Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

May 29, 2010

What’s Blooming – Iris Edition!

Filed under: What's Blooming — Karma @ 9:39 pm
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My daughter Meghan has been laughing at me over the past week or so, each time we pull out of our driveway.  In a funny, high-pitched voice, I’ve been exclaiming, “Irises!”  I just can’t help myself!  The irises have been outrageously gorgeous this year and I’m very excited to show them to you!  Last year was very disappointing for these favorites of mine, so that makes this year’s showing extra special in my eyes.  I have 5 different colors of tall bearded irises, although I don’t know the names of each type.  I ordered these from a Breck’s catalog years and years ago and I look forward to their showing each year.

This was the first bearded beauty to show its lovely face this year.  As with all my perennial flowers this year, these have made an earlier-than-usual appearance due to the earlier-than-usual very warm weather we have been experiencing this spring.  I really love the unique “beard” of white outlined by purple on this one.

Next up:

I think these are my favorite of the 5 bearded iris colors that I grow.  This one has a unique color you generally don’t see all that often in irises – pink!  What’s not to like there? I decided to get up close and personal with this one.  Say “ah,” please!  (I know they are called bearded irises, but they just look like tongues to me!):

Here’s our next patient with another healthy look up close….

(Psssst..hey Scott, would this be an example of sidelighting?)

….and with a group of his friends (I guess they are boys due to the beards? 😉  )

Next to join the iris party is a pretty blend of ivory and periwinkle:

When this has fully openned, it is another stunning beauty:

I thought this was a neat perspective on these:

I have one final contributor to the iris fun.  This last iris doesn’t really go along with the color scheme of the group of irises that I originally ordered, but the fine folks at Breck’s threw it in for free.  Who am I to say no to a freebie?

So that’s my tour of one of my favorite flowers in my garden.  More beautiful blooms coming soon!

May 22, 2010

Creative Exposure Assignment Results

Filed under: Photo assignments — Karma @ 7:55 pm
Tags: , ,

The equipment that I needed in order to complete this month’s photo assignment from Scott Thomas on creative exposure included:

  • my camera ( well, of course!)
  • a downloaded pdf of my manual because I misplaced my printed one
  • advice from Funky Slug
  • advice from Scott
  • straightforward reminders about what aperture, shutter speed and ISO do at this site
  • my tri-pod
  • my husband
  • a squeaky ball
  • my very willing model/participant, Teddy, our 1-year-old tri-color collie

I chose Teddy as my subject for a variety of reasons.  First, if I say so myself, he’s quite handsome and photogenic.  Second, he’s extremely willing to participate in any form of what he considers play.  Third, I noticed recently that he is developing a new skill of being able to catch a ball in the air.  Wouldn’t that be an extraordinary “catch” for me if I was able to pull off that picture?  And last, but certainly not least, I thought that Gerry and the Cowboy might enjoy some pictures of Teddy! 😉

So one early evening this week, I headed outside with the above mentioned equipment and got to work.  I felt a bit intimidated by personally choosing all aspsects of exposure myself, so I picked a setting on my camera that allowed me to choose the ISO and do the focusing, while it made the decisions on aperture and shutter speed.  I chose a higher ISO for the fading light and the quick action, plus I knew a manual focus setting would have a quick shutter.  My “auto” setting loses shots miserably while the auto-focus takes its sweet time.  Hubby endlessly tossed the squeaky ball for Teddy while I experimented with taking (and deleting) a ton of pictures.  One of the biggest challenges was the subject matter himself.  He didn’t always necessarily cooperate with staying within the boundaries of my lens from the spot I’d chosen to set my tri-pod.  I got many shots of empty green lawn, Teddy staring into the sky, and some with manic movement looking for the missed ball, kind of like this one:

[F 4.3, 1/400, ISO 800]

Through my experimenting, I learned about how soon to hit the shutter.  I got this shot, but it still wasn’t quite the one I was looking for:

[F3.4, 1/400, ISO 800]

