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80 In Life/ Photography/ Sewing

Hello Rovers

It’s been a while… and this is likely to be an all over the place post!

I thought I’d bring you up to speed first on my bruise, I’d hate if any of you were losing sleep wondering if I’ve had my arm amputated or not. This was when it progressed to a nice dark plum color on Saturday…
Thanks for your concern… I’m still milking it and it’s still tender.

And yes, of course, in addition to fake sprains and glasses I made homemade retainers out of paperclips and the part that fits snugly in the pallet was made of either a chewed-up tootsie roll or a caramel.

Last Friday two of my best friends came for a visit with their boys. These are two of the most incredible friends a girl could ask for. Some of my very first friends at Auburn and we can always pick up right where we left off. This was an outtake and I thought it was kinda funny. Eli, Paige sends a sincere apology for the blow to your precious little face.


They are identical twins {Ashley on left and Allyson on right} so it was only natural and fitting that Erika and I be friends with them. We’ve all been in each other’s weddings, I was pregnant in both of theirs. I really just love them and love being in their company. They’re real, they’re honest, and they’re FUN. When they arrived my house was still a mess and my hair was greasy. They said, “Oh D-Bone, you know we don’t care and do you have on eye liner?”  Seriously, real people ask those type questions when they walk in the door. We have so many memories together and so many more to make. Sister, we wished you & Sloaney were here with us!

Our weekend was great, I took very few pictures but I did manage to snap one of the fire that Justin kept going all weekend.


Did I mention that this post will likely be all over the place?

Rover’s been under the weather since Friday. This pretty much sums up how he’s feeling…

And while he’s feeling rotten, he’s not near as bad as he looks… the picture below was taken a few seconds after {and the fact that the teeny tiny tip of his finger is cut off makes my skin crawl… just pretend like I captured it all, ok?} roverarms

Despite feeling rotten he’s been quite helpful with the housekeeping…


Speaking of housekeeping… I’m just a little backlogged on emails. I’m slowly but surely getting through them… thanks for your patience with me. As you know, I have 3 little rovers who take precedence.

This summer I did a few rounds of a Q & A session… I thought it would be a good way to answer some of the questions that I was getting but then it overwhelmed me and I quit after session 2. I’m not convinced I want to take that route again but my little mind is trying to figure out how to answer emails in a blog post form because a lot of the emails ask similar questions!

This will be a start with the latest: Where did you get the jars for the honey butter, Walmart says they’re seasonal?I got mine at Walmart this summer. But most grocery stores carry canning supplies in the tupperware/aluminum foil pan aisle. What kind of sewing machine do you have? Do you like it? My sewing machine is a Kenmore, I love it. I talk more about it and my embroidery machine IN THIS POST. And every time the little orange vacuum shows up I get emails about it too… it’s also a Kenmore and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it too! It’s very inexpensive and does a great job. I’m very partial to canisters, there’s no turning back once you go with a canister! What pant pattern do you use for the kids pants? I’ve always used Jillian by Bonnie Blue for both boys and girls. The girls usually get a ruffle to “fancy” them up a little. How did you paint your kitchen cabinets? Primed with Kilz {oil based} and painted with latex RustScat paint by Coronado in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove. I think we rolled the cabinet doors and brushed but I’ve slept, or actually, haven’t slept since then. Are you going to post the chicken pot pie recipe? Yes, very soon! What lens do you primarily use? That’s an easy one for me to answer… I use them both about the same. The great thing is that every picture I post is a link to it’s FLICKR PHOTO PAGE that looks like this:



At the bottom right side of the page it tells you what camera was used and if you click on the link for “MORE PROPERTIES” it takes you to this page:


This shows you the picture’s properties including the focal length and aperture. So… if it says 50 mm you’re safe to assume it was shot with my 50 mm 1.8 unless I’m using my wide angle and it’s zoomed all the way to 50mm… but that’s fairly unlikely and if it is then the aperture won’t be any lower than 2.8.   Does that make sense?

Do your kids act like this?


Ok, whew, I’m so glad. Mine don’t either and look, she dropped her pink “retainer”.

Also, would it make any of you feel better if I told you the following:

  • We still don’t have a Christmas tree.
  • I haven’t wrapped any Christmas presents yet, because…
  • I haven’t bought any Christmas presents yet, nor…
  • have I made any.
  • Oh… and no Christmas card yet. Not even an “idea” for one.

I need to get busy, Merry Christmas!

110 In Photography

Here’s Marla…

Hello patient, long-suffering blog stalkers. A few moons ago Marla graciously offered to answer your questions about photography… and now we finally got our act together and have compiled the answers! If I ever tell you’ll I’ll get “right back with you”, don’t believe me, ok? Marla systematically went through your questions, selected the ones asked most frequently and those she was willing to answer and compiled what I see as a very wonderful “q & a session” for those of us who long to improve our photography skills. I {Darby} will interject on occassion… and I will be typing in DARK RED! I will also be posting pictures Marla has taken of some of your children. They make my heart swoon… and if they’re your children they probably make your heart melt! Marla has that effect on parents… melting hearts through photographs. I think that should be her new “slogan”.

