How to Live a More Fulfilling Life

How to Live a More Fulfilling Life

Life isn’t exactly easy. There are bills to pay, mortgages and rent, food, fuel and other things which are pretty much essential to living. These same things become more expensive every day thanks to inflation, a dwindling supply and an ever-increasing population.

I’ve found that there are many ways to make the life I’m living more fulfilling, without adding a lot of extra costs to my daily operations. Changes, both small and large, can really make a difference in one’s quality of life. So, here’s a little list of things I think might make everyone a little bit more happier.

  1. Stop telling yourself you can’t do things. The only things you really can’t do are the things you’re not prepared or fit enough to do, and you can change yourself to become prepared or fit enough, with some conviction and effort.
  2. Don’t go thinking you’re perfect, either. The world is made up of people who are proficient and deficient at some things, and you’re just one more of those people. You can always improve yourself, but don’t think you’re better than others just because of some knowledge or ability.
  3. Besides being good for you in general, living a more healthy life will certainly make you a happier person. Getting rid of excess weight, lowering bad cholesterol levels and making other changes will have you feeling better than ever, but it takes time like anything else.
  4. Stop depending on other people so much. I’m not saying you, specifically, are too dependent on others, but we all know someone who just never seem to be able to get their act together. At the end of the day, the only person you can depend on is yourself, so do more than that and count on the people around you a little less. You’re guaranteed to be disappointed less often by doing this.
  5. Knowledge really is power. The more you know, the more you can do, so keep learning. Read more, and I’m talking about books, not magazines or sports pages in a newspaper. Try things. You should be learning something new every day, even if you aren’t in school anymore.
  6. You’ve never really lost until you stop trying. Sure, you might not be able to perform a task or accomplish a feat today, but that’s just today. This kind of feeds back into the second point on this list, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your head up and keep moving forward.
  7. Happiness is a decision you make. You alone control how you feel, so you’re the one who has to stop being miserable and start smiling more often. It’s a conscious choice that must be made.
  8. Removing negative aspects of your life is always a good way to start feeling better. If it’s not something that you can easily remove, perhaps you can remove yourself from that thing instead.
  9. Adding to that, the only really important thing in life is love. It feels good and leads to a lot of good being done, so don’t be afraid to share a little more of it with the people around you. You might be surprised what you get in return.
  10. Last but not least, remember that you do have a purpose. All too often, people get caught up in the hustle of life and forget that they’re here for a reason. If you don’t know what your reason is, you can always do some soul searching and try to figure that out.
Travel Tips to France

Travel Tips to France

Recently, I made a trip to France to find great photo opportunities and take lots of great pictures. I do that sometimes; just getting up and going somewhere to photograph what I see. While I was there, I did indeed get a handful of quality shots, so I figured I would share the sites I saw and give other photographers a few ideas on what they might photograph if they happen to be in the area too.

Just about everyone knows about the Eiffel Tower, but how many people have taken good pictures of the popular French monument? The angle of a shot is one of the most important factors when taking pictures, but you can’t underestimate the effects of lighting on a finished image.

Traveling to the Eiffel Tower was easy enough. Once you’re in France, getting around isn’t much of a problem. It’s getting back out that can be an issue! After you see the sights, hear the people and try the great foods and wines to be found, you just might not want to leave. However, there are plenty of other things to photograph, so don’t get stuck.

I also recommend checking out the Mt. St. Michel Abbey, one of the largest abbeys in France and a must-see location for photographers seeking top quality shots. The place is humongous and brings to mind some of the large cathedrals and castles which dot Europe’s landscape. Germany has plenty of those, but France has far fewer opportunities to get pictures of big buildings. You may have to take the picture from quite a distance, since the Abbey is unreachable when the tide comes in and nearby water levels rise.

Many people have heard about the Catacombs running underneath France, but few have actually made the trip under the ground to get pictures of the place. I understand the reluctance to descend into a massive grave site, especially when it would be “oh, so easy” to get lost going down an unmarked path. Still, it’s one of the most significant places in France, so getting some pictures while you’re in town is just good business.

As for traveling between these sites, I did most of my moving by bus. There are plenty of taxis and cabs and that sort of thing, but the costs can mount up quickly, making traveling in this way unreasonable. For those places where public transportation doesn’t run, you’ve always got your two feet to keep you moving.

Speaking of that, I went for a walk along Normandy beach, partly to get some good pictures of the ocean and partly to see what it was like moving through the area for the Allied soldiers back in WWII. Some of those ridges are really steep, plus sand doesn’t make for a good walking surface, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like running up that beach with full kit strapped to your back. If you’re just carrying a handheld camera, it’s a much easier climb, naturally.

