It's Christmas Eve, and all of us here at Sakeriver (me, that is) wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy holiday. And to say thanks for following along all this time, here's a cookie, decorated by Jason's friend L.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, manual flash mode. Aperture f/4, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200, flash power 1/4 (I think). Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves to brighten highlights and midtones; levels to darken shadows and brighten midtones.
Thoughts for improvement: The background is a little cluttered, so this might have been better at f/2.8 or f/1.8 to further defocus the background. I do like the little red and green bokeh highlights in the corner, though. There is also some color fringing due to chromatic aberration, but this is an artifact of my lens/camera combination--if I were more motivated I could try to remove or reduce it in Photoshop.
Jason loves babies. He loves to look at them and point them out to us whenever he sees them. And, as you can see, he loves playing with baby dolls. He doesn't have any of his own, but when he's at day care or when we go over to friends' houses, the baby dolls are among the first things he'll go for. He likes to hold them and put their bottles in.
The funny thing is, my mom always talks about how when I was a kid, I loved babies. I don't know if that extended to baby dolls, but she loves to talk about how I always wanted to hold every baby that I saw and how I liked to talk to them. She also loves to talk about how much Jason is just like me, so I reckon she'll get a kick out of this post.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (with Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode and TTL flash mode (+1 EV). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cloned out a scab on his cheek; curves to increase exposure and add a bit of contrast.
Thoughts for improvement: I missed the focus a little, so the lettering on the hat is sharp while his eyes are just a touch soft. I might have also liked to see this with an 85mm f/1.4, to get a softer background. He could also probably use a little more light on him.
On Sunday we were supposed to meet up with some friends and their daughter and go to Legoland. It rained, though, so instead we went over to their house to decorate some Christmas cookies. (Pro tip: if there's any chance whatsoever that your plans to go to Legoland might change, don't tell your toddler about it ahead of time. This turned out to be key in making our Sunday afternoon work.
Jason has known this girl since they were both just a few weeks old (Juliette and her mom met in a breastfeeding support group), and it's been neat to watch them grow up together. One of the most interesting parts of this weekend was watching them interact, because it marked the first time that they really talked and played with each other without any intermediaries. Up until now, most of their communication had had to relay through us parents, but this time they actually had some little toddler conversations. It's going to be neat to see how their friendship progresses now that they're actually able to connect with each other directly.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (with Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode and TTL flash mode (+0 EV). Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves to bring up exposure; burned over the highlight on the railing; vignetting applied; edge sharpening applied.
Thoughts for improvement: The highlight on the railing is distracting, though I was able to reduce it some by burning. Other than that, though, I like the lighting a lot--the Gary Fong Lightsphere really does work well. Compositionally, this would be much better with a sparser background. There's stuff right behind both of their heads that looks weird, and the stuff like the fence and TV really don't add anything. If I were doing this in a studio, I'd like to see what it looked like with just the kids, the chairs, and the table.
I love watching Jason watch things. This is him at Shamu's Christmas show last Saturday. He didn't take his eyes off the pool the entire time.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/40 (-1 EV), ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves adjustment to increase contrast and bring up the exposure a bit.
Thoughts for improvement: I missed the focus a bit, resulting in the bridge of his nose being sharp and his eye being a little soft. My camera's AF system doesn't always do so well at night, especially since I have the AF-assist light turned off, so this is just something I have to deal with sometimes in order to catch the moments. Compositionally, though, I'm pretty happy, though perhaps it might have been good to include more of his left hand.
One thing about photography: it's turning me into a hypocrite.
I should explain that. See, I'm always chiding Juliette for being nosy. If we go to a restaurant, she looks around at people at other tables. If we go for a walk, she looks to see what she can see through people's windows. "Nosy Noserson," I'll say.
But, of course, if there's anything nosier than a street photographer, I don't know what it is. I'm constantly looking at other people these days, trying to see if they'll show me something I can photograph. That's got to be worse than just sneaking a peak through someone's open front door from the sidewalk.
