Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Taking Great Photos – Part 3: Aperture

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Part 3: Aperture

Some of you hear that word and your mind goes completely blank. Apa-what? For others they feel a thrill of excitement because they’ve heard the word before, they know where the dial is to change it, but have no idea what it does from there.

Sound familiar?

Aperture is, in a nutshell, just how large or small of an opening there is in the lens of your camera—the diaphragm. Now, before you start to go and get all confused with numbers and settings, just think of it this way.

Your eye.

Seriously, you’ve got that little black area in the middle called the pupil (and not the type that goes to school—curse you, multi-meaning words!). As the light changes in your surroundings, your pupil dilates – it gets bigger and smaller. Many of us have taken part in the activity in elementary school where the teacher would have you look into someone’s eyes as the lights were dimmed or brightened. Or maybe you’ve watched TV and noticed doctors doing this with their little penlights to see if somebody has a concussion. However, my favorite illustration of aperture is from the movie, Jurassic Park.

Do you happen to remember that scene where the T-Rex is looking into the jeep during the rainstorm at Lex and Tim? If not, click HERE and watch from time code 1:10 to 1:17.

Now, as the T-Rex’s eye moves into the flashlight’s beam, it dilates – or gets smaller – allowing less light into the eye. This way, he wasn’t completely blinded in this intense light situation. Well, camera lenses are constructed in kind of the same way; they have an iris of sorts that allows more or less light to pass into the camera.

Does aperture make a little more sense now?


If so, that’s probably because you might now know what the aperture is, but not what it really does. Well, if you have a camera that allows you to control the aperture (consult your manual to see which setting it is on your particular camera. On the Cannon it is often the letter A or AV that allows for this; on the Nikon look for the letters AP). The aperture helps to decide how much ‘in focus’ (or depth of field) there will be in your shot. A small opening, such as f22 (this is called a f-stop) is a very small opening which means that a LOT of the elements in your shot (both near and far) will be in focus altogether. A LARGE opening such as f2.8 will give you a very shallow depth of field (limited distance of things in focus all at one time).

So, in simple terms:

The smaller the number, the less there will be in focus. The larger the number, the more there will be in focus.


By changing the aperture settings on your camera, you are deciding how much of the shot you’d like in focus all at once. Now, the following image I didn’t take, but rather pilfered from the web. After all, why redo all of the work when somebody has already invented the wheel? So, because I didn’t take the photo, credit for the shot goes here.

As you can see, a smaller number such as f2.8 causes the depth of field to be very shallow, while a larger number such as f11 will increase this distance. However, don’t forget that that aperture is NOT depth of field; it only helps to control it. After all, focal length (how long your lens is, how zoomed in or out you are, and the distance from your subject) affects the depth of field. However, we won’t go into all that stuff because remember, we’re just covering the basics.

So, use a low number when you want a picture with the soft background, such as close up portraits. When you want scenery photos such as a shot of the Grand Canyon, you’d want a larger number so that many more elements would be sharp and crispy.

Make sense?


One final example…here are two images of the same shot.

Yes, it’s me, and my friend’s son, Tanner while down at Zion Canyon about two years ago. As you can see, with a shallower depth of field it helps to eliminate the distracting folks in the background and allows your attention to be drawn to what’s really important—your subject. In this case it would be those two devilishly handsome young men in the foreground.

And there you have it…aperture and depth of field; both are powerful tools you can use to help your photos be just a little bit better than they otherwise might have been.

Now it’s your turn! Play around with the aperture settings on your camera. Take multiple photos of the same thing from the same angle: a flower, rock, a child, or other object and see how the different settings affect the ‘crispness’ of your image. After all, you’ll never get any better if you don’t practice.

Until next time; shoot ‘til you get it.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: About Your Camera
Part 3: Aperture
Part 4: Shutter Speed
Part 5: White Balance
Part 6: ISO
Part 7: The Breath
Part 8: The Rule of Thirds

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Voyage Home - Part 1

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The Rip

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By the way, if you didn’t remember, I’m posting over at Four Perspectives today with my own little rip story.

Come by if you can tear yourself away from whatever you’re doing…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summit Valley

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Media of the Week - John Lewis

Pin It Words are not really necessary - in fact - they tend to get in the way most times. So, without going into unnecessary detail, I am sharing this because it is simply amazing.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

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The long fall back to Earth is the hardest part.

Free Header?

