Day 59—The Daily Grind

I spent the day with Linda booking accommodations for Italy. After 7 hours of looking at hotel websites, Trip Advisory options, customer reviews and comments, and comparing prices and amenities, my brain is fried. I just want to go to bed. But, oh yes, that picture of the day thing. As I poured some fresh coffee beans into my burr grinder to get my morning coffee ground and ready to brew, and I inhaled the intoxicating aroma of those luscious beans, I knew it was this or nothing.

Lens at 130mm
ISO 3200
f/5.6
1/30
WBA
SOOC

Day 58—Is It Soup Yet?

I’m making Butternut Squash Soup today. I thought the ingredients would make a nice composition.

It took me almost 30 minutes, though, to get the lens to start to focus properly. This happens to me occasionally with the auto focus lenses, usually if I’m too close to a subject. I don’t know what was happening today, but no matter what I tried, the auto focus mechanism in my 35mm lens was constantly seeking correct focus and it wouldn’t allow me to take a photo. I can usually overcome this annoying problem by turning the camera off and on again but today, that didn’t seem to work. I changed aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, my position, and my distance from the subject, to no avail. I was about to set the lens to manual focus when it started to function properly. I don’t know what was happening but I’m adding that puzzlement to my growing list of puzzlements about the camera.

35mm Lens
ISO 800
f/1.8
1/80
White Balance set to Incandescent
SOOC

Day 57 — Big Bite

I love Fuji apples. As I looked at the apple after taking a huge bite of it this morning, I immediately thought, “photo op!” and grabbed my camera which was miraculously mounted with my 35mm lens and set with ISO, f/stop and shutter speed close to what I needed. Even the White Balance was set to incandescent. When will that ever happen again? I flipped the lens cover off with my right hand, turned the range hood light on, focused, and took a few shots.

The shots weren’t perfect. I needed to tweak the exposure a little and I cropped this shot but I managed to avoid getting sticky on my camera. And there’s bonus bokeh! I couldn’t ask for more. And it looks good enough to eat, which I did.

35mm Lens
ISO 400
f/1.8
1/80
White Balance Incandescent

Cropped photo and increased exposure +.85.

Day 56—I Need a Five Letter Word for . . .

I start off every morning with coffee and the newspaper and that includes my daily dose of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle which gets progressively more difficult each day the week. On Friday, the puzzle is exponentially more difficult than on Thursday and on Saturday, it’s impossible. When I started it this morning, I quickly filled in part of the upper right quadrant, unusual for me on a Friday and equally unusual, it seemed vaguely familiar. I looked at the puzzle number, 0121, and realized that was the puzzle originally printed in the Times on January 21. I work the puzzle in the Sacramento Bee, printed five weeks after the original is printed in the New York Times. As it happened, on that day, I bought a New York Times at the Houston, TX airport and worked the puzzle while I was on an airplane for several hours, plenty of time to figure it all out.

Since I had already worked the puzzle, I didn’t complete it today. But I thought it would make an interesting white balance challenge. It proved not only interesting, but difficult. The paper was under incandescent light with natural daylight from a window. I tried Cloudy, Sunny, Incandescent and Auto white balance settings with slight changes in the color graphs but all were unsatisfactory. I used the Incandescent setting in this photo, but I still had to warm it up in Aperture.

35mmLens
ISO 800
f/1.8
1/60
White Balance set to Incandescent

Day 55—Engine No. 5050

I thought a good photo for the day would be the 55MPH speed limit sign because today is Day 55 of this project. However, that seemed a little dicey, what with having to stop on the freeway and all. Plus, it was miserably rainy. I met with my tax guy this afternoon and he suggested I photograph their sign. I took a couple of shots but was not happy with those. On the way home, I approached the Roseville Rail Yard and a long string of bright yellow Union Pacific engines appeared, stopped in their tracks so to speak. The color was bright and cheerful and I quickly forgot my tax concerns. I pulled over and took several photos. If it hadn’t been pouring, I would have walked down the road to get the full effect of the long string of engines setting there, but I wanted to stay dry. As it was, the rain blew in through my open car window and quickly puddled around the window and lock mechanisms in the door and blew onto the camera lens so I abandoned the effort. When I got home, I realized that one of the engines I photographed was No. 5050, as close as I was going to get today to 55. So, here is Union Pacific Engine No. 5050. If you look closely, you can see the rain falling, especially in front the brown parts of the engine.

I increased exposure, highlights and shadows in Aperture to bring out the clouds and brighten the engine a little.


Lens at 48mm
ISO 200
f5.6
1/160
AWB

Day 54— Just a Little Squirrelly

After stopping at the IRS (aarrggh!) to pick up some forms, I found myself near a park we used to ride our mopeds to in the spring. I hadn’t been there in over 20 years so I pulled in and thought I’d try to get a few photos of the mallards. A couple of California gray squirrels were frolicking nearby so I took a few of them, too. This guy really hammed it up for me.

