Back when I started this blog, I had no idea how much posting here would make me want to become a better photographer.

I knew almost nothing about photography when my kids were small. I just took whatever point-and-shoot we had at the time and pointed and shot. We didn’t even have a digital camera until Mr. T was three. I wish I could have captured their babyhoods and young childhoods better.

I’d only been blogging for a few months when I knew I needed a new camera. I wasn’t sure I was ready for an SLR, so we opted for a Panasonic DMC-FZ28, which falls somewhere between a point-and-shoot and an SLR. It was a great little camera; I learned a lot with it. I got myself off automatic mode, and learned to fiddle with aperture, exposure and white balance. (What’s that? You don’t know how to change your white balance? Find your camera manual and see if you can control it. It will improve your photos immediately. And to all those knitters who complain that their work isn’t photographing in the right shade: white balance is what you want to play with.)

It surprised me how much I liked taking photos. I’d assumed that the photos would be little more than garnishes for the writing on my blog–the writing was what really mattered to me–but the more photos I took, the more I cared about how the images looked. At the beginning of 2009, I made a resolution to take at least one photo each day, and I posted them to my flickr page, here.

I made it until the end of July, and then lost steam. I continued to take photos, but not every day. And I only posted to that flickr set occasionally.

It was only once I’d stopped doing it that I realized how much I’d learned from the exercise. How I’d learned to find interesting shots in the most mundane places. How approaching an image from a different angle brought it to life. How the right light can make all the difference in a photo.

Chris and I finally decided that I’d graduated to a camera that could do more. So as of my birthday, we’re the owners of our first digital SLR.

I have so much to learn. I’m reading Nikon D90 for Dummies with a highlighter in my hand. (And only a real dummy highlights a dummy book.) Meanwhile, I’m having a whole lot of fun.

Playing with wide-open apertures.

pincushion flower

And shots of ordinary things.

all gone

Getting up real close.

facts about bats

And closer still.


Finding art in the everyday.

out of commission

And the not-so-everyday.

homeschool prom











And capturing shots that only last for a zombies allowed

(This is one of my favorites so far. My friend Foothill Home Molly came to visit with her kids. Mr. T and I took them on a little tour of Berkeley: to the Lawrence Hall of Science, to the very delectable Ici for ice cream, to the Elmwood Library. Then we walked past Tail of the Yak, and I insisted that Molly and her daughter Avery take a quick peek. Tail of the Yak is an utterly unique little shop, filled with beautiful ribbons, Mexican carvings of saints, exquisite jewelry and all kinds of unexpected treasures. It is not the sort of shop for young boys, particularly young boys in the throes of playing zombies, so the three of us waited outside. But for one short second they became curious about what they were missing–and I snapped this photo. Then they got back to eating brains.)

I’m inaugurating my camera with a new photo-a-day project, begun on my birthday.  It’s a set on flickr that I’m calling the sunday night upload–because Sunday night is often when I’m uploading my photos for the week. I won’t kick myself if I miss a day here or there (I already have) but I’m going to try to make a year. And I’m going to try to make better photos.

So, hey, all you photo-heads out there! How about sharing a favorite photography tip with me? I’d love to hear it!

11 comments… add one
  • Just Peaches Jun 3, 2010 @ 9:52

    Great photos Patricia! I love the last photo of the boys but I also think the close up of the flower is fantastic. The image is so crisp and I like the way the background is out of focus. I have a Canon Rebel XTI but somehow I don’t manage to take nearly as many photos as I’d like. I usually find I take more in the summer when things are less scheduled. My husband teases me about all the “nature” photographs that I take. What can I say? I love nature! Sorry, Patricia. No tips you’re way, way ahead of me. I don’t know how you do it all : knit, cook, teach, look after three kids and manage to post it all on flickr, ravelry and blog. Holy cow!! You’re a wonder 🙂

    • patricia Jun 8, 2010 @ 7:46

      Thanks for the nice words about the photos!

