21 October 2014

Back in the Shutter Again

self-portrait

It's baaaack! My "Big Gun," my "good" camera, my Nikon D300, my best friend, is back!

After two months in surgery, my favorite shooting device is back home and making great images once again!

The Big Gun

Just days after returning from the Tour de Lavender (a photographer's paradise), Yellowstone National Park (where I captured my favorite bear shots of all time so far) and shooting The Wedding, my beloved D300 began eating batteries as if preparing for famine. When I first bought the camera in 2008, I could shoot off up to 1,200 frames on one battery charge.

As the years wore on, that dropped off to about 800 frames, depending upon how much I used the flash and auto focus. Eventually, it got down to about 600 frames per charge, which still was a real treat, after owning two Fuji point-and-shoots that didn't know the meaning of the word conserve. One of the Fujis would see a good day if it could get 100 shots on one set of brand new lithium batteries.

Oh, and take the batteries out of a Fuji when you're not using it. It drains batteries even while turned off. A real turn-off!!!

flakey batteries

For those who've never had the distinct pleasure of consuming lithium batteries at such a high rate, they are about $18 for four, which is what each Fuji required to operate. One particular Fuji could not function well with rechargeables. I'd be lucky to get 20 shots off rechargeable batteries. The camera didn't last one day past its one-year warranty. Then it didn't last three days past its one-year refurb warranty anniversary. Good riddance.

(I'm teasing about the "good riddance," of course. I've taken excellent shots with every camera I've ever owned, even the ones that didn't last long enough.)

Considering that Fuji cost nearly half of the price of the D300 and refurbishing it a year and a day later cost more than half of that amount, along with battery costs during those two years, I'd have been better off saving my dough and plopping it on the Nikon instead. Look how many years the Big Gun Nikon has lasted! As well as how many awesome shots it has snapped!

Icy Air Bubbles
Spring

Summer sunrise
Summer

Grand Mesa
Autumn

wheeeeee
Winter

About three days after shooting approximately 1,000 wedding shots, the D300 began using up fully charged batteries in hours. Sometimes in three or four shots. Something was definitely wrong.

My smaller Nikon, the P510, had suffered a corrupt battery during the Tour de Lavender vacation. Thank heavens the problem was only the battery, I had a spare, and I was able to get two replacements for the same price as the original when I first bought the camera. The camera didn't have to be turned in for servicing, and I had my backup batteries the week after we got back home from vacation.

little Nikon power

This experience prompted me to cross my fingers and replace all three batteries for the D300. All of them were purchased in 2008, so they'd seen a fair amount of use. More than 100,000 shots, in fact. As well as weather extremes on both ends of the thermometer. Please let it be the batteries. Please let it be the batteries. Please let it be the batteries.

Please let it be the batteries...

My dad found replacement batteries for me on eBay that were more powerful, supposedly longer-lasting, and much less expensive with faster and free shipping to boot than the official Nikon battery replacements, which would have cost something equivalent to a large utility bill or another long road trip. Man, those babies are pricey!

I had the new batteries the very next day! I charged the first one overnight. The next day, the camera ate through the first battery in five shots. A brand new battery! Generic, yes, but brand new!

It took a few hours for the second replacement to charge, and then I tried it, with the same results.

My heart was sinking. Somehow, deep inside, I knew from the beginning this time it was not the batteries or the charger, which I had tested after the new batteries failed. After the new batteries failed in the camera, I charged them again and had all my batteries, new and old, tested. Only one of the old batteries failed the test. One bad battery. And one bad, sad, mad, had camera... egad!

The camera was malfunctioning. I would have to take it in. Minimum six to eight weeks. All positive energy crumpled to the ground in a heap of grief.

Crested Butte Autumn Color
Autumn with the Nikon P510

autumn sumac
Autumn with the iPhone

Devastation followed. I tried to cheer myself by reveling in the fact my Big Gun did not die on vacation or during the wedding. It waited until the most important stuff was shot. It knew how much I needed it for that wedding. It limped discreetly through unseen inner pain and suffering and delivered shots that made the newlyweds very, very happy. We have vacation photos that will last a lifetime. My "good" camera was a trooper! I owed it a good servicing. Even if it did mean trusting autumn to a point-and-shoot and my iPhone.

A couple of days later, the camera shop called to tell me they couldn't fix the camera. It would have to be sent back to Nikon. I cried like a baby as I scoured the internet for refurbished D300s. My favorite camera has been discontinued now, of course. A perfectly good camera -- retired because there's always something new and improved; most photographers are addicted to "new and improved."

