Halloween… or not!

October 31st… Halloween… ghosts, goblins, skeletons, “trick or treat”, ugly, bloody, basically anything gross!  I just had to take this opportunity to voice what I know many believe… that Halloween is NOT a day/night to be celebrated.  And why not?

Firstly, do you know what “halloween” actually means? According to Wikipedia it is “Hallowed evening” or “Holy evening” – “a day dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.” . Now, that to me is not such a bad thing but what has society, the media, commercialism turned the day into? “Faithful departed believers” do not become ghosts and ghouls!

Secondly, “trick or treating”…. where does this come from? Another version of Halloween stems from the belief that supernatural beings, or the souls of the dead, roamed the earth at this time and needed to be appeased. This custom has “evolved” over time to the present day where if one does not hand out a “treat” on opening the door to a stranger, as likely as not, a trick will be played on the door-opener. Is it really okay to teach a child that it’s acceptable to go and knock on a stranger’s door and “demand” a gift?  And if that gift isn’t forthcoming then it’s acceptable to play a trick on that stranger?  I recall one Halloween evening a few years ago when I declined to give a “gift” (in fact, I think I just didn’t open the door) and had a raw egg smashed against the side of my house…. did that encourage me to give a gift to the next caller?  I think not! My concern was what the egg-thrower had been taught was acceptable in today’s society.

Thirdly, how much money is spent on Halloween advertising and products?  I know we live in a material world and we’re “entitled” to some fun and enjoyment… but for something as hollow and disposable as another mask or costume or, …I actually don’t know what is sold under the halloween guise? Surely there are folk in all our communities, wherever in the world we live, that could do with a helping hand financially rather than further lining the pockets of major commercial companies!

Fourthly, I am appalled by the number of Christian schools and churches (in America anyway) that foster the “Halloween spirit.” In New Zealand, Christian Schools and churches, that I am aware of, thankfully, don’t.  In fact, many churches put on “Light Parties” for children as an alternative where “things bright and beautiful” are celebrated rather than things “dark and ugly”. We see enough of the sad, destructive, evil influences in this world on television news every night… does this need to be added to and encouraged?

And now I have got that off my chest I will go and spread some joy on a gloomy day ….

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. “

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Restoration 101 – 9 – Out with the old…

By April 2013 I really had had enough of the old kitchen!

Old kitchen.
Old kitchen.
Old kitchen, pantry on left.
Old kitchen on right with pantry on the left.

Two bodies in it and we had a traffic jam; I couldn’t reach the knobs to turn on and off the elements without reaching over the elements; if the fridge was opened that caused another blockage to bodies; there was no oven (but at least the microwave fit comfortably in that space), cupboard doors didn’t shut; no dishwasher; the old expel-lair in the window rattled with every wind … and ‘yuk’ black cupboard doors and bench tops. There were two positives – the pantry was reasonably large and the sink looked out to sea.

So, our search for the “perfect” design began.  Having planned a large kitchen for our new home in New Plymouth and several “spec” homes we built I had a good idea of what I wanted and what I didn’t.  We had a large space to work with here so the task wasn’t too difficult.  Probably the greatest subject of debate was the colour and the bench top but soon we arrived at the final plan, the kitchen manufacturer and the price.

And then, the worst part of the job – dismantling and removing the old kitchen!

But while we were organising this the men made the most of opportunities and fitted permanent windows and doors…

Fitting the new lounge window.
Fitting the new lounge window.

first the lounge window then the sliding doors and window downstairs.

Out with the old & in with the new.
Out with the old & in with the new.

By mid-October we had the new kitchen ordered and under construction. So the old one needed to be removed – what a job!  The call went out for volunteers and I went out for a women’s breakfast.  Did I really think it would all be clean & a blank canvas when I arrived home?  No way! What a mess!!

A few large holes to be filled!
A few large holes to be filled!

Lunch was on the BBQ for the helpers and the trailer was full with the first load bound for the dump. Another clean-up in the morning and more help arrived to continue the dismantling.

