Photography Study: Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum

Posted by on May 30, 2012 | 10 comments

I think I’m starting a new series!  I am so in love with photography it’s not even funny.  After attending my photography class a few weeks ago I am taking so many more photos, and even loving my mistakes, because now I understand what I’m doing wrong.  So every once in a while I’m just going to post photos I’ve taken.  Sometimes, like today, they’ll be grouped and themed, while others will just be a photo dump, of sorts.  This series is going to be for personal reasons just as much as a blogging thing.  I want to keep track of my progress, and this will be an easy, visual way for me to see how, when and where I improve.  Huzzah!

These photos were all taken in the same place.  I went up with my family to check out the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum as a potential location for a festival in the early fall.  I had never even heard of this place, but I was instantly happy that I brought my camera because it was rich with fun things to take pictures of, and it was a beautiful day.

This place is unlike any other place I’ve been in San Diego.  It’s not really even in San Diego- it’s in Vista, which is way north county.  It felt very rural when we got there, and it was a bit like stepping back in time.  We even spoke to a man who worked there who was literally bleeding from an engine repair injury while he spoke to us.   No big thing- just bleeding.

I was also disappointed- my grandpa was a steam engine connoisseur and would have loved this place.  He visited me several times before he left us in 2004, and I wish I had known about this lovely, quirky place to bring him.

I also learned a valuable lesson:  check your settings!  I forgot that the evening before I had been at Le Diner à San Diego, and my friend, Brent, had used my camera for a few shots.  When I started taking photos at the museum I was wondering why they didn’t look the way I thought they would.  Then I realized that Brent had put my lens in manual focus, and I also hadn’t adjusted my ISO for daylight. Whoops!  Once I did that, I was off and running.  Lesson learned!

Check me out- I’m doin’ good, right?  :-)


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How To Be A Photographer

Posted by on May 21, 2012 | 5 comments

I’ve been wanting to learn how to be a photographer.  More than just a point and shoot camera kind of gal.  For my birthday in March, my husband scraped together enough funds to buy me a new {used} camera, and I’ve been failing horribly.  Even in auto mode I felt like I was taking horrible pictures.  It took me two weeks just to figure out how to take auto photos with no flash.  …Yeah, it was bad.  If you want to see some examples of some awful photos I’ve taken you can check them out here, here, or here.  That’s just a few.

A few weeks ago, my friend Tonya of Create-Celebrate-Explore called me up and said, “I found a photography class.  Want to go?” Um, let me think.  Heck. YES!  And folks, let me tell ya- it was amazing.  I needed this experience for so many reasons!  It was so great to get away for a day and focus on something, learn a new skill, and feel confident about it.

This past Saturday Tonya and I headed up to Santa Ana.  The class was put on by the lovely and amazingly friendly Cynthia Shaffer.  Cynthia was so welcoming, and we immediately started talking as if we had known each other for years.  She’s just that easy to be around.  Another nice thing was that there were four people signed up for the class- we got a really personal experience.  Cynthia said that there have been as many as ten participants, and even that is manageable, but I’m still glad we had a small group.

The class was put on by Studio Crescendoh.  If you haven’t checked out this place and you live in So-Cal, go check it out.  They offer classes in all sorts of art mediums.  I went up a few months ago with my friend Dana and we were so taken with the lovely people and atmosphere of this little gem.

The format of the class was wonderful.  Everyone started at square one together.  Cynthia gave us a tour of our cameras- we were accessing parts I didn’t even know existed.  There was lots of, “Hey! How did you do that?!”  After the intro, she talked about all sorts of fancy photographer terms like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.  I understood all of these things individually but didn’t really understand how to sync them all together to be…. a real photographer.   All of a sudden under Cynthia’s instruction… I could take pictures!  We spent some time in the studio- there were tons of things to take pictures of.  Then, after lunch we went on a walk and Cynthia showed us more about taking photos outdoors, metering light, and taking portraits.  It was so great.  The day ended with a look at photo editing.  When we left my brain was on overload, but in a good way.  Below are some of my favorite photos that I took.  With my camera.  Like a real photographer.


This lovely little candle cozy is in one of Cynthia’s crafting books.   They are so sweet, and a great first subject.

This was a great photo where we talked about how to position and light things for studio shots.  Cynthia takes a lot of photos for craft and art books (many of which she made herself), as well as doing portraits and events.

I got to use one of Cynthia’s lenses for this photo.  It was a long lens, so I was probably standing a good 15 feet away from these little shoes.

This is the ceiling in the old building that houses Studio Crescendoh.  It’s so unique, and a good photography study- it’s hard to get bright colors to show when they are surrounded by black.

Some paintings on the wall inside Studio Crescendoh.

On our walk outside we came to these trees; their bark is like sheets of paper- so cool!

One of my favorites- dripping water!  I also had fun editing this photo.  I also just stared at it a lot.

This is just outside the studio- I love the colors of this art against the bland sidewalk.

The lovely Tonya.  She would not say as much about herself, but she is lovely.  Yes, Tonya.  You’re lovely.  And now you’re a lovely photographer.

This is Beth.  She is super sweet. (Beth, if you’re reading this- I can’t find your blog- send me a link!)

This is Jenn.  She’s also super sweet.  She also has a blog.  You can see it here.

The biggest lesson for me in this was that when you want to learn something, don’t spend your time futzing around with trying to do it yourself.  Ask a totally awesome professional to help.  This class was worth every penny and more- and it wasn’t even that expensive!  If you want to see what other classes Studio Crescendoh offers, click here.


