Photography For Beginners – Make Your Subject Really Stand Out

Great photography subjects are all around us. You do not have to go far to find interesting people, flowers, or wildlife. The real test is to use your skills to create a photo with genuine impact.

How do you make your subject really stand out in a photograph? It is tempting, but quite wrong, to blame the camera when your photo does not work out the way you want. You need to know right now that a more expensive camera will not automatically make you a better photographer. In truth, the techniques in this article will work for almost any camera. All you need are manual aperture and shutter speed settings, and a decent zoom lens.

Here are a few simple tips for adding impact to your subject.

Tip # 1. Highlight A Brightly Lit Subject Against A Dark Background. If you are shooting a subject in full sunlight, with a shady background, the subject is always going to stand out. This is a simple principle to understand, but it is a little easier said than done.

When your photograph has two very different levels of light, the lightmeter in your camera can be confused. It may expose for the dark background, causing your subject to be overexposed. The trick is to expose for the subject.

You can not do this on automatic. What you need to do is switch your camera to manual, and adjust the aperture and / or shutter speed settings until the photo is underexposed by one or two stops (depending on the lightmeter). When you get the balance right, you should have a dark background and a perfectly exposed subject.

Tip # 2. Use A Small Depth Of Field To Blur The Background. You have seen plenty of photos where the subject is sharp and clear, but the rest of the picture is completely out of focus. You will find this an easy way to add impact to the subject, and a three-dimensional effect to your whole photo.

To achieve this, you use a combination of a large lens and a wide aperture. First, zoom in on the subject with your largest magnification. This will naturally reduce the depth of field. Then adjust the aperture to its widest setting. A wide aperture will reduce the depth of field even further.

The closer you are to the subject the more pronounced the effect becomes.

Tip # 3. Use A Wide Angle Lens To Exaggerate Perspective. This technique is almost the opposite of Tip # 2. A wide angle lens makes everything in your photo appear much smaller, so objects in the distance seem much further away than they really are. Meanwhile, you can stand very close to a subject in the foreground (a person, animal etc) and still fit it in the frame.

As a result, your close-up subject will appear to tower over a background in which everything else looks very small and distant. Although the surroundings will be mostly in focus (the wide angle lens has a much larger depth of field), they will seem reliably small and insignificant, making your subject seem larger and more dominant by comparison.

So there you have three fairly simple ways to add impact to the subject in your photos. Because my background is in nature, I usually think in terms of wildlife, but you can probably think of many subjects that will benefit from these techniques.

The great thing is, you do not need a professional camera to try these ideas out. As I said earlier, if you have a zoom lens, and manual control of your aperture and shutter speed, you can add impact to your photos with just a little practice.

Even better, in the age of digital photography, practice costs nothing … so get out there and start snapping!

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A Lesson in “Auctionese”: Learn to Talk the Talk at Storage Auctions

So you’ve finally saved up enough cash to go to a storage auction. You’re eager to buy your first unit and are planning on doing so no matter what. As you make your way through the crowds at the storage facility, you feel confident that no one is going to outbid you. But wait-do you know who the whale is at this auction? Did you just overhear someone talking about phantom bidding? Is there another new blood to contend to? Better yet… do you even know what any of that means?

If not, hold your horses! If you want to walk the walk, you gotta talk the talk. Over time, the auction scene has become somewhat of a subculture, and as with all good subcultures, the bidders and auctioneers have developed slang and secret codes. Knowing their language is indispensable in being successful.

Look around. Get a feel for the crowd. Listen. Hear what people are saying about the other bidders, about the units, and about the auctioneer. Here are a few phrases to listen for at the next auction that might just save your career.

Caravan auction – a series of site auctions advertised through a common promotional campaign. Caravans are usually led by the same auctioneer, who will lead the “caravan” to different unit facilities throughout the day. Find out if the auction you’re at is part of a caravan-you might have an opportunity to visit more than one facility that day!

“Fair Warning” -if you hear the auctioneer say this, listen up: if you haven’t bid on the unit and would like to-do it now! The auctioneer is about to close the bid, and is alerting you that he/she has given you “fair warning” before doing so.

Jump bid – a bid made of a much higher increment than the previous bid. Usually employed by a serious bidder who wants others to know that they mean business.

Looky-loos – a person who goes to an auction purely to spectate, with no intentions of bidding. Looky-loos can be frustrating to both the auction goers and the auctioneer, as they crowd the space and make it harder for potential bidders to see the units. The amount of looky-loos has increased in current times due to the booming popularity of storage auction reality TV shows.

