Friday, May 29, 2015


New Camera

So we finally broke down and got a DSLR.  It's a pretty basic one, the Nikon D3300.  I really like bridge cameras, but it's getting harder and harder to determine which one is best to buy.  They all have such different features (strengths/weaknesses) now.

The one I have has 60x optical zoom.  It is fantastic for photographing distant birds holding still and for taking shots of the moon.  But I've never been as thrilled with its non-zoom shots.  I mean, it's a pretty good camera, but it's best for taking close-ups of motionless birds, and while I enjoy that, I also want something that takes excellent portraits of humans.

I barely know how to use my new camera yet.  I'm still using the 18-55 lens that came with it.  Our package also included a 55-200 zoom lens, but I want to learn how to use the camera with the basic lens first.

To my utter shock, I have discovered that I love the viewfinder.  I never really bothered with it in other cameras, preferring to use the LCD.  But for some reason, I really like this viewfinder.  It encourages me to frame shots in more interesting ways.  I've had cameras with viewfinders before, but I've never liked them really.  I've always preferred just to use the LCD.

But just like my old camera is really best for taking super close ups of birds, this lens seems best for framing shots at a certain depth in interesting ways.  I want to explore the strengths of this lens and also learn how to use the camera on its more complicated, personalized settings before I try the other lens.

The basic auto mode has a pretty good processor and makes excellent, quick choices, though I definitely don't always like the choices it makes and want more control.  So I'm going to have to learn all about the various manual settings.  I should be able to have a lot of control with this camera once I figure out how to use it.

Here are a few of the shots I like that I've taken so far.  (I haven't had much opportunity.  Nellie and I took a bike ride in the punishing sun at 4;45.  The lighting, of course, was horrible, and the neighborhood streets are not exactly inspiring.  And Penelope's hair is always in her face.)  But I did get some I like.  Poor Penelope was so hot, but that's sort of her own fault.  She's wearing corduroy pants.  I begged her to change into shorts about nine thousand times, but she kept insisting, "No the pants aren't what's making me hot."  At one point, she had to stop and take off her helmet to get a breeze.  That's actually when I got my best shots.

She's in a horrible mood in these because she's so hot, but I think they're some of the loveliest.  Here are some other good ones:

Penelope Says

May 18th

Thanks Aunt Merry!! This is adorable!

5:08 pm

May 19th

Penelope (squeakily as she waits for me at the corner on her bike): Oh dear! Oh my! Oh!
Me: What is it?
Penelope: Well this is unexpected!
Me: (coming closer) What?
Penelope: He's out! One of them is out, and he's getting away!

Her new hobby is collecting tiny snails on her bike rides and putting them in this little thing on her bike that used to hold an embellishment that fell off. Usually, they stay inside their shells.
4:21 pm

Penelope (talking about her field trip as Grandma makes guacamole): And we saw cucumbers. I think they were cucumbers.
Grandma: Were they long and green?
Penelope: Well they weren't ripe. It was a vegetable garden.
Me: (strolling through) A veritable, vegetable paradise! (Suddenly noticing the photogenic scene) Oh you look so cute! Smile, Guacamole!
Penelope: (as I take this picture, taking umbrage at the bizarre new nickname) What's up with "Guacamole"???

4:44 pm

Me: I'll take a picture of both of you with the guacamole.
Grandma (inspired): Here, and hold these tomatoes. Hold them up like they're earrings.
(After the picture)
Penelope: And now take a picture of me eating them. (She suddenly crams them both into her mouth)
Me (as juice gushes all over her face): She actually is eating them! You look like Khal Drogo!

4:48 pm

May 20th

Penelope (challenging me to a race home yesterday evening): Prepare for my speed!

These "races" are so funny. She always wins. She's on a bike, and I'm waddling behind at my pregnant pace.

1:38 pm

May 21st

One of the little bunnies in our backyard is so adorably naive. Most of them run when people approach, but this one appears to believe that if he's in the tall grass with his eyes shut, we can't see him.
1:21 pm

May 22nd

Penelope loves collecting tiny snails on our walks, but yesterday, she really outdid herself:

1:09 pm

This little bunny sincerely believes that if he sits in the high grass like this very still, I can't see him. The others all run away, but not this one. As I approach, he just sits very still in the high grass. What's really funny, though, is when Mom and I spot him through the kitchen window, and his response is to close his eyes.

1:17 pm

More bunnies...

1:21 pm

Butterfly in the Backyard

3:52 pm

Penelope is home sick with a stomach bug today, but I think she's starting to feel a little better. She colored this great picture of a dreamcatcher.

4:23 pm

Penelope has been busily working on her plans for a future playground.

(That's supposed to say, "Blue Seal Playground.  Love is Beautiful.")

10:39 pm

May 23rd

Butterflies in the Backyard

1:00 pm

Ready for Action!

3:25 pm

Captain Penelope

3:26 pm

On the back porch...
Me: I don't think we're going to get any good lightning pictures tonight. The sky is too cloudy.
Penelope: Then let's go on the front porch. You never know what we might see.
Me: Okay.
(Once we're on the front porch...)
Me: Let's leave the lights off in case bugs come. Stay out of the rain.
Penelope: I'm just standing near it. I'm not getting wet.
Me: Ooh. Look how cool the lilies look lit by the streetlight. Hey, you're not drinking that rain are you?
Penelope: Not at all. I'm only pretending.
Me: Okay, let's go in, but first stand up against the wall and smile. I'll get your picture with the lilies.

