Photography: You Can't Pay For Better Therapy!

Photography: You can't pay for better therapy! Nothing clears a worried mind, heals a broken heart, or frees your thoughts more than picking up a camera. There is beauty all around you, if only you open your eyes to see it.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Today marks my first day off in 13 days.  Before you start thinking that my employer really sucks, know that I voluntarily signed up for it.  I know what you are thinking.  And yes, I am crazy.   But I am also a girl trying to save up some money for my annual girl's trip (Key West this year), which is less than 6 months away.  :) 

Anyways, aside from spending the last 13 days working, I have also spent that same amount of time fighting off a cold.  A cold that I, at first, thought were mere allergies.  Tissues, my neti pot, hot tea, and meds have been my best friends.  I felt so drained and miserable, that I hadn't been able to keep up with my fitness regimen.  :(  The combination of all of those things has not been very good!  When I am sick, my emotions can really get the best of me.     

In a conversation the other day, someone asked when it would be my turn to have kids.  I told her I wasn't there yet, and they commented for me not to wait too long.  Her comment was intended to be harmless.  I laughed, and smiled.  But inside, I was screaming.  Find me the right guy, and I'll have kids!  Do you think I want to be single in my early 30's???  Trust me, it was not in my plans.  Ask anyone I knew ten years ago...I used to joke that if I wasn't married by the time I was 30, you would find me at an in-vitro clinic on my 30th birthday.  (Of course, I wasn't...I celebrated my birthday in Orlando with my besties- Disneyworld, CityWalk and a birthday scavenger hunt included- and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything!)  I've had relationships.   My last one could have turned into marriage (he hinted at it 4 months in), but I wouldn't have been happy.  When I was younger, there were also potential relationships that I didn't pursue, out of fear.  I was always good at hitting the brakes when someone got too close (luckily, I've outgrown most of that).  But, I definitely thought I would be married, and a mom, by now.  Because, there is nothing greater in the world that I want.  But, I have to remind myself, it's not about my plans and my timing, but God's.  And that can be hard to swallow sometimes. 

Anyways, my day off couldn't have come at a better time.  I needed a day to sleep in.  A day to relax.  A day for me to escape through my camera lens.  And fortunately, the rain stayed away long enough for me to visit Airlie Gardens. 

If you haven't been to Airlie, you really should make it a point to go sometime.  It is breathtaking and peaceful.  One of my favorite spots in Airlie is the Tranquility Garden, specifically, its Butterfly House.

I've been planning to go back with my 'good' camera and tripod for awhile now.  Somehow, I had this crazy idea that I could get some great butterfly shots with the help of a tripod.  Well, let me say, easier said than done!  The butterflies were especially active today.  More so than a few weeks ago.  Then again, there weren't children grabbing them this time.  If I were a butterfly, I would have hid that day, too! 

Today, they were fluttering everywhere.  They were even jumping on one another, knocking each other off of their flower (which is exactly what happened in the photo above)...

I did manage to get a few half decent photos...but I definitely need to learn how to adjust the shutter speed and aperture together.  That would really help me capture the moments!

As for my spirits, the trip to Airlie had a positive impact.  It definitely helped me clear my mind, and feel a bit better!  (Oh, and for the record...I have a great time being single.  Most days, I am content with it.  I'm not a sulky person, either.  Like anything else, its just those occasional random thoughts at less than ideal moments that catch you off guard...)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Procrastination doesn't pay...

I am a procrastinator.  I have a horrible habit of waiting til the last minute for things.  As much as I hate to admit it, it is true. All my life, I've had procrastination tendencies.  Pulling the all-nighter in college to finish that 15 page paper due at 9 a.m. the following morning.  I once dropped a class a week before school started, because I procrastinated the summer reading assignment to the point of never even cracking open the book.   Just ask my best friends and family...I can't even get to the post office early enough to mail out packages in time!  (I've even explained to a then 7 yr old nephew that his birthday present would be arriving late.  "If it isn't late, then it just wouldn't be me!", I told him.  To which he replied, "It's okay, Aunt Tami.  I know...".  Even a 7 year old recognizes my procrastination and poor time management skills...)  Even as I write this, I, quite embarrassed, still haven't mailed a best friend's birthday present, which was bought about 2 months ago...and her birthday was August 1st! (more forgetfulness in my currently hectic life than procrastination, I suppose...but I swear I will get it out this week!) 

Well anyways, procrastination did it to me again.  I've known for well over a month now (quite possibly longer) about a photography contest that I wanted to enter.  There wasn't any big prize, but it was a free entry, and I thought it would be fun.  Well, I went back and forth, unable to decide what photo to submit for my first ever photography contest (well, first 'grown up' photography contest).  I knew the deadline was September 10th.  I just didn't realize it was 5 PM on the 10th.  Not until after I spent 30 minutes on the phone with my sister that evening, getting her opinion of which one I should submit.  By the time I finally made up my mind, it was 9:54 PM.  And, once I registered, clicked the confirmation link in my email as required, and navigated the site to the appropriate section for upload...I got the error message: No contests open.  What?  I went back to my email, and tried again.  Same message, directing me back to the contest rules.  And as I skimmed through, I saw it.  Entries must be received by 5 PM on September 10th.  How did I miss that 5 PM part?  Well, as bummed as I was about it, I knew one thing:  Procrastination doesn't pay! 

