Archive for the 'photography' Category

Feb 26 2011

Never ask your husband questions you already know the answer to, deep down in your gut.

Amy: Here, look at these photos. One of these 6 photos have got to go.

James: The first one.

Amy: The first one? NO. No. The first one is NOT going. Look, there’s no other photos like that one. It’s got to stay. Look at these last 3, one of these three have got to go.

James: Then why didn’t you say one of those three had to go, instead of one of all six had to go?

Amy: Because I thought you would have enough SENSE to see that it would HAVE to be one of the last three!

James: …

Amy: …

James: The middle one.

Amy: Yeah. The middle one.


And here, I show you, the photo that got axed. Bid it adieu. It shall live here, but not with it’s sisters on Etsy or my website.

Farewell, sweet photo.

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Jan 19 2011

New banner – featuring my maker’s mark

Published by under photography

I’ve updated my banner! I even put the MONTH on there instead of a generic season. Because I plan on updating it again NEXT MONTH!

I know. Shocking. I hope you were sitting down. Here it is:
Continue Reading »

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Apr 13 2009

New Macro Lens to the RESCUE!

Published by under jewelry,photography,photos

Remember all my swearing and head banging against a wall re: jewelry photography?

wooden acorns

Well, I picked up a new macro lens on craigslist Friday evening.

wooden acorns

Canon EF 50mm f/2.8 macro. I set up my lightbox, lights and started taking some shots.

wooden acorns with macro

I loooooooooooooooooove this macro lens. It is truly, awesome. All my troubles are OVER! Wheeee!

wooden acorns with macro

Look at that! I mean, LOOK AT THAT! You can see the grain of the wood! Like, up close! Awesome!

Needless to say, this has made jewelry photography a SNAP.

sterling silver byzantine bracelet

I mean, damn.


sterling silver byzantine bracelet

This is for sale, by the way. Right here.

Isn’t it pretty?

-amy stops going crazy with frustration.

ps – sneak peak of a new listing coming soon (click to see larger photo):


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Sep 28 2008

a-garage sale-ing we went!

Published by under amy's head,daily,house,kids,photography

This saturday was our community yard sale. Basically, everyone puts out their stuff if they feel like it and there’s a communal sharing of junk. It’s a GREAT time for the kids to take their money jars and go out scouting for a new toy or two. They both totally scored.

I saw this one, and if Jocelyn hadn’t wanted it, well, let’s just say it was coming home one way or another. SO CUTE!!

strawberry shortcake house

strawberry shortcake house

I love this, I love this, I LOVE THIS! I remember being super jealous of my best friend neighbor Heidi, who had just about every strawberry shortcake doll that was out at the time. I LOVE that they’ve started putting these dolls out again. Jocelyn has a Strawberry (with a scooter, and the kitty, Custard) and a Blueberry, both of whom have lost their clothes and whose hair is all tangley. Strawberry was MIA, but Blueberry has been having a fine, naked time in her new house. I must say, best $2 every spent!

Our $2 new acquisition did however, cost us more money than that, because by Sunday, I had decided we needed, nay MUST HAVE AT THIS MOMENT, more strawberry shortcake dolls in the house. I got a Crepes Suzette doll for Jocelyn, and a Lemon Meringue doll for me. I have just 2 things to say: These little gals certainly are pricey, at $8.99 each. Secondly, I love that they are actually GIRLS. Not women with inhuman measurements, not girls trying to look like women, not… (dare I say it? I probably shouldn’t say it, oh hell I’ll just say it) dolls who look more like WHORES dressed like they are trying to make a buck or two on a Saturday night. I am happy to spend some money on Strawberry Shortcake and try to direct any obsessions in the making in that direction rather than Princess Disney, Bratz, Barbie, or whatever other skanky ho doll comes around. (And yes, she has already barbies, disney princesses, and bratz, and I also had barbies galore.. they’re not banned in this household, I am just more than happy to point my innocent 4 year old in a more girl-like direction.)

Ethan also lucked out, I just am not as effervescent about his purchases, because they don’t hold childhood nostalgia for me. He picked up a pretty nifty helicopter, which has a hook on the bottom, and a cool propeller that spins, as well as a firetruck that does a variety of things that I can’t quite follow, despite his showing me time after time.

