How was YOUR weekend? Ours was packed!
This weekend was the Western Carolina University “Tournament of Champions”.
And we invited the grandparents to join us for a GoodNCrazy weekend in the Great Smokey Mountains.
Please take a close look at my Dad’s hat… it was my birthday gift to him.
(Hint: My mom’s name is Virginia… come ON! That’s FUNNY!)
I’m pleased to report the NAFO Marching Band out of Fort Mill, SC claimed 2nd Place overall out of 23 bands. It was a long day —both sunny and hot during the day and DANG cold by the end of the night!
This year’s theme is based on ‘Superman’ —called “A Hero Among Us”.
The shield on their uniforms and red capes give it away.
My kid plays the clarinet. Good luck finding her!!
In this photo (just before their show starts) she is the 3rd one back on the 30 yard line. And that’s it. I can’t find her once the show starts and they put on their Shakos (weird hats). The kids are all wearing suit coats over their uniforms… dressed as Clark Kent at first. It’s such a fabulously entertaining show this year!
Clingmans Dome on the North Carolina/Tennessee Border
We opted to stay an extra day over in the extreme Western part of NC and drove over into the Great Smokey Mountains national park to see Clingmans Dome. The vistas while driving up to the Dome were insanely amazing. Trust me. DON’T be the driver… cuz you’ll want to see all THAT BLUENESS and not focus on the road.
The blue ‘smokey’ mist is really hard to describe. These 2 photos are taken from the parking lot of Clingmans Dome.
There is a man-made lookout structure about a half mile of a STEEP hike after the parking lot. But it was COLD up there! And windy in mid-October.
They said about 50 mph at the top.
Yeah. We chickened out.
We’ll go next year in the summer time!
But the blue skies were heavenly in a literal sense.
This high up (about 6,600 feet) only evergreens were around. But the drive to the top was perfect timing for fall color. Not as vivid of colors as Oregon but gorgeous all the same. The drive and parking lot were free.
But parking was kind of tight. There are parking spaces as you first drive in on the left facing back down the mountain. I suggest flipping around quick and parking there and don’t try to go into the parking lot at all!
There are 10-15 pull out spots along the route and this was one of my favorite ones in the below images. Framed by the trees and capturing a sunburst along with the blue blue blue skies. Now I know why they call them The Smokey Mountains… The mist in the far off mountain peaks is hard to capture in a camera. Trust me. WORTH seeing with your eyeballs.
Poor Oscar was feeling so left out. He stayed home with his foster family (the ones who cared for him before he became our GoodNCrazy dog). My parents seemed to fall in love with him as much as we have.
He’s coming along with the housetraining. About 90% there.
He’s playful and still naps a lot. And he’s learning new things every day.
He’s so happy when anyone comes home. And so far not a barky puppy.
Are you ready to take the Manual Mode Holy Grail leap of faith when it comes to DSLR Cameras?
About a year ago a giant lightbulb went off in my brain and shooting in Manual mode with my Nikon D5000 SLR finally made sense. I owned my camera for more than 4 years at that point. I’m not sure how to explain my camera epiphany, but here’s how it worked for me over the years.
Definitely start shooting in ‘A’ for aperture priority for a while—which mainly means YOU are adjusting the opening of the lens or how much light gets in—while the camera’s brain adjusts the shutter speed for you; it will attempt to create the best lighting situation.
While in A, open the lens as much as possible. On my camera that means the little circle is all the way yellow, scrolling my wheel adjuster to the left. And depending on your lens the F-Stop number will be at its lowest point… around 3 or 4 probably in a kit lens. F-Stop number is the Aperture .
NOTE: Aperture will stay the same unless YOU change it while in A Priority.
Now close your flash if open, and force the lighting to be controlled only by these 2 things—
APERTURE: lens opening—you control
SHUTTER SPEED: how fast the snap of the lens opens and closes—the camera will control
Set your camera to “wide open” Aperture between 3 or 4 on a kit lens. Lower on other lenses. Then move around your shooting area… point the camera at a corner with low light, directly at a window with shaded light and straight into a bright area. Notice what the OTHER number does when you move the camera around the room or area? The other number is the Shutter Speed.
Shutter Speed is Written in a Pesky Fraction
Indoors my camera will change shutter speed in a dim corner from 1/5 (a fifth of second) to 1/400 (400th of a second) over near a window.
You have to wrap your head around the fact that 1/5 is a LONG time for the shutter to be open. A 5th of a second is a LONG time in shutter speed land—therefore a LOT of light coming in. Where 400th or even 1600th of a second is a much SHORTER time in shutter speed—and much less light.
