Camera Obscura

My backpacking trip this summer to Mt. Rainier was fabulous. Fantabulous. Fantabuloustic. Really, really good. There were really only two things I’d change about it: give me 2 hours at Spray Park before the clouds rolled in, and give me a better camera. The first one is obvious. I had a sinking feeling as I raced up the face of the mountain ahead of a roiling ocean of clouds that I would be thwarted, and I was right. It just means I need to go back.

Data prefers catnip to mountains, thanks.

But my camera? I was in one of the most scenic places in the world. Some of the places I planted my feet can’t be gotten to without either real labor or a helicopter. Some of the things I saw are beyond beautiful. I still walk those paths in my mind when I can’t sleep. But my camera. Well. Let’s just say that Thane’s baby pictures were taken on this camera. He’s in Kindergarten. He’s an OLD Kindergartner. There are baby monitors with more megapixels than that thing. It struggled mightily trying to capture the nasty, back-lit conditions that are the mountain at sunrise. Or sunset. Many of the pictures I took just weren’t as good as they could have been. And the video? So 2007!

Thane dropped that same camera that had recorded his borning cry. (Or actually didn’t. As Adam said at the time, “I don’t want anyone seeing *this* mess!”) It doesn’t turn on. Awwwww, shucks.

Not a baby anymore.

So with my birthday coming up, I asked for a camera. I did some research and went to a camera shop, and the guy wrote down what I looked at. I passed off the card to my husband, and looked forward to a Mega-Pixel future. The camera came. I pulled it out with glee and started taking pictures. They, um, didn’t look so hot. And there were no manual functions. I’ve invested a lot of time and love into learning how to really use my camera. I want something that *can* hold my hand, but doesn’t necessarily do so.

I returned the camera.

My last attempt to like camera #2
My last attempt to like camera #2

I went to Hunts Camera in Melrose, the grownup version of a toy store. (With an extra 0 or two added to the end of the price, the way grownup toys are.) The helpful salesman walked through my desires: fits in my pocket (the horror was writ large on his face), manual controls. I’m not too picky. I got my new camera and brought it home and gave it a run.

I really wanted to like it. I really, really, really did! It had a 20x zoom! It was, um, fancy! It has all the controls of my DSLR but in a camera that can fit in my coat pocket, if not so easily my jeans pocket. Yay! I brought it to the soccer field. I brought it to Cape Code. I took pictures hiking.I took pictures apple picking. I took pictures at home. And you know? It drove me nuts. It was hard to focus and slow to turn on. It kept on accidentally turning on when I put it in the case. My kids usually had at least one blurry part of their body. Not only did I not dig it, I didn’t like it. I spent WAY TOO MUCH on it not to like it. With great reluctance, I went back today.

Fractious fractals of romanesco

Truthfully, I was kind of expecting a hassle. I took a few hundred pictures on the camera attempting to like it. I even brought my kids with me to the swap – my prior failure before had been that I hadn’t attempted any photography with vibrating subjects who like to perform photobombs. I asked my assistants to be as obnoxious as possible while I attempted to capture their hijinks on camera. They were naturals.

Many props to Hunts – they swapped out my camera without demur or delay. When the camera I wanted was (of course) out of stock, they sent me home with the floor model and a promise to call me when the new one comes in so I can immediately swap it out.

And guys, I love it. Phew. Third time’s the charm!

Here are the last pictures I took on the second camera and my “trying it out” pictures I took on the new one!

Mr. Puppy in very low light
Mr. Puppy in very low light

PS – one of my daydreams is to turn the attic bedroom into a camera obscura. Someday…..

Oh, the Lord is good to me

Can you spot Grey in this picture?

For my birthday, I got a new point-and-shoot camera. My prior camera really annoyed me on my trip to Mt. Rainier. It just wasn’t as good, as clear, as sophisticated, as HD as I wanted my record of that trip to be. But it did fit in my pocket, which is a definite advantage. I believe I got that camera shortly after Grey was born. Certainly I had it before Thane was born, which puts it at the 6 year old range. That’s downright elderly for a digital camera.

The need for a new one was made inarguable when Thane dropped my old one. So for my birthday I got a sparkly new point and shoot camera. It has pretty much everything my big camera has except a hotfoot for a flash and the ability to switch lenses.

We went apple picking today – a very hot day for late September. We got a bushel of apples, a dozen apple cider donuts, three ice cream cones and a tour of the farm. I figured this was a great opportunity to give my camera for a spin. I’m definitely still learning how to use it most effectively. It did run out of battery halfway through, but I think that I didn’t charge it when I thought I did. So hopefully that’s indicative of nothing.

You can find all the pictures here.

The other pictures I’ve taken this month on my “big camera” are here, including some really cool pictures of our last beach day of the year, which was bookended by a crazy thunderstorm.

The very last set off my old point and shoot can be seen here.

