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The Story: Why it's called "My Longest Year"


His Longest Year

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    A few pictures from J.'s Longest Year...

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Hi! My brother is a pro photographer and he has a blog with all kinds of tips and techniques. You should check it out. He has helped me out a bunch with my pictures, well as much as he can with a touristy point & shot. here is his link:

I've been reading your blog for a while and finally decided to comment. =) Congrats on the Canon DSLR! I'm a big Canon person myself.

I would not take the 35mm class. 35mm is for film cameras, which is probably why the mention of digital sounds like a sidenote (it probably is just a sidenote). A lot of the basic concepts are the same (aperture, focal length, etc), but they'd be teaching about how it works in film cameras, not digital cameras.

To get rid of the blueish tint, check your white balance settings. I'd suggest putting it on auto white balance. But even if the photos come out blueish (or any other tint), you can tweak it in photo editing software.

You've taken some great photos already. :) I especially love that last color one - it has a 60s or 70s retro feel to it!

Hey Crystal,
I feel your confusion! I just got a Canon Xsi and Abobe CS3....aaah so confusing. I know Best Buy here does digital photography classes every Saturday morning, but I'm going to end up enrolling in a community college. I need a stinkin class for the software too. Anyway, your pics look great! I love the ones of Ashlyn in her high I guess its been a few weeks since this post, so you may be a master at the camera already! Talk to you later!
PS I bought "Understanding Exposure" by Peterson and Adobe's "Classroom in a Book" explaining photoshop.

Don't take a class??? Seriously, not good advice! You strike me as the type that would excel and really learn a ton from taking a class. I wish you had one available! Your local community college has nothing? That is where I am taking mine but the other bigger college offers them also. In Vermont I saw they had classes offered through the town rec.

It looks like you have gotten some great links! I am wayyyyy behind the times on this. I am truly sorry!

Pioneer Woman has been my main source of info/tutorials/inspiration. I love her style of teaching. Angella from Dutch Blitz also has a lot of info for a beginner (though I think you know more than you think you know).

My best advice is to get some books - Scott Kelby is awesome - also A Short Course in Digital Photography is suppose to be absolutely fantastic.

I hope you are having fun!!! Take thousands of pictures! That will be a good lesson right there :) I should know! Ha!


Oh how exciting! Just practice and practice and practice. And, if you don't feel like practicing then don't. Just have fun with it cause you don't want it to feel like a chore. :) Congrats!

Wow, Thank you for all the comments, advice, and links. I think I might rename this post and leave it up on the sidebar so that I can add links as I find them (feel free to do the same - I could always use more inspiration and instruction).

I did find a couple of posts (this is one from a continuing category):

and this one I really enjoyed - for the novice:

Hi Crystal,
I have been reading your blog for a while but have never posted anything. I have a new DSLR and I'm trying to learn it as well. I do just fine outside but indoors is another story. My daughter just graduated the 7th grade and I did not get a single shot inside that was not blury. I love photography. Good luck with learning, maybe we can help each other along the way.
You have two absolutely beautiful subjects to be taking pictures of.

I too came over for the tutorial (it's great thanks!), and love your blog! I started out in automatic mode with my camera, but moved on once I understood it better. As far as manual focus, that's not really necessary unless you are trying to do some tricky technique. Your camera should have multiple focus point to choose from on automatic (or a sub-setting of automatic) so that something you want can always be in focus. I just joined a free online photography forum for children's photography: Scroll down there are JSO forums (just starting out). You can search them and they have loads of useful information, I wish I would have found this years ago! Hope that helps.

Wow that is a lot of advise! So I wont add to much to it, All I have to say is play,play,play. You'll get the hang of it. I sat and took 100s of pictures of my baby on every setting. I snapped, turn the dial and snapped again. I recorded the settings I like and tried more. It really just takes practice.
Good luck!

I like to refer to the digital photography school website (someone already mentioned it). They have lots of great tutorials.

As far as the class you could take it if you really want to learn how to take pictures in manual mode. Most times the point of those class are you have to learn about shutter speed and f stops cause you have no other choice with a manuel camera. With that being said that class might be for film cameras and you should check first if you can use your DSLR but just in manual mode. I would say that the best thing to do is play with the camera's shutter and apertures. You just need to remember some simple things
The shutter speed is how fast the shutter opens and closes. If you are hand holding your camera try not to go below 1/60th of a sec cause you can have camera shake.
Smaller aperture number = more light
Larger aperture number = less light

smaller aperture number = a swallow depth of field
Larger apeture number = greater depth of field. So more of the picture will be in focus.
Also if you need more light adjust your ISO (which is basically like film speed) of you camera to a higher number but remember that the higher the number the grainier the picture will look.

