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Greek Gyros

Greek Gyros

I think "Greek Gyros" is kind of redundant but, hey, I didn't make the sign. And that doesn't really look like the kind of guy who I want to be correcting, either. It's cool.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 400. Applied curves to recover highlights and bring up the midtones, then dodged the shopkeeper a bit in Aperture 3.

Thoughts for improvement: There's not really a lot going on in the left or right windows, so possibly it would be better to crop them out. I kind of like the symmetry of having three windows, plus I think the neon looks cool, but it definitely does make for a more cluttered image. Though, I do think that in terms of storytelling, the extra scenery does provide more atmosphere. Other than that, the sign at the bottom is very dark; I probably should have brightened it up a bit.

Modest Decorum

Jason's weekday mornings follow a fairly predictable routine. He wakes up, which wakes me up, and I go into his room and greet him. I change his diaper, then bring him to the living room, where he plays for a few minutes while I assemble his breakfast. He eats while I make my own breakfast, and then we sit and take our breakfast together. (I eat much more quickly than he does, so even though he gets a head start, I still usually finish first.) After that, I take him back to my and Juliette's bedroom and put him in our bed, where he sits and watches Sesame Street while I take a shower and get dressed. Once I'm done, I get him dressed, we let the dog out, and then it's off to day care. This is how it usually goes, though there's obviously some deviation from this routine, as Jason is often irritable and stubborn in the mornings. I have no idea where he gets that from.

So, earlier this week, I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard Jason calling me. I wrapped a towel around my waist to keep from dripping all over the floor, then stepped into the doorway. It turned out that he wanted to tell me about something that had just happened on the TV; I don't remember what, exactly. I acknowledged him, then proceeded to dry myself off more thoroughly.

"What that?" I heard him ask.

"What?"

"That Daddy penis."

"Oh, yeah. That's my penis."

Jason laughed uproariously in response, and then the two of us continued on with the business at hand: I with my grooming and he with his television.

Neither Juliette nor I are particularly shy about being in various states of undress around Jason. At first it was mainly because we knew he wasn't processing it at all, and it wasn't any different than being naked around the dog. Now, though, he's really starting to notice, and I'm finding myself wondering at what point I'm going to have to pay attention to my state of dress when he's around.

Obviously, neither Juliette nor I walk around in our underwear or in the nude when we have company, or when we're visiting other people's houses. That's just not how we grew up. My stepdad has always had a habit of roaming the house with no pants on, but that's always been something that we've just considered one of his eccentricities. And, anyway, even he doesn't do it except around my mom, my brother, and me.

In our own home, though, both Juliette and I feel pretty free to be undressed when it's just us, other than in areas where we might be seen out the front window. Not that we're nudists or anything, but we leave the doors open when we're showering, and if we happen to need something from another room before we're all the way dressed, we don't cover up before going to get it. That's how it's been since before Jason joined us, and it hasn't changed now that he has.

It's a tricky thing, though. I don't want Jason to grow up being ashamed of his body, or feeling weird about appropriate nudity (whatever that might be). But on the other hand, the idea of me being naked in front of him when he's a teenager seems a little uncomfortable. And on the flip side, I don't want to make him uncomfortable. Though, it may never be weird for him unless we make it that way.

For now I guess it's not really an issue. Jason is neither aware of any stigma attached to nudity nor inclined to take his clothes off in inappropriate situations, so there isn't a problem. Not yet, anyway. But it is something to think about for the future.

One For You, One For Me, and One For Mom

One For You, One For Me, and One For Mom

I love how, in this picture, the kid is the one who noticed me, while the two adults had no idea I was there.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 1600. B&W conversion, crop, curves, and some mild dodging applied in Aperture 3.

Thoughts for improvement: I wish I had been able to nail the exposure a little better to get the kid's face a little less shadowy. There's also a fair amount of detail lost in the shadows in the lower left corner, mainly from the curves adjustment I added--I made a trade-off between overall contrast and shadow detail, but I wish I didn't have to.

Chest of Doom

For the first time this whole summer, the house was hot and stuffy when I came home, not surprising since it was in the high 80's in my neighborhood today. Normally, we'd have been getting weather like this since early July, but it's been a particularly cool summer in San Diego this year.

Anyway, despite the fact that I opened every window in the house as soon as I got home, after spending an hour rushing around a kitchen with a 350-degree oven and two stovetop burners running, I was pretty sweaty. I complained about the heat to Juliette while we ate, to which she asked, "Why don't you just take your shirt off?"

