Category Archives: picture

Photography Class – Take One…..And Two…

Two weeks ago, I took a photography class with a good friend of mine (we’ll call her Sally – because that’s her name) at the Washington School of Photography (WSP). In fact, it was this class – the Digital SLR Camera Primer with Sam D’Amico. The class’s tag line is “how to get your camera off manual mode”.

It was a marvelouso introduction to the terms aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, and manual mode. The only thing you really need to know before you take this class is whether or not your camera is a DSLR camera (that and maybe how to turn it on). Sam shared a lot of information and broke it all down into layman’s terms so that even I understood (most of) it. I learned so much in those three hours that I felt incredibly smart and incredibly incompetent all at the same time. I learned just enough to screw up my pictures really good. 😉 Seriously though, I took the camera off manual mode and practiced with different settings. And felt comfortable doing that.

Sally and I were inspired to learn more. We felt like we kinda, sorta knew what we were doing but we didn’t always understand why.

So, we contacted Sam for some private lessons. We liked the idea of taking the class together but, after a lady thanked me in the first class for asking so many questions, we figured we I might dominate the session too much.

Very honestly, Sam was expensive. Please know that it’s not that we doubted that Sam would be amazing – it’s just that, short of a contract with National Geographic, we thought maybe we weren’t quite ready to invest so heavily in our training.

I found Kim Seidl. Her workshop info is here.

Amazing.

And yes, I did take that fabulous picture. tee hee

Kim reinforced all that Sam taught us. Sally and I both agreed that we were soooo glad we had taken an intro class first. Apparently, we both learn best by repetition. And that’s not to say we’re slow, mind you – there is just a boat load of info to learn.

And then I came home and took these pictures…in manual mode….with either lots of light

or not so much light….

and of course one of the pooch…

I am especially proud of the one of Pepper because the room was dark and she was moving. Up until yesterday, I would never have even bothered trying to get a picture of her playing. (And just in case you are wondering, that is my son’s arm. He wasn’t willing to donate his face to the Science of my photography.)

Before our session with Kim, part of me was still asking WHY I needed take ever take my camera off of program mode – if the camera is smart enough to figure out what the settings should be, then why not just let it?

Now I understand the answer to that question. In the picture of my daughter in front of the window – the camera would naturally gravitate toward the lightest part of the photo and make her face darker – now my settings certainly are not perfect – but they are focused on her face. Aperture allowed me to make the background blurry and focus on her. In automatic mode, my camera wanted to use the flash and that put too much light on her face.

Kim kept asking us – what is the most important thing in the picture you are about to take? (detail, stopping motion, blurring the background, etc)

Then she would say – now, tell the camera that.

When we were relying on program mode – we allowed the camera to determine what the most important thing is.

The other thing that I will enjoy learning about doing (correctly) is stopping motion.

Now – remember I am an amateur, but here is an example of what I mean. These two pictures were taken within seconds of each other. See how one captures the drops and the other captures the flow? By using manual mode, I was able to tell the camera what was important to me. If I had used program/auto mode, the camera would have decided.


Now, you can see that the lighting is different in both pictures – that was based on settings. The available light did not change.

And if you are still wondering why you should ever take your camera out of its bag, nevermind out of program mode, consider hiring Kim to take pictures for you. She is truly amazing!

Anypic, if you see me with my camera, run the other way. I’ll be taking lots of pictures! 😎

Write/Blog what you know – or not……….

There is a ton of fabulous writing and blogging advice out there. One of the most familiar refrains is “write what you know”. I call BS on that  one. If you write fiction, you kinda sorta gotta write what you don’t know or it’s not really fiction. Hmmmm, right?

Another blogging mantra is “write what other people want to read”. That one frustrates the hell out of me. How are we supposed to know that, right?

The proverbial answer is to look at your stats and see what draws people to your blog. Then give them more of whatever that is.

Yikes. My most popular post ever is this one. It got nearly one thousand hits in one day. The key word that people used to find it was “writing”. Which would all be awesome if this post was anything more than an announcement of a writing contest being hosted somewhere else by someone else. Alas.

