All Your Photographs In Focus

If we take photographs that are blurred and out of focus in any way they are really worthless. The human eye immediately notices (and dismisses?) anything that is not in focus.

Modern digital cameras come with really excellent auto-focus systems built in to try and make this as easy as possible. Remember, however, that your camera is not magic! Just a little bit of help from the photographer can make a world of difference!

Remember it is always a good idea to pause for a split second when you have half pressed the shutter button to give your camera a chance to do its job of focussing properly.

With compact cameras there are really two auto-focus methods that could concern us -

Firstly there is the ‘infra-red bounce’ or ‘Active’ method where your camera emits a red beam to measure the distance to the subject. If you have one of these do not put your finger over the beam light when taking a picture – you will not get any focus!

Then we have the ‘contrast measurement’ or ‘Passive’ method. In this a special sensor measures at which point the lens produces an image with the highest level of contrasting pixels – best focus. The camera needs something with contrast so if your camera struggles to focus try turning it on its side or look for something with more contrast which the camera can recognize.

Modern cameras are amazing – many of them now come with ‘image stabilization’ a really intriguing invention that helps to prevent the camera shake which can give you a blurred picture.

This is really useful but it is not magic! You still have to help your camera by holding it as steady as possible – how many people do you see taking pictures holding the camera with one hand? It looks cool and casual but does not lead to good, sharp pictures. The only time you should take a picture with the camera in one hand is when you need the other hand/arm to hang on, to stop yourself falling off a cliff.

At the best of times the human body is not a great camera stand – it moves too much but, if we hold the camera with two hands and, where possible, anchor our elbows against the body, it can do a pretty good job.

Practice holding the camera as steady as possible (it also helps you to think about the picture you are taking) and you will get better pictures.

When the light starts to fade you have a new challenge as your exposure times can get too long to hand hold your camera. The best solution is a tripod but resting your camera on a wall or a rock can work just as well. Just be sure that it is stable!

‘Keep it Steady’ should be the constant refrain in your mind when taking photographs and you will be impressed at how the quality of your images improves!

When It’s Time to Shift Priorities

I’m a perfectionist. Always have been. And sometimes it drives me crazy.

Like most ‘Type-A’ people, there isn’t enough time in the day to be a perfectionist about everything, so we often prioritize areas of our lives where our standards need to reach their highest, and those where we can allow the ‘good enough’ standard to rule.

And again, like others, the areas that I’ve chosen for the most attention (where I have the highest standards) have remained relatively the same throughout my adult life: school and work performance, parenting, relationships, personal style, and the appearance of my home, office and cars.

The rest of my life is relegated to the ‘good enough’ category and, unfortunately, fitness, due to time constraints… or at least that’s what I tell myself, often finds itself in this one!

Being a ‘perfectionist’ in these many areas doesn’t mean that I actually reach perfection. Far from it. Just ask my husband. Or my son. Or my friends.

All it means is that I try my hardest in the areas that mean the most to me. But when I fail to meet those very high standards, I’m not very good at forgiving myself; however, just as I recommend to my clients in my role as their psychotherapist, I pick myself up, brush myself off, and allow myself the freedom to make mistakes, to make any amends that might be necessary, and to move forward. Period.

The area of ‘perfection’ that I’m addressing today is the appearance of my home. As I just mentioned, it’s been one of my ‘key’ focus areas, and today it so remains but I’m beginning to rethink its placement on my list.

That doesn’t mean I no longer care what it looks like; instead, it just means it no longer needs to look like a museum at all times of the day. Nor like it’s waiting for a photographer from Better Homes and Gardens to arrive.

Why the change in priority?

Simple: D.O.G.S.

I’ve previously had dogs in my life and my home remained relatively camera-ready ‘perfect’. How? I’m not sure. Just a lot of time and attention. It was much larger, perhaps that made it easier.

At that time we brought home the kind of dogs where new owners are warned “Beware of Hair”.

And yes, there was a lot of it. Everywhere.

But between my house cleaner and the occupants of our home all was kept manageable. Almost ‘perfect’.

That was 17-years ago and lots has changed since then… except for my love of dogs.

In this new era, we downsized to a place one quarter the size of our previous home. Kids gone, the dogs moved on to heavenly pastures and life became simple. For a while.

The new place was beautifully decorated. Clean, shiny, new.

A few years later, we were informed our building had become ‘pet-friendly’. I was thrilled. And, soon after I brought home a new puppy, ‘shiny and new’ was replaced by crates, playpens, baby gates, indoor pee pads for house-training, an outdoor puppy potty area, and a ton of colourful toys that refused to blend in with the colour palette that I’d chosen for our living room.

Did I mention he had firehose diarrhea for two months?

Dining room chair legs became teething sticks, wet and muddy paws marked our lovely cream-coloured sectional (even after multiple washing – sofa AND dog), and carpet corners began to fray.

My previously gorgeous array of spring and summer flowers have become absent because, well, my dog will eat them – and the soil – and the pots – and I can’t afford the astronomical vet bills that would inevitably follow.

OMG.

Benson and Mack And then I brought home one more. The ‘beware of hair’ kind. Really? Why?

My husband shook his head wondering whether I’d lost my mind. I did but somehow I’ve never regretted it.

It was then that I began to wonder whether I’d changed.

Where were my ‘camera-ready’ standards?

Was I losing a desire to be viewed in a certain way by others? Did I not care anymore?

WHO AM I?

Would my standards return once the dogs became old and docile? Maybe, but I’m not anxiously awaiting that time. Instead, I love having dogs back in my life. Like children, they teach us what’s really important in life, and moreover, what’s not. And having a ‘perfect’ looking home is not, at least to me at this time in my life.

Don’t misunderstand me. The appearance of my home is still important but not the way it used to be. I think I was trying to impress others rather than taking the time to actually enjoy living in it… really living in it.

So I make sure it looks great at the end of the day but we all get to enjoy the space in a way that I didn’t previously allow.

It’s a priority change, for sure, and not one that I’ve let go of as easily as it seems. For example, I still do have our wonderful house cleaner to help me mop up all that hair, the constant nose smudges on the mirrored closets, and other associated dog-related traces in our home.

And, to be honest, from time to time, I miss the ‘camera ready’ elegance that I was once surrounded with, and at those times, I yearn for the time where I can put the crates to bed permanently and to patching and replacing all the places that were used for teething.

But one thing is for sure: I’ll never regret the quality of life that was brought into our small living space by our two wonderful dogs. They add to my life the way a perfectly-designed home never did.

They add much-needed laughter to my life to counter the challenges I face with the kind of jobs that both my husband and I have.

They force me outside when I don’t feel like it and so the ‘good enough’ relegation of fitness is now moving upwards on my priority scale thanks to my dogs.

So it’s a win-win for all of us.I hope they both live forever.

In the end, I realize the things I wanted to control, like having the perfect home, limited the fuller life that was awaiting me. Now, I wonder, what else do I need to let go of?

How about you?