Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Canon 6D

Does your brain hurt when you learn new things? I know at 48, mine does. I have put myself in the predicament of learning a few new things.

First, due to the untimely coma of my Canon 70D cropped sensor dslr, and having to send it in for repair, I have rented a Canon 6D full frame. The basics of the 6D were very similar to my 70D, but its the little things, like remembering to change the setting to shoot in RAW and not JPEG. It was a day before I realized that - oops!

Then there was a little glitch in my first full day of shooting with the rental camera. I was out on an adventure day, at the very same state park I was at the week before when my own camera died and I got rained on. Only an hour into my morning, I decided to use the porta potty (chai latte you know), just as I was finishing, my back decided to spasm and tightened up on me. I have had back problems on and off all my adult life. I can go years without problems, and then have several episodes within a six month time span. Thankfully due to my working out at the gym, the episodes are not near as severe as they once were (before the gym and this would have happened, I would have been lying on the floor of that porta potty unable to move, not a pleasant picture) and now they only last a day or two, before it would have been a week of couch time. But still two days of down time cut into my week of renting. I hesitate to go back to the same state park for a third time this week, but as I discussed with a friend on Wednesday, it will either be three strikes and I'm out, or third times the charm. I guess we will see...

The second thing I am learning is patience. I hate having to continually learn patience. 

The third thing I am trying to learn is Lightroom's Print Module, so I can make come custom templates for my blog. I have played around with the module before, but it has been a while, and if you don't use it you lose it. I lost it. 
L - Canon 6D -- R - Canon T2i
I was awake at 1 a.m. Friday morning trying to figure where to go to do the comparison shots I wanted to do with the 6D and my old cropped sensor Canon the T2i. Seeing is always believing. I don't think I got back to sleep until 4 a.m., but at least I came up with a solution - Windmill Island. I wanted someplace close, so I didn't have to drive far, but had interesting and varying sights. Also where it wasn't far to the car to switch cameras, there was no way I was carrying both, due to the back issue. 

I haven't been to Windmill Island since Tulip Time - a very popular festival here in our town. I always forget how beautiful the gardens are until I go, and then I think - why don't I come here more often? It is free to local residents. Note to self - add Windmill Island to my repertoire of local shooting locations. 

The top photo was shot with the Canon 6D full frame, the bottom photo shot with the Canon T2i cropped sensor. In both instances I used the 35mm f/1.4L lens. I stood in approximately the same place for each photo. Quite the difference. 
The photo on the left was the Canon 6D, the photo on the right the Canon T2i. I stood in the same place for both and processed both the same. 

I chose the Canon 6D to rent over the Canon 5D Mark lll mainly because of weight, the 6D being a bit lighter. My only concern was focusing points, the 5D Mark lll has 64, the 6D only has 13. Thus far it hasn't been a problem, and it makes me think about my composition. 

Canon T2i

I love using prime lenses. I think having shot a lot with my iPhone over the past few years has taught me to move my body instead of the lens. Now when I do have a zoom lens on my camera, I forget half the time that it moves. 

I extended my rental of the 6D for a couple more days, due to the loss of a couple of days, so I have a little more time, but thus far I would say the 6D is a winner. 

Update on my camera repair - I know that Canon has received my camera, they sent a lovely email, and it looks like it is still under warranty, but other than that I am still waiting to hear if they figured out what is wrong with it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I left my house shortly after eight o'clock, the sun shining and the temperature 64 degrees, perfect for a mid-September morning. My destination was a state park about an hour north of my house, located on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Just the week before I had restarted my adventure days. I felt like a kid in a candy store, roaming everywhere and seeing everything. This week though, I was focused on living the mission statement of my blog - Striving to find balance between intention and discovery. Last week there was a lot of discovery, this time there needed to be more intention.

I drove through my usual northward bound Starbucks for a Grande' Chai Tea Latte. As soon as I left the drive-thru window, I sniffed the small opening in the lid. The previous week, I was twenty miles up the road before I lifted the cup to my lips and smelled coffee instead of chai. I glanced at the label on the side of cup - Dark Roast. Not only did I not get what I wanted, I also paid way too much for something I don't even like. This time when I lifted the cup to my lips, I was greeted by the spicy scents of clove, cardamom, and cinnamon.

I arrived at the state park shortly after nine o'clock. This state park has a channel leading from Lake Michigan to a smaller lake, just as the state park does in my hometown. The channel was my destination. There are covered picnic tables along the water. I took my camera, Starbucks chai, notebook and pen and made a cozy place to write for an hour. I had a magazine article to work on, it wasn't getting done at home, so I was hopeful being by the water would stir my writing voice.