This, of course, hadn't occurred to me.

I was still shirtless when it came time to give Jason his bath, and I took advantage of the situation by dunking my head in the water to make him laugh. Afterwards, I brushed his teeth and put on his diaper and pajamas, just like every night. He poked me in the belly button and laughed raucously. Then I picked him up off the changing table and asked him for a hug while we waited for Juliette to come in and read him his story.

He came in for a hug quickly, but when his face touched my chest he recoiled, a confused look coming over his face. "It's hurting me," he said.

"My skin is hurting you?" I asked.

"Yeah."

Juliette came through the doorway just then. "What's he saying?" she asked.

"He doesn't like my skin."

"Yeah," agreed Jason. "Don't like it."

He did eventually give me a goodnight hug, albeit quite gingerly. I guess henceforth I need to remember to keep my shirt on until he goes to bed.

Closing Up Shop

Closing Up Shop

Another one from Saturday's group shoot. I passed by this little souvenir shop several times as I walked up and down the foot path next to the beach. I noticed a few tourists from time to time, looking at sunglasses and postcards, but for the most part it was empty. Finally, it was time to close up, and I grabbed this shot of the clerk taking down the signs for the night.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/40, ISO 1600. I added a slight curves adjustment in Aperture 3 to bring down the highlights and darken the shadows just a little bit. I also cropped out the top fifth or so of the frame.

Thoughts for improvement: The crop ratio here is a little weird, and I much prefer to use standard aspect ratios whenever possible for ease of printing. If I could do this over, I'd either frame the shot a little lower to avoid having to crop, or I'd try to adjust the exposure a little so that the cropped-out portion is dark enough not to be distracting.

No Singing!

When Jason was a baby, I used to spend a lot of time singing to him. I sang to him when he was fussy, or when we were driving. When he woke up in the middle of the night, I would hold him and walk around in circles in the kitchen, singing "Three Little Birds" over and over again. I sang him songs by the Magnetic Fields on the way to day care. I sang him "You Are My Sunshine" as we fell asleep together in the rocking chair. Sometimes it was fun; often it was exhausting. But it was something I did during our time together, and it had a rightness to it, even when I was so tired that I felt like I was going to fall over.

This morning when we left the house, I put on Israeal Kamakawiwo'ole's album, Facing Future, which we listened to a lot when he was first starting out at day care. He'd just been screaming because I had told him that he had to stop standing in his chair and playing with the headrests in the back seat, and had made him sit while I buckled him into his car seat. He was upset, as usual, but also as usual he was quiet before we made it to the corner of our street.

The "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" medley came on, and I sang along. My mind filled with memories of him as a newborn, and me singing that song to him in his room, in the kitchen, in the car, all over the place. I smiled, feeling the pleasant glow that comes with that kind of remembering.

We got to day care right in the middle of the song, but I kept singing even after I turned the car off. By now I know the song by heart, and Jason's been having lots of fun with music and singing lately. I thought he might like it if I sang to him a bit more as we walked in.

"No Daddy," he said calmly. "No singing."

"Aw, come on, buddy," I said. "Can't I sing a little bit more?" I tried to pick up the song where I had left off.

"No," he interrupted me. "Stop singing."

So that was that. Actually, it was kind of funny, and the school director and I shared a little laugh when I told her about it. I figured I'd write up a little humor piece about it, especially since this is a pretty common occurance.

But then this evening Jason had a little trouble falling asleep. We put him to bed at his usual time--or maybe a few minutes early--and, like always, he rolled around a bit and played in his crib after we put him down. He usually goes to sleep on his own pretty easily, but tonight he was still awake twenty minutes later, and in a rare turn of events, he called out my name instead of his mom's.

I went in to check on him, and he blearily asked to get out of his crib.

"No," I said, "you can't get out right now. It's time for bed right now. But I'll sing you a song if you want."

He agreed, then lay back in his crib and asked me to cover him with his blanket. I did, and softly started singing "You Are My Sunshine." I rubbed his tummy and stroked his hair while I sang. After four verses and five choruses, his eyes were getting heavy.

"All done," I said. "Time for night night."

"More singing?" he asked.

"No sweetie, it's time for sleeping."

