Posted in photography, photography tips, raw

Advice for shooting photos in low light

Since I live in the north and our winter months are often cold and dark, the key word being dark, I’ve learned to adapt to shooting in low light so I can photograph my family even when we are stuck inside during the depressing winter months.

Over the years I took a couple of classes on Clickin’ Moms, searched the YouTube archives and scoured the internet for articles to learn how to do improve my low light photographs, something that has proven to be beneficial for freelance assignments, in addition to personal photos.

I thought I’d share a couple of low light tips here, after being inspired by YouTuber Peter McKinnon. Remember, these are all simply tips, and not a list of “rules.” Your photography is your own.

1) Shoot manual.

If you don’t know how to operate your camera manually, I suggest you take a class, or simply look online, and learn how to do so, because being able to adjust settings manually is key to capturing low light images. Knowing how to adjust your camera manually allows you to adjust your aperture, your ISO and your shutter speed, setting it where it is needed to capture your subject, no matter the lighting situation. Most importantly, learning how to operate your camera manually (which is the “M” stop on your camera dial) gives you unfettered control of your photography.

As a self-declared control freak, this fact is a welcome one for me. It’s one of the few times in my life I feel like I have been given control over something and at times I find myself wild with power – adjusting settings like a convict running through the streets after they have just been released from prison. Okay, that was a horrible analogy, but you know what I mean. I like to have control over my photography because when I do I have freedom to create the images I see in my mind.

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2) Open wide that aperture.

The wider the aperture, the more light is let into the camera, which is basic photography knowledge. Widening the aperture is one of the best ways to grab amazing bokeh during brighter lighting situations, but in lower light, it’s the best way to capture a scene without it being underexposed. Using your light meter in the camera can help you to determine if your scene is too dark or too bright. Your aperture is adjusted by your “f-stop”, if you’re new to this photography stuff.

3) Increase your shutter speed.

If you’re finding you are getting a lot of blur in your low-light images, because the wide aperture is narrowing your depth of field, you’ll need to increase your shutter speed to help capture movement. This is especially helpful for parents photographing their children. Increasing your shutter speed, however, will, of course, make your scene a little darker.

You may ask how you can increase your shutter speed if your aperture is open so wide and the answer to that is your ISO, which you will need to increase to help brighten a darker scene.

4) Increase your ISO.

Your ISO is like your film speed, if you were using a film camera, but you’re most likely not because this is 2018 and everyone has a digital camera at this point.

If you want to get a brighter scene in a low light situation, you’ll need to raise the ISO, which can cause some grain, or noise, in your image, but grain isn’t always a bad thing. Grain can add character, or a more documentary feel to the image. And if you don’t like grain, hopefully, you are using a camera that either handles noise well or lets you shoot in RAW, which brings me to the next tip: shoot in RAW.

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5) Shoot in RAW.

While the goal should always be to get it right in the camera, there are going to be times the situation doesn’t allow for perfect lighting,, or the right settings. And for those times there is the RAW setting and luckily most advanced digital cameras today have a RAW setting.

For more information about what RAW means in relation to photography, check out this link.

Shooting RAW allows you to adjust your image in post-processing without causing damage to the quality, since RAW is simply the digital information for the photo, not the actual image. When a JPEG image is edited, repeatedly, for example, it degrades the image to the point of ruining it.

When you photograph in RAW you can take an underexposed image like this, for example,

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and raise the exposure in post edit to end up with a final image like this:

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without losing too much quality. If a great deal of noise remains you can use the luminance slider in Lightroom, which Peter discusses in the video below.

There are definitely more tips out there for low light photography than I am mentioning here, but the biggest hope is that by having a few tools under your belt to shoot in low light, you won’t shy away from doing so and will feel free to capture moments in your life no matter the lighting situation.

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To see Peter McKinnon’s tips on low light check out his video, below…

Any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments. If I don’t know the answer we can look for it together!

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For more photography tips or simple rambling about photography, rural life or motherhood, be sure to subscribe to my blog on the right sidebar. You can also find my photography at http://www.instagram.com/lisahoweler

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Posted in 10 on 10, photography

Finally some fall colors: 10 on 10 for November

We waited for it patiently and that patience finally paid off this past week when the leaves on our trees finally changed from dreary brown to bright yellow and then scattered the ground, creating a blanket of bright for us to walk in and inspect.

My daughter and I spent part of a day picking up leaves and tucking them away in her bicycle pouch if we (or rather she) deemed them pretty enough.