I did fall in love with the new Nikon D750, which conveniently was released the next day. The price tag caused light-headedness, however. I just can't justify that kind of expense right now. It will take me about three years to save up that much, and by then, it won't be the latest and greatest anymore (which is fine by me), which means it wouldn't cost as much then. I'd been saving for a good camera until about 18 months after the D300 was first released. I saved about $1,000 by unintentionally waiting because the price had dropped that much in a year and a half. (And a newer and more improved model had been released by then.)

The three refurbished D300s I found were double what the repairs to my camera were expected to cost. (NOTE TO SELF: Refurbs have at least a 100% markup!!!!!!) I wasn't about to pay the (exhorbitant) price asked for one of three used D300s I found because with my luck, a used one was for sale simply because it didn't work anymore, not because the owner was upgrading to a better model. I've noticed many Nikon owners tend to hold onto their old models as backups when they upgrade.

I did find one used D300 advertised "in new condition" with only a few hundred images shot. (The D300 is supposed to be good for 150,000 shots before needing an overhaul.) I inquired as to why it was being sold, and the reply of, "I just don't use it" made me me super suspicious. It had been for sale for several months. If it had been a good deal, someone else would have already bought it.

home, sweet home

On the bright side, my fruitless search means I have a really good camera. Nikon owners aren't looking to unload D300s, even when they are old. I bit my tongue, swallowed my pride, and told Nikon to work whatever magic they can to fix my baby.

When I got the phone call eight weeks later telling me the camera was ready, I nearly jumped out of my seat! The repairs were a full $100 less than estimated, and all I had to do was break free from a very busy day at work to walk two blocks to reclaim my Big Gun!

Just in time for Moab!!!

I think I'm in heaven!!! If not, I certainly will be soon!

The Cobra
The Cobra, which fell while I was on vacation in Washington last August

Delicate Arch and the La Sals Through the Window
Delicate Arch and the La Sals Through the Window

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch Moonrise

Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park
Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park

golden glow
Autumn in Moab

20 October 2014

Snowflake Monday

Last Light

The drive home to Colorado from a full morning of grizzly photos in Yellowstone was long and somewhat boring. I was trying to make as many snowflakes as I could while I could still see in the nearing twilight. In many stretches across Wyoming, I have no phone signal, so I couldn't call upon already published patterns for my special project.

So I designed a few more. This was the last one. Daylight was fading fast, and soon, I couldn't see anymore. Then it began to rain. All the way home. Time to end the snowflake and take a nap.

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Last Light Snowflake

Finished Size: 3.5 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 8 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Last Light Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 4 dc in same sc, pull hook out of loop (dropped loop) and insert in 2nd ch of starting ch 2, insert in dropped loop, pull dropped loop through 2nd ch of starting ch 2 (starting popcorn stitch made), * ch 3, 5 dc in ring, pull hook out of loop (dropped loop) and insert in top loop of 1st dc of this 5/dc group, insert in dropped loop, pull dropped loop through top loop of 1st dc (popcorn stitch made); repeat from * around 4 times; ch 1, 1 dc in starting popcorn to form 6th ch 3 sp of Round. Pull magic circle tight enough to make popcorn stitches poufy.

Round 2: 1 sc in same sp, ch 5, *1 sc in next ch 3 sp, ch 5; repeat from * around 4 times; sl st in starting sc.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 3: * 1 sc in next ch 5 sp, 1 hdc in same sp, 1 dc in same sp, 1 tr in same sp, [ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook] 2 times (2 dc picots made), 1 tr in same ch 5 sp, 1 dc in same sp, 1 hdc in same sp, 1 sc in same sp, ch 20, sl st in 20th ch from hook; repeat from * around 5 times, sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

A link to the blocking template I use is located here. That website has some of the most helpful snowflake information I know of. I also have a link to it on my sidebar to the right. I try to keep all the important links there so everyone will be able to find the information they need.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

Last Light Snowflake

17 October 2014

Tickled Pink

a full yard

I like to feature a lot of pink on my blog during the month of October in support of breast cancer awareness. Instead of working on the two deadline quilts I SHOULD be working on, I began the month with a bit of a pink.

Back in June, I received my second swatch of Spoonflower fabric I designed, and I was so excited about how well it turned out, I couldn't wait to cut into it!