Pin It Yeah, you heard me. Want a header like this?

Well, here's what I’mma gonna do…

If you’d like a free header similar to this one, simply:

  1. Go to Backroads Photography on the page for Alphabetography.
  2. Create your name with the letters you would like.
  3. Take a screen shot of the image (I've provided directions how to do this below).
  4. Send me an email with the photo attached (and what you’d like it to say with one word done in Alphabetography).
  5. Let me know the dimensions you’d like your final header to be.
  6. Decide if you'd rather have a black or white background (yeah, I know that this one is blue…)
  7. Tell me the font you’d like used for the rest of the text out of these seven delicious flavors:
When you get your image emailed back to you (give me about a week to get them all done) add it to your blog. I’d like to request that you provide a link back to the photography site as done here. Do you have to do that? I guess not, it’d just be a nice gesture. It’s not like I’m going to sic the Internet police on you if you don’t...

This offer is good for 25 hours, 27 minutes. It will end on Friday at noon (Mountain Standard Time). After this time, they will no longer be available for the amazing price of nothing.

Did I miss anything?

Oh yes, what email address do you use for requests? Just click the ‘Zmail’ link and go from there…or you could just send it to teachinfourth via Yahoo.

How do you make a screenshot? Well, if you have a Mac, simply use COMMAND+SHIFT+3 to get an image. For a PC, you can try a program like this or utilize directions such as these. I recommend the latter...

That is all.

Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moments with Joey – The Liking Challenge

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, CLASSROOM. The class is gone for the day; the teacher is starting to read the students’ journal entries. He notices a boy in his class approaching him out of the corner of his eye.

JOEY: Mr. Z?

TEACHER: [Suddenly looking up]. Make me like you...

JOEY: [Mock exasperation]. I’ve been trying to do that all year…

TEACHER: Well, try harder.

JOEY: [Thinking]. I could go home.

TEACHER: Now THAT just might work.

[The teacher winks as the boy giggles and walks away].

Fade to black.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Message

Pin It I found the message. I couldn’t believe it because I thought I had accidentally deleted it nearly a year ago.

The message? What was it? Well, to explain that I must take you back first…do you remember that time about 18 months ago when I told you that I was asked out for ‘dinner and a movie?’

Yeah, this is no big deal, and most certainly not an unusual thing for a girl to ask a guy out nowadays…but what if you were being asked out by a dude?


Well, because of a case of mistaken identity, what I actually had thought was my neighbor and his wife wanting to hang out, it turned out to be a prearranged meeting with the member of the same sex. My thoughts turned immediately to a revelation a friend of mine had made sometime before. She admitted that two of her gay friends at one time or another had said that both my brother and I were some ‘serious eye candy.’ It seemed that I was, yet again, bane to the curse of good looks…

What can I say? People have taste.

Unfortunately, I had also committed to this meeting before I actually knew what was going on. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but knew most certainly that didn’t want to go on this particular little outing.

To remedy the dilemma, I called up two of my good friends, Craig and Shayla. I explained my predicament and both were sympathetic. They agreed to meet me at Chili’s and we would turn this into a group ‘hang out’ session. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for both of these friends saving me from this particular event in my life.

To make a long story short, the guy who’d done the inviting apparently didn’t want to hang out with the three of us and opted to cut out early. Meanwhile Craig, Shayla and I had a great evening together getting dessert, heading out to listen to a friend of Shayla’s perform, checking out the newest in music and video at the local entertainment store, and planning to TP certain individual’s houses.

However, I have to admit that the climax of the whole affair didn’t come until the next day. It came in the form of the message I got from Craig. This is just another reminder of why I have some of the greatest friends that the world can supply…

Now, don't you wish that Craig was your friend, too?


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I haven't blogged for a few days.

You probably noticed.

To help feed your addiction I have a special treat in store for you. Not only will I be posting here on my own site today, but I will also be posting over at Four Perspectives and I'm also today's featured blogger over at Laugh out Loud.

Hope this helps out with your much-needed fix…

Picture shamelessly shanghaied from:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mostly for Tib

Pin It Tib's recent comment about singing Barry Manilow's hit song, Copacabana, led me to remember a version of this particular tune I'd heard several years ago.

Lucky for both me and you, I found a version set to clips on YouTube.

You're welcome, in advance...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Regard to Goats

Pin It We used to own goats.

No, really, we did.

