Alena, Mama, Mama, Lina, Arosha.Вот и пришел Новый 2011 год! Пусть он будет счастливым для всех! Пусть все будут здоровы! Пусть всем улыбается удача!

Согласно китайскому колендарю, 2011 год является годом кролика. ) Я не очень разбираюсь в китайском гороскопе, но мне всегда интересно знать под знаком какого животного пройдёт следующий год. ) Как пошутили на первом канале — в году кролика женщины будут сговорчивее, а мужчины шустрее. Мне хочется, чтобы этот год прошел спокойно, без больших событий и потрясений, чтобы мы просто имели возможность наслаждаться каждым часом, впитывать в себя драгоценные мгновения жизни.

Papa and Arosha.2010 год был лично для меня замечательным. Самым главным событием было, без сомнения, рождение Ароши. Я пока еще новичок в новом искусстве материнства, и даётся пока оно не так легко, как я ожидала, но всё же в целом я ощущаю себя очень счастливым человеком. Как было бы здорово, если бы можно было законсервировать момены абсолютного счаться, которые случаются у меня почти каждый день, когда Ароша радуется маленьким вещам (прыганью в Jumperoo, купанию с Даней, стоянию на ножках, общению с нами)!

Us.Еще очень важным событием 2010 года для меня было получение гражданства. Я так долго этого ждала, и когда вспоминаю об изначальных сложностях, то кажется, что всё это было очень давно, и было ли оно вообще? Память всё же замечательная вещь — она стирает острые углы и черные дыры, и неприятности не кажутся такими уж неприятными, и как-то в общей картине всё преобретает свой смысл. Я, к слову, почти прослезилась во время церемонии натурализации, когда после клятвы судья говорил мне и еще сотне-другой человек о том, какая же замечательная страна Америка, и о том, что она принимает нас с распростёртыми обьятиями. )

Alena and mama.Еще я очень рада общению с мамой. Всё же мы не виделись очень много лет! Если бы звонки в Беларусь не были такими дорогими, я бы чаще ей звонила…

Our New Year tree with tons of gifts.Год кролика мы встретили расширенным составом — нас было, считая Арошу, аж 9 человек! Еда, как всегда, была очень вкусной (Данина мама и Лина приготовили фунчозу, мясо по-французски, запечённую в духовке картошку, 7 разных салатиков, мы с мамой принесли курицу, селёдку под шубой, оливье и цветную капусту, тётя Лиля напекла луковых и кабачковых оладушек, а Лёня прикупил печенья и конфет к чаю). Всё прошло тихо, мирно, по-семейному. ) Вобщем, как в “ладушках” — попили, поели, домой полетели. )

Us.После официального наступления Нового года, д. Боря сыграл роль Деда Мороза и раздал всем подарки. Подарков было много!!! Все старались порадовать друг друга. ) Лично я получила в подарок 2 кофточки, майку, тёплые сапожки, фен, соль для ванны, мыло и стеклянного зайца. Ароша получил в подарок целую кучу игрушек и спортивный костюмчик (он, конечно, всю встречу Нового Года проспал, чему все были очень рады). ) Вобщем, надеюсь, как встретили, так и проведём!
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year 2011

Everyone, but Aroshka. Big family.I was planning to do a yearly summary before the year ended, but never got around to it, so I’ll just leave a couple of words about our celebration and the last year itself.

Christmas tree and gifts.Obviosly the most important and life changing thing that happened to us last year was a birth of our son Arosha. When we were greeting 2010 a year ago we already knew how important this year is going to be. Now we can safely say that the pregnancy went well, the birth went well and now Arosha is growing fast and we can see how he is changing and developing new skills on a regular basis. Hopefully in 2011 things will go as well as they did last year.

Papa and mama with their grandson.With respect to our travel — we had 2 great vacations. Even though both of them will stay in our memories for a long time the road trip through California was amazing. We wanted to visit that beautiful state for quite a while now and I can honestly say that I’m in love with its National Parks and San Francisco area. Alena has been almost 5 months pregnant then, but she did as much hiking as walking as the rest of us.

Alena, Arosha and I.Another big thing for us is Alena’s citizenship. It’s been a long journey and it’s nice to finally put all that behind us. Now we’re a full family of citizens with ability to travel the world. It’s also great that Alena’s mom is currently staying with us until March. They haven’t seen each other in a long time and it’s great to finally have her see how our life is, not to mention all the help we’re getting from her.