There is nothing wrong with using the auto mode. I know that when you have young kids you don't always have time to play with settings.

I think you are doing a great job. except for the very first picture they are very good. I really like the last one. You have over all good lightening. You should be very happy.

If you have any questions I would be more than happy to help you.

I just came by to check out your swaddle sheet tutorial and WOW is your blog gorgeous! The photos are so, so sweet! I'll be linking to your tutorial today, and adding you so I don't miss a thing!

Did you get the Canon Rebel XSI? I just bought that yesterday and I cannot wait to get it!

I really love the shots you've taken so far!

Here's a site I've visited for basic tips about fstop and ISO:

When I first got my Rebel Xti, I took 100s of pictures of the kids daily at each setting and that taught me a lot (though I still have very, very much to learn). I'm not big on classes or books - that would take too much time and patience is not my strongest characteristic. I am more of a hands-on learner. Have fun.

Nice -- you have a prime lens already!

Well... try using the AV manual mode (aperture mode) and set your ISO to 800 in low-light situations (ISO is film speed).
Experiment with f-stops.
Also... a small F-stop number is good for portraits b/c it will make a background more blurry -- esp with that prime lens of yours.

Go here:

I, too, am a DLSR newbie. I have been tinkering with mine for about a month now, and honestly, my pictures are getting better. Which is lovely, because I have no classes where I live either. But most people have told me that trial and error is really the best anyway.

And as for the blue tint to pictures, you'll want to adjust your white balance. And that is all the advice I have, because I'm just as anxious to read the comments as you probably are!

don't take the class. you can easily teach yourself.

what kind of a lens do you have?? if you want your portraits to be more crisp, you should keep your eye out for a Canon Normal EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Autofocus Lens. i don't have one yet but i've used a friends. the only problem is it doesn't have a zoom lens, you have to adjust your position for the shot --- but the clarity is well worth it.

as far as autofocus goes -- on my Canon DSLR, there is a focus grid... you can either select one portion of the grid or all. before you take a picture - use the active part of the grid on the part you want focused and press the shutter half-way... then reposition the frame you want to shoot, if necessary.

hope that makes sense.

(Hi, new reader.) The Digital Photography Book that you listed in your collection is what I used for getting started. (I'm an 'advanced beginner,' not a pro.) I almost always use auto focus and I switch between manual and auto pre-sets depending on whether I want to catch quick snapshots or have time to tinker. (I use a Canon Digital Rebel with pretty good auto settings.) Also, I 'process' in Picasa afterwards and find it very easy to refine colors, light, etc. in that program. Final opinion, I'd skip that class.

Lol... From the Canon purgatory I also calls for help!, lol...
Oh God, I've missed that little girl's face!, lol... Oh, and know what? I really love how you took the photo from the bath!!! IT's so magazine-like! Congrats!

You've always posted beautiful photos. What kind of camera did you have before? Was it an SLR? Is your new camera a digital SLR? If you already know about the relationships between shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, and film speed, plus how to compensate for backlighting and shooting in bright scenes like snow, plus how to use filters, then you might not get much out of the 35mm class. You can probably do all that in the manual mode on your new camera too. If you don't already know about those relationships, the class would be helpful even for a digital camera because the principles are the same. But to learn how to use the new camera it would be best to find someone who can look at your camera with you in person. If you don't know anyone you could go talk to a salesperson at the camera store, or classes at the camera store. (I used to work for Ritz/Wolf camera, some of the salespeople are more knowledgeable than others and would love to talk with you.)
For lighting I recommend getting a swivel flash (that turns in almost any direction) with variable power and learn how to bounce it. It can simulate natural light without expensive or cumbersome equipment. I also just went from a manual SLR to a Digital SLR and don't know how to get what I want out of it yet.

Too funny. To be honest with you I feel the exact same way about my camera. I just play and play. I shoot most of my pic without the flash. Of course natural light is always good. I use picnic through my flickr site. I really like it, it's easy to use, and they offer an upgrade for about $25 a year. I like this girls blog, she takes really cool photos, and on this post talks alot about photography Of course she uses a Nikon. I couldn't even beging to tell you what all the stuff on my little display screen mean. I am about to upgrade lenses, I will let you know how it goes.

What I have found so far is to stay in automatic modes, automatic focus too, until I can learn more! You have to make sure your focus beeps and the little rectangle thing is red on the object that you want to focus on when it beeps. My Nikon came with some instructional dvds too. Maybe you can find dvds to buy. The 35mm class won't teach you how to use your camera, just the old school stuff. Wolf camera gives classes if you have one of those around you. I have found one blog I'm kind of getting into. It is

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