A Fine and Pleasant Misery, part 2

“The rollicking old fireside songs originated in the efforts of other campers to drown out the language of the cook and prevent it from reaching the ears of little children. Meat roasted over a campfire was either raw or extra well done, but the cook usually came out medium rare.”

Patrick McManus – A Fine and Pleasant Misery

On Monday, the weather finally relented. My brother had arrived the previous night, along with darkness. I had visions of sneaking off to go hike Mt. Chocorua, which has been mocking me incessantly since we turned back half a mile from the summit for some lame reasons like, “Running out of water”, “Thunderstorms approaching” and “Knee desperately needs surgery for major tendon tears”. But there was a mass mutiny by the menfolk at the though of it, so I compromised.

In the shadow of the granite mountains

We decided to do the Boulder Loop Trail, which was marked at 3 miles, and moderate. I have to remember that the person who rated the trails in my guidebook is a sadist, who definitely never hiked the trails with a four year old. The hike became even more exciting when the folks at the front of the trail, too absorbed in discussions, failed to keep with the trail and we accidentally headed on a path designed to take us straight up the granite cliff faces.

I fell – with my camera and my youngest child – and the pictures stop at this point. Oh, I took another two hundred and fifty… the camera works fine. But somehow those two hundred and fifty are not ON the memory card. I know they got written because the ID has incremented, and I’d used digital filters on some. I had given them up for lost, but when I was whining about it last night one of my friends who works with digital recovery volunteered to see if they were really gone, so hope remains. The camera mysteriously began working again as we left White Lake.

Anyway, it wasn’t a LONG fall, but it was enough to point out to us that perhaps we were not on the right path. We did eventually rediscover our route and the path, but the rest of it took on the aspect of a bit of a forced march for the littlest one. Coupled with his complete lack of fear of heights … (I wish I could show you want that meant, suffice it to say we were very high and the fall was very long) … it was not a restful hike. But it was fun! And we did it! And Grey hardly complained at all!

That night, we finally could sit around the campfire. We sang songs, quoted poems, and read some McManus aloud to great hilarity. Grey stayed awake, from the tent, for much of the McManus. I’m hopeful from the chortling within the tent that the great man’s wisdom might transfer to yet another generation. There were stars to be seen on the walk to and from the Sanitation Center.

The traditional first and last stop of the camping trip

Tuesday, as we broke camp, was some of the finest weather I’ve seen in many a day. It was sixty-five, clement and bright. Perfect. I tried to console myself, as we folded the barely-soggy tarps, that this made the breaking up that much easier to do. But in truth, it had finally gotten good, and so it was time to go.

Today, a weekend later, we have a heatwave going on, with temperatures above 90 for three days in a row. And I find myself wondering, WHERE WAS THIS WHEN I WAS NEXT TO A LAKE!??! But looking back on my adventures, I’m forced to conclude… it was indeed a Fine and Pleasant Misery.

I can’t wait to go again!

Again, you can see what pictures remain of the trip here.

Jeweled Dreams

Labradorite, flourite and jadite necklace
Labradorite, flourite and jadite necklace

This week of the year is an excellent one for projects. Like 80% of the other people in my company, I took the week off. I hied to my mother-in-law’s house, where I’ve been royally spoiled. So here I am, with my brand new camera, and a promise to my mother-in-law that I would help her get her jewelry online. If you’ve met me in person, you’ve likely seen some of my mother-in-law’s jewelry. She spent about 30 years gathering beautiful things from around the globe. Now she is putting them together into works of “wearable art”, and is ready to sell them.

Carved jade with rough unakite and coral beads
Carved jade with rough unakite and coral beads

If your mother-in-law had gorgeous hand-crafted items for sale, where would you tell her to sell it? Of course. So we set up an Etsy store for her called Jeweled Dreams. She’s got about 12 of her items up now. And I’ll have you know that while I helped her set up the store, she’s done all the posting all by herself! I’m very proud.

Jade pendant
Jade pendant

But then comes the great labor. So…. I have this brand new camera I’m learning to use. She has about 75 completed necklaces. And heaven help me, I took pictures of each and every single one of them. Practically, I think they look pretty good – at least up to standards for Etsy. It was also frustrating. The second day, I simply couldn’t get the lighting right. I know enough to mess up the settings on my camera, but not to make it obey me. I can see progress on the photography, but I am also starting to see just how far I have to go to accomplish what I want to. On the other hand, it was probably excellent practice to take a gazillion images of beautiful jewelry for practical reasons. With the number of pictures I took, she should be all set to make postings to her store for months.

So I am feeling very proud of myself and very accomplished. I’m also feeling like I have a lot of room to grow. Finally, I’m really really hoping she actually sells something at her Etsy Store. She says she needs to sell them to make room to make more. I thought she was exaggerating until I had to take pictures of all of them!

So… if you know someone (or are someone) who loves beautiful, exotic, one-of-a-kind jewelry, consider browsing through her store (or pictures). Valentine’s day is only like 6 weeks away!

Carved turquoise and silver
Carved turquoise and silver