The great news is, however, that I found another contest.  This one, is more of a 'bigger' contest, by which I mean they are giving away a Canon 7D with a kit lens as the grand prize.  But again, I'm entering for fun and experience.  It will be interesting to see how my entries compare to others.  And maybe I will learn a thing or two!  But this time around, I have set a personal goal to have my entry in the mail by September 30th.  A full 15 days before the October 15th deadline. 

As for my procrastination and time management...the purchase of a dayplanner is long overdue.  :) 

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Smallest Things In Life Can Have the Greatest Impact...

A couple of months back, I decided to make some changes in my life.  Out with the old and in with the new, so to speak.  I had the best of intentions for a while, but I was just shy of making the commitment.  Then, one day, something happened.  One small, random thing, but it was exactly the push I needed. 
Some of the life decisions were tough.  As difficult as it was, I did some necessary "life house-cleaning".  And I started doing some things for me.  I changed my eating habits and started a fitness regimen, with a goal of getting healthy.  (As a sidenote:  I am proud to say that yesterday, I put on a pair of jeans that were a size smaller.  And they fit.  :)  A small milestone, but a milestone in the right direction.) 

The 'get healthy' goal has become a main focus of mine.  To stay on task with the exercise part, I knew I had to find things that I enjoyed doing.  The Loop at Wrightsville Beach was an obvious choice.  A. I love the smell of ocean air.  B. It's a great way for me to enjoy the beach, despite a busy schedule.  C. Since it's a 'loop', you can't give up halfway through- how else do you get back to your car??  D. And, its 2.45 mile circular stretch of sidewalk takes you past some beautiful scenery. 

I walk/run the Loop at least a few times each week.  Sometimes early in the morning, sometimes in the evening.  But every time, I admire the beauty surrounding me.  And I make a mental note to return sometime with my camera.  So yesterday, I finally did.  :)

Meet Hank, 23 years old. 
Hank rides on the handlebars of his owner's red bike.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Downtown Wilmington Through the Lens...

Haven't had much photography time this week...

Thought I'd share a few photos I've taken while previously 'testing out the camera'...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Arboretum Photos... promised, here are a few photos that I took today at the Arboretum.  It is a beautiful, peaceful place...if you ever get the chance to go, it is well worth it! 

Some of the Best Things in Life are Free...

It's true.  Some of the greatest things in life are free.  I know, I know...even as I wrote it, I, too, had flashbacks to high school economics.  It goes against what they taught us:  TINSTAAFL.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Yeah, I get it. Someone, somewhere, had to work or pay to make it free. Well, Mr. B., that is a little too technical for me.  In my eyes, some of the best things really are free!   So, this weekend, I decided to fill my days with them.  Camera in hand, armed with my "Short Course in Canon Powershot SX10IS", I headed out to experience, through the lens, two of my favorite free areas of town.  

Let me start by saying, I love historic downtown Wilmington.  I really do.  Even as things change, my heart still stays with it.  Was I bummed out when they turned Front Street into a two-way street, and removed all of the angled street parking?  Yeah, I was.  For one thing, I feared it would lose a part of its character. Second, I'm not very good at parallel parking.  Fortunately, it still maintained it's historical aspect.  It's just changing with the times.  Besides, I would much rather have it modernized, than allowed to turn into a run-down area of the city.

It's sad to see some of the old shops close their doors, but exciting to see the new places coming in.  I swear, each time I am down there, something is new.  Hot Pink Cake Stand.  The Christmas Store (from Southport).  The return of She Thinks Pink.  On Front Street, we have new lighting fixtures and new sidewalks. Parking meters have been replaced with paystations, now accepting pay by phone.  Green street signs are being replaced with shiny blue ones.  Even still, downtown remains one of my favorite places to photograph  (and, by the way, I've since learned how to parallel park).

Yesterday, I spent a few hours downtown.  Read some of the "Short Course" guide, and worked on aperture and shutter speed priority settings.  One thing about me...I can read things over and over again, but to truly grasp it, I need hands-on experience.  Trial and error, I need to see the difference.  The book explains it in a good manner...the smaller the f/stop number, the larger the lens opening.  Okay, I think I got it.  But as I tried to see the difference in the photos that I took, it wasn't that clear.  Well, I could see the difference, but it wasn't the same as the examples in the book.  Some photos, turned out very bright and washed out.  And others, didn't.  It makes sense, since a larger lens opening would, theoretically, allow in more light.  But, it wasn't the results I expected.  The result I thought I would get, is either a sharp background or a blurred background.  Like the examples in the book.  : /  Hmmm...  Well, I've only barely started the chapter on aperture and shutter speed, so I am sure I will get it once I read a little further.  Anyways, I didn't take a ton of photos like I normally do.  (Last spring, I took 400 photos at my niece's sweet sixteen party.  Yes, you read correct...400.  In less than 3 hours...)  Yesterday was more about getting the info from the book, and testing it out in the real world.  And if it hadn't felt like 105 degrees outside, I probably would have stayed out a bit longer...and had something to show for it!  :)