These two kids were sitting behind us at Shamu's Christmas show when we were at SeaWorld on Saturday. (I didn't actually watch much of the show; first I was watching the crowd, then I was watching Jason.) I glanced back at them several times before the show started, and it reminded me so much of being that age and in love. They kept giggling and looking at each other, taking pictures of themselves together with his cameraphone. (OK, I guess we didn't have that last one when I was a teen.) And all I could think was "How nice."
There's a lot of doom and gloom out there these days. Terrorism, war, people losing their jobs, their homes. But, you know, there's a lot of tenderness, hope, joy, and love out there, too. I think it's worth taking the time to see it. I know it makes my life better.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/60 sec (-1 EV), ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: maximum recovery adjustment; curves to bring up exposure a bit; cropped to 5x7 and to remove some extra space at the top and a distracting foreground element; light dodging over the couple's faces; burned over the background and the guy on the right.
Thoughts for improvement: The lights in the background are quite bright and are a little distracting. I cropped out most of the man in the right foreground, but if I could have excluded him as I was shooting that would have been better. I also wish I could have gotten a slightly more intimate moment--I like the way she's smiling at him, but he looks a little distracted, which wasn't really representative of how they were acting at the time.
There's no big story to this one. I just happened to look up as we were walking from one part of SeaWorld to another, and liked the look of the audience's silhouettes up in the bleachers above us.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200 mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Focal length 200 mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec (+0 EV), ISO 360. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped to 5x7; red-filter BW preset; curve for contrast, black point, and white point.
Thoughts for improvement: The main thing I could do without here is the mass of palm fronds right in the middle. It might also be nice if I could have missed the head down near the bottom of the frame.
Juliette got Jason a new set of Christmas pajamas that came with a little striped stocking cap. He, of course, loved it. It was beyond cute to watch him running all over the toddler's play area at SeaWorld with that hat on, the tassel bouncing all over as he jumped.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Focal length 200 mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/160 (+0EV), ISO 800. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped to 5x7; curves to increase exposure and add contrast; retouched a spot on his face.
Thoughts for improvement: The other kids in the background are a little distracting, but otherwise I like it.
Step Right Up
We went to SeaWorld this weekend to see their Christmas stuff. Mainly this consisted of a big tree just inside the park, an ice skating rink, a lot of signs, and some holiday-themed animal shows. Jason particularly loved Shamu's Christmas show. Though, he also loved running back and forth on the (not very) bouncy mat in the toddler's play area, which is right next to the carnival games area, where I grabbed this shot.
I've now been to SeaWorld twice this year, and Juliette has been there three times, so our passes have more than paid for themselves. Which is especially nice because they don't expire until July of 2012.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/4000 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: maximum recovery adjustment; curves for further highlight recovery.
Thoughts for improvement: A different angle would probably help. If I moved to the right a bit more, I might have been able to get the penguins in a better-spaced line, plus I might have avoided having the distracting background stuff right behind the main penguin.
Pick Me Up
Here's another out-take from our Christmas card shoot. I like to do these up-over-the-head shots with families (which is to say, I've done it on both of the family shoots I've done). It may be kind of a cliche angle--I don't really know--but it's fun, and most of the kids I know like to be played with this way, so it makes for easy smiles.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/400 (+2 EV, center-weighted average metering), ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: crop to 4x5; pushed recovery; curves for black point and contrast.
Thoughts for improvement: The major thing that could be improved here is the focus. I was shooting fast and didn't move the focus point to the upper part of the frame, so Jason's face ended up a little soft. That can be OK sometimes, but I tend to prefer sharp pictures, especially for this style and angle.
Christmas Card Out-Take
This year, we decided to skip the studio session for our annual family portraits--which is to say, our annual Jason portraits--and instead opted to have me take the pictures. This was a bit of a money-saver, of course, but it also gave me another opportunity to practice my technique and how to run a shoot. Plus, this way we could get the more natural style that you get from a location shoot. It turned out to be fun, and a good exercise for me as a photographer. I still have a ways to go, but I'm getting there.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/1250 (+1EV, matrix metering), ISO 400. No post-processing.
Thoughts for improvement: For being straight out of the camera, I'm pretty happy with how the lighting and color came out. Compositionally, I'd get rid of the people in the background and position Juliette and Jason so they weren't lined up one behind the other.