We still have one tree that hasn’t changed yet, but always changes late. The tree blesses us with amazingly beautiful and uniquely patterned leaves even as the cold weather sets in and the snow starts to fall.

This post is part of the monthly 10 on 10 blog circle where a group of photographers share ten photographs from the previous month on the tenth day of the month. Find the link to the next blog at the bottom of this post.

DSC_7581DSC_7601DSC_7629DSC_7655DSC_7661DSC_7670DSC_7688DSC_7759DSC_7771-2DSC_7662To continue the blog circle, please visit Erika Kao.

Posted in books and reading, Tell me More about

Tell Me More About . . . Maureen Wright, children’s book author

I remember the first time my son and I read a Maureen Wright book. It was “Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep,” the sweet story about a bear who is being reminded by Old Man Winter that he needs to sleep for the winter, but doesn’t seem to be able to hear him, so instead Big Bear ends up on a middle of the night adventure.

Each night we read it, we couldn’t only read it just once. My son would ask for it to be read again and again and it was one of the few books I didn’t mind repeating. The story is creative and catchy and the artwork by Will Hillenbrand is mesmerizing. Flash forward to now and there are now three Big Bear books and a collection of other books by Maureen that I now read to my 4-year-old daughter. Her current favorite is also Maureen’s best seller, “Sneezy the Snowman.”

What’s special about Maureen’s stories, beyond the fact they are a delight to read and the artwork is so stellar, is that they are written by someone who lives in the town my children and I now live in. Even though I’ve seen her often, either reading her book at the library, or selling her copies personally at local events, I still feel like I’m meeting a celebrity each time I see her, maybe because her stories have been such a part of the bonding time with my children.

I’m so thankful to Maureen for taking a few moments to answer some questions for this weeks Tell Me More About . . . feature and that I’m able to introduce her special books to my readers.

45095165_166161841001041_1170191499384586240_nCould you tell us a little bit about yourself, such as where you grew up, family, etc. ?

I grew up in Athens, PA. I met my husband, Don, at Main Elementary in Athens in fourth grade. We have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and three little grandsons We live in Athens Township in the old farmhouse his great-grandparents built in the 1880’s.

When did you realize you enjoyed writing?
I was in third grade when I knew I wanted to be a writer I was doing a writing homework assignment. I even remember where I was sitting in the house that I grew up in when this feeling came over me — an awareness that I loved to write.

 What made you decide to write books for children?

I loved reading books to my children when they were young It was my favorite thing to do with them.

What inspired you to write the Big Bear series?

I am a lot like Big Bear. We both usually think we are right and most of the time we are both wrong!

Which of your books seems to be the most popular among children?

“Sneezy the Snowman” is my best seller. I recently received a framed copy of the book from my publisher because it has sold over 100,000 copies. It was totally unexpected. At the time, I was waiting for my niece to mail me a picture frame. When I opened the package, I wondered, “Why did Anna put “Sneezy the Snowman” in the frame?” Then I read the plaque on the frame.

 What authors have inspired you over the years?

I have been inspired by any well-written rhyming book.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?

If I have a story I’m working on, I am excited to get out of bed in the morning to work on it. I read aloud my stories dozens and dozens of times to get the rhythm right. Whenever my cat Juanita hears me, she runs to my side and sits on the arm of the sofa. She is always the first one to hear my stories.

Do you have future projects coming up? Books or otherwise?

My next book is “Super Rooster to the Rescue” due out in August of 2020. Rob McClurkan is the illustrator. It will be my tenth picture book.

 Anything else you would like people to know about you or your books?

I love reading to children and encouraging them to follow their dreams. I was rejected by publishers for twenty years before an editor, Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish, took me under her wing. I will always be grateful to her for pulling my story out of “the slush pile.” (Unsolicited manuscripts on an editor’s desk.)


Do you know someone you think would be great for my Tell Me More About . . . feature? Maybe that someone is you! You, or the person you suggest, doesn’t need to be from my area to be featured. You can send any suggestions for features to lisahoweler@gmail.com or use the contact form at the top of the page.

Posted in creative tuesday, everyday musings

Creative Tuesday: The loss of time to be bored may be killing our creative buzz

My kid flops on the couch on his stomach, face smashed into the cushions and lets out an exasperated sigh.

He turns his face toward me, eyelids heavy and his words are full of whine:

“I’m sooooooo booooooored.”

