Being Still To Capture Movement

Justin Long ExposureAlright, enough boring stuff. For the past few weeks my guest posts have discussed a lot of technical mumbo jumbo and I think it’s time I changed that.

This post is about long exposures.

A long exposure is when you have your camera (preferably a DSLR) set up on a tripod with the shutter speed adjusted for a time that is longer than a second (roughly).

What’s the practical application?

Well, you can take pictures of the night sky, cars passing by or very dimly lit environments and they won’t look supremely noisy because your ISO won’t be cranked. The long exposure time allows more light to come into your camera, which means your aperture and ISO can take a break for once.

So, given that we’ve already covered the boring stuff, you should know that when you use a shutter speed that’s longer than a second, any subjects that move in your photograph are going to be blurry. Alternatively, if your camera moves, your entire picture will be blurry (hence the tripod for maximum stillness).

When shooting long exposures you won’t be shooting subjects that are moving too much. The only time subject movement really applies is when you’re taking photographs of the stars or storms — but that’s just artsy and cool, so it’s OK.

If you do choose to have a living subject in your photo, it’s important to let them know that breathing is an all right thing to do, but not much else. If you’re outdoors under the Milky Way and have a friend who wants to stand in a field with their arms stretched towards to the heavens, it would be fair to let them know that they’ll have to hold VERY still for at least 15 seconds or more.

Let’s focus on a single subject for this post regarding long exposures: Astrophotography; taking photographs of the night sky.

Whenever you choose to go out and take photographs of the stars, you’ll need to keep in mind that you’re going to be taking a picture of a moving subject. Well, to be truthful, you’re actually the one that’s moving. The earth below us is constantly in motion and exposures over a few seconds long can create a very cool effect: Star trails.

If you keep your shutter open for long a enough period, you’ll see the stars moving across the night sky. How cool is that?

When shooting astrophotography, one of your first decisions should be where you’re going to shoot. Shooting photos of the night sky in the city is a no-go. There’s too much light from the city polluting the sky for you to capture all the stars. Go out into the country for best results.
Next, it’s time to find out what kind of lens you’ll want to use. You’re going to want a lens with a wide aperture. F/2.8 or wider is best. The next decision regarding your lens is going to be what focal length you’ll want.

Do you want to take a photograph of most of the night sky or a specific star? That will depend on the focal length of your lens. 16mm will take a photo of most of the Milky Way. 300mm will let you zoom in nice and close to the moon.

One last thing about the lens: Focusing. Stars are very far away. It’s important to set your focus to that distance. Autofocus isn’t going to cut it either, so don’t try it. If your lens has a focus window … good! Just set your focus to the infinity symbol. If your lens doesn’t have that feature, try turning your camera’s live view mode on to digitally zoom into the stars in the center of the frame. Focus the lens using that nifty feature and your focus will be close to perfect.

Next, you’ll want a sturdy tripod. This is especially vital if your long exposure is going to be hours long. Any bumps or slight movements can ruin an otherwise great photograph. OK, I lied: The last thing you’ll need to do on your lens (because you’re using a tripod) is to turn of any Image Stabilization/Vibration Control/Optical Stabilization. We’ll cover that more in a later post. For now, just trust me.

Alrighty, enough hardware stuff. What is your photograph going to look like in the end? Well, it’s important to get two things right when composing your photograph. You’ll need to make sure that the horizon is level. Shooting a test shot with a high ISO and quicker shutter speed is a good way to check that. Next, you’ll want to find a good foreground subject so your photograph isn’t JUST stars.

I mean, you can do that if you want — but having a foreground subject can really create some nice visual interest other than the stars.

Setting up your camera depends entirely on what kind of photograph you want to take. Do you want to take a photo with the stars in motion or still? Either option requires different settings.

Justin Meteor Shower1


Your shutter speed, aperture and ISO will need to be very specific to capture star trails properly.

First, you’ll want your shutter speed to be longer than 15 minutes.

That’s right. Minutes.

That amount of time — at least to me — is a minimum to capture star trails. The trails will be too short otherwise. Use a remote shutter and your camera’s bulb mode (check your manual) to leave your shutter open for that long. A remote shutter can be a big help because once you switch to your camera’s bulb mode and click the remote, it will keep the shutter open for more than the camera’s 30 second limitation. Otherwise you’ll have to hold the shutter down with your finger or some sort of tape/pebble mechanism … just use a remote. They’re cheap.


As mentioned before, your aperture should be as wide as it will go.

Because the camera’s shutter will be open for so long and the lens’ aperture is wide open, the ISO can remain relatively low. ISO’s of 100 to 500 are completely acceptable. I wouldn’t go much higher though; there’ll be too much light otherwise.

