Photo Friday: Photograph Landscape (The Exposure Triangle)

Two weeks ago I set the challenge of photography landscape. Part of the challenge was to select your own setting to take the photograph in. I chose to shoot in manual mode for the first time. This mode allows me to select both the aperture and the shutter speed as well as other settings such as ISO and white balance etc. You may remember from my post on Aperture this:

Small Aperture = Large f/stop number = Large depth of field
Large Aperture = Small f/stop number = Shallow depth of field

So when I went out to shoot landscape I knew I wanted a large depth of field. This is achieved with a small aperture. A small aperture will let in only a small amount of light because it means that the hole in the lens only opens a small amount. It was a sunny day so this was good. However I also had to select the shutter speed.

When we looked at shutter speed we saw that the longer the shutter speed the more light could enter the camera. If you have a bright day you need a short shutter speed or you will have too much light, if its getting darker then you will need a longer shutter speed to take in more light and make sure your photo isn't too dark. Because the sun was so bright on this particular day, and I was shooting into it I needed to set a short shutter speed.

The other factor in our cameras concerning light is the ISO. We saw that a low ISO would give a great smooth photo if you have lots of available light while a larger ISO might give you a slightly grainy photo but would be more sensitive to low levels of light. Because of the high light I could get away with selecting a low ISO.

These three factors together (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) all work together to affect the light levels. We call them the exposure triangle, they need to be held in balance and adjusted for the amount of light available and for the type of photograph required. These photos were taken on a bright day, I needed a small aperture, a fast shutter speed and a low ISO. For every photo you take the balance will be slightly different.

Manual mode takes some practice but ultimately gives you the most control over your photos so it's definitely something to work towards. I am going to try and shoot in manual mode from now on but if you aren't at this stage yet reread through some of my earlier posts on ApertureShutter SpeedWhite Balance and ISO. I would suggest you choose the thing you want control over first. For these photos I knew I needed a long depth of field so I chose my aperture first, then I set the shutter speed according to the light levels and kept my ISO low because I had plenty of light.

Remember using manual mode is all about balancing the exposure triangle. The only way to understand this is to practice, I need some more practice thats for sure! Next weeks challenge will be a great place to start so read on.

Next Weeks Challenge: Photograph Food
Camera: A camera that you can set to manual mode
Equipment: You may need a tripod
Software: None needed

1. Take a photograph of food and make it look delicious
2. Have a go shooting in manual mode and practice balancing the exposure triangle

It can be tricky to photograph food and make it look good so play around with this one and have fun. As usual show me what you get, I am thinking about setting up a Flickr pool for photos people take so let me know if you're interested and I will get on it. Have a good week, Zoe x

Star Pinwheel Baby Quilt Part 4: Binding and Finishing

The final stage of a quilt is the binding, you're almost done! To see the other stages of this quilt look here, here and here. The kind of binding I am going to show you how to make can be made for any quilt with straight edges and corners. If you have curved corners you will need to make bias binding but if you're finishing off your star pinwheel baby quilt then this is perfect. You can make it from the left over strips you cut off your fat quarters at the very beginning. If you don't have any of these then get yourself one more fat quarter that complements your colours and cut it into strips of about 5cm.

1. For each side you will need one long strip that is slightly longer than your quilt. Simply sew together two of your long rectangles end to end, right sides together and then press your seems open. Then line up one of the long sides of this strip with the edge of your quilt, again right sides together, and stitch right the way along with a 1/4" seam allowance. Then press your binding away from your quilt. Repeat on the opposite side and it should look like this:

2. Press your unsewn edge of the binding under by another 1/4". Then press the binding again over and around the quilt.

3. Now you need to trim the ends down so you have only about half and inch extra then fold and pin the ends under like this:

And then slip stitch the binding down. Have a look here for a tutorial on slip stitching.

