31 July 2010

31 posts in 31 days

Okay, some days saw multiple entries and some saw none at all, but it all averages out.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoy blogging for reviewing the events of the day.  Otherwise, everything just blends and blurs.

This photo has nothing to do with this post.  But this this post is just filler, a filler photo seemed fitting.

30 July 2010

Aperture control--retitled Belated Wednesday whine!

About 3 years ago, I got my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens, known as the Nifty Fifty, or the Thrifty Fifty referring to its extremely low price.  It took me a few months to mount it onto my D80 (an ancient body that's not been listed on the Nikon line for quite some time now), and then an additional number of months after that before I even started to realize the true capacity of the lens.

Exposure has 3 basic prongs, ISO (light sensitivity), shutter speed (do I freeze action, do I blur it?), and aperture control (depth of focus--how much of the image do I want in focus?).  Well, the Thrifty Fifty is amazingly fast compared to kit zooms (i.e., those lenses that you get when you buy consumer SLR sets that come with both the camera body and a lens), which is just another way of saying that it is capable of really shallow depth of field.  This lens changed the way I photographed by an enormous measure...and since then, I've snapped over 36, 000 images, the vast majority of which was via this lens.

Why in the world did I take so many photographs?  Well, first and foremost, it was because I enjoyed it!  And second, it was because I wanted to get better at it.  At least half of those images were immediately deleted, and half of the remainder were nearly unusable (but I have a hard time deleting images of my kids).  And a tiny fraction ended up posted here--an even smaller percentage ended up on Facebook.  Certainly, as time passes and the more portraits I make, the bigger the proportion of usable frames.  Don't get me wrong, I still have a looooong way to go before I stop feeling like a total hack and a fraud for having the audacity to offer to sell my photography services (because, yes, I experience those sentiments on a daily basis).

You know, I'm starting to think this post should have been written under one of my Wednesday Whine headings because, folks, that's exactly where I'm headed.  Here's the thing: I hear people saying they'd like to be better photographers all the time.  Really.  ALL the time.  And then somehow they surmise that I have better equipment (I don't...remember that dirt cheap lens and the dinosaur of a camera body?), that I have a better eye (I don't...I regularly spend hours examining others' photographs and reading about composition).  These statements undermine the WORK I have put into this craft.

What I'm trying to say is that I've gotten better because I read through my manual (many times) and worked every dial and button on my camera until I knew them all.  I've gotten better because I've read, and continue to read, many books and articles on the matter.  I've gotten better because I constantly study others' images to learn from their viewpoint.  I've gotten better because I use my camera.  Every. Single. Day.

I'm so happy to help others figure out their cameras (these darn SLRs can be very complicated!) and learn about those aforementioned prongs of exposure.  Well, I'm happy to do it for the casual user.  For the aspiring photographer who laments their lack of success, I'm less happy.  If you are genuinely interested in photography, how can it be that you have not even read your camera's owners manual?  Did you, by chance, receive the Russian version and all that Cyrillic confuses you?  Okay, then, I'll buy that excuse.  Otherwise, get off your lazy butt and do the work, or stop complaining that you're not good enough, because let me tell you, you haven't even begun to try (I don't even think that *I* am working nearly as hard as I could/should be).  And when you attribute my improved photography to some sort of mystical reason or mere happenstance, you're insulting me and undermining the effort I've put into this continuing process.  Stop it.  It annoys me and it hurts my feelings.

ETA on 9/6/11: I wrote this a year ago and nearly immediately pulled this post because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or offend the casual reader.  But over a full year later, I appreciate the sentiment and that it pretty much still holds true and I'm proud that I expressed myself in an all-text, no-photo post so I'm republishing it a full year later!

28 July 2010

A good day

I'm feeling very satisfied and fortunate today--which is hard for me because I really do enjoy complaining so much!  But today was one of those really good days that just snuck up on me.  There was no whining; there was no yelling.  And the kids behaved too.