With these settings you’ll have a very clean photograph of the night sky and some beautiful star trails. Another tip: Find Polaris. The North Star. Your star trails will look especially cool with that in the photo. Go out and try it and you’ll see why.


To take a photograph of the night sky without the stars moving (too much) in your photograph, you’ll want to set up your rig similarly to how you would if you were shooting star trails. The only difference is that your ISO is going to be cranked and your shutter speed is going to be a lot shorter in duration. An ISO of 2,000 to 6,400 is acceptable.

Your shutter speed is dependent on the focal length of your lens too. If you’re shooting a photo with a focal length of 16mm, your shutter speed can be a touch longer because motion will be less evident with a wide angle. If you’re shooting a photo with a focal length of 300mm, your shutter speed will need to be shorter to avoid too much motion from the stars in the frame.

A good rule to follow is the 500 rule. If you divide the focal length of your lens by 500 you’ll get the amount of time your shutter should stay open before star trails start to occur.
At 16mm you can keep your shutter open for roughly 30 seconds. At 300mm you can keep your shutter open for roughly two seconds.

That’s a huge difference.

The best way to learn how to shoot long exposure photography is to go out and do it. I spent a lot of time during my college years outside messing around with long exposures. Much of that time was spent in front of my best friend’s house with a flashlight creating light trails by dancing around like a moron.

Actually, that’s a great idea: Next month’s post is going to continue on with long exposure photography. This time we’ll point our cameras back to earth to capture light trails. See you then!

meJustin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Waiting (Impatiently) for Baby Hannah

Although becoming a parent is not on my personal bucket list, it’s very exciting for me when my closest friends become moms for the first or even third time. I don’t have many friends I see often with children, and those I do have I’m unfortunately not near to see often enough and am not able to be even a semi-large part in their kids’ lives.

I’m hoping to change that a little though, with one of my best friends, Allie, who is expecting her first child in a little over a month with her husband, Donnie. The pair are having a girl! And breaking the trend, they announced the name they have chosen for their new little bundle: Hannah Rose. Perfect, no?

Allie Baby Shower5

Now that I live in Metro Detroit, about an hour away from their home in the same area, I’m much more able to spend time with them. I was also lucky enough to be able to attend their recent baby shower to help celebrate.

The event took place at a really eclectic Italian restaurant in on of its back rooms. Allie’s family did a great job decorating and planning! Look at some of the super cute pieces that made this shower unique! The cupcake favors added an extra dose of “aww,” as Patty is the baby’s last name. Come on, now!

Allie Baby Shower3Allie Baby Shower1Allie Baby Shower2

As for the gift, I chose a different route, since I had given Allie a bag of baby gifts a few months prior. So instead, I chose to focus on HER post baby, because everyone seems to forget about mom once the infant is born. Though I haven’t been through pregnancy, childbirth, or raising a newborn, I can only imagine the toll it takes on the body and mind of the mother after going through such an ordeal. My gifts centered around quick and easy pampering to make her feel beautiful at times when she probably won’t after changing countless diapers, getting spit up on, and barely sleeping through the night. I grabbed dry shampoo, quick-drying pink nail polish, a nail buffer and file, stress-relief bath bomb, a loofah, and a gift card to Tim Horton’s for her favorite iced cappuccino.

Allie Baby Shower4

I did add a small water rattle toy for baby’s bath time, and we were all requested to bring a book instead of a card. Well, I can tell you it was a successful gift, and definitely something to maybe keep in mind for the next baby shower you attend!

Like I said before: being a parent myself is not for me, but I think being an honorary Aunt is something I can handle. I want to be a strong, confident, loving female figure in Hannah’s life, and even in the lives of my friends’ kids who I don’t get to see on a regular basis. I want to be able to treat them to ice cream and playtime in the park one moment, and give them back to their mom and dad during a crying fit the next!

Allie and Donnie are going to be amazing parents and they certainly have an awesome support system to help them through every test of the job. I personally can’t wait to meet their little one!


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Stitch Fix Review — August 2016


Hello my fellow Fix-ers and readers! It’s time for yet another Stitch Fix box, and this time around it’s a little bit different. You’ll learn why if you keep reading.

I’m not sure of the reason, but this month I really wanted to bust out of my usual. I wanted an adventure of sorts! With clothes. For this Fix, I asked my stylist Kimberley to give me something in genres I don’t ever pick for myself: like boho chic, glam, or edgy. I suggested a casual dress or kimono, but also asked for the staple pieces I’ve been seeking be put in the primary holding spot if she happened to find any. I sent off my note, and waited.

Kimberley, however, did not style my box this month. That girl took a needed and well deserved vacation, and therefore Stitch Fix hooked me up with another stylist named Kate. So how did it go?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Papermoon — Hearst Cross Back Blouse; Extra Small/Petite; $44

Papermoon — Hearst Cross Back Blouse1Papermoon — Hearst Cross Back Blouse2

The mint color of this top is spot on for my taste, but sadly that’s about the only thing that was working for me. It’s a very boxy piece that I felt was too short, and I’m not a huge fan of the polyester fabric. The cross factor in the back wasn’t really enough of an incentive to make me want to purchase this, either, and it kind of billowed like a cape in the wind. Back this goes.

Papermoon — Kyndall Lace Detail Knit Top; Extra Small; $48

Papermoon — Kyndall Lace Detail Knit Top1Papermoon — Kyndall Lace Detail Knit Top2

This top is certainly my style in every way. I’m a sucker for navy, I love the knit fabric and it was a very comfortable fit. The black lace is romantic and very flattering across the back, too! But while I really liked it, something about me didn’t absolutely love it. Maybe it was too similar to other pieces in my closet, and I’m trying to bust out a little. Maybe it was the black on navy, and I wish there had been more contrast to the piece. Either way, I chose to send this back.

Collective Concepts — Clement Scoop Kneck Blouse; Extra Small/Petite; $54

Collective Concepts — Clement Scoop Kneck Blouse1Collective Concepts — Clement Scoop Kneck Blouse2

This top has so much potential, but it just fell flat. The style is really feminine and the floral print is bright and fun, but the fit just was not right for my body. Like the first top in this Fix, this piece is boxy and short. It didn’t lay correctly on my frame because of the super silky fabric, and it made the cute details on the back bunch up. I feel this top is one you shouldn’t have to wear with a cami underneath, but because of all of its problems I couldn’t go without one or I’d risk a wardrobe malfunction. And it looked weird with a cami, in my opinion. I knew right away I’d be returning it.

Papermoon — Mauna Kimono; Extra Small; $38

Papermoon — Mauna Kimono

A kimono! I was so happy to see this in my box, as it was something I requested and haven’t ever tried before. The fabric is a simple, sheer mesh, that’s great for a breezy, summer cover up. A great way to add some color and pizzazz to your outfit, too! Even though we only have about a month and half of warm weather left here in Michigan, I don’t have anything like this in my closet and figured the price was right. I chose to keep it!

Collective Concepts — Galen Laser Cut Dress; Small/Petite; $88

Collective Concepts — Galen Laser Cut Dress

As you can see in the photo, fit was the biggest issue of the day for this dress. I really liked the style, the laser cut outs, and the color, and was very excited to try on something I don’t normally gravitate to. But once I saw how baggy it was on me that excitement faded. The dress is way too big, plain and simple. No matter how I fiddled with it, there was no looking good!

Overall Thoughts

While I didn’t expect the same outcome as a box styled by Kimberley, I thought Kate did her best at choosing items she thought I would like based solely on my note and Pinterest board. Though fit was the biggest problem this month, I could definitely tell she tried to match details of certain items I pinned and I’m appreciative of that. I do, however, look forward to having Kimberley back!

I’d love to hear your own thoughts about this Stitch Fix box! Leave me some comments below!


Now you can have your own personal stylist! Click the banner below and schedule your first box. Once that box shows up at your doorstep, you’ll help me support this blog.

-Photos by Justin McKee

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When Crohn’s Disease Brings Life to a Halt

I’m sorry for the lack of postings this week, but I’m here to tell you what’s been happening the last few days.

Actually, scratch that. It goes back a week or so. And word of warning, this post may mention bathroom things and/or poop, and you should understand why having already read the headline. Prepare yourself for a longer read.

Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, as I’ve written about it here on my blog, but I’ve also been in remission for many years. Flareups happen every once in a while, but they were uncommon, and usually occurred when I chose to consume something I knew might have a negative side effect.

Crohn's PainHowever, within the last few weeks, I noticed abdominal pain happening more often in the evenings, a LOT of gurgling in my gut, and sometimes vomiting. It didn’t happen every day, but enough to make me say “when my insurance kicks in, I’m seeing a doctor and getting referred to a gastroenterologist.” With my new job, my health coverage didn’t kick in until the first of the month following 60 days of employment. That’s August 1st. I’d see a doctor as soon as possible and get this sorted. I didn’t have long to wait it out, and I’ve done this before.

My body, however, had other plans, starting Tuesday.

That afternoon, I once again had severe gut pain. I resigned myself to bed around dinner time and stayed there, not able to sleep much, and threw up late in the night. I woke Wednesday extremely fatigued and feeling like hell. It took me double the time to get ready for work (sick days aren’t allowed until you’ve worked for a whopping six months. I know, I think the same thing.) and I let my boss know what was going on. I made it only a half hour late, but within a short amount of time I knew I’d be worthless in the office. I tried to make it to lunchtime, but I knew something was very wrong, so I left after two hours, immediately crawling into bed when I arrived home. Again, I stayed there all day, only getting up to use the bathroom or feed my cat. Extra strength Tylenol did nothing but give me weird dreams and slightly dull the ache in my abdomen. Sleeping was intermittent, and I threw up bile, as I hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day.

Thursday morning was just as bad as Wednesday. I needed a doctor. Needed help. Now. I was exhausted, in a lot of pain, bloated, and sick of throwing up. I was days away from my insurance kicking in, but I wasn’t functioning, and I couldn’t wait any longer. My mom offered to come down, and I happily accepted. I needed encouragement and definitely having a driver was most welcome. We went to Urgent Care, just down the street, hoping they could give me something to ward off the pain until I could see a GI doctor. However, it being Crohn’s related, they suggested we go to the ER.

When I heard ER, all I could see was me drowning in thousands of dollars in bills, especially without insurance. My brain really fought going in, but I didn’t really have much of a choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Luckily, the nearest hospital is around the corner from my apartment complex.

Oh, and side note: obviously when you visit a doctor’s office, you get weighed. Well, at some point since I began having these issues, I lost quite a bit of weight. I was a staggering 97 pounds. And I usually clock in at about 105. Not good.

The ER wait was quicker than expected, but then again it was late morning. Went into a room, gave the nurses and a resident doctor the scoop, and they immediately started an IV of fluids, gave me anti-nausea meds, and took some blood for testing. Oh, and they also gave me a shot to slow my bowel, which doesn’t sound bad. Except it was. It was the most excruciating shot I’ve ever gotten because the nurse literally had to jab it into the front of my leg, right into the muscle. My mind was screaming expletives. The area still hurt yesterday. It did help the pain in my gut, but I’m still not sure if the pain of the shot was worth it.

Fast forward through wait periods and I went in for x-rays of my abdomen and a CT scan of the same area. Yes, the procedure with the nasty barium to drink beforehand. Hooray. More waiting, a urine sample, and then they delivered the news: I had a partial small bowel blockage and needed to be admitted.

Hospital Stay IVAgain dollar signs flashed before my eyes. We went over the alternative options with the doctor, especially concerning the lack of insurance coverage, but he really stressed the need to be kept at least 24 hours on current fluids (with nothing to eat or drink) to see if the blockage resolved itself. Otherwise I could be facing bigger problems, surgery, and bigger bills. What else could we do?

I got up to my room and resigned myself that I’d be spending my first night in a hospital bed, hooked up to an annoying IV system that beeped loudly whenever I so much as moved my one arm (or didn’t move it at all). More blood was drawn, my mom was able to grab me some necessities from my apartment, and I tried to settle in as well as I could.

The next morning, Friday, additional vials of blood were needed, but I felt good. Like, really good. No gut pain, no gurgling, no nausea. And I had an appetite, which hadn’t been present since lunchtime on Tuesday. A number of primary care, GI doctors, and those from a surgical team talked with me. Thankfully, my labs were showing as normal and my lack of symptoms were a very good sign, so surgery was not going to be necessary. And since I hadn’t been able to see a primary care doctor or gastro yet, they set all of that up for me, but laid down the law that I needed to start properly managing my Crohn’s now. Duh, right?

More tests, more waiting, and they allowed me to select something from the full liquid diet menu of the cafeteria. If I could prove eating and keeping food down wouldn’t be an issue, doctors were confident I could be released. Best. News. Ever. So I ordered some Cream of Wheat, ate that up, and sipped water without issues. A few hours later and another blood draw, I was free, and told to take it easy on eating, but stay away from high-fiber food like vegetables and fruit for a few days. I was also given prescriptions for Prednisone and Zantac for inflammation.

Now I can’t say I’m yet at 100 percent. I still have some gurgling and minor abdominal pain in the evenings since I’m still dealing with inflammation, so it makes me a bit nervous to eat much of anything until I have my next bowel movement (I’m not an everyday go-er. TMI?).

