Author Archives: Sarah L

The Los Angeles Libraries take on Kindle Unlimited

IMG_2743Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription service allows access to ‘over 600,000 Kindle books’, with the ability to borrow up to 10 at a time and no due dates, for $10 per month. It sounds good, but do they have books I want to read?  I was traveling a lot this month for work, so with hours of nothing to do in the evening but watch Friends and Big Bang Theory, I went through my entire Amazon wish list to see which of the books I want to read is actually available on Kindle Unlimited, and what I can find at my local libraries.

Rules: It doesn’t matter if the books available at the library are ebooks or paper books, because free is free. I used the Los Angeles Public Library’s online system (huge!), and the Los Angeles County Library‘s physical book selection, because those are the most convenient for me to access.

Results:

Non-Fiction: 213 books on my wish-list.

  • Libraries: 88 of those books available
  • Kindle Unlimited: 13 of those books available, 10 of which were not available at the libraries.
  • Neither: 115 books

Winner: Between the libraries and Kindle Unlimited, definitely the libraries. The libraries might have fared better but:
1) Nearly all my non-fic books are reference/workbooks–gardening, photography, self-help, etc. Narrative fiction is pretty well stocked by the libraries.
2) I didn’t check the LAPL physical library, because their nearest branch is 25+ minutes away. Their selection of garden/art/photography books is excellent though.

 

Fiction: 61 books on my wish-list.

  • Libraries: 57 of those books available
  • Kindle Unlimited: 5 of those books available, all of which were also carried by the libraries.
  • Neither: 4 books

Winner: Libraries, by a landslide. Seriously, Amazon, no points for this one at all.

Final Scores:
Libraries: 145 of 274 books = 53% (93% for fiction!!!)
Kindle Unlimited: 18 of 274 books = 6.5%

Post-game analysis: If you want to be strict and ONLY talk about ebooks, the LAPL has a collection of ~70,000 ebooks, and carries as ebooks 54 of the 274 books on my list. Kindle Unlimited, with its 600,000 books, has 18 of the 274 books on my list. It sounds like a lot of books, but on browsing it looks like those numbers are bulked up by a lot of books that are public domain (already free!), or self-published junk (I’m sure there are some gems, but they’re sure hard to find amidst the ones that aren’t worth the $2.99 price tag). For books worth your time, take a look at your library online book system–you can get a card for any California public library if you are a California resident, no matter what city. The online selections are getting better all the time, and it’s hard to beat free books!

Catching Up

Work jumped up and crushed my soul over the last few months…so I’m going to throw up a few recent photos of stuff from the beginning of the year and declare myself Caught Up.

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2014-03-22

Contrasts Photowalk

Photojournal entry for the Find Your Eye course.
I went down to the marina at sunset to look for contrasts. When I started, I was looking for physical contrasts–light/dark, curved/straight, rough/smooth, natural/man-made, moving/still. It started out poorly. For 100 feet of pier full of seagulls and people watching the sunset over the water, there was not a single contrast. No, really. No ancient grandmas with canes carrying newborns. No purple and orange flags lined up in a row. No zebras or penguins.

Then I walked around a corner and there was a contrast so dramatic even I couldn’t miss it. Miles of gray concrete and a neon rainbow.

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It says FUN FACTORY. How great is that?

So once I got started of course there were lots of contrasts. The looping black chain and the white posts. The water crashing on the solid rocks. The rows of blue-and-yellow paddle boats. But it turns out, the contrasts I really get a kick out of are conceptual. This is my favorite shot of the evening.

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Lord Shiva and a lava lamp. There was also Jesus in a sparkly lime green tunic.

Then there were these guys hanging out on the dock, and suddenly I was on a treasure hunt:

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Among all the fancy yachts and speedboats, a single romantic gondola.

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And my favorite-shot-that-did-not-turn-out-great-but-definitely-try-again-during-daylight-and-with-a-different-lens-(i.e. not wide angle)-and-maybe-from-down-on-the-dock-shooting-up:

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Three American flags and the Jolly Roger, baby.

There’s actually a word for this–an anatopism is something that is out of its proper place. Similar to anachronism, something out of its proper time. Which applies to some of these as well, but I think I’ve just started a collection of anatopisms. Taken last year, this was the founding photo, although I didn’t know it at the time:

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So now I’m totally off topic, but if you’ve got anatopisms, I want to see them!

Creative Breakthroughs

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Photojournal entry for the Find Your Eye course.
I am struggling with the exercise to identify creative breakthroughs leading to my favorite photos. In nearly all cases, the photos are a result of taking my camera out to see what I could see, poking around and playing and experimenting. Not that it hasn’t led to some photos I really love, but I’m having difficulty calling anything a breakthrough because I rarely go back and try to deliberately recreate effects. There are clearly technical breakthroughs–composition and technique are always improving with practice, but everything stylistically feels pretty haphazard.

It’s becoming clear to me that I am more of a process person than a product person. I have plenty of photos on my computer that I haven’t done more than flip through once when I downloaded them. (Don’t tell anyone, but there are actually some sessions I have never completely looked through. I took 1100+ photos at the zoo once…I will pay you to come sort them for me.) This is the first time I’ve analyzed what specifically I like about my favorite photos, so it’s time I build on those and start having some breakthroughs!