New blood – a newbie; a person who is new to bidding. Don’t underestimate the new blood, they can be just as fierce as the seasoned pros as they’re trying to prove their worth amongst the other bidders and carve out a place in the business.

Pickin’ bid/phantom bid – a nonexistent bid called by the auctioneer to pique interest in the bidders. Be warned-this tactic is considered improper and in many jurisdictions is illegal.

Quarter/”Gimme a quarter… ” – no, the unit is not selling for 25 cents. The auctioneer may refer to a $25 bid as a quarter. “Gimme two quarters” would obviously mean $50.

Shill/shilling – a type of bid; bidder who is working for the auctioneer to inflate bids. Watch out for this one. Ask around for the inside scoop. Does the auctioneer make a profit off the units sold, or do they get a flat rate salary? Know your crowd, and more importantly, know your auctioneer.

Staged – relating to storage units, this describes a unit that has been tampered with before the day of the auction. Items of interest may have been pulled to the front in order to entice bidders, such as electronics, brand name purses, etc. Look for signs of a staged auction by disrupted spots of dust or an awkward, almost too perfect look to the setup of the locker.

Valuation – estimation of the worth of an item, or a storage unit on whole. After enough auctions and research, valuating will become much easier for you. Valuating is important in deciding what you maximum bid on a unit should be. Obviously, if the bidding goes higher than your valuation, you should step out.

Whale – a seasoned buyer who attends the same auctions very frequently. You’ll probably pin point the whale very quickly, and many people may be talking about them. They are usually tough to outbid if they have their sights set on a unit, and most likely have a lot of cash to burn!

“You’re out!”- a tactic used by the auctioneer after you have been outbid. Auctioneers often interact with buyers this way in order to fuel further bidding.

Are you feeling comfortable yet? Try some of them out, see how they feel! Who knows, you might just impress the other new bloods and the whales alike at your next auction.

For some more fantastic auction speak, as well as some of the phrases from this article, check out “Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms” By Paul Dickson.

Review of the New BlueGriffon Web Editor

BlueGriffon is a free WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor powered by Gecko, the rendering engine inside Firefox. It is cross-platform with versions for Windows XP and Windows 7, Mac OS X and popular Linux distros. There is also a portable version (for Windows only).

Like its predecessor, NVU, BlueGriffon provides an easy to use interface and includes all the most common options to build web pages that comply with the W3C’s web standards (HTML 4, XHTML 1.0, HTML 5 or XHTML 5 / CSS 2.1 and parts of CSS3 already implemented by Gecko).

A handy wizard guides users to set up their canvas, starting with selecting the document type, filling in data for the property, picking the colours, adding a background image, and deciding on the page layouts.

The interface is intuitive and almost basic at first, as it closely mimics a word processor toolbar layout. Icons to the most common options are clearly laid out: adding a table, a single image or a thumbnail linking to a large image, a link, a video, an audio file or a form to a web page is easy. Switching from WYSIWYG view (where you can arrange objects visually) to the web page source code (where you can manipulate the web page by editing the HTML code) is done by clicking on the two buttons at the bottom of the page. Several web pages can remain open in multiple tabs, which makes it easy to quickly switch from one document to another, copy and paste, etc

Adjusting styles can be done through the style properties panel, which would require some coding knowledge for most functions other than the most basic ones though. For example, it is easy enough to change a font colour or adjust the style of a border but, while the style properties organises the numerous style options quite neatly, most of the style options available would probably not be understood immediately by novices: this makes BlueGriffon more adapted to intermediate coders.

Another drawback of BlueGriffon if you start building your first website layout is the lack of proper (offline or online) documentation yet. If you have previously used any decent web building tool or if you want to build a fairly basic page, this should not be too much of a problem. However, if you’re a beginner in website coding, you may find yourself stuck at some point without much help available. Let’s hope that BlueGriffon documentation will improve with time, starting by offering a few walk-throughs on creating new pages and sites and developing its forum.