As you can see she's totally dry.
9:54 pm

Lilies lit by the streetlight

9:56 pm

May 24th

Penelope (who is writing a Super Adventure comic): Mom, Gideon's in my story, too. He can turn into a jet pack.
Me: He can turn into a jet pack?!
Penelope: Yeah, for us to ride on when we need to get away.
Me: Well, that is one useful little brother.
Penelope: Grayson and I have powers, too. My hair can grab stuff, and Gray can shrink from big to little.
11:43 am

Grandma: (frosting a cake) We're going to have spaghetti.
Me: Mmm. That cake looks good.
Penelope: (delighted) Spaghetti and cake!!!!!! My two favorite things!
2:32 pm

Mom and Dad are talking to Merry on speakerphone. Penelope just chimed in loudly, "It's gonna flood, and we're all gonna die if we don't get on an ark. I'm going to build one," and then she started laughing hysterically.
3:29 pm

My mom (talking to Merry, going back to an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade reference we often use in our banter): And then there's the way they do it in Germany.
Penelope: (wisely, squeakily, determined to participate in the conversation) That would hurt. (To Grandma, confidentially) I don't know exactly how they do it in Germany, but I am just guessing that it would hurt.
3:34 pm

Mom: They're calling it Memorial Day, but real Memorial Day is really May 30. But who cares anymore? They change everything all around anymore. Nothing even means anything anymore.
Merry (after a long pause, cautiously): Well I don't know about that...
Mom: I do.
Merry: Oh.
Dad: Well, you haven't participated in any parades. You have to get involved.
Mom: Well they used to call it decoration day, and we would decorate the graves.

Maybe I have a weird sense of humor. My sister's response just cracked me up totally.
3:39 pm

Penelope: Will you get me a super hero drink?
Derrick: A super hero drink?
Penelope: Yeah, like Captain America and Hulk and Black Widow are all on there.
Derrick: (stopping at the gas station) Well, I don't know if they will have those drinks here.
Penelope: I'm kidding! Nobody really has that. They don't make those drinks. They don't actually exist!
6:11 pm

Penelope (in the car on the way home from the park): I am readyyyy for spaghettiiiiiiii!
6:17 pm

Me: Here, now you take the phone and take one of me. Can you get my big, pregnant belly in the picture?
Penelope: Oh yes! (Giggling hysterically) That will not be a problem.

I guess I should have specified that I also wanted my face in the shot.
7:54 pm

Candid shot at the park. I'm a long way off, which is why the picture is so shadowed, but Derrick has just told Penelope not to climb up on the rocks because the move she made was precarious and terrifying. This is her immediate reaction:

8:24 pm

Cardinals in the park...

8:27 pm

Dragonflies in the Park…

8:29 pm

Penelope in the Park...

8:32 pm

Penelope was chasing a yellow butterfly in the park today...and actually caught it! She ran to me crying in delight, "Take a picture! Put it on facebook!" But I hesitated to take a picture because I was worried she'd killed the butterfly. Slightly distressed, I said, "Oh I didn't think you would catch the butterfly! You should put it down. I think maybe it's dead!" To my shock, she released the butterfly, and it flew away. Then you can bet I wished I'd taken the picture! But later I discovered that I did get this picture from a great distance.

8:35 pm

Spiderwebs on the bridge

8:36 pm

Derrick & Me

8:57 pm

Me: Penelope, do you want to play some Mario Kart with us?
Penelope (who has borrowed Grandma's Kindle): I'm a little busy at the moment, but you and Daddy can play.
(She's sitting between us on the couch.)
Penelope (intently playing): I'm going to get this brat! (Growling repeatedly) Die, you hideous! Die, you hideous!
(She sounds so scary, I look to see what she's playing. A cute little TV set creature is hopping across the snow eating candy canes.)
Penelope (intently): Die, you hideous!

9:26 pm

May 25th

We seem to be under every kind of watch and warning there is. The back yard is starting to flood and now it's hailing. Good thing Nellie and I got her bike ride in early today!
4:06 pm

On our bike ride today, when we were two blocks from home, it abruptly began pouring down rain with no warning. One minute, the sun was shining, then directly to downpour. We headed home at a brisker pace than usual, and perhaps as a result, my underwear fell off, which was very awkward because I was wearing shorts. A block from home, the sound of rain continued, but we stopped getting wet. It was raining only on the other side of the street. We got home drenched, and I thought, "Well that was ill timed! " But no, we actually went out at a great time. Currently we're under every type of warning imaginable, and all our electronic devices are in overdrive blaring out alarms and spewing alerts. It's like a monsoon outside. Memorial Day should be Roland Emmerich's next movie! I can write the screenplay for him, no problem.
4:14 pm

Lilies after the storm. I love how the petals turn translucent after being drenched.

 7:51 pm

Okay, the sky in our backyard is such a bizarre color right now--like all the light in general--that it even shows up in pictures. I was worried at first, but then I realized how late it is now, so this is probably just the sunset.

8:27 pm

Backyard Beauty,
This dragonfly kept landing on the top of the little tree that's all bare on top:

3:58 pm

May 27th

Penelope (in a creepy, vampiric whisper): I love to suck the blood of cherries. The blood of cherries is so delicious to vampires like me...and so is their flesh!

4:55 pm

Somebody is pretty happy Grandma bought cherries!

4:15 pm

May 28th

Penelope: Aunt Merry, can you come back in the summer?
Merry: Well, it's summer now.
Penelope: But when I'm out of school.
Merry: Oh okay. Maybe I can do that.
Penelope: Great. We can be super heroes and stay up till midnight!
5:50 pm

Penelope: Have you played D&D?
Merry: I haven't ever actually played, but it looks fun. Do you like it?
Penelope: Oh yeah. You can make caves. We have manuals.
5:56 pm

May 29th

So unless I unexpectedly go into labor early, Gideon will be born June 24th at 7:30 am. I hope I am awake for his birth! That seems early to me, but if I don't show up, they'll have a pretty hard time doing the c-section.
9:56 am