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Christmas Week: Our DIY Christmas Card

Posted by on Dec 14, 2011 | 1 comment

I had this rosy picture in my head of how our Christmas card photos were going to look this year.  I would put my plan into action, the kids would perform for us, we’d get some stellar pics, and hooray!  Cute Christmas pics!  Ahem.  Well, even if things weren’t in our favor, it still turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

We decided not to get professional photos done in order to save some money.  So I went and found some cute Christmas pjs (something I would have done anyway), some white sheets at Wal-Mart (I have a love-hate relationship with that place), and also a few props.  Remember my glitter letters I shared with you a few weeks ago?  I tried to use them.  Didn’t work out.  Turns out 4- and 2-year-olds do not work well with props (for the most part).

Timing was difficult.  My husband, who dutifully knew he was needed to help, was sick.  Thanksgiving came and went and I was getting desperate to get it done.  The weather was also a factor- it was either raining or super cloudy, and I wanted outside light.  Finally the stars aligned…  Not really- I just saw the sunshine and started setting up even though my husband was still sick.  Sorry, honey.

My big take-away from this:  I have SO MUCH to learn about photography, and I REALLY REALLY REALLY want a *real* camera.

I used two sheets to set up a sort of outdoor staging area.  I hung one from a tree branch, and another I laid on the ground.  I covered our Bumbo with white for Miss Em.  I got the props, set the ISO on my camera to “high,” and started clicking.  Here’s an outtake so you can see what the set up was kind of like.

My wedding photographer said to me at some point, “All you want is one great shot.  If you get one great shot, you have accomplished your mission.”  It was slim pickins, but we got some good ones.  I started editing in Photoshop and created our card.  Many thanks to Rita at the Coffeeshop Blog– her green freebie is my background.  I found it here.

Here’s what it looked like as a digital file.


The little props we used I found here via Pinterest.  Where else, right?  Coincidentally, the best shots of the kids were when I had them lay down on the sheet rather than sit or stand.  Go figure.

The next part I wanted was an insert.  I saw this on Pinterest and wanted something similar, but knew I could never find something online that would put it together, so I started looking at fonts.  I decided on Budmo and Honey Script.  I made a list of our top 10 for the year, and this is what I came up with.  I. Love. It.

The last phase was printing.  I didn’t want a flimsy photo this year.  I wanted a nice thick print.  My friend Amy over at 10:02 told me that I should try Mixbook. They turned out so nicely and are exactly what I wanted.  The best part?  Mixbook sends you EXTRA ENVELOPES.  And not just 2 or 3- there were at least 10 extra.  Awesome!

For the “Top 10” insert, I went to Office Depot and had them cut down a bunch of cardstock.  I think I had 125 cards made.  Guess how much it cost to have them cut for me?  Including the cardstock, it was less than $8.  Super cheap.  I am so, so happy with this.  It will probably be a new thing for us.  It was honestly easier than a letter and so much more fun to do.







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Picture Frame Gallery

Posted by on Jun 3, 2011 | 2 comments

We have a ranch-style house (I think).  It’s all one level, which I love, and it has a loooooong hallway down the bedroom side.  We’re talking 30+ feet.  Really long.

When we moved into this house, which my husband grew up in, we had tons of projects, so for quite a while this one sat by the wayside, waiting to be done.  I had lots of thoughts about how to hang pictures, but it wasn’t until I saw this idea on Martha’s website that I got my rear in gear and starting putting this together.

Here’s the before, with just our small photo gallery that my mom gave me from Red Envelope.  (I actually need to email them because some of the frames aren’t holding up…)  Many apologies for the lighting- there is very little natural light in this hallway.  We hope to put in skylights someday, but until then…

And here’s the after:  voila!

I really love the end result.  Here’s a little bit about my process.

This was a very overwhelming task now that I look back and think about it.  Because of the layout I decided to do things in a way that felt a little bit backwards- I didn’t even think about what pictures to use- I just collected frames.  I wanted the frames to be uniform in color, and most of them were black.  But we were definitely on a budget and I didn’t want to buy frames unless I needed to, so I went through our huge collection of unused frames and pulled any that were black, or useable, but not black.  Then I spray-painted the ones that were not black.

I did have to make a trip to get a few more- I chose to hit up Wal-Mart.  My theory on frames is that once they are on the wall, it doesn’t matter if it was $3.00 or $30.00- it’s a frame.  This was a good thing, because Wal-Mart has some cheap frames!

I followed the directions on Martha’s website pretty much verbatim.  The one thing that I was very glad to have was the laser level with 3M Command Strips- that way I could easily make sure the dividing line was/is level.  Lots of painter’s tape was involved as well.  Lots.

Once I had the frames ready, I taped off the dividing center line.  Then I grouped the frames into four groups so that I wouldn’t have two identical frames right next to each other.  This made hanging go a bit faster because I didn’t have to stop and think-  just measured, taped, nailed and hung.  It took several hours to do.

(horrible lighting- sorry!)

Once the frames were up it was time to think about pictures.  I didn’t want them to be haphazard- I wanted each row to have it’s own theme.  I came up with this formula (pardon the elementary-ish Photoshop skills):

Then I started a folder on my laptop and dumped photos into it whenever I had a chance.  I used Photoshop Elements to print a contact sheet with little thumbnails of the possible pictures, and I taped them onto the frames so I could go over them with Michael and we could decide.

(our whole hallway looked like this for quite a while)

I had most of my family history pictures, but I had to coordinate with Michael’s mother and father to get his side.  Once the last few pictures went in it was like our house was complete (in a few ways, at least).

Did I leave anything out?  Let me know if you have questions- this was so great for this super long hallway.  How do you like to hang your picture frames?

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