slide show

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Macro (Part IV- odds 'n ends) and a request for input

So let's finish up this macro series.  There's more to take pics of than flowers after all!  Although as you'll see, I still have a few more flowers in here. 

I hope you've seen some things here that inspire you to get closer to the little things and really slow life down and look closely for the amazing-ness that is already all around us. the macro lens does that.  Suddenly we don't need an fabulous vista, gorgeous clothing or cute models to get that wow factor in our photos.  Because when you get closer, you'll see that that wow-factor was already all around us if we just look close enough!

The baby lizard that Boo brought me a few weeks ago?  Thank you very much kind boy because that's exactly every mama wants in her kitchen... baby lizards!  But in pics it TOTALLY rocks!!!!!!  
So do y'all have any suggestions for which lens you'd like me to talk about next?   I will admit, that I'm a bit of a lens whore.  I can't say that I even have a favorite because all of them are my favorite at one time or another.  So I'm not sure which lens you'd like me to cover next.  Is there one that you're considering?  Or would like more info about?  Or to see a variety of pics taken with it? 
You're it! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vietnam adoption reopening and rambling semi-coherent thoughts

Today, September 16th, 2014, is a day long waited for by many.   After halting adoptions in 2008, today, the US State Dept, will start processing adoptions from Vietnam.  The official announcement is here.

It is a very small program that's opening, nothing like the one that closed in 2008. Much smaller and much different. The new program only has 2 agencies, Dillon and Holt, in my opinion both agencies are highly respected with a LONG history of transparency.  Holt was our agency that we adopted Mimi through, and we highly highly recommend them.  (Did I mention we highly recommend Holt?)  The US DOS had previously announced that this program will only be placing "children with special needs, children aged five and older, and children in biological sibling groups." A link to the US DOS announcement about the type of children the program will place is here.  

I have mixed feelings about the Vietnam program reopening.  I'm happy, but I'm scared at the same time. It brings back a flood bad memories of a very tough time for us.   In my mind, I'm hoping this new program will be a successful test to see if the program is stable and transparent enough to get bigger, especially since I've seen the need personally first hand.  I pray it is!  After our stay at the Vietnam orphanage this summer, I'm often find myself sad that any of these amazing children can't have what they deserve; a family to call their own forever and ever.  Don't get me wrong, the children in orphanages that I've personally seen, and surely the vast majority of orphanages in Vietnam (and the world) are loved on by their caregivers with all they have.  But growing up, even with love, in institutionalized care will never ever be the same as a forever family.  Not to mention that these children aren't growing up in with their first family, the best case scenario of all!  And that just makes me sad all the way around.

But what happened in Vietnam with our adoptions in 2008, still haunts me.  How can it not when my children still bare the scares... figuratively AND literally bare scars.  It was one of the toughest things in my life to go through.  Sometimes folks ask me to compare the Vietnam adoption process with our China adoption.  Well... the China adoption was comparitively smooth sailing and easy!  We knew our Chinese daughter would come home!  We had absolutely no idea if our Vietnamese children, our Tess and Jude, would come home back in 2008.  We were threatened, (and I'm not using that word lightly) that they might not come home, but grow up in an orphanage.  It felt as if someone had a vendetta out against us during that process... wait... someone kinda did!  But I digress.

I think I'm rambling again.  I just want it to work.  I want this new program, a program that has opened and closed again and again and again over the years, to work so badly, so children, mostly special needs children, can have families.  I want to dream like a child and live in an ideal world where all children have a mama and a papa and a place to call home.  My list of wants and prayers is long and only semi-coherent tonight.   I want families to be together.   I want children that will never know homes, the ones that don't qualify for adoption, to have a home.  I don't want orphanages to be under funded and under staffed with another mouth to feed and have to make a new bed.  I don't want a mama to come to the steps of an orphanage and feel like she has no other choice then to leave her baby as she walks out.   My heart breaks for the ones left behind. My heart breaks for the first families that don't feel like they have an alternative.  The heartbreak adoption is born from is real.  I'm scared that the program won't be transparent enough. Or that enough safeguards have been put in place and that children won't be lured from their families.  I pray that children stay with their birth families in the first place and never have to know what growing up in an institution is like. I want Vietnamese families who have children with special needs to have access to the medical care so that can stay together.  And as a very very very last resort, I want this program, the US Vietnam adoption program, where children will lose their family first, then their nationality and their language, and the culture and their heritage, their food, their way of life and everything they have ever ever known is stripped from them often literally... and get a forever family in exchange... I want that to work too.