James came home with a borrowed Canon 70-200 f4 IS L lens (which for the non-photography knowledgeable, DROOOOOOOOL! We’re talking over a grand on this baby.) So, the kids and I set up a little photo shoot. I need to build a light box!

The lens was very nice, but I’m still quite happy with our lens, the Sigma 50-150 f2.8. No image stabilizer, but it’s a bit faster which should even out. I think the Canon is a hair nicer with the IS and the longer zoom then ours, but I feel no need to lament our choice. The Sigma was a little more than half the cost of the Canon, it’s a great lens, especially to our very amateur eyes!

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May 01 2008

soccer team manager email

Published by under amy's head,overheard,photography

I’ve been Jocelyn’s team manager for over a month now and have yet to post any of my crazy emails. I always hit “send” and bite my lip hoping that a) nobody is offended, b) nobody thinks i’m crazy, or even worse c) nobody rolls their eyes, because i am just SO not funny.

Yes, I know, I AM probably SO not funny, but I get a kick out of it, and i’m the (queen! czarina!) team manager, so neener neener!

Enough blather, here you go:
Look at me – I’m emailing in a relatively early fashion! And I can’t seem to stop using exclamation points! Someone send help!

First, a little teaser on how things are going to go down NEXT weekend, which is PICTURE DAY.

First off, make sure your kid has no jam on their face (this is one of my biggest issue on picture days). (OK, on every day, picture or no picture.)

Next! Our team pictures are being taken at <school>, at X:XXam.

Here is a map for <school>.

As you can see, it’s just down the road from <soccer fields>.

Please try to arrive by X:XXam.

Your child should be all ready for gametime, which means GOLD jerseys, shin guards, socks, and of course, no jam on the face. Hair brushing is optional. (Unless you’re in our house, where you will be screamed at if you take a step toward a child with a hairbrush in hand.)

I have the picture envelopes/order forms which has all the ordering information, and they will be handed out this Saturday. If you lose yours, there will be more available at the school on picture day. It’s nice to fill it out beforehand along with your check, so come picture time, you are free to spit on the corner of your sleeve and wipe jam off of faces.

We will then mill around the field (or gym, if it’s rainy) until it’s our turn, and then all our kids will get their individual picture taken, and then finally, all the kids and the coaches will have a team picture taken.


After the joy that is “picture day” is over, we will then troop over to to play our game! The bright side is that our soccer events will all be over by noon and we can all spend the rest of the day letting our children get jam on their face while sipping mimosas! (Yes, I know, I live in fantasy land.)


OK, that’s NEXT WEEK, so let’s get on with this week, shall we?

Arrive: X:XXpm
Gametime: X:XXpm
Jersey: BLUE
Field: #X
Snack duty: Jane Doe

You know the drill: shin guards, jerseys, water bottles – and jam on the face is totally optional! Wahoo! Go crazy!

I am NOT going to be at this Saturday’s game, but my husband will be there, and will probably be very embarrassed to be handing out photo envelopes on my behalf. Be sure to tell him makes a great soccer mom, and that he’s got a little smudge of jam right *there*. You can even spit on your sleeves and wipe it off!

Have a great game and hopefully we won’t get rained out of our Monday practice again!

-amy, who tries not to worry that her jam obsession may affect her mental health

PS! On a totally unrelated note, I am singing in a concert of big band/jazz music on Sunday at 4pm (and will be in rehearsal Saturday, thus my absence) and if anyone is interested in attending, I’d love to see you there! Tickets are $5/each and kids totally free! More info here: (I am going to try not to have jam on my face for this one, but I make no promises!)

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Jan 02 2008

happy new year

There are 2 worst things about being back at work.

1. I won’t be able to sit at my table and make little fabric things.
2. I can’t wear jeans everyday anymore.

Seriously, I just want to wear jeans.

So I would have to say that this holiday vacation was a sewing holiday for me. So much fun to be had sitting and piecing and contemplating and making.

I made some random hotpads that are kind of bright and loud and I love them,
I made Jocelyn a Big Footed Bunny* for Christmas,
I made Ethan and Jocelyn Robots* after christmas (they still need faces and robot panels though)
I got my work area situated (shelves on wall, cork boards on wall, ikea drawer cupboard thingee put together) – it still needs some situating, but it’s about 80% there,
I bought fabric, fabric and more fabric (I like to think it’s OK, because I don’t buy MUCH of it, just 1/3 of a yard for whatever I choose)
I started working on little Peanut* elephants from my new sewing book, “Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts” which I LOVE (both the elephant and the book)

So the “hey, I’m at work, and not finishing up a Peanut elephant is kind of a bummer.