Heh.  Just kidding.

(Sort of.)

In the morning, I found them inexplicably hiding--and gigging--under the kitchen desk (never mind the food in A2's wide open mouth).

And then we had some wonderfully sweet new friends over for such a peaceful, low-key playdate...and impromptu photo session because my camera is always at my hip and ready for shootin'.

And then we were off to the zoo for an afternoon visit...and yes, I realize there are no actual zoo animals in these photos.  Just my own monkeys.


Pax of the Jungle

The Pax chased some bunnies into the honeysuckle.  Bunnies escaped, honeysuckle triumphed, doggy humiliation ensued.

All I had on me was my iPhone but I didn't want to miss the moment:

27 July 2010

Peters Canyon

The boys dub this "No Apparatus Park" because they don't quite understand how it is something can be called a park if it doesn't have a swingset.

Still, they had a great time spying bugs, lizards, and bunnies. Plus, check out their freakishly synchronized dirt play:

The boys found lots of cool rocks...A1 was especially pleased with his triangle and square (okay, they were more pyramidal and cubic) ones.

One thing we did NOT find...rattlesnakes. **shudder**

They didn't seem to have a problem venturing fairly far away from me.

That's okay, I used the opportunity to take ridiculous artsy photos of the flora (and fauna...see the butterfly?).

Here we are, back near the parking lot. I asked for one final pic, but they had already melted away.

26 July 2010

The Kinda Sorta Vegetarian Vietnamese

My friend the  Vegan Korean  is still vegan, and she's definitely still Korean, but she's no longer blogging.  So in memory of her recently departed food journal, I snapped this photo at The Filling Station Cafe in Orange.

It's the vegetarian sandwich with grilled vegetables, melted mozzarella, and sundried tomato aioli on ciabatta, with a yummy mesclun-esque side salad.  I overdressed (totally on purpose, because that's how I roll) my salad and the balsamic vinaigrette seeped into the bottom of the sandwich.  Awesomeness.

This is totally a food review FAIL because I have pithy comments about neither the diner nor its food.  But at least I snuck in a picture!

The continuing "Mama, take my picture" adventures


I don't know what's going on here.

Unposted photos

I love these photos (because I know and adore the folks in them) and I would post these photos to the photography site, but they're not good images in and of themselves.  So I will pain you with them here!

Those trees in the background are so distracting.  See how that one divides mama and baby because it's bisects the pair?  Bleah.  Lovely friend, wonderful kids, bad photo.

I nearly always prefer landscape orientation over portrait orientation (even though it's a portrait!).  Why oh why didn't I turn the camera?
not posted 2

This amazing gal is completely airborne and this could have been awesome...but it just isn't.  Problem: I'm standing over her and that perspective diminishes the awesomeness of her flight--I should have been on my belly on the grass looking up at her.  Problem: That wall in the background with it's harsh horizontal (actually, it's diagonal the way I've framed the shot) is like a ceiling and limits her flight, which is really the whole point of this shot.  Problem: See parts of the grass in the back and her skirt?  They're white, completely white without any detail remaining.  They're blown out because I stink at manual exposure controls. 
not posted 3

25 July 2010

Word allergy

I love words.  And when I string them together to create entire sentences that start from my mind and end up in yours via this amazing phenomenon called language...well, that just blows me away.  But lately, I haven't wanted to communicate; I haven't wanted to be heard.  Though I suppose I can be seen because my photos, the ones I chose to display, say more than I do. 

Since I've run out photos of the boys (is that even possible!?!), here are photos of a friend's children.  I'll let them speak for me while I reignite my love of words.


Their mama is my treasured friend of over 25 years.  There's so much chatter with new acquaintances, but with old friends, there is the solace of silence.

Mama, mama, take a picture of me!

What am I going to do with myself when this one starts Kinder in 5 1/2 weeks?

24 July 2010


A1 requested that we allow a few of our artichoke to flower.  I obliged.  Partly because I thought it would be a neat lesson--mostly because he's so dang cute.