4. Repeats steps 2-3 on the remaining two sides of your quilt, however when you stitch your binding to the quilt only sew between the binding that you have already sewn. In other words leave a little gap unstitched at each end. To finish the corners on these two sides you will need to fold the fabric slightly differently:

Folding it this way will help the corner look lovely from the front:

The only thing you have left to do is to trim down all your threads and you're done! If you have any questions then just leave a comment and I will try and answer and if you have made your own then please let me see it! Have fun, Zoe. xx

Star Pinwheel Baby Quilt Part 3: Quilting

By now you will have made your quilt top, quilt back and your quilt sandwich (if not have a look here and here). Now it is time to quilt your quilt. This is the process of stitching together your three layers across the whole quilt. You will need to feed all three layers of your quilt into the machine at once. For this quilt I have gone with a very simple design.

You may be able to see from the above photo that I have simply stitched 'in the ditch' for most of the quilt. This means I have stitched along the seams between one fabric and the next. This common method of quilting is very simple but effective because it really complements the patchwork design. The photo below gives you a better idea of how I made this work on this particular quilt.

In addition to stitching in the ditch I have also sewn diagonal lines between each diagonal seam. This extra quilting gives more texture to the quilt and makes it feel more complete. For another idea of how you could quilt yours have a look at my baby quilts for a boy and a girls and you can see free motion quilting. This would also look lovely on this quilt but requires a little more time and practice. Since this quilt is designed for beginners I wanted to stick to something much more simple. If you there is anything you don't under stand or if you have a question, leave a comment and I will try and help.

There is only one more stage to go with this series so come back tomorrow for a tutorial on binding. Zoe x

Star Pinwheel Baby Quilt Part 2: Quilt Back

Yesterday I started sharing instructions to make a star pinwheel baby quilt and we made the star quilt top. Now to make a pinwheel for the back of the quilt. You may remember we cut out fat quarters into triangles like this:

We used the smaller triangles on the quilt top, for the back we need the larger triangles. Lay these out to form a pinwheel:
As you can see in the above picture a pin wheel is a square made up of triangles where the dark and light colours alternate to form a 'pinwheel' pattern. In a traditional quilt a pinwheel block is made up of only two fabrics but we are just making one giant one for the back of this quilt so its a little different. Tou need to take the darker triangles and lie them on top of the light triangle that they are next to with right sides together:

You can now take each pair of triangles over to your machine and stitch along the longest side, just as we did for the quilt top with a 6mm (1/4") seam allowance. Then you can press the seem to the dark side and this gives you four squares:

Be careful in all these steps to make sure you are stitching along the correct edge, you can mark it with a pin if you're unsure. Next you stitch the top two squares together to make a row and the bottom two squares together to make a second row using a 6mm (1/4") seam allowance and press the seams again to the dark side.

Then finally you take the top row, lie it on top of the bottom row with right sides together and stitch these two rows together keeping that 6mm (1/4") seam allowance. Press this final seam to one side, it doesn't matter too much which way.

Now you have made your quilt back you can start on your quilt sandwich. You can find instructions on how to do this here from my vintage sheets octagons quilt here. You will need your quilt top star, the quilt back pinwheel and 1m square of wadding. If you have any questions leave a comment and I will try and answer. Come back tomorrow for the quilting stage. Zoe x

Star Pinwheel Baby Quilt Part 1: Quilt Top

I've been waiting for ages to show you this quilt. I made it for my sister-in-laws baby but it was two weeks late so I have had to keep it quiet for much longer than I thought. I wanted to make a quilt for her baby and I came up with this idea when trying to devise a quilt that would be really easy for any one hoping to learn to sew.

This quilt is so simple to make, if you have ever considered making one try this because it's a great beginners quilt. You don't even need to buy a cutting mat and rotary cutter which are normally pretty essential for speedy quilt making. So if you know some one who is having a baby soon, or maybe your are? Or maybe you just want something to pop over your knee on a chilly evening, you should make one of these quilts. It's super easy and also inexpensive as far as quilts go.  Just follow along this week and you will have a quilt. Sorted.

