Help for Hurricane Victims

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus while I try to figure out what I really want to do with this site and with my photography, but I decided to come back for today because this feels important.

I may live in Tennessee now, but I’ve spent most of my life in Texas. I grew up an hour south of Houston, then went to college and started a career in a town about an hour north of Houston. As far as I know, my family and friends are all okay, minus a few vehicles and some damp carpet. But there are others who need help. If I hadn’t totaled my car earlier this month, I would be loading it down with all the supplies I could carry and driving there right now. But since I have no vehicle–and no hope of getting a vehicle for at least another 3 or 4 weeks–this is the best I can do.

I’m sure you’ve all seen links to donate to the Red Cross and other large relief organizations–and that’s fine. Many thanks to everyone who has donated. But I know there are people out there who don’t trust or don’t want to give to big non-profits, so I’m giving you a list of smaller, local organizations that could really use the help.

Note: I’m not receiving any personal benefits from donations made to any of these organizations.

SPCA of Brazoria County–This animal shelter is taking in pets found loose in the flood as well as sheltering animals whose owners have had to evacuate to shelters. Many places that shelter human evacuees will not allow people to bring their pets. The SPCA is currently operating their main shelter, a secondary shelter called The Box, and a large-scale shelter at the county fairgrounds. This will be a long-term effort; they’re still housing several animals that were left homeless in the 2016 floods.

Rita B Huff Humane Society–An animal shelter in Huntsville, TX. Parts of Walker County are flooding, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the shelter is at capacity. If they are not already there.

Houston Food Bank–The Houston Food Bank is currently closed because their facility is inaccessible due to floodwaters. They are the largest distributor of food in the area, and I’m sure they could use any assistance you could provide. Every dollar donated to the Houston Food Bank provides 3 meals to hungry people.

JJ Watt’s Flood Relief Fund–Started by Houston Texans player JJ Watt. Donations surpassed the original goal so quickly that JJ raised the bar.

MD Anderson Cancer Center–Several of their facilities are closed due to the severe weather. Currently only two MD Anderson hospitals are operating, and those are both near the Austin area.

Texas Children’s Hospital–All clinics are currently closed although they are continuing inpatient care at this time. Their Facebook page says they are currently assessing their needs and will release a statement at a later time. I’m assuming financial contributions would be welcome at any time, however, and there is a link on their website for those who wish to donate.

 

This is just what I could come up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many, many local churches, food pantries, animal rescues and hospitals that would welcome donations at this time. If you have any information or would like to provide a link, please leave it in the comments below. Also, I’m asking anyone who reads this to please share the heck out of it. Thanks!

Travel

I travel because I dream of touching the horizon.

The mountains call to me. “Come here,” they say, “And we will help you touch the sky.”

The waves whisper secrets as they kiss the pebbled shore. They tell stories of foreign lands and leave treasures in their wake.

In the forests, I find worlds both large and small, as well as the creatures that call them home.

The cities are filled with color and innovation. It’s a different kind of energy that is both exhilarating and draining.

Why do you travel?

Oh Deer

I decided to take a break from photography basics today. I’m hoping I’ll be back next Friday with a post to wrap up my exposure series, but it just wasn’t happening this week. To make a long story short, I was involved in a car accident earlier this week. I don’t know when I’ll have a vehicle again, so right now I don’t have a good way to get out and take photos. Luckily I have plenty of archived photos that I can share with you in the meantime.

My husband’s grandparents fell in love with Orcas Island back in the 90s (how weird is that to say–back in the 90s. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago to me; I guess my age is showing.) and his grandmother still lives there today. We go to visit her as often as we can and it’s just an amazing place–there’s great food, friendly people, and the scenery and wildlife are perfect for photographers.

I found all these photos of deer when I was going through my archives trying to find something for today, and I thought it would be fun just to feature them since there are so many.

I hope you enjoy the photos! I’ll be back next week with more. Have a great weekend.

The Gate

There is no single reason behind photography. We all take photos with different purposes in mind and, for the most part, there is no wrong or right in that.

The gateway above is sort of a metaphor for that idea. I might have taken the picture, but I don’t know where it’s going to take someone else. The courtyard at their old college? A feature in a public park or garden? Somewhere they visited on a vacation? Maybe it reminds them of their old family home. I don’t know.

Whatever the case, the point of photography for me is to evoke an emotional response in someone. To take them somewhere far away, or to remind them of something familiar and dear. Or maybe just to make them laugh a little.

What is the purpose behind your photography?

Photography basics: ISO

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve taken one great shot after another only to get home and realize that the photos are all pixellated and grainy-looking when you pull them up on your computer? If so, there’s a pretty good chance that your ISO was high. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several cameras and phones that would consistently give me grainy photos when I was shooting indoors on Auto. In today’s photography basics post, we’re going to take a look at ISO and what you can do to about it.

