Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Photography

Happy New Year! Have a Free eBook Sampler!

Field & Hay

Location: USA
Camera Info: Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 5.6 • 1/800 sec

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” – William Edwards Hickson

So here it is, another year gone by. And I’m trying again! The only comment I have about the past year is: depression sucks. Sorry!

Even if I haven’t kept up with the blog, I HAVE kept writing. Just this past November, my writers’ group published our first anthology, “Stories From the Heartland.” It’s available on Amazon for anyone who wants a copy! Recognize the cover image? 🙂 The book consists of 55 stories from 20 central Indiana authors. I have four entries in it myself, one of which was a story previously told on this blog. Can you guess which one?

But wait, I said something about FREE, didn’t I? 😉 We’ve also uploaded a 7-story excerpt of the book to Noisetrade for free downloads. So hop over there and grab your copy! And if you like the sampler, consider getting the entire book!

Meanwhile, I will try my best to get this blog back to a semi-regular posting schedule so you folks can enjoy more stories and pictures from around the world! Here’s to a better and more productive 2015!

Did you make any resolutions this year? What are they?


New Year, New Blogs

Windows
Location: Indonesia
Camera Info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/250 sec

I’m back! Or more specifically, I’m trying again. Life got very overwhelming last year, and I had to make some cutbacks, so unfortunately this blog had to take a backseat as well. This year looks like it will be pretty busy as well (I’m looking forward to my wedding, as well as up to three potential international trips), but I will make a strong attempt to keep this going, even if I have to cut back to once or twice a month instead of every week. You wonderful people deserve it! So sorry to keep you waiting this past year.

This week’s picture makes me think of reflections. As I looked out those windows in Indonesia, I thought about where I had been and what lies ahead, and now I am doing the same. This last year has seen Andy and I losing employment, gaining it, losing it, etc. Currently he has found a job and I am still looking (yet another reason why I actually have time to write again!). We are planning our wedding for this spring (finally!) and hope to be heading overseas again shortly afterward.

Together, we’ve had quite the year! Both of us have been very involved in our Toastmasters clubs, with me becoming an officer and taking part in a humorous speech contest, and Andy becoming the very first non-inmate to join a prison club! Andy has kept busy ministering in the prison in various ways, as well as leading tours and working on archive preservation at the historic Harrison House. Of course I can’t mention Andy without his favorite sports, running and archery. This year, he has been teaching me to shoot with him, and he completed his 10th full marathon and 20th half-marathon, earning himself a place in the Marathon Maniacs club (Think: hotel discounts for life!). We’ve also added to our respective families. I took in a stray black cat, Ninja, and adopted a second kitten to keep her company (Leo). And yes, that means there will be occasional cat pictures for you as well! *giggle*

For 2014, we don’t know what it may hold, but we do know God is faithful to lead us. We’re excited for the new adventures that await us… and hopefully they will come with plenty new photos to show you! Thanks everyone for sticking with me. Here’s to a great 2014!

What’s your biggest hope for the new year?


2012: The Greatest Hits

Concert

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
(No EXIF Data Currently Available)

Happy New Year (six days ago)! If you were around last year, you may remember I did a year-end review post so that you could relive the awesomeness of posts from 2011. Well, it’s that time again! May I present to you… 2012’s Greatest Hits Countdown!

10. First, everyone here wants to take good pictures, right? That’s why Composition 1 came in at 10th place. Free education for all!

9. Next, let’s travel to Asia. India’s Division of Labor gave us some cultural lessons from the subcontinent.

8. The sad & sobering news stories strike again, but this time with a glimmer of hope in Forgiveness in Colorado. This post also took the top spot for most comments of the year (even if the majority was from the same person) 😉

7. Travel reviews are an intricate part of this blog. Fly Sky High in the Eye is for those looking for fun stuff to do in London, England.

6. Lists make everything seem so organized, even when they make you cringe in embarrassment. At #6, we have Top Tourist Mistakes! (Don’t try these away from home)

5. For all the photo enthusiasts, some practical help was needed. Composition 2 was the top pick of the photography lessons provided this year.

4. Let’s bring on the funny! Many got a kick out of the 15 Funny Road Signs From Around the World, even if we still didn’t understand all of them.

3. It seems people were attracted to the big news stories this year. After only a month on the blog, A Poem for the Children rose to #3 on the charts.

2. Next is a topic that is near to my heart, but again tough to discuss with people. That’s why I called it The Thing No One Wants to Talk About.

1. Last but best of all. This post is on a serious note, but one that illustrates the value of small things done in love. This year’s top post is A Moment in Time.

