Photography 101: Shooting in Black and White

I love black and white photo’s. There is no glitz and glam. just the basics.

The Daily Post

Our last Photography 101 installment focused on color, so it’s only fitting that today we talk about black and white! If you’ve developed your own film in the darkroom, you know that working with black and white is a fun, rewarding experience. These days, many of you use digital cameras, so we’ll focus here on digital photography.

Over on The Gravel Ghost, photographer Merilee Mitchell wows us with her moody and evocative black and white images and photo stories: she captures vast desert landscapes, particularly in Death Valley and around California. In this post, she talks about her passion for black and white photography — and the power of telling stories in monochrome.

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Getting Caught?

We burned things last week.  The neighbor kids came to help break up sticks, throw them into the fire, play with the dogs and get popsicles.

Jeremy was the Fire Builder that day, so I took pictures.  When you are the picture taker, you are almost always in the background.  You become invisible like servers at a party.  But then occasionally your object looks up because they are “caught” in the act.

Nothing shows this more than these pictures of Sutton.

Caught in the Act!

Caught in the Act!

He smiles widely and backs away from the gate

You didn't just see me do that did you?

You didn’t just see me do that did you?

Not yo’ Mama’s Sailboat

Do you have activities and things that you look back fondly that “you did that”?   Being involved in outdoor activities like Scouts, always brings me back to the activities that I did in “younger” me (body, not mind.  i’m still 24 in my mind).  Sailing is one of those activities.

Growing up in and on the water, sailing didn’t come into my world until late in high school/college.  I always had a friend that had a boat, so anything we could do to sneak away and be on the water, was time well spent.  From small 20 foot Catalina’s to larger trimaran’s, sailing is where it’s at.

In college, I got hooked on racing.  We raced Olson 30’s out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, in Santa Cruz California.  We tacked out of the lagoon mouth or if we were lucky got a quick tow.  The race usually went to Davenport and back.  The weekly races for bragging rights brought happiness (and bruises) to a young lady that just needed to be out on the water.

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Olson’s really need a crew of 6.  Not that the boat is complicated to sail, but you need the weight to keep the boat down in the water when you are pushing her boundaries.  As the wind and speed heel you over, our butts would hang off the opposite side, waiting for the captain’s call that we would tack soon.

GoPro’s video of the week was the US team sponsored by Oracle and Red Bull competing for the 2013 America’s Cup race.  The race has it’s origins back to 1851.  The best US  schooners would race against the British best.  The race turned into an every 3-4 year event.  The American’s dominated the race for over 100 years.  That is, until the Aussie’s took the cup in 1983.  This is the year (I was a sophomore in high school) that I first learned about the Cup’s existence. My friend Cass has a cool t-shirt with a koala holding up a wrench in victory.

The Ausie’s broke the 132 year record for sailing in the cup!!  And so started the modern sailing controversy.  In 1983 it was the Aussie II’s keel.  WAS IT LEGAL???  Oddly enough the keel’s design wan’t the problem but the origin of the design.  The rules say that the boat’s design must be by the competing country.  And it is alleged, but not proven, that the Aussie keel was designed by a Dutch teem.  Hmmmmm.  A technicality???


Now remember.  The Cup had been hosted only in America until Australia II took it.  The winning team’s yacht club then hosts the next race.  So for 132 years, the race had only been on the East Coast.  New York and Newport.  From there it went to Fremantle AU.  Why wouldn’t there be controversy, no matter who designed the blasted thing, ehhh???

But step back a moment and think about the technology break throughs that were occurring in boat design, let alone in race design.  Applying modern science to weight, drag and optimizing wind was not just in how the “keel” looked.

In 1988, Dennis Conner, with the Stars & Stripes, brought the Cup back to the States and the San Diego Yacht Club.  This is the year that groups really began pushing the boundaries of what type of boat would be raced.  Length.  Mast height.  Hull.  Technology, and pride, pushed teams to do things they never thought could be done before.

1988 was the first year I got to see an America’s Cup boat up close.  Family friends belonged to the club and we got to see the Stars & Stripes up close. It was a catamaran.


So now???  Sailing is done by professionals.  They wear helmets.  I am sure I could have used one of those brain buckets before one my my many concussions.  Needless to say, the boats are still awesome and it makes me want to sail.  Now.  Even in Kansas. Hey we have to have a lake and wind somewhere.  Right?

I hope you enjoy the GoPro clip.  Footage is great.






Inside a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell & Know

Hi everyone.  I initially typed “Inside a God”.  Ha!  That is where dogs are on my pedestal.  After reading terrific comments from a couple different blogs on animal behavior, I went to my dog library and re-pulled one of my favorite recent dog books. 

book shelf

Alexandra Horowitz does a terrific job researching dogs from a psychological approach and urges us humans to look at dogs without our natural inclination to anthropomorphizing them.  


It has been about 2 years since I last read “Inside a Dog”.  In thumbing through pages again, I am amazed and want to re-read it again, starting tonight.  What struck me was a couple things.  