ISO is an acronym that stands for International Organization for Standardization. It’s a standardized scale for measuring your camera’s sensitivity to light; in the olden days, this actually had to do with the kind of film you were using. You can read more about that here since I’m focusing on digital photography. In the digital world, ISO determines how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. A higher ISO makes it more sensitive, so you can take photos with a high shutter speed or with a small aperture in low light. However, ISO also introduces noise to your images, which can be undesirable.

I zoomed in on this one so the noise would be more apparent. Click to see the full version.

The noise comes from the way your camera’s sensor works. A high ISO setting causes it to group pixels together, which is what creates those grainy off-color dots you see in a noisy photo. Cameras with larger sensors tend to have more pixels and smoother images in low light. Full frame cameras, which have sensors the same size as a 35mm film frame, are really good for shooting smooth images at higher ISO settings. Of course, a full frame camera is going to set you back more than a few pennies…It may not be worth the investment if you don’t have money burning a hole in your pocket and you’re not inclined to go pro. Newer cameras (say those made within the last 3 years or so) also get better low-light photos than older cameras; they’re designed to reduce the amount of noise and give the grain aesthetic appeal.

In my experience, I got a lot of noisy photos when I was only shooting in auto. Since I’ve switched to manual and taken control of my exposure, I rarely have issues with noise anymore because I try to keep my ISO setting as low as possible. Sometimes it’s unavoidable depending on what you’re trying to photograph, though.

Typical situations where you might want a higher ISO setting are indoor sporting events, concerts (make sure photography is permitted before you go), caves, nighttime or overcast outdoor shoots, or anywhere you need to take a quick picture but just don’t have enough light. Extremely long exposures can also create noise by causing your camera’s sensor to overheat–which is another reason you need to make time to really learn the strengths and weaknesses of your gear. A flash will help but it can also make your images look harsh or washed out, and some places don’t allow flash photography, so it’s not always the best way to go.

Here are a few examples. I took these pictures at the Lost Sea Adventure, a cave in Sweetwater, TN.

This formation was well lit already, but shooting with a low ISO was still too dark. Flash helped to brighten things up a bit more and it doesn’t look too washed out.

 

Anthodites on the cave ceiling. The noise example above is a zoom-in on this shot.
The sea itself is stocked with rainbow trout. Again, you can see the graininess in the water that’s due to the high ISO setting.

Later, I’d like to come back to this subject and talk in detail about things that can be done to reduce the amount of noise that’s present in photos taken with a high ISO setting. For now, I’m just going to give you a few bullet points.

  • Newer cameras have some built in noise reduction, and if your camera is less than about 3 years old, this post may be irrelevant to you. But if you’re a dinosaur like me, there are things you can do without shelling out the big bucks to replace your camera. I mean, unless you just want to buy another camera. (Don’t we all? I like my T3, but I’d looooove to upgrade to a full frame).
  • Keep your shutter speed as low as possible and your aperture as wide as possible.
  • Use a tripod and shutter remote.
  • Consider shooting in black and white instead of color.
  • Shoot in RAW whenever you can. JPEG files are already compressed and inherently contain noise called JPEG artifacts. I have my camera set up to record images as both a RAW (CR2) file and a JPEG. The downside to shooting in RAW is that you have to convert the files before you can upload them anywhere, and a lot of low end editing software and web apps don’t support the RAW format.
  • Edit. I can’t help you much with this one at this time, but you can find tutorials online if you look. The laptop I have right now doesn’t support Photoshop or Lightroom very well. When I upgrade to a better system, I’ll go over this in more detail. I know there are people who criticize photographers for editing photos, but I think some editing is just a part of the process. Authors don’t get criticized for editing their books. How is cleaning up some noise any different than ironing out spelling errors or bad dialogue?

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. Next week, I’m planning to spend a little time going over the math behind the elements of exposure and the relationships they have with each other and with your camera’s sensor. It’s going to be a little more advanced, but I’m hoping it won’t be confusing if you read my other posts first (links in case you missed them: exposure, shutter speed, aperture). In the meantime, please make sure you share this with your friends! Do you have any questions for me? Is there a topic you’d like to see me cover as part of my basics series? Please let me know by leaving a comment below. Thank you!

July in Photos

Rather than take the time to write an actual post today, I thought I’d go back over some of the highlights of the last month and just share lots of photos with you. July was a great month for pictures!

July was also a great month for blogging. My traffic is increasing and I’ve been getting more attention on social media as well. Yay!

So tell me, which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below or talk to me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!