Today, though, I thought I'd head over to the Arboretum, another of my favorite (and FREE) photo spots in Wilmington.  Setting the book aside, I thought I would just wing it...taking photos as I felt inspired.  I picked up a basic tripod at HHGregg on Friday.  I figured, HHGregg is a 'high-end' electronics store (after all, they are located in Mayfaire, and they do carry $500+ Dyson vacuums), so while there, I'll just get some prices.  I had no intention of purchasing.  But when they priced checked a small one, that would extend up to 41 inches, I was surprised at the price.  $29.99.  Wow, really?!  An online friend previously recommended that I save up for a Bogen tripod.  At the time, I googled them and found that they could go upwards of $300, depending on quality.  With a price of $29.99, I felt like I beat the system on this one.  So its not a big name brand, but it would serve its purpose, right??

Well, let me just say...who knew you had to read instructions to set up a tripod!  I couldn't get the legs to lock in place, at the height I wanted them.  It also didn't feel very sturdy at the higher levels.  I tried it out, but, let me tell you, this one WILL be going back.  Just because HHGregg carries it, does not automatically make it a 'quality' product.  I should have remembered, they also sell golf umbrellas for $3.97, and mine broke the first time strong wind came at it the wrong way.  :(  And, as I am aware, you do get what you pay for. 

Anyways, I will post a few pics taken later today.   For now, I am heading to the Loop!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Little Background...

The other day, I was having a conversation with my friend and coworker.  She was telling me about her friend's blog.  She made the suggestion that I start a blog about my journey with photography.  Hmmm.  I hadn't thought about it before.  The conversation turned to another topic, but the seed was already planted.  So, here I am, and the blog is born.  :)

A little about me...I am originally from Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh area, where we say "yinz" instead of "ya'll"), but I relocated to Wilmington, NC in 2005.  I fell in love with this town the first time I laid eyes on it, back in August of 2001.  The quaintness of Historic Downtown, the natural beauty of the beach, the 'southern hospitality' of everyone I encountered.  It was all so drastically different from PA, and a welcomed change.  I knew back then, I wanted to move here.  Four years later, it was still in my plans.  I just needed to pay off my bills, so I could move debt-free. 

Thank goodness for great friends, who can readily give you that little, extra, motivational kick in the @$$ that you need, just when you need it.  You'll always have bills, she'd told me.  Just do it.  I sent out some resumes, quit my job, took out a small loan, and packed a UHAUL trailer.  With the help of family and a best friend, I made the 593 mile trek to my new home.  (Truth be told, if I hadn't done it at that moment, who knows if I would have done it?  Life happens, and it happens fast.)

Over the next few years, I made some friends, changed jobs, fell in love, lost who I am, and fell out of love.  (For the record, I have no regrets.  I simply don't believe in them.  Everything happens for a reason, and it's all a learning experience.)  During my quest to find myself again, I reached a certain milestone birthday.  A few things hit me: 1) Life is short, so enjoy it.  2)Do the things that make you happy.  3) Try new things, go on adventures, don't let life pass you by.  (As simple as they area to say, some of these things are still a work in progress for me.)  How did it start?  I've always loved to be behind the camera, and enjoyed taking pictures.  I can't say there was a definitive moment.  My sister hooked me on scrapbooking several years ago, and I think that played a big part.  You always want the unique angle, the shot that really captures the moment best.  So last fall, after one very sweet commission check, I decided to purchase a new camera.  Something more than my relatively basic, Panasonic digital camera.  I considered splurging on a Digital SLR, but a friend talked me out of it.  Expensive lenses.  And you can do a lot of the same features with a digital camera that is a step below a DSLR.  I did some research, and decided on the Canon SX 10 IS.  The day my camera arrived, I was more excited than the year Santa brought me my Inchworm (and I was pretty excited that year).  That same day, I headed downtown to test it out (the camera, not the Inchworm).  :)

I loved this camera already!  I took a lot of pics that night.  Some, I thought, turned out pretty cool.  Just don't ask me what settings I used.  Because, honestly?  I couldn't tell you. 

Nearly a year later, I am still learning my camera...all of its features and all that it can do!  Though, in my defense, I allowed my life to get the southern say, "I was busier than a cat diggin' in kitty litter" (I just love southern expressions)!  Anyway, it was only recently that I really started getting out and using my camera more. 

My goal with this blog is to get out more often, take some photos, and post about what I've learned.  I also welcome any tips, suggestions, I encourage you to post whenever you get a hankering to do so.  As the blog is titled, this is my "Learning Experience".  And, as I said in the intro, photography is also the best therapy money can't I'm sure I'll have some stories along the way.

Thanks for joining me on my journey!  :)

P.S.  For those curious, here is the Inchworm.  Though, despite what the website where I pulled the pic from says, it was NOT a toy of the 70's. I was not even a gleam in my momma's eye in the 70', maybe late, late 70's...