While I once thought filling my children’s days with various activities was the key to keeping them out of trouble, and their mind engaged, I’ve started to embrace what I’ve heard others talk about – the importance of allowing ourselves to be bored, especially if we are a creative person.

That’s right – actually having nothing to do can be a blessing to us, not a curse.

When we are bored we stop, look around us, and find inspiration. When we are bored our brains wander and when our brains wander, they often stumble on creative, interesting ideas.

It’s no surprise that some of the greatest innovations of our time came during a time in life when things moved slower and there were fewer distractions from technology.

Technology is a double-edged sword for creativity. It benefits us by connecting us to so many, getting our creations seen by others, and by adding a different dynamic to how we create. But technology also hampers us by filling our brains with so much information and distraction that we rarely slow down to simply listen to our own hearts and visions. And if we are too wrapped up in technology it will actually completely suffocate our creative voice.

Many of us are guilty of being addicted to social media. As easily as we can find ourselves trapped in a Youtube spiral (where we jump from video to video until we are bleary-eyed) we can find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole of comparison when we follow several artists in our particular medium. Even if we are not comparing when we are on social media, we are easily distracted on sites like Facebook and Instagram, so much so that we may find ourselves wasting most of our day on our phone or sitting at our computer and that is time we could have been using to create and truly experience life.

I recently downloaded a book into my Kindle by Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist who found herself face-to-face with boredom in 2007 when her first child was born and never wanted to sleep. The iPhone had just started to become popular (can you believe it’s only been about 10 or 11 years since the iPhone/smartphone started taking over our world?!) and she found herself walking several miles a day to help the baby sleep. As she walked her mind wandered and she began to dream of what she would do when she could sleep and work again. She came up with ideas of how she could work at home while also being a mother and all went well until she started using the smartphone everyone else was using; to help make her life and work easier.

She found that every “down moment” she had was filled with wasting time on the phone and that left little time for imagining or thinking about new ideas. So when it came time to create for the podcast she had conceived while at home with her baby, her brain was empty. She realized that one reason she didn’t have any more new ideas was that she was never bored. She never gave her brain any time to rest.

After talking to neuroscientists about what happens when we are bored, she learned it is during those down times that our brains create new neural connections. When our brains are quiet they look back at our lives, create a personal narrative, and make plans for our future and for future projects, she was told.

The problem is that many of us never give ourselves time to be quiet and let our brain decompress, Zomorodi points out. We keep our brains busy constantly. We don’t simply watch a television show anymore. We watch a show while doing reports on our computer or listening to a podcast and scrolling through Facebook. Not only is this detrimental to us from a mental standpoint, but it’s also detrimental to us physically, for a variety of reasons, which Zomorodi details in her book and in her TED Talk.

When it comes to creativity we need those moments of boredom even more. We need periods of boredom to think, to imagine and to hear our inner, creative voice.

Many of us, myself included, equate boredom to laziness. This could not be further from the truth, as Zomorodi learned and many researchers are learning. And beyond what “experts” are learning, you can learn it yourself.

You’re not being lazy when you’re contemplating, working out creative ideas or thinking about what you hope for your future.

You’re letting your brain have the space it needs to open doors to creativity.

To hear more about Zomorodi’s findings, you can see her TED talk below or find her book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.”

Posted in everyday musings, Faithfully Thinking

Faithfully thinking: I may not think, speak or do things like you but God can still use me

“To be honest, I don’t know why I even write anymore,” I thought to myself one morning. “I don’t know much about anything and I’m full of very little wisdom. I’m a mom and a wife and I take photos for myself and that’s about it. I’ve never written a book, I don’t have a thriving business and last school year I was called a bad parent and it makes me try too hard at this blasted homeschooling thing.”

Cleaning the house? Don’t get me started. Actually, if you did get me started I would be completely overwhelmed and would end up in a fetal position crying and still nothing would get cleaned.

Cooking? I try my best but I often find myself imagining that cardboard with salt would taste better than my dinners.

Parenting? Last week my daughter bit her brother in the shoulder because he was sitting in the chair she wanted and my son is addicted to Minecraft. I have a huge “Fear of Missing Out ” (FOMO) problem but it’s mainly focused on my children because I already know I’m missing out and I’m so tired every single day of my life I don’t even care.

In other words, I’m a mess, or so I feel most days.

My one comfort is knowing I’m not alone, that I may be a train wreck but somewhere in this world there is another mom in another house feeling as inadequate as me.

