I’m progressing through the book from Thom and I’ve been experimenting with exposure and stops. Now that I understand the exposure meter better, I feel like I can start to “dial in” my photos for the effect I want. I’ve been having some fun with depth of field as well.

It’s cold and grey and dreary outside, so I’ve been moving around the house finding interesting test subjects: low lighting, shadows, macro, that sort of thing.

Here’s our family room clock:


I focused on the “3” with a shallow depth of field, so the left side of the clock is out of focus.

And here’s a toy dragon in Zaque’s room:


For this one, I did some post-processing to bump up the contrast and heighten the color a bit, making the dragon look a little more harsh (fierce?).

Camera and Craft

Thom gave me Camera and Craft, a book on digital photography, for Christmas. I’ve been reading it on and off for the past few weeks, devouring the information and recommendations. Although I’m still a long way from having the artistic eye that he does, I’ve learned a lot about how the different elements of shooting combine to make a better photo.

Here are a few recent practice shots:



Right now I’m working on the technical stuff; over time I’ll work on the art.


Teaching early-morning seminary has been an amazing journey over the past year and a half. It’s incredibly difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve had to do hard things, but I’ve been blessed for my sacrifice. And every now and then, I have an opportunity to see the effect I have on seventeen high-school kids who come to my class before the sun rises.

One of my students wrote a note for me over the Christmas break. Part of it reads:


I need to remember this sort of thing on those days when I feel like I’m not making a difference, when most of the class is barely hanging onto consciousness, and when I feel like my lesson is a disaster. In the end, it’s all worthwhile.

Christmas lights

It’s about time to take down the Christmas lights, although it’s been a wee bit chilly lately (below zero tonight) so they’re still hanging.

I thought I’d take an artistic fuzzy shot of them…



Last month I decided to brighten people’s days by leaving anonymous Post-its in various places. It was fun to leave little notes that said things like “You are awesome”.

Since Laralee is extra cool, I thought I’d leave some for her as well. They weren’t very anonymous, but each day I added one more to my collection. Eventually they formed sort of a heart shape, because hey, I’m a romantic sometimes.




Zaque really concentrates when he rolls dice during games.


Thanks, Kyra

I clothe her, I feed her, I provide shelter and love and respect for her. For almost nineteen years, I’ve treated Kyra like my own daughter.

And this is what she gives me for Christmas.



True, so true…



I don’t know if “kameraspielen” is even a word, but if not then I think I’ll make it one. It means “playing with a camera” in German, and as I continue to work on improving my photography, I’m just playing around to learn the tricks of the trade. Today I popped in the prime lens for my Nikon D90 and took a few shots around the house. I’m working on lighting, f-stops, depth of field, that sort of thing.

Then I download the photos to my computer and mess around with Darktable, which is a fantastic photo-editing package. That’s where I’m learning things about levels and contrast and base curves. Digital photography absolutely relies on good post-processing.

So, at my desk as I was running through different tools in Darktable, I saw my little Lego guys and figured I’d take a few shots. Here’s my favorite minifig, King Arthur with the Holy Grail:


And my second-favorite, the generic pirate, complete with parrot and treasure map:


Longtime readers may remember when these guys first showed up.

Thom gave me a thick book on photography techniques, which I’m going to start reading in hopes of learning more. And then, more kameraspielen.


Kyra and Laralee decided to sit down and play a duet on the piano. It’s not really a duet– they’re each playing one hand of a two-handed piece. But it’s pretty funny to watch them work through it, keeping time so they’re in the same place.



I, of course, am still limited to right-hand-only playing, because I can barely read music. One of these days…


This is an actual conversation between me and Zaque this morning:

Zaque: When I grow up, I’m going to live next door to a dump.

Me: No one wants to live next door to a dump.

Zaque: No, it’ll be great. My house will be cheaper, and I’ll be able to get all kinds of free stuff!


It’s tough to go to work when the rest of the family is sitting around at home enjoying their Christmas break.

I actually threw a party this morning (yes, 9am on a Monday morning) and had to kick everyone out at 11am because I had to go to the office. That ain’t right…

Ho ho ho

Santa isn’t just for little kids…



That’s my girl

Earlier today, Kyra flew into Denver from Salt Lake City so she can spend a few weeks with us during BYU’s Christmas break. I picked her up at the airport around noon and we went out for a long lunch, then ran some errands. Around 3:00 we were driving home when Laralee texted her to ask where she was.

I joked “You should tell her your flight was delayed and you’re still in Salt Lake City.”

