Category: Photo-Take-Outter Friday!

Photo-take-outter Friday #15 – Aerials

It’s a hot one in Toronto! This week we’re creeping up against the 50 degree with humidex mark. There are emergency cooling centres around the city, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk and the AC in my office is broken. Luckily for me… I love the heat. I love it so much that I can sit outside and knit wooly things for people in it.

Lake, lake, lake, smog.

That doesn’t mean that the idea of a cold dip in the pool after work doesn’t sound mighty fine though ;) and while I was contemplating that I thought of the aerial photography I did of the lake last year, and decided to feature aerials for a blog post. Heat, pool, lake, photography. Yes, that was how that went.

I wanted to remember Ontario Place, before they do whatever horrid thing they’re going to do to it.

Aerial photography is, no contest, the best part of my job. I love it so much that I’m starting flying lessons this year – let’s see how that goes ;)

Oooohhh….. cineflex….

She’s a stunner, this city of ours :)

Photo-Take-Outter Friday #14 – The Silky Water effect

Have you ever seen a photo of water and wondered how they get the water to look so silky and smooth? The answer is a trick, all you need is a tripod and a DSLR or digital that lets you shoot in full manual.

Set your camera on the tripod and set it to manual mode. If you have the ability, shoot in RAW.

Here’s the trick; squeeze your aperture as far up as it will go. Remember, aperture numbers are like fractions; bigger numbers mean a smaller opening and you want the smallest you can get.

Make sure your ISO is 100 or as low as it goes, so the camera doesn’t try to compensate for the tiny aperture.

And now lower your shutter speed as far as you can without overexposing the shot – even in daylight you can often get up to a shutter speed as long as one second – especially if you’re working with a lens that lets you drop to, say, f32.

And that’s it! You only need a second for the water to blur beautifully. If you can get more than a second then you can into some truly beautiful effects. Enjoy!

Photo-Take-Outter Friday #13 – Have you ever wondered where yarn comes from? A photo essay at Alpaca Acres

Last Saturday Tito and I had the opportunity to be part of the annual shearing day at Alpaca Acres. Our friends, Anne and Dan, invited us and a bunch of their friends to come help out on this busy day, taking their herd from this:

To this:

We were so impressed by this process. The alpaca stand against a table which rotates so they’re lying down – and instantly the alpaca ‘pit crew’ gets to work. Not one second is wasted while the alpaca is being worked on. The actual shearing is done by Dan. Dan is careful, methodical and gentle with his shearing.

The others are trimming the legs, carting away the fleece for sorting and even trimming the toenails. Throughout the process other people always have their hands on the alpacas body, supporting them, petting them, comforting them, even talking to them. Everything we saw was marked by their consideration and love for their herd.

Many hands take part in sorting the enormous amount of fleece per animal. The strands that are coarse, knotted or too short are removed. The ‘first’ and ‘second’ shearings are separated by length and quality. Being newbies at this, the sorting table was where Tito and I started out.

Afterwards you have a handsome alpaca, straight from the spa!

Look at this handsome fellow, I was wondering what his fleece looked like so Annie brought it out –

Beautiful fluffy grey and white. He comes variegated!

This is Sandy, the alpaca that I bought a sweaters worth from once. Some of her fleece went to my pen-pal in Boston :) This is her before picture.

The thickness of Sandy’s fleece.

Another view of the thickness, mid shear.

Her fleece being carted off for sorting

Annie and Paula – sorting fleece is so awesome – you just want to bury your face in it!

And Sandy’s after photo – half the size she was :)

Isn’t that crazy? Here she is again:

Thank you Annie and Dan for letting us be part your shearing day! We have a whole new appreciation for where yarn comes from :)

Speaking of where yarn comes from, next weekend I’ll be taking my first spinning class at the Purple Purl – stay tuned!

Photo-Take-Outter Friday #12 – The Holy Nativity Convent (AKA ‘A Good Yarn’). A Photo Essay about a crazy journey.

I apologize in advance for the image heavy post – but there was no short way to tell this story :)

In December, the Yarn Harlot very kindly featured my yarn bowls on her blog, which resulted in my being inundated with requests from the US. I don’t ship pottery any more, but decided to fill just one order which had caught my eye – a yarn bowl for the Mother Superior of the Holy Nativity Convent in Boston. How could I say no?

The person who contacted me, Mother Pelagia, became a wonderful pen pal over the weeks that followed. By the time the bowl was ready I made the totally random decision to travel to Boston to meet her, and to give her Mother Superior the bowl as a gift. As a gift for Mother Pelagia herself I took the most Canadian thing I could think of – yarn from Alpaca Acres here in Ontario.

The story begins with me flying to Boston cradling (and occasionally using) the yarn bowl. The next day I took a taxi to a yarn store called ‘A Good Yarn’ which, according to google, is only  a 15 minute walk from the convent, so I thought I’d show up early and do some shopping. This is Paula and Maria.

I shared the story of why I was there with them. They were delighted.

Paula said ‘Do you mean Mother Seraphima?’.

‘Yes!’ I said.

‘They’re friends of mine, let me call them for you!’ she said – what a small world! They called and a few minutes later Paula informed me with a grin that the ‘nun-mobile’ was on its way ;) The next day Paula added me as a friend on Ravely with the simple, touching note “Thank you for yesterday”.

An SUV pulled up a few minutes later and 2 nuns came into the yarn store – I was greeted and hugged like an old friend (and not a slightly insane potter) by these beautiful women. They took met to the convent where I enjoyed dinner and a wonderful tour. The convent is a remarkable place – the sisters are industrious, talented and incredibly busy women. This is Mother Seraphima and Mother Pelagia holding their gifts from Toronto.

