Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tamron AF 18-270 Zoom Lens GIVEAWAY!

As many of you know, I love taking photos. I love looking at photos. And I love learning how to improve my photos.
I'm not a professional and my photography is an evolving process, as I understand more about my camera and how we can work together as a team. So when Tamron contacted me about reviewing their 15X Optical Zoom lens, I won't lie, I was super duper excited and said, uh YES!
In my FAQ's section you'll find detailed info about what camera I use and my various lenses. I typically stick with the kit lenses (18-55mm lens, or the 75-300 telephoto lens). I dabble with my 50 mm from time to time as well. But because the range of shots I take is so varied...from a close-up on my sewing machine, to a long shot across the park....I'm constantly switching lenses back and forth to capture the best shot I can.
Well, I don't have to do that anymore!
This new Tamron 15x zoom lens is like BOTH of my lenses in one. It ranges from 18-270mm!
No more quickly swapping back and forth. No more debating over which lens to take with me as we walk around Venice. I can have it all! Seriously, life just got really cool. Okay, it was cool before, but now it's super streamlined and even easier. It's sweet like cookies and honey.
For this review of the Tamron AF 18-270mm lens:
* I've experimented with the lens, taking photos in different settings.
* I've read online reviews to see what other photographers think of it.
* I've gathered 2nd opinions from my photographer friends, who tried out my camera and lens.
And we've all concluded that....It's GREAT!

So let me give you info on the lens, my Pros and Cons, and a brief slideshow (cause that's what you really care about, right? The photos!)

This is the AF 18-270mm:
The big official name is:
The Tamron AF 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) LD Aspherical (IF) Macro.
That's a lot to take in. I'll break it down for you.

It retails for $629
And today we're giving one away to one of you!

* 15X Zoom Lens and versatility
As I mentioned above, the thing I love most about this lens is the versatility. It replaces the need for me have multiple lenses. Some photographers shoot mostly portrait stuff and so they stick with a 50mm a lot of the time. My photo needs have a very wide range. I'm often shooting close-ups of fabric for tutorials. But when I'm out with my kids I prefer a long lens so I can capture the natural moment; to get those candid shots (I enjoy playing paparazzi to my own family). So, with this lens, I can truly put away my other two lenses. I hate to go on and on about the point. But when we're on vacation, it's so hard to decide which lens I'll take out for the day (since I'm not going to lug two kids, 2 bags bags, AND multiple lenses around). So, the zoom range of this lens is amazing! It's changed my photo life! I love it.

* The VC (Vibrator Compensation)
Okay, this is cool too.
So, though I've enjoyed my Canon 75-300 telephoto lens, when I'm zoomed-in all the way there's much more room for camera shake. It's hard to hold your body totally steady, while zeroed in on a moving child that's 30 feet away....which means it's more difficult to keep your focus sharp. But the Vibrator Compensation on this lens is meant to compensate for that! It helps minimize your own body shake to give you crisper photos. When you hold the shutter button down, the camera focuses and then it sort of locks in place for a moment, keeping your picture focused. It's really cool. And now that I've been using this lens, it feels weird to go back to my other lenses, which don't offer this feature.

Would you like to the lens in action?
I thought so.

Most of my long lens photography is to shoot pictures of my kids in-action. So we did just that. The UPS man dropped the lens off at my doorstep, I opened it up, and we went outside to jump on the trampoline.

To really give an honest review here I'd like to NOTE: these photos are straight from the lens. No editing or touch-ups have been done. These were taken at dusk around 6pm, in lower light, with the AUTO Focus:
Of course a bit of brightening and other minor touches would improve the photos but you can see how crisp and beautiful they are, even though the kids are moving and I'm sitting 20 feet away.
This will show you the range of the lens....
I'm zoomed out as far as possible. I can focus on things in the distance,
But I can also focus on my own hand! I could never do that with my Canon 75-300.
And if I zoom in all the way from where I'm sitting, you get this. A nice wedgie.
More action shots and static hair:
Notice that the camera focused on the kids, even though they're behind the trampoline net. You can see small grid marks on their bodies and faces.
The next morning we took photos indoors.
Shown straight from the lens, no editing:
Touched-up slightly to increase the black levels and brighten the shadows:
and here's a photo comparison; Before and After slight editing.

