This is Halloween, Everybody Make a Scene

 (title stolen from "This is Halloween" from A Nightmare Before Christmas.)

I've always been a big fan of Halloween. As a kid, it definitely was more for the candy, but it was also dressing up as something completely different for a night.  My dad would always take me out, until I got old enough to go with just my friends. When I was little I had the little trick-or-treat pumpkin basket, when I was older, it was a pillowcase, and we'd hit houses until the bags were too heavy to carry.

While all my childhood Halloween photos are at my parents, I found this photo floating around. I think I was 21, and decided to dress up as Obi-Wan Kenobi. This was also before I started wearing contacts occasionally, as you can tell.

With Peter, I'm happy to share my love of Halloween with him.  This year, since he's almost 2, we figured we could actually do stuff with him. Oh sure, we took him trick or treating last year, but only to a few houses, and we had to carry him:

Luke Skywalker carries Yoda

With all the Halloween goings-on this year, it was hard to narrow down exactly what to do, but we settled on the Colorado Railroad Museum:

Peter and Trenton

 Boo at the Zoo:

Boo at the Zoo.

and capped off the weekend with Trick or Treating:

Peter, Lily, Trenton, Addison

He definitely seemed to have fun at all the events.  The weather at the railroad museum was a little bit warm, so we put him back in his Yoda costume, which fit ok (it was a toddler size when we bought it last year).  However I believe I've created a monster in terms of candy.  Everytime somebody put something in his bucket, he'd immediately want to eat it, so I took to having a little bag of M&Ms in my pocket, and I'd give him one after each house.  Monday morning he saw the candy on the counter, and said "candy, candy" until we took it away.

Next year he'll probably be at the point where he can pick out his own costume, and won't have to be prompted to say "trick or treat" (he said it as "dee-dee-deet" this year :).

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The Worst Shot is the One You Don't Take (or: Morning Landscapes)

Somebody at Photoshop World, and forgive me since I don't remember who it was, said to their class that the worst photo is the one you don't take.  I've been trying to remember that whenever I mentally try to talk myself out of taking a shot.  One that's not perfectly set up, one where I think the lighting sucks, one where I have to go out of my way.  I've been trying to just take them all since it doesn't matter if it's perfect or not, as long as I'm taking photos.

Yesterday morning I was driving home from the morning karate instructor academy workout.  I hit a nice clear view area on my drive, looked off to my left in the distance, and saw a snow-capped mountain top sitting right next to just a plain old brown mountain top.  The plain brown one was obviously a much closer distance, and a much lower altitude, but I thought that was really cool. I didn't stop and take a photo at that time for 2 reasons. 1) I didn't have my camera (and if I had, I wouldn't have had my zoom lens on it most likely), and 2) I really didn't have time since I had to run home and eat lunch before going to my private lesson.  I put in my back of my head to go grab a photo this morning after dropping Peter off at daycare.

I set up the camera last night, and almost didn't grab it this morning since it was 45 degrees outside, but then I remembered that cool view, and tossed it in my car. After dropping Peter off, I honestly wasn't sure exactly where to stop to take it, so I headed back towards the dojo and figured I'd turn around at some point, and find a good spot.  Nothing looked good until I drove past the Majestic View Nature Center. Nothing in the way of the view, just clear grass, a pond, some trees off in the distance, and some distant houses.  A perfect venue.

I snapped off a few, trying to follow the tips I had picked up from the Composition Digital Field Guide by Alan Hess, and then decided to try a few HDR shots.  That seemed to go well. The funny thing is, in my mind I had a view of the shot I wanted.  When I got out there, I did take that shot, but took a bunch of others, and got one similar to my mental image, but better:


Processed in Photomatix Pro, enhanced with PhotoTools.

Finally I turned to head back to the car. At the last second before opening the door, I looked up past the car, and saw a house with a bunch of colorful trees around it.  Even though our weather had been weird lately (cold, really windy, then warm again, then cold at night, etc...), the leaves on these trees decided to hang on for awhile longer. I re-set up the tripod, and came away with this bonus shot:

The last of the fall foliage

This HDR I processed in Photoshop, but again enhanced it in PhotoTools.

Both of these photos I took within 5 miles of my house. 

