The new Death and Taxes graphic has just been released by WallStats.com for 2010. You may remember this graphic from last year. I think this is a wonderful way to see how our tax monies are spread across the government, what the budget is for each government department, and how these budgets have increased in the past year. I encourage you to spend a couple minutes looking at this so that you will have a better understanding of how our government works.
As with many things, I like to continue to make changes and enhancements to my website. I think it is fun to make changes to my site and it also helps me learn more about making sites generally. My website is beginning to be kind of a storage system of sorts for some of my hobbies. Here’s a quick little overview of some of the enhancements I’ve made recently:
The main thing I have begun storing on my site is obviously my pictures. I’ve been adding a ton of pictures to my site in the last few weeks. I have begun to take my camera where ever I go more and more which means I take many more pictures. I have come up with some pretty cool pictures by simply having my camera with me and ready to go when interesting things happen. As always, you can check out my picture explorations from either my main page or from my galleries page. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures I have recently taken:
The second addition I have made to my site is a page devoted to funny, ironic, or thought provoking quotes. I usually add a couple good quotes to this page each week. Along with having the full quote list on this quote page, I also have a little section in my sidebar that displays a different random quote every time the page it loaded. I really like having these quotes archived so I can go back and find these bits of wisdom in the future.
The third addition to my site revolves around the wonderful theme of finance and money. First off, I have added a page talking about Crown Financial Ministries and my connection with Crown. Crown has a great mission and I am really excited to be associated with them. Secondly, I just started a page where I have begun to gather a whole bunch of personal finance tips, articles, and websites that I find around the web. While I don’t have that many links there yet, I have been adding quite a few recently. I have categorized these links so that people can quickly find a particular subject they are interested in and find the information they are looking for. My hope with this page is that it will be a good resource for people on a wide range of personal financial topics and can help them find information on their individual situations. I also intend for this page to be a good repository for information that I could possibly use when helping others in my Crown ministry. If you come across a really good finance article, send it my way and help me add to this page.
Lastly, I changed the sidebar on all my site’s pages other than my main blog page. I greatly shortened the sidebar for these other pages which will help them load a little bit quicker and not have so much blank space below the actual content on these pages. I am really glad I took the time to figure this out as I have been wanted to institute this change for a while. I’ll probably tweak this sidebar as I think of new and useful things to add to it.
I always find graphics that help explain taxes and government spending to be very interesting. I just saw this graphic today that displays the differences in tax rates per salary level and how the taxes are distributed throughout the government. It is especially interesting to look at your salary level to see how your taxes are distributed. Enjoy!
I have now had my camera for about a month-and-a-half. From the day I got it, I have been learning a tremendous amount about the way cameras work and about photography in general. Many of the things I have been learning apply not only to fancy dSLR’s, but also to regular point-and-shoots. I wanted to pass along one very important thing I’ve learned to you. My topic for today is one of those things that can be simply done on any camera to improve your pictures.
I’m sure that you are aware that photography is all about capturing light. This isn’t rocket science. However, how often do you think of taking a picture of light? I know I don’t. I am always focused on taking a picture of the dog or of a plant or something like that, not on capturing light. If you focus simply on capturing your subject instead of the light around you, you can end up with some funky colors that you didn’t expect. One simple thing you can do to reduce the number of pictures you take with crazy colors is to manually set your camera’s white balance (WB). Your camera uses the WB setting to determine how blue or amber (orange) your pictures will be. (Check out this page for some examples on how WB effects the colors of your photos.) As the type of lighting you are in changes, how blue or amber your pictures are will change right along side. This should be the first setting you adjust when you go to take a picture in a new location.
Since I got my camera, I have been taking pictures using the Auto WB setting. For the most part, this has worked out pretty well for me. I assume that you are probably taking pictures using auto as well. For the most part, auto WB does a pretty good job at figuring out the area lighting so your pictures will accurately capture the colors around you. But just like the main auto setting’s on your camera, auto has its limitations. It doesn’t always get the colors exactly right. It may be close, but what your eyes see as white won’t necessarily be what your camera sees as white.
Most camera’s have many WB settings that should be used in various lighting situations. Some common settings are Tungsten, Sunlight, Shade, and Cloudy. Making a change to one of these settings based on your location and light type can make a BIG, immediate difference in your pictures.
I’d like to challenge you to go a little bit further with your WB setting. Most cameras have a Custom WB setting as their last option. If you’re not sure what you should use or if the other settings are not quite right, this might be where you should turn. Each manufacturer and each camera is a little different on how you set the custom white balance so you’ll have to check your manual to figure out how to set it. Some require you to use something that is white (like a piece of paper or a t-shirt) for the camera to use as a white reference point and some don’t. Using this custom setting will set your camera’s WB based on the exact lighting you are currently experiencing.
I’ve been noticing that many of my pictures have been slightly warmer (more amber) when I’ve been taking them inside my house at night. Here is an example of what I mean:
A lot of the colors in this picture are off slightly from what they really are. Take the little green cactus as an example. It is pretty dark in this shot and starts to blend in to what is around it. This was taken using auto white balance. It’s not too bad, but it could be a lot better.
Here is one I took of the same cactus last night:
See how the green of the cactus is much brighter and jumps out more? The little spines on the cactus are also must whiter rather than being a beige or brownish color. They are must easier to distinguish in this shot from the rest of the cactus. This one was taken using my custom white balance setting. This is a big improvement from the original that only took a small, quick adjustment.
Next time you go to take a picture, be aware of your white balance. Making a quick change here can help the outcome of all your pictures. Happy shooting!
For many people, myself included, the weekend is the best part of your week. There were a few things I was looking forward to this weekend. The first of which was the newest, and probably last major addition for a while, to my camera setup. If you recall in my original camera post, I was limited to zooming to 55mm. That is no longer the case. On Friday, I received my new lens, the Nikon 55-200mm VR!
My total zoom is now from 18-200mm, all with VR. For you point-and-shooters, that equates to an 11.1x zoom. I am quite excited for this addition. While my original lens will continue to be my primary lens, I’m glad I now have the option to go further.
The second big thing that happened on Friday, which wasn’t entirely expected, was that Bethany got her acceptance letter for grad school! That’s right, she is now officially a PhD student at the University of Minnesota! She will be going for a PhD in nursing which will allow her to eventually teach nursing on the college level. We are both really excited to begin this new journey.
On Saturday, I went over to the Bleess house for Austin’s graduation party. He is now a master, a Master of Public Administration that is. It was good to see him and his wonderful wife at the party. I took a couple pictures at the party for your viewing pleasure:
Today was a pretty lazy day for me. I spent most of the day listening to podcasts and uploading pictures. As you can see here, it was a pretty lazy day for Copland as well: