depth of field

How do you get your camera to do that cool focus in the foreground, blurry fuzzy whatnot in the background?

What you are talking about is depth of field. The more difference between the fuzziness and the focus, the shallower the depth of field. Everything in focus means a greater depth of field.

Very shallow depth of field

Got it? Well, I have a slightly fancy DSLR camera that can do that!* Camera lenses are really just a hole called a shutter.

Open shutters of different apertures

The hole is closed until you press the shutter button, and then it opens real fast to snatch up the picture and suck it inside the camera and it closes when it has the whole thing. The camera can only suck in what is inside the field. If the field is shallow, then it doesn’t reach very far into the background and the camera ends up just guessing what the background looks like and it comes out all blurry because the camera is unsure. Of course, this is all very scientific, so don’t feel discouraged if you are confused. This hole can be different sizes. It is technically called the aperture. The bigger the aperture, the shallower the depth of field! I have a 50mm lens, and its aperture can get down to an f-stop (unit of aperture size) of 1.8, which is very big. So it can take pictures with very shallow depth of field. Ta-da!

The f-stop numbers are in inverse proportion to the hole size, just like wire thickness is in inverse proportion to its gauge number (26-gauge wire is very thin).

Low f-stop (e.g., 1.8) = larger hole = shallow field visibility

High f-stop (e.g., 12) = smaller hole = deep field visibility

As Andy Carlson says, “It turns out all you need in life is a bigger hole!” It’s true.

Another thing you may be thinking of is the phenomenon occurring in this photo:

Andy Carlson and me

See how the background looks like it’s wasting away at the edges? THAT is the result of us standing in front of the sun when it is very low in the sky. And then the blurriness and spots of light (called bokeh in the photo world) are thanks to the big hole on my tiny short lens. A Russian man huffed past us when we were setting this up and said “I don’t see how you can take pictures INTO the sun!” Well, you can, as long as you stand in front of it. Now you know!

That boy Andy. Check out the bokeh. If you hate the word "bokeh" as much as I do, you can call it a "circle of confusion," even though that is almost worse.

P.S. Taking pictures into the sun can definitely be achieved with a point-and-shoot camera. Just make sure your subject is standing in front of the sun because taking pictures directly into the sun can ruin a camera! Although I feel like I have definitely nearly taken a picture directly into the sun when Andy was just barely blocking it…but my lens seems to be OK. Knock on wood? If the subjects come out too dark, try turning on the flash.

*It’s actually possible to get a point-and-shoot digital camera to do it, but you’d have to either be zoomed in on a person or something, or taking a macro (very close-up) shot with a lot of background


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so wierd (sp?)

Have you ever realized that a distinct event in your past has led to a distinct problem now?

I’m a really, really good speller. I’m astoundingly good. I’m not even going to be modest because in the face of extreme talent, modesty just looks obnoxious. I can look carefully at a word once and remember how to spell it forever. I should have done spelling bees as a kid because I would have made bank. I can even guess how I think a word is spelled based on intuition, on subconscious assimilated knowledge, and I’m usually right.

But there’s a dark exception. I can’t spell ei/ie words. I have to really think about them, and even then I often get them wrong. Don’t even tell me that old “i before e except after c” rule. Hello, there are exceptions. “or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh.” Guess what? There are exceptions to that, too. Seize. Now, you’d think I’d be fine because I obviously know all the rules and exceptions. But to spell seize, I have to think of the first rule, then of the exception, and then of the exception to the exception, switching the i and e with each step. And that’s way more work than I’m used to.

I’ve resorted to crude memory devices. A PIEce of PIE. FRY-end, friend. (That last one has actually made all the difference as *freind no longer looks okay to me.) Nee-EYE-bore. Neighbor. Ironically I still have trouble with that classic example, receive. Because it is the classic example, I always assume that I will get it with no effort. Then I am extremely perturbed to see that I have written *recieve.

I guess I really can’t complain because I’m handling it pretty well. I just wish I could whip out those ei/ie spellings the way I can do onomatopoeia.

So, why do I have so much trouble?

I missed that day of school. No, really. First grade. I remember making up the homework. It was really hard. And now I appear to be Screwed For Life! But I think it’s one of those imperfections that makes you an individual.

This is a very important photo. I have just finished the first grade, and I have no bangs. I have been entrusted with the class pet, Scamper, for the summer. The name Scamper was selected by me and voted on by the class. I am wearing my favorite dress, which was black with spots of glitter. This photo was taken before Scamper escaped into our house and made a nest in the closet out of Spice Girls merchandise that my mom got on clearance at Claire's. The Spice Girls had just gone out. Scamper is wearing a Barbie bra. I might appear to look different now but it's just hair and makeup.


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the point

There’s this place in New Orleans, out by Lake Pontchartrain, that everyone calls The Point. Some kids call it The End of the World. If you could see this place, this “end of the world,” you would realize how much of a small town New Orleans really is.

I learned today that it is the second-largest saltwater lake in the country.

To say that the Point is out by the lake is actually a little incorrect because it is more on or into the lake.

Here is what it looks like from far away:

The blocks of white along the shore are boathouses, and the blocks of white striping the water are boats in the boat parking lot, a.k.a. marina.

And a little closer:


The Point is the end of this ribbon of land that runs behind the West End marina. It’s edged on one side by the lake, and on the other by boathouses. These boathouses aren’t fancy. They took a beating during Katrina and have been mostly rebuilt, but now they look brand-new and unsure of themselves.

In the pre-Kat world, everything looked more settled and homogenous.

See how they have garage doors underneath? Those open into the water, and that’s how they get their boats in. It’s funny to look through a half-open garage door and see water and a marina instead of a car and back wall. If I could give my Aunt Sue anything, I would give her one of these boathouses, and a beautiful boat.