I was pleased I was able to freeze the action, but it still wasn’t the “catch” I was looking for.  I was losing daylight, and possibly hubby’s patience, so I bumped up the ISO and moved my tri-pod to a new position.  Although Teddy didn’t center himself a bit more for this, I let out a fist-pumping,”YES!!” when I got this one:

[F3.4, 1/400, ISO 1600]

I was sooooo happy with this picture!  I never dreamed I’d actually get the shot with all four feet off the ground and the ball headed directly into Teddy’s mouth!  This shot does have a bit of blur, as though I did not completely freeze the action, but I don’t feel it necessarily takes away from the picture.  The white blur near his face is actually Teddy’s dramatic “ruff”- the big “scarf” of fur that collies have around their necks and shoulders, and I think in this case it adds to the action of the shot.

Thanks, Scott, for posting this assignment!  It forced me to re-learn things I’d forgotten about photography and to learn a bit more about my camera’s capabilities.  I could probably push it even further if I take the time to  experiment some more, which I plan to do this summer.  I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks!  If you could, I’d also like to hear what settings you might have chosen if this was your subject.  Thanks again!

May 20, 2010

Mesmerizing Mystic, Part 2 – Sun, Sand and Surf

Filed under: Travel — Karma @ 10:29 pm
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I’ve got blog fodder stacking up in my head and in my camera!  Mystic Part 2, What’s Blooming -mid May and Scott’s photo assignment are all waiting to be written up!  What should I post tonight? Hmmm… I’ll finish what I started first, I guess.  I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older I seem to start a lot of stuff but not necessarily finish it.  Some call it multi-tasking, I call it A.D. O. S! (attention deficit OOH SHINY!)  So lets get to Mystic Part 2 before I get distracted again…

After the aquarium on Saturday morning, we headed to Downtown Mystic to find a spot for lunch.  My lunch and the spot where we ate was unremarkable to me.  Again, I’ll leave the food details to Jennifer.

As we explored Downtown Mystic, we came across a fascinating drawbridge.

I took this one as I walked across the bridge – there’s Jennifer at the left of the shot!  I didn’t notice you there when I first took the picture! Hi!  The bridge has these enormous counter-weights:

When we saw those, we knew we wanted to be back when the bridge went up.  It was pretty cool to watch:

After some browsing, window-shopping and sight-seeing downtown, my companions decided it was time for a snack! We went to a tiny little bakery and selected some treats.  Here’s mine, “the Mystic Cookie”:

The Mystic Cookie was  jam-packed with all sorts of goodness: chocolate chips, oatmeal, macadamia nuts, walnuts and I can’t remember what else, but it was delicious!

After our snack in the sun on this lovely Saturday afternoon, we decided to find a place to enjoy the warmth of the day near the soothing sight, scent and sound of the ocean.  We found it at Stonington Point:


Stonington Point claims to have views of three states: its own home Connecticut, plus Rhode Island and New York.  Not knowing the geography of the area all that well, I can’t be sure that I saw Long Island, NY, but I’m pretty sure that this is near-by Rhode Island that I captured with my zoom fully extended:

After a lovely afternoon of lounging and reminiscing, we sought out a place for dinner. I forgot to bring my camera to dinner, but luckily, my sister did not.  After checking into a few different places, we found a spot but were told there would be a 30-40 minute wait.  They said we could get some drinks and sit “out back” while we waited for a table.  What a hardship this was! :

This wonderful sight was found at the Dogwatch Cafe in Stonington.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meals here.  I was charmed by the “mascot” of the place, so I asked Jennifer to take this picture:

On Sunday morning, we decided to take a ride to near-by Rhode Island in search of nice walk on the beach before we had to head home.  We ended up at Misquamicut State Beach.  (Can you believe they were charging for parking this early in the season? $14 for out-of-staters like us!) We took a breezy walk in the sand and sat back and soaked up some early-season sun.

As we made our decision that it was time to go, I stopped to grab one more unusual shot:

Lady bugs on the beach? Not a normal sight, but this one seems to be missing its head! I wondered about the circumstances that brought this funny little sight to Misquamicut.

