Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 1: Seemingly Interminable Weather Event = Whining

I swear, I've had a good attitude. Really, I have. All the way, up until now. I try to whine, sparsely, because I think I only have a certain number of "whines" allowed, and I want to use them wisely.

But what exactly does it mean when NOAH, the weather service, says "a seemingly interminably endless weather event?" I get the "40 mph wind gusts" and the "10 to 15 below" and the "windchills of 30 to 40 below, . . . significant winter weather event. . . substantial snow accummulation. . . " but what's this "seemingly interminably endless" stuff? And does that sound like scientific language to you?

So, I've made a decision. I don't want the extra second that we're getting tonight. I really, really want to give it back. I want mine on, say, . . . oh. . . July 15th! Noon. Because I'd much rather have my extra one second of 2009 in July, rather than during a "seemingly interminably endless weather event." Thank you.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 365: It's been a Wonderful Year. . .

. . . . in a Wonderful Life!

Who else is going to be doing the Photo of the Day (POTD) at this next year? It's been a wonderful year of learning, and I've really gotten to enjoy knowing so many of you, hearing about the little and big details of your lives, and sharing photo knowledge.

To all my friends and family, I hope 2009 will be a wonderful year for all of you!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 363: I'm Still Loving the Christmas Ornaments!

We put our tree up late . . . so I just don't have these photos out of my system yet! This next photo is one of my first attempts in using my external flash.

And here's a lovely mother-daughter photo on Christmas morning!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 361: Christmas, It's a tough job. . .

. . . but someone's gotta do it!

Bonnie looking exhausted.

And, note to self: Next time, twist arms and get family to schedule a time with a professional photographer.

Is something going on back there?

Why's Dianna bailing out?

OK, next time, no one's BEHIND me!!!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 356: Another Ornament

I just can't resist posting more photos of ornaments, now that we have our tree up!

And since I was asked to elaborate on item #2 yesterday, I will! (Not much arm-twisting there!) It was way back in the 70s when I was in my earl 20s and there were suicide hotlines, and we'd actually go out and see people in person. I took a call, thought I should have my partner and police back-up. We got to a hotel room, I knocked on the door, heard a muffled sound, and walked into the room. I saw this man standing there, holding a knife to his throat, covered in blood. Without thinking, I walked up to him and said something really inane like, "Oh, you hurt yourself," and held out my hand for the knife. So he handed it to me. I turned around, EXPECTING TO SEE BACKUP, like my partner, and the police. But no! These boy types, had simply put their hands on their frickin- guns and backed away to safety down the hall once I opened the door and walked in. I had to walk to the doorway, holding the icky knife and call them, and THEN they stormed the room and tackled the poor guy. Yeah. . . . not something I'd probaby do again or want my kids to do.

Isn't it funny how memory collapses and expands time; one minute you're young and dealing with crazy risk-taking, the next you're middle aged and thinking about CS3 and camera raw exposure levels?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 355: An Ornament & 12 Things that Turned out to Not be such Great Ideas After All

Just for fun, I thought I'd list 12 things in life that turned out to not be such great ideas after all. Life is just full of adventures, some which maybe needed to be thought through a tad more:

1. 1974: Take a job as cab driver shortly after getting my driver's license. Very shortly.

2. 1977: Taking a knife from a man who was about to cut his throat, and not noticing that the police back-up was running backing AWAY from the whole thing. (Actually, this turned out ok, but I just wouldn't advise it to anyone else.)

3. 1981: Moving my Honda Civic inside a U-Haul to California, and the following problems figuring out how to get it out of the U-Haul, without just driving it out and letting it drop to the ground.

4. 1981: Dropping our Christmas tree over the 3rd floor balcony.

5. 1984: Cutting 1 year old Scotty's hair ourselves, but having him take off his shirt, letting him eat a sucker. . . and then his freaking out when his black hair stuck to the baby drool on his belly.

6. 1985: Spraying WD40 into my gas water heater to try and loosen a valve. . . and having a scary visit from the fire department, smoke damage, buying a new water heater, and my husband coming home to see his two baby sons, wife, and the fire department all standing outside our house.

7. 1997: Filling up our car with gas. . . .before abandoning it in our garage when evacuating our town during the flood.

8. 1997: Filling up our refrigerator with fish to feed people who might need to stay in our house for shelter . . . and then abandoning the house, without power, for 2 weeks.