You Will Need:
8 Fat Quarters, 4 dark and 4 light (any colour will do, or you could have 2 contrasting colours instead of dark and light)
Fabric Scissors (You can use a rotary cutter if you have one of course)
Sewing Machine
Wadding (Batting)
You might need extra fabric for binding depending on the size of your fat quarters

Make the Quilt Top
The quilt top, or the star, is the first thing you will need to make. Take a fat quarter and fold the corner up so that the side lines up with the top as shown (1). Then you need to cut off any excess again as shown (2). This leaves you with an exact square. Some fat quarters are cut as squares but normally they are cut from a metre of fabric (sometimes a yard) from the roll and then this metre is cut into quarters to make the 'fat quarters'. So unless the fabric was originally 1 metre across then you will have some extra. Save this extra piece for your binding (part 4).

Now that you have a square shape you need to carefully cut it into these 5 triangles:

To do this simply cut the square in half along the diagonal, then cut one of these triangles in half again, and finally cut these two smaller triangles in half again. Repeat with all your fat quarters until you have 8 large triangles and 32 small triangles.

Now you need to take your 32 small triangles and pair them up. Make 8 pairs with one dark and one light triangle,  4 pairs with both triangles from your darker coloured fabrics and 4 pairs with both triangles the lighter coloured fabrics. Then put each pair with 'right sides together' and with the long side of the triangles lined up.

Now you need to stitch together each pair of triangles along this longer edge leaving a 6mm (1/4") seam allowance. Then open out the triangles and you will see you have made them into squares, press the seams to one side, if you can press towards to dark side.

Next you can lay your squares out on the floor and arrange them into the star shape. You can move them around until you are satisfied with how they look. Then collect together each row of squares from left to right into a pile. With your sewing machine stitch squares together to make rows, make sure you have each square up the right way so that you keep your star shape. Sew with the squares right sides together and with a 6mm (1/4") seam allowance. Then press your seems to one side, again if possible towards the dark side.

Finally stitch the rows together, again with right sides together and a 6mm seam allowance. You may need to lay your rows out on the floor again to make sure you are going to stitch them in the right order.

And that's it! You have made a quilt top and it wasn't so hard was it? Well if you struggled with anything then let me know in the comments and I will see if I can help. I'll share with you the next stage next Tomorrow. Zoe x

Find the other 3 parts here:
Quilt Back
Binding and Finishing

Let's Talk ISO

ISO is pretty important. It is one of three elements that make up the exposure triangle. This is quite tricky to demonstrate with photos so you will have to look closely at the pictures below. First off a photo taken with the lowest ISO setting on my camera (100):

The low ISO setting gives a lovely smooth photo. The details are sharp and the blur is smooth. This is exactly what to look for in good photo. Now take a look (a very close one) to the below photo taken with the highest ISO setting on my camera (3200):

Now admittedly you have to look closely to see the difference but its most obvious in the background. The blur, which is supposed, to be smooth is a little grainy.

Now I hear you ask a question here, if a high ISO makes a photo grainy why would you ever use that setting? Now this is a good question because in natural light (the best kind) a low ISO setting is perfect and gives the best results. However when you set your camera to a higher ISO it becomes more sensitive to low light levels. This means when it is darker in the shadows or you are taking photos at night using a higher ISO can result in more details appearing in your photo.

So remember this:
Low ISO = Less grainy photo, great for good light
High ISO = More grainy photo, great for low light

A time to use a slightly higher ISO would be if you have to shoot inside, for example at a wedding or family gathering or you are photographing your home. You may need to use an even higher ISO if you are at an evening or night party and need the maximum sensitivity to light, your photos will be a little grainier but the overall outcome will be better.

Take a look at my post on the exposure triangle if you want to see how ISO works in balance with shutter speed and aperture. Zoe x

Dished Up: Houmous

Houmous is a favourite in our house. It is always thought of as a treat when we have pitta bread, cucumber and dip for lunch. Not that long ago I catered for a friends wedding and had some tins of chickpeas left over. When I say some, I mean 20! As you can imagine I've been trying all kinds of creative things to use them up. Making houmous therefore was a no brainer. I tried a couple of recipes and wasn't happy with the finished result so threw together a few different things and came up with this recipe.

