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Photography Friday: Your Questions, Answered

As I recently promised, I'm going to answer some reader questions regarding photography for today's Photography Friday post.

Laguna Beach night photo.

 Do I have to take a class to improve my photography?  No, you don't.  Some of my favorite (and some very famous) photographers are self taught.  By the way, self taught doesn't mean they just did whatever when shooting – they made a concentrated effort to learn and improve.  There are all sorts of ways to learn photography and a classroom is just one of them.

Photography is a journey.  Even the best photographers never stop learning.  By the way, photography is an expensive journey.  (Just warning you!)  Picking up good condition, used, lenses, etc., is a great option.

•  What do I need if I'm just starting out?  I get asked this question repeatedly.  I would start off with a basic DSLR (digital) camera.  Learn the camera inside and out, and add a beginning software editing program as soon as possible.

Ahem, it bears repeating, learn your camera inside and out.  It does no good to have tools you never use, right?  Good photographers can operate their cameras on different settings at night in the dark, without thinking twice about it.  Can you?

(Also, Photoshopping something to death doesn't begin to make up for a bad photo.)

 Do I have to shoot in RAW?  No, you don't have to.  You don't have to do anything.  The majority of professional photographers shoot in RAW though, and wouldn't consider doing otherwise.  If you don't have photo editing software, jpegs are the way to go.  There are other situations when jpegs are helpful too, but if you're trying to learn and improve you should understand RAW and the benefits it brings.

•  Why do I need photo editing software?  To answer that question, you need to understand how a digital camera works.  In film days, the photos were taken and then developed in a dark room.  How they were developed impacted the final look of the photo.  The same is true today with digital cameras.  The camera does some of the work, but not all of it.  If you really want to "finish" the process, you need photo editing software.

•  Do you ever use manual focus?  And if so, why?  Yes, I use manual focus frequently.

Macro photo of purple flower.

It isn't possible to take photos like the above purple flower on auto-focus.  Manual focus is your friend – acquaint yourself with it.  It's really very easy, I promise.

•  Can I use Lightroom if I don't shoot in RAW?  Yes, you can.  Lightroom is a great tool for organizing and sorting photos.  It also allows you to do some basic photo editing adjustments.  It doesn't allow you to do everything Photoshop allows you to do, however.  

It's a limited tool, but a good one.

•  What do you use to edit your photos?  I use Lightroom and Photoshop CS5. 

Photo of Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA.

•  People say I take nice photos, can I make money off of them?  Possibly.  A lot (!!) of people take "nice" photos though.  In fact, there are many amazing, spectacular, photographers making no money.

Be your own biggest critic – how can you make your photos better/special/different?  Start noticing photos you love – in magazines, in the newspaper, in books, on the Internet … and then ask yourself why you like them.  

 Nikon or Canon?  Either.

•  Finally,

Photography is art – find your own style and have fun!  

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Rejection and Disappointment

Everyone experiences negative stuff, it's part of living.

The scent of rejection, and the disappointment it brings, may lighten in time – but it pervades and shapes our lives in definitive ways.

One of my girl friends and I were talking recently about the highs and lows of life.  How had particularly painful moments defined us?  What bad moments in life still sting years later?  What negative experiences are laughable now, regardless of the pain they caused once-upon-a-time?

I've realized the most painful moments in my life have been those caused by the betrayal or abandonment of friends and/or lovers. 

Job interviews that didn't work out, less than a perfect grade on a test I studied my ass off for, vacations with bad weather and ruined plans, being told no one would ever read my writing …..

Those things don't seem to matter in the long run.

Taking someone into your life though,

Trusting them with your inner thoughts and vulnerable heart –

Having people you love betray you,

Abandon you,

Reject you …

Those are the hurts that never go away.

At least not for me.

It isn't a matter of forgiving, or not forgiving …

It just feels, for me, like having my heart shredded by a jagged piece of glass.

I don't open my heart to people easily or quickly.

Once I love someone, I love deeply whether that person is a friend, family member, or mate.

How dare they decide they no longer love ME?

(I laugh at myself …

And yet, I don't.)

My friend told me a story of an experience she had several years ago.  

She gave me permission to share it with you.

We laughed about it in the re-telling, but I honestly can't imagine how much it must have hurt her.

For storytelling purposes, I will call my friend Jane (not her real name).

A man Jane knew "courted" her for a long time.  (For writing purposes, I'll call the man Mike.)

Jane was vaguely interested in Mike, but having just come out of a break-up, she wasn't eager to get involved with anyone.

Mike was patient.

Mike was not pushy.

Mike was always "there" for her.

Mike made her laugh.

Mike was consistent and steady and persistent in a non-threatening way …

Eventually, little by little, Jane opened her heart to Mike.

