Saturday, February 23, 2013

How To Take A Picture Of The Moon

We have a nice almost full moon out tonight, and just after sunset it was inviting me to take a picture of it from my front porch. I have to admit upfront, that I did almost no preparation. Simply grabbed my camera, which happend to have a 70-200 F4L lens attached, leaned against the pillar to steady myself, and snapped off a few frames.

When I ran inside and loaded them onto the computer, it was almost immediately obvious that I wouldn't be sharing any of those shots.

... they were all way overexposed, with no detail at all.

Crap, I forgot how to take a picture of the moon.

So if my problem is over exposure, I need a faster shutter speed, a smaller aperture, or both. Ok, let's try this again ...

I manually set my camera to ISO 100, F11, and 1/400 sec exposure, and when back out to lean against the pillar.

The picture at the top of the page is what I got. It's not the greatest moon shot in the world, but for a spur of the moment, run outside and snap away, I'll take it.

However, one of these nights I might actually have to plan for some good pictures of the moon. I can use a lot of the same tips I've already written about in How to take fireworks pictures.

  1. I'm going to go to the garage and get my tripod

  2. I'm going to dig through my camera bag to find my remote shutter release

  3. I'm going to continue to use the manual settings on my camera, but I'll take a few more test shots at different settings. Ideally I'd own a light meter.

  4. Since I own a (quality) lens that extends out to 500mm, that's really what needs to be on my camera if I only want the moon in the frame

  5. However, just like with fireworks, it might be more interesting if I could position my tripod to try to capture something interesting in the foreground .. even though it will almost certainly be in silhouette.

  6. I'll take quite a few shots, then probably spend an hour or two editing ... to come up with one or two picture that I like. ;-)

So did I miss anything?

What are some of your favorite secrets for getting really good pictures of the moon?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weather Girls

I'm such a responsible dad. At the first sign of an approaching thunderstorm, instead of telling my girls that they need to come inside, I simply grab my camera, and make them part of the shot. :-)

Weather Girls 2
Reporting live from our backyard .. we expect rain & hail any minute now!

Rest assured though, they were (relatively) safe the whole time, and actually had fun trying to stand up in the wind gusts. At first I was just out in the backyard taking picture of sky. I was using a 17mm Tokina lens on my Canon 20D, so I could get some nice wide shots of approaching thunderstorms. But then when I saw the girls jumping on the trampoline, I decided to try to include them in the pictures. I really like the depth of the shot with the wide angle lens. lol, and my little models definitely made it more than just another ominous sky picture ... Joey my youngest looking like one of those crazy weather channel reporters, broadcasting from the teeth of the storm. :-)

I think for the rest of the spring, she's going to be my "storm chasing" partner.

Keep havin FuN!

p.s. this thunderstorm happened back in January. It's pretty nice in Texas today. ;-)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New HEB Plus in Copperas Cove

I finally made my first trip to the new HEB Plus in Copperas Cove ...


I'd been sent on a mission to retrive some chocolate covered strawberries.


That's quite the Valentine's day scam they've got going. $5.49 for five strawberries. lol, next year I'm just going to get a carton of strawberries and a bag of chocolate chips to melt so I can dip them myself. :-)

But back to the new HEB ...

In case you've never been to Texas, HEB is an acronym for Here Everything's Better. Judging by how packed the parking lot has been since the new store opened about 2 weeks ago, I think it's safe to say that this is many Texan's favorite store. And this one is apparently special since it's an "HEB Plus" .. which from what I can gather means that it's not only bigger than the old store, but it also carries some non-grocery items like t-shirts, electronics and small furniture pieces. To be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time exploring the store today, being Valentine's Day and all. The chocolate covered strawberry table was right at the front, so I was pretty much in an out.

This HEB Plus is the anchor store of the new Five Hills Shopping Center. Right now the only other establishment that's opened so far is Whataburger (also a Texas tradition). But with 9 more acres of lots, I'm sure we'll end up with plenty more places to shop ... especially after the new Hwy 9 & US 190 bypass roads are finished.

Our adopted home town seems to have a bright future. I think we chose well. :-)


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Best Camera Is The One You Have With You

I almost didn't have time for a "picture of the day" yesterday. Fortunately, as I was driving Johnathan home from school, we got stopped at train crossing. Since I had my Nexus S smart phone in my pocket, I decided this was a good opportunity to get my daily picture.

This is the result ...


I kind of like it.

