This weekend Lisa and Abi flew down to San Diego to attend a gymnastics meet.  This left James and I to our own devices, which pretty much meant we stayed in bed each day until noon, watched loads of TV and ate out at our favorite restaurants (really, what did you expect).

But by Sunday afternoon even I was getting bored.  So I told James we were going out to take some pictures and grab some dinner.  It had been a fantastic weekend weather wise so I thought a sunset picture over Seattle might be nice.  James I suspect, thought this was a bad idea (he didn’t say anything of course) but when I said we could eat wherever he wanted he perked up a bit.  I think he wanted to go to the Metropolitan Grill, which for those who don’t know is an amazing steak house Seattle.

So off we went to Seattle, I even had a plan.  At first I thought we’d try Discovery Park and take some shots there, but there is a hell of a walk from the parking lot down to the beach and we just didn’t fancy that.  But on the way there we passed this large marina with a load of big fishing boats.  They looked amazing as we drove past so we turned round and went back.

I should also say that on the way to Seattle we spoke to Lisa and Abi on the phone and Lisa said we were NOT to go to the Met for dinner.  Abi and Lisa love it there too and they said it would be unfair. (This from the two jet setters where were having a great weekend away).  But James and I didn’t want to upset them so chose another location.  So we made a reservation at Daniels Broiler at 6:15 (for those who don’t know, Daniels is the other excellent steak house in Seattle – but it wasn’t the Met so we were good :-).

As a result we had around an hour to get some pictures before dinner and the marina looked perfect.

So we pulled over and started shooting.  While it was a clear night and was lovely and sunny earlier in the day it was really cold now that the sun was going down.  So James and I started working fast.  Also the red skies we get here at night don’t last very long at all (literally minutes), so we were taking pictures as fast as we could.

The first collection of shots were of the boat below.  It looked a lot older than some of the others and the sky above was really red.  I especially liked the reflection in the water.  This one was de-noised and I applied a NIK soft filter.

Next we found Silver Isle at the dock so I took a few shots.  In truth this one didn’t come out as nice so it required more processing.

We then moved further along the dock and like that, the sun was gone, along with the red sky.  But the lights all came on and started adding a warm glow to some of the boats.  Then I found this great view of a load of big fishing boats and got a great shot.  This really wasn’t processed at all.

At this point we needed to head to the restaurant.  Daniels Broiler is actually on Lake Union and when we got there we were a little early so I grabbed this picture below just outside.  This image too wasn’t really modified – just applied a vignette.

Macro photography is just a posh name for extreme close up photography and is skill in it’s own right.  A skill I should state I don’t have :-)

To get “really close” images you need special gear, either a macro lens, or some extension tubes or a lens diopter filter.

The best solution is a dedicated lens designed to get really close and make the subject look bigger in the image, but these lenses are expensive.  Alternatively you can go for extension tubes that you insert between the lens and the camera body – years ago you could by “bellows” that did the same job that allowed you to move the lens nearer or further away from the camera.  But all extension systems really do is allow you to focus very close to the lens – which of course makes the subject look larger, they also reduce the amount of light entering the camera and force you to have much longer exposure times – so the subject needs to stay still longer.

Your last option is the lens diopter.  This is basically a filter that you can screw on the end of the lens that acts like a magnifying glass.  These are cheap, don’t reduce light, but do of course add additional glass between the subject and the sensor.  Also if you purchase a really cheap diopter, the images aren’t really that great.

Now I’ve wanted to play with macro photography for a while, and there really aren’t any great dedicated macro lenses for my camera.  So I recently purchased some extension tubes and a couple of diopters.  What I really want to shoot are some insects – creepy I know but they can look super cool close up big in the frame.  But January isn’t a great time of year to find insect subjects so I thought I’d capture something else.

I grabbed the camera and a couple of lenses and put one of the diopters on the end of the lens then I went looking for something to shoot.  First up I asked Abi if I could shoot her.  She stood in front of the window and I got really close and took some pictures of her eye!  In the picture you could see the reflection of the window and her eye in great detail.  In the end though I didn’t pick this one to post as she kept moving and many of the images were a little out of focus.

