake. In addition to being adorable, he can also be very active, or very grumpy, depending on his mood. So to get a picture of him not in a blur, and also with a smile on his face is quite an accomplishment.

That’s why this photo is my favorite:

My First “Published” Photo

Sometimes I believe I was born in the wrong country. I should have been born in Ireland. Or maybe I just love the Irish culture so much that I pretend I’m more a part of it than I really am. Either way, I’m one to text people at 6:00pm on New Years Eve to with them a “Happy Irish New Year” and I like to listen to RTE radio streaming online just so I can hear the DJs with Irish accents.

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, I was following along on RTE’s website to watch the Dublin St. Patrick’s Festival Parade. (Which, by the way, was really cool! They commissioned Irish author Roddy Doyle to write a short story about Ireland which was then turned into the premise of the parade.) During RTE’s coverage of the parade, they were also following other St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world, and were asking people to submit their photos.

Thinking it would be like many of the news stations in Chicago, who ask for viewer photos and then stick hundreds of them in a Flickr gallery, I decided to submit one of mine from the river dyeing.

After work, when I went back on to the website to see what other celebrations where happening, I found a very special St. Patrick’s Day surprise! My photo, along with my name and a little blurb, was plastered right on the front of the RTE St. Patrick’s Day live coverage! It was right below an AP photo of the White House, and given the same weight as Obama’s announcement to visit Ireland this May.

You can check it out here.

I’m pretty sure my photo was only posted because I was the only Chicagoan following RTE and submitting photos. But for a few minutes I was really excited to think that a photo I took was on Ireland’s biggest (I think?) website, for everyone to see.

And while I’m still a long way off from this, maybe it’s even a step in the right direction to accomplishing one of my Life’s List goals of selling a photo someday.

Learning about Shutter Speed: Water

When I first started trying to understand shutter speed and its effects, I remember seeing some pretty cool photos of a waterfall taken at various shutter speeds. The slower speeds showed the waterfall in a blur, and the fastest speeds showed the individual droplets of water. (You can see a good example of this here.)

I’ve been meaning to practice this myself by finding some moving water and playing around with shutter speed, but haven’t really had the chance. However, earlier this week the amazing Rich Chapman reminded me that if I made my way to Daley Plaza during St. Patrick’s Day week, I’d have a pretty amazing opportunity to practice with some festive green water.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I hope Rich doesn’t mind that I stole his idea for my first attempt at photographing moving water, even if it doesn’t even come close to his photo.

At some point I’d like to post photos of the same scene at all the various speeds, but in order to get this posted in time for St. Patrick’s Day, I just wanted to share one of the photos that came from my mini photo shoot yesterday.

I learned something else from this little experiment…

In the very little I know about speed and aperture, I knew that I needed to make the little hole open wider to make up for how quickly it was opening and shutting, in order to let in enough light. So, I had the aperture set as big (or small? This is the one where the numbers are backwards, right?) as it would go to accommodate for the fast shutter speed. However, the photo still turned out a little darker than I would like.

So, I guess this is the perfect example of a time when Photoshop or other post-processing is necessary.

My First Photoshop Experience

Until today, I have never used Photoshop to edit my pictures. I often tell people it’s because I feel like it’s “cheating.” There used to be a time where photographers didn’t have Photoshop, or computers, or even digital cameras. They took their photos on film, developed them in a dark room, and had to do a lot work up front to get their work to look spectacular.

However, I think part of the reason I’m so against it is because I haven’t learned how to use it. Photoshop and other editing programs don’t magically turn a crappy photo into an amazing one. It still requires a talented person to frame the shot, find the right exposure, work with the lighting, etc. Sure, technology allows us to “tweak” the photo to make it better, but that itself is an art form. This is especially apparent when you try to use Photoshop for the first time, as I did today.

Don’t get me wrong. I still kind of think there should be separate photo contests for photos adjusted in “post-processing” and those that were taken exactly as they appear. Or maybe when people put their shutter speeds and f-stop information on their photo, they should also indicate what editing tools they used. Maybe once I learn more about this tool, I’ll start to feel differently, but for now I’m still a bit of a skeptic.

That said, I decided today was the day to try my hand at the basics of Photoshop.

In the photos below, I didn’t edit the actual picture at all, but I taught myself how to add a border, add a text box with my name, “flatten” the image, and save the file as a jpeg.

To all the not-so-clueless photographers out there, what do you think? How did I do? What photo editing program(s) do you use? How much do you actually edit your photos? What skills do I need to learn in Photoshop? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Kiss Me, I’m “Chirish”

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago tends to take on a life of its own. We have parades and pub crawls. We have Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues. We even dye our river green! So, it’s not surprising that St. Patrick’s Day weekend also makes for a great time to bust out the camera and take some green-filled photos.

Yesterday I went downtown to watch the dying of the Chicago River — one of my favorite traditions. It was also one of the first times I have managed to get outside and take some scenic pictures since I’ve gotten my new camera. Trying desperately to master my camera, I wanted to take as many as I could with the manual settings. I struggled a bit at first to get the settings right, since I haven’t had much practice in the daylight yet. But in the end, I think I got some pretty decent shots.

I also did some playing around with the color accent feature on my PowerShot point-and-shoot. It lets you focus on one color (in this case, I picked green) and turns everything else black and white. It makes for a really cool effect, without any Photoshopping*.

In the slideshow below, the color photos were taken with my Rebel, and the black & white (& green) photos were taken with my PowerShot.


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*I feel it’s important to point out that there was no Photoshopping done to any of these photos. Everything is straight from the camera. A lot of people who haven’t actually seen the Chicago River dyed have a hard time believing it’s really that green. But it is.