As can be seen from the photos, the kitchen had an “overhang”. Now the old kitchen has been removed the wall and window on the left of the photo is also to be removed and a new floor and wall installed to make a little more room and a continuous flow to the outside appearance as well. This was not a place for children…

Mostly gone 8

Note the props... they are still in place! (Explanation to come).
Note the props… they are still in place! (Explanation to come).

ISO, aperture, shutter speed – take 2

Well, that was an interesting exercise… how did you get on?

Last time I briefly explained ISO (light sensitivity), aperture (opening size of shutter) & shutter speed. I then sat my toy dragon on a table inside in a well-lit area. I set my camera on “auto” – portrait (because I didn’t want background images to be focussed) and took a photo.

ISO: 100   Aperture: 4.5  Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 100   Aperture: 4.5  Shutter speed: 1/160

I then switched to manual mode , changed the ISO and took some more photos:

ISO: 200   Aperture: 4.5  Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 200   Aperture: 4.5  Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 400   Aperture: 4.5  Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 400   Aperture: 4.5  Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 1600   Aperture: 5  Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 1600   Aperture: 5  Shutter speed: 1/160

Personally, I prefer the 2nd photo with the ISO of 200 as the colours are brighter and there is more clarity to the dragon.  So now I will set the ISO to 200 and “play” with the aperture.

ISO 200 Aperture f5.6 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f5.6 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f7.1 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f7.1 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f8 Shutter speed 1/160
ISO 200 Aperture f8 Shutter speed 1/160

So with ISO 200 and shutter speed constant on 1/160, the aperture is best on f6.3.

Now let’s play with the shutter speed leaving the ISO constant on 200 and the aperture set at f6.3.

ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/40
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/40
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/60
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/60
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/100
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/100
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/125
ISO 200 Aperture f6.3 Shutter speed 1/125

Now, I don’t know that I have really come to any conclusions but it has been an interesting exercise anyway 🙂 I have it set in my mind once again, after many years of using auto mode, that ISO is to do with light sensitivity and basically, the brighter the light, the lower the ISO, the smaller the aperture (f-stop) and the faster the shutter speed.

So, to go to the other extreme but staying with ISO, aperture and shutter speed, my next exercise will be to take some similar photos at night with little or no light. Of course, I will need to set the camera on a tripod for this…

Restoration 101 – 8 – Heating

It seem that we had a bit of a break from renovations over the summer months. The house was perfectly liveable although the kitchen was a very annoying feature.  We spent much time considering new kitchens and planned to have one custom-made and installed later in the year. A holiday away from all the unfinished projects brought renewed inspiration and many visitors were very happy to put up with so many imperfections and gib still falling off walls!

But the time was approaching when we needed to make a decision regarding heating.  We had huddled through a spring with no heating (the previous heat pump was too damaged in the earthquake so we removed that before moving in). After much deliberation and many changes of plans, we agreed on the type and placement of heater. Now, Jim and I both love wood burners, and Jim believes he had found a way that would have allowed us (Council Consent required) to install one.  But neither of us are spring chickens, we were both working full time and we have, as I have previously mentioned, a spiral staircase to negotiate before entering the main living area. To arrive home at 5 pm on a cold, dark winter evening and have to set and light a fire plus bring in firewood brought the sensible side out in us! We agreed on a gas fire, turned on with the push of a button and complete with flames for the ambiance.

Stage one. Note cupboard behind fire.
Stage one. Note cupboard behind fire.

So in March (autumn here in NZ) hubby and grandson built the frame for the gas fire complete with TV and recorder/DVD/whatever box above. As can be seen in the photo we put these items in a corner of the lounge to allow the least possible intrusion into the room.  There is a cupboard that is now tucked away in the back of the corner – I placed some current newspapers and magazines in there for posterity before it was sealed off! And, of course, the heater was installed by a qualified installer!

Next step complete as we now have heating and a TV that doesn’t take the focus of the whole room or block any of the view.

Wall is complete and useable for now.
Wall is complete and appliances are useable.