Introduction to Photography

While many people would agree that photography is a form of art (good photography, anyhow), I want to take some time today to tell you that there’s plenty of science behind the art. There are several terms every budding photographer should become familiar with before they go out and spend tons of money on a camera which may not fulfill their specific needs.

Like everything else, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean much better. If you’re travelling around the market for a camera, then you should be looking at the following information, not the price tag, and basing your purchasing decision on these several points.

Controlling Exposure Quality

Most cameras have timers built right into them which control how long film is exposed, usually producing quality negatives which yield legible pictures. However, to really be a great photographer, I think it’s important to get more control over the picture-taking process, from beginning to end.

Too much light will ruin an image by destroying whatever you’re looking at and giving back a bright, blank image. Too little light will make everything dark, sometimes too dark to see anything at all. This is why understanding the three underlying factors which control exposure quality can be of much help to a photographer. Knowing how to control the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed will improve your images.

ISO

Essentially, ISO is a number on a scale which represents the sensitivity of a particular camera to lighting conditions. Upgrades in technology have made it so you’re not stuck taking a whole film roll of images in whatever lighting you’re working under – many digital camera come with ISOs which can be adjusted on the fly. While a camera’s native ISO rating can vary widely (from as little as 100 to as high as 1,500+), there’s really only one thing to take away from this:

A higher ISO rating provides better images in darker environments, but also increases the amount of grain and other artifacts which appear on the film. Low ISO ratings won’t give any images at all in low light or darkness, but will provide the highest quality images overall when the pictures are taken with enough lighting. This is because your camera has a harder time distinguishing between light and heat as the ISO rises; very technical stuff and certainly worth reading more about, but I think we should proceed.

Shutter Speed

Even amateur photographers should be familiar with this term. It is a measure of how quickly the shutter covering the lens opens and closes, during which time light can hit the camera sensor and images are actually created.

Shutter Speed and Aperture are constantly doing a balancing act. For example, let’s say that the ISO rating on a camera I’m using to take a picture remains constant, along with the lighting level in which I’m working. Under these conditions,  a larger Aperture would require a faster Shutter Speed to prevent overexposure of film, and a smaller Aperture would require a slower Shutter Speed to prevent underexposure of film. It’s a little complicated, but I’ll explain Aperture more in a moment.

If everything about the shot I’m taking is fairly constant, then the one thing Shutter Speed will still have a strong effect on is the amount of blur in the image. Generally, I stick with a speed of about 1/60th of a second, since this does a good job of eliminating any blur from my hands shaking, or movement in the image I’m trying to capture. Higher and lower Shutter Speeds have their uses, but I’ve found this to be a good speed in general.

Aperture

I’ve mentioned it a couple times now, but what exactly is Aperture? To put it simply, a camera’s Aperture is the size of the lens hole which light passes through when taking pictures. Bigger holes allow more light into the camera when the shutter is open, and vice versa. The measurement used for Aperture is called F Stops, though some photographers call the measure Stops of Light, which is the same thing.

Unlike ISO and Shutter Speed, a camera’s Aperture may be a little more difficult to adjust. That’s why you should pay special attention to this factor when shopping for a camera. Basically, a larger Aperture leads to a shorter depth of field in images, which has an effect on the focusing of elements within that image.

Depth of Field is basically just a technical way to measure the sharpness of an image. If there is a blurry background or foreground, an image is considered to have shallow depth of field, and images where everything is crisp and clear to see have a high depth of field.

Here’s a small chart to show how Aperture works:

  • f/11 to 22 or more: tiny Aperture, about the size of a pinhead.
  • f/8 to f/11: small, but not the smallest Aperture size available.
  • f/5.6 to 8: an average Aperture size, also usually the best size for taking quality pictures.
  • f/3.5 to 5.6: larger than average Aperture.
  • f/1 to 2: the largest Apertures. These allow the most light to reach the lens.

Now that I’ve explained the three major things to consider when looking for a camera, I’ll tell you what every photographer should know before they take a picture – a sort of algorithm for the clueful photographer.

  1. While paying attention to your working environment, set the ISO of your camera to the lowest possible level where you can still get good pictures. Lower ISO means less grain in your images.
  2. If possible, turn on Aperture priority mode on your camera. This will allow you to choose the Aperture and adjust shutter speeds with a switch.
  3. Consider the depth of field you want in your image. Should things be blurry or focused?
  4. Check the shutter speed to make sure it’s reasonable. You don’t want a blurry or shaky image (Or maybe you do).
  5. Finally, take that picture.

