Anatomy of a Snowpocalypse

The entymology of Snowpocalypse is a little hazy but it seems to have started around here back in ’05 or ’06.  I think it’s fair to say that any time a couple of inches of snow falls from the sky on the greater Seattle area and actually stays on the ground, it’s a snowpocalypse.  I’m not going to get into the justifications or explain why in Seattle that’s a big deal where in other places they just deal with it, but these things do have a sort of rhythm to them.

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It starts with a lot of breathless weather reports, of course.  A lot of doubt, and at least one false alarm.  Eventually though, it does happen.  It can snow in Seattle.  At the same time, you usually have to go looking for it, at first.

And then it comes down.  The city goes to sleep.  Everyone looks around and enjoys themselves as their employers try and figure out how to wrest some productivity from the cold disaster.  About this time the local news starts driving around the city in the van they’ve dubbed “Snow King” and crashing into parked cars.

I always forget how quickly a neighborhood of asphalt and dirt and grass and cars can be turned into breathless white.  After it all stops, when everything is calm and before the melting starts, there is one moment before the snow turns brown or yellow or other colors you’d rather not think about, when everything is perfectly clean and white.

Snowpocalypse Seattle, 2012 edition.  A good time to give thanks for the ability to work from home.

Two Photography Birds, One Domestic Cat Stone

As you might have noticed, I love my 50mm lens – the Nifty Fifty.  Photography would be a much more accessible and enjoyable hobby if more good stuff cost less.  Honestly, at this point, I raise an eyebrow much faster at a lens that costs less than $100 than I do at one that costs more than $1,000.  But I’m getting off the subject – where was I.  Ah yes.  The Nifty Fifty.  This is a great lens that anyone who owns a Canon (D)SLR should have.  The main selling point after the price is that huge f/1.8 aperture.  That makes it a good two stops faster than most “good” lenses and worlds better than the slow end of what comes bundled with your average camera.  This has some obvious upsides (bokeh, anyone?) but there are also some problems.

It is easy to take bad pictures with this lens.  Out of focus pictures.  Here’s the key.  In most situations, the camera is going to drop the lens all the way open in order to gain more light.  Unless you set the aperture yourself, this means shallow depth of field.  When you take a picture of two people maybe 8 feet away with one slightly in front of the other, someone is going to be blurry.  You see where I’m going here?  No?  Well that’s why I brought examples.

Lucky The Cat, with focus on his head

This, my friend, is Lucky the Cat, doing what he does (when he isn’t rapaciously eating or rapaciously scratching people).  Without moving the camera, but with a twist of the focus ring, you get this:

Lucky the cat, with focus on his paw

Lucky is a big cat, but he’s not that big.  This is shallow depth of field.  You can do some great stuff with it, but you’ve got to remember that it exists.  If you want more DOF, you have to dial your aperture down a few stops, which means you need a higher ISO speed or a longer exposure length.  This is the same with any lens, of course.  The only difference is with the Nifty Fifty, you have the option of going down to 1.8.  You’ll never have the shallow DOF problem with an f/5.6 lens because you’ll have your own, completely different problems instead.  I’ll take this one any day.

Cat In The Headlights

The more I learn about photography, the more I realize how little I know.  I’ve been doing some portrait stuff at work and I’ve been thinking a lot about lighting.  I got to rent some neat crap which made me realize just how much fun it is to be able to get your flash completely off your camera.  It leads to some great photographic stupidity, like this:


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That’s my furry little monster Lucky, who happens to be a perfect subject in that he can’t leave and never knows what’s coming.  See those dark corners?  No post-processing at all.  When you can control your flash direction independently of the camera, you have all sorts of options.  Most of the time, to be honest, this is analogous to the manual controls on your camera – for all the freedom it gives, it’s usually just confusing.  Unless you do this all day, a setting pretty close to auto is very nice.  It isn’t cheap in any way, but the new Pocketwizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 are the best of both worlds.  They have pages of settings to toy with, but my favorite part is that when I attach one to my camera and the other to my flash, the camera works just like the flash was directly attached. The only difference is that I can direct it however I like.

Usually the best way to use a flash is to disperse the beam – bouncing it off a ceiling or wall for more even light.  In this picture, I used a grid, which does just the opposite.  I don’t think it would be the most flattering portrait, but it sure is exciting and hey… Lucky can’t complain.

Careful What You Wish Against

My brother recently complimented the fact that the blog, in his humble opinion, looks pretty good.  You see, he hadn’t visited in a while and liked what he saw.  I think the actual words were “thanks for not posting 7 million pics of your cats.  I was kind of afraid that would happen.”

Without further ado, Lucky in his native habitat.

Lucky in the Afghan

Seriously though, this whole working-during-the-day thing I’ve been doing for a couple weeks really takes up almost the ENTIRE day! I don’t know if I realized that when I got a job.  I’m getting used to the flow of things and I fully plan on bringing you continuing picture lusciousness, not just cats, just as soon as I can.