*all of these are patterns – even Peanut, which she contributed to the book. I guess you could say I would stalk Hillary Lang if she were in my area!

The kids did amazingly well when I dropped them off to school. I thought Ethan would be a little complainey pants (that boy would never EVER leave home, if it were up to him), but he did great. It’s amazing how the little things make the morning good or bad. Bananas for breakfast – “AWESOME MOMMY!” Letting them get dressed while they watch Go Diego Go! “WAHOO!!”

I am on I guess what you could call a mini resolution – having been home for the last week and a half, I have effectively cold-turkeyed my diet coke in the morning habit. Now that I’m back to work, I am going to do my darnedest to break my usual work routine of egg mcmuffin + large diet coke on the way to work, have breakfast at home, and drink water at work. While I’m at it, I’m going to try to bring my lunch in to work. When my group goes out for lunch (every other friday), that’s ok, but the rest of the time I’m going to try to bring in lunch. I should be able to do that for a month, right?


The other resolution I got from Anna – she is going to try to take a picture a day this year. I love it. I want to do it, with a little tweak – I’m going to try to POST a picture a day this year. I know that realistically, I won’t take a picture every day, but I can take *some* pictures every week, and them post them each day, so that is what I am going to shoot for! So, count me in Anna!

Yesterday and today’s pictures are cheating, because I didn’t take them. James did the christmas morning photos while I handled the camcorder – but since mine is tweaked, “POST a picture a day,” I think I’m in the clear! I like my tweak already!

And of course the usual third resolution – I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I have put my Project Skinny page back up, since I started getting (somewhat) serious about it in November. Weekly progress is too much for me to post, but I think a monthly tally is a good way to go. I completely expect to be the same for December (weigh in tomorrow!), but it’s time to get back on it for January.

That’s it for now – I will try to post some pictures of all the fabric + cuteness this week!

One response so far

Jan 10 2007

did you miss me?

because i missed you.

remember when i said that since my husband james was going to take our web stuff off our borg collective in our basement and open up a hosting account somewhere and put it all there, and this was terrific because it meant that our stuff would be up all the time, every time, even when our own home internet goes out, and isn’t the inkernet a magical, magical series of tunnels that al gore invented?

well, that all is dependant on everything being set correctly in the hosting account.

something wasn’t.

and unbeknownst to me, my main email address, the one i’ve used for years and years was bouncing all over the place.

and then, beknownst to me, my blog email address stopped working too.

and then, very very beknownst to me, my website (this thing here) stopped being available through the series of tubes.

and then i banged my head against lots of hard surfaces and cried.

you know, it’s funny how i sit and look at my site each morning, and i think, gee.. not sure what i could possibly write about.. i saw a weird license plate on my way to work. i even broke out my trusty camera phone and tried to take a picture of it. i don’t know why i keep trying to do this because it comes out looking like a big fuzzy blur. i’ve deleted a whole folder of big fuzzy blurry cars all grainy and pixelated. maybe the internet wants to see interesting/weird/indecipherable license plates. at least it would be something to post. CAN you post license plates on the internet? I don’t see why not, since folks see them when you’re driving down the road. Just imagine their driving along the internet. through the series of tubes.

so yeah. not a whole lot of inspiration on what to write.


oh the harrowingness of it all.

of course, now that it’s back, i can’t think of a damn thing to write again.

except i missed you too. i could take you home and kiss you all over. DON’T EVER LEAVE ME AGAIN! I JUST CAN’T HANDLE IT!



So I joined a community choir. I went to my first rehearsal and everything this evening. It was great fun. I’m going to help their (I guess i should say ‘our’ now) website to stop being shitty. Yay me!