      If I do it all, I do it all very slowly. That’s why I am desperately trying to finish a sweater that I started months ago, which I was sure I’d have done by now. I have a few interests and I’m pretty dogged about them. Single-minded. Overly-focused. Maybe one day I’ll write a post about all the overlooked things in my life that I really ought to get to.

      Mr. T’s closet, for one.

      • Just Peaches Jun 9, 2010 @ 5:51

        We all have messy closets Patricia! Even the best juggler will drop a few balls when thrown one too many. I’m no slug — I can my own tomato sauce, make my own granola, I have a (should-have-been-knit-months-ago) sweater beside my couch and even bake my own bread (occasionally). I guess what impresses me about you is your focus. You identify a interest, set a goal and stick to it (however slowly). In that spirit, I’ve ordered myself the Canon for Dummies. Maybe I’ll learn about white balance and maybe, just maybe, I’ll figure out flickr one day! Thanks for the inspiration.

      • patricia Jun 9, 2010 @ 7:31

        Hooray for dummies! I’ve already happily changed many of my settings according to my book’s recommendations. I hope you learn a lot!

        Flickr is easy. One day when you sign up, we can be “contacts” for each other…

  • Susan Paulkonis Jun 5, 2010 @ 7:24

    Marvelous stuff! Is the dog yours? When did that happen? Adorable pup.

    While we were doing our last round of college viewing on the East Coast in April, we visited (as our family usually does) a churchyard. In the viewing of the incredibly old (1750’s and earlier!) stones, I decided I needed to become a better photographer so that shots of things like a Revolutionary War foot soldier’s grave were as appropriate as possible, and not just snaps. White balance sounds like a great place to start!

    Great to see you for a sec yesterday – I wish we could have stayed longer, but it’s End of the Year Madness time. I hope to stay in touch via blogging, again! I need to start something new, I think.

    • patricia Jun 8, 2010 @ 7:52

      Oh no. Not our doggie. We still have an allergic daddy. It’s one of my parents’ three.

      White balance really changes photos. Most cameras do okay with it on the automatic setting, but not always. You can get a nice golden glow with it–or get rid of a golden glow that you don’t like. I know, I’m a geek.

      I was disappointed not to catch up with you later in the evening on Friday! But I know how this time of year is too…Now that you’re a working woman, and not a student, I’d love to see you blog again. I understand that you’re quite a Facebooker, but I’m not on Facebook. (Contrary to what Just Peaches wrote above, I don’t do it all!)

  • susan Jun 8, 2010 @ 7:38

    You are way ahead of me, too. I’m going to look into the white balance. I really have no idea how to use my camera. Those are some great photos. I really like the coffee cup. For some reason my used coffee cups never look quite that picturesque as if they were left in a cafe in some seaside town by someone who had gone out into the bright sunshine and was dazzled by the white walls and blue roofs. And the one of the two boys is magical.

    • patricia Jun 8, 2010 @ 8:00

      Your photos sure look like you know what you’re doing!

      I have to say that I messed with the white balance and the exposure on that coffee cup photo. I didn’t like how the white balance looked on the automatic setting, and I had to dial down the exposure because the morning light was too bright. It’s all just fiddling–I don’t really know what I’m doing either. That’s why taking a photo a day helps me. If I have nothing else to take a photo of, I’ll spend a few minutes fiddling with a used cappuccino cup.

  • Kristin Jun 9, 2010 @ 21:28

    I was just googling Wonderfarm to link your site to my next post. It’s not done yet, but take a peek sometime.

    You sure keep busy: homeschooling your Masters in writing and now photography too!

    Your passion for living and your positive energy is apparent in your essays and in your photos.

    • patricia Jun 10, 2010 @ 8:36

      I do keep busy, I suppose. But I don’t have an urban farm on the scale that you do! That’s busy!

  • wanderingsue Jun 11, 2013 @ 7:16

    “Then they got back to eating brains.” Ha!

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