23 July 2010

CELDT, the conclusion

Well, it's certainly not shocking, but it is a relief for me to announce that A1 does, in fact, speak English. Astounding, right?

In case you missed the rant, here it is!

22 July 2010

In my defense...

Yes, it's true that, even now, I have many more photos of A1 than I do of A2, but there are many occasions when A1 asks me to take his photo

...but I have to use stealthy measures to snap a shot of A2.

We have sticks

...and we're only marginally afraid to use them.

(Yes, the boys spend ALL day in swim clothes, even when we're nowhere near water.)

17 July 2010

The cultural case for tattling

When the boys are with their grandparents, they are encouraged and praised for what would easily be recognized as tattling. When the boys are at school with their teachers, they are admonished and redirected when exhibiting the exact same behavior. I originally wondered if this divergence might be due to the specific differences between my parents and the boys' teachers, but having witnessed this phenomenon occur over and over again, I have come to the realization that the crux of the matter is an East-West conflict that pits collectivism against individualism.

The more common redirective responses I've heard from the boys' friends' parents fall into either of two categories.

The first sounds roughly like, "Never mind what Friend X is doing, just focus on what you should be doing." This presupposes that while the child and Friend X may be in physical proximity to each other, the completion of their relative tasks is completely independent from each other. Not only does this create a sense of separation for the child from those around him, it also teaches that involvement with those around him likely impedes his progress and interferes with personal success.

The second common stance goes a little like, "Don't tell me about this problem...I can't do anything about it from here. Go back and use your words to help Friend X understand how you feel and what you want to happen." And while I, myself, use this reasoning with the boys, I wonder if it serves more to disempower the parent than it does to empower the child. I can see how this logic might be utterly foreign to the authoritative mindset of first generation Asian Americans, who have far greater reverence for the wisdom and guidance of elders. From the boys' grandparents' perspective, this so-called tattling is a sign of respect in deference to their judgment.

So now what? How do I reconcile this difference for the boys? I can't tell my parent to stop praising the boys when they "tell on" someone--mostly because I've tried and they've persisted. And I can't tell the teacher that when my boy mentions that a classmate is being off-task, he should be positively recognized for caring about the progress of those around him and respecting her authority.

I have no pithy conclusion.

This image of the boys has nothing to with the written portion of this post. But, you know, if I didn't post a photo of the kids, you might not know what blog you landed on, what with the unusual amount the text and all.

16 July 2010

Otter Pops

Nothing brings two brothers together during the summer like Otter Pops.

Otter Pops and matching tees.


Swim lessons

The boys have been in swim lessons again this summer. A1 is completely proficient, and A2 is doing amazingly well--so well that they had to move him up from his agemates. So now I'm nervous during those 25 minute swim lessons because his older classmates are twice his size and significantly better swimmers. But being a little brother means he's gotten used to having big kids around so he's a trooper about the whole thing.


14 July 2010

Score: Boys 1, Mama 0

Okay, kids...time to smile. Smile! Please?

Um...honey, that's just opening your mouth, it's not a smile.


Hey! Not you too!

Photo session officially over.

Well, I guess they're smiling just like I asked.

13 July 2010

Abandoned lot

Yes, I took the boys to an abandoned lot with boarded up houses. I have no idea why.

Okay, I do. I totally do. It was because I wanted photos. This was definitely one of our weirder outings.

This one grows more and more serious.

Not so much, this one. He seems to be getting goofier with time.

But for the most part, their differences work well together.

Sorry about the heavy-handed editing

...and for letting him go out with a dirty face.

Days off

James had a few days off and it was so nice for the boys to have him around. On most workdays, he and the boys only get to spend a few minutes together in the morning since James gets home after their bedtime.

We visited the children's science museum and the boys are never as animated with me as they are when we're all together!

There was a Tinkertoy exhibit.

The climbable parking lot planets get a thumbs-up from the boys.