It must be scary to know that there is a lake under your house.

At end of the landribbon is the Point.

Getting close...


It’s a very relaxing place to be. At any given time there is at least one person sitting out there in their car, just thinking. It’s a good place to think. My friend Hayli is a big fan. I took my school friend Tori there while we were in New Orleans for our spring break. The water was wild, rearing up and slapping over the shoreline. We parked facing it and let it hurl itself at the car over and over again while we sat safe behind the windshield.

Look at that beautiful color!

I don't know how to get anywhere.

Most photos are better with people in them.

There's Scarface to the left

This one does not have enough water in it, but it is still good.

At some point, the water became especially fierce and back window was cracked and Robert was getting wet from the spray.

There's Sam in the foreground. She was concerned.

I dropped Tori off at the airport later, and went back with Robert when it was dark. I turned on the high beams and they illuminated the expanse of lake in front of us. We would watch a swell build and suddenly there would be a terrible wall of water in front of us, illuminated by the headlights, rearing up to engulf the car in its murky green.

I don’t have a “dark” photo of the waves crashing, so here is a different “dark” photo.

Eerily anachronistic

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Filed under adventures, expositories, spontaneity

i am a liar

Remember my post about my grandma’s nickname? It’s all a lie. I apparently invented every bit of it. Which scares the bejesus out of me.

My mom commented on it. My mother commented on my BLOG. Isn’t that perverse? Anyway, here is what she said:

SO, I occasionally google my name to keep abreast of unauthorized usages and such. Lo and behold, my name pops up and I have to address this because of a grave error…Kiki came from the end of marKEY. And thus was the beginning of KeyKey, spelling later changed to Kiki.

And it happened at my childhood home, so there pbbbbbtht

WHAT IS THIS? Am I crazy? Was I misled? Is my mom crazy? Are we both crazy? Does anyone actually buy that expensive Fancy Feast cat food?

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looking forward

I just remembered that I get to bleach my roots! This is slightly interesting because afterwards I am dying them pink. Have you ever been doing whatever mediocre activity, driving home from school, swiping into your dorm, taking a shower, whatever, and thought of something mildly more fun to do afterwards? Something like clip your nails, or brush your teeth really good, or take photos of the fairy ring in your backyard?

exhibit A: Fairy ring. It is terrifying to think of the terrific mycelium connecting those little guys. I got this photo from Wikipedia!

After the mediocre activity is complete, do you ever find that you have a sense of unfulfilled anticipation? But you can’t remember what it was ever for? Doesn’t it feel great when you finally remember?

exhibit B: I get to bleach my roots tonight! I hope the internet appreciates me putting myself out there by parting my hair in the middle for exposition and for laughs.

I feel like I’ve used every kind of drugstore hair bleach there is. My favorite was the first I ever tried. I remember exactly what it was: the Garnier Fructis with the guy on the front. It took only ten minutes to bleach your hair to high heavens! But more recently I instructed a “client” to buy this kind, and she did, but it was different. It had another ingredient and took way longer. Maybe it was all a dream!

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Today in Forevs21 I was feverishly pawing through a table of sunglasses and a little girl of 7 or 8 came up and rested her crossed arms on the table and said conversationally, “I like your pink bangs!” I smiled frighteningly and said “THANKS!” probably in a southern accent. Tori says I do this when I’m polite. I think I kind of drag out the vowels. “Do y’all take Dinin’ Dollars?” I said that at Cappy’s II once. (The answer was no.) A high five for every NU student who’s ever asked that anywhere! Southern affectation not required.

Anyway, the girl just sort of set her mouth in a neutral position, inhaled, and looked casually to the side before making her exit. It really made me miss working at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Demetri Martin has this joke about kids. He says you can say you love kids, but you can’t get specific, like “I love 12-year-olds.” Maybe that’s true in a lot of situations, especially In This Day And Age, but I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I love 7- and 8-year-olds. When I did the LCM summer camp, that was my assigned age group. They absolutely worship you and genuinely think you are the coolest thing since stick-on earrings. So it’s great for your self-esteem, because they’re very nearly real people! And they watch you like a hawk would watch you if you were a delicious dormouse. So it’s great for self-improvement.

Call your local summer camp to try 7- and 8-year-olds today!

PS FUN FACT! The hyphen after “7” is called a suspended hyphen.

Here is a photo to make this post more interesting.

Here are the sunglasses I selected.

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Filed under anecdotes, expositories

the rebuttal

I’d like everyone to know that I got my linguistics conference summary back with a note written at the top. It said, in painfully insouciant earth-mother handwriting, “Caroline — I didn’t think you wanted this graded as an essay, so I didn’t count it. In any case, glad you went to the conference. JR”

Later in the paper, she circled the word “diatribe” and wrote “clearly you didn’t like this talk.” Apparently she missed the part where I also called the talk a “soliloquy.” A SOLILOQUY. CLEARLY she didn’t pick up on my repeated use of ill-chosen and imprecisely connotated synonyms for “speech.”

She also circled my first use of the word “untalented” in the part where I say something like “…by which she implies that particularly untalented babies will grow up to be particularly untalented adults.” She scribbled in a preponderance of preferable word-choice alternatives next to it, such as “at-risk” and “underprivileged,” which is not what I meant at all. Basically, she tried to wreck my parallelism, which is a dangerous thing to do. Next to the second instance of the word “untalented,” she wrote “no need to be nasty.”


IN ANY CASE, one of the graders told me that she and the rest of the graders got a real kick out of the essay and really enjoyed it. CLEARLY, they are not uptight and moody.

Maybe she just didn’t like the included photo?


Filed under rants