Fear and the Art of Daycare

I'm in a really pissy mood today, and only part of it has to do with the lack of sleep I'm going on.  I'll preface this whole thing by saying that I absolutely love our daycare, it's definitely more like sending Peter to school.  I know it's not their fault at all for what I'm going through today, however, I think the whole "think of the children" mentality has gotten completely out of hand.  I understand the need for a state licensing board, and rules, and such, but it'd be nice if they put a few less helicopter parents on the board, and more people who didn't freak out over every little thing.

So my poor little boy has a really red butt. It's not diaper rash, it's just he's had an upset stomach so he's had to be wiped more times than normal, so that's taking its toll.  Ok, fine.  All I want is daycare to use some sort of baby powder or corn starch or something after they change him to keep it dry.  Nope, they're not allowed to do that because according to the state licensing board, there's a danger of powder inhalation.

K....I've been using baby powder on him for almost 2 years now, and there hasn't been one single time when I used so much powder that he was in danger of breathing it in.  If you're constantly creating a powder cloud when you change your kid, then maybe, just maybe, you're using too much.  They used to be able to use corn starch on the kids, but new regulations went through saying they couldn't use any powder products at all.

I'll take a break here to note that as I was having this conversation with the director inside the classroom, one of the kids ran headfirst into the corner of the table, bumping her head pretty badly, and started bawling uncontrollably.  I don't see the state banning tables because kids could run into them.  Or food, because the kids could choke on that.

Fine, plan B - I call his doctor to see what my options are.  "Oh no problem," they say, "just mix up some Maalox and Aquafor and put that on his butt after each change."  Awesome, I now have a solution.  I go buy each product - over the counter, I might add - go to daycare, mix it up in front of 2 of his teachers, apply it, and give them the rest of it to use when they need it.

An hour later I get a phone call.  "Oh we talked with our nurse, and we can't give him this mixture without a doctor's orders and having it be mixed by a pharmacist."  Why?  Apparently as a parent, I could put anything in that mixture and they wouldn't know it.  Does it matter that both products are over the counter? No.  Does it matter that 2 of his teachers SAW me mix it? No.  Does it matter that the only person it would affect is my kid? No.  Does it matter that they know me much better than Joe Random Pharmacist working at the Walgreens? No.  Does it matter that it's a topical ointment? Nope.

What should've taken literally 5 minutes to complete has now consumed most of my day, and it's still not over. I'm waiting for the doctor to call the pharmacy to have them mix the evil Maalox and Aquafor together. By the time that's done, the day will be over and my kid's butt still won't have gotten treated. 

Oh, and as a side note about licensing rules gone weird - a few weeks ago one of his teachers mentioned to me that my son was doing better eating with a spoon. I mentioned to them that he uses a fork at home and never really uses a spoon anymore. They said they weren't allowed to give the toddlers forks because they could stab themselves.  Man, I looked around that room, and saw maybe 20 things that kids could hurt themselves with, and that was at a quick glance.  Maybe parents shouldn't even drive their kids to daycare anymore because more kids get hurt in car accidents.  

What's my conclusion? I don't really have one, honestly, other than I'm completely flabbergasted that I, as a parent, and my doctor aren't allowed to have my daycare give my kid something over the counter.  I'm scared to think of how bad the "think of the children" rules are going to be once he hits elementary school.

Rant over. I feel a little better...slightly.

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Karate and the Rocky Mountain Tournament

I started doing karate at the end of February 2009 as a way to get back in shape after having Peter. That was honestly just my main goal. Within a couple of months, I realized that, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. When I say "much to my surprise", I mean it. My dad took my brother to karate way way way back when we were kids (I think I was 12 or 13), and while I was really into sports, karate just never interested me. My brother lost interest very quickly, and that was that. I never thought about it after that.

My first tournament was in April of 2009. I was still a little white belt, and was scared and nervous to death. I mean, I'd been to tournaments in the past (softball, and several hockey ones), but this was karate! Would I get my butt kicked? Everyone would be so much better than me! Sensei Jennifer had lots of experience with people like me in the past, so she talked me into it. My parents happened to be in town this weekend, so Leif and Linnea went with me. We got there just as all the chief instructors were performing. Just seeing them really adrenalized me, and got me excited to do my stuff.

My first ever sparring match.

Getting a kick in during sparring

My Pinan 1 Kata. Yes, I did Pinan 1 as a white belt!

Pinion 1

While I did come in second in sparring, and first in kata, I quickly realized that wasn't the point. Well, ok, winning is always awesome, but I just had so much fun! Seeing the chiefs perform, meeting people from other dojos, overcoming my nerves to do the best I could and gaining extra confidence...THAT was the point.