ISO, aperture and shutter speed

As I said in my introduction, I am going to take you through my (re-) learning curve with my DSLR.  I am using numerous websites to find the info to explain it briefly and succinctly. I do hope I have the facts correct (if not, you are welcome to correct me – politely, please). We all know “practice makes perfect” and one doesn’t learn to play tennis or golf or any sport by simply reading the “How to …” manual.  So when you think you have a general idea of what I explain below go for it and shoot away – you can delete every photo, your bank balance won’t be affected and no one need know 🙂

  1. ISO:

Question:  How do we say “ISO”?

Answer: “eye-so”.

Question:  What does ISO stand for? Does it matter?

Answer: No… so we’ll move on. (You can find that on many websites if you really are interested!)

Question:  What does ISO do/mean?

Answer: ISO is to do with the light required in a photo or ‘light sensitivity’. The ISO on my camera (Canon ESO 650D) ranges from 100 – 12800. The lower the number the more light is required. A low number would be used in bright sunlight or when using a tripod. BUT… ISO is always balanced with…

2. SHUTTER SPEED

Question: What is the “shutter speed” dial/tab/button on the camera?

Answer: It is the fraction on your screen.  Mine ranges from 1/4 to 1/4000.

Question: What does each fraction mean?

Answer: A fraction of a second.

Question: What is the relevance of fractions of a second?

Answer:  The higher the number (fraction) the slower the shutter speed i.e a setting of 1/4 means that the shutter opens and closes very much more slowly than a setting of 1/4000. Or looking at it the other way, the bigger the number on the bottom (4000) the faster the shutter opens and closes.

(Gosh, no wonder one gets confused!!)

Question: When and why do we need different shutter speeds?

Answer: Because life is not static! We can use a slower shutter speed (1/4 e.g.) when photographing landscapes or using a tripod but we will need a fast shutter speed (1/4000 – well, towards that end of the scale) when capturing an action shot.

Question: How do the ISO and the shutter speed interact?

Answer: Hold on… there is a third element to what is commonly called the “Exposure Triangle” (sounds we’re into something secretive now!) and we must look at all three elements together …

(Hey, I remember all this from my pre-digital SLR days!)

3. APERTURE

Question: What is aperture?

Answer: The definition of ‘aperture’ is ‘hole’ or ‘opening’ or ‘gap’ so in your camera it is the opening through which the light travels when you click the button. The aperture can be compared to the pupil of your eye… when you are in bright sunlight your pupil is smaller as it doesn’t need to let in as much light as when you are looking for an object in a dark room.

Question: What is the label/dial/button that adjusts the aperture on my camera?

Answer: The “F-stop”. On my camera it goes from F4.0 to F25

Question: What do the numbers mean?

Answer: The numbers adjust the size of the aperture/opening. And here is the important thing… the lower the number the larger the opening. (Now that should be easy to remember – lower = larger :-))  And if we looked at the actual opening we would see that the smaller the opening the less exposure. (Sounds confusing but it does makes sense!)

Question: So why do we need to adjust the size of the aperture?

Answer: For the same reason that our pupils adjust their size according to the light.

Question: So how do these three (ISO, Shutter speed & aperture) interact?

Answer: Before I answer that I will re-cap briefly then go and take some shots playing with the different settings…

ISO: Lower = less exposure: 100 = less exposure   12800 = more exposure

SHUTTER SPEED: Slow (1/4) = more exposure   fast (1/4000) = less exposure

APERTURE: Small (f4.0) = less exposure   Large (f25) = more exposure

Have fun & I’ll be back real soon with some of my shots 🙂

Why write a photography blog….

I have been an amateur photographer since I was about 10 years old.  My father was a keen photographer & also my mother’s father. So I guess it’s in the genes.

A small collection of cameras and accessories dating back to my grandfather's camera.
A small collection of cameras and accessories dating back to my grandfather’s camera.

I remember my first camera – no, not a Box Brownie, but a similar-aged model which took a reel of 12 black and white photos on film, of course. My father taught me not to “waste” photos as each, good and bad, cost money to develop.  He never hesitated to pay to develop my films but he certainly wasn’t impressed if there were too many “dud” shots on a reel.  I still have a few of those photos in albums and think, for a child, they’re okay.