Bonus Track: Surprise! Surprise! Apparently, people were really interested in my personal life. 😉 This post made honorable mention at #11.

Did your favorite post not make it on the list? Give it some love and tell us why you like it in the comments!


A Poem For the Children

IMG_4841

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 5.6 • 1/10 sec (and quite a bit of editing)

Well, I was planning on writing a funny blog this week, but in honor of the events that happened this past Friday in Newtown, CT and Chengping, China, I will just leave you with this. I found this poem floating around Facebook, attributed to Cameo Smith of Mt. Wolf, PA. Please let me know if the credits are incorrect.

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air;
they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say;
they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven,” declared a small boy, “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their Savior; the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name;
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King;
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below;
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools!”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran;
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Please take some time to pray for all those affected by this week’s tragedies.


Escape From the Camp

IMG_2792

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 4 • 1/100 sec

I’m going all serious on you again.

Earlier this week, I watched part of a documentary on how a North Korean man escaped from the concentration camp he had grown up in. He had watched his own mother and brother executed there for trying to escape, but eventually the desire to be free got to him as well. He and another man worked together to get out, and the other man was killed in the process. This type of stuff is still happening in North Korea.

I can assume that North Korea’s camps are very similar to Auschwitz, the Nazi camp we visited in Poland. Security there was extremely tight. In my photo, you can see a sign reading “Stop!” on a standard electric fence. Behind that, there is another barbed-wire fence with the top curved inward. It was also electrified. A third fence, the same design as the second, is next. Finally, there is a brick wall. Just by looking at it, I would guess it around eight feet high. If you look down the fence to the end, there is a small building with four windows. That is one of guard shacks, which were spaced along the perimeter of the camp. Guards would wait there for potential escapees, and try to shoot them before they reached the fence. In fact, our guide told us, prisoners would sometimes use the fence as a form of suicide, since the electricity was such a high voltage it would kill them. The guards tried to shoot the prisoners first, however, since they “did not like to clean up the mess” of someone being electrified.

Looking at all this, I did wonder how some people managed to successfully escape, as it seemed nearly impossible. According to our guide, some 802 attempted, but only 144 made it out alive (not counting all those liberated at the end of the war). I heard some found favor with dissenters who worked in the “hospital” and were snuck out. Some also escaped during work outings, but at high cost: for each successful escapee, ten others from their work team would be shot as a deterrent. Others were freed by SS guards who changed their minds about the Nazi agenda. As we walked around, I kept wondering to myself: If I was put in their place, what would I do? Would I try to escape or stay to protect those around me? If I did make an attempt, what would I try to do?

Put yourself in the prisoner’s shoes for a moment. How do you think you would handle this situation? Remember to pray for those still in camps today.


The Exposure Triangle: Bringing it All Together

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 20 • 1/125 sec

Hey my fellow shutter-bugs! It’s been a while since I had a lesson, so I owe you one – and it’s just in time for you to take all those crazy family pictures during Christmas! Previously, I talked about Aperture and Shutter Speed. Today’s lesson is on ISO, as well as answering the question: so what’s the point of all of this?

ISO (International Standards Organization), or as old-school photographers would say, Film Speed, is simply a measurement of how quickly the media in your camera can pick up light. For example, think about the last time you moved. If you had to pack a truck, how long would it take to fill if only you were working? How long would it take if you had a whole team of movers? These scenarios would represent low and high ISO settings, respectively. Higher ISOs “pack in” light faster than low ones, allowing you to shoot better pictures in low light. They also introduce film grain (pixellation) at higher levels depending on your camera.

So now you have all three pieces of the Exposure Triangle, every photographer’s rule to taking properly exposed pictures. The main point is to keep the triangle balanced. When you adjust shutter speed down, you may need to open your aperture or use a higher ISO. When you set a high ISO to shoot at night, you will need a longer shutter speed or wide aperture, etc. You will know these three are balanced when your camera’s light meter is centered.

Now comes the fun part: with this knowlege, you can shoot any camera in manual mode and actually know what you’re doing! 😀 You can try several combinations of the three elements, just remember how else they affect your photos (aperture affects depth of focus, shutter speed affects blur, and ISO affects noise). Also, you can use the Tv, Av, P, and any other settings appropriately. Just know that Tv lets you choose your shutter speed & ISO, and it will pick the aperture for you. Likewise, Av does the same with letting you control aperture. P is fully automatic except for the focus & flash.

Ok, your turn! Try taking some pictures and let us know your experience in the comments. Did you get the image you were going for? Do you know why/why not?


Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving & see you next week!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?