It didn't happen quickly,

It was a slow, gradual, bonding over the course of about 18 months.

Once in awhile Mike would try to move the relationship to a more romantic level, but he always respected Jane's wishes when she said she wasn't ready.

Mike became a friend, and then eventually a "best" friend to Jane.

One day she realized she couldn't imagine not having Mike in her life.

He had pretty much made himself a fixture in her life.

Mike called Jane "just to check-in" almost every day.  

He was always hanging around, just casually there on a pretty frequent basis.

After quite some time, about a year and a half to be exact, Jane invited Mike over for dinner.

She lit candles, she put romantic music on –

She was ready to take the relationship to the next step.

Mike appeared overjoyed initially.

They had a nice dinner at her apartment, "accidentally" touching each other throughout the meal.  Eventually they held hands, then kissed, then moved to the couch.  Mike was eager, Jane "slowed him down" a few times.

They sipped on wine and kissed some more ….

Things progressed and they soon found themselves intertwined or her bed.

Mike finally had her naked –

After all this time of pursuing her –

He had what he wanted, right?

She, on the other hand, was more than just naked physically.

She had (after the longest courtship in modern history) opened her heart to him, completely.


Mike, for whatever reason, suddenly "changed."

He went from being eager and affectionate to suddenly distant.

The change was obviously very unexpected by Jane.

(This was, after all, the man who had been "after" her for over a year.)

She was baffled and unsure of what had happened to cause this sudden and abrupt change with Mike.

Affectionate and horny Mike was replaced by distant Mike in a matter of minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, Mike left.

My friend was naked.






Now she jokes, "The sight of me naked sent him running."

She laughs, but I can hear the doubt in her voice like maybe it really did.

She's beautiful, by the way.

I may be biased because I'm her friend, but she's a gorgeous person inside and out.

(She's been in a very loving relationship with someone else for many years now.)

She never heard from Mike again.

He just disappeared.

After all that time of calling her, 

Of pursuing her,

Of spending time with her –

He basically ran away and never looked back.

She tried to get in touch with him initially,

Mike avoided her calls and refused to talk to her.

His silence, his avoidance, hurt Jane more than his abrupt departure.

She kept asking herself,

What had she done wrong?

(She still wonders ….)

He couldn't really be walking away forever, after all that time chasing her, could he?

He wouldn't really stop calling her, after talking almost every day for months and months, would he?

But he did.

Just like that, and with no explanation, Mike was gone.

We laughed about this story when she told me,

"Once upon a time a guy saw me naked and ran real fast" type of laughter.



Underneath her laughter I can still hear the hurt years later.

Maybe that is what touched me most about her story.

She may try to laugh it off now, but Mike left a permanent wound.

I hear wistful sadness when she explains how much she missed his friendship, for years, after he "dumped her."

I don't think she'd ever admit it, but it seems like she misses him still.

I know she still questions what she did to disappoint him.

What must be wrong with her, to make him run like that?

The answer, or course, is not a damn thing.

The flaw is not with her,

It's somewhere within Mike.

But …

Will she ever, truly, one hundred percent, believe that?

I don't think she will.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Miscellaneous Aspects of My Life

This is Carolyn, who I love:

Carolyn, from OC Waxing.

Is it wrong to love the woman who yanks your pubes out?  Carolyn and I laugh, and laugh, and laugh when I visit her.  (OK, I also gasp now and again … but that's to be expected, right?)  Carolyn knows things about me no one else does.  

I mean, not many other people have my vagina spotlighted and magnified on a regular basis ….

This is what the inside of a Very Expensive OC Weed Doctor's office looks like:

Doctor's lounge chair.

I don't know if anyone other than the actual doc has ever sat in the lounger?

I burst out laughing when I saw it.  Then I sat in the other (normal) chair in the room, not the lounger.  Next, I had a lengthy discussion about chronic pain and nerve damage with Dr. Weed.

This is Grey Wolf:

American Indian named Grey Wolf.

I met Grey Wolf last weekend and he was kind enough to allow me to take his portrait.  I think it came out very nicely.

Have I mentioned (a bazillion times?) Orange County is gorgeous in October?

Coastline of Orange County, CA.

Well, it is ….

If I could, I'd just hang out at the beach all day, every day.

I hate when reality interferes my life.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Angeles Crest Highway, and More …

I'm tired.

Tired as in …


Today I don't have to "do" anything.

Don't get me wrong –

I have a zillion billion things I need to do,

But I have nothing I HAVE to do.

I might doze on the couch for a few hours, but shhhh! don't tell anyone.

My daughter left on a red-eye flight last night.

Yesterday, she and I went to the small town(s) of La Crescenta/La Canada/Flintridge/Montrose where I grew up.