I progressed through two or three cameras during my teenage years and joined the Camera Club at Teacher’s College where I learned how to develop my own photos and other topics relevant to composition and so on. On graduation from Teacher’s College my father gave me a (second-hand) “real” camera – one that did more than “point & shoot”. This camera served me well over many years until I bought myself my first SLR. I taught myself how to use this and still enjoy reflecting on many of the photos taken before the advent of the digital camera.

With the “advance” to a digital I promptly forgot all I had learned regarding ISO, f-stops and aperture sizes, etc, etc. The digital auto-mode did it all for me 🙂 Now, 15-or-so-years later I have, after having owned a DSLR (digital SLR) for 3 years, decided it is time I taught myself how to use the manual mode! Unfortunately, my memory does not serve me well and I really do have to go back to the beginning.

I loaned my Seagull SLR to various friends and family members and now it has disappeared off my radar as has my first digital – oh well, they’ll probably re-surface one day when I’m long gone!

I have read several books, including my camera manual (well, parts of it), and started a couple of on-line photography courses (I got lost!) and visited many websites on cameras and photography (some are excellent, some not!). I decided that I must go back to basics and relearn (from Youtube clips and websites). Joining the local Photography Society is another step forward. Then, if I write, as simply as possible, what I learn I will not only consolidate it to myself but may just help others also. Honestly, at this stage, finding my way around menu, dials, options and controls is almost as daunting as learning to fly an aircraft!

Next post…. ISO, f-stop, aperture sizes and shutter speeds 🙂

Friends

I have reason to do a little reflecting today… in a couple of days I will be sharing a few thoughts about choosing friends, taking care of friendships and making memories with friends.  I believe these thoughts are worth sharing with you also…

Proverbs 12:26 tells us that “The righteous chose their friends carefully…” Now I don’t think it really matters who the “righteous” are at this stage… we all need to chose our friends carefully! Friends are those folk who will help you in times of need, uplift you when you’re feeling down, have fun and enjoy the good times, and encourage you with a word in season.  To chose a friend carefully, one needs to look, not so much as where they have been, but the direction in which they are heading. We have all made mistakes in life – it’s what we learn from these mistakes that is important.  Are your friends moving on, overcoming past handicaps, blunders and failures? Do you share common beliefs and interests? Are you comfortable in their presence without needing to fill every space with words?

My
My “old” friendships were formed in the pre-digital era so I don’t have photos to upload but this is one of the holiday destinations where many memories were created.

I think of my close friends – daily, weekly, monthly or even six-monthly communication is not relevant – it’s what we share whenever we do have contact that is important.  Once, a few years ago, we lived in the same city.  Now we are spread all over New Zealand – none of these “old” friends living in the city in which I live.  But, because we established such close bonds when we were in close proximity, we have many memories to reflect on and a solid base on which our friendships are grounded.

There have been many more friends who have come and gone, and with the advent of social media, some of these have been re-ignited to a degree – and I am thankful for that contact. But some friends are “special” because of memories and times spent together…

But how are such bonds formed? It is by sharing the good times, caring during the not-so-good times and creating memories.  Several years ago when a birthday of one of three close single-mum friends and me had to be celebrated the non-birthday friends arranged a surprise – tea in a park, a ride in a Tuk-tuk (small motorised cart), “letter” party, mystery destination for tea, cryptic dinner… with four birthday surprises each year the imagination was stretched over the years and we had other folk coming to us looking for ideas! When one of our four single mums was turned down for a job because she apparently didn’t like men we consoled her by throwing a “battered women” afternoon tea where we dressed up as jilted brides.  Probably not at all “PC” but we lifted this friend out of her misery.  Our children still talk of the holidays we shared and the camping trips we embarked on.

Many years later, with children all having children of their own now, these memories are to be treasured … but if you are “young”, seeking new friendships, looking for lasting relationships, do seek wisely and consider …