Reflections on Thankfulness

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 5.6 • 1/50 sec

In the aftermath of a great explosion that rocked one of our neighborhoods in Indianapolis, many have been forced out of their homes and a candlelight vigil was held for the deceased. Yet along with the stories of loss, I’ve seen many (including friends who were affected) posting on Facebook about all they are thankful for. For example, a friend was thankful for her phone, which she used to find a place to stay at midnight after evacuating her house. Since Thanksgiving is almost here, I thought it would be a good time to do the same. I’m thankful that…

  • I’m alive.
  • I have a good job in this economy.
  • My neighbors aren’t freaks.
  • I have family & a fiance who love me.
  • Election ads are over for another four years.
  • Jesus lives!
  • Arby’s and Chick-Fil-A have peppermint milk shakes.
  • The USA still has freedom of religion.
  • Somebody, a long time ago, invented bacon.
  • I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel the world.
  • Unlike cats, we have opposable thumbs.
  • My prayer group rocks!
  • I got to go to college – and get TWO majors.
  • Gmail lets you “undo” sending emails when you notice a typo right after hitting “Send.”
  • Smiles are a universal language.
  • The day the music died has never come.
  • Water makes up most of the world, because without it we’d die.
  • I’m relatively healthy.
  • Toilet paper exists, because…. yeah.
  • It’s almost my birthday!!

What would you add to the list?


Are GMO’s Really That Evil?

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 11 • 1/30 sec

A cursory Google search will return pages upon pages of arguments for organic produce and fears against GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Why is that? Most debates in the public sector have had equal representation of both sides of the argument, but in this one, only one side is well heard. For the sake of discourse, I thought I would write this blog from the other side.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against organics or the people who encourage others to grow them. One of the great things about living in the USA is our freedom of choice, including being able to choose what we eat. This blog, however, is about other places around the world.

GMO’s were originally developed with the world’s good in mind. Scientists saw problems such as famine in Africa, malnutrition in Asia, and children dying of preventable causes in many areas, and they wanted to do something about it. Using what they knew best, they began to develop agricultural solutions to these problems. For example, the poor in Asia eat rice as their staple diet, but often do not have access to other essential nutrients needed for healthy development. To improve their overall health, scientists spent years working on “golden rice” – a crop with additional vitamin A. Meanwhile, in Africa, strong weeds or a drought could cost a family their entire crop for the year. So they dealt with both a lack of food and a lack of income. Some even had to sell off children they couldn’t feed. As a result, several crops were developed to be more resistant to weeds, insects, and drought. There are many more examples.

Much of the concern has been over the health risks of GMO’s. Does playing with the genetic code cause cancers or other health issues? Thousands of other scientists have worked to answer these questions, and many regulations have been put in place. While there are occasional mistakes that aren’t foreseen, most testing will find any problems long before a product makes it to the market.

Regulations also limit the amount of work that can go into this research in the first place. For example, those who work with the genetic code of plants are limited to only changing certain amino acids in a strand of DNA. In nature, entire sections of DNA can be moved, cut out, or duplicated, causing major changes. It’s like the difference between people of different nationalities. Naturally, they have different hair and skin colors, different bone structures, and even different susceptibility to health issues. Using this comparison, a GMO would be like changing people’s eye colors.

Some companies have become known for shady business practices, but not all operate that way. Some people are allergic to certain food additives, but that doesn’t mean they are bad for everyone. The excuse “I won’t eat anything I can’t pronounce” often forgets the fact that any substance on earth can have a long complicated scientific name, and that certain natural ingredients are extremely toxic. The point is: proper balance is needed. We need to evaluate things one at a time based on their own merit, not paint the entire thing with a broad brush.

Are you particular about where your food comes from? What are your eating habits?


Eating Mexican Food in Poland

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 8 • 1/100 sec

Yum, doesn’t this picture make you hungry? Or are you just admiring the culinary artwork?

Our group was lucky (or brave) enough to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant when we were in Poland. We were sitting at a long table outside so we could enjoy the weather. It was quite the experience! Along with the decorated food, we had a few good laughs as well. Two of our guys ordered fajitas. Apparently, these are not very common in Poland, because they were served along with written instructions on how to prepare them! That wasn’t all. They also came with bibs! Our server, who knew a little English, explained this by telling us “Fajitas are dirty.” 🙂

Earlier in the trip, we started a running gag at every restaurant we went to. We picked one member of our group, Kelli, and told every restaurant, every day, that it was her birthday. We just wanted to see what would happen! 😉 At this restaurant, most of the servers were dressed in skimpy outfits resembling Spanish dancers from the “Wild Wild West” era. All of a sudden, we heard what sounded like gun shots. A man came running out of the building dressed in all black, with a face mask and cape, and firing a cap gun into the air. Scaring the waitresses, he ran over to Kelli and dropped a cake slice with a candle at her place. Then he took off running again, back into the restaurant. Once we overcame our shock, we laughed pretty hard at that one!