Possibly could have been better if I'd had my Canon in the car. But then, would I have had the right lens on it? If I have the opportunity to plan my picture taking, obviously I'm going to bring my "real" camera. But let's be honest, for the majority of good picture opportunities that I may randomly come across, my best chance of capturing them will be with my smart phone.

So, I'm glad it's at least "capable".


What camera do you take most of your pictures with?

Tissue Over The Flash For Soft Light

I don't know about you, but I hate to use the pop-up flash on my camera. But sometimes you just have no choice, even shooting with wide open aperture and high ISO, it's just not light enough. I saw something on a youtube video a few weeks ago (and I wish I could remember when/where so I could give credit), about how in a pinch you could put a piece of this tissue in front of your flash to soften the light, and cut down on the harsh shadows.

Of course I had to try it ...

Jaiden has a tummy ache

The subject was my sick daughter Jaiden, laying on the couch in our living room with the only light coming from the TV to my left, and the hallway behind me. I was probably about 10 feet away from her, using the pop-up flash, with a piece of tissue held out about an inch or two in front of the flash.

I think I need a little more practice with this technique. But for a first attempt, I was happy with the way it turned out. The shadows behind the bowl and the couch are from the TV light. I really should have taken a "without tissue" shot for comparison. But even without that, I'm pretty sure that the green couch, purple blanket, her skin tone, and especially that white pillow would have looked much different with just straight flash.

I'm sure I'll be trying more of these in the future.


Do you have any "creative" shooting techniques that you've tested out recently?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Playing with the Kindle Fire HD

Ana took the Kindle Fire HD with her to Washington. Jasmine is very happy that she's home .. the tablet that is ;-)

Kindle Fire HD

She kind of missed her mom too.

We got two Kindle Fire HDs for Christmas this year. One is shared between mommy and Jasmine, while daddy and Jaiden share the other. Mine and Jaiden's is full of books and videos, while the mommy/Jas tablet is mainly loaded up with games.

They really like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.

In our picture of the day, Jasmine was taking a break from the "fun" games to play something slightly more educational; hangman I believe.

I'm tempted to write a mini review about our experience with the Fire HD, but since it's only been about a month and a half, and since this is our first experience with any tablet (so I can't really compare it to anything), I think I'm going to hold off for a little while ... other than to say that we're generally happy, and feel like we're getting our $199 worth.


p.s. Do you have a tablet?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vacuuming Accident

Would you believe me if I told you I was just assaulted by a household appliance?


Ok, so I'm frantically running around trying to make the house look semi-presentable for when my wife returns tonight, after spending 3 weeks with her sister in Seattle. Dinner was cooked, the dishes and laundry were done, the kids were bathed and up watching a movie. The plan is coming together. Just have to sweep and vacuum.

So I'm jamming through the living room, around couches and end tables, I don't need the living room light on, because our vaccum has it's own headlight. Oh yea almost done, this is easy. Then I guess I got over confident, because the next thing I knew that Kirby was backing right up over my foot.


Then I was like a little kid. I forgot about it for about 45 minutes. Until I sat down here that is. Then once I saw the blood, and maybe a little bruising, suddenly my foot really hurts!

I can't wait to go back to work tomorrow. ;-)


Saturday, February 9, 2013

In Line at the Fort Hood Commissary

Why do they put the candy right next to the checkout line?

In line at the commissary

A post shared by Todd Morris (@tmtips) on

We swung by one of Fort Hood's two commissaries on our way home from my work's Valentine's Day party. Just had to pick up a couple of things. So even though all three girls were with me, it was pretty smooth sailing. They were happy as we managed to get one of the carts with the steering wheels (apparently mommy has let them ride in this one before, buy not me).

The only minor "almost got in trouble" moments we had were right here at the end, waiting to get to the checkout. That entire row of candy and toys, you know that Jaiden wanted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. :-D

... but she didn't get any. Primarily because she already had a bag of goodies in the car, from the party.

Speaking of the party, we're gonna make this a short post tonight, as I was the only one who brought a "real" camera to the party. Which means, I've got about 100 pictures to edit and post to the squadron's Facebook page. I'd better get started.

Keep havin FuN!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need A Nap

2 year old Joey apparently had a hard morning.

Passed Out

Things were a little quiet in the living room. When I went to check, I found her passed out on the couch. Daddy kind of wishes he would have thought of the idea sooner too ... almost time to pick up kids from school though, so no nap for tired old dad.

