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Good Camera Practices - Camera Challenge Bonus

One of the things that’s often missed in the ‘how tos’ of camera use is how to hold yourself and the camera, and also how to compose and take the shot, so I thought I’d do a wee bonus post for those of you doing the camera challenges.

Holding Your Camera

The first thing to think about is hand holding your camera steadily, so let’s take a quick look at how you should be holding your camera to get the best out of it.

Use your viewfinder.  USE YOUR VIEWFINDER (was that a loud enough protest?!)  Remember how in the old days with film cameras we all used to peer through that wee hole to see what was going to be in the photo?  Yeah?  Do that!  There are a number of reasons for this:
  1. The first is pure physics – try holding a heavy object at arm’s length with your arm straight out in front of you.  How steadily can you actually hold it?  Is your arm wavering around a bit?  Now bring the thing in close to your body.  Is your arm steady now?  Any wavering left?  Think of how this translates in your photos – the focus is only as good as the length of time you can hold the camera steady, so if you use the screen on the back of your camera to see everything, chances are you won’t get very good photos with your arms wavering about.
  2. The second is that within the screen it will actually give you information – where the camera is focussing, how many photos you have left to take, and in the non-auto modes it will give you information on your aperture, shutter speed and overall exposure.
Stand with your two feet on the ground if you can, feet roughly shoulder width apart, imagine you’re planting yourself to take the photo in fact.

Use the hand on the side where the shutter button is to hold the camera – on DSLRs at least there’s usually a grip for you to wrap your fingers round.  Use your other hand to support the lens from underneath it, and to adjust the zoom on lenses with that feature.

That screen on the back?  Use that for viewing your photos after you’ve taken them, use it to change settings if needed, use it to erase and format your card but do not use it to see what photo you’re about to take (well, not unless you’re using a tripod set very low down and you’d have to stand on your head to look through the viewfinder, then I can forgive you ;o) )

Pressing The Button

You will find that there are actually 2 stages to pressing the shutter button:

  1. Gently pressing the button halfway will give you your focus lock, and on many cameras this is set to beep as a default when focus is gained as well as the focal points being used lighting up on in the viewfinder.  If you find it doesn’t beep, you may have your subject too close to the lens so that it can’t focus on it.  Different lenses have different minimum distances, for example my Canon 17-55 f2.8 lens has a minimum distance of 14” (35 cm), while my Tamron 70-300 f4.5 – f5.6 DI LD has a whopping 3ft 2” / 95 cm minimum.  If I’m within my minimum I hear no beep (and in fact when the Tamron can’t focus I can hear it whirring away madly trying to find something) and unless I’m in manual focus mode on the lens, the camera won’t even let me take a photo.
  2. Once you’re happy with the composition and that focus is on your desired subject, you can fully press the button.

Trying to press the button immediately in a jabbing motion will result in hit and miss focus!

Camera Straps

Use the camera strap if you value your camera.  You don’t have to wear the strap around your neck if you find it particularly uncomfortable (although many of my readers can sew, so I imagine you can whip a more comfy one up easily enough), you can wrap it round your wrist as an alternative, or buy one of the straps specifically for your wrist (however these use the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera, so less useful if you need to pop the camera on the tripod quickly).  Holding onto it securely will hopefully reduce accidents, as cameras are not always known for their bounce-back-ability.

Tripods And Other Steadying Devices

Do you really need a tripod?  That very much depends on the type of photos you’re trying to take, and in some cases the weight of the equipment.  Tripods are useful for the following:

  1. Low light situations – sunrise or sunset for example
  2. Indoor product shoots – it’s handy to be able to set the camera up and be able to move back and forth between your shooting area to replace items without having to put the camera down each time, also because it’s likely to be in a lower light situation
  3. Portrait shoots when you are also having to provide the entertainment to recalcitrant child models or wanting to interact and direct your subjects
  4. Big heavy lenses – a couple of times I was lucky enough to borrow a Sigma 120-300 f2.8 lens from a friend of mine.  It’s great in low light but it weighs in at a whopping 7 ½ lbs / 3.4 kg.  I have lugged that lens the length and breadth of Mull, Iona, Staffa and Skye and I assure you it is not a light load to be toting about.  You can hand hold it, but with the big lenses either a tripod with a panning head or a monopod can be handy to take the weight off for a bit!

The above are just some examples, but it is in no way an exhaustive list.

You can also get monopods – good for fast moving subjects in low light, and beanbags – good for resting on the edge of bird hides, vehicles and particularly uneven ground or where a tripod is unable to get low enough.

I hope that should keep you going for now, but if you have any other thoughts or questions, let me know!

PS, you have until the 9th February to get challenge 1 completed, and there will be a linky party then for you to show what you got up to.  If you’ve done a blog post about what you got up to, then I’ll endeavour to get round and check in on you all and give you a bit of feedback if you like.  The feedback is optional, but if you don’t want any, mention it in the post, otherwise I probably will give you some ;o)
Work in Progress Wednesday

Do you ever find yourself thinking that a project is doomed?  I'm starting to think that about my dad's birthday pressie.  I seem to take one step forwards and 3 back as I find I'm missing one vital thing after the other (oh, and you can't get all the things in the same place, and I rarely find I haven't got something until I've solved the previous issue anyway)  Tonight after work I'm picking up what I hope will be the final missing thing, and when I see him a week on Friday I will hand over a parcel come hell or high water!  Also, HMRC e-mailed me to remind me to file my tax return, so I did that as penance.

In the meantime I've #sweatnsew'ed with Jillian and walked 6 miles around town on Saturday and finally got my bike trainer up and running yesterday (the most I'll say about that is that clearly the person who came up with this idea had about 50 times the amount of space I had to play with!).  After Jillian broke my upper arms, I didn't sew in the evenings last week, but I did finish another little something...

Finishes This Week:

More Lego may have arrived from him down south - this is a cargo plane, complete with motor which opens the front and back cargo doors as well as turning the propellers, plus there's wee gear handles to move the flaps on the wings around.

In Progress This Week:

I got another couple of Cherie blocks down (for those not following the series of these, the fabric line is called Cherie, and my lazy arse hasn't come up with a better name for the project!)

To Be Worked On This Week:

Finishing the birthday pressies!
Sewing date with my local bloggy friends on Saturday afternoon - I'm planning to take my Stitch Tease blocks from last year and see if I can get a completed top by the end of the 4 hours.  I suspect talking may take up some time thought ;o)
Going to Cycle Revolution at the velodrome
Hexies - I have 16 hours I'll be on the train early next week for work, plus an overnight stay, so I'm planning on glue basting a good pile of hexies for a few different projects

Linking up with Lee and the gang:

Camera Challenge: Photo Challenge 1

Hi, and welcome back to The Littlest Thistle Camera Challenge!  Hopefully after the last post you have worked out what camera you have available to you.  This week, I'm going to really push the boat out and ask you to find a copy of your manual.  I know, I know, real men don't use manuals, but you can find them online if you happen to have ditched yours with the box.  I need you to find yours, basically because I have no idea how your particular camera is set, you will need to find out ;o)

So onto the first photo challenge.  Generally entry level DSLRs and bridge cameras have a collection of 'pre-sets'.  They are automatic modes, in that the camera will set things automatically, but not in the same way as the general automatic mode that people tend to use by default, and this is what we're going to start by exploring.

Each pre-set has a particular type of photo in mind, so a little mountain symbol is for landscapes, a running man is for sports, a little head is for portraits, and a little flower is for macro, or close ups.

Your challenge is this:

For each preset, take a photo of a subject appropriate to the preset in both the preset mode and the full automatic mode.  You should be able to see subtle differences between the two, the reasons for which I will cover in write up week.  In order to get the best out of this experiment, you will need to have a decent amount of available light, preferably outdoors if you can manage it.

Here's some ideas for the subjects of your photos:

  • Landscapes are not uniquely wide open spaces with rolling hills and maybe the odd sheep.  The following are all landscapes:

  • The sports mode is really for a moving target rather than specifically for sports, so think of things around you that move fast:

Portraits are not just for humans!