Once you’ve been doing photography for a long time, that list of checks should be like second nature to you. Until then, don’t be afraid to carry it around with you. Following those steps pretty much guarantees a better picture and fulfilling quality of life – it’s better than just aiming and shooting, so do follow them!

Sister’s Barbecue Party

Sister’s Barbecue Party

Last week I attended my sister’s birthday barbecue party and since she grills food outdoors every weekend I decided to research some good high grade meat smokers on smokerjudge.com and when I arrived at the party I presented a new smoker to her as a present. My sister was so glad to receive it and she told me that the smoker will get plenty of wear and tear. My brother-in-law is a radio personality so he played a ton of my sister’s favorite tunes from the early 80s, especially the music of the post punk and New Wave eras. We had fun dancing for hours and I was just as excited about the food that the caterers brought to the party.

Now For The Food

Barbecue was the main food of the party and I ate barbecued turkey burgers, barbecued pork chops, barbecued veal patties and side dishes such as our mother’s legendary baked beans, tomato and spinach salad, grilled garlic bread with herbed butter and pickled beets that I prepared a few weeks ago and canned in jars. For dessert we ate chocolate rum almond pudding and I ate so much that I had to head to the bathroom some hours later. My sister can’t stand big birthday cakes so that is why pudding was served.

Memories of Sis

When we all calmed down we watched a homemade DVD of my sister’s life in the living room. We saw a bunch of photos of her when she cried in the crib as a baby and then we saw a few pictures of her when she played the violin at recitals across the city as a teenager. Another thing we watched was a heartwarming video tribute by her husband in which he thanked her for 20 years of marriage and for sticking by him when he battled alcoholism. And her children performed a cute song stating why they loved their mother in the DVD. My sister cried throughout the whole presentation.

Let’s Not Forget The Gifts

Aside from the high grade barbecue smoker I got for my sister, she received other gifts. Her coworkers gave her a new ice cream maker while her husband gave her this secret love letter which she’ll read at a later time. Maybe it’s because there is a lot of heat in it. But he also gave her tickets to an upcoming concert featuring Journey, her favorite group. Our cousins pitched in and gave her three hefty gift cards to stores such as Wayfair, Bath and Body Works and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Conclusion

My sister is one of the sweetest and humorous people I know and she deserves to have a wonderful birthday celebration. She had a fun time with family and friends and she told me that it is a birthday she’ll never forget. She overcame childhood bullying and just this year she accomplished her goal of losing 40 pounds after a lot of hard work. I appreciate and love my sister dearly.

The Pet Grooming Battle

The Pet Grooming Battle

In this blog I’ll talk about my trip to the annual Groom Expo where I compete for a prize by showcasing my dog grooming skills. I have been a pet grooming professional hobbyist for fifteen years and I love the kind of work I do because it gives me the opportunity to make dogs’ lives better through proper grooming. As I arrived at Groom Expo I purchased a few new dog grooming supplies for my business and I networked with potential customers in the city as they walked around with their dogs. A few hours later the pet grooming contest began.

Looking At My Competition

One dog groomer styled his dog’s hair to where it resembled a traditional poodle hairstyle from the 50s and he did a good job of trimming the dog’s nails. There was another dog groomer who actually dyed the dog’s hair a different color and gave him a detailed pedicure before trimming excess furs from the dog’s body. I also saw a dog groomer do a not so good job in grooming his dog and he trimmed too much hair off the dog. I felt bad for that dog. The contest ended and I won first place.

Dog Grooming Seminars

One of the best things about the Groom Expo is the numerous dog grooming seminars that are held there and I learn a lot from the guest speakers. One guest speaker talked about ways that dog groomers can treat dandruff in dogs with specialized dog shampoos that can be purchased online or from local pet supply stores and he mentioned that dog groomers should understand the personalities and behaviors of different dog breeds so that they can groom them in the right way.

Meeting Other Dog Groomers

A benefit of attending the Groom Expo is that I get to meet fellow dog groomers and possibly build new friendships with them. I met with three dog groomers in my city and they talked about the ups and downs of this career. I mentioned that I hate it when picky dog owners come in my office and request outlandish or nearly impossible grooming techniques that could hurt the dog. Another dog groomer said that she loves how the dogs jump up and down after getting groomed.

Conclusion

I had a blast at the Groom Expo and not only did I win first place in the pet grooming contest there, but I also got a chance to talk with other dog groomers and get additional education in my craft without having to enroll in courses. It felt like a vacation and I was pleased with the experience. I feel rejuvenated and I’m even more motivated to perform well on the job and be there for my clients. The Groom Expo is also a convention where dog owners can enjoy themselves with their dogs and learn the latest in dog grooming so that they can groom the dogs themselves if they cannot afford a groomer.

