Photo Faves – How to Shoot the Moon

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Christmas Eve Blue Moon – December 24, 2015

I always wanted a great shot (or two or nine) of the moon. Oddly enough, though, no matter how dramatic and beautiful the moon looks outside, it seems the moon is always just a huge, glowing blob of nothingness in photos, isn’t it?  Well, this was always the case in my photos, until I did a little research.

I love photography, but I never officially studied it. I got a great camera, and then a greater one, read a little here and a little there, and then I took about 670 billion photos for practice (give or take).  Finally, I followed the advice I found in a great little “Digital Photography” book by Scott Kelby. (I love this book because each page provides a great photography tip for getting just the right shot, including how to get a detailed photo of the moon.)

I took these shots of the 2015 Christmas Eve blue moon from my front yard. (Yes, from the yard.) I used a Sony Alpha a550 DSLR camera with the longest lens I have. You absolutely must have a tripod, but my tripod is currently broken – completely jacked up – so I had to “wing it” a bit.

See, I learned a couple of great rules (and how to break them) from Scott Kelby’s book , and they are the only reasons I managed to get these shots. They are:

  1. A tripod is essential for a sharp shot of the moon’s detail. But when one’s tripod is jacked up, one’s camera’s built-in timer will save the day.
  2. Go super-fast on the shutter. The challenge of shooting the moon is not that it’s dark outside and the camera can’t see the moon well. It’s actually the opposite. The moon is super bright, especially in relation to the blackness of the sky around it, and the shutter speed has to be super fast or the whole shot will be blown out – nothing but a big blob of white.

So, to grab these shots, I walked outside and lay down on my belly and put the camera on the ground in the yard. (Yes, I was on the ground in December. Like a crazy person. Or a drunk person.)  I lined up the shot and zoomed in as far as I could, then lined up the shot again because I lost sight of the moon.  Then I grumbled a little and might have cursed.  Then I found the moon and got it in focus. (I was pretty sure, at least. Very nearly sure. Sure-adjacent perhaps.)  Then I set the camera on shutter priority and tried roughly a 1/1000th of a second (-ish) shot.  I also set a 2-second timer on the camera so when I pressed the shutter, it didn’t fire until my hands were clear and couldn’t shake the camera. (Tada! Like having an invisible tripod.)

Then I simply pressed the shutter and stepped away from the camera.  (OK, wiggled away. I was still on my belly, after all.)

Two seconds later, there was a click, and voila! Like magic, I had my first moon shot with sharp detail showing craters aplenty. Woohooooo!  I was pretty stoked.  And cold.  So I headed inside to check them out.

As I studied them, I found that these shots gave me such a close-up view of the moon it inspired me to do a bit of research so I could know what I was seeing a little better. For instance, the three side-by-side blobs are the Seas of Serenity, Tranquility and Fertility, respectively.  The one above them all by itself? The Sea of Storms. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the storms are far, far away from tranquility and serenity? Just sayin’…)  And that thing down south that looks like the moon’s bellybutton?  That’s the crater called Tychus, which is almost three miles deep and over 50 miles wide (which is seriously deep as bellybuttons go). And those spokes that branch out in all directions from it are up to 900 miles long and more. Imagine an asteroid impact that makes a hole that deep and wide and sends projectiles rolling 900 miles in each direction… it’s a biggie!  So. Cool.  (Unless you’re standing where the asteroid hits, I guess.) But I digress…

 

So, now that I have these fairly close shots of the moon’s surface, I realize I want to get even closer. Santa brought me a telescope for Christmas last year, so the next step is to figure out how to use it with my camera. At least then I won’t be lying on the ground in the middle of December…

 

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Bible Journaling Faves

A few months ago, I discovered something called “Bible Journaling.”  Well, in reality I guess it was people at work at DaySpring.com who did the discovering when they met Shanna Noel of Illustrated Faith (amazing). But when my colleagues brought it to my attention, my first thought was, Oh yeah… I’m in for that.

What is it? Basically, it combines writing and art with Bible study and is a great way to experience the Word instead of just reading it. In its simplest form, I read the Bible and then reflect on what I’ve read with some creativity on the pages of a journaling Bible – maybe some written words, maybe some stickers, maybe some splashes of paint. What I find is that when it’s all finished I have both a better understanding and a stronger connection to what I’ve read than ever before.

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My title page – Jeremiah 17:7-8

 Illustrating Bible

Here are a few examples of entries in my current journaling Bible:

  • My title page. Based on Jeremiah 17:7-8, I used colored pencils and some watercolor pencils to draw this tree and river scene that brings to mind the Scripture to which it refers: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord… He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

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  • My “do not fear” page: I wrote this entry shortly after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The Scripture in which God promises that we will not fear the terror of the night was a real comfort to me.

 

These two pages were ones I did to feature one of my favorite photos of my Mom just a few months after she passed away. In Revelation 19, God promises that there will be no more mourning and tears, and “death shall be no more.” I “tipped in” (meaning taped into the Bible with washi tape) a vellum sheet with the photo of my mother, and on the back I wrote a prayer of gratitude for my mother… in all her messy glory. She wasn’t perfect, but she was mine and I loved her.

And finally, this crazy page was about a favorite Scripture in John, when Christ says, “It is finished,” just before He died on the cross.  It’s actually a Scripture that I wrote about for a Good Friday devotional article for DaySpring (my employer) based on a sermon that really touched me a while back.  (Check it out! The article is “When He Said, ‘It is Finished,’ He Was Talking About Me.”)

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When He Said, “It is Finished,” He Was Talking About Me

Want to see more Bible journaling entries?  Check back later. It’s basically my new addiction, so I promise there are more to come!

-Melody

Fresh Starts for Spring

I spent some time planting this weekend. The weekend weather was mild and beautiful, and it was a perfect time to grab some starter herbs and vegetables and poke them into planters filled with potting soil. I love to play in the dirt just as much as I did when I was a little girl.

SONY DSCToday, I started organic mint and basil plants in pots and a big container of special heirloom tomatoes called Arkansas Travelers, which the man at the farmers’ market in Fayetteville told me were the “famous Arkansas pink tomatoes.” I planted it all while daydreaming about fresh, homemade pesto and mojitos.  (Mmmmm…)

 

I also spent a little time in the flower garden poking petunias into the ground by the dozen. I love that they “creep” as they grow, spreading blooms like a blanket across the ground.

Tonight, after a little rain, I snapped some photos of the petunias. I love the bright, happy colors, and I love the promise that there will be more and more as the season goes on.

 

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I spent a lot of time digging in the dirt on my hands and knees, which left me lots of time to give some thought about what else I might plant… for myself. I have a few strong cravings in my life right now, and I’m giving real thought to how to feed them.

My thinking is this – I need to plant a handful of simple things in my life, like:

  • Some seeds of bravery, refusing to shy away from new things that might seem scary.
  • A spirit of surrender, trusting God with my plans and my future.
  • A focus on healthy self-care – approaching everything I do from the perspective of taking care of myself physically, spiritually and emotionally.

I want change for the better, and I want to see bright, beautiful new things spring up as a result!  Who’s joining me?

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Bright and beautiful.