I guess this is what the Polish think Mexico (and likely Texas as well) is really like! LOL

How do your international friends see other cultures, even ours?


Speaking Without Words

Location: Mexico
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 13 • 1/400 sec

If a picture is worth 1000 words, I probably don’t have to explain what’s going on here. But just in case… I was at an orphanage in Mexico, playing with the kids. I had been given power to control the bubble solution stock (big yellow bottle). The kids had their own small bubble wands, and when they needed refills, they came to me. There was limited stock and I was trying to help them be conservative. This little boy was doing his best to convince me that he needed more anyway. However, I didn’t know any Spanish and he didn’t know any English, so we had no clue what each other was saying. Yet we still communicated all this without language.

Have you ever run into a situation like this, where someone you try to talk to doesn’t speak your language? Yep, it even occurs right here in the USA. So what do we do? Our basic tendency when we don’t feel understood is to speak louder or slower, hoping that if we enunciate better, people will understand us. But when someone doesn’t know your language at all, it just makes you look silly.

In my travels, I’ve learned that one old speaker’s addage still holds true internationally. “Communication is 20% what you say, and 80% how you say it.” People pay more attention to tone and body language than they do actual words, so learning to capitalize on that has allowed me to communicate with many people worldwide who don’t share a common language!

How about trying some clear body language? When I tried to ask an Indonesion kid the word for “rain”, I pointed to the ocean nearby (water), then to the sky (clouds), and made a motion like raindrops with my fingertips. He knew exactly what I wanted then, and gladly taught me that word as well as several others. Children in India often beg by putting their hands to their mouths, imitating eating, then put their hand out to you, hoping you will fill it. Facial expressions also are clear indicators, as long as you emphasize your feelings well. Smiles are known worldwide!

How could you indicate a question or statement using only body language and facial expressions? I’d love to hear your creative ideas!


Crazy Acts of Death-Defiance

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.6 • 1/800 sec

 What’s the craziest thing you have attempted to do? Did you succeed? A couple years ago, I challenged myself to go ziplining with some other crazy adventurers in Thailand. I enjoyed the challenge, but apparently not as much as our guides (pictured above)! I was excited when I could cross a cable without holding on to my harness, but no way was I going to try upside down.

I’m sure we all have our limits when it comes to what kind of adventures we will tackle, which makes this week’s news all the more amazing. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all week, you’ve probably heard about Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting jump from Red Bull Stratos. I was one of the lucky 8 million people who watched it live on YouTube. Aside from morbid curiosity (my dad and I were betting each other on if he would survive or not), I think there was another reason so many people tuned in to watch. We wanted to see someone do someone we wouldn’t dare attempt ourselves.

Are there any other great feats of courage (or stupidity, depending on your perspective) that you remember witnessing? History is full of them, so here are a few of my favorites (most of which, I am too young to remember in person):

  • Alain Robert – “The French Spiderman” likes to climb buildings – really, really tall ones.
  • David Blaine – Magician who also broke the world record for holding his breath underwater – for over 17 minutes!
  • Evil Knievel – Known for leaping over large distances in a single bound… on his motorcycle
  • Gary Connery – Skydived without a parachute – and lived!
  • Harry Houdini – Magician and master escape artist, he was most known for the Chinese Water Torture Cell stunt
  • Jackie Chan – Actor who does all his own stunts, including a 21-story slide down the side of a building
  • Martin Strel – Expedition swimmer who tacked the 3000+-mile Amazon River – and all that swam in it
  • Philippe Petit – Tightrope walker who crossed between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. How he got access to them was an even more challenging feat.
  • William Trubridge – Holds the record for the deepest free dive, swimming 380 feet straight down
  • Yves Rossy – AKA “JetMan”  or “Fusion Man”, crossed the English Channel with just those rockets on his back

If you could be known for some crazy stunt, what would you attempt?


15 Funny Road Signs From Around the World

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 8.0 • 1/80 sec

Who doesn’t want a good laugh? When we saw this sign in Poland on several streets, we couldn’t decide whether it was a warning to pedestrians to cross carefully, or a sign telling cars they could get extra points for tagging people who tried to escape! Poland is not the only place with odd & crazy road signs, so I thought I’d bring you some of my favorites.