I’m taking it slow, day by day, hoping the meds kick in sooner rather than later. Praying I don’t have another trip to the hospital in my future. For those of you who saw my post about it on my personal Facebook page and sent well wishes and offered prayers, thank you so much. It’s great to see support when fighting an invisible disease.


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My Favorite Nail Polishes for Summer

Summer Nail Polishes

Summer is in full swing! I meant to post this a few days ago, but I’ve been so busy it completely slipped my mind! It’s not to late, however, to rock these great summer shades on your fingers and toes.

Essie — DJ On Board

Essie - DJ on Board

What a great purple! DJ on Board is a fantastic newer color from the Essie lineup that works so well with summer because of its fuchsia shimmer. The first time I ever wore this polish was on my toes, and I received a lot of compliments and inquiries about it. Such a purple as this is eye-catching and it’s perfect for the beach or the hottest night spot.

OPI — Coca-Cola Red. 

OPI - Coca-Cola Red

Why wouldn’t this OPI color be on the list? You may know I’m a bit obsessed with Coke, as it’s my favorite type of pop (I’m actually drinking one and wearing a Coke T-shirt as I type this – not planned by the way!), but Coca-Cola really fits as one of the best refreshing summer beverages (alcohol added or not!) and this red shade matches the brand’s signature can. It’s bright, bold, and hot, just like the season. Perfect.

Essie — In the Cab-ana 

Essie - In the Cab-ana

To me, this color by Essie screams tropical waters, beaches, and palm trees. In the Cab-ana is one of my favorite polishes in my entire collection. I wear it all year round, but it works best in the summertime and really pops against tanned skin. I’ve also seen many summer brides wear a shade like this as their “something blue.”

Zoya — Dixie

Zoya - Dixie

Dixie is one of my newest nail polishes, and I currently am wearing it on my toes. Zoya has made the dreamiest shade of pink, and it makes me think of sunsets and watermelon. I also love the creamy formula of this one, because I typically only need one coat on my nails for it to be opaque. Such a fun, spicy color!

Essie — Meet Me at Sunset

Essie - Meet Me at Sunset

I’m not usually one for orange colors, as it typically clashes with my skin tone, Meet Me at Sunset should be a summer staple when it comes to nail polishes. I mean, look at that burnt orange! And just think of the pretty things you could do if you combined this and Dixie for a gradient effect! Summer needs to last longer in Michigan.

So now that we’ve covered summer, which polishes were your favorites? Leave me some comments and let me know your own go-to summer shades!


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Pokemon Go is Catching Us All

Pokemon Go

If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go yet, I ask you one question. HOW? It’s all over the TV news, in the papers, and on every street. It’s the new reason why people are gathering in local city streets, parks, malls, and attractions in droves, glued to their phone’s display screen.

I’ve become one of those people.

I was a bit too old to jump on the bandwagon when the original version of Pokemon exploded onto the scene in the 90s, but I knew the idea of it because my cousin was a Pokemon fanatic, collecting the cards and knowing each of the creatures by name, stat, and evolution. My minimal knowledge of Pokemon came from the few creatures depicted in the first version of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64.


Let me briefly explain Pokemon Go. The app allows you to seek and collect Pokemon in real time and, using Google maps, your specific area of location. On the screen, your avatar moves when you move, in whatever direction, and along real-world streets through GPS. Even after rolling my eyes about those who downloaded the app the minute it was released in the U.S., I ended up joining in due to the true-to-life map aspect.

So as you travel around (walk, bike ride, skateboard), Pokemon of all types appear on your phone’s screen and you try to catch them using Pokeballs and other items you collect at “Pokestops” located at points of interest in your area such as monuments, water fountains, important buildings, etc. You keep collecting Pokemon, evolve them into their stronger versions, and make them more powerful with their own special skills. Some Pokemon are more rare than others, and some can only be found by certain geological features like bodies of water.


You can also battle Pokemon caught by other app users at “Gyms” (also real life points of interest) who are on a different team (which you select). Through all of this, you gain experience points and level up. You also can hatch Pokemon out of eggs, all by tracking kilometers through the app’s GPS locator. Yes, these are real kilometers logged by real physical activity.

But what’s the point? As the catchphrase says: “Gotta catch ’em all.”

There are about 150 different Pokemon to catch (so far; I’m guessing they will add more than just the original creatures in the future). I personally love collecting the things, as most are pretty cute or fierce looking. I’m still learning all the names.


There’s also another aspect of this game that I love: the community. There are so many people of all ages playing Pokemon Go, and most I have interacted with have been very friendly, very willing to share tips on where to find certain Pokemon and how to play more efficiently, and most are making sure Pokemon catching hot spots are safe for everyone to enjoy, even at night. Businesses are even supporting it as they see their revenue increase thanks to hungry and thirsty Pokemon Go players.

