Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Favorite (iPhone) Photos

Remember this post from a few days ago? I wrote about my new camera and how we've been "getting to know each other" recently. The post is a part of's #VantagePoint photography project, where photographers are invited to share their favorite photos and why they love them.

For that post I limited myself to photos I've taken with the new Panasonic Lumix, but also came across two other favorites I want to share separately. These were taken with my iPhone and my favorite camera gadget: an Easy Macro lens. (Trust me, people: it's the best $10 you'll ever spend and works on ANY phone, even with a phone case in the way!)

This first photo is one I took in June 2014. The kids and I were on a walk when we came across this ladybug munching on another insect's eggs. I love how much detail you can see in this tiny little creature and its meal.

This second photo is one I took this past March, when beautiful snowflakes fell outside our house. I got the kids on their school buses, then froze my fingers off while chasing flakes around my yard. It's a wonder my neighbors don't call the police on me. But can you blame me for running around trying to capture this kind of masterpiece? It's glorious!

What's the best or most favorite photo you've ever taken?

Monday, May 15, 2017

My New Gear

Last year, I realized my favorite camera (my starter Pentax K200) was starting to fail me. I had stuck pixels and a gummed-up power button. The local repair shop said buying a newer model would be smarter - and likely cheaper - than fixing those issues.

So about four months ago, I made the decision to buy a new camera. I did lots of research first, and kept stumbling upon articles like this one at Improve Photography that recommended switching to a mirrorless camera. I didn't even know what that meant, because I don't personally know any professional photographers who own mirrorless cameras. It seemed risky to go against the industry standard. Then I visited the local camera shop and held mirrorless cameras in my hands, and I swear it's like my heart started beating faster.

It's not that I had stopped loving photography. Not at all! But I was getting into a rut of using my iPhone more often because my two DSLRs were so bulky to carry. Although my iPhone photos can't compare to the images I get with a DSLR, the convenience trumped quality most of the time. (Unless, of course, I had a client photo session.)

When I held a mirrorless camera in my hand, I felt all kinds of jazzed up to get outside again and adventure with a "real" camera. When I looked at the specs and price tag, it seemed like a no-brainer to me. So I took the plunge and went mirrorless, buying a Panasonic Lumix G7.

Here's a photo (ironically, taken with my iPhone) of all my fancy pants cameras. The Lumix is on the far left. My Pentax K200 is in the middle and boat-anchor-heavy Nikon D200 is on the right. All cameras have the zoom lens mounted on them in this photo, but it's obvious that even with the zoom lens the Lumix is way smaller.

When I have a wide angle lens attached to each camera, the Lumix weighs only 1lb 3oz. That's about half the weight of my favorite (the Pentax weighs 2lb 5oz), and a third of the weight of the Nikon (which weighs 3lb 9oz).

But I was comfortable with my old cameras, so trying to figure out the new bells and whistles on the Lumix frustrated me at first. I had to force myself to take the camera with me on made-up outings so I could get used to the feel of it. It wasn't until spring break that I fell in love with the Lumix. That's when Dan and I took the kids to visit Aunt Mimi and Uncle Wally in New York City.

For the first time, I was able to keep up (mostly) with the family instead of my usual pattern of rushing along behind them because I've stopped to take photo after photo. With the Lumix, I still stopped to take photos but the LCD screen meant I didn't have to put the gear to my eye, focus, and snap. I could just whip it up in front of my face (not lining it up with an eye) and touch the screen to take photos. Dude! It was fast and easy and I took terrific shots. Not to mention my back wasn't killing from hauling around a camera bag and extra lens each day.

I loved being able to turn and snap a photo before my kids even knew I was watching. This photo of Jackson on Ellis Island, searching for our family name among the list of immigrants, is one of my favorites from the trip. The way he is reflected on the wall of names feels like he's searching for himself in the history of our country. Which, to be honest, he truly was doing.
APERTURE: 4.8, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/160 sec, ISO: 500

The new camera made me so excited for photos again - real photos, not just the kind I snap with my phone. Now I wanted to seek out new adventures to photograph and push myself with the new gear. At the end of March, I hit the jackpot of photography in my very own back yard.

I noticed a mama bird starting to build a nest in the tree right outside our kitchen window. It was like my own personal National Geographic photography documentary. I went a little nuts, even taking the screen out of the window in the upstairs bathroom so I could hang out of it and shoot down into the nest. The day I found the first two eggs, I lit up like a Christmas tree.
APERTURE: 5.6, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/320 sec, ISO: 8000

I wish y'all could have seen me hanging out the second-story window with my arm stretched out to the right. The Lumix has a rotating LCD screen, which means I can shoot at an angle that's contrary to where my body is. And since I can change my focal point right on the display, I can get a perfectly focused image.

Three weeks after the above image was shot, I captured this one of the hungry babies waiting for their mama to come feed them.
APERTURE: 5.5, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/80 sec, ISO: 1600

Again, the lighter gear and the rotating screen helped me photograph at an angle I probably couldn't have captured (at least not in focus) with my traditional DSLRs. This next photo, shot two days after that one above, gives you an even better understanding of the Lumix. I was able to hold the camera above my head and shoot down into the nest, without having to hang from my bathroom window. (Ha ha.)
APERTURE: 5.3, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 sec, ISO: 4000

Y'all. I've always wanted to take a photo like that but never had the chance or the proximity to do so. This photo makes me so happy and fascinates the nature geek inside me. It's a bunch of the best things in life rolled into one image: new life, God's provision, perfect timing, and challenging photography. Happy happy, joy joy!

About a week into April, I traveled to Hawaii for a very sad occasion. That's a whole separate story that I'll tell one day, but not yet. Suffice it to say Hawaii is a literal paradise on earth. While I would give anything to change the reason I was there, I was able to take in the beauty of God's creation and also gift my extended family with some special photos of our time together. Most of them are private photos we'll share only within our family, but here are a few of my favorite photos from my visit there.
APERTURE: 9, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/1000 sec, ISO: 400

I'm showing these photos because, again, my Lumix gear was light enough to carry all over Hawaii with me - even to the ocean's edge at the Banzai Pipeline.
APERTURE: 6.3, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/1000 sec, ISO: 200

On my last day in Hawaii, I was returning to our rental house after my last walk on the beach when I I spied these blossoms at the top of a Plumeria tree. It seemed they were reaching to heaven, and it is the photo I most love from my time there: beautiful, heavenly flowers.
APERTURE: 6, SHUTTER SPEED: 1/400 sec, ISO: 200

I'm still getting to know the Lumix gear, but I'm finally comfortable enough to use it in client sessions. Just last week, I had a pre-Prom shoot with my friend Grace, and I captured this photo of her standing in the wind with her eyes closed and her hair blowing.

The only thing that would make my new camera even more appealing is if I could put it in my pocket. But that's unrealistic, right? Well... not quite.

There's actually a new camera that has the quality of a DSLR but it's tiny in comparison. It's called the L16 and it's manufactured by a company named Light. (You should really click on that link to see what makes this camera so amazing. Or click here to see a quick video describing the SIXTEEN lenses embedded in its slim body. It's all kinds of bionic and futuristic!) It's currently sold out and I'm pretty sure when it becomes available again it will be out of my price range. But a girl can dream, right?!

For now, I'll keep challenging myself to grow with my trusty old new Lumix. We have lots of adventures ahead of us!

This post is part of's #VantagePoint photography project. It got me thinking about my favorite photos, which led me to two other favorites I'll show you in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!


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