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And despite how we feel, the truth is we are loved, we are worthy and we can be used by God even when others have written us off. I express doubts often and recently, after three weeks of trials stacked one on top of another on top of our family, I tossed out a few words of doubt on Facebook about whether or not God even cares for us.

I received an admonishment from a fellow Christian who told me: “Repent of your thinking” because nothing comforts a person dealing with trials by telling them they’re falling short in their Christian walk.

Those scolding comments are something that tends to make me pause and decide I’m not worthy to talk about faith or Christ, wonder why I even thought I should, and lead me to withdrawal within myself and vow to keep my inferior opinions to myself. The truth is, though, we are all on our own journey and on that journey we are going to stumble more than once.

DSC_5409Maybe God can use me even if I have doubts and I express them and I say things that don’t fit your idea of what a “good Christian girl” should say or should be. Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Those comments that don’t sound “Biblical” to you or don’t fit your personal narrative, those comments I throw out there in a moment of frustration or under the heavy burden of trial after trial after trial in a short amount of time, don’t dismiss me from God’s list of people who can be used for His Kingdom.

As I heard Pastor Steven Furtick say in a recent sermon: “There is nothing wrong with you that isn’t right with God.”

If you’re like me and feel your imperfect attitude disqualifies you from speaking your feelings about faith and God, let’s remind each other God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and maybe what some of us are called to do is let our messy moments show so others know they’re not alone.

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To can also see my photography at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or Lightstock.

Posted in creative tuesday, everyday musings

Creative Tuesday: Just take the photos already

So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.

Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.

I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.

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DSC_0290-2DSC_0008A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.

Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.

But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.

So pick up that camera.

Pick up that paintbrush.

Pick up that pen.

Put those fingers on the keyboard.

Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.

You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?

For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.

It's better to create something

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

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Posted in everyday musings

Oh my gosh! I’m alone for 20 minutes! Grab the remote, a cup of tea, a snack and run a bath! Hurry!

I wave to the husband and the kids and smile, sitting calmly in the chair, surprised by the sudden time alone.

They pull away from the house and still I sit, appearing to be calmly contemplating what to do with myself. But inside my mind is racing.

I jump up and race for the kitchen.

My thoughts are jumbled but determined.

Oh my gosh! I’m alone for 20 minutes! Grab the remote, a cup of tea, a snack and run a bath! Hurry!

They’ll be back before you know it and you’ll be back to fetching juice boxes and arguing over how many more math problems he has to do before he’s done with school for the week.

Tea. Tea. Tea.

Where are the tea bags? Where are they?! Oh! Here they are! Yes!

The dog is by the door. No. I don’t have any time for letting a dog out. I must hurry.

Ross Poldark is waiting for me.

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Let the dog out onto the porch, but her lede is stuck around the slide. Unhook the lede from the slide, hook her up, coax her out the door, run back inside, out of the biting cold wind that came with the temperature drop.

Put a cup of water with a tea bag in it in the microwave, put some peanut butter on some rice crackers, take the tea out and add some honey and then tip the entire cup full over, onto the counter and down to the floor.

Yell, “Damn and blast! Damn and blast!” in my best Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady voice. (Special note that I only approve of “swearing” if it can be said in one’s best Rex Harrison voice.)

Don’t be discouraged. Keep going.

Clean up the mess and put another cup of water with a tea bag in the microwave.

Once the mess is cleaned up and the tea is done rush to the living room and click play on Poldark, who is deep in brooding mode (yet again) while I copy photos to a flash drive and tap out the first draft of this blog post and then start the Sunday Salon post for Sunday about what books I’m reading.

Halfway into an over-dramatic scene between Ross and Elizabeth, the front door swings open and kids and bedraggled looking husband emerge. Total time alone: 20 stinking minutes, if that.

Trips to Walmart with two kids takes me an hour, maybe longer. For my husband? Twenty stupid minutes.

Damn and blast, indeed, Rex.

Posted in everyday musings

Quieting the creative voices of others so you can hear your own

I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught an interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper. Ellen asks Bradley if he is on social media at all, although she admits she already knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” she feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since he was there to talk about a movie he was filming, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson.
Lady-Gaga-and-Bradley-Cooper-in-A-Star-is-Born-2018-670x335Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
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We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen. Or maybe we think can do the same, but end up disappointing because we never give ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half,l before creating what many are calling a masterpiece. He had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are I do think abstaining from it strengthens his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.