Around Atlanta: A different kind of camping

This week the boys were in science camp at Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center which you should read as “Woohoo, a little free time for mommy!” I like to mix in a camp week here and there to shake things up a bit ie keep the minions off-footed enough to maintain the upper hand. The little jolt to their routine seems to break them of their summertime sloth and they exit camp week more appreciative of not having to bust-ass out the door every morning. Plus it’s fun, they get a little break from all that brotherly love, and I get some work done without having to collapse into a sobbing heap at the mess that becomes of the house when they’re home all day playing.

So what does a week of camp mean for yours truly? Well, mostly writing, cleaning, and purging. But after I got some posts written, cleaned some stuff, and “helped” some toys get lost, I opted for a little outdoor therapy. The kids have been getting it at camp but I’ve been stuck inside dealing with the stuff of suburban life. I figured I was due for some quality creative time with my beloved Canon without having to juggle kids and dog. It’s all in the balance right? The work/play balance, not the juggling the kids and dog. Although I suppose that would be about balance as well and quite an act at that.

GEHC Building
The GEHC building, complete with living roof. Ultra-cool!

Unlike professional photographers, we figuratively juggling amateur photographers have to take our sporadic shooting opportunities when we can. We don’t necessarily get to choose our time and place. Ok, we rarely get to choose our time and place. This week worked in my favor though since the GEHC campus has an intriguing variety of plants and the building itself has wonderful lines and textures. Great place if not-so-great time.

You see, camp starts at 9:00 and all you nature photogs out there know what a crapfest the light becomes by that time in the summer. We barely make it there on time as it is, so trying for the earlier sweet light is a near impossibility without going boot camp on Fred and George. Probably not worth the return on emotional investment.

Working with what I had while sparing the boys’ delicate psyches, I figured I might get an hour if I played my cards right and used shade to my advantage. Sure enough, by 10:00 I was drenched with sweat, the light was heinous, and the breeze was growing sassy. Basically Georgia in the summer. No matter though, it did wonders for my attitude to get out and do my thing.

What became apparent during my short but sweet time is that I am rusty. I’m going to chalk this up to a gray matter fail due to neglect…use it or lose it. I’d spent the bulk of my hour clicking away at pretty things before I realized I was shooting in JPEG. D’oh! I’m paraphrasing of course. What really went through my mind was a string of mental F-bombs.

Why on earth would I even have my camera on JPEG to begin with you ask….tsk, tsk? Well, our family shots are done in JPEG since RAW is total overkill for how I use those images. Aaaand since almost all of my shooting lately has been kid-centered, the camera has been perpetually set to JPEG. For all of my tweaking ISO, aperture and whatnot, I didn’t give my quality setting a second thought. I’m telling you… Gray. Matter. Fail.

So after I realized I’d just wasted most of my time, I resorted to racing the sun to go back and try to recreate some of my captures in the correct mode. Not only was the sun rising quickly, the wind was picking up some serious steam. Not great for my kind of photography which tends to be up close and personal with plant-life. I managed a few acceptable images but nothing I’ll end up adding to my personal favorites. The potential was there but I blew it. Hopefully one day I’ll graduate from the school of hard knocks. Until then, I seem destined for amateur status.

Of course, in spite of the lack of wow factor in my shots, I’ve come to realize I just really enjoy the process. I do find these plants interesting in and of themselves, not just as shutter fodder…which basically means I’m more of a naturalist than a photographer.

Long post short: kids were in camp and I mostly worked but took some mediocre pictures and had a good time doing it. That’s how our granola was rolling this week.

And now for your moment of green…

Try to stay perky and cute this holiday weekend.