The post that consistently gets the most traffic on my blog is this one. It gets hundreds of hits every week and it is well over 3 years old.

Go ahead.

Ask me if it’s about writing….

Or the tremendous individual growth I experienced while living in India…..

Or about parenting….

Or anything else that I really care about….

Or even a tiny little book review…..

Ahem. The answer to any of those would not be yes.

It is simply a post of pictures of flowers I took while traveling throughout India. Most of the plants weren’t even really unique to India.

But.

This blog isn’t about flowers

or gardening

or writing contests

hosted by someone else.

And, you really don’t want my gardening advice. I pinky swear it!

In fact, this is what my very own plant looks like right now. 😎

There are delish but there are lots of brown spots. So I am really, really sorry if you came here for gardening advice.

But if you came here for pictures of flowers, I have been taking some pictures recently. I hope you will enjoy these.

So those are some of the flowers that I have seen along the way. I hope you enjoyed them! 😉

Beijing – Olympic Park and Panda Bears………

While we were in Beijing, we wanted to see Olympic Park. This was an interesting thing to accomplish.

I don’t know if all tours are run like this in China or if we just got some bad tour mojo….. but …. yikes. Our travel agent planned an itinerary for our day and a half in Beijing. We asked to go to the Great Wall – the section that you walk up and luge down. That did not happen. We went to the wall and walked up but we also had to walk down. That was a big bummer!

He also coordinated visits for us to see the Summer Palace and Ming’s Tomb. I ask you – why would we go to stuffy ole Ming’s tomb when we could see where Michael Phelps made history? Duh? And why would we go to the Summer Palace when we could see the Panda bears. I mean, really. Honestly, if we would have had more time, we would have so gone to Ming’s Tomb and the Summer Palace but time was short and we were traveling with three younguns who love to swim – so priorities, right?

When we got on the tour mobile, we asked to make some changes to our original schedule. OOOOOOOppppps. Apparently that is not acceptable – well, it can be acceptable if you are willing to pay more. Huh? We wanted to change two sites for two other sites. In America, we call that a “no-brainer” – in China it is apparently called an “increase in fees”. Got it.

We were also told that we were going to be charged more money because we were not going shopping. You read that right – n.o.t. going shopping. Huh? We did not ask to go shopping. And, shopping was not on our original schedule. But, now we were going to pay to not shop. Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and our tour guide was happy to take us by an ATM machine so we could pay in cash. Yeah, how do you think that worked out for her?

So, very long, very frustrating story short – we made the changes and only had to pay extra for the zoo fees. Now, that makes more sense.  And hubby had sense enough to suggest insist that our travel agent in Delhi be billed by our guide’s travel agency directly in Beijing – no cash transactions, thank you very much. So nice of you to offer though. tee hee. (Now you know I did not just marry hubby for his good looks.)

We quickly put it all behind us and walked in awe through Olympic Park. It is a pretty cool place. Most of the signage in China is in, well, Chinese – so it was fun to see this sign that we could actually read.

The bird’s nest was huge and fabulous…

And then, of course, the water cube. Unfortunately it was not open – but we used our imagination. 😉 I could easily imagine Bear, Flower, and Angel diving off the same block that Michael Phelps used. Can’t you?

And the fun mascots…

And how can you go to Olympic Park and not take a picture of the rings? You can’t, right?

There were some pretty awesome statues throughout the park. And if you stand at angle with the sun in your eyes and lean to the left and lift one foot up, this guy absolutely resembles Michael Phelps.

Her, not so much…

Not too sure what this symbolizes – but it looked cool enough…

Maybe he was trying to envision the swimming statue as Michael Phelps, too? What? He could be. Or, maybe, it’s just hard to hold a sailboat with no arms.

The sign wasn’t much help either…

Sure, it’s nice information to know, but it didn’t so much help on the interpretation side of things.