A prayer that the program works, takes hold, unites more children that would never know the security and unconditional love of a family any other way.

***the photos here are of the amazing, gorgeous, sweet, smart, perfectly-made children at St, An's Orphanage in Vietnam.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Macro (Part III-Things in the woods)

I got home last night from the Click Away conference and squeezed all my sweet things tightly. and  It. Was. LOVELY!  Seriously folks, I have the most amazing family that not only held down the fort while I was gone, but encouraged me to go again and again and again. 
Of course the laundry pile is high the dust bunnies were breeding at a incredibly fast rate while I was gone, but those things can be tended to.  
I'm pretty sure I'm the luckiest mama in the world!

More macro now, this time things in the forest...  (see I told you you were gonna get your fill!)
Seriously this mushroom photo with the little things growing out of the moss... I didn't even notice it until I was looking through the lens and saw it... that one gets to me!  That's the reason I LOVE photography!  It makes me slow down and see things in the world that I would never seen without it!  Amazing stuff!   Then again I'm easily amused.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Macro (Part II - Flowers)

The Click Away conference has been wonderful!  The best part is that I have inspiration oozing out my ears!  If you wanted to go and couldn't come this year, I'll recommend that you meet me here next year, because I am SO coming again!  I don't have any pics to show for the conference, but like I mentioned earlier, I'm going to keep posting macro images through the week so you can keep seeing what this amazing lens does.  Macro images are just about getting really close to objects to make them appear large in the frame.  Most lenses can't get very close to focus on something.  Their "focal length" is the minimum distance that a lens can be to a subject and still focus and most lenses won't let you get much closer than a few inches.  But macro lenses have a really small focal length, allowing the photographer to get really close... which is great is your trying to photograph really little things!

Another  fabulous thing about macro lenses, is that they really create amazing blurry backgrounds for the subject in today's case flowers.  Even busy plants suddenly blur into an amazing backdrop.

I'd like to mention that although I'm showing images that I shot with a 100mm macro lens, Canon has more than one macro lens.  Canon makes a 50mm, 60mm, a 65mm, 2 different 100mm (that I talked about here) and a 180mm.   And Nikon has even more than that!

Photographing flowers is a fun easy subject when shooting a macro.  Suddenly even the tiniest of flowers is visible with lots of detail, amazing details that I didn't even notice before are so obvious when close up!  I took the following images in the last month.
I hope you enjoyed the flowers and can see all the little amazing things that is God's handiwork! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro

I thought we'd take a moment to talk about specific lenses, and for the next week we'll be talking about the 100mm macro lens.  I get a lot of questions about it and a lot of folks interested in it. So I thought we'd take some time to discuss it, let you ask questions about it and see some examples of what it can do.

Let me first say, I'm going to the Click Away photography conference in Salt Lake City this weekend.  (Anyone else going and wanna meet up?  Comment here, and let's try to make it happen!)  I'm so so excited to go to meet several folks I've only met online, spend some time with photographers I know in person already, and learn from some amazing nationally acclaimed photographers from all over the world including Sue Bycee, Meg Bitton, Joy Prouty, Ashlee Ann Campbell... just to name a few!  Not that I'm name dropping or anything...  Oh what the heck!  I'm totally name dropping!!!!  Seriously, I get to learn from these amazing women!!!  How cool is that?!  Anywho, I'll be gone for a bit and no doubt catching up on a mountain of laundry when I return home.  So I thought this would be a good time to have a series of posts re the 100mm for a full week.