I know it looks a bit bizarre when you see hundreds of people in their teens/20s/30s playing Pokemon Go at the same time — we sort of look like zombies with a hive mind — but it’s also extremely amusing as you’re just as into catching Pikachu as the stranger next to you. It’s a phenomenon I’ve never seen before.

So go ahead, try it. Catch ’em all.


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From Oompa Loompas To Frozen Faces

Guest post by Justin McKee

White BalanceWhite balance.

It’s the bane of every point-and-shoot photographer’s existence — well, in some instances.

White balance is the reason why some photos turn out way too orange or way too blue. The “balance” part of the equation is off when a photograph’s tint doesn’t match what is normally seen with the naked eye.

The way to correct that issue is to either use a preset on your camera to counteract the temperature of the light in the environment, to use a white wall or a gray card to set the white balance manually or to set the temperature using the Kelvin scale in your camera.

Let’s chat about temperature first. No, not the weather … I don’t even want to talk about Michigan weather with fall around the corner. So I won’t.

Colors can be represented as temperature. Most middle school art students can tell the difference between warm and cool colors. Well, they’re called warm and cool because of — you guessed it — temperature. The warmer a photograph is, the more red or orange it appears; the cooler a photograph is, the more blue it appears.

The temperature of light is generally measured using the Kelvin scale. To give you an example: The light from the sun comes in at about 5,600K(elvin). If you’re in a place where the light is warm, the temperature of the photographs you take on the Kelvin scale are probably around 2,000K.

If you’re in an environment where the light is very cool, the temperature on the Kelvin scale is much higher; 7,500K.

So, let’s say you have your white balance on your camera or point-and-shoot set to AWB (Auto White Balance) and you’re shooting outside. Every photo is turning out great … that is, until you venture indoors. Suddenly, there’s a big shift in how your photos look. The building you just entered doesn’t have very many windows and the light coming from the light bulbs on the ceiling is really making your photos turn out orange. Your eyes see everything normally, but your camera sees everything as super warm.

Counteracting this problem can be as simple as turning your white balance setting from AWB to one of the preset modes.

Each camera handles this differently, but since it’s such a useful function, camera manufacturers tend to put a white balance button on your camera that is easily within reach.

You’ll notice little logos that look like a sun, a fluorescent light bulb, a shaded tree and more. These logos represent different color temperature situations.

Obviously, if you’re outside on a sunny day, you’ll want to use the sun preset because that will set the camera’s white balance to a temperature on the Kelvin scale that will compensate for the temperature of the sun’s light.

If you’re indoors, you may want to change your camera’s preset to the little light bulb logo. Doing so will tell your camera to counteract those warm colors coming from the incandescent light bulbs so your photograph’s tint turns out closer to how your eyes see things.

Another good way to calibrate your camera’s white balance is to use a gray card (or as mentioned before, a flat white surface such as a wall).

Many cameras allow the user to take a photograph of the gray card (or wall) and use the color information from that photograph to set the white balance of the camera. It’s a little trick that can be very handy — provided your shooting environment doesn’t change drastically. However, it does take time.

The quickest way to change your white balance and have accurate coloring (besides using the white balance presets), is to change the temperature of the Kelvin scale on your camera manually.

If you’re indoors, set the Kelvin scale to a number around 2,500K. You may need to increase or decrease the number a bit to get it just right, but that’s the beauty of this feature; you have complete control of the photograph’s temperature. If you’re outside and the light is somewhat cooler than it was indoors, change the temperature of the Kelvin scale to 5,600K or 6,500K to compensate for the change in light. Your photos should look very similar to what your eyes see.

The cool thing about cameras and point-and-shoots these days is that you can actually see these color changes in real time if you have your camera set to live view mode. If you’re taking photos using the LCD screen on your camera or your phone, you can see the temperature of the photograph change as you change the numbers manually.

At the end of the day, you could get away with shooting with AWB and have excellent photos. But in a pinch, knowing how to change your white balance can really help your photographs shine and limit the amount of editing you deal with on the computer after taking each shot.

meJustin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Exploring Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts

DIA1If you love art and artifacts from the past, or just have the desire to try something a bit different in The Motor City, the Detroit Institute of Arts should be on your list of places to visit.

Though I can’t consider myself a lover of art, I do appreciate the skill, time, and effort put into the pieces by the painters, sculptors, and carvers. Some works of art are so incredibly detailed it just boggles your mind.