My Travel to Mother Nature

My Travel to Mother Nature

Yesterday afternoon I decided to spend a few outdoors in nature because I needed stress relief after a disagreement with my spouse. While I was outside I took pictures of some of the colorful birds and I enjoyed hearing other birds sing as they flew in the sky. I sat under this lavender tree not far from the house and I actually took a nap on my blanket that I only use for going outside in nature. I took out some homemade granola bars and ate them as I went on a nature walk and I even saw quite a few raccoons from a distance but they didn’t migrate to where I was so that was good news.

Catching Fish

I soon got inspiration to catch fish so I can prepare a delicious fish dinner for my husband as a way of making up with him after our disagreement. I know he loves striped bass and shellfish so I used a fishfinder for convenient fishing and the one I like the most is Fishfinder Central because it gives me a list of the best spots and times to catch certain species of fish. I got in this medium sized boat and a few hours later I got out of the boat holding four to five pounds of fish and it was a beautiful time.

Reading Books While Outdoors

Another thing I did when I was outdoors was finally get around to the books that I haven’t read yet and I sat on our backyard porch to read them while the fish was in the oven. I took notes as I read because this is the way I absorb the information I get from the books so I’ll learn some personal lessons from them. The sun beamed on my head but I didn’t mind because I need more vitamin D from the sun.

Taking Pictures of Flowers

During the course of the afternoon I visited another forest near my house and in this forest were plenty of bold colored flowers so I took a lot of pictures of them. I also took pictures of a few dragonflies, butterflies and bees that were a few inches away from where I stood.  The photos came out great and now I’ll put those photos in my scrapbook of nature, and this scrapbook has over 100 mementos that pertain to nature.

Conclusion

I had a fantastic time outdoors and I was able to capture the flowers, birds and trees with my camera. There is something relaxing and peaceful about spending time in nature and I see it as a stress reliever. Well, the day is over and my husband and I have settled the conflict. After a long day outdoors I’m ready to eat the fish I caught with some sauteed potatoes, herbs and olive oil. Spending time outdoors is good for physical health thanks to the vitamin D from the sun and you gain a better appreciation for the animals that surround you in the outdoors. You should also bring the children outdoors since they can learn about the wonders of nature.

Making Shots At Fitness Competition

Making Shots At Fitness Competition

Although I’m a photographer by trade, I like to do research on fitness topics as a way to help me get in and stay in shape. I received a call from a female client who needs me to make shots at an upcoming fitness competition, I got excited because I have a strong admiration for sportswomen who defy stereotypes and other barriers to compete in these contests. Sportswomen are people I would want my children to look up to.  This competition in particular is a woman fitness competition so it should be interesting.

About The Competition’s Sponsor

I arrive at the site of the competition and the client and sponsor greet me before I take pictures of everything happening at the event. The sponsor of the fitness competition is the owner of an excellent quality protein supplier that distributes supplements and other kinds of protein so that those who are athletic can get their daily intake of protein. The sponsor gave me samples of flavored protein powder.

Myths Concerning Fitness Competitions

Some people feel that you can eat much of what you want while training for a fitness competition but this is not true because depending on the kind of workouts you’ll do in the competition, you will need to maintain a healthy diet that consists mostly of protein, fruits and vegetables. Even if you exercise regularly to train for the competition, you defeat the purpose with unhealthy eating. Another common misconception is that female participants in fitness competitions should not lift heavy weights as part of training but this is not the case and in fact, you lift weights to build muscle and succeed in the competitions.

Additional Tips on Preparing for A Fitness Competition

When training for a fitness competition for women, don’t focus so much on gaining excess muscles because you’re being judged based on femininity, poise and overall condition of your body. Some good exercises women can do include squats, calf raises, hyperextensions, and hip extensions. As the day of the competition comes, increase the intensity and frequency of exercises. Practice some dance and aerobics routines because this adds the artistic flair to the competition and increases your winning chances. Some cardio workouts such as sprinting, walking up and down the stairs, dancing and kickboxing are helpful in reducing extra fat.

Conclusion

Fitness competitions are rewarding for women because it boosts their self esteem and it inspires other women to accomplish new goals in life. Fitness competitions also teach women the importance of maimtaining a healthy body so that you will live a longer life although you’ll look better as a result. The client was pleased with the shots I made for her and she even gave me books on how I can succeed at my first fitness competition should I decide to enter one in the future. Currently my work schedule doesn’t allow for it but maybe I’ll consider it in the next few years. I was impressed with all of the

participants in the competition and we have come a long way since the rise of women’s rights movements in the mid 19th century.

