Why Upgrade Your Camera Body

I have been shooting with a Nikon D3200 for quite a while now. I like this camera, but I wanted something with a little better low light capability. I found myself using my camera in low light situations a lot, and I wanted to get something that performed better in those situations. Mainly, I wanted something that could handle a higher ISO without giving me a lot of noise in my pictures. I have some fast lenses. I have a Nikon 50 mm, f1.8, and a 35 mm, f1.8, and I wanted to be able to use these in a dark situation without any additional lightening, such as flash.

I would love to jump to a full frame camera someday, but right now my budget doesn’t permit it. I looked at several models of the Nikon crop sensor cameras, and I decided on the Nikon D5500. I have always loved getting new camera equipment, but I have never been so in love with a camera!


One of the greatest things about this camera for me is that it has a touch screen display. For those of us who are addicted to our iPhones, you will probably love this feature. From the reviews I saw online, either you love the touch screen or you hate it. I am in the LOVE category. You can pinch to zoom when you are reviewing a picture just like you do on your smart phone. You can also change most of the settings through the touchscreen, instead of searching through the menu list using the buttons.


Now this is not a full review of this camera. I haven’t really had it for long, and I am still learning all the ends and outs of its features. So far though, I have really liked it. Maybe in a few years I will be able to make the jump to a full frame camera or even go mirrorless, but for now I am very happy with my new baby.

One of the main reasons why I take pictures in a dark setting without any added lighting is so that I can get natural pictures of my dogs. My dogs hate flash!

Nikon D5500, f 3.5, 35 mm, 1/80 Sec, ISO 4000
Nikon D5500, f 1.8, 35 mm, 1/60 Sec, ISO 800

I don’t just change camera bodies every time a new model comes out. Although it is nice to get new equipment, I usually try to expand my lens collection or take a class rather than upgrade my body. However, there are times when you hit the limit of your camera’s capabilities. Then it is time to consider if a new body will better suit your needs.

Long Exposure Shots

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Stumpy Lake, Virginia Beach, VA, Nikon D3200, f16, 52mm, 30 sec, ISO 100
Have you even seen that soft misty water in a picture and wondered how the photographer captured that? It is a long exposure shot. They are a lot of fun to try, but you will need a few things to capture a long exposure shot that you may not have already. You will absolutely need a tripod.  Long exposure shots require that the camera stay completely still.  If it does not stay still you will wind up with blurry photos, and no one likes those! Most people can only take a shot as slow as 1/60 or 1/40 of a second hand held. I am awful at it, so I am lucky if I try something at 1/50 and it actually turns out in focus. These types of long exposure shots require that you keep your camera still for multiple seconds. It is also a good idea to have a remote or a cable release for your shutter too. Even touching the camera the slightest bit to press the shutter button can cause it to move and make your picture blurry.

Now, if you have this equipment, you are good. The one other thing you may also need though is an ND, or Neutral Density, filter. An ND filter is kind of like putting sunglasses on your camera lens.  If there is too much light coming through the lens, an ND will block out some of that light.  You don’t want too much light in your pictures or they will just be blown out and over-exposed. Since you are leaving the shutter of your camera open for so long, it is allowing a lot of light to come through the lens. If you want to filter that light, an ND filter will do the job.  If you are on a budget, there are some pretty cheap variable ND filters out there. You can buy one of these to get your feet wet and try some long exposures. If you like them and want to try more, then you may want to invest in some more specific ND filters for the job.

Besides making water smooth, there are a few other reason that you may want to take a long exposure photo.  Fireworks is one of my favorite reasons, and Disney fireworks are great for this!

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Wishes at Walt Disney World, Nikon D3200, f14, 31mm, 30 Sec, ISO 100
When you take a regular picture of a single firework burst, all you see is white sparkles everywhere. If you take a long exposure shot, you can get several bursts in the picture at one time, but that will be too much light in one shot. You will have to use an ND filter to keep the fireworks from over exposing the whole shot. You can also edit the photo to bring back some of the color of the bursts if you have filtered out enough of the light.

Another reason to use a long exposure shot is trying to take pictures at night. You may not need an ND filter for this one.  If it is really dark where you are shooting, you may want to keep your shutter open long enough to let in enough light to be able to actually see your subject in the dark. I love doing long exposure shots at Disney World. This was one of my first attempts at long exposures at night, but I love this one at EPCOT because I can actually see the Fountain of Nations spraying up in the background behind the trees.

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EPCOT, Walt Disney World, Nikon D3200, f 11, 90 mm, 15 Sec, ISO 100
Here is a more recent attempt of a nigh-time shot I took of the Yacht Club Resort on a trip to Disney World in January of this year.

