St. Louis Basilica

While on vacation in Missouri, we went inside the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis. Oh. My. WOW! These are not paintings; they are mosaics. Millions of tiny pieces of glass!

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Senior Picture Controversy

One-Sided Spin on Rite of Passage

When I saw this Huffington Post story posted on Facebook this morning by Chris Parente, shared from the Colorado Everyday Show page, it struck a nerve … a BIG nerve. I have my topic for today’s blog post! Writing comes easily when it’s something you’re passionate about, and I am passionate about the value of photographs!

Colorado Everyday Show Facebook Post on Senior Pictures

This sparked comments that were mostly bent in the same direction. Some said they took their own photos in their backyards. Some had friends, aunts, and even a high school photography student take their senior photos (note: no one shared copies of these photos). Someone said they’d rather go to Sears. I guess they didn’t hear that Sears closed their portrait studios. ;) One person said that for $1200, you can buy an amazing DSLR [camera] and take your own photos. :D OK! Because that’s all it takes to make a great photo. Pffft! Here was my immediate comment when I saw this post:

But it’s OK to spend hundreds on an iPhone (probably more than twice with newer models constantly coming out), thousands on Apple computers, who knows how much on designer clothes and shoes? Future generations will consider photographs priceless treasures. Sure, snapshots will also be treasured, but splurging a LITTLE on professional portraits (be they senior photos, family portraits, or just because) not only gives you amazing quality but, if you find the right photographer, you also have a great time in the process! I can tell which senior photos in a yearbook were done by professionals and which were DIY. Buying a “fancy” DSLR camera is not all it takes to get fabulous photos. If you don’t learn and fully understand all that camera can do and just shoot in “P” mode, you’re not going to get photos that look any better than a pocket digital camera. True story! I think the price is overboard in this particular story. There are many photographers who do NOT charge that much (myself included). I believe everyone deserves great photos without breaking the bank. What I don’t understand are the professionals who make everyone look plastic. Now there’s a whole other story. :D

Then I tuned in and watched the segment on the show and came back to post this additional comment:

I just watched the segment and think you guys spun a pretty one-sided twist. But I guess that’s just how media works. What can ya do? Senior portraits, in many cases, are more for the parents than the teenager. So it’s not about spoiling a child in most cases. It’s one more thing to make senior year special. It doesn’t have to be that expensive. You read Maritza’s comment in favor of hiring a professional photographer but then added a comment about looking back on it and hating it hears from now. If it was done professionally, chances are pretty high you are not going to be embarrassed by the photos years from now. It’s the backyard snapshots done in harsh high noon sunlight that you’ll be embarrassed about.

The $1200 mentioned by the Huffington Post is apparently a national average. I can see that. There are very wealthy parts of the country that probably spend twice that on senior portraits, and there are areas who spend a fraction of that. The average amount spent on senior photos around us is probably closer to $300 or so.

Special photos for senior year is not a new concept. I went to a studio to have mine done nearly 30 years ago. I have no idea how much they cost, but I’m sure they were more than having the photographer hired by the school do them. It wasn’t a vanity issue then at all. That’s exactly the spin they were trying to put on it in this report. Vanity and being spoiled. There is a certain amount of vanity these days with all the social media networks. However, these photos are used in graduation announcements as well, and they represent a time in a teen’s life where they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Some are leaving the nest to go off to universities. Some are staying home to attend local universities, colleges, and trade/technical schools. Some are entering full-time jobs immediately. A few are getting married and moving out (or not moving out).

Senior portraits commemorate a rite of passage. That’s a priceless thing!


Shameless plug time! I’d be remiss if I didn’t promote my own photography here. I offer senior portrait photography as well as family and individual portraits and smaller weddings. See my website and my photography blog!

Elephant Passage at Denver Zoo

I had been waiting for this new exhibit to open at the Denver Zoo ever since it was first announced. It was to be called “Asian Tropics”, which I think they should have stuck with. Now it’s technically called “Toyota Elephant Passage”. Who ever heard of a Toyota Elephant?! Another example of a huge sponsor insisting on having their company name highly visible. I think it’s vulgar, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to go out and buy a Toyota. :D There are more animals in this exhibit than just elephants, too.

I debated on which blog to add this post to, but since it has more personal opinion (and snarkiness), I thought it belonged on my personal blog. ;)

The new exhibit is now home to two new male Asian Elephants, Groucho (41) and Bodhi (8). I thought it was going to be larger than it is, and I was disappointed with the view of the elephants through steel cables. I wish I had asked someone to explain the entire exhibit and exactly where all the elephants can roam. Here’s a map of the entire Denver Zoo. (Compare that to this map of the St. Louis Zoo, where African Elephants are found in the expansive River’s Edge exhibit.)

I did see something I’ve never seen before: Flying Foxes! Humongous bats! Don’t let the photo fool you into thinking this is only about 6 inches long. It was more like about 24 inches long!

I will always be partial to the St. Louis Zoo. It’s rich in history, has excellent exhibits, and is just beautiful all around. Plus, it’s FREE! :) I’m not bashing the Denver Zoo. I’d probably go more often if it were free.

These were my favorite shots from the day, and they aren’t even of animals!

From My Window | Fall Colors

When we moved here from Missouri over 11 years ago, we noticed there weren’t many mature trees in the neighborhood. At the time, our home was only nearly six years old. There were other subdivisions still in development nearby that didn’t have any trees at all. Some “transplants” are a little disappointed by that. I thought it was a small sacrifice to make in exchange for the beautiful mountain views. :) Look at us now! We have mature trees!!!

My apologies for the trashy photo! :D It’s trash day in the neighborhood!

See – we have more than just yellow in Colorado, too!

On a final note, it was a cold and frosty morning! This is a section of roof that extends over the rest of the garage that my office is directly above. Happy Fall everyone!