Travel in China is different than what we have experienced in the rest of Asia. Truly, not many of the people we encountered spoke English. This lady and her sister were so kind to help hubby negotiate with a vendor for a better price on the stuffed mascots. If you plan to visit China, learn from our mistakes, you’ll want to know this about shopping with vendors in Beijing (and perhaps all of China). It is wise to have money in smaller denominations. Otherwise the vendors are likely to give you counterfeit bills as change. Wanna know how we know that? Go ahead. Take a guess.

We tried to buy her sister a set of mascots too but the only thanks she wanted was a picture with our family.

Next, we headed over to the zoo. Fun Fun. We have seen a panda or two at the zoo in Washington, DC, but the Beijing zoo has at least a dozen of them. And here was another sign we could read.

And these guys were fabuloso!


The pandas also had this wonderful playground.

But this guy was just too tired to play. So cute!

Anybear, we did have a wonderful afternoon and hope to go back some time and see more of the historical stuff.

the Silver Temple in Amritsar………

Nope, that is not a mistake – there is certainly a Golden Temple in Amritsar, India (it is the highest of all Sikh temples and you can read more about it here) – but there is also a Silver Temple in Amritsar. It is a Hindu temple modeled after the Golden Temple – and it looks a lot like the Golden Temple except it is (much) smaller and the lines are (much) shorter. The temple is also known as the Sri Durgiana Temple.

The Silver Temple got its name from the beautiful silver doors that adorn the entrance ways.

I was told this guy is the founder of the temple and he welcomes you outside the gate. Actually he is facing the entrance, so it would be more accurate to say he bids you farewell.

This bell is all full of awesomeness. Many temples have bells. I have been told they serve two purposes – one, to let God (or the gods) know you are there and two, to scare the evils away. Either works for me.

This is one of the prayer books.

There are statues of gods everywhere – by some accounts, Hinduism hails over 1 million gods – this one is Ganesha. He is known as the “remover of obstacles”. He watches over you when you try anything new. He is a good friend to have!

This one is Lord Hanuman – the monkey god and is seemingly the most popular of the Hindu gods.

This guy protects you when you travel. (I cannot remember his name, so if you know it, please share it.) So, we visited with him for a minute and took a picture with him just to make sure we had evidence that he knew we were there.

You can see performances in honor of the Goddess Durga while you are there. Apparently it is quite an honor to be selected for the performance – I think someone forgot to this little one that. 😉

According to Wikipedia, Durga “manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.” Yep, it would be (very) good to have her on your side.

A lot of people in India like to have their picture taken and then they like to see the image on the camera screen. This guy asked me to take his picture. So I did, then I showed it to him. He was very, very excited. So, he asked our tour guide to ask me to mail it to him. Sure, that’s easy enough. He wrote down his number with a big honkin’ smile on his face.

Then he figured if it worked once, maybe he could ask again. You can imagine that once was charming, twice was amusing, but we were quickly approaching “enough already”. I took the second picture and showed it to him and then we wanted to get on our way. But he must have been concerned that we weren’t taking him seriously because he asked us to stop and he pulled out a piece of paper – he wanted us to know for sure that he was legit – so he showed us his medical release papers – from the mental hospital. Fantastic.

I have not mailed the pictures yet – and it isn’t because I misplaced his address – I know right where it is – it’s somewhere in my house. And when I find it I will mail it. 😉

East meets West…………..

Lots and lots of people call India the land of extremes. Sometimes pictures explain it better than words.

This is a western woman buying t-shirts from some local Indian women in Goa. Goa is in southern India – the more conservative area of India. They did not agree on the prices and there was quite a discussion. I just sat amused as I watched East meet West. Notice how different their clothing is.

And then her friend came to help out.

Yes, I know, Sports Illustrated will not be hiring me as a swim suit model photographer any time soon. I think I was laughing too hard to properly focus. And please no comments on whether or not this woman should be wearing a thong. This post isn’t about her fashion choices. Believe me, there were worse fashion choices to be seen. I saw my first real-life man in a thong – nope, don’t e.v.e.r. need to see that again.