Photo Regrets

Photojournal entry for the Find Your Eye course.
In thinking about photo mistakes and missed opportunities, very few specific instances leap to mind, generally with photo mistakes I’m momentarily disappointed but it’s quickly overcome by the next batch of photos. I also like Gary Winograd’s quote, when asked how he felt about missing photographs while he reloaded his camera with film, he said “There are no photographs while I’m reloading”. Sometimes I want just BE, rather than be taking photos.

The most memorable mistake for me is taking photos at a wedding reception, only to find when I got home that they were all shot at ISO 1600. Not that it mattered, since I wasn’t actually the wedding photographer, but there is still some residual trauma there. I’m going to need some therapy first if I ever want to shoot weddings.

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Exhibit A–shooting with too low a shutter speed. 1/20 sec, at f/3.2, ISO 200.

I know what is easily my most common mistake though–shooting handheld at too low a shutter speed (see Exhibit A). I occasionally remember to check it, and I’m getting better at remembering, but that only counts if you don’t wander off to a shader spot later. But a few months ago I found out about the existence of the Auto ISO setting. I suspect that when I first got my DSLR, I read through the manual and didn’t recognize what having it on would mean. All brain cells were occupied trying to recall whether high f-stop or low f-stop gave you the shallow depth of field, ISO was something I never remembered and never varied.

Now I generally leave Auto ISO on and a minimum shutter speed of 350, because I still frequently shoot distracted, and a somewhat noisy photo is at least usable, where a blurry one…not so much.

Photo Inspiration File

Photojournal entry for the Find Your Eye course.
In reviewing my favorite photos, I find there is a big difference for me between ‘Wow, this photo turned out awesome!” and “I THINK I’M IN LOVE!!!!”. I am more than a little dismayed to find that the photos I am most proud of are not the ones that really stick with me. I don’t quite know what to do with that. I am also having a hard time telling which photos I am just bored with because I’ve spent so much time looking at them.

Anyhow, I’m going to ignore my inner turmoil about the photos that aren’t quite my favorite favorites, and look at the ones I know I love. Different ones will probably be my favorite tomorrow anyhow.

DSC_0643-Edit-EditThis first one has been a favorite for a really long time. I love the light, and the way the rocks are lit in layers, and absolutely especially that bird–the wings, the backlight, that perfect moment.

 

DSC_0203-2This one I love for the motion, the blur and painterly feel. I was trying to decide if the clipping of the wings bothered me, but really it doesn’t. I think the balance between the white bird and the light reflecting water is nice.

 
DSC_0471This one is the underside of a mushroom of some kind. More an abstract than anything else, I think it’s the waving line of the edge that catches me. Plus the sliver of detail in the under bits.

 

IMG_2565This photo is all about the light. Backlighting and glowiness.

 

IMG_2706OK, this one just makes me laugh. I can’t believe this wound up in my favorites, but I kept coming back to it. See that time stamp in the lower right? It was a snap of the ground while I was testing an app that I ended up hating and never used again. But somehow it has ‘mood.’ Is that a thing? Mood along with texture and line? Really I have no idea why I like it so much.

 

IMG_3126Again back to light, with the shallow depth of field and glowiness.

 

DSC_0096Starting to see some themes here…again with the motion, the blur, the painterly feel. Also birds. I have a thing for birds. And the periwinkle colors are my favorite thing about the beach at dawn.

 

IMG_2742This is one of very few of my photos that I would say have the feel of having a story. To me it feels like ‘waiting’. And, I know you’re surprised, I do love the lighting.

 

IMG_3572This one is all mood. The silhouette of the hawk, and the sort of foggy surrounding. This was my favorite photo for quite a while, it just recently lost out to this next one.

 

IMG_4372This is my current favorite photo. Again this one I would call ‘mood’. The shallow depth of field (well, really the post-processing but whatever), with the cracking paint and the deep red of the roses. And I really like the curve of the fence.

So there we go. Looking for themes, there’s a lot of blur and sort of painterliness, whether shallow depth of field, or motion, or post processed. There are clearly a lot of birds and glowy lighting. And finally, what I am going to call moodiness; I haven’t taken many of these, but the ones I have I really do like.

 

August and September

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Dear August,

I’m not too sure what just happened there…I blinked, and it’s September?!? You kicked off with a week of vacation, and suddenly it’s Labor Day! Well, vacation was great, anyhow. Let’s do it again sometime,

Sarah

 

Dear September,

I didn’t want to hurt August’s feelings, but we have some work to do. The truth is, August was full of work stress and insomnia, and kind of sucked. We need to find a better way to recover from the fraught social interactions at work (and many of the non-fraught ones, if we’re being strictly honest). (Running, are you listening? This job might be too big for you. Don’t go away though, the situation would probably be critical without you.)

Anyhow, I have a few half-baked thoughts involving better relaxation techniques and distraction from the post-work hamster-wheeling. Let’s work on it a bit this weekend, okay?

Love,

Sarah

Different Results

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Well, the July Something-Drastic experiment was a huge success. I ran 20 days, 61.2 miles. Note to self: there is something about planning to do something Every Day that works for me. There’s no way to say ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, a missed day is a missed day. I have to accept a missed day or suck it up and do it. I can think of a few other things I should apply this philosophy to…

Also: I remembered that I actually like running. Funny that it only took a month for me to get to the point where I was bummed if I missed a day.