If you have any questions, please let me know!
Who Owns The Copyright Of A Quilt Block?

The Cherie quilt that I’m working on at the moment is made up of traditional quilt blocks.  The overall layout of the blocks is one that I’ve come up with myself, but each individual block is a traditional block that I’ve found online.

The blocks I’m making are 6”, 9” and 12”, so what I’m doing is finding an image, usually in one of the traditional block libraries or a traditional magazine online, and then working out the assembly techniques and measurements I need for myself.

These are the ones I’ve made so far:

In there, there’s:

1.       A 12” Christmas star
2.       A 12” Dutchman’s puzzle
3.       A 12” Martha Washington’s star
4.       A 12” Moonlight serenade
5.       A 12” Weathervane
6.       A 9” Perpetual motion
7.       A 9” Ohio star
8.       A 9” Double pinwheel
9.       A 9” Calico puzzle
10.     A 9” Pineapple blossom
11.     A 9” Sweet dreams and sunbeams

Now one of the sites I found had an interesting disclaimer on it, ‘You may not try and use this block in anything you sell, I own copyright’ or words to that effect.  I didn’t look any further, but these were traditional blocks, such as churn dashes, Dutchman’s puzzles and more, so I began to ponder...  Now typically, the duration of copyright is the whole life of the creator plus fifty to a hundred years from the creator's death, or a ‘finite period’ for anonymous or corporate creations.  Given how long people have been at this quilting lark, and how long these traditional blocks have been around for, I’m pretty sure the original copyright holder, if one could be identified, has been long since pushing up the daisies!

So what do you think?  Can anyone come along, write up instructions for a single block, whack it up online and claim copyright on the block?  Personally I think the person wouldn’t have a leg to stand on unless they’d invented some amazing new technique to create the thing because let’s face it, there are only so many ways you can make the 4 HSTs, 8 rectangles and a square needed for a churn dash block for example – I have visions of this woman running around frantically all over the internet, finding churn dash blocks in quilt patterns for sale and trying to claim copyright.

Where it gets interesting is when it gets to the entire pattern for a quilt.  Now if you use a traditional block as your base, where it starts wandering into the realms where you could claim copyright is when you start including things such as sashing, borders, flanges, prairie points, embroidery, or anything else you can think of to enhance the finished quilt.  I’m still pretty sure there’s a fair number of unintentional copies of the same pattern out there between books, magazines, big box and indie pattern writers, I mean there’s bound to have been more than one person that’s come up with, say, a 3 x 4 churn dash block layout using 12” blocks with 2” sashing and 3 contrasting borders, each 4” wide.  And if there isn’t, that’s one’s mine, okay? ;o)

So what are your thoughts?  Do you think people should be trying to claim copyright of patterns incorporating traditional blocks?  I think in the example above it’s fine, but I’m not sure if I’d bother chasing after someone else with the same idea as mine to try and stake my claim definitively, plus, since copyright is automatic within all countries under the Berne Convention, it would technically be the first person to come up with that layout that would own the copyright, and I’m not sure how you would ever trawl through all the pre-digital inventions to prove that Annie Smith over in her farm in Idaho got there before me.  When it starts coming to clearly unique layouts and arrangements however, such as Jen Kingwell’s Gypsy Wife, I think I’d be out there in a flash!

Answers on a postcard...
Work In Progress Wednesday

I’ve been getting back into the swing of that work thing over the last week, and working out how best to balance my evenings now that I’m getting away at sensible times again!  I spent much of the weekend singing in the workshops at Celtic Connections, and flash mobbing people at the end.  It’s the 2nd time I’ve done singing flash mobs (the first being the Hallelujah Chorus in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery one Christmas), and they’re great fun, no-one ever expects them but you do get a smile.  So I guess what I’m saying is, I sewed nothing in the evenings after work, and got very little done at the weekend ;o)  What I did do though, was increase my Cherie blocks, so it wasn’t totally wasted, but dad’s pressie (which got put in time out last week) has got bumped to this coming weekend when I have time to think about it!