It was an adventure, to say the least. It is a very small group (maybe 12-15 folks total), and they were missing a handful of members, so it ended up that there were no sopranos. so i said sure, i’d take soprano. so we have me, SIGHTREADING as the lone soprano. the director arrived a bit late, which was good for me, becuase we ran through all the music a few times, so it wasn’t completely new by the time she went through it with us. still. i was just trying to get notes and rhythms right, and maybe, if you’re lucky, words, and the director was aiming for ACTUAL MUSICALITY. you know, like dynamics and different tonality and diction. and then there were those high Fs and Gs (for those of you that don’t know, THOSE ARE REALLY FREAKING HIGH NOTES) that I, alto at heart, and mezzo soprano AT BEST managed to squeak out (by myself! no other voices to blend in with cover it up!) fairly decently, and well, damn. I must say. I am proud of myself 🙂

After rehearsal was over, I asked the director if she wanted me to audition* or anything, even though I had just sung with the group the entire rehearsal. She laughed and said no, I was doing fine.

“You are trained..?”

she didn’t really pose this as a question, but she looked at me like she expected an answer, so I kind of stammered something out.

“Um, yeah. Sort of. I mean, I was a voice major. I dropped out.”

“I see. I could tell**. Where did you study?”

“Brigham Young University.”

“Really! Wonderful.”

She said more stuff too, thanking me for giving what she was asking for, which was nice of her, as mostly, I was just trying not to sound too screechy on the high parts, get the music right, and tried to pay attention to her as much as I could while I was at it. I’m definitely going to get my parts down this week so next week I can forget about the music, and pay attention to the music.

Seriously.. it’s been … 10 years? and it feels great to be singing in a group again. I feel GREAT.

*i brought my books and everything, i was SO PREPARED. I had “Amarilli Mio Bella”, from 26 Italian Songs and Arias ready (super fancy and all classical and operatic), On My Own, from Les Miserables, and either Night and Day, Summertime, or Since I Fell For You from my jazz fake book I could do too. so, classical, broadway, jazz.. I was covered. I’m actually kind of disappointed she didn’t need to hear me 🙂

** I’m going to take this as, she could tell I studied voice, NOT she could tell I dropped out 🙂


…is still ongoing. I have selected all the photos i want to print, and while I was going to go the costco/snapfish route ($.17/4×6), it costs a lot less to just go the straight snapfish route ($.10/4×6 if you prepay) and when you have FIVE HUNDRED PHOTOS that you decide you want to print (i know. i know. i managed to whittle it down to 450. good lord.) well, that extra 7 cents a photos makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

I am going to check these out too. Very cool.

OK. Enough blogginess for now.

Except to say, did you know it’s national delurking week?


I’m going to try to make a point of commenting on the many, many, MANY bajillion blogs in my blogroll too, so come on folks, let’s go out there and dirty up the internet with our muddy feet stomping our comments all over the place.

And you can START HERE 🙂

-amy sings, “Cheezus was sacrifiiiiiiceduh!”

*ok. i’m being a bit optimistic 🙂 it’s probably more like…. 4. just comment already!

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Jan 08 2007

kid cuteness, and mommy dumb-ness

Published by under daily,kids,photography,photos


We love to have something to whisper in our household. Ethan is always deciding to tell us a secret, and usually when that little mouth gets up to my ear, he blanks out and whispers, “I love you mommy.” Not a bad secret 🙂 Jocelyn’s secret usually consists of silence, or “I have a SECRET!” whispered way too loud, so that when she approaches your ear, the parent is half listening and half trying to stay ready to pull back so as to protect the eardrums.

This morning (or maybe it was last night?) however, I heard her shout over to daddy, “I need to tell you a SECRET about how I SLEPT IN MY BED!”

So. Some concepts of “secret” still being worked out 🙂


After jammies and stories and tucking in and everything is done and I’m standing at the door and say to Ethan, “Have a good sleep,” he is sooooo tickled pink to reply, “SLEEP TIGHT! DON’T LET THE BED BUGS BITE!” *(cackle cackle cackle)*

Another game we play is he lays in bed with all the covers down at his feet. He puts his arms up over his head, and his pookie bear is carefully laid down right next to him. I proceed to pull up the sheet and blankies one by one, up to the headboard and over his face and arms. After each one, he says, “Now??” and I say, “Not yet!!” until all the blankies are cover him up and only little fingers at the very top are showing. Then I say, “NOW!” and he puts his arms down, which then tucks all the blankies around him nice and snug under his armpits, and usually his pookie bear is poking out just right as well. Then we say, “Now you’re ALL SNUGGLED IN!”