So let's talk about the 100mm macro. First off, my disclaimer... I'm FAR from an expert on lenses or macro photography or photography in general. This is just my plain ol' soccer mom experience with my 100mm lens.
The 100mm macro is NOT a lens to get first off.  It's fun!  It's a fabulous addition to your bag!  But it is not a good general all purpose lens!  I've heard of folks that use it for portraits, (although I think there are other portrait lenses out there than are better, like the 135mm and 85mm) so it can do that if you're willing to stand far enough back and or want to get close.  I do use it in portraits for some of the detail shots like little piggies or capturing eyelashes.  but I really don't use it for straight portraits.  Not that it can't be done.
But the 100mm macro's main use if for macro photography, ie getting close to little things.  The focusing distance (the closest you can get to something and still get your lens to focus is VERY small.  thus the reason is a macro lens!  And that enable me to get really close to something and still focus.
For Canon there is a high end version of this lens, the 100mm f/2.8 L IS that runs a little less than $1000, and then there's the one I have, the 100mm f/2.8 with no L and no IS, which Papa got me off Craig's List a few years ago for a screaming deal of $100.  I'm pretty sure it was heavily used and slightly abused.  That IS part (stands for image stabilization) that's a big deal!   I'll tell you with no experience with the high end L version of this lens, the cheaper one lacking the image stabilization is often a bear to focus, and I lose a lot of shots from focusing issues.  It's really sensitive to hand shake, not that I shake mind you, but any movement short of being on a tripod can knock off the focus.  so I often just ended up manually focusing.  In the long run, if you're gonna spend that type of money on a macro lens, I'd recommend saving a bit more and getting the L version and save yourself some sanity.  Never the less, if I take a lot of shot and am patient, I do get images that I'm happy with with the cheaper one.
There are cheaper off brands of this lens, but just because the name brands hold their value and are much easier to sell, I recommend the Brand names of Canon or Nikon.  Depending on how comfortable you are buying used, I do recommend looking into refurbished lenses though and that will save you some pennies.  But be sure to get them from a reputable source, like from Canon directly (refurbished lenses directly from Canon come with a guarantee) so if you have any issues with they, you can easily return them.  I've purchased refurbished lenses and equipment this way and been very happy with it. I'm sure Nikon offers something similar.
Like many things in photography, macro photography in general has a learning curve.  It's a whole different beast than portrait photography or just taking fun pics of your kids. So it's something that needs practice and patience and did I mention practice?  You'll need a firm grasp and depth of field and how it can be manipulated to get the pics you want and of course I always recommend that you be comfortable shooting in Manual mode to get the photos you have envisioned.  (My next "How to shoot in Manual" class won't be until the spring of 2015.  But if you're interested leave me your email and I'll put you on the interest list.)
One of the reasons that I do LOVE my macro lens is that it's my go-to lens when I bored or feeling particularity uninspired. Suddenly the world looks different in macro. Things that I never would have noticed before are amazing.  And my home and backyard are all I need to get tons of new photos from everyday things.  I've been in a macro mood for about a month now. some the pics you'll see this week  have been on Facebook or Instagram or on other posts.   But I want to give you a feel for what I use the 100mm macro for.
For the next week, I'll be posting more pics taken with my 100mm macro.  You'll see lots of wild flowers and the world around up close and personal.  And maybe this lens is something you'll want to add to your Christmas list!

So which one of the pics in this post speaks to you?  Do you have a favorite?  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Boo!

The last of our big slew of birthdays has arrived.  I would be lying if I didn't say I exhale when September 9th arrives, marking the end of the Cray 9 birthday blitzkrieg.  Only for a short while though since the holiday season is quickly approaching and needs to be prepped for.  

Boo turns 12 years old today!  And it reminds me once again how quickly seasons of life pass.  Even though he has 3 younger siblings, Boo somehow still holds the status of "baby of the family" in my heart, and is personality naturally leans towards it. He's sensitive and a still our big cuddle bug.

And now we're up to Boo's birthday interview!
How old are you today?  12

Describe what type of person you are?  I am me!  I don't know, Mom.  Birthday interviews are hard, Mom!  I am a smart, strong, awesome person.  I don't know how tall I am, but I am tall.  I have dirty-blond-ish hair and hazel-ish eyes.  I am fun because my friends say I am.  I do a lot of things well like figuring out how things work.  

What's your favorite color and why?   My favorite color is green.  It is a fascinating color, and it stands out, and it looks great, like grass is green, and it is an amazing color. 
Who is your favorite person in the whole world?  Nicola Tesla.  Basically he invented how to produce electricity.  He invented the radio and discovered things about x-rays and stuff like that. I like him because he made this world easier to live in and easier to understand.  

What do you want to be when you grow up?  I don't know, Mom. I think I might want to be someone who designs cars.  I've always been fascinated with the way cars work and would like to find a way for them to be more efficient.  Or maybe an astronaut because space is unknown and goes forever always!  But it would be hard because it would take a lot of work.  

What's the hardest thing in your life right now?  The hardest thing for me is getting my work done at school.  It is hard.  Well it's not hard, but it is time consuming.  I think it will get easier though because I am trying to come up with a routine to finish my work on time. 
What is your favorite thing to do?  My favorite thing to do is use remote control planes, boats, cars, or anything like that.  