9. 1997: Chasing the burglar, who I had just surprised in my house, during the flood of 1997. . . .(but I'm still glad I did it because I got my wedding ring back.)

10. 2004: Throwing away a gas receipt while moving Brian to college in Missouri. . . and being stopped by the police for a $12 gas charge, accused of running the gas pumps, and having to drive 120 miles back to the gas station to keep from going to jail.

11. 2004: Throwing away a Metro receipt in France. . . and being stopped by the Metro swat team, and being fined lots of Euros for not having a receipt.

12. 2004: Putting my hand in the metro door in France to catch up with my family. . . and I'm alive thanks to 3 strong men who finally pried the door open, releasing me less than a second before the train pulled away. France does NOT have the safety devices that the US has!

Oh, there are sadly many more, but these are some that come to mind!

ETA: #13. My brother is probably right. The list should have included hitting him in the head with a dart because I thought that AIMING at him meant that I probably wouldn't hit him. (Then again, note that it DIDN'T originally make the BAD IDEA list :) )

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 352: Man & His Primitive Rituals

Ritualistic untangling and placement of glowing talismans on plastic tree. Circa 2008; origins unknown but speculated to have arisen in ancient cave-dwellers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 350: GingerBread Cookies

f/8 ~ 1/5"
ISO 400
tungsten wb corrected using WhiBal card
28-75 mm @ 28 mm

Maybe a little too much ginger. I may be the only one who likes eating these :)

Just a view out our windows. . . this does not even begin to capture the dominance of the blizzard out there! I read today that we live like kings. . . that with indoor heating, we can live a comfortable life even in the midst of life-threatening conditions, something completely out of reach of most of the people on the planet even now, and certainly in the recent past. Indoor heating AND internet connection!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 349: Santa's Watching

f/22 ~ 30"
ISO 400
tungsten wb
28-75 mm @ 28 mm

It's quite a day, here today. We've got below zero temps, 40+ mph winds, about 6" of snow. It's officially "Blizzard Ali" with no travel advised, church and business closings, pretty much all the interstates in ND closed down. . . But I did manage to get out to the local Valley Dairy store to buy some butter, because I HAD to bake!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 348: The Patient Bicycle

You wouldn't find me riding a bike during these kinds of nights. . . but my son rides his to work at night.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 347: Beautiful Poinsettas

Look at these most beautiful poinsettas! My doorbell rang, and there they were, with this card: "We love and miss you!. . . . Lee and Maria"

My brother, Lee, and sister-in-law, Maria live in the Chicago area, some 700 miles far, far away, and this gift at the door literally brought tears to my eyes. I don't even remember the last time I was in Chicago. . . . and I'm so hoping I'll make it this May to my nephew, David's hs graduation!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 345: My Twilighted Daughter

Oh. My son said his reference to a Vampire weekend was a BAND! I thought he was referring to the Twilight mania. Oh.

Well, my daughter is reading the book. . . so maybe she'll be impressed with my transformation of her????

(Isn't it amazing all the ways your kids can make you feel out-to-lunch?) Well, at least it seems to work that way in my house.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 344: My Twilighted Son

This is not very Christmasy, but I turned my son into a Twilight Vampire! Thanks, Valerie, for the instructions on I modified them slightly because I didn't have the specific actions. And thanks, Jess, for the suggestion to desaturate the lips further to make it look even better.

And thank you, by POTD buddies, who indulge all my rogue tendencies!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 343: Snowy North Dakota

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Another FEAR story! This one is not about cleaning my camera sensor, but about driving home from Minneapolis on Friday night, north on I29. . . . the stretch from Fargo to Grand Forks. It was treacherous! The speed limit is 75 mph, and when traffic drops to 40 mph. . . for no apparent reason, it's time to sit up in your seat, grip the wheel, and take notice.

The reason it seems like "no apparent reason" is because you don't always see the black ice on the road. For much of this drive, there didn't seem to be much snow sticking to the road, but this highly compacted, glazed surface slick covered the interstate once the temperature dropped and the moisture from a persistent, but light, snow flurry hit it.