I’ve done it a few times for Jocelyn, but she’s not that into it. However, after the story has been read, which takes place in the rocking glider chair in her room, I usually say, “Shall I toss/throw you into bed?” she says, “NO! THROW/TOSS me into bed!” (whichever one I DIDN’T say, is however she corrects me.) The I snuggle her up in my arms, and as I rock, I say, “1…” (chair goes back,) “2…” (chair goes back..) “THREE!” (stand up with the girl). Then I walk her over to the light switch and turn off the light with her foot which is sticking out of my bundled up girl-in-the-arms. If I miss this step, she usually corrects me, “TURN OFF THE LIGHT! WITH MY FOOT!” And then as I approach the bed, she says, “Do, ‘a-one! a-two! a-three!” and then I swing her in an exagerated baby-rocking motion and count, and then on three, and faux-toss her into the bed while she giggles with glee. Then a series of questions and answers goes on about which dolly/bear she would like to accompany her, whether or not sheets and covers are required, or which one, “Sheets?” “NOOOO!” “Blankey?” “The PINK one!” and then after she is all tucked in, kisses are administered (to girl and dolly/bear) and I can take my departure.


I decided that while digital photos are wonderful, I do miss the actual PHOTOS lying around the house in an organized fashion, say, a photo album. In the worst case scenario, if hard drives crash irreparably in the house and flickr HQ is hit by photo-backup-targetting missiles, we would have no record of .. well, a lot of shit. So, my project for the last few days have been to go through the photos for 2006 to pick which ones I like a ton, and get them ready for printing.

Doing this on flickr is pretty much futile, because often, I do a massive convert from RAW, shove up to flickr with no type of processing. So I would tag the ones I liked there, only to have to find them on my computer and fiddle with them, so might as well ignore flickr. I have a program called Breezebrowser that I quite like for simple browsing and conversion, but it doesn’t do any photo fiddling or any advanced type of tagging/album type stuff, so that was out. I’ve been meaning to try out Google’s picasa software, which now, I have done, and I must say, I quite like it. I can look through the photos easily from thumbnails, then I can look at each one specifically and it has a good bit of fiddling tools, such as crop, STRAIGHTEN (omg i love this one), fill light, and a very handy “i’m feeling lucky!” which does an auto correction of a lot of stuff (contrast, saturation, etc.) I can do these changes, and then undo them later if I want, as it doesn’t actually change the original files. Since I work in the RAW format, it is also very handy in that it does it all in raw also. I can add photos to my “2006 photoalbum” album, and it doesn’t move any files or try to reorganize my photos, which I like. When I have all the pictures selected in the album and properly fiddled with for the best looking results, I can go to that folder and tell it to export, and it will export all the RAW photos (which are physically located all over the place on my hard drive, mind you and would take me FOREVER to track them down manually) to JPG to a folder I specify. Then they’ll all be right there for me to upload to’s website to print, and I’ll be able to go pick them up at costco on my way home the next day. Along with a couple of photo albums. 🙂

So, while now the software is all handled, the hard drive space is NOT… I had to grab the photos from 3 different locations in our collective computer consciousness in our household.. some were on my laptop (my primary machine) some were on our file server, where I stashed them because my machine was running out of space, and some were on my husband’s 2nd drive in his desktop, again, where i stashed because i was running out of space. BTW.. I had to delete a bunch of stuff in order to HAVE the space to move back to my laptop to work on… hope none of it was important!

Space is a big issue in our house. Grrr. So I have my eye on this 500 gig Western Digital “my book” which will solve ALL my problems for only $240 (at costco. the warehouse, not the website). Drool. I covet your bytes. And your bits.

The only problem is now James has this fancy mac laptop and he’s digging the Aperture photo software and wants to use THAT, and what the hell? how are we supposed to do this? AHHHHH?!!

So I think that separate flickr accounts will be in our future, with us just handling our own photos separately.

So, finally, I’m getting to the part where the title of this section actually stems from (it’s been so long, let me remind you, it’s “the things you learn”…) If only I had learned this lesson EARLIER… like in february of last year…

Perhaps you can take heed from my observations. I’ve now spent a good 6-8 hours going through old photos, and at the time, I must have thought it was CUTE to take pictures of dirty kids faces, now I just wish I could read through time with a wet warm soapy washcloth and WIPE OFF ALL THE SNOTTY SPAGHETTI-Y CAKE-Y DIRT-Y GROSSNESS BECAUSE IT’S SO NOT CUTE. IT’S JUST GROSS.