Aunt Lilya and Arosha.The celebration itself was our biggest in a good number of years. Last year there were only 5 of us, this time there were 9 of us. Papa, mama, Alena’s mama, Alena, Arosha, Lina, aunt Lilya, Lenny and I. It made the New Year celebration better.

Papa and I.We had a huge dinner — there is no way without it in my mom’s house and this year we had 2 moms. I probably gained 10 pounds at least during these days. We remembered last year — mostly good things, and we all wished the next one will be good to us as well. Family, health and a little bit of stability is all that matters.

After New Year itself my dad took up his traditional role of Ded Moroz. Everone has gotten tons of gifts as always. Ded Moroz was good to me with my wishes.

Dinner table. Part 1 of many.You see, in the beginnning of the evening I had an elaborate setup going for family portraits. Photography has become even a bigger passion for me this year than before. This year I made a wise descision to get Nikon D700 and it’s been a great one at that. The timing was perfect and the camera itself is amazing. Ded Moroz though added a second flash to my arsenal — Nikon SB-600 (a good companion for my SB-800), MC-36 remote control for the camera and a light-tent.

In conclustion I will just repeate again that all one needs for happiness is family, health and some stability. I wish it for all of us and all of you. Happy New Year!
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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Light Tent

Light tent setup. Two flashes aimed at the sides, triggered with D700 built in flash.I’m doing some experimenting with the light tent1 that Alena got me for New Year and want to post some sample shots. I expected it to be a bit smaller when opened, because when closed it is no bigger than a standard mousepad. However after opening it the first time we have yet to figure out how to fold it back up.

Having a camera with a working comander flash (D70 clearly had some issues in its last days) and 2 remote flashes (Nikon SB-800 & SB-600 pair) makes taking shots of items amazingly easy. If last time I had to take literally hundreds of shots to get a decent one, the shots below I’ve gotten from 2-3 tries. These shots needed small level adjustment to blow out the whites or pull in the blacks and that was pretty much it.

Cosmetics.
Casio Pathfinder watch.
iPhone 4.
iPhone 4. Black.For reflection I’m using a marble tile which has a lot of imperfections in it. I need to replace it with a simple piece of glass.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Coney Island

Alena tries to take Arosha outside everyday for a couple of hours and on weekends I started taking advantage of these walks by joining them and taking my camera along. Today our destination was Coney Island. We didn’t last as long as we planned because the weather was colder than expected and it was snowing at times. I did walk away with a number of good shots I think.

Coney Island.
Parachute Jump at Coney Island.
Fence Climbers.
Fisherman.
Subway. Snowing.
Pier.
Pier to Tower.
Trash Urn.
Lamppost.
Bench on the Boardwalk.
Coney Island Boardwalk.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arosha — 5 Months

Arosha in his stroller.Сегодня нашему малышу исполнилось 5 месяцев. Как быстро пролетело время! Вчера смотрели несколько видеороликов, на которых ему нет еще и месяца — какой же он был маленький и худенький! Вчера ходили к врачу на прививки, где Арошу заодоно и измерили — наш вес уже 8.25 кг при росте 70 см.

Кушаем мы до сих пор исключительно грудное молочко, и до сих пор каждые 2-3 часа. Просыпаемся мы ночью, соответсвенно, довольно часто, но хотя бы бысто засыпаем после кормления. Пока есть мама и я могу поспать подольше утром, мне не особо сложно жить в таком режиме. Надеюсь, что к тому времени как мама уедет, он будет спать хоть немного лучше.

Alena, mama and Arosha. Coney Island.У Ароши начал прорезаться первый зубик — на нижней десне уже видны белые пятнышки. Наш малыш начал пускать ОЧЕНЬ много слюней где-то за неделю до Нового Года, а первую неделю после он был очень капризным. Думаю, его мучала боль в дёснах. Последние два дня Арошка стал намного спокойнее, но зуба как такового мы еще не видим (но педиатр подтвердила, что таки да, он прорезается).