Straight from the lens:
AFTER touch-ups (simply done in iPhoto with the "auto enhance" button. I don't have any fancy software; I do all my editing in iPhoto):
And finally Lucy picked up my old 18-55mm lens, looked closer at my camera and asked "How did your lens grow?" Observant girl (and no, my kids don't normally handle my lenses but I wanted to show her the difference in the two).
If you've never used Tamron before, they're a brand of lenses that fit on any Canon or Nikon camera for about 1/2 the cost of your brand-name lens but with the same quality. If you're looking for an amazing zoom AND standard lens combined, this is it!

As with any review, however, I would like to mention a few CONS (when it comes to Zoom lenses):
* Prime vs. Zoom lens
I often complain that my photos are not as sharp as I would ultimately like them to be. It seems that no matter how exact I am with my focus, they don't give me the really defined sharpness I see in professional photos. Now, this is not a complaint against the Tamron lens but just zoom lenses in general.

Prime lenses are fixed at a specific focal length. You can not zoom in or out. Instead, you move your own body to adjust the distant between you and your subject. Prime lenses are typically known to focus a bit sharper on their images, when compared to zoom lenses. Now zoom lenses are still amazing (I mean, duh, I'm in love with my new Tamron) but I don't think it will be as sharp as a prime lens is. And that's totally fine. It's still amazingly sharp (as the previous photos have shown) and I love the versatility more than anything.

* Lens Creep
This also isn't a complaint against Tamron but just something to be aware of with larger zoom lenses. Since this lens offers more range, it's heavier than my other lenses. But it's not too heavy. It's easily managable and I hardly notice the increased weight now. However, it has tendency to "creep" down (or zoom in) when I'm shooting photos from straight above, such as close-up shots of my projects. I simply adjust for this by holding the camera tighter, so it's not a big deal. And when I'm not shooting, there's a lock on the lens to hold it in place. Again, nothing big just something to mention because it surprised me at first.
And with all that being said...

There's my review!
I've been using the lens for 2 weeks now and as I've said, I love it. I recommend it you!
Here's a sampling of additional photos....
(Note, these final photos have all been touched-up a bit in iPhoto)
So, the big question left is....
Would you like a Tamron AF 18-270 lens too???
Tamron has offered to give a lens to one of YOU!

Here are the details....

Giveaway Rules:
* Leave a comment, that's it!
* Leave your EMAIL ADDRESS in your comment.
* Only One entry per person.
* If you forget something and need to leave a second comment, go back and DELETE your first comment.
* Open to anyone in the US and Canada.
* ONE winner will be picked via random.org and will the Tamron AF 18-270 F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC Lens
* Giveaway ends _________

Ready, set, click!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hello Bloom! And thank you for having me. It always feels like home when I stop by your lovely blog. And if I had to finish the phrase "home is____" I could probably come up with 100 fill in the blanks, depending on the day and my mood. So I'll try to dig deeper here.

For a mom that loves to sew and be creative, I have a confession: I do not like doing crafts with my kids. There, I've said it. And it's true. I hate setting everything up, breaking up petty fights, watching the mess get everywhere, and then cleaning it all up 10 minutes later when the kids are bored with the project. That's what preschool is for right? That being said, there are times I feel guilty for not doing more craft projects with my kids. We moms can be hard on ourselves. So whenever I start to feel like me and the kids need more one-on-one time, this is our cure-all medicine:
It works every time. I know it sounds so simple and obvious. But we all have fun and for some reason, I can easily do this for an hour over some of the other kid-activities Lucy requests.

It usually starts in the afternoon when someone wakes up from a nap and mom walks away from the computer.
Before Owen was born, it was just me and Lucy acting silly on the bed. But with two monkeys now, the laughter is more contagious and lively.
The kids jump on my Queen-size bed, we laugh, they sing songs, they say silly things,
they get tickled, we shout "timber!" and watch each other fall down like trees, and at some point,
everyone tires out.
And then they request silly faces.
It's so much fun and actually, relaxing. And I feel like a better a mom because I acted like a kid with my kids, in a way that was actually interesting for all of us.
So to phrase the saying properly, on many afternoons at our place, "home is: monkeys jumping on the bed."
I'm so blessed that these monkeys are mine.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pacifier Clip TUTORIAL

Tired of baby losing her binky? Don't settle for what you see in the store. Making a pacifier clip is easy! And once you've made one, you'll want to make 20. They're the perfect accessory for any baby shower gift.
The clip easily attaches to a carseat, shirt, or stroller,
and the pacifier pops right into baby's mouth.
Life just got a whole lot better.