She had never visited there before.  It's about an hour and a half drive time from where I live now (when there isn't rush hour horrible traffic).  She was delighted with the cuteness and charm of the area.  By the way, all four of the above mentioned places are pretty much the same "town."

We had lunch outdoors at a little local bakery.

We walked around a lot.

We drove up in the hills mountains and I showed her where the local "make-out with your boyfriend" spot was.  (Is?)

Angeles Crest Highway as viewed from Make-Out Point.

I shared with her the story of my father almost dying when his car went off that same, treacherous, mountain road.  Many years later my cousin did die in a car accident on that very same road.  His dog was in the car with him when it went off a cliff.

The dog survived the accident and sat, unmoving, by my cousin's body for hours upon hours until the wreckage was discovered.

Even then, his dog refused to leave his side.

Eventually, someone had to physically pick the dog up and take it away.

It breaks my heart still.

I learned to drive a car on Angeles Crest Highway.

To this day, I consider myself an excellent mountain road driver.

Many people have died on that mountain road,

And yet, it's also a spectacularly beautiful place.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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And How Was Your Weekend?

Today, at some point, I'll be driving my daughter to the airport and saying good-bye.

Before I do that, I'll be spending a very (!!) long several hours in:  La Crescenta, La Canada, Pasadena, Montrose, and Los Angeles.

Did I mention I have a brain-splitting migraine too?


I'm pretty sure it's tied to my injuries/disability/muscle spasms/horrible pain I'm experiencing right now.  Because all of that pain is not enough, without adding a migraine to the mix.

I hate good-byes.

Good-byes suck.

Especially good-byes to people I love.

Yes – even in this case, when I know I'll be seeing my daughter in Boston in just a few weeks.

We've had a busy visit, leaving me with very little writing time.

I thought I'd share bits and pieces of what's been going on ….

•  I saw a woman over the weekend whose eyebrows were permanently residing at her hairline.  Plastic surgery gone bad …!  I'm sorry, I don't have a photo.  There was no discreet way to take one.

•  I've given up my husband for a new lens I've fallen in love with.  (Shhh – don't tell him, he doesn't suspect a thing!)  It's the Canon 135mm f/2 and it's razor sharp and we create magic together.  

Photo of swing taken with Canon 135mm f/2 lens.

The 135mm lens isn't for everyone and/or every situation – but it's my current crush.

•  I also have another crush.  I love dahlias.

Do you love dahlias? 

Do you know what a dahlia looks like?

Macro photo of a dahlia.

I tried to capture just a small touch of dahlia beauty in the above photo.  They make my heart so happy …

(No, I didn't use the new lens for the dahlia photo.)

I might buy myself a couple dahlias on the drive home from the airport today just to cheer myself up.  

•  I went hiking in Peter's Canyon on Saturday.  It was hot.  (Doesn't that sound like a porn movie?  Peter's CanyonPeter's Canyon was very warm!)  

By the way, Peter's Canyon looks pretty much exactly like "my" canyon.


I'm unintentionally cracking myself up today.

Peter's Canyon is, of course, further away than my canyon … it's in the city of Orange.

As I was hiking, I came to a fork in the road …

Fork in the road, trail at Peter's Canyon, Orange, CA.

Life is just one big fork in the road, isn't it?

(I'm SO deep today!  Just call me The Philosopher Named Twenty Four!)

By the way, I ended up taking the path to the left.

I wonder what would have happened if I'd gone to the right?

In any case, I hiked up some very steep trails.  

And down them.

I now have a slightly sore ass from excessive steep-hill-hiking.

•  Did I mention it was spectacular here this last weekend?

Orange County coast.

I love the month of October in Orange County.

It's breathtakingly beautiful right now.

Did you have a nice weekend?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Selfie Sunday

Every two weeks, Google Plus has "Selfie Sunday."  Participating photographers post a self portrait.  People are quite elaborate, setting up tripods, time release cables, etc. all in an effort to take their own photo.

I could have done that, and maybe I will next time –

But today, I took a self portrait the (sort of) easy way.

Self portrait – Suzanne Haggerty

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Confessions of a Horrible Blogger

Hello Internet …!

I've been posting daily, but I haven't been a very attentive blogger.

My daughter is visiting from Boston right now and I've found myself doing the bare minimum to get by in the wild-world-of-the-web.  She's only here for a few more days, and then I'll resume a more normal routine.

Several of you have asked to buy photos I haven't yet posted to my photo site.  I apologize for the delay, and promise to get my more recent photos uploaded in just a few days.  I wanted to let you know she's visiting and that's why I've fallen so behind.

She and I have been busy doing girl things.

Monochrome photo of my daughter looking out at the (Pacific) ocean.

We've been shopping, and visiting, and walking along the beach(es).  She's been very homesick for our beaches.  