This is my niece, Ava. She’s 11 months older than Morgan and we wear all of her clothes. Isn’t she beautiful!? 


Now for the session…

What every amateur needs to know:

There are THREE settings that control the exposure of your camera. They do not act independently, they work together. ALWAYS. They are APERTURE, SHUTTER SPEED, and ISO. In order to be able to really control your camera you must understand what each setting does and how they work together. I will touch on each one in the following questions, but I highly recommend reading about each before proceeding. Here we go!

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How do you blur the background of a picture?
• What you are seeing when the background of an image is blurred, is called BOKEH. (If you just scrolled down that link, then you already know this not a simple question to answer, but I will make it as basic as possible). To acheive a “blurry” background you need to use an APERTURE that is a low number. SO….here is what you need to do
a) Use an adjustable lens that allows you to choose your aperture
b) Set your camera to AV mode which will allow the camera to set all the other stuff (more on that other stuff later)
c) set your aperture to a small number like 3.5 or 2.8
When I used to teach high school, I would beat this into their heads: “the BIGGER the number, the MORE you can see” Rinse and repeat.

Sometimes when we use the aperture setting, it still does not blur as much as we would like. Is there a trick?
• Great follow up question. The lens you have determines how the bokeh will look. So if the smallest setting on your lens is 3.5 then it will not look as “blurry” as a lens that has an aperture of say 2.0 or smaller. Each lens is different. In case you were wondering why some lenses cost a heck of a lot more than others, this is one reason.

How do you make an object freeze and not be blurry in an action shot?
• To freeze action you will need a fast shutter speed. Really fast. To have a fast shutter speed you will also need pretty good light. THEY explain it better than me.

What is the best setting for night pictures, like for taking pictures of fireworks?
• This is a really complicated question, so I am going to just do the easy thing and google it for you!
Look HERE, HERE, and/or HERE

How do I turn the flash off?
• You will have to read your camera manual for this one. Sorry all cameras are different and I am not a camera expert!

What lens would you recommend?
All of the following lenses are available for both Nikon and Canon. Be sure to buy the right one!
50mm 1.8 An excellent affordable choice for shooting portraits
50mm 1.4 the next step up
17-50 (by Tamaron) Great for when you want to be able to have wide angle shots mixed in, also has a decent aperture range
17-55 The next step up
Shall I go on? I am a lens girl! Let’s see if there are more related questions later!

Do you recommend buying Nikon or Canon Lenses, or are third party lenses fine?
• I do not use third party lenses but there are many great ones that offer affordable alternatives. A third party lens is any lens not made by the manufacturer of your camera… I had to ask Marla that one.
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What is your favorite lens?
• What day is today?
I love the 50 1.4, 85 1.4, 135 2.0, 70-200 2.8, 15 2.8, 24-70 2.8, and 100 2.8  Thanks, Marla. Now I need a few more lenses.
What lens was used to shoot me and the hornet (aka rover)?
• A FISHEYE lens

Should I buy USA lenses or can I buy imported and save some money? ( No one asked this, but it would have been a good question!)
• USA (Imported lenses do not come with a warranty) I had no clue, good thing Marla’s answering these questions and not me. I’d say go for the imported… they’re always cheaper. 🙂

What camera bag would you recommend?
• I use a 7 million dollar home by CRUMPLER and love it. It is incredibly well constructed and a great size for me (or it was until I bought a giant lens that does not really fit well). They have a variety of sizes and colors. If that is not the style you are after, B&H has a large selection of  BAGS to choose from.
Do you use filters?
• No, I do not use them anymore.

Do you think a panoramic lens is a must have?
• Everyone shoots so differently that what is a “must have” for one person, may be an “I would never” for another. If you feel like you want to see more in your images, then get a wide angle. If you just want close ups, then don’t!

What editing software do you recommend?
• I edit using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop CS4. For beginners, I would recommend PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS. But Darby told me she uses the software that came with her camera, and we all agree her pics look pretty dang good! Thanks, Marla and as a reminder I use Digital Photo Professional and it came {free} with  my camera body.

Can you answer specific questions about Photoshop elements?
• No, sorry I know nothing about that program.

Do you edit every picture?
• Yes, I do. I touch every image. Some more than others. Keep in mind that I also charge for my images and so my editing is a BIG part of that.

Do you always shoot raw?
• Yes I do, but it is not necessary for non-professionals. There are many professionals that shoot JPEG and you would not be able to tell the difference.

What camera do you recommend?
• If it is your first SLR, I recommend either the CANON REBEL XSI or one of the NIKON cameras on the market, like the D90 or D60. Sorry, but I do not know the ins and outs of every camera. There are tons of reviews online. By the way, most professionals have black cameras, so if you want to look like you know what you’re doing, buy black! Oh and do not buy the kit lens, just buy the body and buy a better lens separately.
What is the best way to store pictures?
• I use external hard drives, two at a time. I work on one, and the other one backs up every night. You can also burn DVDs or use an online storage system like MOZY.