I was one of the folks who initially saw nothing worrisome, pulled out of the slow lane of traffic and crept up to 45 mph. . . . and immediately went into a skid back and forth across both lanes. Fortunately, everyone backed off and I regained control, dropped back in line, and kept between 35 mph and 40 mph. But every once in awhile, a car would pass on the left, and like everyone else now, I would then slow down more, watch for the brake lights ahead, and proceed cautiously through the increasing white-outs .

At one point, there was a snow plow in the left lane going very slow, a car passing me on the left, and directly in front of me, half on the road, half off, a truck stopped, angled to the right, and lights off. I had to swerve to the left, avoid the snow plow, pray the driver to the left had slowed enough behind the plow, and make it through the narrow space around the truck! I don't believe that we should see God as an all-year Santa, and just get what we want, but believe me, I was saying many prayers, of hope for safety, of gratitude for the good things in my life, as I continued on!

Shortly after this, I saw lots of flashing lights, police cars, ambulances, and sheriff directing the traffic off the highway. As I approached, I saw a car front down in the ditch to my right, no lights on, no one tending to this. I slowed enough to roll down my window and tell the sheriff there was a car in the ditch , and he said "Just keep moving before you get hit. . . " I got to the exit, again rolled my window down, and told this sheriff what I'd seen, and that I was worried someone could still be in the car because no emergency vehicles were by it, and wonderfully he said they'd send someone to check it.

7 miles of the interstate were closed, and I snaked my car in a convoy up county roads, following a truck. GET A GPS!!!!! I know how to find my way from Fargo to Grand Forks! It's so straight, you could practically SEE GF 70 miles straight north. But there was something very reassuring about seeing and knowing exactly where the county road curved ahead of me, that I was in fact driving parallel to the interstate, especially when the lights of the truck ahead of me faded away.

Obviously, I made it home, and then heard endless reports on the news the next day about the number of accidents on the road that night. Apparently, the stretch that had been closed had 14 vehicles involved in accidents just prior to might getting there! I'm glad I took just a little longer in the Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis, reading about cleaning my sensor, to keep me from being IN the accidents!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 342: Terror in the Northern Plains: aka Cleaning my Camera Sensor

I have a tutor in my photography class at, and he pointed out something important to me the other day. I have dust bunnies! In my house, I knew that. . . they're everywhere! But he pointed out that in one of my photos, at a fairly small aperture (f/8), showing sky, the little specks on my photos were sensor dust and my sensor needed cleaning. Sure enough, as I looked back over many photos, I could see the little specks, especially at small apertures and when zoomed in. I decided to research cleaning my sensor.

Many sites said it was easy to do, but scary, because it's the camera sensor! (It's actually the filter over the sensor, technically.) The other option is to mail it in, and be without the camera for at least a week, and pay around $120. Sites also suggested that this is a routine thing that needs to be done after dusty environments, before major shooting events, and anywhere from every month to every 6 months. I've never cleaned mine.

I ordered the Giotto rocket blower, a Visible Dust sensor brush, and Visible Dust sensor swabs from B&H. But being the impatient person that I am, I then made some Unfortunate Decisions.

I picked up my little lens blower/brush, followed the directions in my Nikon D40 Field Guide by David Busch,went to Setup, Mirror Lock-up, exposed the sensor/filter and blew out the dust from the sensor. Except that's not what I did.

Because this little brush is definitely NOT the Giotto rocket blower, does not have the force of the rocket blower, and is basically blowing air past a dusty brush, I tripled the dust on my sensor. Here's a photo of sensor dust, shooting a sky, at f/18. Notice all the specks, blurs and even fibers. If you look at some of my previous posts, like the one with the guy in the cherry picker putting up Christmas lights, you'll see some of the sensor dust, at a larger aperture.

OK, now I was upset. And still a good week from cleaning supplies coming in. I was driving 350 miles to my daughter's concert, and decided to stop at a camera store in Minnepolis and see what they had to say. National Camera Exchange said they could clean the sensor for about $45, but it would have to be sent elsewhere, and I'd get it in about a week. (About a week, and 350 miles away from me!) They said they really discouraged anyone from cleaning their own sensors, did not sell supplies (although they had the Giotto rocket blower on their shelf) but would sell this sticky tape dust-off stuff. You're suppose to stick the tape to your sensor and lift it off. I opted out of this, because I'd read that goo could be left behind. They did think that the rocket blower on a regular basis was helpful.