Oh, and "good Mexican food" also ….


In a few weeks I'll be making a trip to Boston to visit her.  It's a trip I planned nearly a year ago, long before she scheduled this trip to California.  I'm hoping to see some fall leaves when I go.  We don't get much in the way of fall leaves here.

My big concern is the fact I don't own a coat, and don't want to buy one for such a short visit to the east coast.  Will I freeze my ass off?  Probably.

I just bought some non-sandals in preparation for going east.  She tells me I'd "freeze" if I wore flip flops in Boston at the end of October.

Pffffft ….!

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Birds of Prey

Last week, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take the "portrait" of a very special someone.

Owl portrait

The above owl, is one of several birds of prey working at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach.  The Montage is a very fancy, super exclusive, outrageously expensive, drop-dead gorgeous resort here in South Orange County.

The resort spends (supposedly?) around $1,000 per day for a falconer to bring his birds to hang-out (work?) several days each week.



Having the raptors visibly present at the resort, scares seagulls away.  It's considered a humane way to rid the grounds of the general peskiness, and messiness, of seagulls.

(For those of you who have never spent time by the ocean, seagulls will "steal" food right off your plate, are very messy, and a general nuisance for beach-goers.)

The various birds of prey do get to fly, they aren't always tied to their perches as they are in my photos.  They have constant access to water and are treated well, as they should be.

Guests love to see the birds up close.  They ask the falconer questions about his raptors continuously.  The falconer, and his birds, are a huge point of interest for tourists.  (They've even appeared in newspapers and on TV.)

I loved having the opportunity to photograph these beautiful birds.


If I was a seagull, I wouldn't want to mess with them either.

Bird of prey

These birds give a whole new meaning to "hotel security."

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Funny Things Happen In My Life

I have the strangest things happen to me.

Last weekend my mom commented her life has been "so calm and normal" compared to mine.  She made the statement as if she were questioning whether or not I'm really her daughter.  I look a lot like her, so I think I am.

My mom shakes her head a lot at me.  How is it possible she has a daughter who swears and acknowledges she's had sex before?  She taught me to be a lady.  Never mind, I've had three kids – I'm supposed to still be a virgin.

My mom's list goes on and on – bemusement and befuddlement.

Speaking of being a lady:

•  Apparently, yesterday a porn site linked to a humor post I wrote (quite awhile ago) about drawing a face on my nipple.  What that post has to do with porn, is beyond me – but hello thousands upon thousands of very disappointed porn readers.  

* Waving to disappointed porn readers worldwide! *

I had no idea so many of you existed ….

Porn readers, that is.

I'm apparently very naive regarding the world's porn habits.


Hi mom!

•  Yesterday, I also received a tweet from someone I had referred (as a patient) to Dr. Painless:

Hey @twentyfour I could call him Dr. Patience, but I'd rather call him Dr. Hotness! Whoa!!!

Apparently, she finally made it in to see him?

Several more "he's so hot" tweets followed.

Dr. Painless is hot?

Have I been in too much pain to notice?

Possibly I lost my vagina in the car accident along with my arm?

I'll have to check him out next week when I see him.

(And no, I will never be able to look at him the same way again ….)

•  Next, I opened the mail only to find one of my readers had sent me a Magic Magnetic Sex-Button.

No, I don't play with it – I'm supposed to wear it.

(Hello again mom!  It isn't my fault someone sent me a sex button!)  

Hmmmm – maybe I didn't describe it correctly.

I don't wear it there

It's a "magnetic button" I'm supposed to attach to my clothes.

Oh wait …

That still doesn't sound right, does it?

Think:  campaign button, only different.

It's a "joke" button and the reader who bought it instantly thought of me when she came across it.

Ahem …?

(OK, I admit it made me laugh!)

I'm really, really excited by the audience my photos are getting on G+, but along with that comes some very interesting emails and comments.

Like …

* Being told I'm purtee and sexxxxi.

* A man in a middle eastern country told me I had photoshopped lights and reflections into a night photo I took last weekend.  I explained to him, I wouldn't know how to photoshop something like that – the photo is indeed "real."

I'm pretty sure he didn't believe me because then he started leaving me long, deep, meaningful, quotes about life.  (Which I didn't understand, because apparently I'm not quite deep enough.)


•  People are speaking Bulgarian and other languages to me on G+.  I have to use Google Translate to know whether they're complimenting my photos, criticizing them, or telling me I'm purtee and/or sexxxxi.  

I think it's pretty cool people all over the world are connecting.

But still,

Sometimes I wonder –

As I wave to disappointed porn readers, set the Magnetic Sex-Related Button aside, and pull up a web- based Bulgarian translator …

Is everyone's life like this??

© Twenty Four At Heart