1. Elderly People Crossing

This sign is attributed to being somewhere in Germany, but I’m not sure since the print is in English. Apparently all elderly people here have hunched backs and no hair. At least they’re together, even if they’re headed toward the cemetery. *shaking my head*

2. Potty Instructions

Next we will travel to Asia. For cultures that are used to using the “squatty potty”, extra instructions are sometimes needed. And as another blogger pointed out, even the sign is wrong. They didn’t put the seat down first!

3. Thin Ice… or Zombie Attack?

Direct from Finland! I believe this sign has something to do with thin ice, but another blogger thought it was better attributed to impending zombie attacks. Either way, I think I’ll take another road.

4. Those Pesky Construction Signs

Since we’re on the topic of zombies, many people in the USA are familiar with those flashing orange road construction signs. But every so often, they can be hacked…

Nerds have a sense of humor, but apparently the Maine highway department does not. The fun part is, this prank was continued in Texas using multiple signs, and another using a Mario reference.

Next we’ll move on to England, and their not-so-secret secrets.

5. The Not-So-Secret Bunker

And yes, this is a real place. Even if it’s a tourist stop now, I’d still like to go just so I could dash about suspiciously, humming the “Mission Impossible” theme. And if anyone asks where I’ve been, I can just say “It’s a secret.”

6. Lost in Translation

This sign doesn’t seem odd unless you can read Welsh. According to one blogger, it translates to: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.” Looks like someone forgot to proofread!

7. The Multi-National Sign

If a lack of translation skill was enough to confuse you, this next sign is worse! Even I don’t know where this one is. How did Venezuela get next to Canada? And why are all these countries up in the sky? I’m so confused!!!

8. No Talking

And then good old Dantak! This one is somewhere in India. Nice to see that sexism is still alive and well in some places of the world. :/ Imagine telling some woman in the USA to shut up and let the man drive. Ha!

9. Vancouver’s All-Inclusive Resorts

Other countries are more concerned about trying to accommodate everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. Take this example from Canada. What I’m wondering is who discovered dogs could read? :O

10. Don’t Injure the Children

Kids are a big deal all around the world. Check out this warning from Quebec. Another blogger translated the French as “Watch out for our children, because it could be one of yours.” I’m assuming that’s what the dead kid on the sign is supposed to infer. But did we really need the visual??

11. Intersection Ahead

One of the oddest bike lane markers I’ve ever seen. But I guess it gets the point across. 😉

12. Very, Very Specific Mileage Marker

Ok, ok, this one is not an actual street sign either, but I couldn’t resist! The Japanese are known for being extremely precise, and this sign from Hiroshima, Japan is no exception.

13. Ad-Libbing

Sorry, there’s no visual for this one, but I couldn’t resist sharing this story!

Someone wrote: “When passing the New Jersey/New York line, the sign read “Governor Jim Florio welcomes you to New Jersey”
Under that was printed neatly …”But the rest of us wish you’d stay home.”

At least we know how they REALLY feel!

14 & 15. More Polish Hilarity!

I’ll finish with a couple more from Poland, just because they are so fun! The first is a school crossing sign. I just love how every girl needs a lollipop bigger than her head. The second is a warning to car thieves, and the visual is just… yeah.

Ok, you’ve seen my contributions, what’s yours? Tell me about your favorite odd street sign!


When Life’s Journey Leaves Us Disappointed

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 4 • 1/100 sec

Don’t we look like FUN?!? 😀 The group of teenagers I traveled with one year took part in a street drama called “The Journey.” It told the story of a man searching for meaning in his life, and the different people he meets along the way.

This group of girls were the partiers. We drank a lot (ok, only pretended to), danced around with ribbon dancers, and generally made a lot of noise. It was fun… for a while. But eventually the partying took it’s toll. Those who had been drinking a lot got sick. Others got dizzy and tripped up our conga line. A fight broke out over the bottle of “booze.” Our party became a mess.

So the man moved on.

Even though we were just acting, I could relate to these girls. There have been many times I thought something looked like fun that turned out to be greatly disappointing. While I wasn’t much of a “party hard” type when I was younger, I chased after academic success, relationships, fame (part of me still wishes I could sing), financial stability, and other things that weren’t inherantly bad, but didn’t completely satisfy me, either.

I won’t give away the ending of the drama, you’ll have to watch it for yourself. But I eventually came to the same place as the man in his journey, and I found something worth putting all my effort into pursuing. And no, it wasn’t my degree in chemistry. 😉

What have you found that satisfies you and doesn’t leave regrets or disappointment?


Getting Your Lion to Purr

Location: Thailand
Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 7.1 • 1/640 sec

“Nice kitty… good kitty… just don’t take my arm off, kitty.”