What are your favorite foods and drinks?  My favorite food is either Pho, a delicious Vietnamese food that is full of flavor.  Or steak is just delicious! 

What do you not like?  I don't like it when my mom gets angry at anybody, because she then it makes everyone in the family hard to be with.  But sometimes somebody makes her mad. 
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  I would go to Cedar Point because it has the best roller coasters, and I am in love with roller coasters. I have never been there, but I hope I get to go someday soon!  I would go on all the roller coasters 5 times each!

What do you want for your birthday?  I  want RC stuff!  And more RC stuff.  And mint Oreo cookie cupcakes!
Gosh.  Apparently I need to work on my temper.  Children are brutally honest that way.

In our family we grow 'em either small, big, but nothing in between.  My bio kids have been big, and my Asian sweeties are small even by Asian standards.  Born at 9 lb 15oz in 45 minutes, (honest injun) Boo still tops the charts as the biggest kid in the house.  He has always been a head taller than the other kids in his class and is even bigger than Patch at the same age.  I often wonder when he'll stop growing!  And that can be a little tough for him, when others forget that he's not as old as he appears; a little man in a big body.

He's a classic middle child and a dream to parent.   He has always reminded me of the kind of guy that a girl would love to marry someday.  He's sensitive, responsive, independent, mostly tidy and loves to have fun!  And he has fabulous hair!  In fact he's the only one in the family with curly, wavy hair go figure!  But when adoption is in your family, that kind of thing just pops up out of nowhere.  And watching him grow and develop and come into his own has been such a blessing for us.

Luv you to the moon and back, Boo!  Happy happy birthday!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Patch!

This annual Crazy 9 birthday blitzkrieg of 2014 is still rolling.
Next up, Patch on his 16th birthday!  Good golly I love love love this boy young man!
How old are you today?  24

Can you describe what type of person you are?  Awesome.  Totally awesome. The most awesome.  If I had to pick just one word to describe me it would be awesome.  Outgoing.  Really freakin' awesome. If I had to pick between being the queen of England and awesome, I'd be awesome.  Funny, nice, belligerent and awesome.  If I had baby back ribs that were awesome, I would be a bit more awesome then they were.  And humble. 
What's your favorite color and why?   Purple.  I had to pick a color a long time ago, and purple is the one I chose.  I couldn't decide between red and blue.  So I just decided between red and blue. Why do you feel such a commitment to purple?  We've been through a lot together, purple and me. 

Who is your favorite person in the whole world?  Can I pick Dad?  Sure!  Ronald Graham, a mathematician.  I'm fascinated with his work.  Large numbers are fun.  What type of work has he done? 3 dimensional cubes. Hyper cubes.  I just like the problems he thought up. I mean I like him, but mostly I like the problems he thought of.  
When you grow up, what do you want to be?  A biological genetic engineer.  It sounds fun, and that's what I base my life on.... stuff that sounds fun!  I'd like to take the capsaicin out of peppers and find medical uses for it.

What's the hardest thing in your life right now?  Work.  All work.  Doing work. Working.  Homework. School work.  Class work.  Work my parents give me.  

What is your favorite thing to do?  Sit in the quiet.  I just like to sit and then it's so quiet.  

What are your favorite foods and drinks?  Penang curry, but not spicy. Food in general is tasty.  I like eating food.  Sprite and water.  
What do you not like?  Noise. Work.  

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Vietnam even though I've never been there.  But my family makes it sound so good.  China was fun. But maybe a fantasy beach on an island. Not a volcanic island, but there would be bunch a coconut trees where the coconuts were always ripe and and a couple banana trees with ripe bananas. And I would have a lawn chair on the beach that is comfortable and reclines like a bed. No wait... make it a bed on the beach.  And I would have a sand dollar farm and people that bring me drinks all day long.

What do you want for your birthday?  I really don't care.  Money is always nice!

I think this little interview gives and accurate depiction of who Patch really is right now, the real Patch that we live with... day and night... all day long... 24/7, day after day after week after month!  He is truly a hoot, and he certainly keeps life fun and interesting!   He's our 6'1" modern renaissance man, the only boy in his high school that is both on the wrestling team and the choir.  This summer he canoed 115 miles.  He really is one of my very favorite people on the planet, and if I have to be marooned on a deserted island, you'd better believe I'd hope that I'd be maroon with him.  Of course I'd be even better if we had those beds on the beach and people that bring me drinks all day long!
Happy birthday, Patch!  I am loving watching your grow into a man and become a better you every day!  I wouldn't change any of it!

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