I made some pink strips from Kona cottons in my stash and made one pink log cabin block with a Pink Wave snowflake center. At the time, I thought it would be a cute baby quilt, but I had so many other things going on, I set the project aside without another thought until the first weekend of October.

the first square

We'd planned another leaf-photography trip for that weekend, this one deep in the middle of nowhere, 100 miles from anything. But I'd had such a rough week at work, I was too exhausted to spend hours and hours in the car again. We decided to stay home and relax instead, gambling there might still be a few more golden leaves remaining the next weekend. Sewing time!!!

As a super duper stay-at-home weekend treat, The Lizard invited me for a lunch date. We had a great salad, then returned to the car to head off on a much-needed grocery-buying run. My husband backed my car out, and it died. And it stayed dead for five whole days! Such a good thing we didn't go into the wilderness.

Plenty of time for sewing, once we got home, thanks to a lift to a local garage and then another lift home thanks to the garage's courtesy car. Grounded for a few days, I got in some more real quality sewing time!

Out of Service

I didn't remember cutting out four more Pink Wave snowflakes back when I made that first square, and I didn't remember what I had planned, but it wasn't hard to figure out I must have had four other blocks in mind. Five blocks do not a four-edge quilt make.

I dug through all my stash and pulled out every pink fabric I had, then log-cabined the remaining four Pink Wave snowflakes, each entirely different. Isn't Fairy Frost perfect for a snowflake block?!?

Fairy-Frosted

Because nothing else was cut and I couldn't remember what I was going to do for the other four blocks, I got to play around with design ideas again, and I ultimately decided to incorporate some of the snowflakes from my special project. I robbed myself of four snowflakes that may be too big for the special project anyway and appliqu├ęd them to plain Kona blocks in a color I had not used for the log cabin blocks.

I'm a thief!

Originally, I had thought of making a baby quilt I could just keep on hand for next time someone I know has a little girl. But then I remembered my stair-climbing friend Connie helps manage the Race for the Cure. I used to make a Race for the Cure quilt each year to raise money to help fight breast cancer, so I have a lot of pink ribbon remnants. If I incorporated them into this quilt, this would be the perfect quilt for Connie!

the courage to fight

Piecing went very quickly. I had plenty of remnants to piece a backing, but not enough to cover the entire back of the 44-inch square top. I thought a new pink snowflake fabric or a new pink ribbon fabric might be even better. We were getting cabin fever after nearly two full days stuck at home, so my husband very kindly offered to take me to the nearest fabric shop in his truck to see if this year's pink ribbon fabric is worth buying.

I was studying the pink section of the quilting and fat quarter wall when I heard my husband, about two aisles away, excitedly say, "Deb, you better get over here."

There, I saw the fabric HE found. Not only does it include pink ribbons, but it has circles of pink ribbons in snowflake shape!

My very dear husband knows what a huge stickler I am for six-sided snowflakes, and he even counted points to make sure they had the proper number before he called me over. Did I marry the right guy, or what?!?

pink ribbon flakes

The fabric wasn't quite wide enough to cover the entire back of the quilt without piecing, and I love the fabric so much, I wanted to have remnants from this one, too. So I pieced a strip of remnants to make the back big enough. I sandwiched the layers, and my husband helped me load the layered quilt onto the quilt frame he made for me.

Tickled Pink back

Initially, I was going to practice free-motion quilting on this quilt, but once we got it on the frame, ideas for quilting began popping into my head, and I decided to do it by hand. I hadn't done that in a very long time, and I enjoy the process.

in the pink

framed

Hand-quilting takes a bit longer, and I learned threading the needle isn't the only time I need my reading glasses now. (Dang!!!) The stitches in the first two blocks I quilted without the glasses aren't consistently sized, and some of the lines aren't even straight. But for now, to me, that adds to the quilt. This is how I learned nearly half a century ago (only then, I could see but was just too young to sew straight or consistent), quilting in the church basement with my grandmother and other women in Relief Society, making quilts for each new bride and each new baby. I love that this quilt documents my humble beginnings and my rusty laurels as well!

I finished hand quilting all the crocheted snowflake blocks with pink thread in 10 days. I'd planned to do the other five blocks in white thread.

hand quilting complete

hand-quilted

Because I have two deadline quilts that need to be done in two months, I began to second-think the white hand-quilting. I have less than a month now to finish the quilt for my husband's nephew. So I decided I'd better do the white quilting by machine. I had planned to put the binding on by machine, but hand-sew it down on the back. I needed to speed my way through, so I decided to try Red Pepper Quilt's total machine binding method.