Over the months I gained more belts, and when I was an orange belt, I decided it would be fun to become an instructor. Not full time, mind you, but part time would work to get me some extra training, and be able to teach kids and adults what I knew. I got my instructor belt when I was a purple belt, and just a month before the next tournament. This time I helped pass out the trophies.

Between tournaments this time I got my blue belt. If there was ever a belt test that almost killed me, it was this one. While I can't say too much about the test, I will say to Sensei Frankie that dude, you're awesome, but I really thought you had it in for me. But I survived.

In May of 2010, another tournament occurred, while I was a blue belt. I didn't know what my helper role this time would be, but a couple of weeks before the tournament, Sensei Frankie saw me and asked if I wanted to help with trophies again since I did such a good job last time. This time instead of just helping to hand them out, I was the first point of contact for the chiefs if they had questions about what ring they needed to go to, giving them water from the secret stash, and helped spectators with questions they had. That was fun. I still got to compete, but I had a lot of fun helping out.

Blue Belt Sparring. Third place this time. Photo by Jen Boettcher.

USSD 05-15-2010458

We just had another tournament on Saturday October 9, 2010. I was a blue/green stripe. This time I actually ran the trophy/info table and helped out with setting everything up in the days leading up to the tournament. I don't think I saw Peter anytime when he wasn't sleeping from Thursday-Saturday night.

You'd think by this time I wouldn't get nervous before competing, but I still did. The higher up I go in rank, the competition gets harder. It's honestly nerve wracking to get out there in front of everybody watching and perform. "What if I screw up?" "What if I get a horrible sparring judge that missed points?" There are always those "what ifs", and they will always be there. No matter how high up in rank I get, they will always be there. After I lost sparring in the first round as a purple belt, I was pretty upset because I felt the judge had favored the other person. After talking to some of the chiefs, I realized that a) judging sparring is EXTREMELY difficult. Not just a little difficult, but EXTREMELY difficult. b) at some point in time, it's happened to all of them. Hearing that made me feel better, and made me realize that I just needed to do it to have fun.

Anyway, going into this tournament, I really didn't want to spar. I just don't like it because I think I suck at it. Thankfully, Sensei Rachel made me do it (she said "you're an instructor, you have to spar"). Did I place in sparring? No. Should I have? Doesn't matter. This was the first sparring match where I had a lot of fun fighting. The person I lost against in the second round and I were very evenly matched. The points went back and forth and we clashed a ton, but wow, was it fun. I have a video of me sparring her, but I won't watch it. I don't want to play the "she never hit me and got a point" game, because it happens to everyone. From now on, it's just about going out and fighting people you don't get to spar against pretty much ever. Anything past just I'll just consider a bonus.

In any case, I love doing kata. I did win with this one. :)

After attending four tournaments, and helping out at three of them, I look forward to tournament time. I love seeing all the people, I love seeing all the little kids competing for the first time, I love meeting all the Masters and attending their seminar, I love seeing people I only see every 6 months. I love the instructor after-tournament dinner, I love running the trophy table and having a little schtick with some of the judges. I don't even mind...for one day...getting up at 5am, being at the arena by 6 for setup, and not getting home until 10:30pm.

I love karate because it makes me a better person.

Michelle, Rick, and Julie

Michelle, Rick, and Julie

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Peter and the Pumpkins

Today we went to Cottonwood Farms to get some pumpkins, check out the farm animals, go through the hay maze, and take a hay ride. While the weather was drizzly and chilly, it still was fun. We got plenty of photos, which led me to this comparison.

The first photo was taken October 18, 2009. The second one was taken today, October 10, 2010. It's amazing how much different he looks in a year. He went from being a baby, to being a toddler in one fell swoop.

Presented without further comment.

At the Pumpkin Patch


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Trains and Fall and Pumpkins (oh my!)

Lots of photos this weekend! While I've learned in the past that it's really hard to set up for photos when I've got Peter with me, I've also learned to just suck it up and bring my camera with me when I take him somewhere, just in case I get a chance to take some shots.