Oh well :-)

Could a Family Live Without Satellite or Cable TV?

I know a lot of single people don't have cable or satellite; they watch all their tv on the Internet. I wonder if a family the size of mine could do the same?

[caption id="attachment_4951" align="alignnone" width="500"]directv dish Picture a Day #3: "It's not just Tv ..." [/caption]

For now it's just an academic question, as we got Directv when we moved into our new house in August of 2011 .. so there's still about 7 months left before we could even consider canceling without penalties. The TV is often on in our house, but the majority of the time it's tuned to Nick or Disney Jr, and the kids don't really seem to care whether the shows are new or repeats.

The truth is, most of what they watch thru the Directv box is also available from Netflix, Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Prime ... all of which we have. The same really holds true for me. I don't have many "must watch" shows, but of the ones I do enjoy, most if not all are available from one of the three services above. Even my wife Ana, who would be the hardest to convince that giving up TV is even possible, has been getting by for the past 3 weeks while she's visiting her sister in Seattle, just watching her shows on the Kindle Fire HD she brought with her.

So how would giving up satellite it even work?

We'd need internet capable boxes for each of our TVs. We already have a BluRay player with Internet capability in our bedroom. There's also a Wii and xBox upstairs that can stream movies and TV shows. Beyond that, we could get more BluRay players, or if we don't need to play disks, just get Roku boxes. Heck, as I was researching some ideas for this post, I even discovered that with the purchase of cheap connector cables we could even hook our two Kindle Fire HDs to the big TVs when the mood strikes.

To be honest, at this point, I seriously doubt this is something we would do. There are a few too many obstacles I can still think of .. the two biggest being how slow would it cause my internet to be at peak viewing times, and how mad would my wife be the first time she couldn't watch one of her shows because of the slow connection?

That being said ...

I do think it might be possible to ditch a few of the additional boxes we have upstairs in the kids rooms. Hmmmm.

So have any of you actually tried this?


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Adopting Rescue Dogs

We currently have 3 dogs, all from local rescue sites and/or animal shelters: Leo the poodle mix, plus Stella & Peanut, our two yorkies. They are the stars of today's picture of the day.

Let us in!

We've had quite a few dogs over the past couple of years. My wife Ana had a habit of adopting dogs from the animal shelters, getting them all their shots, plus spaying/neutering; then at some point, for one reason or another they just weren't a good fit with our family, so she'd end up finding them a (usually better than ours) home via Craigslist. I used to joke that maybe we should declare ourselves a pet rescue so I could deduct some of the costs on our tax return.

Well for about the last year, we went from being a "pseudo" pet rescue, to actually working with a couple of them. For a while after I came home from Afghanistan last spring we actually didn't have any dogs in the house. But then our neighbor behind us decided to foster a couple of dogs from a Killeen rescue that she found on Facebook: More Paws 2 Love. Before I knew it, Ana was asking me to help her fill out foster and adoption applications.

But then we found Leo at the Copperas Cove Animal shelter. It's funny though, before she was allowed to adopt him, I made Ana sign a contract in which she agreed that no matter what, we would be keeping Leo for at least 3 years (note: I expect he'll be with us for much longer than that). About a week later, I took him to the HEB parking lot to get shots, and made an appointment with Emancipet for low cost neutering. (we're all about saving money ;-))

Over the next couple of months, we fostered a couple of dogs. Then in the fall, while I was in Arizona, Ana fostered Peanut (looking in the window in the picture above), then decided she wanted to keep her. I made her verbally agree to the same conditions as with Leo ... no more "temporary" adoptions in the Morris house.

Finally, about a month ago, Ana discovered yet another local rescue: Tails of Happy Hearts. And that's where she found Stella (who you can barely see in the background of the picture). She's a full grown yorkie who weighs around 2lbs. Officially, I think we're still just fostering her, but I've got $150 in my wallet right now in case the lady who runs the rescue contacts me to make the adoption official before Ana gets home from Seattle and can do it herself.

That gets us up to 3 (small) dogs, which I think is enough for now.

Ana keeps hinting that she might want foster a Great Dane someday though. I think I'll need to find a good source for inexpensive healthy dog food first. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Replacing my MacBook Pro with a Chromebook

Am I crazy?