Мы почти каждый день выгуливаем Арошу как минимум по часу — он стал намного спокойнее вести себя на улице, что меня очень и очень радует. )

Arosha. Feet discovery.Сегодня Ароша по-настоящему заметил, что у него есть ноги и первый раз засунул пальчики ног себе в рот, что меня позабавило. ) Вообще он такой славный и сладкий карапузик, и мне до сих пор иногда не верится, что я его родила. )

А вообще пока писать особо не о чем. Дни пролетают как-то очень быстро, и мы не так много успеваем сделать за день как хочется, хотя всё время чем-то заняты. Всё же забота о малыше отнимает кучу времени и сил.

Alena's mama in DC.На прошлой неделе мама ездила на двухдневную экскурсию в Вашингтон на автобусе с русскоговорящим гидом. Ей было интересно, и сам город понравился просторными улицами и красивыми зданиями. Её удивило, что на улицах было мало людей. Еще, когда они были в центре Кеннеди, определённое впечатление произвели женщины пришедшие в театр в босоножках на босу ногу в середине января. ) Еще очень понравилось обилие бесплатных туалетов (такое простое удобство, к которому мы так привыкли).

Еще мы угощали маму японской и китайской едой (в рестораны пока не ходили — заказывали на дом). Ей понравилось! Еще ей нравится американский цельнозерновой хлеб, и печенье с кусочками шоколада. )

Alena's mom.А вчера мама приготовила драники с мясом — мммм, как же я отвела душу! У меня так вкусно они не получаются. ) Еще я с огромным удовольствием ела сырники, которые она нажарила недели две назад. Эх, жалко что мне пока нельзя есть изюм (сырники с изюмом еще вкуснее) — оказывается, Ароша не очень хорошо реагирует на изюм и виноград — они вызывают у него диатез на щечке. Ну ничего, это временно, я только надеюсь, что он сможет есть эти продукты когда подрастёт.
In: Family   Tags: , , , ,
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photographing iPhone

iPhone 4 on pure white background.Over the last 10 year or so I’ve learned a lot about photography. There are two things that I keep doing to grow — experimenting a lot and reading the information that others have chosen to share. It would be good to contribute to this pool of knowledge that is available online.

Some of these ideas are probably very simple and there is no “secret souse” to any of this, but guides like these were helpful to me. Hopefully it will be helpful to somebody else.

For me the process of taking a photograph includes 2 phases — taking the shot itself and post-processing. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Post everything from start to finish.

Taking The Photograph


Light tent folded next to 50mm lens for size comparison.The setup itself is fairly simple. I used a light tent given to me by my wife for New Year — Interfit Pop Up Light Tent, 24″. You don’t have to buy anything and can build something simple yourself.

Light tent setup.I used a large sheet of white cardboard to server as the floor and the background for my image. This creates the seamless background, but in this type of photograph when a relatively flat object is involved it would be easy to fix in post-processing.

Nikon SB-600 and SB-800 speedlights.I placed flashes on each side of my light tent. I used Nikon SB-600 and SB-800 speedlights mounted in the stands that come with them in the box. I reversed one of them so both of their control “eyes” would be facing the camera. I aimed them at the center of each side of the light tent and set them to remote slaves. If you do not have 2 strobes you can either use regular bright lights (preferably tungsten not to get a yellow color cast as you would from regular incandescent bulbs) or put some reflector on one of the sides of the light tent.

Rocket Air. "Professional Cleaning System". Funny.I placed iPhone in the center and mounted my D700 camera on the tripod in front of the light tent. Before proceeding to take the shots I used a “device” that I have for blowing the dust off from the camera sensor to get rid of as much dust as possible. You should also use some fiber cloth to wipe all the finger prints from the phone before proceeding. The idea is to fix as much as possible before the photo is taken so you have less to do in post-processing.

Commander mode for pop-up flash on D700.Now we’re going to setup the camera. The pop-up flash is set to commander mode. It will trigger both of the flashes, but it will not contribute to the exposure itself — we don’t want any weird glares coming unfiltered directly from the flash. Both speedlights are set to TTL. We’ll leave it up to the camera to figure out how hard they should be fired.

The camera itself is set to manual mode. I used spot metering on the phone to guide my settings. The idea here is to try to blow out (overexpose) as much of the background as possible while not blowing out any of the detail on the item that you’re trying to photograph.

