Photography 101: ISO


originally posted July 18, 2011

I’m still working on the 31 Days to a Better Photo, which more than likely will be a 31-week project for me. Anyway, day 4 of the series is about ISO. And what is ISO you ask? Well, evidently it’s a measurement of light sensitivity, and, coupled with the shutter speed, controls how much light is allowed into the camera’s sensor. On my camera, which is a Canon, the lowest ISO measurement starts out at 100 and goes up to 1600. Each increment doubles in size, doubling the speed at which the light enters the camera – 100 being the slowest and 1600 being the fastest.

I’ll be honest, this is about as clear as mud to me. The suggested exercise was to put the camera in Program mode (which will determine the shutter speed for you), find your subject, and change the ISO for each shot. Well I did that, starting out at an ISO setting of 100, going all the way up to 1600. All of my shots looked pretty much the same. The above shot was taken in Program mode at an ISO of 400.

So I changed my camera to Manual mode and set the shutter speed myself. Here are my results:

shutter speed: 1/125. aperture: 2.8. ISO: 100

 shutter speed: 1/125. aperture: 2.8. ISO: 200

 shutter speed: 1/125. aperture: 2.8. ISO: 400

So, what did I learn? Honestly, I’m not exactly sure. Clearly by the above example, the higher the ISO the brighter the shot. As well, the picture quality started to go downhill as I increased the ISO setting. Increasing the ISO also increases the noise, i.e., graininess, of the shot. What I’m gathering is that it’s best to keep the ISO fairly low for a better quality shot.

I still haven’t really wrapped my head around the meaning of ISO, but I imagine the more I practice the more it will make sense to me.


Photography 101: Shutter Speed


originally posted July 11, 2011

Day 3 of 31 Days to a Better Photo is all about shutter speed and figuring out when to shoot fast and when to shoot slow. Basically, shutter speed has to do with how long the shutter on your camera stays open during a shot. The length of time it stays open also controls the amount of light you’re letting in during your exposure.

Shutter speed starts out being measured in fractions of a second and then into whole seconds, so 1/1000 of a second would be much faster than say 1/250 of a second, and 2 seconds would be slower than 1/250 of a second. To determine where you need to set your shutter speed depends on the kind of lighting you’re shooting in.

I learned that if I’m shooting in low light and darker situations, then I want to shoot slow. This allows for a longer exposure and more light for the shot. If it’s really bright, then I want to shoot faster because the shutter will not be open quite as long and will allow only a minimal amount of light in for the shot.

I did a little experimenting inside my house, which in most rooms offers very low light. My subject was the hanging basket of tomatoes near my kitchen window, and, although this was near a window, the lighting situation was fairly dim.  Here are my results:

My “gear” as they say:

  • Camera:  Canon Eos Digital Rebel XTi
  • Lens: Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II
  • ISO:  200
  • Aperture:  f 2.8

Picture #1: I started out with a shutter speed of 1/500. As you can see this speed was too fast and didn’t let enough light in for the exposure.


Picture #2: This was taken with a shutter speed of 1/250 – also too fast for this situation.

I continued taking shots, each time slowing down the shutter speed. I ended up setting my shutter speed in whole seconds – 10 seconds for the above pic – and that resulted in a much better shot. While I was doing this, I wrote down in a notebook the setting for each shot I took, which I found to be a little helpful in keeping track of what I was doing.

This little experiment helped me understand a little bit better how to shoot in low lighting situations, which I do a lot when shooting inside my house. Now I know that I need a slower shutter speed in order to allow for that longer exposure and more light for the best photo.

My next experiment is understanding ISO, so stay tuned for my next Photography 101 post to see how I did.

Next up: ISO

Photography 101


originally posted July 6, 2011

So, you may have noticed that photography is listed as one of the topics you’ll read about on this blog. Go ahead, take a looksie, up there in the right hand corner, and you’ll even see it under the About This Blog heading. Well, please don’t take this to mean that I actually know anything about photography, because I do not. I’ve had my DSLR camera for a number of years but haven’t really taken the time to learn how to use it beyond the basics. One thing I do know though is that I want to learn, and that’s what my photography posts are all about – me learning about, and hopefully, taking better pictures.

Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of photos. I’ve reopened my Etsy shop (yes…I know, shameless plug ;), but I can’t help myself), so most of what I’ve been filming is product photography. Since I really don’t know jack about how to use my camera, taking pictures of my products is extremely time consuming and way too frustrating. I end up taking a million pictures of each item in the hopes of getting 4 or 5 good pics for each listing, and I really don’t have the time for that. Plus, I’m not really sure how to use my photo editing software beyond the basics either, which only adds to my frustration, but that’s another story entirely.

Months ago, I came across the blog Life With My 3 Boybarians. Darcy, the author of this blog, has a great series called 31 Days to a Better Photo, with each day learning something new about photography. At the time, I bookmarked her blog to my favorites with the intention of getting back to it later.  Of course I never went back to it, life got in the way, and then I forgot all about it. This weekend I went searching through my favorites list and found that link to her blog and decided since I’m using my camera more often, now is as good a time as any to really make the effort.

So I’m going to start this little project (actually, I already have started) and post what I’ve learned. I have two main goals: Learn how to use my camera and spend less time fumbling around trying to get the best shot, rather than winging it like I’ve been doing.

While I’m doing this little project, please feel free to chime in with any photo tips and tricks. Your comments are always appreciated!

Say Hello To My Little Friend


originally posted July 5, 2011

Meet Roscoe. He’s part Shih Tzu, part Bichon Frise, and a bit of a pain in the ass. He’s stubborn, has an attitude, barks too much, and is in a constant state of play – but he is a puppy and puppies do love to play. He joined our household back in October when he was a little over 2 months old. Here he is the day we brought him home.

He weighed all of 2 pounds.  Cute, eh?

He’s a bit of a manipulator and has the “poor pitiful me” look down pat. Roscoe uses this tactic a lot thinking he can sucker us into giving him extra treats – and it generally works, about 80% of the time anyway.

He’s high maintenance and gets his hair done more than I do. We like him long-haired and scrappy looking, so frequent groomer visits are now routine. His fur has a tendency to get matted a lot. The groomer had to shave him on last week’s visit.

Now he looks like a cross between a sad little lamb and a cocker spaniel.

Poor ol’ Roscoe, he doesn’t like his new do. We don’t either, so we need to be better dog owners and brush him every day.

As I said before, high maintenance, but I think he’s a keeper.

Project #12: Beaded Stitch Markers


originally posted June 27, 2011

This weekend the weather was terrible. It’s been raining off and on for days, but this is Florida and this is the rainy season. Here’s the view from my kitchen window yesterday…

Real nice, huh? If you look close enough you can see my yard and my neighbor’s yard beginning to flood slightly. That’s always nice…I know the dog really loves it when the backyard is completely saturated with water, not really actually.

I decided it was a good day to do some crafting, so in between laundry loads I made up some new stitch markers. Most knitters have these among their knitting paraphernalia and use them to keep track of where they are in a row as well as to remind them to do something like increase or decrease in a certain spot of their knitting.

The only skill that you need in making these is knowing how to make a simple loop on a headpin. I used various sizes of jump rings and split rings to hang my beaded dangles. The smallest sized jump ring used in this project is 8 mm, which will fit up to a size US 8 knitting needle. The size 10 mm jump rings will fit up to a size US 10 knitting needle. The split rings used for this project were 12 mm, which will fit up to a size US 15 knitting needle.

Here’s what you will need to complete this project:


  • Round-nose pliers
  • Flat-nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Ruler or measuring tape


  • Headpins – need to be long enough to have room to make a loop
  • Jump rings and/or split rings – 8 mm, 10 mm, 12 mm in size
  • Glass, metal, plastic, gemstones beads in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors


To make your bead dangles, first string your beads onto the headpin.

Using either your fingers or the flat-nose pliers, make a 90-degree bend. Next, trim the wire using your wire cutters. I trimmed mine leaving a 1/4 inch of wire to form my simple loop. The length of wire you leave for your loop depends on how big you want to make the loop. This will be a trial and error process if you haven’t made simple loops before.

I wanted a fairly small loop, so I placed my wire near the very tip of the round nose pliers.

Holding onto the beaded end with my other hand, I then turned my pliers to form a loop with the wire. I turned until a complete loop was formed. Your bead dangle is now done.