And then this lady gave it a try. I could not help imagine what the women were thinking as they walked away from each other.

This guy……………

This guy …..

will give you an amazing tour of Amritsar…

will sell you sunglasses for 200, no 100, okay 50 rupees – but only if you threaten to walk away first.

will get your stuff from one place to another….

is just chill-axin’…

is donating his time for the greater good…..

will kick your arse if you get out of line………..

will give you the most amazing tour of Agra and he will tell you that you are beautiful -what’s not to love!

Simply cannot be bothered – unless you have some snacks….

Will drive you all over India on the correct side of the road – well, at least for the most part…..

caught my eye…………..

did something apparently very important…..

will work his b.u.t.t. off all day long…..

will play the drums…….

will make you dinner…..

will make you some popcorn….

Sometimes I have pictures that just won’t fill an entire blog post but I want to share – and it’s my blog so I get to do what I want 😉 – so I think I am going to start a “this guy” series. Hope you enjoy it – tomorrow I will finish up with the Golden Temple. Cheers.

The people that you meet when you’re walking down the street………..

I find the people of India to be absolutely beautiful. Their faces are so amazing and intricate. Here are some of the faces that captured my attention on my trip with my friends……..

Indian school children seem to find Westerners so fascinating. What they probably don’t realize is that I enjoy meeting them just as much.

This woman’s family wanted a picture of her in front of the Taj Mahal dammit, whether she liked it or not. And no  matter how many times she asked, none of them would sit down with her.

This little boy’s mother very much wanted a picture of Ann with her son – her son was not so much on the same page. 😎

If you love what you do, you will be happy every day of your life. No Kidding!

This guy was sneaky – he coaxed my friends out of an extra 100 rupees on the elephant ride – but they were smart enough not to give him their rupees for his American dollars.

Magnificent!

I wanna be an Airborne Ranger……

I went to high school in Columbus, Georgia near Fort Benning. My mom was a college professor helping many of the soldiers earn their degrees while they were completing their military training. There were lots of men in her classes (and I am pretty sure she never called any of them Blondie 😉 ). She often came home singing this chant….

I want to be an Airborne Ranger.
I want to live the life of danger.
Blood. Guts. Sex. and Danger.
That is the life of an Airborne Ranger.

She never actually sang the 3rd and 4th lines – at least not out loud – but I included them anyhow.

It’s funny how memories can come flooding back. When we were in Bangkok, I saw this little boy and this chant ran through my head 8 million times. How adorable is he?

What do you think he wants to be when he grows up?

This guy is either flirting with me or preparing to stab me.

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua …………

Say what? That means “Tiger Temple”. It is about a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. Yes, we went! You had to know we would. It is a Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand run by Buddhist monks. The head of the temple is called the abbott (not sure why you need to know that – but if you ever pull that one out in a game of trivial pursuit you can thank me.) They care for the tigers and give visitors an opportunity of a lifetime.

There are two different types of tours – one is where you go to the park in the afternoon and see the tigers during their quieter time of day – afternoon. I am sure this is fabulous – when else are you going to see that many tigers so close together and get your picture taken with a big arse cat? However, it’s afternoon – the cats are not that active. They have just eaten lunch and it’s hot. (Did I mention that Thailand is super hot? I did not think it was possible to be hotter than India. Wrong.) So I am guessing you do a lot of looking at cats resting after lunch. Of course, if you are going to sit near a big arse cat and have your picture taken, after their lunch is probably a very good time to do it. Otherwise you might become what we call the appetizer – formerly known as my loyal blog reader.

We chose to go to the temple first thing in the morning and spend about 3 hours with the monks and tigers. Holy cat batman, that is the way to go. You might suspect that this is the (much) more expensive option – it is – but it really is a once in a lifetime experience. And our children are earning their bachelors degrees from the school of life, who really needs college anyway? I am quite sure that when their prospective employers read on their resume that they have pet and played with and fed and bathed very large tigers, they will be a shoe in for any job.