I set the aperture to f/10 to widen the depth of field to get the object as sharp as possible. I also set my ISO to a low value — no reason to add noise when the camera is tripod mounted and the exposure will not be very long anyhow. The value that you play with is shutter-speed. Using a dSRL makes it easy to take experimental shots and look at the end result to check for overexposure. Again, overexposure around the object is good, while on the object itself is not so much. If you can’t get all of the background to overexpose we’ll fix it in the post-processing.

Post-Processing


Before post-processing.Our photo straight out of the camera doesn’t look so hot. The background is grayish, there is still visible dust on the phone and the whole thing is crooked.

I usually start by putting the photo through Lens Correction filter. I will fix geometric distortion, straighten it out and slightly adjust the perspective. After that is done we will crop it and remove the visible dust with Spot Healing Brush.

Step 2.At this point I grabbed a Brush and roughly painted with white color the areas around the phone not to deal with different specks of dust.

Levels adjustment layer.Now we’re going to add a Levels Adjustment Layer and overexpose all the highlights by dragging the white pointer to the left. Hold down Alt button while doing it and you will see all the areas that are getting overexposed. Now we got our pure-white background and we’re getting closer to what the final result should look like.

Curves adjustment layer.Add a Curves Adjustment Layer. We’re going to bring the shadows down slightly to make the black areas “blacker” and bump up the contrast slightly by doing so.

Saturation.At this point I pulled the highlights to the cold side slightly and bumped up the Saturation. Don’t overdo the Saturation though.

Clearing the color cast.I wasn’t happy with the yellow cast that was still visible on the bezels of the phone. I used Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to pull the color down close to black & white photo. Then I put a mask over the screen to bring the color back.

Sharpening.At this point you can hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E to end up with a single layer by summing up all the previous ones and apply some sharpening to the final image. I prefer to use Smart Sharpen filter. You should also try to stick to Lab mode for your sharpening step and apply sharpening on the Lightness channel.

Summary


Before.
iPhone 4. Finished photograph.There you have it. A finished product. Now the above steps are not law of the land and nothing is set in stone. That’s what I do personally. There might be better ways to reach certain objectives and you should always experiment yourself. But maybe these pointers will give you some ideas when you’re working on your own projects of one or another kind.

Let me know if I can clear something up or if you found any of this helpful. Your feedback is always appreciated.
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Colds

Our thermometer collection.It’s Sunday night, and I thought I’d post a few words about the past week.

Last Sunday Arosha had his first fever. It was not extremely high, but he still got us a little worried. We gave him some infant’s acetaminophen at night, and he got back to normal the next day. I am not sure what was the cause of it since he did not have any cold or flue symptoms, but one of the possibilities is teething. The bottom tooth still did not cut through, but we can definitely see the swelling and white spots on the bottom gum. Continue Reading
In: Life In General   Tags: , , ,
Time: 11:47   Comments: 8 Comments   Post a Comment  
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Plov — Pressure Cooker Recipe

Plov. Some tomatoes and onions in vinegar.On my 29th birthday, Mike and Alex got me a pressure cooker. Very thoughtful gift considering that I like cooking. ) I am ashamed to say though that it was collecting dust on our kitchen counter for over a year before I tried it. I blame it on Aroshka. )

Brown the meat first.I probably would have procrastinated even more, but I planned to cook plov today and upon checking Mansurovs.com — site with some good recipes by Mrs. Mansurov which was recommended to me by Danya — decided to try their recipe.

After pressure cooking.It came out well, and the pressure cooker cut the cooking time by 1-1.5 hours, which is very nice. So this is definitely my new favorite plov recipe (I cooked it with garlic and chickpeas, which are listed as optional). I hope to be utilizing the pressure cooker more in the future!
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Aroshki

Here is a bunch of random pictures of Arosha over the weekend. I can’t look at these without smiling.

Hair!It appears he started growing some hair and sometimes he wakes up with some funny looking mess on his head.

Lunch?Sometimes when he hold his head up for too long he takes a brake and plants his face into whatever he is laying on. Then in a couple of seconds brings it back up. This time around the head came up with this thing in his mouth. )

Aroshka's new hat.The Zhanna came from Las Vegas vacation and gave us this hat. I shrunk it a bit and put it on Aroshka and he started smiling. He usually hates hats. He made this hilarious face and I was lucky enough to capture it.
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