I got a tiny bit brave and did free-motion quilting to make white thread snowflake designs in the middle of each of my Pink Wave snowflakes. Surprisingly, I like the way these turned out, and that's yet another much-needed boost of self-confidence.

Tickled Pink Snow

Tickled Pink Snowflakes

However, I did not care for finishing the binding by machine. I don't think it saved me any time, and it was a pretty frustrating process for me. I think I'll go back to hand-stitching the second edge of my bindings from now on. I'd been using the same method Amanda at Crazy Mom Quilts uses since I was a teenager, and that works just fine for me.

The morning after I finished the quilt, the sky honored breast cancer warriors and survivors, too!

Tickled Pink Way Too Early

Tickled Pink Sunrise

Way Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink, Purple and Blue

Tickled Pink in Back

Tickled Pink and Orange

This entire pink journey has been educational.

As I was looking up my blog posts from past (pink) quilts, I rediscovered the need to make yet one more pink quilt. My co-worker who kickstarted my obsession with breast cancer awareness quilts has never won one of the quilts I've made for fund-raising raffles, even though she put in heavily for each one. I really should have given this quilt to her!!! (Kicks self in rear quarters as facial cheeks turn rosy pink with embarassment.) Nevertheless, while piecing the back for this quilt, I decided to cut two charm squares from each pink remnant in my stash, one set for another quilt I've been wanting to make for forever (which will be for my quiltless survivor friend), and one set to sell on Etsy.

charmed

This quilt taught me I still love making breast cancer awareness quilts. LOVE. For whatever reason, I don't get tired of stitching with pink in October.

I got so excited about these charm blocks, I initially thought deadline quilts may have to wait just a bit longer while I try to work my way through yet one more pink quilt. But there truly isn't enough time. I have to finish another quilt by mid-November, and I am driven to make it look good, not rush the process, thoroughly enjoy the quilting stage and put a ton of love into the gift while I work on it. It's sort of symbolic, really. The love that goes into a quilt wraps the recipient in love, right?

Another thing I gained from this quilt, which I'm calling Tickled Pink, is the memory of how much I enjoy hand-quilting with a hoop on my lap on a chilly night! Or a chilly morning before work... I could do this every cold day and never get tired of it. The warmth of the quilt blanketing me as I work is a feeling to be treasured.

I had forgotten how much I love hand-quilting. I still want to become proficient at machine quilting, but I think I've learned I don't have to wait and wait and wait to finish the rest of my WIPS while I try to perfect my free-motion skills. I can hand-quilt some of the quilt tops on my UFO rack!

Tickled Black and Pink

Glorious Autumn

Doggon Garden Pink (artwork by Steve Samerjam)

Tickled Pink and Rolling on the Floor Laughing

This finish earned me the title of "Speed Queen" in the Ravelry Fall UFO Group because I finished in under a week of the quarter's sign-up deadline. I hope to carry this title into next year's cycling events... Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts here and Confessions of a Fabric Addict here.

16 October 2014

Gag!

delete, delete, delete

I turned off anonymous comments about 18 months ago due to the high volume of spam that was getting through. I didn't have time to monitor 100-plus garbage comments per day. If I checked them from my phone, one always got by me. Then I'd spend an hour or so when I got good signal going through the approved comments one by one to get rid of the garbage.

So I turned off anonymous comments, thinking the sudden explosion of spam would eventually be managed by Blogger's sharp eyes.

I recently turned anonymous comments back on to see what would happen. After just 12 hours, only one spam comment had come through! I assumed Blogger had fixed the problem, and I was tickled!

But then I checked the spam folder.

62 spam comments in 12 hours. That's about five an hour. True, at least Blogger is catching them in the spam net. But holy moly!

There were two valid comment in there with all the muck.

So I turned off anonymous comments again. It means questions about snowflakes aren't as easy for less-experienced computer users, and I apologize for that. I moderate all comments because when you have a popular blog, jerks find a way to get through, even when you are taking every precaution. That means I have to spend time making sure my blog is safe for anyone who might be perusing and clicking links.

So if it's more difficult and time-consuming to type in an email address or log into Ravelry to ask pattern questions, just think about how much time it takes one person to review every single comment and sometimes even every single link to make sure no rubbish gets through.

Plus, email or logging into Ravelry is SO much better than word or number verification...

crap control

14 October 2014

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