Anycat, the day started with us being picked up at our hotel in Bangkok at 5am in the morning. We get in the van and drive, drive, drive and then drive some more. Luckily, it’s early and we are still exhausted, so we slept a good bit of the way. (By the way, the roads in Thailand are very well developed – but they are bumpy – so dramamine is a good idea of you are easily nauseous in the car.) Then we stopped at a mini mart – now if you have been living in India and do not exactly have mini marts, this is a pure slice of junk food and soda heaven. We filled up with c.r.a.p. for us and bought some breakfast items to offer to the monks. It is my understanding that the majority of the food they eat is donated. Our guide told us to buy them Pepsi because they apparently don’t get too much of that. Too funny. Pepsi it is.

So we get to the park and line up behind a table with our offerings. We had to remove our shoes. The monks lined up and walked past us with buckets. We bowed to them. They took the food and Pepsi. It was kind of strange really – but cool enough. If you ever do this, there are about 14 monks at the temple. Each one of them walks by you with a bucket. Make sure you buy at least 14 things. And the volunteers at the temple, get their leftovers – so really stock up.

Okay, I was the only one in my family who actually offered food and bowed. This is all the hard evidence number one hubby needed to prove, once and for all, that I am a dork of the highest magnitude this side of Kanchanaburi. But, I believe that when in Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, you should do as the Wat Pha Luang Ta Buans do.

Then we were asked to sign a waiver. It went something like this. You are an idiot for wanting to play with and feed real tigers – you do know they are wild animals, right – they might attack you – if they attack you, you are not going to be on the winning side of the fight – we are questioning your sanity – oh good, you brought your smallish children – sign here.

Off to the park. We first met the smaller tigers and one adorable tiger cub named Full/New Moon – sorry, I cannot remember the thai translation for that – but she was born on a full moon. She was just about a month old. We fed the tigers bottles and honestly marveled at their beauty and strength. The younger tigers were very soft – but as they age, their fur becomes more wirey.

And I got bitten- for the first time – by a real flippin tiger. In our little intro to the day, they explained that they really weren’t kidding – these are real tigers with real teeth and they really might (try to) bite us. They live in this nice little sanctuary but they are w.i.l.d. animals. If they did bite at us, we were supposed to push their heads away and NOT pull away from them.  It was our responsibility to keep their mouths away from any body parts we wanted to leave with still attached to our own body. The not pulling away part was emphasized – so I made a mental note of it. Do not pull away. Then, I completely forgot that and immediately pulled my leg away (intact) and I did not remember to push the tiger’s head away. Luckily there are trainers with you and they remembered just what to do. The tiger did not even break the skin – but it was a wee bit scary. They immediately rushed to me and asked if I was okay. Leg still there – check. No blood gushing out of my body – check. Children ok – check. More blog material – check. Yeah, I am good. I was left with a small scratch and a bruise – battle scars.

I can now add “I have been bitten by a tiger” to my list of quotes for that silly getting to know you game where you write something down that no one would ever guess about you and then they try to guess who wrote it. It’s good to have something interesting to write down.

There was a baby cub there and several adolescent tigers. The larger tigers were chained to posts and we were able to sit with them and pet them and feed them bottles. Interestingly enough, tigers don’t purr like domestic cats do. They do roll and stretch and like to be scratched like pets though.

Next we had breakfast with the monks. Well, the monks had breakfast over there and we ate over here. But they sat and we watched. I stood up to take pictures and was told that a woman cannot be higher than the monks so I had to sit back down. Normally, I would have been all “what’s up with that” but they were letting me pet their tigers, so I took a pass on going Norma Rae on them. Then we got to watch a small chanting/prayer ceremony. That was interesting enough and really quite peaceful.

Then off to walk the tigers. Excuse me? Walk the tigers – as in take them off the posts that they are currently restrained by? Okay. Please remind me exactly what that waiver said. This isn’t safe or a good idea? Am I remembering that correctly?

Sure, I’ll walk the tiger. And I will let my children do it. Why not? Katie Couric isn’t here filming a “what not to do as a parent” episode is she? Because if she is, I need to put on my lipstick.