Usually when I tell people that my family used to be the proud owner of goats they do the double take; they draw in a breath and to shoot me a strange look. This is usually coupled with a statement something along the lines of, “You’re not serious, are you? Nobody owns goats…”

Nope, I’m serious, just like a chemistry final. This is just one of the many curses of living on a farm while growing up in the rural expanses of the Great Northwest.

To answer your question, we had 7 of them.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking…why in the world did you have goats? Well, aside of trying to ride them and getting yelled at by my mom on a regular basis? My mom had decided that we needed them for their milk. Yep, you heard me correctly; we drank their milk.

Now, before I get any further, just let me explain what goat milk tastes like for those of you who have no idea. Take a box of powdered milk which has been in food storage for an undetermined amount of time, make up a batch with water that has a slightly sulfuric taste, let this ripen a bit and you’ve got yourself goat milk.

Teachinfourth, why in the name of all that is holy would you drink this pungent liquid? To answer that you’d need to better understand my mom. She was a firm believer in natural foods and remedies. As a result meals were often served with Adam’s Peanut Butter, rice cakes, sugarless bottled juice, split pea and lentil soups, corn beef and cabbage, and puffed rice and wheat cereal for breakfast with honey.

Yeah, my siblings and I were the resident freaks during lunchtimes at school.

I could go on and tell you what a terrible childhood I endured, but I’m not trying to play the sympathy card here. Luckily, I had a friend at school who’d trade me her Hostess fruit pie at lunch for my apple. See, I was a survivor who could adapt when called upon…also, I had learned that Ketchup could make just about anything taste better.

Back to goats.

Each and every morning before school, church, or Saturday morning cartoons I’d head outside into the darkness to fulfill the twice-daily ritual of milking. Often it was cold, and each morning at dark-thirty it was pitch black. Undeterred, I would head out to the barn situated by the inky blotch of forest—inside of which anything could have been hiding, just waiting to slither out and get me. I was more often than not completely petrified, just waiting for that creature slinking through the darkness…what other thoughts would you expect to come to mind of a prepubescent boy outside all alone with the wind howling and dark shadows dancing along the hay bales and up in the rafters?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I remember kneeling in the milking stall and stealing glances over my shoulder to make sure that nobody else was in there with me—nobody but the goats. I often wondered if there might have been an escaped convict—a killer—hiding up in the rafters or just in the woods outside, biding his time as he waited for that stupid kid to come wandering outside at five or six in the morning—easy prey and no witnesses.

As you might have guessed, I was never murdered while milking goats—much to the dismay of my older sister, but I would often frighten myself and could be found sprinting the distance back to the house with a two-gallon pail of milk sloshing all over the place.

When you milked your own goats, and lived on a farm, homogenization consisted of straining the milk through a ‘leading brand’ paper towel and then putting the milk in the fridge; this was mostly to get the larger ‘chunks’ out of the stuff and to make you believe that you’d really done something to clean it.

The funny thing about goat milk is that eventually, you become accustomed to it. Like a smoker who coughs and wheezes, their eyes water and lungs burn at first, with time and practice, they become an experienced smoker, drawing in clouds of smoke without the least bit of discomfort.

I hear it’s the same with country music.

My point is, after drinking this stuff for so long, I became used to it. On the rare occasion that a friend would come over and be served goat milk, I always found it fun to watch their face as they took the first drink. They would take a large gulp, confident that it was regular cow’s milk. It would take a moment or their taste buds to register just what they’d really just put into their mouth. Then their face would sour and pull a look akin to when someone smells something quite nasty. It was at this point that they’d request a glass of water and the rest of the milk was left untouched.

It was always entertaining to watch but could cost dearly in the trust department in the future.

For many years we milked our goats, but then one day it happened. My mom finally decided that she’d had enough with goats and we sold them all. While Mimi and Sasha, our first two, were now gone, I couldn’t help but miss them. They had been more than simply dairy providers, they’d been pets—and trusty steeds. However, the idea of no more early-morning milkings was delicious No more fears of murderers in the dark. No more sharp and biting milk. All of these things outweighed the sadness of losing our four-footed friends.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was in the local supermarket. As I passed by the dairy department, I noticed a quart-sized container of goat’s milk in one of the refrigerators. I paused, and even lifted the carton from the shelf, looking at it with memories tumbling around my mind.