Next I found an old cent and took some shots of that – I actually robbed Abi’s purse for this – don’t tell her.  I put the coin on the kitchen counter and got in close for some pictures.  I didn’t add any extra lighting, just focused on the words “One Cent” and snapped away.  These came out really well and I selected one of the images to post.

This was a lot of fun, but definitely showed me how hard it is to grab those excellent macro shots.  But I like a challenge and will keep trying and we’ll see what I can capture in spring when the garden comes alive!

Those of you who know me, know I can be a bit of an idiot sometimes.  I’m usually inappropriate with my humor, frequently annoying and very very occasionally funny!  Funny that is to you, who heard my sad witticism for the first time.

So spare a thought for my wonderful wife Lisa.  She not only has heard my joke before (trust me she has heard them all before – I don’t have that much material), but she has heard it MANY times and put up with me for over twenty five years.

Now you’re thinking about it, you’re probably starting to really appreciate how amazing Lisa is!

Anyway, on December 10th last month we celebrated our twenty fifth wedding anniversary, which I think for any couple these days is pretty damn good.  Leading up to the day I asked Lisa what she wanted and she of course responded with the normal, “Nothing thanks I’m fine”.  But I kept pushing, pointing out repetitively that she really deserved something nice this year for sticking the course.

Eventually I convinced her to go out shopping with me the weekend before our anniversary to get something nice.  We ended up in Nordstrom’s and found ourselves in the jewelry department.  I really don’t think Lisa wanted anything initially but once she starts to shop, well it’s impressive.  In the end Lisa decided she didn’t want one ring, she wanted three!  I immediately said no problem – trust me the torture she’s been through living with me she deserves a hundred.

So we brought the rings which of course weren’t the right size, and rather than have them adjusted Lisa decided to get new ones made that fit her perfectly.  In my naivety I was a bit disappointed as I wanted her to have her rings on our anniversary but she explained that this was fine and normal and didn’t mind waiting the few weeks for the new rings to arrive.

This morning she got the call telling her the rings were in and she ran off to Bellevue to pick them up.

Now this is a little naff (if you don’t know what naff means you can look it up here) but I thought I’d shoot the rings for a blog posting and share them with family and friends.

Trying to be “creative” I pinched an old wedding photographer trick and shot the rings on a dictionary by the word “Love” with a spotlight.  This gives a nice heart shadow (this is definitely naff).  Anyway Lisa has never seen this before and loved it so it made the blog.

Joking aside I’m a very lucky man to have Lisa and love her dearly and look forward to the next twenty five years.

Here’s the pic – hope you like it as much as Lisa.

I woke up really early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up at 7:30! What’s going on? Is this what happens when you get past 50?

Anyway while pottering around (I think that’s what you call it) down stairs I decided to get my camera out and take a picture.  Santa brought us a new chess set for Christmas and it was sitting on the kitchen table all set up as Abi and I had been playing.  As a total side we both suck horribly and it’s more of a game of checkers than chess, to see who can grab the most pieces from each other – note to self, I really need to read a book on chess!

But I digress, the board was sitting on the table and I thought it might be interesting to shoot that.

So I got out the camera and a couple of lights and started to set up a scene to shoot.  Above the kitchen table we actually have a pretty big light and I started by just seeing what that looked like.  The board was nice and evenly lit, but it looked flat and boring, so that light went off and I tried the shot with one speed light.

Initially I had one light on the white pieces.  They looked good but the brown pieces on the other side of the board didn’t really stand out, so I added a small spot on them too.

Once I had the lighting I liked, I then began the process of finding a nice composition.  I took around 100 shots in total and the one below was my favorite.  I noticed in this image that the white pieces reflected a little in the table so I emphasized that a little in post processing.

Anyway, this is the final shot, and shows what you can do if you get up too early on a day off :-)