And if you are wondering if they are as powerful as they seem on the Discovery Channel when they are bringing down a large antelope – the answer would be “absolutely!”

Angel was thinking that maybe she got delivered to the wrong family by the stork. She was hoping for parents that looked out a little better for her safety and well being.

The next stop was an enclosure and where we got to play with them for a good 45 minutes. They were majestic and magnificent and amazing and, dammit, another one bit me.

Don’t even ask, if I remembered the “rules”. You know good and damn well I did not. I pulled my leg back immediately. I did not push his head away. Angel watched it happen and decided that she really liked the tigers – from a distance. Again, no blood. Again, leg still attached. Again, children fine. It’s all good. But I have to say reality set in and I got a little nervous. So I decided Angel should not have to watch from far away all by herself. Like any good mother would, I went and sat with my cub in the shade, far away from the action. And like any good mother would, I left my 12 and 10 year old in the middle of the activity.

After that, we were invited to bathe and feed the tigers. Tremendous. You mean they will eat something besides me? Yeah! So we washed them with soap and rinsed them with a hose and fed them cooked chicken. Yes, right out of our hands.

Tigers in the wild eat raw meat – so they also get supplements to offer them the nutrients that the cooked meat does not have. But they do not want them eating raw meat because they do not want them to taste the blood. No, I did not read that on the waiver. They conveniently left that little tid bit off. But there is also the concern for avian flu – so it is important that the meat is cooked. The tigers had no problem eating the chicken and leaving our hands in tact. So it was  a win-win.

And if you are wondering, my thought bubble is very full of wonders at this point – is this the one that bit me earlier? Do humans really taste like chicken? Remind me again who thought this was a good idea.

Then we were told it was time to go to the canyon with the big cats. They said Angel was too small to be in the canyon because the really big tigers might want to play with her – I think that translated into – we weren’t kidding with the waiver crazy lady – your children should not be here. But they offered to let her go back with the baby cub and play with her for a while. They were so nice and told me that one of the staff members could take her back to the cub and walk her around the park to see the bears and lions they had rescued while we went to the big cat canyon.

Now, I might let her come to the tiger temple and walk and feed tigers – but thank so much – I am not letting a total stranger walk her around solo in the wooded Tiger Temple that is in Thailand. Yep, I went with Angel – Number One Hubby took Bear and Flower to the canyon.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. The temple has rescued a couple of lions and a couple of bears in addition to the tigers they care for. Angel and I got to see these animals because she could not go to the canyon. They are not on the regular tour yet. Their enclosures are being built and I think once they are done, these animals will be available for the public to see.

This bear is folding his paws and giving the traditional Asian bowing greeting. The guide asked if Angel wanted to feed him. I said sure – after all I had already signed the waiver, right? And at least this guy is behind bars.

Meanwhile, the rest of my crew went the the canyon where they watched the big cats frolic and play and were in absolute awe of their strength and agility. For that part of the tour, you are in a small fenced in area while the very large tigers walk and play around you. As you can see, the term fence is used loosely – it was not even waist high.

The staff and volunteers were amazing. They shared their love of these big beasts with us and kept us safe. Most of our pictures are from them – they were so generous with their time and energy and often took our cameras and captured our experience so we could just be fully engaged in our adventure. One thing that is important to know is that flash photography is strictly forbidden. But as you can see, you really don’t need it.

There are reports that abuse and illegal trafficking and breeding are happening at the temple. There is even speculation that the tigers are drugged to make them calmer. I can tell you that the people we talked with love these animals and treat them with respect and tenderness. The tigers seemed very comfortable and relaxed. We never saw any abuse or signs of abuse. I cannot speak to how the tigers get there or what breeding practices are in place. But I can tell you that the tigers we saw were vibrant and active and simply magnificent and are very much loved.

I will leave you with this – my new friend is about 400 pounds.

The doors of Old Delhi……..

I just love the doors of Old Delhi – unfortunately, I do not know their histories – so I will leave it to you to imagine their stories……