I guess most people would know that houmous is made with chickpeas but the other distinctive flavour is tahini, or sesame paste. You should be able to get hold of tahini in most major supermarkets. The one I have bought looks like a jar of peanut butter. All the other ingredients are store cupboard basics. It's super easy to make and not only is it packed with flavour, it lasts longer than the shop bought ones. They always say eat within three days and seem to go 'fizzy' very quickly.

What you need:
4 tbsp Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tahini
Smoked paprika (optional)

What you do:
1. Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and soften until translucent, 5-10 minutes.
2. Put the remaining ingredients in a food processor with the rest of the oil. Add the cooked onion and whizz to a purée.
3. Put in a serving dish and sprinkle with smoked paprika if using. Enjoy with some crudités or slather in a sandwich with some roasted vegetables.

Easy Peasy! Enjoy.
Cassie xx

6 Lessons Learned About Pattern Drafting

Recently I was given this cute checked fabric, I had a huge amount of it and no particular plans for what to do with it but I was very grateful. I soon came to the conclusion that it was perfect fabric for experimenting with. I had a go at drafting my own pattern for a top. Here is the result. I knew that pattern drafting wasn't going to be easy, and it wasn't, but I have learned quite a lot from this one top already. Read on to see exactly what I learned.

Lesson 1
You cannot use a stretch top as the starting point for making a top with a woven fabric. Ok so its probably pretty obvious to most of you, I tried to make allowances for the stretch by making it a little bigger in some places but basically this is not the top I originally intended to make. It was going to be a boxy top that buttoned all the way down but it was too narrow around my hips. I decided to make the back a little bit open to compensate and I have ended up with a lovely top for summer, it's just not what I envisioned when I first started.

Lesson 2
Curved hems are tricky and I need to be very careful when snipping into the curves to make the finish neat. It looks pretty good form the outside but the inside is a little messy.

Lesson 3
Drafting patterns for sleeves is pretty easy. I thought that this might be one of the most tricky parts of pattern drafting but in fact I found it very easy and my sleeve fitted into the arm hole perfectly. I will probably do this again in future if I have a sleeveless top or dress pattern as a simple modification.

Lesson 4
When drafting your own patterns you have to be flexible. As I said already I started out planning to make a different top to this one, but once I realised it wasn't going to work the way I planned I came up with a new idea that I liked too. I didn't have to just chuck away my work so far, I could make it into something different that turned out more fun than I had originally planned any way.

Lesson 5
I learned the correct order for putting together a top pattern. I hadn't given it much thought before I started but realised after cutting out my pattern pieces that I would need to stitch them up in a particular order rather than just guessing.

Lesson 6
I learned how to finish a neckline the way I like. The other unlined tops or dresses I have made so far finish the neckline with bias binding. I am not really a fan of this method, I find it tricky to get it to lie flat and I prefer not to have an extra seam there. I looked at some of my favourite tops from my wardrobe and realised my favourite finish is to sew in a neckline facing. I read a few tutorials for this and then came up with my own method. In future I can finish other tops like this even if the pattern suggests otherwise.

So there you have it, my lessons learned so far. Since making this top I have also made a skirt for which I also drafted the pattern which I will show you soon too. Zoe x

Have You Ever Tried Night Photography?

Happy Valentines! We had some sparklers left over from bonfire night so I thought it would be fun to get some pics of them.

When taking photos at night its a good idea to use a long shutter speed. The shutter speed for these pics was 10 seconds! I had to have my camera set up on a tripod and get someone else to press the trigger. I was standing ready and when the shot started to take I started moving my sparkler. I just drew a heart shape several times to get the heart photo but just doing it once would have been fine. For the photos below I only traced the words once rather than repeating it several times. Each word was one photo. For each photo I wrote the word in the air, then I had to flip the image on my computer to make the words go the right way around. I then cropped the two words into one photo.