If Only for a Moment

Time was limited, but we rarely make it to the mountains and decided to take a drive anyway. Can you believe we live in Colorado and see these mountains from a distance just about every day but hardly ever truly experience them? Seriously! What the heck is wrong with us? We can come up with all sorts of excuses (many of them quite good actually) but if you really want to do something, you figure it out and make it happen – even if only for a moment.

Hallet Peak & Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I wasn’t overly impressed with the images I walked away with and think my time would have been more relaxing had I just picked a spot on a boulder and sat still for a while simply burning the image into my memory instead.

Also making the trip worth it was lunch at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Taphouse. Oh my heavens! That’s good stuff!

Super Moon Over Colorado – March 19, 2011

The ONE time I saw the moon rising and didn’t even realize it was the moon because it was so massively huge was in the summer of 2001 or 2002. We were headed back towards Boulder after spending the day at Rocky Mountain National Park. I kept trying to figure out what the heck this big yellow-orange tent-looking thing was in the distance. After several more minutes, it rose high enough to reveal itself, and I’ve never seen anything close to that since. I thought this evening’s super moon would be my chance to see this sight again, or even better according to NASA. But of course, there had to be a layer of clouds obscuring the moon’s first moments of glory on the horizon. It was still pretty fantastic to see it rising above those clouds, but it didn’t appear larger than normal to me at that point. Maybe because my hopes were set on that glorious vision I had seen that day after the mountains.

I had researched camera settings for moon photography. To my frustration, they lied! So most of my shots were all a frenzied experiment. I used my 70-200 f/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter. Here are the two money shots (pretty low dollar at that) taken at 400mm with “8″ being the magic number: ISO 800, f/8, 1/80.

Actually being there was even better. Unfortunately, no amount of post-production could bring out the electric lines and posts that framed the moon in my first few shots. It was a cool sight, and it was accompanied by the sounds of coyotes howling in the distance. For those familiar with the area, we drove out Quincy to the top of the hill past Aurora Reservoir.

Sigma 30mm F/1.4 DC HSM | Happy Bonus to Me!

The thought of one day owning a Canon 24mm f/1.4L USM will probably remain a just a thought for a very long time. Any Ls are but a dream at this point. So I looked into the Canon 28mm f1/8 USM, which specs weren’t that much different from the Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM but is about a grand cheaper. There’s a Sigma 28mm f/1.8 for a little less than the Canon, but it isn’t HSM (quite focusing) and had very conflicting reviews. Apparently there are a lot of bad copies with front-focusing issues.

Then I found a middle ground between the Canon 35 and the Canon 28 in a third-party lens, the Sigma 30mm 1.4 EX DC HSM. It was about the same price as the Sigma 28mm f/1.8, and it had excellent reviews. It came with the lens hood (the Canon does not) and in a nice, padded, zippered, nylon case.

I agonized over this decision for many reasons. My boss told me that I should use my bonus towards something special for myself, but I still struggled with feeling guilty about not using the money for needs vs. wants. Funny! Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Many unnecessary purchases in the past. Not the case anymore.

Another reason for the agony was the wonder … should I wait and save up for the L? Am I being impatient and settling for something less? So the L has more elements in more groups. I won’t even pretend I know exactly what that means. I know that if you know what to look for and look hard enough, you might see a slight difference in sharpness. I looked at enough photo samples from each, though, and this truly is a an amazing lens for the price.

On the other hand, there was a justifiable need for this lens. I realized this need after a photo shoot in a dimly lit, small space with a lot of people there. The wide aperture would have been the perfect solution, but even my 50mm f/1.4 required me to back up too much for the shots I wanted. If this lens had been in my bag then, the outcome would have been much different.

OK, so if you made it this far without hitting your back button or closing the tab, WOW! It would take many pages to really explain what all of the technical mumbo-jumbo means, so I just spit it out as briefly as I could. I hope to have the time tomorrow to give my new lens a workout so I can share some photos.


Earthquake & Tsunami Hit the Coast of Japan

Tsunami travels across the Pacific to Hawaiian islands and the west coast of the U.S.

Years ago, I didn’t pay much attention to weather phenomena that was far away. I didn’t think it had any impact on my local area. Wrong! It impacts the entire world in one way or another. It gives new meaning to the term “small world”. I normally don’t have the TV on in the morning or throughout the day while I work, but I have The Weather Channel on this morning. The internet is the best way to get up-to-the-minute updates on the situation.

Working for a vacation rental advertising venue, I see an impact there as well. After the obvious thoughts that turned immediately to those directly impacted in Japan, my thoughts went to the impact I will see at work today. Then I wondered how many people don’t even think about travel insurance when planning their vacations. Did you know this even exists? Check out for more info.

No major damage is expected on the Hawaiian islands or the U.S. west coast. There may be isolated incidents of damage. Six-foot waves were reported in Maui, a popular vacation destination, and three-foot waves elsewhere on the Hawaiian coasts. Two-foot waves are expected on the beaches of California, where they are mainly concerned about the currents and keeping people out of the water and off the beaches.

Economic impacts of natural disasters are felt worldwide. This will have a minor impact on our already rising food costs. The area impacted the heaviest is known for growing rice. Nearby aquaculture of shrimp and fish may also have been damaged. Japan’s largest expense, of course, will be in rebuilding. Read more in this New York Times article.

Weather and natural science fascinates me. Here are photos from when my husband and I chased a tornado. My motivation wasn’t to marvel at devastation but to get great photos. Learning the science of what causes weather changes and natural disasters is pretty cool, too.  Here’s an interesting read on the science of earthquakes.

The initial concern for damage in the U.S. from this tsunami is calming now. We may be able to breathe a sigh of relief, but my heart aches for those impacted in Japan.