It amazes me to see full-grown lions and tigers acting like housecats, but they are related, after all! When they have spent their whole life around kind people, they also can learn “humans are friends, not food.” It still is wise to treat them with respect, as they will still play like cats and don’t realize their own strength.

So it was pretty funny in my mind to see this young lion (probably less than a year old, since his mane hadn’t grown in yet). He was just chillin’ on a rock in his pen, when one of the trainers walked by who obviously knew him well. When called, the lion jumped up, ran up to the fence, and started purring and rubbing his face on it just like an overaffectionate kitty. In return, he got his desired scritch behind the ears.

It kind of reminds me of an old video I saw once, of a guy with a lionness & cubs. A little kindness can go a long way!

Did you ever see a wild animal not acting like you expected?


Bunk-Beds Are an Expression of Love

Location: Mexico
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 3.5 • 1/30 sec

Ever get involved in a project, and it takes on a life of its own? We went to Mexico to build an orphanage, and three buildings should have been enough work for one week! Then we learned the kids were so cramped for space in their current place, they had to share beds. Before we left, we raised extra donations from the folks at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, and we used the money to buy extra lumber, tools, and mattresses. One of our more experienced construction workers made a wood template with the different board lengths we needed, and then the group got to work! In an assembly-line fashion, we cut a bunch of boards and pieced together frames for eight bunk beds. Only six could fit in the house, so we left the partially-assembled frames for the other two in the largest building for them to put wherever they wanted.

This alone wasn’t enough, though. The folks at MPCC also donated sheets & pillows, comforters, and even a bunch of plush animals and toys! So each bed was decorated with a different theme. Pictured above is the Cars bed. Others featured frogs, soccer, monkeys, even a snow-theme! Our group bought plastic bins that fit under the beds as well, so the kids could have a “toy box” to keep their things. They were very excited about that, as they had always had to share everything. Now they could each have a toy of their own! We put the plush animals on the beds and scattered action figures, toy cars, and other items around the room.

I’m on a kick with these multi-photo posts! But I couldn’t pass this one up. One of the ladies put a finishing touch on the beds – lifesaver candies on each pillow! Now that’s a way to make a kid smile!

We weren’t expecting to get so into this project, but it was so much fun!

What project have you started that got bigger or better than you expected?


FAILing With Style

Location: India
Camera Info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 20 • 1/80 sec

Ever want to try something crazy, just because you can? A friend of mine decided to have some fun while walking around a rural area of India. There was a random pole in the ground, and we still never knew what it was for. But looked like fun! The guy was quite an acrobat.

Ever want to try something crazy, and it goes terribly wrong? The rest of our group had looked away for a moment, when we heard my friend call for help.  Apparently, he had missed when trying to get off the pole.

I bet it made quite a fond memory, having a bunch of teens try to help him get a pole out of his pants. At least next time we had a group sing-along, we had an extra soprano!

So what has been your biggest FAIL when you were trying to look good?


Auschwitz: Never Forgotten


Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 11 • 1/125 sec

Some have said that these train tracks mark the site where more families were torn apart than anywhere else in history. These are the tracks leading into Auschwitz, one of the largest Nazi concentration camps in Poland. I took this shot from the top of the guard tower, where I could observe most of the camp. Here, the trains would enter the camp and the passengers would be stripped of their luggage and “sorted” into two areas of the camp: those who went one direction went to hard labor, the others went to the gas chambers. Many people got their last glimpses of their mothers, sisters, and children here.

Our tour had lasted for two hours, and most of us were emotionally exhausted by the time we’d reached the end. The stories were endless. People that had been living normal lives, suddenly uprooted and sent to a camp where death followed them at every turn. It was a side of humanity that many would love to forget existed, yet only our remembrance of it can keep it from happening again. We asked our tour guide how she could keep doing this day in and day out (she had been there for six years). She replied that her job had great meaning – in educating the next generation, she could take part in never letting the world forget what hate and racism could do.

This is just one photo of hundreds I took at the site, and over the weeks and months ahead, I’d like to occasionally post one and tell another story from the camp. It’s a tough subject, but one that I feel needs to be discussed.

What is your opinion on concentration camps to begin with? Is it a good idea to keep them in the public eye?


Shutter Speed: Photography in Motion

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/500 sec

Photo enthusiasts! Time for another lesson! Are you excited yet?!?!

This week, let’s focus on shutter speed. The term is much simpler than all the other ones I’ve thrown at you, I think. 😉 Shutter speed is simply how long the shutter allows light into the camera – the speed at which it opens and closes. It actually requires a lot of technology to get the shutter to work at such high speeds, but I won’t get into that here. What you need to know is that shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. Anything longer than 1/60 of a second is considered “slow” in photography terms, and “fast” is anything above 1/500 of a second. So, the picture I took above is just bordering on fast.