First up, Pumpkin Fest! We got there right when it started, and skipped getting pumpkins. The line for the pumpkins was HUGE, and I figured that a) It was only October 2nd, so plenty of time, and plenty of places to get pumpkins, and b) there were virtually no lines for anything else, so why not do all that stuff? We were the first on the hay ride, and ended up being able to go twice because people were in the long pumpkin line, did the bouncy slide, petting zoo, saw the firetruck (Peter got his fireman's hat), and wandered around checking everything out. They did have a little "family photo area" where you could pose your child, so somehow managed to do that. I really didn't like the lighting, but didn't have much choice. :)


Sunday we went to the Colorado Railroad Museum. WOW!! This place is so freakin' sweet, and much bigger than I thought. So many trains to wander around and see, and some of them you can go inside. I really want to go back when I don't have Peter with me to take some photos, but I did end up getting my favorite weekend photo while he was playing around in the gravel.

Vintage engine

I used one of Matt Kloskowski's Lightroom presets (the Vintage one) for this shot, and love how it turned out.

However, I do need to share another photo I got that I love - Peter walking down the railroad tracks.

Walking Down the Tracks

And finally, I'm taking a class over at Big Picture Classes called Picture Fall, where you get an email prompt everyday, and you have to take a fall related photo dealing with that prompt. So far, I'm 4/4 on photos, which is a new record for me. I took this one yesterday for the "things you see outside but never think of photographing" prompt of the start of the neighbor's firewood pile.

Start of the firewood pile

Peter and His Cousin

When we took Peter to his 18 month appointment in June, they said he was 50% in weight, and 75% in height. So I knew he was tall (he's one of the tallest in his daycare class), but didn't really realize how big he looked until we put him next to his little cousin, Riley, a few weeks ago. She's about 6 months younger than him. The funny thing is, is that he was only 10% for head size, and I thought he had a big head, so that kind of amused me. No further comments needed on this.

With cousin Riley

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Waterfall at Various Shutter Speeds

Now granted, I didn't get the idea to show these photos together until AFTER I took them, so I'll be the first to admit I probably could've gotten a more interesting sample, but oh well.

Last Friday I was over at a fellow karate instructor's house for an instructor gathering. I decided to show up slightly early because he had been telling me how awesome his backyard was, and he had a great waterfall to photograph. As I've learned from various sources, the best times to photograph a waterfall are at sunrise and sunset since there's not as much extraneous light, so you can control the shutter speed better. Why would you want to do that? So you can control what the flow of the water looks like. Taking photos at a really fast shutter speed will basically freeze the action, which is great for sports photography. However a flowing waterfall frozen in time doesn't look the most exciting, so slowing down the shutter speed will give you a sense of motion.

Here's the same photo, taken at 3 different shutter speeds, one right after the other. Like I said, I *should've* taken one much faster too, but well, I didn't.

1 second:
1 second shutter
.3 seconds:
.3 second shutter
1/8 second:
1/8 second shutter

Even with just that tiny sample, you can still see the difference in the water flow. I think I actually like the 1/8 second one the best though.

In any case, here's my favorite photo from the evening, and one which I just ordered as a canvas from APC.

John and Dorothy Waterfall

First Photo I Uploaded to Flickr

I've been using Flickr for a few years, I know it was before they got bought by Yahoo, so I'm guessing 2004-2005 timeframe. I looked today to find the very first photo I uploaded to Flickr:


Of course it was a photo of Loki, our black lab. The photo was taken in July 2004, and thinking back to that timeframe is interesting. We lived in Half Moon Bay, CA. I was still the computer lab person at Hoover School. We had 2 dogs only, Loki and Odin who were both 4 years old (we had no idea Loki was going to get cancer). We weren't even thinking about having kids. Leif had only been at Yahoo for maybe a year. I believe we were still playing ice hockey at this point at Ice Oasis, but not sure. I do know for sure we didn't start doing the 11pm pickup games yet since those didn't start until we moved to Santa Clara. I didn't know anything about karate, real photography, and had no desire to move out of California.

It's amazing what changes in a matter of years...

Photo I Like: Big to Small

I took this photo the other day for the NAPP September Photo Rally. The category was "Things With Wheels". I kind of like it, so wanted to share it here. I like how I angled the shot going from the big dirt bike wheel to the little tricycle wheel, and I also like how the tricycle isn't in focus. Initially I was going to get a shot of the dirt bike and the tricycle next to each other, then I wanted to get Leif on the dirt bike, and Peter on the tricycle, and this was just an extra one I took. I guess some of the extra ones end up being your favorites.

I did very minimal editing - just basically adding sharpness/clarity, and brightening up the dirt bike wheel a bit since you couldn't see any detail in it in the original. I'm still learning!

Big and small

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