Practically all the photos of the kids look like this:

Do yourself a favor.

Wipe those kids’ faces. THEN break out the camera.

OK i’m done now. Happy monday.


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Dec 12 2006

the search for a lens

Published by under daily,photography,photos

I have some very VERY exciting news.

No, it’s not the fact that Jocelyn is basically potty trained. (Although that is very exciting.)

No, it’s not the fact that yet ANOTHER cat in our household of 3 felines is peeing in places not occupied by litter. (Exciting, but not in the nice variety.)(she is at the vet building up a supply of urine in her bladder to be extracted and tested in the morning as we speak.)

While the above items are TRUE, they are not the very VERY exciting news.

I have figured out what camera lens Santa will be bringing me! Yay!

Perhaps if I had blogged about this search, you would feel the same sort of relief that I do. Nay, that my husband does. For no one can feel the relief that James feels now, after listening to me DECIDE, and then change my mind, and then lament on the beauty of the lenses out of my budget, then decide on another one, then decide no lens, a FLASH, a FLASH is where it’s at, and then just cry because I have no flipping idea what to get, and then FINALLY make up my mind on A LENS A GLORIOUS LENS!

That is the sort of relief that only James can feel. But just so you can get a better feel on that sort of relief, I’d like to go through what’s out there, and include links and what not so if there are any other photographers-in-learnin’ that would like to follow the links and learn along with me, they can do that. If you’re not interested, then I’ll see you later alligator, as Ethan says CONSTANTLY.

I have had the aid of my brother Joseph, who is a great photographer. So great, that I woudn’t let him enjoy my wedding, but instead made him shoot it for me, for free (yay me!). He’s been a great source of info for me and he didn’t laugh at my dumb questions. (at least, not out loud).

First of all, I have a Canon 30D with the kit lens, which is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II. We purchased this baby when it first came out, thus blowing our wad, and having no more moolah on a better lens. We knew that the lens it came with was pretty much crap, but it’s not like we’re all that stellar photographers (YET) anyway, so it’s been a good lens to learn and experiment with. With Christmas around the corner, we decided that it’s a good time for new lens. YAY!

Before I get into this, I want to state that most of the sites I’ll be linking refer to both Canon and Nikon cameras/lenses. Since I’m in the market for a Canon mount lens, I focused on Canon. Pretty much everything I’ve read suggests that both Canon and Nikon are quality, and neither are really “better” than the other. The sites all have Nikon information as well.

I started off looking at this page here: Building a digital SLR system
written by Philip Greenspun, updated 9/2006

The first very important tidbit I learned, was exactly what the difference was between the different flavors of digital cameras. You’d think I would know this, but I didn’t. I knew that SLR meant that the lens came off the front, but that is about all I knew. I learned that the three basic SLR digital cameras fall into these categories: small lenses, small sensor; big lenses, small sensor; and big lenses, big sensor. I knew my dad’s Canon 5D was a lot more expensive than my 30D, but now I know it’s because it has a big sensor inside, while mine has a small sensor. The Canon 5D is the only camera (I beleive, anyway) that has a big sensor. Nikon digital SLRs all have a small sensor

This shed a bit of light on the whole different lenses / crop / x1.6(canon) / x1.5(nikon) stuff. I have heard this, but never really understood it. I still don’t REALLY understand it (but I’m closer than I was before) so I will quote Mr. Greenspun:

“Having a smaller sensor is like cutting the center out of a drugstore proof print. You don’t capture all the information on the left and right and top and bottom of the frame. It is as though you took the picture with a telephoto lens. The viewfinder has been adjusted so that what you see optically is what is captured in the digital file. If you’re coming from the film world you will need to do a mental adjustment. A 50mm normal perspective lens on a big lens/small sensor camera behaves like an 80mm telephoto lens on a film camera.”

With Canon lenses, the “-S” means that the lens is built for these small sensor cameras (ie: EF-S 18-55mm).
Nikon uses “DX” to denote this type of lens.

Even though these lenses are built specifically for small sensor cameras, you still have to do the math to determine their actual end result.

While you CAN use normal lenses on a small sensor body, you have to do the math to determine what the actual focal length is. However, if you were to use a lens specific to the small sensor camera (EF-S or Nikon’s DX), they wouldn’t work on a large sensor camera. Or rather, they would, but the edges of the photo would be blurred/black, because the lens does not go to the edges of the sensor.