First was “umwelt”  or better explained what is our self-world or self perception.  If we no longer look at the dog through our prism, what is their umwelt?  How do they perceive the world. 

In one sense, when you get down to their level and take pictures, you can see from their eye level.  But, our lack of smell must make that “view” so two dimensional compared to their sight, smell, and hearing.  Do they see furniture and plants the way we do?  I am sure my lavender plants have a sweet pungent smell, but Scout doesn’t know that they are MINE and he “shouldn’t eat it”.  From his perspective, the yard is his and there to explore.  The fence merely prevents him from exploring further. The sounds from the other side of the fence are beckoning him to “bark” back.  “Hi, I’m Here!!  or  My Yard, Go Way”.



Second was “theory of mind”, or that we humans can think about what others are thinking.  For most humans, theory of mind allows you to realize that others have perspectives different from your own.  When you struggle with “theory of mind”, as many of us do with Aspergers, even simple interactions can be utterly unpredictable and mysterious.  You have a “what the %$*# just happened moment”. 

Dogs don’t seem to have those WTF moments.  They seemingly have mind reading ability.  They know when the kids will arrive home from school.  They know when it is dinner time.  They plop themselves as obstacles while I am cooking at the stove or exiting the bathroom.  I change positions at my desk, and they are at the ready for me to go get water.  Best of all, on awful days, the dogs seem to realize I am in woeful need of dog therapy and insist on laying on me or touching me in some fashion.  Do they know?  Do they sense the need?  or are they simply trained with stimulus and response.  

I love taking video and pictures from a dog or child’s eye level.  You can see things from their perspective.  What do the weeds and the trail look like when you run through them.  I tried to mute the wind background.  But I wanted you to hear the grass crunching and the dogs huffing as they run through the tall weeds.


Easy to Read

I spend a lot of time watching people and even more time watching dogs.  Quite frankly, dogs are so much easier to read.  They say what they have to say and move on.  

To help me get my thoughts together for this post, I took Buck and Scout to Heritage Dog Park.  It is a really nice enclosed dog park.  The perimeter walk is just under a mile.  Up hills and down, the dogs can be, well, dogs.  We go there often enough, that Buck knows when we get close. He starts that chortle whine.  The one that is way back in his throat.  If he were angry it would be a growl, but the excitement pinches off his vocal cords a bit and it comes out like a squeal.  

Buck's lips are pulled back as he chortle's that it's his turn.

Buck’s lips are pulled back as he chortle’s that it’s his turn.

Buck doesn’t do a lot of vocalizations beyond the “i’m done, Scout.  leave me alone” or “yes” and loud style one word bark that his way of saying loudly get moving already, it’s time for the walk!!!!!

Scout, on the other hand, is a chronic talker.  Not only is it incessant, it is LOUD.  Scout has about as much volume control as a 3 year old at Chucky Cheese.  When Scout has something to say it comes out in sharp staccato sentences.  “I WANT IT NOW.” or “THROW!! IT!!” Scout seems to use the exact number of syllables needed to complete his request.

Since the dogs are with me nearly all day, I get to watch their routines both as a spectator and a participant. In the morning, they climb over each other to be first in line for food.  Buck takes his time eating, while Scout hoarfs it quickly down.  Next, is the in and out of the dog door.  Pooches taking care of business and drinking lots of water.  As I settle in to work, Scout starts a round of “rharr rarrrr” games.  Nibble on the back of Buck’s foot to instigate being chased.  The seconds turn into minutes.  Rharr.  Chase.  grrrrrr.  Until mommy is tired of the noise and pulls out the water squirt gun.  

But what is most fascinating about the back and forth is that the dogs have a behavioral dance they go through.  A declarative, “I’m ready to play.”  Next comes the nibble or nudge to insist “I am ready to play now!”  Shoulder’s go down, butt’s go up, the give an take commences.  Chase me.  And the neat thing is for a dog, Chase ME actually means Chase ME!!  

Dogs have the language written down in their genes.  When they get to dog park, Chase ME still means Chase ME, even if they have not met that dog before.  The back and forth dance still make sense to them.  They are not strangers.  They still know the dance.

I took a series of pictures this week while Scout was playing.  When you have the camera taking multiple shots you can capture the little nuances as they happen.  The excitement.  The anticipation.  The thrill.  

This is why I really love dogs.  Simple.  Easy.  Lovable.


Orchid Man

I spent some time working with my new canon lenses while shooting at Kauffman Memorial Garden yesterday. Rob and I exchanged gifts for our 20th. He got golf items and I got 2 new lenses for my rebel. A nice telephoto and some gadgets that change a normal 22-55 mm lens to a macro lens. You need to manual focus but the results were stunning.

Overall the conservatory was pretty bare except for the occasional orchid hanging upside down.  The macro converter let me get a great close up shot.

Who knew Orchid Man was hiding in plain sight.



Look a little closer.  He looks like one of the Queen of Heart’s guards in Wonderland.

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