It's getting to be about time to replace my 6+ year old MacBook Pro, especially since I appear to have dropped it (or dropped something on it) during my trip home from Arizona in December. I cracked part of the screen, and bent the DVD/CD slot so no disk can be loaded. Besides that, it's been heating up really bad lately, it doesn't like flash at all (I have to disable it in the browser anytime I'm not using it), and I've had two unsuccessful attempts at installing RAM over the past year ... worked for a month or two, then started causing Kernel errors.

Anyhow, it's time for something new.

My original thought was to get a Mac Mini. That way I could just transfer all of my programs and files over, hook it up to my monitor, and carry on without too much being different. I'm running TimeMachine backups to 1TB portable drive, so it really would be almost seamless. The major drawback would be price. Even though it's by far the least expensive Mac option, by the time I put what I want on it, it would still cost over $700.

Then I got to thinking ...

Like most people, 99% of what I do on the computer involves the Internet. The exception being photo editing (I'll get to that in a minute). I wonder if I could get by with one of the new Samsung Chromebooks? At only $250, I could replace not only my machine, but also my wife's windows laptop (which is only a year or so newer than the Macbook), for significantly less than the Mac Mini would cost me.

Besides earning some brownie points with my wife, the second biggest advantage to getting Chromebooks is that I could quit paying for stupid anti-virus software subscriptions every year ... since everything is on the browser and in the cloud, the Chromebooks are very secure, and don't need antivirus software. Both of us already have gmail accounts, and I use the Chrome browser almost exclusively, so that part would be an easy transition.

As for potential drawbacks ...

At 11.5", the screen would be a little smaller than Ana is used to, but I think she'd get over it. I have a second monitor, and I can get an HDI to DVI cable to connect it to the Chromebook for less than $10 on Amazon. My only really major concern is photo editing. I shoot RAW images with my Canon dSLR, and process/edit them in Photoshop CS.

I think I can survive though. There are some pretty good options for online photoshop alternatives (I've actually used Aviary and Pixlr). Not sure if shooting RAW and trying to edit purely online would work. But worst case scenario, I'll just have to start shooting RAW+JPEG, and keep the MacBook Pro for (hopefully rare) cases where I really need the RAW image.

Now the only question is, when to pull the trigger and make the order.

And again, do you think I'm crazy?


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why Do Little Kids Love Bandaids?

bandaids The girls fall down pretty much every day walking home. Today was no different. They like like to pick flowers, pick up rocks, and chase butterflies as we walk across the big field near the school. Of course this means they're not always looking where they're going. Jaiden was the first to fall, but it was a minor spill, and she popped right up with barely a whimper.

Until we reached the other side of the field and crossed the road ...

Joey tripped on the curb and skinned her knee enough that there was a little drop of blood. Before she could start getting too upset, I offered that the cut looked bad enough to need a bandaid when we get home. The stopped the boo boo in it's tracks, she was happily down the sidewalk in search of more flowers.

Meanwhile ...

Jaiden now has a really hurt look on her face, and is closely examining her wrist to see if there's any blood ... and obviously disappointed that it appears to be a totally blood free scrape. Just before I'm quite certain she's about to break into tears, I let her know that yes, she can have a bandaid too.

All is again right with the world.

lol, from a marketing perspective, can you imagine an easier product to sell? Seriously, little kids actually want to bleed just so they can have a bandaid. Slap a Hello Kitty or Sponge Bob design on there, and they'll cover themselves with a whole box full of bandages if their parents leave it anywhere within reach.

How did we develop such a love affair with this little piece of padded adhesive? Through 20 years, and 7 kids, I've yet to have one who doesn't "suffer" from this "addiction".

Any thoughts?

Keep havin FuN!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Making Our Own Valentine's Day Cards This Year

This year, mommy is going to get an extra special Valentines Day card, that can't be bought in any store ...


Back in December, Joey and Jaiden decided to get dressed up in their colorful La La Loopsy duds and put on a mini fashion show for daddy. Of course I grabbed my camera and searched for spot in the house with some good light. They stood and sat on the stairs smiling and posing for a good 15-20 minutes. I got a lot of good pictures, but the consensus after I posted them on Facebook is that the one of above of two loving sisters having a kiss was by the far the best capture.

So when I started thinking about Valentine's day, it was almost required that I use that picture in some way or another. :-)

So I opened up my Pixingo studio, and searched for a card template. There was a whole section for Valentine's Day cards, and one above worked almost perfectly with the colors in the picture. I inserted the picture, and the front of the card is done!

LOL, now comes the really hard part ... I have to figure out what to write on the inside. :-D

I'm sure I can up with something.

Keep havin FuN!