Is there an online course you can recommend?
BETTER PHOTO has been around a long time and has a good reputaion. It is the only one I have heard of but I am sure there a tons.

What book would you recommend for a beginner?
UNDERSTANDING EXPOSURE is a very popular book and has great reviews.

Do you use custom white balance?
• 95% of the time I use auto white balance. But I do keep a close eye on it and change it when I think the image is looking too cool, or too warm. You will notice that the better you expose, the better your color will look. Here is a link that explains more about WHITE BALANCE. At first, I always shot in AWB {auto white balance} but now I almost exclusively manually set my white balance.  If you want your whites to be white, play with your white balance setting until you achieve a white balance that most resembles what you see with your own lenses {your eyeballs}. Now, be aware that if you are going to use manually set or use custom white balance and frequently shoot in different lighting sources you will have to adjust your white balance every time you move from one light source to the next. But it’s worth it. Your whites will be white… not blue or yellow. If you’re not interested in regularly adjusting your white balace everytime your light source changes you may should stick with AWB. I’m not 100% sure on this, but I think some editting programs will allow you to adjust your whites. Mine does not, so white whites are essential because there’s no “editting” them later.

What is the best way to see creatively and get amazing compositions?
• There are RULES to composition, but remember rules are meant to be broken too. The best thing you can do is learn the rules, and then look at tons of images and really ask yourself why you like it, or what you think would make it better. I also think that composing a beautiful photograph is an art. Marla is an artist. Composition is not the work of a camera. A camera can certainly help composition but if everyone went out and bought Marla’s camera and lenses, that won’t make them Marla. I know, it’s really sad, isn’t it?

What is the best place online to have images printed?
I highly recommend MPIX. They are a consumer lab, but have the benefit of being owned by a large, well respected professional lab. I give a hearty HURRAH for MPIX! Great prices, quick turn around, and UNBEATABLE QUALITY! Go check them out!

Do you use Manual focus?
NO WAY! The only time I would ever use manual focus is when I am using a macro lens and I am too close for the auto focus to work. Otherwise, auto focus all the way!

And now for the most popular question… how can I shoot indoors without the flash?
I know you were all hoping for a super simple to answer, but there is not one. You need to have a good understanding of how to set your ISO, then how to choose an aperture/shutter speed combination that works for the available lighting. I wish I could give you the magic combo but every situation is totally different and can change in a blink. I suggest following the links I provided, buying a good book, or enrolling in an online course. And most of all practicing. That is the beauty of digital, it is free to practice! Amen, sister. Practice, practice, practice. Also, if you just start by turning your flash off you’ll be surprised how much it will improve your photographs.  

Do you shoot in bw {black and white} mode or do you make it bw after?
I shoot everything in color and change it to black & white in Photoshop. I do not have a standard method of conversion that works for each image. I start by removing the color and then use a combination of curves, levels and brightness/contrast to achieve the look I want. I started in photography as a film person and working in a darkroom, so I always strive to make my bw images look like they could have been film. Marla is most well-known for her beautiful black and white photography work. A good black and white photograph is very challenging to achieve. As most professionals, Marla keeps her “bw actions” under lock and key. But, there are photographers out there who do sell their actions. I don’t know where you could find them because I don’t have Photoshop, but I imagine a quick Google search would bring you hundreds of thousands of results.


Marla didn’t answer a question about photographing kids, I feel certain one was asked. So, here’s my advice… for what it’s worth. I have taken A LOT of pictures of my kids so it’s got be worth a little something! 🙂 

  1. Don’t force it. Don’t tell them you’re “going to take pictures of them and they better behave and smile.” Tell them you’re going for a fun outing, to the park or on a new adventure and “just so happen” to bring your camera along. 
  2. Don’t expect perfect behavior and smiles.  Kids are not good “fake smilers”. Keep the mood light, fun, and try not to tell them to smile… make them laugh. Laughs produce precious smiles. “Say cheese” produces “cheesey smiles”.  
  3. Don’t stress out over their clothes. Every mother wants their child to be photographed in something cute but really, I’ve found the Old Navy dress that was a hand-me-down is just as good and she loves it and feels more comfortable in it than the expensive smocked dress that makes a mother’s armpits sweat as she sits on the ground in it.
  4. I love white. I love children in white. But, unless you’re a professional, white can be tricky to photograph. It often throws off your meter {if you’re shooting in manual} and can give the picture an overexposed look. A colored piece of clothing absorbs the light and can really keep the focus on the child’s precious face.

And, because I love her like she’s my own… and because when I call to check on her {10x a day} I refer to her as “my baby”… I will leave you with a picture of my most precious baby niece Sloane Chancy! I love this little angel, mmmmmm do I love her.  


Thanks MARLA from me and all the stalkers!