Finishes This Week:


In Progress This Week:

I’ve added in some more 9” blocks in Cherie – I’ve 5 more 9” ones to go, then a fair number of 6” ones, and I’ve ordered a few more of the fabrics so that I can carry out my background plan as well as finish off the blocks.

To Be Worked On This Week:

Toddle along with Cherie
Dad’s pressie
#Sweatnsew – I have the heart rate monitor, and the scales that told me quite how much of a fat cow I am (it tells me my % of fat too, lovely…), and I have a chart to hang on the wall next to where I’ll be using my bike trainer a couple of times a week to monitor what I’ve done.  In between bike training, I’ll be ‘30 Day Shred’-ing (although that will be for rather more than 30 days given how much weight I have to shift!).  I’m trying to get out for walks at lunchtime, but with the snow we’ve been getting recently, and the fact that they don’t grit the pavements round our offices, that’s a bit more dubious!

Linking up with Lee and the gang:

Bag Making Basics Tutorial - Installing Magnetic Snaps

This year, on the 3rd Monday of each month, I'm intending to post a tutorial on a commonly used technique in bag making.  To start things off, I'm going for a popular closure choice, magnetic snaps, specifically visible, non sew-in ones.

An entire magnetic snap assembly consists of 4 metal components, a male and a female side of the snap and 2 washers - the first time I bought one, the 2 halves of the snaps were loose in separate tubes (like the ones they put buttons in in fabric shops), and helpfully, no-one in the shop told me I needed washers for them:

Snaps come in different colours, profiles, shapes and sizes.  In the photo below, the 'brass' and gunmetal round snaps are 18mm, while the silver (the pink reflection is my top, sorry!) and heart shaped ones are 14mm.  The gunmetal one is a slim profile one, for use in things like clutches where you want a discreet closure.  The heart shaped ones are just some I picked up for fun a few years ago.

In a pattern you are not always instructed to add both sides of the snap at the same time, depending on the construction of the bag in question, and you are generally told to insert your snap at a certain point, for example 4" from the side and 1" down.  It's a bit challenging when you're new to bag making to work out what part of the round snap should be at that point, but I always take it to be the centre of the washer.

As the washer has a round hole in the centre, it's easy to use it to line up with the mark you made as per the pattern.  The snaps have prongs on the back which go through the rectangular slots on the washer, so with the mark in the centre of the washer, mark where the prongs will go onto the fabric.  It doesn't matter if this is on the front or the back of the fabric, as the snap will hide the marks.

Now using a washer on its own can be rather flimsy and lead to the snap pulling through the fabric, so I like to reinforce the area behind the snap before adding the washer.  I usually add a scrap of heavy interlining, and a scrap of fusible fleece before the washer goes on, and these need to be marked in the same way as the fabric:

Now comes the cutting!  Using a pair of sharp, pointed scissors, cut a little slit at each mark, both on the fabric and on the fusible fleece and interlining scraps.  On the fabric slits, it's a good idea to add a dot of fray check at this point.

To insert the snap, poke the prongs through the slits in the fabric from the front.  On the back you then want to layer on the interlining, followed by the fusible fleece, and finally the washer.

At this point you have a choice, either you can fold the prongs over each other, or you can fold them outwards.  I've seen both being used, and have tried both successfully, so choose whichever you wish.

You have not attached one side of your snap:

I hope this all makes sense, but if you have any questions, please let me know!
Call For Pattern Testers!

One of the things that I managed to recover during my time off work was the time to write up some patterns, which I did during the first week in January to try and fool myself into thinking I was back in office hours (I slept in every day, but to be fair I had a horrible cold/chest infection)  The first one I got written up was the Traveller Bag which I made mum for Christmas:

Would any of you be interested in pattern testing it?  The deadline would be 15th February, please leave a comment below to state interest, or e-mail me via the contact form.

All positions are now taken thank you, but there will be more opportunities in the coming weeks for other patterns.