After our visit to the beach, it was time to get some lunch and head home.  I feel very lucky to have enjoyed this beautiful weekend with two great people!

May 18, 2010

Mesmerizing Mystic – Part 1, the critters

Filed under: Travel — Karma @ 4:54 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to have a weekend away with two of my favorite people:

(Left to right: Renae, me, Jennifer; taken by Jennifer with her self-timer)

A couple of years ago, the three of us were lucky enough to have a little getaway with Rosanne from Shrew’s Daily Shutters, along with Dawn of Music Maven (two ladies whom I hope will be back to blogging some day!) to Newport, RI.  We had an awesome time.  After that, I started thinking, these little getaways should be a part of my life more often.  Jennifer and I have been friends with Renae since we were very young children, and we consider her our sister-from-another-mother yet, the three of us had never gone on a trip, just the three of us.  This past weekend, that changed.  For our getaway, we chose Mystic CT, home of the famous:

Our weekend began on Friday afternoon with a visit to the quaint Olde Mistick Village.  We browsed the shops and made purchases for the kiddos back home.  However, the subjects that charmed me for photo-taking this day were:




That evening, we headed over to Mohegan Sun.  We had dinner there at a place called SolToro Tequila Grill.  I think that Jennifer will probably have a write-up about our food, so I won’t get into much here.  I will add a link to her post when it is available.

Saturday morning brought a visit to Mystic Aquarium.  The aquarium had many opportunities to be thinking about Scott’s latest challenge, but I regretfully did not get the chance to brush-up with my camera manual before our trip.  I did do some switching of scene setting in my attempts to capture some great animal and fish shots, but lighting conditions and fast-moving creatures challenged me!  I deleted tons of blurry fish pics, and most of my shots of the sea lion show were disappointing.  However, I did get some keepers with which I was happy:

Sea lion

Beluga Whale

I liked the “expression” on the face of the penguin to the left

Big ol’ bullfrog

Clown fish


Sea horse – they really aren’t that cute of a creature up close, are they?


This is one of my less blurry pictures taken indoors, in low light with a fast moving subject.  I’d love to learn how to improve this sort of shot.  I believe I took it on one of my quick-shutter settings, in the attempt to capture the ray itself, but that’s obviously not all this shot needs.  Feel free to leave advice in the comments.

Here’s one more shot that I took, especially for Tracy:

If you are not familiar with Tracy’s blog, you should go check it out.  Tracy takes many beautiful animal and plant photos, and when she can, she always posts the Latin or scientific name of the creature.  My sister pointed out while we were at the aquarium, that the humorous folks who work there thought to include the “Latin” name of the “Newexhibit fish” – exhibitus modernicus  (in case you can’t make it out in that photo).

I’ve still got lots more to write and show about our trip to Mystic – enough to share in another post!  Part 2 will be posted very soon!

May 12, 2010

New Photo Assignment!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 6:59 pm

Scott Thomas has a new photo assignment up over at his place.  This will be the first time I get to participate using my new blog! Yay!  The subject he has chosen will be difficult  for me! Yikes!  The subject, creative exposure, will be difficult for me because of the lack of depth of my knowledge as well as my camera’s limitations.  I call it a “step-up-from-a-point-and-shoot” because I have the ability to attach a few lenses and I do have some manual settings.  It also has, as Scott mentions in his post, different exposure settings.  I’ve used my scene settings many times and have favorites, but I’ve never quite been able to master using my aperture and shutter speed priority settings.  If I’m understanding the concept of “creative exposure” correctly (and please correct me if I am not, Scott!), it sounds like the challenge is to find an interesting combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and explain why you chose those settings.  That will be the challenge for me!  I’m not sure why I choose the way I do – I just pick the one that makes the picture look the way I like it.  I’m not into much post-processing; I like to get it as much to my liking as possible right there on the LCD.  Most of the pictures I post are SOOC, with the exception of some cropping and a little color saturation.  You could liken my thinking with photography to an old quote about art: “I don’t know much about photography, but I know what I like!”