Mr. Greenspun goes through the different camera bodies VERY briefly, and I skipped over most of it, because I already have my camera body. He then goes on to suggest that you start with a “normal” lens.

He defines normal as the same perspective as normal human vision, which would be about a 50mm lens. His reasoning was pretty sound to me, being that,

“The novice photographer who starts with a zoom lens typically uses it in lieu of backing up or stepping forward. An experienced photographer visualizes the scene first, chooses a focal length, then gets into the appropriate position to capture the scene with that focal length. It is much better to get a lens with a fixed focal length, learn to recognize scenes where that lens can be used effectively, and then add additional lenses once that focal length has been mastered. So even if you have the $1000+ to buy a high quality zoom and the muscles to lug it around it is probably a poor choice of first lens.”

Hi! My name is Amy, and I am Guilty As Charged! I’ve totally stood where I was and zoomed away, only moving my feet when I couldn’t get the shot I wanted at the end of the zoom. So seeing myself in that statement, I was on board with his suggestion of a prime focal lens.

I also learned about aperture. This stuff, I kind of already knew. The f/stop on a lens represents the aperture. there are steps between each aperture, called “stops”. The smaller numbers are good, and they actually mean it is a bigger aperture. I did not really understand this until my brother pointed out that the number is actually the bottom number of a fraction.

So while I knew that f/2 was actually a BIGGER aperture than f/4, it made a lot more sense to me when I realized that it is actually over 1, IE: 1/2 is much bigger than 1/4. It’s TWICE as big! This was where having a photo-geek brother paid off.

So why is bigger better? Aperture is basically how big the lens opens to let the light in to the sensor. If there is a lot of light, you can snap off a picture very quickly and it will be very sharp. So when someone says that an f/2.8 lens is very fast, you know that it is because of the amount of light it lets in by that big aperture. On the flip side, if the lens has an aperture of f/5.6, it is a smaller aperture and therefore is letting a lot less light in. That means that the shutter has to stay open LONGER in order to get the light, which means it takes longer for that shutter to snap, and is therefore a slower lens. A slower lens may be affected by camera shake, which results in blurriness. It means that if you’re operating in low light, unless you use a tripod, you’re going to need to fight some blurriness with a high ISO (faster speed, but more graininess in the photo).

If there was one thing my brother hammered into me, was get a fast lens. He discouraged anything over an f/4, and who was I to argue?

So after reading and rereading’s ‘building a system’ page, I started to wander off from the “get a prime, fixed length lens”. Sure. I could get a fixed lens, and learn how to frame a photo up right the first time.. but surely I’m good enough now that I can skip this and get a zoom, right?

I started looking around at wide angle lenses.

Joe immediately suggested the Tokina 12-24mm f/4. 12mm is a very wide angle indeed, even when you do the multiplication for the cropped sensor. He pointed me to this site, which has a wealth of information for me to soak in:

Ken Rockwell: wide angle zoom comparison
Nikon users will love his site, as he uses (and adores) Nikon. He has a lot of articles on cameras, lenses, how to become a better photographer, etc.
In this comparison, he suggests getting the Nikon lens unless you want to be cheap, in which case get the Tokina. However, at the bottom of the review, he states (under the heading, “What About Canon?”):

“I’d buy the Canon 10-22mm lens in an instant if I had a Canon digital camera. The Canon 10 – 22 mm is better than any of these four lenses, including the Nikon.”

He has a full review for this Canon lens here:

The Canon 10-22mm was a bit out of my price range, and Joe still insisted that his Tokina (which is cheaper) had the better aperture with the maximum f/4 (the canon 10-22 goes from f/3.5-4.5).

So I was really struggling for which one to pick… when suddenly it didn’t matter anymore.. I was wondering why I wanted a wide angle in the first place. I like to think that I do take some good shots once in a while, but those bad shots? A wide angle lens just means that there will be MORE badness. A crappy photo will turn into WIDER crappiness. Is that REALLY what I want? Also, I wanted to fiddle more with shallow depth of field, which wide angle lenses don’t really do, by their inherent nature. They are for capturing more of the environment around your subject, not make it blurry.

Really.. I like wide angle shots, but generally, I’m taking pictures of my kids most of the time. I need a good portrait lens, really, which means a telephoto lens, with a zoom to be versatile.