It was good fun. You can take other trick shots like this using torches or glow stick. Or you can take photos of road with lots of traffic and the results look pretty good. Obviously yours don't have to be so lovey dovey, normally mine wouldn't be, but since its a special occasion I though why not? I hope you have fun too, Zoe x

Chocolate Fudge Icing Recipe (for Extra Indulgent Brownies)

This week I'm all about the sweet treats. I was supposed to be taking a savoury snack with me out last night but I just needed something sweet to help me endure the rain. I made some brownies and they were looking OK:

Normally I would be really pleased to take these with me and to eat them but I wanted something with a bit more wow factor. You can find the recipe for these brownies in an Usborne Children's recipe book but any brownies would work for this. The recipe I am sharing is for the icing (adapted from this recipe here). You can also enjoy this icing on cakes (or straight from a spoon!) and it goes on nice and smoothly so it always looks great even if you can't normally make your icing look smooth.

What You Will Need:
55g Butter
3tbsp milk
200g icing sugar (sifted)
30g cocoa powder
Strawberries (half a strawberry for each brownie)

What To Do:
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. After a few minutes the mixture will turn smooth and glossy. Remove the bowl from the heat.
2. When the icing has cooled slightly, add about 1 tablespoon of icing to the top of each brownie, covering the tops and spreading it into the corner. It's ok if it starts to pour over the edges a little but don't cover the edges over completely.
3. Hull your strawberries and cut then in half. When the icing is mostly cool and starting to set pop half a strawberry on top.

And don't they look delicious? In fact they don't just look delicious they really taste it too. Nom nom nom. Zoe x

Chocolate Hearts for Valentines

Valentines isn't a big deal in our house, its something we like to acknowledge and use as an opportunity to spend some time with one another. So something handmade and quick is (for me) the perfect gift for Valentines day. These heart chocolates are so easy that they barely need any explanation.

Simply melt some chocolate, I used white chocolate. When it has melted spoon a blob onto some greaseproof paper on a baking tray and spread it out into little hearts. Then pour over some sprinkles, any colour will do and you don't have to be too precise. Once every heart has a few sprinkles on pick up your tray and roll it around a little to get the extra sprinkles to stick to the edges of your hearts. This uses up your extra sprinkles and makes the heart shapes really defined. Leave your tray for about 30 mins and you're done. 

So easy and so yummy. There is definitely still enough time for you to do this one for your Valentine too. Zoe x

Photograph Action and Experiment with Shutter Speed

The shutter speed effects several different aspects of the photo. These photos are of my son on his bike because I wanted to demonstrate how the shutter speed is affected by movement. Let me explain.

What is Shutter Speed?
Whenever you take a photograph your camera opens its shutter, which is basically a hole, to let in the light. The length of time that this shutter is open for is the shutter speed. Short speeds are only fractions of a second while longer speeds can be up to half a minute or more. When we have our camera set to S mode we manually choose the shutter speed. On my camera this varies from 1/4000 (very short) to 30s (very long). The camera then automatically chooses an appropriate aperture (the size of the opening) in order to take in enough light for the photograph.

When we take a photograph with a short shutter speed the camera can't take in as much light. (When you move on to using M mode which is fully manual then you can widen your aperture while also setting your shutter speed to compensate for less light.)  Less light can be really helpful if you are trying to shoot on a very bright day. However if you are shooting when it's not so bright a short shutter speed just results in a dark photo:

When you are shooting something that is moving, as we were for this challenge, if you use a longer shutter speed you just get something blurry:

In fact if you use a shutter speed slower than 1/60, even if your subject is motionless, usually the result is quite blurry unless you use a tripod. The natural shake in your hands will create blur for shutter speeds slower than 1/60.

Shooting Action in S mode
If we wanted to photograph something moving and have a totally crisp image then we would need to use a very fast shutter speed (1/2000-1/200). However some blur is good sometimes. The next photograph was taken with shutter speed 1/15 which is quite slow. But I moved the camera with the movement of Boaz so he stays mostly in focus and the background blurs. This makes it clear in the photo that Boaz was moving. This took quite a few attempts to get a good shot but with practice it gets easier.

I can't answer the question 'How long should my shutter speed be for shooting action' because it will vary greatly depending on how fast your subject is moving. You will have to play around with this until you get a feel for it. So if you haven't already then go out and take some photos on S mode.

Have some fun, Zoe. x
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