This is their chapel.

These bells are made from old oxygen tanks, and they sound lovely!

This is the Stash. Before I left I experienced every knitters dream – they gave me yarn of my choice as a parting gift. Imagine standing in a room of stash, and the owner of said stash is begging you to avail yourself of it and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Wow!

This was a great story: While on their annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land they asked the kids selling souvenirs for a drop spindle. The kid ran home and came back with a stick that had a nail through it. Apparently the Bedouins in the desert have done it this way for hundreds of years. It had a skein of camel hair wound around it. They gave me one of them, and also a more conventional drop spindle – inspiring me to learn spinning next.

They also produce beautiful mosaics…



…and their own beeswax candles. Did I mention that the convent smells heavenly? There is a wood working studio, a library, a laser etching machine, a book bindery a weaving studio and even a mini photo studio.

This is Max. He’s under the impression that all the fuss in this house is for him.

This was another good story – they asked one of the children in the Holy Land for roving, and this is what they brought back.

Speaking of roving – how lovely is this stuff? Created by one of the sisters there and another reason to learn to spin.

This is my beautiful new family – Mother Pelagia on the left and Mother Seraphima on the right.

I made out like a bandit – they also gifted me with home made beeswax candles which I plan to distribute among my closest friends. The women there are loving, warm, funny and sweet. They didn’t care one whit that I wasn’t much of a religious person. They were also talented, dedicated and light hearted. They loved the alpaca yarn – it turns out they enjoy making prayer ropes from yarn :)

To the Yarn Harlot – if you’re reading this, Stephanie, thank you so much for your little feature last Christmas. Who could know what would come of it? This is the beauty of craft and the love that we put into our handmade things, and the connection that those handmade things can create across distance, and between strangers. Really, thank you.

Photo-Take-Outter Friday #11 – Feathered Friends

One of the most satisfying things to photograph are birds. They’re beautiful and graceful, colourful and elusive, sometimes also fast and camouflaged… all of which combines to make them that much more challenging and rewarding. Here are some of my faves, and where I took them. Every shot in this collection was the same lens; the Canon 100mm Prime f2.8.

Barn Owl, Vancouver Island BC

Budgies, Rome, Italy

Anhinga, Caño Negro, Costa Rica

Green Parrots – Agra, India

Brown Pelican, St Maartan

Emerald Hummingbirds, Quepos, Costa Rica

Emerald Hummingbird, Monte Verde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Spectacle Owl, Vancouver Island, BC

Jabiru, Caño Negro, Costa Rica

Kingfisher, Caño Negro, Costa Rica

Blue Heron, Victoria BC

Green Heron, St Maartan

Photo-Take-Outter Friday #9 – Custom Bokeh Effects

Today I wanted to share a technique I learned from the fantastic blog at Kevin & Amanda, on how to create custom bokeh effects.

For the actual technique I defer to their tutorial; they do a fantastic job explaining this cute, easy technique for creating unique photos.

Custom Bokeh

The photos in this post are some of my experiments with this technique, from having fun with my Christmas tree….

Custom Bokeh

… to using it in photography of my jewellery. This photo, and the one below it were created using cut-up ropes of mardi gras beads in place of lights, to allow me to place them around my jewellery more precisely.

Custom Bokeh

Custom Bokeh

It’s fun, easy and cheap to try. I used construction paper and my 50mm f1.8 Canon lens. You can extend it to fun portrait photography as well – imagine the sunlight through the trees, or the lights of the city at night… the possibilities are endless!

Photo-Take-Outter Friday #8 – Macro Photography 101

Macro photography is a great love of mine, and a very fun hobby. The best part is that whether it’s spring buds, yarn fibres, glaze details or critters – there is always something to shoot. Bored? Go on out and do some macro. There’s a great shot waiting right in your backyard.

macro photography tips

Some of my favourite shots are up there because they capture something that you don’t normally get to see; the tilt of the stars, a birds wings frozen in motion etc. The cool thing about macro is that you’ll always get something that people normally wouldn’t get to see. So, at the least, it’s a fascinating shot every time.

macro photography tips

For macro, I use Canon’s 100mm prime f2.8 macro lens. It’s also a fantastic long-range lens and I’ve done a lot of wildlife work with it. It’s not a cheap lens; but it’s worth every penny. It is, without question, the sharpest lens in my kit.

macro photography tips

On top of that I use Kenko extension tubes. I bought mine at Henrys, used, for $100. Extension tubes have no glass, but lengthen the distance between your lens and your camera. This enables a lens to focus closer than it’s normal set minimum focusing distance. Kenko tubes come in sets of 3, which you can use together, or individually, depending on the effect you’re going for.

macro photography tips

Here is an example of my 100mm lens, with just one Kenko tube on:

macro photography tips

Here it is with 2 Kenkos:

macro photography tips

And finally, with all 3:

macro photography tips

Quite a dramatic change, right? Here it is again:

macro photography tips

My tiger lilies with only one extension tube.

macro photography tips

With 2 extension tubes

macro photography tips

... and with the whole kit n kaboodle.

I’ve done some great critter photography with this set up:

macro photography tips

Tips for the actual shooting part:

  • This lens set up weighs a lot, so a tripod is a good option.
  • The extension tubes compromise your exposure and you’ll need a longer shutter speed than normal – so bright light is essential if your subject is a moving one.
  • It can also be difficult to focus when you’re trying to get as close as possible, so  what I do is lock my focus as tight as I can get it and then physically move the camera toward and away from my subject until I find that sweet spot for the shot.
  • Be ready to be patient – shooting outdoors means wind and that means your subject may not stay where you want them, even in a gentle breeze – but when you do get that perfect shot it’s that much more rewarding :)

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