At some point just memorize (and experiment until you grasp what your camera is doing) that turning the dial all the way to the left (on my Nikon—the thumb wheel) is opening the lens-aperture all the way. Then if I point my camera into a bright area… the camera brain will adjust the shutter speed to be really short in order to get a ‘natural’ looking image despite the bright light. OR if I now point towards a dark indoor corner it will attempt to lengthen the time the shutter is open in order to have enough light for a decent photo.
But sometimes that LONG shutter time is too long for you to hold the camera still. I cannot shoot a good picture without a lot of blur at anything longer than 1/10. That means a 10th of a second. If I see the denominator (bottom) fraction number go lower than a 10: like 1/5 or ½ or even 1” that means a 5th or half or a full second of exposure. You need a tripod at that point and who has time… ?
…your 2 year old just walked away!
Spending time experimenting in Aperture Priority for a while is the best tip I got years ago. And it took YEARS before the ‘Manual’ lightbulb went off for me. So don’t stress if it takes time to make the switch to fully manual.
And remember if I’m in a hurry to get a shot I switch all the way back to Auto (HORROR!).
But getting the shot is totally worth it when I know I can tweak it in Lightroom later!
If I haven’t lost you yet… I’ll try to explain my Aha Manual SLR Moment.
When shooting in ‘A’ mode you have control over how big the lens opening is. But you are happily letting the camera decide how fast to snap open and close the lens. I found that I liked images that were shot around the F-Stop 2.5 range with my 50mm lens. But sometimes I wanted just a little bit longer exposure giving me extra light for fun photos facing straight into windows for example.
I needed to take control of BOTH the Aperture and the Shutter Speed for the photo above.
So I moved to M for Manual and Ignored Everything except the Two Numbers we’ve been Talking About:
Aperture or F-Stop & Shutter Speed
I basically set my aperture as low as my lens will allow or somewhere in the 2.5-3.5 range. And then the only thing I adjust is the shutter speed. If I am outside and it is brighter then I move the fraction number (shutter) over to the right using my thumb wheel (faster speed=less light). If I am in a darker area I inch the fraction number back to the left (slower speed=more light). And take a bunch of photos at the same Aperture, testing the lighting by adjusting just the shutter speed.
If I STILL don’t get the lighting the way I want (and later afternoons are easier to test this out btw) then I move the Aperture or F-Stop (the yellow eyeball on my screen) up or down a few clicks and test more shots by varying just the shutter speed.
Maybe it’s really bright outside: I would set the F-Stop around more like 5 or 6 and leave it there for a minute. ONLY adjusting the fraction number (shutter) again to the right to decrease the exposure and to the left to increase exposure by allowing the shutter to stay open or closed a ‘fraction’ of a second longer. Move the F-Stop (aperture) more or less open and keep testing the shutter speed until you LOVE the lighting of your shot!
If it’s darker or shady outside: I bring the F-Stop down under 3 or as low as my lens will go (wide open) and adjust the shutter speed to a slower fraction. But not lower than 1/10th. If I can’t get the shot with that speed I probably need to reframe and try again. Or see what auto does and move on.
NOTE: In Manual mode on my NIKON I have to press a button at the same time while moving the thumb wheel to adjust the aperture. You will need to look up how to adjust aperture on your camera while in manual mode.
SHAZAAM! All of a Sudden My Outdoor Images were POPPING.
Almost no post editing was needed. I even switched over to ONLY shooting in Camera Raw to give my editing software even more control over the colors and lighting. I suggest you try out Lightroom if you are thinking about camera raw though, because the files are hard to deal with otherwise.
Shooting in manual mode became fun instead of a messy challenge that got me nowhere but frustrated. Indoors still gives me the most grief when trying to shoot a manual mode shot. If it’s dark I know I’m not going to get that ‘pop’ of a shot. But if it’s kind of dark with a backlit area like a window behind the subject, that’s when manual mode can be a lot of fun.
Experiment with Manual Mode and let me know if the lightbulb goes off for you too!?
Solar Flare Tip for Sunbursts:
Remember the magic number of 22. F-Stop 22 is the sunburst effect number. I have no idea why. It means the lens opening is REALLY tiny. Almost as small as it will go? But if you set the aperture to 22 and point your camera into the sun (don’t hurt your eyes of course!) watch the magic happen! Now adjust the shutter speed up or down and keep taking more shots.
The shot below was actually quite dark before I boosted the exposure in Lightroom and brought the highlights way down to emphasize the points of the sunburst. I also boosted the blue color of the sky. I would love to see your sunburst photos! Share them with me on Twitter or Instagram I’m @CarissaRogers, tag me I want to see!
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