What’s the point? When there is any kind of action or movement in your photos, your shutter speed setting will determine how much “blur” is in your pictures. Fast shutter speeds will freeze the action (if you look closely, you can see some stray water droplets around the pot in the photo), while slow shutter speeds will blur movement (here’s one I did with a moving subject). Pick your shutter speed depending on what you want to do with the photo – do you want to stop the action or show it? There’s just one rule here: when hand-holding your camera, realize that some shutter speeds may be too low to get sharp images. Anything slower than 1/60 should use a tripod. Also, it should be equal to or faster than the focal length of your lens. So, if I’m using my 70 mm lens, my shutter speed should not be lower than 1/70 sec unless I have a tripod.

Ok, now it’s your turn! Check your camera presets (some explanations here and here) and go to Tv (shutter priority) mode if your camera allows. If you live near a waterfall or fountain, you’re lucky. For the rest of us, use your shower or sink faucet. Try adjusting your shutter speed while taking pictures of the water. What kind of effects can you get?

Don’t forget to practice with some of our past photo lessons:
Composition 1
Composition 2
Aperture
Night Photography

Try it! Then comment and let us know what your favorite results were.


Giant Games & Weird Art


Location: Austria
Camera Info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/210 sec

Are you up for a game of chess? What about if the pieces are as big as you? I was intrigued by this giant chessboard during a walking tour of Salzburg. There was already a game in progress, but how fun would it have been to join in!

Salzburg’s giant chess board is in the heart of the Kapitelplatz, near the Dom Cathedral. The Kapitelplatz is the part of Salzburg’s Old Town, and is a square featuring art displays, music and cultural activities. While giant chess boards are not unique (there is even a site pinpointing them all around the world), the other two main attractions in the site are creative.

One is a fountain/pond with a statue of Neptune on it. Back in the 1700’s, it used to be the Kapitelschwemme, or horse bath. On the other side, right next to the chessboard, is a 30-foot statue of a man on top of a golden orb. This piece of art, known as Sphaera, was made by artist Stephan Balkenhol in 2007. Since the artist’s other works around Europe feature the same man on top of various objects, the locals nicknamed this statue “Mann auf Mozartkugel” (Man on Mozartkugel). Mozartkugeln are the best chocolate candy balls in the city, just as an FYI. 😉

You can find all sorts of fun things in town squares!

Have you ever seen (or played) a giant board game of any kind?


The Path to the Olympics

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D •  lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2000 sec

Ahhh summer. The time to go for camping trips and baseball games, canoe down a lazy river, or just plant yourself in front of the TV and watch the Olympics. London 2012, baby!!! 😀 For a travel nut like myself, I’ve always been curious about the journeys people take. Then what could be more fascinating than the journeys some Olympians took to get to the games?

For instance, what about Khatuna Lorig (USA, Archery)? Her Olympic career has covered shooting for multiple countries! Originally born in the Republic of Georgia, she shot for the Unified Team (Soviet Union, under the Olympic Flag) in 1992. Georgia was her next flag in 1996 and 2000. She wasn’t a naturalized citizen yet in 2004, but by 2008, she was competing for the USA. However, during that match, her hometown in Tiblisi was being invaded by the Russians. Imagine trying to compete under that pressure! She returned under the US team again this year and got 4th place.

Next, what about the “Blade Runner,” Oscar Pistorius (South Africa, Sprint)? Born without fibulas, he had both legs amputated at the knee when he was one. In college, he played several sports, until a rugby injury & subsequent rehab got him into running. After a successful time in the Paralympics, he set his sights on attending the Games with able-bodied runners. A hotly-disputed scientific study initially banned him from the Olympics due to a percieved advantage he had from his carbon fibre “legs.” It was overturned in 2008, but he failed to qualify for that years Games. This year, he not only qualified, but made it to the 400m semi-finals, becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games. In a moving display, he and the winner, Kirani James, traded bibs at the end of the race.

I’m out of space for more stories today, but let’s hear more from you! What’s your favorite story about an Olympic athlete?


Musical Mistakes in Poland


Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.6 • 1/15 sec

Now, on a lighter note… 😉

Everybody has good and bad days, even professionals. Sometimes the results are just plain hilarious. On our band trip to Poland, we got the opportunity to visit a preschool in between concerts. The kids didn’t really know much about our team, except that we were from America. But they were proud of their preschool and wanted to show off their mad skillz as well. All the classes combined into one room, and the kids performed a song they had learned a few weeks prior, complete with hand motions (well, some hand motions. The rest were random kids spazzing, dancing, jumping around, picking their nose or their friends’ hair, and doing whatever else little kids do).