So then, on my way home, I stopped at Mall of America, and went into the Ritz Camera store. Here, the employee did say that because of liability issues, they could not recommend that people clean their own sensors, but that many sites and individuals see it as a perfectly practical thing to do, and certainly not as profitable for the stores that would like to clean your camera for you. This person also said, though, never to use anything to blow air into the camera because it would introduce static electricity and make more things stick to the sensor. (I hadn't heard anyone else say this. . . although MOST DEFINITELY NEVER, EVER, BLOW COMPRESSED CANNED AIR into your camera. It'll leave all kinds of residue behind. Think of the liquidy stuff that comes out when you spray off your keyboard!)

But I bought this at the Ritz store. The directions encourage using their little vacuum cleaner product in conjunction with this, but I'd read elsewhere that that wasn't considered particularly effective.

So, then I got home, wanting my camera to be better, still needing to wait 5 days or so, and I, foolishly or not, pulled out my foot pump for filling up my Pilates ball. The air pressure felt about the pressure of the Giotto rocket blower. . . and I followed the directions to access my sensor. With a fully charged battery, lots of light, minimal coffee, I turned on my camera, went to Setup, Mirror lock up, pressed OK, took off my lens. . . I now had access to the sensor/filter. Holding the camera down, I used the air pump to blow loose dust out (or around. . . whatever.) I then put the camera lens back on it, and turned off the camera. Turning it off then lets the mirror fall back in place over the sensor. I'm not sure this was the best thing to do. . . there could have been dust and residue in this pump itself. I'm just stubborn like this and wanted to see. I also know that I have a Nikon D40 camera that is not a top-of-the-line camera, and that if I messed things up, would result in me being so traumatized that I would talk in gibberish for the rest of my life. And besides, then I'd be forced to mail in my camera to see if it could be cleaned professionally.

I went outside and took another photo. It was dramatically improved, but I could still see dust.

Next, I repeated the process, exposing the sensor/filter, opened the Wet portion of the wet-dry swabs, and carefully swabbed from left to right, at about a 45 degree angle, making sure it was perpendicular to the sensor as I reached the right side. You have to make sure you have the right size swab for your camera. This took two passes, so one side of the swab was for one pass; I used the other side for the 2nd pass.

Then I opened the dry swab, basically repeated the same process, sort of sponging up the liquid. I read that you should use pen-like pressure, like you're writing something.

This is a photo of the sky, after I cleaned the sensor, now at aperture f/32. If you click on this, makeing it larger, you'll see there's still dust visible. But much, much, much less. And since I don't often shoot photos of something bright, like the sky, at f/32, and know where to look for dust specks (to clone them out), I finally decided this was good enough for now.
Here are a couple of sites I found helpful in helping me think about what to do. I know that from now on, I'm going to be much more careful in cleaning dust off my lenses BEFORE I put them on the camera, and to blow out the dust periodically.

I would very much like to hear how others have dealt with the whole sensor dust issue! And if this were your sensor, in the last photo at f/32, would you give cleaning it another try, or not be perfectionistic about it and leave well-enough alone?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 341: Random Christmas Foo-Foo

This is some pretty Christmas bling in the hotel lobby in Northfield, MN. I attended Dianna's most incredible choir concert at St. Olaf College this past Thursday. This was the most incredible concert I've ever attended in the all the years of attending my children's concerts! I hope to pull it up on-line later at their website. It's incredible how hard the students work in preparing and rehearsing for these concerts. . . and they're scheduled just before finals! People stand in line for hours trying to get tickets!

Tomorrow, I hope to post my Cleaning-my-Camera-Sensor journey. I entered into the jungles of fear and darkness in tackling this! (OK, maybe not that dramatic, but it WAS nerve-wracking!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 339: Snow Buddy

f/2.8 ~ 1/4
ISO: 400
28-75mm @ 75 mm

Christmas Carols for the Distressed
1. Schizoprhenia: Do you Hear What I hear?
2. Multiple Personality Disorder: We Three Kings Disoriented Are
3. Dementia: I think I'll be Home for Christmas
4. Narcissistic: Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me
5. Manic: Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and . . .
6. Paranoid: Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me
7. Borderline Personality Disorder: Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire
8. Personality Disorder: You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell you Why
9. Attention Deficit Disorder: Silent Night, Holy ooh, Look at the Froggy. . . can I have a chocolate. . . Why is France so far away?
10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

With apologies to anyone truly distressed. . . .