I was fortunate to visit the DIA for the first time on a work outing alongside three of my coworkers; two of which had lived in metro Detroit for their entire lives and had never ventured into the museum. I didn’t even know this place existed!

The DIA is nestled into downtown Detroit on the campus of Wayne State University, and is a beautiful structure that fits right into the college setting. Inside is just as gorgeous, with spacious gathering areas and intricate mosaics, paintings, and reliefs in the floors, walls, and ceilings. Some of which took my breath away.


In addition to artwork, the DIA also offers patrons to see artifacts including suits of armor, paper documents, weaponry, and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Assyria. There are historic and religious writings, figurines, textiles, and more from centuries ago from all across the globe, from Africa to India and Europe.

And if you like the big name artists, the DIA has that, too. You can see work by Van Gogh, Bernini, Picasso, Matisse, and other greats. Then check out some of the lesser-named artists, who also created astounding art depicting landscapes, still life, people, famous battles, and animals. And of course, get confused and come up with your own interpretation of what the random blotches of different colors mean on canvas. At least, that’s what happens when I see abstract artwork.

DIA3DIA4Art lover or not, the DIA is a fantastic place to see all kinds. There’s plenty of space to walk around, numerous rooms (getting lost was a thing for us), and more than one floor of displays. If tours are more your style, they are offered most every day and you’ll get taken around to some of the most famous and popular pieces by a host full of knowledge about each one.

Oh yeah, it’s also a great spot for a selfie. It’ll make you appear more cultured. Maybe.


It was a lot of fun checking out the DIA with those hooligans! Make sure you visit the next time you’re in Detroit, too.


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How I Iced Out ‘Frozen’ For 3 Years, And How I Eventually Let It Go

Guest post by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

“Oh yeah, Frozen. She’s kinda just getting into that,” I sigh.

“Kinda? JUST? Wow…”

I am speaking to a bewildered father of a 3-year-old as we tread water in a camping ground pool and watch our kids play. His daughter needed the whole Frozen castle for Christmas and, as he put it, it was very “Ughmygaaahdd…”

My daughter, on the other hand, is semi-interested in Frozen after discovering it semi-recently. Yes, it’s 2016, and Frozen was released in 2013. Since then, Anna and Elsa have taken over every possible segment of the consumer goods marketplace and I agree. It is so ughmygaaahdd.

FrozenAnd somehow, we’ve avoided it until now. I know I’m supposed to tell you a secret trick here. “This Mom Missed Frozen Mania. Her One Weird Trick Will Blow Your Mind!”

I’m going to disappoint you. Ready?

We just never watched Frozen. We never discussed it. We never bought any Frozen merchandise. We did not listen to Idina Menzel’s insane vocal talents. We just skipped it.  

I know. But how?

Part of it is the luck of the draw. My daughter was only a year old when Frozen was released and my kid just wasn’t interested. Not enough talking animals. No dinosaurs. Thumbs down!

Then I took a year off work to stay home with her, and we continued to ignore Frozen. Then I went back to work and she was babysat with two little boys who liked farm stuff, so they all ignored it together.

With the blessing of a child uninterested, I watched the insanity wash over many another small child. I gave Halloween candy to innumerable Elsas and Annas for a few years in a row. I side-eyed Frozen bandaids and training toilets. A not-small piece of me saw this and thought, simultaneously, “Thank God I’m not part of this” and “I will avoid this at all costs.”

With a kid uninterested and unexposed, it didn’t take much effort to keep Anna and Elsa out of my house. I just… didn’t let them in and no one missed them.

It sounds simplistic and sort of condescending, but it comes down to this: You’re the parent. You decide these things.

I wrote basically the same thing back in the day when I had a newspaper column about parenting, but I applied the idea to food. I didn’t want my kid to build her diet around processed, beige junk food, so I didn’t feed her chicken nuggets. I fed her what we ate, and now she eats everything.

This was a good strategy for three and a half years. Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them in.

Then we changed daycares, and my daughter’s new best friend loves princesses and magic and dresses that drag on the ground. So that’s what my daughter likes now too — not to the exclusion of dinosaurs or handling bugs with her hands, but enough that she began asking for Anna and Elsa dolls.

So I caved. I bought her a pretty legit Frozen toy set, and it’s been a very mild hit. I actually haven’t seen her touch it in a week, but I’m sure she sort of likes it maybe.

It’s not just Anna and Elsa making their way into our lives. It’s Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and Belle, too. It’s all happening. Ughmygaaahdd.

But why? Why, after years of successful crusade against Frozen, did I let my icy heart melt? To be honest, I’m not sure.