Lens at 200mm
ISO 200
f/14
1/60
White Balance set to Sunny
SOOC

Day 53— I Cannot Tell a Lie

I’ve been thinking about George Washington today. Yesterday was Presidents’ Day and poor George has been lumped in with all US Presidents, great, good, mediocre, and forgettable, and he is no longer given individual national recognition as he once was. Today is the 279th anniversary of his birth. I’ve always liked old George and the cherry tree myth (or was it?) and I thought I would honor George myself by photographing cherries. I brought home dried cherries from Wisconsin and I have a large jar of sour cherries that might some day become a cherry pie that I bought at Costco. The dried cherries are shriveled and look like raisins, not cherries, so that didn’t seem appropriate. The jar of sour cherries is from Bulgaria, not the USA, and I didn’t want to use a former Soviet republic to represent George. I thought I might have to photograph a hatchet instead— well I still might!— and then I remembered a framed painting I had of some cherries with water drops. I painted it nine years ago as practice for a project I never completed and ended up framing it because I needed something to hang on a wall. Clearly, my obsession with water drops predates my current obsession with photographing water drops!

My challenge today was to photograph this painting without removing it from the frame so I had to contend with glare from the glass. I used my polarizing filter because I read that it reduces glare off reflective surfaces, allowing you to see beyond the glare. I laid the painting on a table and placed a shade above it to keep reflections to a minimum. And I set the White Balance to shade. I took several photos with the polarizing filter set one way and several set the other (dot up, then triangle up) not knowing which setting was the polarizing one (do I need help?). Photos taken with the triangle up show the rough texture of the paper; photos taken with the dot up still show the texture but not in as much detail. Hmmm. I think the polarizing filter works. But not for this situation. Showing more detail in the textured paper seemed to wash out the background. So I chose a photo with the polarizing filter set with the dot up. To make sure which setting was which, I went outside and took six photos of the white pear blossoms with the blue sky in the background, three at each setting. The sky in the photos taken with the triangle up is much more intense than in those taken with the dot up. I finally have my answer about the polarizing filter. My other issue was depth of field. The painting was on a horizontal surface and I was not standing directly over it, so, because I was using a large aperture, parts of the painting tended to be out of focus. I focused on the middle cherry so the droplet at the top of the painting is very slightly out of focus. The photo also shows all of the spatters and smears of paint that are in this less-then-perfect depiction of cherries.

35mm Lens
ISO 1250
f/1.8
1/50
Cropped

Day 52—They Call Me the Wanderer

Well, I’m not Dion or a Belmont or a wanderer exactly, but this variety of hardenbergia violacia is called the “Happy Wanderer.” The flowers look like cascades of tiny sweet peas. This evergreen blooms briefly in late winter on my fence and is a welcome harbinger of spring.

Today, I experimented with white balance and once again am puzzled by it. It was overcast when I took these photos so I set the WB to cloudy. The colors look washed out in the camera’s LCD viewer, so I changed from the default Cloudy and fiddled with changing the colors within the Cloudy setting. This one had the most realistic colors but in some shots I took, the colors varied quite a bit at the same WB settings. Sigh.

Lens at 200mm
ISO 200
f/5.6
1/160
White Balance at Cloudy, A1, M3
SOOC

Day 51 — Vini Rossi e Bianchi

My friend, Linda, and I are going to Italy in September. Today we started to make hotel reservations and have booked accommodations in Zurich and Chur, both in Switzerland and in Milano and Sinio, both in northern Italy. We’re meeting again on Wednesday and hope to finalize our hotel reservations in the Cinque Terra, Firenze, Sorrento, and Venezia. We went out for a celebratory lunch after making so much progress on our trip planning. Of course we had to have our vini rossi e bianchi (I’m the rossi, Linda’s the bianchi).

Lens at 32mm
ISO 400
f/4
1/40
Cropped

Day 50— I Really Don’t Know Clouds At All

Or polarizing filters, either. I thought to try out my polarizing filter to see how it intensified the blue sky and brightened the clouds. I learned nothing because I couldn’t figure out which way to turn the filter to achieve the polarizing effect and I couldn’t see the difference through the lens, I presume because the sky isn’t blue enough today nor the clouds white enough. The filter has a dot and a triangle which signify something. I just don’t know what. The clouds were quite striking, though, and I ended up tweaking this photo in Curves, increased the contrast just a bit, and moved the color levels a bit to intensify the blue. I’ll figure out my polarizing filter another day.

70-300 mm lens set at 70mm
ISO 100
f/22
1/100