On the other hand, one of BlueGriffon strengths is the add-ons: the most obvious one is the free FireFTP add-on to easily publish your page from BlueGriffon. Most of the other add-ons need to be purchased for a small fee though to support future development, according to the BlueGriffon website. The CSS Pro Editor extension for example is much more powerful than the default CSS toolbox and provides web authors with full control over their stylesheets. Some popular paid extensions are the Mobile Viewer add-on (to test your pages with a large number of mobile devices), the Eye Dropper (a colour picker which allows web authors to pick a colour from sources that are not directly viewable or editable inside the editor), the Project Manager add-on (a sync tool between a local directory on your hard disks and a remote directory reachable through FTP), the Snippets add-on (useful when manipulating the exact same chunk of HTML code or text inside the documents) and the Toolkit Manager add-on. It is possible to buy all add-ons at once at a discount price on the publisher’s website.

Clicking on the Preview button will open the web page in any browser of your choice (as long as it’s already installed on their system of course) which is useful for cross-browser testing, to check what your page looks like in Internet Explorer or Google Chrome for example. This is also useful to check your scripts since these won’t run directly in BlueGriffon.

The Markup Cleaner which can be found at Tools menu can help you with cleaning your HTML code. You can also spell-check your pages and BlueGriffon even integrates a small SVG editor (svg-edit, originally distributed as an add-on to Firefox and adapted to BlueGriffon) for quick drawing jobs.

BlueGriffon is a very promising open-source and cross-platform web editor. At only version 1.31, it can’t of course compete directly with massive and expensive web development applications such as Adobe Dreamweaver, but this is already a very nice application to create web standard compliant pages without too much effort. It also makes a great tool for educational purposes, such as teaching design students the basics of HTML and CSS. Documentation and online forums need to be improved but, once it gets traction and support from the community, it could quickly become much more popular.

History of Exercise Equipment

The history of exercise equipment dates back to the time of early civilization. Before that, the need for survival kept people in pretty good shape regardless of whether they were hunters, gatherers, or farmers. When they started living in large groups and specializing, their day-to-day workload changed and for many, the need for exercise was born. Fitness training began with the early Greeks when Hippocrates wrote “that which is used develops, and that which is not used wastes away.” In other words, use it or lose it.

Physical training was introduced by way of two kinds of competition that arose between groups of people — games and war. Military conflict and athletic competition between city-states created the need for gymnasiums, calisthenics, strength training and exercise equipment.

Early exercise equipment consisted primarily of weights and tools for gymnastic training. Stones, sandbags, water jars, various yokes and bars made up the components of early weight training equipment. Early gymnastic tools were precursors of modern equipment consisting of swings with bars, ropes and rings. A variety of solid balls were used for coordination and strength training as well. Running and calisthenics were commonly used to develop coordination and stamina. Extra power and speed was developed by running up and down hills and mountains.

Much later, the Greek physician Galen described strength training using an early type of dumbbell. But the history of exercise equipment doesn’t really begin until the late 19th century with the appearance of the barbell. Early barbells were made with hollow globes filled with water or sand. About the same time, modern gymnastic training equipment came into being in Germany with Friedrich Jahn’s equipment that included wooden horses, balance beams and parallel bars.

Serious exercise equipment started appearing in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The first stationary bicycle was produced in the 18th century and was a large machine that worked both the arms and the legs. The first rowing machine appeared in the mid 19th century, and looked like the midsection of a boat.

Later in the early 20th century came machines to improve physical fitness. Many of the machines were adapted from earlier applications. The treadmill, for example, was initially invented with industrial applications in mind, during a time when steam engines were not practical and before electric motors were in widespread use. Later it and other weight and pulley systems were adapted for use in gymnasiums as exercise equipment and as features to improve safety for strength training. By 1933 the treadmill was in widespread use and in 1952 was being used in medical applications.

Also in the 1950s, Jack LaLanne created several new exercise machines including the cable pulley machine, the Smith machine, used in weight training, and the leg extension machine.

The step treadmill hit the market in 1983. It was a revolving staircase, similar to an escalator and called the stairmaster. Modern step machines with individual foot platforms came shortly afterward with the development of the stairmaster 4000 in 1986. These machines provided an excellent cardio workout along with lower body strength training.

Finally, the history of exercise equipment comes to the development of modern home gym equipment including universal machines like the Solo-flex and Bowflex, along with devices like the mini-stairstepper. The mini-stairstepper is a device that provides all the advantages of the step treadmill in a small portable device that can be easily moved and stored.

After the Bowflex and the mini-stairstepper, what new wonders will be added to the history of exercise equipment? No doubt, there is a cadre of inventors all working diligently to show us, and to take their place in history.