December 21, 2011

Like Fish In A Barrel

It started out back in 2009 as a water feature -- a half-barrel to catch the water that flowed through the rainchain from the roof gutters. We found a waterproofed half-barrel at a garden center, where we also bought the marginal aquatic plants, Dwarf Giant Papyrus, Powdery Thalia, and Pickerelweed. We got a lotus bulb but it never woke up.


We weren’t really planning on having fish in the barrel but stagnant water would mean breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, I assigned a couple of Goldfishes and a Platy from our aquarium to take care of the mosquito larvae that could populate the barrel. All went well until winter came.

January 2010 was fierce; it froze the barrel, together with everything in it. I was devastated, not only because the fish and most of the plants died, but also because it didn’t even occur to me that I actually had the means to prevent the imminent disaster.

Frozen water. See dead fish in the center of the photo.

The following winter, I was prepared. As soon as the weather cooled down, I put an aquarium heater in the barrel and made sure that the setting was just right – no ice cube fishies, but no fish stew either. Everyone survived.

Last summer, I added more fish. I introduced a few tropical livebearers, both male and female, and let nature take its course. The barrel is now teeming with Guppies, Platys, and Swordtails.

We had our first chilly morning a few weeks ago, and no, we didn’t forget to install the heater. We won't let Mother Winter mess with our pets again, even if they are fish in a barrel.

December 8, 2011

Goodbye Auto Mode

A few months ago, Groupon offered a discount on a photography workshop to be held in Orlando, conducted by I took the 4-hour “The Ultimate Camera Experience” workshop with the matching 2-hour “The Ultimate Camera Expedition” location shooting scheduled for December 2nd. The lecture was at the Sheraton Safari Hotel, and the shoot at Downtown Disney, just 10 minutes away from home.

It was essentially a basic course on DSLR photography – understanding ISO, aperture, shutter speed, metering, etc., and knowing how to control them in your camera. I knew all that, since I’ve had my Canon Rebel T2i for more than a year and my Canon S3IS for a couple of years before that.  I was really more curious about the workshop itself (how it would be conducted) rather than the photography basics.

Surprisingly, at the end of the day, I actually learned something important and photography-related. Our wonderful (she was awesome!) facilitator was professional photographer Stephanie Adriana. After listening to her share her shooting techniques and personal experiences, I discovered that there was, indeed, an easy and methodical way to shoot in Manual mode.

Stephanie at location shooting.

My action shot in "shutter priority" mode.

So, wow, I can now shoot, quite confidently, in Manual mode! No more getting nervous and rattled and defaulting to Auto mode when shooting in a pinch! I would say that’s a lesson that was worth more than what I paid for that 6-hour workshop. The chance to mingle with fellow camera enthusiasts was a bonus. Getting a laminated cheat sheet from the workshop -- priceless.

Below are some of the photos I shot after the workshop, all in easy-peasy manual mode, without the headache from second-guessing the camera settings (click on any image for a high-res slideshow of all photos). Thank you, Stephanie!

Our bikes in the driveway on an overcast day.
The hot-air balloon ride at Downtown Disney, where we had our location shooting.

Mike's Boss bike. Shot with a zoom.

Our Blue-and-Glitter-themed Christmas tree.

My CD-ripping project workstation.