I patted him on the back a few more times and then stepped out of his room and closed the door. He stayed awake for a long while after that, playing with his stuffed animals and talking to them, but he was calm and content until he fell asleep. It's nice to feel like I can still do something for him.

Lookout

Lookout

I went to another group shoot on Saturday with the San Diego DSLR club. This was my first night shoot, and I was a little intimidated, not having much experience with low-light photography. Being at Belmont Park, a local amusement park, there were a lot of places to set up for cool motion blur shots. I didn't end up taking many of those, though, mostly because it seemed like everybody else was. I mostly ended up taking candid shots of strangers, which was both exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking.

With this shot, I particularly liked the contrast of the bouncer's red shirt with the dark blue sky. I was also lucky enough to catch him from an angle where one streetlight was to his side and one was right behind his head, giving a nice little halo effect on his hair.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens in aperture priority exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 1600. No post-processing.

Thoughts for improvement: The main thing that bugs me about this shot is all the digital noise in the dark areas, especially the sky. Unfortunately, I have neither a good low-light camera nor good noise reduction software to clean it up in post. Something to save up for.

My Latest at Life As A Human: Making Your Mark: Your Signature and Yourself

"Making Your Mark: Your Signature and Yourself":

Over the past ten years or so, pens have sort of managed to fall out of my life. Grocery lists, appointment reminders, and personal notes have largely migrated from paper notepads to my smartphone. And I'm certainly not writing this post with a pen. I even do my crosswords online nowadays. There is one thing I do still regularly use a pen for, though, and that's for signing my name.

Good Oral Hygiene Is Very Important

Good Oral Hygiene Is Very Important

You might get the impression from this picture that Jason is good at brushing his teeth, but he's usually much more interested in rinsing the toothbrush than actually using it on his teeth. After his bath, I get him to stand on a little stool in front of the sink, then I floss his teeth with one of these. Then I hand him the flosser, which he plays with for a few seconds before dropping it in the sink. I pick it up and put it in the trash can, then brush his teeth thoroughly. When I hand him the toothbrush, he scrubs it across his front teeth once or twice, then holds it out to be rinsed. If I'm lucky, I can convince him to take a couple more strokes, but that's about it.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 1100. White balance set in camera to tungsten. Lighting is just the normal wall lights above the sink. I used Aperture 3 to rotate the image 90 degrees, but other than that, this is straight out of the camera.

Thoughts for improvement: That highlight on the countertop is very bright and distracting--it would be much better if I had taken more time to compose the shot to avoid it. Other than that I'm pretty pleased with the results. I set my Auto ISO settings for a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 after losing a bunch of party pictures last weekend to motion blur, and I think that works pretty well for photographing young kids, who generally won't hold still for a longer exposure.

Jason Is (Not) an Artist

When I picked Jason up from day care this evening, one of his art projects was waiting for me in his folder. We've been getting a lot of these since he moved up to the two-year-old class, and it's nice to see how he spends his time. This time it was a little paper plate that he had painted.

Walking out to the car, Jason, of course, asked to hold it.

"Jason hold that?" he asked.

"You want to hold this?" (I repeat his words back to him a lot, sometimes to make sure I understood him, but sometimes just to make things take longer.)

"Yeah! I made it."

"Oh, yeah, you made it." (See?)

He pointed at it. "Put food. On there."

"No, it's not a plate anymore. It's art now! Are you an artist?"

"No!"

"Oh, OK. Do you think you might be an artist some day? That would be OK with me."

"No!"

"OK, buddy, whatever you want."

A few minutes later, as we were on the way home, Jason was staring intently at the plate.

"It's a moo!"

"It's Shamu?"

"No! It's a moo!"

"The moon?"

"No! A moo! It's a moo!"

"Oh! A moo? It's a cow?"

"Yeah! It's a cow."

"I see."

"Cow swimming. The water!"

"The cow is swimming in the water?"

"Yeah! Shamu lives. In the water!"

"Yeah, Shamu lives in the water."

"With the cow!"

A few more minutes later:

"Don't like it."

"What?"

"Don't like it. The cow."

"Why not? What did the cow do?"

"I don't know."

"OK."

"It's wet."

"It's wet?"

"Yeah. It's wet. The water."

So, apparently, this piece is a wet, swimming cow that lives in the water with Shamu, which Jason doesn't like, executed in paint on paper plate. Would you like to see it?

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With an imagination like that, it's too bad he's so set against being an artist.