As soon as I had everything arranged on my makeshift desk, I heard the first rumble of thunder. It was coming from farther north, so I decided to wait and see if it would blow over. Then the second rumble came. I wanted some photographs of the channel before the rain came. I packed everything up, having only written a couple of paragraphs, and returned it to the car. I took my camera and set off down the channel sidewalk. Halfway down the walkway the skies opened up. I did a quick turnaround, unzipped my fleece jacket and nestled my camera inside. I got wet, but my camera was nice and dry.

I have been having intermittent problems with my year old Canon 70D for the last couple of months. The problem always seems prevalent in humid weather. The predicament is that all of the buttons on the back of the camera stop working. I pull and reinsert the battery and it will work for a time, but then stop again. Yet on other days, I can shoot all day with no issues. My camera was acting up that morning before the rain came, after the rain, it wouldn't work at all. I knew it was time to send it in to Canon.

Autumn is not the time I want to be without a camera. Fortunately, I do still have my old Canon T2i body. As I sat in the car, the rain beating down on the windshield, I googled the potential problem on my phone, and saw that I wasn't the only one. I also googled Borrowed Lens to see how much it would cost to rent a full-frame camera body for a week. I have danced around the idea of a full-frame camera for a few years now, I figured now was the time to give one a try.

The rain wasn't letting up, the day was a bust. But I will be back next week to try again with my full-frame camera rental in hand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Drive-In

The summer of 1974 I turned six years old, and at that point remained, blissfully, an only child. But within my mother grew my soon-to-be baby brother. This would be my last summer of blissful delight.

My mother worked second shift at the local hospital as a medical transcriptionist. Our mornings started slow, but our special time of day together was lunchtime. Most often those lunches were spent at home, sharing bowls of Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches made with Kraft American cheese on square slices of Wonder white bread, and grape Cool-aid to drink in plastic Tupperware cups.

Once a week we would get groceries and have lunch out. In 1974 there were mostly local diners and greasy spoons in our town. We had one fast food chain restaurant, Burger King, located downtown next to the movie theatre. I loved to sit on the orange, vinyl topped, chrome swivel stool at the window counter eating my Whopper Junior, and crispy, heavily salted french fries, watching the people come and go from the theatre.

But my favorite place to eat lunch was the Dog n Suds drive in. The concept of a drive in restaurant fascinated me. You couldn't go inside - Car Hops Only, you ate in your car. The menu was on a stand next to your car, you pressed a button and spoke into a silver metal speaker to place your order.

I would sit in excited anticipation in the passenger bucket seat of my mom's metallic blue, 1973 Ford Mustang, while we decided what to have for lunch. Shortly after placing our order, the car hop would come out bearing a red rubberized tray laden with Charco Cheeseburgers and "World Famous" Coney dogs, heavily salted french fries, and frosty mugs filled with Dog N Suds root beer, and hook the tray onto my mom's partially rolled down car window. I would carefully unfold two large paper napkins and spread them over my lap, praying no ketchup or mustard from my cheeseburger would spill onto my perfectly matched Garanimals outfit.

Our town no longer has a Dog n Suds drive in, and hasn't in many, many years. A few of them still exist. On a recent adventure day I happened to be near one, and thought it would be fun, for old times sake, to drive in and have lunch. Unfortunately my adventure day was on a Tuesday.

At first I was extremely disappointed, but as I stood in the empty parking lot, I realized what I wanted wasn't the food, but the opportunity to photograph a piece of my history and to tell the story.

I never liked root beer anyway, except with ice cream in it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beach Stories

I spent a lot of early mornings at the beach last summer. It was my perfect kind of summer, cool nights followed by foggy mornings. It didn't hurt that the cool mornings kept beachgoers away until at least late morning, long after I had already returned home.

This summer has been hot! The beachgoers staking their claim to their spot of sand real estate by eight a.m. I haven't been to the beach for even one early morning.

Things changed this week. Labor Day is past, the summer people have gone home, the children are back in school, and the temperatures are making a slow downward slide. But the best part is the overcast skies. I love gray moody skies and the calm colors of steely blue water. I harnessed up the grandpuppy, Findley, and loaded him into the car for exercise and socialization.

Last year I wandered with my camera looking for stories. I found remnants of stories, and if I was a fiction writer those photos could have been a springboard for some very interesting tales. But I am not a fiction writer and something was missing.

Wednesday morning when Fin and I were at the beach, I discovered what was missing - the human voice. I had hoped to gather those kind of stories last year, but it was always a near miss, except for the guy with the Hooked on Jesus hat who told me how he weighted down his wife's body and threw her overboard from his boat because she had Alzheimer's. I don't count that, that was just plain weird. This year with a cute puppy at the end of the leash, more normal people want to talk to me.