(This is where James is bashing his skull in. Fickle fickle Amy. Hand On Forehead. Le Sigh.)

Telephoto means a long lens. At least with telephoto, there’s only 1 lens that really caught my eye.

70-200. Canon makes this lens in several versions. Let’s go from cheapest, to most expensive, shall we?

First I need to learn ya some more letters n’ stuff. Canon uses the following:

IS: Image Stabilization – this is found on longer lenses, as the longer focal length tends to magnify camera shake. Helps offset bigger (less light=longer shutter speeds=more camera shake exposed=blurrier) apertures. I have no idea how it does this. I like to think there’s a little man in there, holding things steady.
USM: ultra sonic motor. This is the auto focus motor. With it, it’s silent and quick. Without it, it’s not as silent or quick

L: this denotes that the lens is in Canon’s professional series. top quality stuff.

OK, now that we’ve got all that out of the way (these prices are all WITHOUT the current Canon rebates going this holiday season)…

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM ($580) small (i say small, but f/4 really IS a very decent aperture) aperture
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM ($1060) small aperture, but WITH image stabilization!
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM ($1150) ooh! BIGGER aperture (remember smaller numbers are better/bigger really the bottom half of a fraction) but no image stabilization
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM ($1700) OMG!small aperture AND image stabilization! Zounds!
The f/4s were out of the running. Sorry. I need the wide aperture. The f/4 with IS would help offset any blurriness, but if you’re going to spend a grand on a lens, then why not cough up another hundred bucks and get the f/2.8 w/out IS? And of course, there’s the holy grail of the lens, which of course, is the one I want, which would be the f/2.8 with IS. Which would be $1700. Guess what, that ain’t happening.

In all my reading over the last 2 weeks, there was a quote I heard, can’t remember where, or who it was, but roughly, “the lens is usually better than the photographer using it” (that’s me, hehe). I can’t think of truer words in regards to the thought of me spending 1700 on a lens. Way more than I need at this juncture, or even know what to do with. Remember Philip Greenspun saying, “So even if you have the $1000+ to buy a high quality zoom and the muscles to lug it around it is probably a poor choice of first lens.” Gulp. OK, yeah, so he’s talking about me.
So taking these things into account (hi, i’m still learning, and 1700 is out of my league) still, honestly, a telephoto zoom is probably the lens that I am going to use the most. I know I would like to get a wide angle zoom at some point, but I don’t think this is the time. Telephoto is what I need, and while this one is overkill, something like it is really what would suit me best at this time.

So, after moping around about my lack of two grand to drop on a super duper fancy lens, looking at the wide angles again, I went back to the original idea of getting a fixed focal length lens. I started looking around‘s forums and caught wind of the Canon 50mm f/1.8, which is a cheap, but still great lens at about 70 bucks (look at that super fast aperture!) I could get a lens, a fancy flash to bounce off walls and my my kids look less orangey and grainy (let’s face it. i work during the day. i take most of the kid photos in yucky light.) and even a new bag to top it off.

It all SOUNDED so good, but I knew it really wasn’t what I wanted. This was MY CHRISTMAS PRESENT DAMMIT. I could go buy a 70 dollar lens any old time of the year! I DON’T WANT A FLASH (right now)! I WANT A FANCY LENS!

So what to do, what to do. I lamented to my brother, who shot back, “Look into Sigma.”

And so I did.

And I found this baby: Sigma 50-150mm F/2.8 APO EX DC HSM for about $670.

f/2.8! yay! 50-150! if we do our math for my cropped sensor, that is actually about 80-240! yay!

All those letters behind the lens stuff mean something too! yay! I can’t remember what though, and I’m too lazy at the end of this long assed post to go look.

I did go searching from some reviews or feedback on this lens, and I didn’t find anything on sites, but I did find several mentions of it on the forums, all positive.

And so, I am a giddy schoolgirl who will be setting out milk and cookies for Santa to make sure he doesn’t pinch it for himself.

So I am happy. I learned soooooo much in this experience of trying to find the right lens for me. All about aperture, and big sensors and little sensors and lenses, and image stabilization and ultra sonicy goodness that I’m going to go lay down and dream about nice, soft bokeh.

If you are still reading this… Hoorah! I will send you a candy cane as a reward. Just you email me and see if I don’t.

-amy comes right down santa clause lane.

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