So of course she did. Laralee texted back something like “You’re kidding, right?” to which Kyra replied “I wish. This is so frustrating.”

She and I laughed a bit, then said, “I’ll bet mom will call me now.” A few seconds later, her phone rang. Hah! So she answered, and kept up the story about how her flight had been cancelled due to bad weather over the mountains, and the airline people were looking for other options, and she had been talking with me about what to do. In the midst of this conversation, she was laughing hysterically. Laralee, who was sort of frantic at this point, thought she was sobbing. So she was comforting Kyra and telling her we’d get it sorted out. I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.

We were only a few minutes from home, and Kyra kept things going until we pulled into the driveway, when she abruptly told Laralee that she had to go because “Dad’s calling me back with some news”. I pulled into the garage and she ran into the house. I think Laralee didn’t know whether to yell at her for being so mean, or hug her because everything was okay.

It was so awesome. That’s exactly the sort of thing I would so (which is probably why Laralee often distrusts me when I tell her things). It was hilarious to watch Kyra do it so masterfully.


This is my friend Tom, who is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.


I love this picture because it’s so… him. He actually has a huge whiteboard at his house, and often has cryptic equations like this scattered all over it. He does this sort of thing for fun. I miss the days where I actually understood this kind of math…

Yeah, dinner

A few nights ago we had “make your own dinner” because we were all going different directions and couldn’t eat together. Later in the evening, here’s the actual conversation I had with Zaque:

Z: Dad, can I have some ice cream?
J: I guess, if you had a good dinner.
Z: I did. [Heads to kitchen to get ice cream]
J: What did you have?
Z: A cracker and some milk.



A few months ago, Zack decided to change how he spells his name. Everywhere he uses his name– high school classwork, online forms, video games, etc.— he’s taken to using “Zaque”. Clever? Sure. Weird? Absolutely.

For a long time I resisted using that spelling when I referred to him, but Laralee pointed out that we need to be supportive of his quirks. It reminded me of the scene from The Italian Job where Napster insists on being called Napster (rather than Lyle) and won’t answer to anything else. So okay, if Zaque insists on doing this, I suppose there’s a footnote in a parenting handbook somewhere that says I should support him in it.

Recently a few people have seen this, and remarked to me, “That’s how you spell his name now?” to which I’ve replied, “No, that’s how he spells his name.”

We’ll see if this lasts into adulthood, or if it’s just the passing phase of a quirky (but clever) fifteen-year-old…

Maybe Laralee was right

I have a habit of buying cool new neckties every few months. Normally it happens when Kohl’s sends me a postcard in the mail with an offer like “get $10 off your $20 purchase”. That’s a pretty good deal, so I’ll head over to Kohl’s and look at their ties (specifically the Jerry Garcia collection). The ties are usually marked at $40 “retail” but always seem to be on sale for about $20. With my discount, I walk out with a $40 (supposedly) tie for $10. Not bad.

Anyway, a few years ago Laralee told me that I had enough ties, and certainly didn’t need to keep buying more. I protested that in fact a man can never have enough ties, and they were good deals. She persisted.

I wear a dress shirt and tie to seminary every day, so I decided to do an experiment to see how many ties I really have. (Yes, I could’ve counted them, but what’s the fun in that?) I explained to my class that I’d be wearing a different tie every day, and we’d see how long I lasted. So, on the first day of the semester, it began.

After 59 days I wore my last tie: a gem that Dad gave me, and which probably dates back to the late 1970’s (carbon dating was inconclusive). That was just two weeks shy of finishing the entire semester without repeating a tie!

So I had to conclude that Laralee is probably, in fact, correct. I do have too many ties. I was even at Kohl’s the other day, coupon in hand, and looked longingly at a few ties but didn’t buy them– I bought some nice winter socks instead.

Just for fun, I took a picture of myself in my tie each day, after I returned home from teaching. The lighting wasn’t all that great (it was still early) and let’s face it: cell phone cameras aren’t stellar. Many of the photos are dark or blurry, although I think they still show off The Collection pretty well.

First, an animated GIF showing all 59:


And for more detail, the full mosaic:


Now it’s back to the beginning of the rotation…

Living dangerously

Brent was the hero of the office today when he went out to Walmart to buy space heaters for everyone (except Brian, who was strangely resistant to the idea) to solve our heating problem. Sure, we blew a circuit plugging them all in, but eventually sorted it out by snaking extension cords around the office. Now we’re all warm and toasty.

I’m the guy who can’t stand tags and labels on things, so of course I decided to snip the huge warning label off the cord on my heater.


Yeah, that’s me: living dangerously by removing the tag. Woo!