I’ve always had misgivings with the Disney Princess Industrial Complex. I worry about the way girls are socialized to be disempowered enough without the pressure to perform the princess trope. I was writing about my thoughts on that years ago, and new studies are confirming what I suspected all along. (Although apparently exposure to princesses is somewhat positive for boys? OK, fine.)

But here’s the ideas I’m trying to cling to now that the princess advent is upon me.

  1. This is just the beginning of peer influence. My daughter is three and she’ll start preschool in the fall. Two minutes later, she’ll be in high school. Rather than fight princesses and communicate to her that a) I don’t value her interests and b) she can’t talk to me about the stuff in her world, I’ll go with it and help her build a healthy fascination with the floof. Hopefully this builds a foundation for the bigger, more important topics we’ll undoubtedly cover in two minutes.
  2. Also, it’s important for kids to feel they fit in, if that’s what they want. I’m trying to keep in mind my own experiences from 7th grade (everyone had Nikes, I had Skechers) and 8th grade (everyone had Skechers, I finally got a pair of on sale Nikes).
  3. Even without peer influence, my kid gets to decide who she is. I can’t project my biases onto her. In fact, everyone I know whose parents tried to do so… they completely revolted. I’m not trying to manifest that destiny for myself as a mom.
  4. While the performance of and adherence to rigid gender roles isn’t my thing, femaleness is. Femininity is powerful and valid, and Elsa kinda proves that, right? She doesn’t even get a dude in the end! And there’s that “Get Elsa A Girlfriend” thing, which could be great. (I’m trying.)
  5. Honestly? I don’t have the energy for this anymore. There are too many other things to be mad at in the world. This doesn’t make the top 10 list anymore.

See? I’m learning to let it go.


WhitneyWhitney Gronski-Buffa is a freelance reporter and stay-at-home mom. You can follow her on Twitter @whitneymae.

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Long Weekends Call for Fun, Family, and Retail Therapy

Long holiday weekends. They need to happen more, right? I hope yours was relaxing, stress-free, and as pleasant as possible. I was fortunate to have a four-day weekend, and it was pretty much filled with activity including travel, food, entertainment, family, sleeping in, friends, and shopping. Not too shabby!

I may be 30 years old, but childish activities like mini golf, arcade games, and trying to catch the drips of a soft serve ice cream cone before they reach the ground is my kind of fun. I discovered a nearby field house/fun center nearby and played a round of putt-putt, even managing a hole-in-one. Of course, it doesn’t matter that I blew my lead a few holes later. I’m pretty terrible.

And tokens had to be purchased when I saw ski-ball. It’s my favorite arcade game! But here’s the best part: I’m pretty sure my machine was busted. How did I come to that conclusion? Because my machine was pretty much vomiting tickets while a machine next to me was pretty conservative. I used about $2.50 in tokens and ended up with more than 300 tickets, and my scores weren’t that high.


The things were dragging behind me as I walked to the ticket eater! It was a bit ridiculous, but more hilarious. And the guys behind the counter let me take home an off brand Nerf type of football even though I was about 30 tickets short. I probably spent more on the tokens than the thing costs in the dollar store anyway. They got the better deal.

Saturday ended up being extra special, as my family gathered together for my grandma’s birthday and the return of my cousin and her family to Michigan while they move from the Bahamas to Florida. It was really good to see everyone again, catch up, and be outdoors in the sunshine. And the food, of course.


Celebrating my grandma and seeing her happy, surrounded by most of her family and friends, was the best part of the day.

Shopping also was a necessity this weekend, as (minor) retail therapy w as needed to cast off some gloom. The first half was window shopping, as I went to the ritziest mall in the Detroit area — we’re talking Michael Kors, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, etc. But then I scaled it down and went to more cost appropriate stores and found a few items for really low prices, including new exercise shorts for $5 each! Can’t beat that. Sometimes it’s nice to just meander the shopping centers by yourself, taking as much time as you need, maybe trying on a few things you wouldn’t normally try. I’d highly recommend it.

Other highlights of the weekend: I found the best Mexican restaurant, continued working out (yeah, motivation!), stayed in my pajamas one day until 1pm, visited with my friend Lauren and painted/decorated her nails, took time to sit back and read, began watching Game of Thrones (I know, I’m late to the party; I don’t have TV),  ate some delicious lobster mac and cheese, had my air conditioner repaired, hung a hummingbird feeder after a confused hummingbird tried eating from my red sunflower seed feeder, saw some fireworks from my balcony, took a trip down memory lane by watching the movie Camp Nowhere, and enjoyed some sparklers.


Here’s to you, America.


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