Sunday, November 17, 2013


Many of the questions kids have about digital photography are easily answered. Here's some easy remedies to some of children's most popular questions aboout taking better shots. Q) Is the sky in you picture kind of dull and could use more color? A) Try puting your sunglasses over the lens when you take the picture. This is called POLARIZING and can be used to draw out the color in other types of shots, too. Q) Is your camera having trouble focusing while you are trying to get a closeup of a flower or other small object? A) Try moving just a little further back. Sometimes if you are to close to an object, the camera has a hard time focusing. Q) Did you ever wonder how to make small objects such as toys look really Big? A) Trying crouching down really low and shooting a picture of that object from really low. The lower the angle, the larger the object will look. Now try making that object look really big. That's right, shoot the object from above so that you are looking down on it. These tricks are called PERSPECTIVE, meaning another way of looking at something. Q) Can't find a good deal on a tripod or a tripod just doesn't seem to work for what you are trying to take a picture of? A) One really cool (and cheap) solution might be to use a large beanbag. Place the beanbag on a firm surface and gently let the camera sink into it. The beanbag will keep the camera from shaking which makes you photos sharper.


Did you know that Monarch butterflies Migrate for the Winter just like some birds do? Monarchs do not like the cold so the fly deep into Mexico where they will me close the equator. After the cold spell is over, Monarch butterflies make that long journey into North America and even some parts of Canada. As they begin their journey South, they will make many stops at their favorite places on they way down south. Many of these places are full of trees such as Pine Trees or Eucalyptus Trees. They travel in colonies and during the night or when it gets too cold for them, they clump up together to keep each other warm. As they clump up together they will often keep flapping their wings to help keep their temperature up. Butterflies actually shiver when they are cold, just like people do.
During the day the butterflies will fly around from tree to tree and sometimes land on the ground, or even on a person. It's important to remember how delicate a butterfly is. They have a very thin layer of dust on their wings that helps them remain healthy and safe. If a Monarch Butterfly lands on or around you it is important to remember this. Try not to touch the wings because this can remove that protective layer of dust. cup them from the bottom to keep them safe. If they are shivering, you can help keep them warm by cupping your other hand over them. Just try not to touch the wings while cupping them. If you're careful, you can also hold them from the body like in the image to the right.
As they make their way south they may also lay eggs in plants like Milkweed. As the babies mature, they turn into a caterpillar, a long, almost inch-worm looking creature. The caterpillar feeds on the Milkweed as it grows. At sometime in the development, the caterpillar goes into a protective shell called a cocoon. When the cocoon finally opens up, out will come a beautiful butterfly. This transformation from caterpillar to butterfly takes place inside the cocoon. Much like bees and other insects, butterflies serve a purpose for the ecosystem. They collect and transport pollen helping nature keep up it's garden. Plants and butterflies have a symbiotic relationship, which means they rely on each other to flourish.


Just off highway 1, approximately ten minutes north of San Simeon California, is one of the Largest colonies of Elephant Seals in America. During the month of February, the females spend most of their time on the sand giving birth to the new pups. The best time of year to see this event is mid month as the population is at it's peak. The beach is full of Elephant Seals during this season. The pups weigh 60 – 80 pounds at birth and are 3 - 4 feet long. At this point the new pups are black because they haven't grown their fur yet. The Adult females range from 900 -1800 pounds and are from 9 – 12 feet in length. The males are considerably larger tipping the scales anywhere from 3000 – 5000 pounds and range from 14 to 16 feet in length. Survival rate of the pups in the first year is 37% and by the forth year the rate has decreased to 16%. If they survive the first 4 – 6 years, their life expectancy is approximately 20 years. Weaning of the pups takes about a month. The pups have increased to an astounding 250 – 300 pounds in this first month and have already quadrupled in weight. Female Elephant Seals have grown to full maturity within 6 years while the males continue to grow for a little longer and do not mature quite as quickly as the females.
By March, most of the adults are gone and the weaned pups are left to teach themselves how to swim. At this time, the weaned pups often gather into pods for protection while on land. They also tend to move further up the beach and try to avoid the adult males that have not left yet. As pups, they will spend most of their time sleeping as their bodies begin to change and adapt to sea life. While not sleeping, the males will often spar and practice their fighting skills in order to get ready for adult life and male mating rituals. They square up with each other and bump chests. Elephant Seal pups have also been known to play with objects on the beach such as driftwood or kelp. By two months old, the pups have become proficient swimmers. Half of the weaned pups that leave the area will not survive long enough to return. Their survival generally depends on whether or not they can find food, and be able to avoid predators. Their ability to deep dive plays a significant role in both of these. With the ability to dive as deep as 5000 feet, the only other mammal that can out dive the Elephant Seal is the Sperm Whale. These seals can lower their metabolic rate and divert oxygen to internal organs and the brain. Not only can they store oxygen in their lungs, they can also store it in their blood and muscles, allowing them to dive for more than an hour at a time. Their exterior blubber helps them to maintain a 100 degree internal temperature while on these dives. This often makes it difficult to keep their internal temperature cool while on land. Adults will spend as much as 90% of their time under water. These dives continue during the night as well as the day. In the Summer, Elephant Seals will return to the beaches of San Simeon to molt. The males have often returned from as far away as Alaska, while the females generally wander as far away as the southern end of Canada before their return. While in the water, the females dine on various types of squid. The males are believed to have a much larger variety of diet including rays, skates, ratfish, small sharks, and hagfish. Males are believed to be deeper divers than females. Adult male Elephant Seals can have canines as large as 6 inches long. Females canines can reach 3 inches or more in length.
The Elephant Seals do not have too many natural predators. The Great White Shark, which reaches lengths as great as 20 feet. However they do not dive as deep as the Male Elephant Seal thus having to catch the seal while diving or resurfacing. The Orca or Killer Whale is another danger for the seals. Orcas can get as large as 30 feet in length making them large enough to prey on the seals. Another predator of the Elephant Seal is the Cookie Cutter Shark. Living in the deeper waters, these sharks only reach about twenty inches in length. They move in quickly and take a small chunk of skin or blubber about the size of a golf ball or tennis ball. These bites do not seriously injure the seal. While they are lying on the beach, you can sometimes see these small chunks taken out of them.


In today's world of cell phones, texting, video games, television, and other media devices, it's tough to get kids away from the distractions of the techno era. In a world of ever increasing diabetes and obesity at an earlier age, it's crucial for kids to get up and exercise. (more than just their fingers) While some children are into sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, or other activities that burn calories, boost the metabolism, and increase the sensitivity of the insulin receptors, other children do not enjoy sports that much.
Digital photography is a healthy alternative for kids that don't enjoy sports. It's an added bonus for kids that are already active. It's surprising to see a 13 year old set down their cell phone to pick up a camera (or use their cell phone's built in cameras) to laugh, play and shoot pictures while moving around. It can be a fun activity with friends, or an indivial exploration. One of the keys to keeping children involved in digital photography is to keep exposing them to different aspects, scenerios, and environments. While their first adventure with the camera may be uneventful, they may love the next adventure.
Knowing your children and what they enjoy helps. While teaching the Cameras For Kids Project in schools, there's been a general difference girls and boys. (although it's important to remember there's no set rules). Girls seemed to like the images of animals such as horses and pets. They also seemed to to enjoy scenics full of blue skies and trees. The boys in the same class would gravitate towards blowups of insects, pictures of cars, and unusual angles of things like tunnels. The idea is to expose the children to as many types of photography as possible. You'll eventually find something that they really love. Hopefully they will soon be getting exercise on there own.