Next, open up a jump ring with your pliers and just slip the loop of the bead dangle onto the jump ring, then using the pliers again, close the jump ring. For attaching the bead dangles to the split rings, I opened up the loop of the dangle as I would a jump ring, placed it on the split ring, and closed up the loop with my pliers.

There’s your finished stitch marker!

Not much too them really. A few basic beading skills are all that’s really needed to complete these. They’re a great rainy day project, and they make a fun gift for those knitters in your life.

Happy crafting!

Work In Progress – La Gran Stole


originally posted June 20, 2011

There are many unfinished objects (UFOs) around my craft room. In fact, I believe I’m the queen of unfinished objects. There’s the embroidery project I started well over a year ago, several incomplete jewelry pieces, and a handful of knitting projects. This wrap is one of those unfinished knitted objects. It’s the La Gran Ribbed Stole, a pattern I found by way of Classic Elite Yarn.

I started it back in January, and as you can see I haven’t gotten very far. It’s not that the pattern is complex – it’s very easy, in fact – I just happen to be a slow knitter and a generally unfocused crafter. I start one project and midway through I see another nifty project that I get all excited about. As a result, the current project gets shelved for awhile so I can start on an entirely new one. I’ve decided to put the brakes on starting anything new (somewhat anyway) and really work on finishing up the old ones.

The yarn I’m using for this wrap is Bernat Sweety, an acrylic, mohair, wool blend. I’m not even sure they make this yarn anymore. I managed to score a nice stash of it a couple of years ago. My aunt found the yarn hidden away in her cellar. She bought it around 1987 for a sweater she never made. So on one of her annual trips to Florida she brought the yarn with her and was kind enough to give it to me.

This particular pattern is an incredibly easy 2 x 2 rib, something that a fast knitter can probably complete in a day or two. I’ve modified my wrap a little bit by casting on more stitches than the pattern called for to make it a bit wider, simply because I’m a bit wider ;-). The goal is to get it done by winter, which is January or February in south Florida. I think if I do a little bit each night, it’ll be done in no time so I can move on to another UFO and get some of these projects finished.

Crafts Gone Wrong: Transparency Film Image Transfer Disaster


originally posted June 13, 2011

Today I was going to bring you a tutorial on how to create your own wall art with an image transferring technique using transparency film. I saw this project in the Summer 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Do It  Yourself magazine. It seemed easy enough, and I thought it would be the perfect way to create some artwork for an empty wall in my bedroom. Most of the supplies I had on hand already. I just needed to buy the transparency film.

For this project you need the following:

  • Artist canvas
  • Gel Medium
  • Transparency film – comes in either Inkjet or Laser – buy the kind suited to your printer
  • A spoon or bone folder
  • Sponge applicator or paintbrush
  • One of your awesome photos

I decided on one of my photos. This daisy to be exact.

I boosted up the color saturation a bit. Then I followed the instructions that came with the transparency film and printed my photo onto the film.

Next, I applied a thin layer of the gel medium to the canvas.

Placed my transparency, ink side down, onto the canvas and…

…rubbed the entire photo with the back of a spoon. I did this several times to make sure the image was transferring to the canvas and then slowly peeled back the transparency film to reveal my masterpiece.

Drum roll, please…

Ta da! Whoa, wait a minute. Seriously??? That’s it? The result is supposed to be a distressed looking image, but come on. This is a far cry from the original photo. I decided to try it again, boosting the color saturation a little more, and transferring it to a larger canvas.

Again, seriously?? The bigger one looks worse than the smaller one. I’m not sure what I did wrong. Maybe the photo I chose wasn’t suited to this kind of project, or maybe it just takes practice. It seems that the image on the smaller canvas is a bit more defined than the larger one, which looks like a red blob, so it might be that one type of canvas works better than the other. The smaller one is a gesso primed canvas. Maybe the gesso is the key. Or maybe I just suck at image transferring.

I did find this video on YouTube for image transfers using the transparency film, as well as some videos listed in the sidebar on other ways to do image transferring. I may try this project again or I might just try completely different projects for my transparency paper.

If you decide to try this image transfer project yourself, please let me know how it worked out. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the process.

Happy Crafting!