 So, inspired by what KD posted at her place today, I looked back in my photo archives over at Flickr and chose some interesting shots where I used some of the built-in scene settings on my camera, to which Scott referred to for users of point-and-shoots.
Leap do-over

This is one of the first pictures I took when my camera was brand new.  Anxious to try out all the cool settings, I took this of my daughter leaping across the dance studio with the high-speed capture.  No idea about shutter speed, ISO etc.

This one was taken with one of  my favorite settings “available light.”  This setting seems to soften pictures somehow, and I thought it was just right for capturing my daughters in an unguarded moment.
Pilgrim Monument, P-town

I took this shot of Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, MA from the balcony of my hotel room in Truro, MA with the “night scene” setting, my T-Con 1.7x telephoto lens and my husband, the human tri-pod!


This shot was the result of a happy accident, but also possible, I’m guessing because of some exposure choices that were made by both me and my camera.  This gargoyle resides at the top of the 252 ft. monument that I showed you in the previous shot.  In order to keep folks from plummeting to their deaths, there is a cage around the viewing platform at the top of this monument.  While enjoying the spectacular views from the top, I spotted this gargoyle through the top of the cage.  I set my camera to the “landscape” setting, and the cage magically blurred into the background and I got this unobstructed view of the gargoyle!  Isn’t that cool?  Can one of you photo-expert-types please explain to me how that is possible?

Island sunset

This is one of my favorite shots that I’ve ever taken using the “sunset” setting.  In this case, it really captured the beautiful color of a sunset on Peak’s Island in Maine.  It doesn’t always work quite so well for me.  The colors often seem to be a pale comparison to what I see in real life.

Looks like Scott’s new assignment could force me to learn a bit more about my camera.  (One thing I do learn the more I use my camera is how much I want a DSLR…{WHINE!} )  I’d love to hear any suggestions folks might have for me to help spark my creativity for this new assignment and to help me improve my results, aside from buying a DSLR… 😉  Scott’s assignment is due May 26th… get shooting and please comment to help me if you can!

May 8, 2010

What’s Blooming – Early May Edition

Filed under: What's Blooming — Karma @ 4:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Here in Western Massachusetts at the end of the first week of May, the greenery is ahead of its usual pace due to some early, very warm weather in April.  Normally, I mow my lawn for the first time during the first week of May; I’ll be doing it for the third time this year sometime this weekend if the thunderstorms we’ve been having end soon.  The trees in my backyard that usually leaf out and block the view of the neighbors this week, have been fully green for a few weeks already.  And here at the end of the first week of May, some of my favorite flowers are almost gone already.  Luckily I took their picture earlier in the week:


If any flower ever needed “smell-o-net” it’s definitely lilacs.

A brief shower earlier this week provided an opportunity to take some pretty shots with rain droplets on them:

Pink Azalea (did I spell that right? I always feel like I spell that wrong.)


I liked the way this shot came out.  I thought the tiny droplets on this delicate lily of the valley gave it a nice touch – similar to Tracy’s “sprinkles” a few days ago.

While we are looking at a pretty white flower, here’s another:
white bleeding heart

I find the shape of bleeding hearts charming.

Continuing the white theme, this next shot is not so much a “traditional” bloom.  I actually got the idea to take this picture from Michaela.  Hers were blackberry blooms, and this raspberry bud is far less spectacular looking, but I still wanted to show this picture.  I liked the star shape.

This next picture comes with a question: does anyone have any idea what this is?

There are hundreds of these in my lawn, near the back of my yard where its a bit shadier.  They are only as tall as blades of grass and I run them over with the lawnmower.  They don’t bother me, so I don’t try to get rid of them.