It started with a little boy named Henry whom Fin and I encountered on our way back from the pier. Henry was a tow-headed boy of two, wearing a fine forming-fitting navy blue life preserver. Henry had a tight clutch on his mom's hand, but as Findley and I got closer I could see him desperately trying to pull his hand away, the look on his face screamed excitement at seeing a puppy. His parents being good parents asked me if their son could pet Findley. Findley loves little kids and does very well with them. I made Findley sit and Henry moved close, eye to eye, mouth to mouth. Suddenly Findley's tongue darted out and gave Henry a sweet kiss on the lips. Henry giggled with delight. Findley sat, Henry petted and gibbered, while his parents asked the puppy's name, introduced Henry and told me how much Henry loves dogs. From the way Henry's hand gently stroked Findley's fur, that was very apparent. More people were coming along the pier so Findley and Henry said their good-byes, I could see the sadness in each of their eyes.

Shortly after leaving Henry and on our way back to the car via the channel, we came across two twenty-something girls trying to take a selfie with the Big Red Lighthouse in the background, it wasn't working so well. They saw me and asked if I would take their photo with Big Red in the background. I said sure, we'll trade, I will take their photo while they hold Findley, they said sure. So it came to be that Katie and Samantha had their photo taken at Holland State Park with the Big Red Lighthouse in the background, and Samantha is holding the leash to a stranger's golden retriever puppy. Katie told me that they were from South Bend, Indiana and were on a traveling adventure along the Lake Michigan shore. Girls after my own heart. We got to talking about photography, traveling and I told them I write a blog about traveling and adventures. Katie immediately whipped out her phone and wrote down the URL for my blog. Katie wants to start a travel website and Samantha wants to do a food blog. I told Katie to send me an email, I would love to hear about their travels and if they ate at one of the local restaurants I suggested.

This week I discovered that people are hungry to share their stories, they want to interact with complete strangers, they want to build community. What if each of us took a morning to interact with strangers and share stories? What kind of world could this be?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I pulled into the parking lot just as the golden light crept over the edge of the horizon.

I had discovered this sparkling jewel of a park this past spring while participating in an eight-week group walking program. I had explored the lower half of this park in years past, in the autumn and winter months. Always avoiding the warm summer months, certain that a large snake was lurking somewhere in the mown grassy paths waiting to slither across my foot and up my pant leg. The upper part of this park, where I was now, had installed wide, paved paths in the last couple of years. So much easier to spot a snake without the hinderance of grass.

Climbing out of the car, I reached into the back seat to unzip my camera bag. It had been so long since I had been out shooting landscapes with my big camera. I knew my camera bag contained my camera, which might seem obvious, but trust me I have unzipped that bag before to discover than I had left my camera sitting on my desk at home. I also knew there was a picture card in the camera, that has been forgotten before too, and I had an extra battery, just in case. 

What I hadn't given any consideration to was what lenses were in my bag. As I unzipped my bag, I remembered the last time I had used my camera was a few weeks before when I had done some head shots for a friend of mine at her house. There were not going to be any wide-angle, landscape loving lenses in that bag.

Just the day before I had watched a youtube video by David duChemin on Seeing More Creatively in your photography by embracing constraints. Pick one lens and shoot with it for the whole day. So I searched through my bag and settled on the 55-250mm telephoto lens. I have no idea why that lens was even in the bag, it definitely wasn't for the head shots, and it is probably one of my least used lenses.

My photography has run into so many constraints this summer; the heat and humidity, too much sun, not enough time, there is never enough time. I decided to finally embrace a constraint and see what this challenge could bring me. I put the 55-250mm lens on my camera and set off down the wide, paved, snake-free path.

What constraints have you been dealing with lately?

Friday, September 2, 2016

September Skies

Too often I let the days overwhelm me. They are filled with errands, appointments, walking step goals to meet; I never take the time to pause and see the beauty of the earth around me.

This afternoon I took a moment (in truth only five minutes) to drive to the beach, lay down on a favorite bench and snap some photos of the September sky. The clouds were beautiful. After a hot summer of cloudless skies, I look forward to September and the clouds that come with it.

I would have stayed starring at the clouds longer, but the moment was only a stop between errands, I had cold items in the car that needed to get home to the refrigerator.

Something that I plan to work on in September is creating more of these moments and making them last longer. I have also signed up for a new class - Blogging From the Heart offered by Susannah Conway. I took this class a little over three years ago and loved it. I need to find my way back to blogging from my heart, so I am taking the class again with some dear friends.

So here's to September, change is in the air, in more ways than one.