How I Visited Crossfit Games

How I Visited Crossfit Games

Two weeks ago I received an invitation from my childhood friend to attend the Crossfit games since he was participating in them. The Crossfit games is a nationwide competition where athletes from within this country and other countries to test their fitness abilities and a majority of game participants are Crossfit gym members. The first stage of Crossfit games is a five week competition in which people from 17 regions compete and the second stage is a three day competition. The final stage is the main competition. When I asked my friend why he enjoyed Crossfit activities and what it takes to succeed in this activity, he said that you need dedication, the right supplements, hard work and a healthy diet. He also mentioned that you need the right shoes that provide a sturdy foundation for feet.

Weightlifting Competition

One of the highlights of the Crossfit games was the weightlifting competition and it was great to see my friend do amazing weightlifting techniques in the contest. He had this huge barbell and he held it over his head for about fifteen minutes. His arm and leg muscles looked graceful and he came in third place. He was a little disappointed but I told him that I’m still proud of him.

Handstand Walk

Another interesting part of the Crossfit games was the handsstand walk contest and my friend didn’t participate in it but I was amazed at the numerous people who were involved in the contest. The handstand walk reminded me of the circus performers I would see during my travels to Europe and the circus performances there. I tried to do handstand walks myself some years ago but I’m not very good at this.

Excitement of The Crowd

It was an exciting time at the Crossfit games because the crowd was all pumped up. I heard constant handclapping and positive shouts towards participants that they knew personally. I had a blowhorn so I sounded it each time my friend was a part of certain competition within the games. Even some of the children jumped and danced around to the music that was played during the games.

My Friend Lost Weight in The Process

One benefit of Crossfit games is that you can lose weight and this is what happened to my friend after he participated in the Crossfit games some weeks later. In a letter he wrote to me he talked about how he revamped his diet by eating small portions and cutting back on refined carbs and junk food as well as sugary sodas. He has a renewed confidence that was absent years ago and I’m happy for him.

Conclusion

The Crossfit games is not just about competing for recognition and prizes; it is about testing how strong you are regarding fitness and it gives you a sense of gratification knowing that you succeeded in achieving fitness goals before the rest of the world. My friend has benefited greatly from Crossfit and he intends to attend Crossfit games in the future.

Can Modern Technology Replace Tradition?

Can Modern Technology Replace Tradition?

I was traveling through Europe looking for elegant and beautiful photography opportunities when I happened to run into a good friend of mine while strolling through the Louvre Museum. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time, so we got lunch somewhere nearby and had ourselves a nice chat about this and that. The conversation eventually turned to a question which had been bugging her for a while, a question which I couldn’t easily answer. Can modern technology replace museums?

The first answer which came to my mind was a quick “no”. First of all, how could technology emulate the effects of actually standing next to something of historical significance? Seeing it, maybe, but not actually getting the feeling of being near it, or next to it.

She told me that there are these nifty things called 3D printers. Apparently the technology is rather new, but these printers are capable of creating the likeness of something seen somewhere, on a smaller scale.

I thought that was interesting, all right. I asked her if she owned one, or knew anyone who owned one, since it was something I wanted to check out right away. Unfortunately, she didn’t.

However, she answered back with another notion: if it were possible to achieve that nearness using modern technology, then wouldn’t it effectively be enough to replace the traditional museum?

I admitted that it might. Just getting to see and study famous items from time isn’t really the same as going to a museum though. How can technology emulate that?

In response, she told me about this thing called the Oculus Rift. It’s a headset that you put on and wear while surfing the net or playing games, and it projects the images you would normally view from a distance to right in front of your eyes.

Now, I’d never heard of that, either. My friend is always finding the most interesting pieces of tech, I have to admit that. She’s a project manager at a place called Citrus, and is responsible for helping the company to complete many complicated projects all over the world.

I then asked her if she happened to own one of those Oculus things, and she told me she did. It’s quite an immersive device, she said, and surely capable of making the user feel like he or she is in the place being viewed. It would be immensely useful for a kind of virtual museum, which is what she came up with next.

You know how there are places like Wikipedia or other websites that are loaded with knowledge? Someone could do something like that with the inside of a museum, or so she suggested. I told her it sounded like a great idea, but I still wasn’t quite won over by the idea.

I asked her then, if either of us had been at home visiting some virtual museum, then how would we have met up for our little lunch? That was one question she didn’t have an answer for.