In the last edition of What’s Blooming, I promised to share a shot of the full-sized red bleeding heart plant.  I can’t remember now if this is as big as it gets for the year, but this is what I’ve got so far:

The promise of another of my favorite flowers appears in this shot as well.  Toward the back you see irises.  I have some bearded irises that I really love which are usually in bloom later in May.  Happily, there are many buds visible out there, so be sure to come back for the next edition of What’s Blooming!

May 5, 2010

Just a quick shout out

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 5:52 pm

Hi!  Just a mini-post with a shout-out to my sister today.  Jennifer very thoughtfully gave me a Flickr pro account for my birthday!  Yay!  Now my entire 365 project as well as shots I’ve submitted to PDub’s photo challenges, are visible in one spot.  In honor of my fabulous gift, I’ve added the Flickr widget to my sidebar.

Thanks, “Fer!”

(P.S. What’s Blooming – Early May Edition will be coming out soon!)

May 3, 2010

Sad Struggle for Seedling Survival!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 6:16 pm
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I’ve been gardening for a long time.  I have memories of my mother’s vegetable gardens from childhood.  I remember liking to help in the garden, even if my form of “help” was picking and eating the ripe cherry tomatoes, right off the vine.  Since I’ve had a home of my own, I’ve had a garden.  I’ve worked over the years to have flowers blooming for most of the warm months, and for me, summer just isn’t right without a ripe tomato, fresh from my own garden.  For many years, I followed my mother’s tradition of starting my own seeds inside the house around mid-March in order to have healthy seedlings ready to plant outside come Memorial Day.  Then, for a while, I had to give up starting my own; a cat was part of our lives who insisted on having a daily snack of my seedlings no matter how often I shooed him away.  That kitty is no longer with us, so this year, at dear hubby’s urging, I am attempting my own seedlings once more.  Sadly, so far, they aren’t looking so great.

This is my little homemade set-up:

The seedlings sit in a north-facing window, due to a lack of space near any south-facing window.  In order to supplement the north light, hubby rigged a fluorescent light to hang directly above the seedlings.  In the past, this style set-up worked just fine and dandy.  It allows me to adjust the level of the light as the seedlings grow taller.  So back on March 15th, I planted 3 varieties of tomato seeds and 2 varieties of hot peppers. (That was the real reason hubby wanted me to start seeds so badly.  He wanted a special variety of jalepeno peppers that he has only seen in seed form: “Biker Billy’s“)  Seven weeks later, here’s what the pepper seedlings look like:

I’m not impressed.  The tallest are about 1 1/2″ high.  My tomatoes are taller, but not in a good way.  They’re kind of spindly.  They are skinny instead strong:

A somewhat ghostly looking little forest, wouldn’t you say?  And the color of the leaves is far from a healthy-looking green.  I didn’t photoshop these shots at all:

At the beginning of April, I decided to start a few more seeds.  Cucumbers and watermelon.  In the northeast “technically” you could start these seeds outside after the danger of frost has past and have enough time to reap what you’ve sown, but recent years have taught me otherwise.  Cucumber seeds are often considered prizes by area critters, or get washed away in early summer downpours.  I didn’t really want to even try watermelons again because I’ve had little luck with them in the past.  Plants purporting to produce nice, round “icebox” sized fruits have given me little more than a baseball.  Again, hubby encouraged me.  Promised me lots of fresh topsoil for my garden.  Go ahead dear!  Plant them!  We’ll put lots of cow manure in there too!  (Husband darling, if you are reading this, have you put any plans in motion to provide me with all this black gold for my pathetic patch of land now occupying the space I call garden?) 

Well, the cucumber seedlings took off and grew extremely promisingly.  So much so that I was concerned they might be TOO big to keep in the original planters before they go outside.  I got excited a bit too early.  Some of the cucumbers now look like this:

About half of them have just randomly turned yellow and died!  Yes, of course I am watering them faithfully, in case you were wondering.

So which of my seedlings look the best out of them all?  You guessed it, the watermelon.  The ones that I have the least faith that I can grow successfully once they are outside:

Memorial Day weekend is a little over 4 weeks away.  Check out #17 on this list.  Think I can do it?