Next, it was our turn. Since we were just there for a visit, the band did not bring their instruments, so we were left doing things completely a capella. Not usually a problem, but the song selections we had been singing were pretty dependent on having a rockin’ musical backdrop. We did have one song that included hand motions, so we decided to do that one for the kids. Half the team clapped to keep the beat, and the rest of us taught the kids our dance. They loved it.

Then, one of the volunteers wanted to hear a “serious” song since they would be missing our concert later that night. Our band leader selected one that was in a similar key & tempo to the first, but no motions and good lyrics. Sure thing! We started the song, and even the kids continued to dance around for the first verse. We continued on to the chorus, and all of a sudden our director had a panicked look on his face. We had accidentally switched back to the chorus of the first song! :O We kept singing, and the director fed us the lines for the second verse so we could get back to the correct song and finish. At least the two flowed together well! Hopefully no one would notice, right?  NOT!  This became known around the trip as “The Preschool Medley.”

Has something ever gone hilariously wrong at a concert you’ve attended?


Forgiveness in Colorado

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 11.0 • 1/100 sec

 It’s not too often the Shine4Him Photo blog ventures into social commentary, but I think this week’s photo deserves it (phrases taken from Exodus 3:5 and Psalm 100:4, painted on a church wall in India). So does the recent happenings in Aurora, CO in the USA.

In the week following this tragedy, there have been many stories emerge of heroism, sacrifice, and love. Tragedies tend to bring out the deepest emotions and people’s true selves. Anyone can claim what they think they would do in a situation, but we never know for sure until something forces us to act without thinking. That’s what the men who died saving their girlfriends were doing. Somewhere, they learned that was the noble thing to do, and when the moment came, they acted. Now the world is grateful, even through many tears.

Then there is Pierce O’Farrill, one of the other victims of the shooting. Despite having been shot three times, the moment he was released from the hospital, he told the press that he had forgiven the shooter. Again, this goes against the grain of what seems normal. No one blames the families who are angry at Holmes. I doubt few would be upset when justice is served. But what about this guy?

Forgiveness, in itself, is very freeing. For years, research has proven that bitterness only tears apart the person who carries it, and forgiveness allows the person to give up the “victim” title and move on with their lives. Personally, I hope everyone involved can eventually come to that point, though it will likely take years. And please note that forgiveness is not exoneration. I’m sure even O’Farrill would agree that the courts need to do their job. But this immediate forgiveness, and even a willingness to talk to and pray for the shooter? Now that’s something different.

O’Farrill links his actions to his faith in Jesus Christ. It takes more than just being a good person to forgive like that, I’ve found. It takes power beyond ourselves. But through the years, many have discovered the power that Jesus provides to forgive those who hurt them. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom also had to lean on her faith to forgive the man who tortured her and her sister. But both of these people have made the same amazing discovery – that forgiveness gives us a glimpse of the true nature of God, and in that, we can be thankful.

Have you ever struggled to forgive someone who hurt you? Where do you find the strength to move on?


Fuzzy Little Beasts

Location: Thailand
Camera Info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 7.1 • 1/1600 sec

“Let’s go pet the babies! They’re so cute & sweet!” we thought. Even though we were intimidated by the thought of petting the adult tigers at the Tiger Kingdom, our group was excited to see the cubs. What we didn’t think about, however, was that the adults were trained – cubs aren’t!

When we walked into the enclosure, three cubs were sleeping. Cute. Two others were awake and wrestling, with little squeaks and roars (sort-of) as they tried to pounce and pin each other. Epi-cute. Suddenly, one of them noticed us and decided he wanted a better challenge. With a tiny growl, he started stalking towards us. The trainer shooed him off and distracted him easily, but it was a little unnerving. They are still wild, after all.

We went to hold one of the cubs that was sleeping, and he didn’t seem to mind too much, besides a few big yawns. He had huge paws for such a tiny critter, and I was surprised to feel how coarse his fur was. I expected tiger cubs to be soft! The little guy was pretty well-behaved, except for when he decided to get a taste of my friend’s shirt and started licking him. That’s a big no-no here, as the trainers don’t want the tigers to develop a taste for people. So we had to distract the cub and get him to stop licking. Pretty soon, he joined the other cubs in the wrestling match, and our group moved on to see the bigger cats. That was a different experience than I expected, but still fun!

When were you surprised by an experience that wasn’t exactly what you expected?