At that point, I put it back on the shelf and grabbed a gallon of the regular stuff. After all, priced at over $3 a quart, goat’s milk just isn’t worth the memories.

Besides, I’ve heard that it’s terrible, just like country music.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moments with Joey – The Cell Phone

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. MORNING, CLASSROOM. The class is working on their literacy tests. The room is completely silent as the students answer questions via laptops. Suddenly, there is a loud outburst of noise from the area of the students’ backpacks.

BACKPACK: What you gon’ do with all that junk? All that junk inside your trunk?

[The class’ attention is immediately snapped as one to the rows of backpacks lining the south wall of the room. The teacher stops helping a student with a question and stands].

TEACHER: All right, whose backpack is serenading us?

CLASS: [Silence].

BACKPACK: I’m a get, get, get, get, you drunk; get you love drunk off my hump…

TEACHER: Anyone?

[The teacher walks to the coat rack and removes the cell phone that is singing even louder now that its been removed from the shadowy confines of the JanSport].

CELL PHONE: My Humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps; check it out!

[The class is trying very hard not to laugh, but several giggles erupt from the corners of the room anyhow. The teacher switches the ringer off and glances at the phone display that reads, “mom.”].

JOHN: Hey, that’s Joey’s backpack!

BRENNA: Yeah, then that must be Joey’s phone, Mr. Z.

TEACHER: Okay then class, get back to your tests. Joey, would you please come here for a minute?

[The class still utters a few giggles as they return to their laptops. Joey’s face is burning red with embarrassment as he approaches the teacher.]

JOEY: [Whispered] Mr. Z, it’s my mom’s cell phone…

TEACHER: [Whispered back] Your mom has herself listed as ‘MOM’ in her own phone?

JOEY: Uh…[The boy looks at the floor and whispers]. No, because it’s not really her phone...

TEACHER: [The teacher ponders this statement for a silent moment, then raises his voice just loud enough for the entire class to hear]. Joey the next time your mom lends you her phone, will you please make sure you turn the ringer off before you put it in your backpack?

[The boy grins and nods his head].

TEACHER: You can pick her phone up after school.

JOEY: [Whispered] Thanks Mr. Z.

[The teacher gives a subtle wink as Joey returns to his desk and recommences work on his test].

Fade to black.

Music of the Years

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The songs of your life? Karaoke of the soul?

Today I find myself singing a different tune over at Four Perspectives. Feel free to come on over and add your voice to the chorus...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Media of the Week - Meanness

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There are times when we encounter those who, because of the anonymity of the Internet, feel it an ample opportunity to make comments that they’d otherwise never utter aloud.

Well, I guess some people would, just because that’s the type of people that they are.

In the realms of mediums such as YouTube and Blogger, contributors to these sites often find themselves at the ridicule of others who—as said before—seem to have no filtering system.

It always surprises me that there are those out there who continually return to blogs to leave derogative comments, or watch YouTube videos simply in order to mock the person who made them. It seems to me that a pretty common rule of thumb would be, “If you don’t agree with or don’t like it, don’t watch it/read it.”

And most certainly…don’t come back.

Yet these people seem to keep returning. Perhaps they find a thrill in saying things about others—hiding behind their cloak of anonymity. Heaven only knows.

I received a hater comment not that long ago. All I can say about this individual is they were pretty vindictive and cruel. The things they said were mercilessly unkind and callous. Though I took it all with a grain of salt, I was amazed at some of the things this person had said while hiding behind the mask of ‘anonymous.’

I wanted to embed the video for this week’s clip; however, this option has been disabled by YouTube. You’ll need to go to the site in order to watch it.

It’s a thinker.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Blogger Lunch

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It was a great afternoon. Tib brought these, I brought these, and we all had a ton of fun. It was awesome to spend a little time with (and to finally meet) TibStacey, and Rachel.

I ate far too many rolls.

Hope you can come next time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

There's Still Time...

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Updated: If you decide to come and you don't see us, as the hostess for Teachinfourth's party…we'll be the group having all the fun.

I went out to dinner last night with three of my great friends.

We talked about what was going on in our lives. We laughed about the good times. We discussed our challenges. We spoke about the future.

The food was good, but the company was better.

I am still thinking about later this afternoon, 13 hours from now. There’s still time to come if you change your mind.

I’d love to meet you.

And you’d love to meet me, too.

200 W. 10600 S.
Sandy, Utah  84070

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Photoessay - A Day in Pictures

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