Okay, let's get started.
Since fabrics and machinery vary from sewist to sewist, we'll show you two different methods for making clips.

* 14 x 2 1/4 inch rectangle of fabric (14 x 2 1/2 if not using a serger).
Cottons work best - simple cotton, seersucker, corduroy, denim, etc.
* 14 x 1 1/8 inch rectangle of interfacing
* Small square of velcro
* Suspender Clips (easily found at most sewing stores and online. If you can't find any, other fasteners will work as well)
Start by cutting fabric and interfacing rectangles. If you're using a heavier cotton or corduroy, omit the interfacing. It simply adds thickness and strength to your "ribbon" part of the pacifier clip.

Your fabric rectangle should be 14 x 2 1/4 inches. It will eventually be folded in half to make a 14 x 1 inch long ribbon. Since we don't want the ribbon to be too bulky, the interfacing rectangle is more narrow, 14 x 1 1/8 inches. This way you only have one layer of interfacing.

To make the entire cutting process easier, first cut the fabric rectangle and then cut the interfacing larger than you need....
Fold your fabric rectangle in half, length wise, and iron it. Then shove the interfacing piece right in the middle of the sandwich. It will be sticking out of the side. Then use your rotary cutter to cut the edge of facing, making it the exact size you need.
You're left with something like this:
The easiest way to sew this project is with a serger. BUT, IF YOU DON'T HAVE A SERGER don't worry. Keep reading so you get the gist and we'll show you another method below.

Today we'll be using a ROLLED HEM. If you've never used one, it's easy. It involves 3 spools of thread and NO cutting hands. The stitch is very narrow and as you go, the edge of the fabric is slightly rolled under. This is a wonderful way to finish off silky scarves, dinner napkins, or a ruffled knit hem. Consult your user manual for all the details, since you also need to make adjustments to the differential, stitch length, tension, etc.

In my Bernina manual, these are the settings for a 3-thread rolled hem:
Set your machine up with a thread color that either compliments or contrasts with your fabric.
Practice on fabric a few times to make sure the machine is adjusted properly.
Then start at one end and serge all the way down one side.
Serge around the edges and back up the other side.
Clip off the hanging threads.
To keep the corners from fraying, use Fray Check or other anti-fray liquids.
Dab a very small amount in the corners and let it dry.
Okay, you're done with the "ribbon" part of your clip. Let's add velcro and a clip.

Cut a small piece of velcro, about 1/2 inch long. Hold it up to your serged ribbon and make sure it's wide enough to cover your ribbon:
Sew one side of the velcro square at the end of your ribbon:
And sew the other velcro piece about 3 inches down (this becomes the loop that will hold the pacifier).
I've just shown you the easiest method for sewing on velcro. However, your thread will show through on the other side of your ribbon.
Not a big deal if the thread color is camouflaged.
But if you want a more polished looked, sew on the velcro pieces in the first step, before serging down the sides. To do this...open up your folded rectangle, place the velcro pieces just as you did in the step above, sew them down, and then continue by sandwiching the interfacing inside, etc.
Now we're going to sew a clip to the other end of the ribbon. If you have a label or patch, you can sew it on now. I love adding that personalized touch.
Grab one of your suspender clips:
Loop the ribbon through the end of the clip:
Fold it over:
And sew it down:
And you're done!
If you don't have a serger, here's another method....

Cut a 14 x 2 1/2 inch fabric rectangle and a 14 x 1 1/8 inch interfacing rectangle.
OR if you want a contrasting back to your ribbon, cut 2 fabric rectangles that are 14 x 1 1/4 inches. That's what I'll be doing here.
Remember that if you want a cleaner look, sew your velcro squares on now. Or you can wait till later.

With right sides of your fabric together sew down one side of the ribbon, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance (if you're not using two fabrics, just fold your large rectangle in half and iron it down, as we did above):
Iron out your seam:
Then iron each side in, 1/4 inch:
Place your interfacing right in the middle:
Fold over the "sandwich", and pin everything closed:
Sew down the side, very close to the edge:
Then sew down the other side, very close to the edge. This step is purely for aesthetic, so that it matches the top-stitching on the other side:
You can either fold the ends in and top-stitch them closed, or do a tight zig-zag stitch:
and snip off the edges:
Then fold it under to the "wrong" side of the ribbon and top-stitch it down, just to clean up the look.

Continue with the steps above to finish up your pacifier clip, and you're done!

Additional photos....