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Yacht Club Resort, Walt Disney World, Nikon D3200, f16, 105 mm, 14 Sec, ISO 200
Another really fun thing to try is to do a long exposure shot in the middle of the day in the graveyard.  You can really freak out your friends by making your own ghost.

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Cedar Grove Cemetery, Norfolk, VA, Nikon D3200, f 22, 18mm, 5 Sec, ISO 100
If you have a person moving through the frame of your shot pretty quickly, they won’t appear in your pictures. If they move slowly through the frame though, it will create ghosting.  I twirled around in this cemetery shot so you see me twice in the frame. You actually have to move slowly to show up in the frame at all though.

Long exposure photography is a lot of trial and error, just like any other photography project.  It can be a pretty fun thing to try. Just don’t get frustrated with it, because it will take a lot to get it right.  I really like doing long exposure night pictures. Maybe it is time for me to get out and try some more myself!


Spring Flowers

When winter finally starts to break, flowers start to bloom. Taking pictures of flowers is an easy way to practice photography techniques for beginners.  They are great subjects because they are beautiful and have great color. They are also easy to photograph because they don’t move! I don’t think I am at the beginner stage anymore, but I still love taking pictures of flowers. I have a black thumb. I kill every plant I get. I even killed a cactus once! I guess that is why I love to take pictures of flowers so much. At least that way I can enjoy their beauty even after I kill them.

The photography group that I belong to had an assignment of “Spring Flowers.” I have been playing with some macro extension tubes that a friend let me borrow, so I decided to try some macro flower shots. I did some shots hand held, but I highly suggest using a tripod. You can get the flowers focused in much easier with a tripod.

Nikon D5500, f4.5, 35mm, 1/60, ISO 1000, Hand Held
Nikon D5500, f 3.2, 35mm, 1/200, ISO 640, Tripod

Another great way to get flowers shots, besides buying them and bringing them home, is to visit your local Botanical Garden if you have one in your town. Ours has a hot house and you can get great orchid pictures any time of the year in it.

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Nikon D3200, f5.6, 200 mm, 1/200, ISO 1600
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Nikon D3200, f5.3, 95mm, 1/320, ISO 200

If you don’t have a Botanical Garden, try your local park. They may have something blooming that you can photograph. If not, take your camera to your local nursery. If there are any Garden or Home Shows in your area, they might have some great flowers too.  I took these at the local Mc Donald’s Garden Center’s Garden Show.

Nikon D5500, f2.8, 35mm, 1/2500, ISO 100
Nikon D5500, f2.8, 35mm, 1/1000, ISO 100

There are such beautiful flowers that bloom in the spring. It is hard to resist taking pictures of them. Sometimes you just can’t resist buying a few to bring home. Just don’t forget your allergy medicine!

Keeping It Real!

There is great debate about social media today making people feel inadequate about themselves or their life. They see their friends having a great time on vacation or their friend’s children making straight A’s or getting an award for their soccer team winning the championship. People today are just doing what photographers have been doing for years.

As photographers, we only put out the good stuff for someone else to view.  We don’t print or post those blurry, dark photos of our kids pitching a tantrum while they eat cake. We post the ones that show that happy grin with the birthday candles glowing and all the family and friends surrounding them.  All of us take some awful photos from time to time, just like all of us have bad days. We just choose to leave those pictures on the hard drive or throw them away.  Even the best photographers make mistakes!

This is a very old picture, and although I have processed it again recently in Lightroom, it is still one of my favorites of my husband.  I have pictures with him all dressed up and posed, but I just love the smile of his face in this picture. It is a genuine smile, which does not happen very often when I try to take a picture of him. He hates the camera!

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While I could debate the merits of whether or not to use photoshop to alter pictures, I try to stay as real as I can with it when it comes to editing people. If you change the color of a flower in a picture, no one might ever know that, but extreme editing of people often makes them look fake.

Why I am I talking about keeping it real? Today is my 16th Wedding Anniversary. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe my marriage than “real.”It has not been 16 years of perfection & wedded bliss. It has been 16 years of joy & sorrow, laughter & tears, arguments & complete understanding, question & support, friendship & love. I wouldn’t change one minute of the last 16 years with my best friend. I know I can be real with him. Happy Anniversary to my whole world & the love of my life. I have loved the past, but I can’t wait for the future.

About Me

I have grown up and lived in Virginia most of my life, with a few years in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia. I am married to a wonderful and supportive husband, and I have two dogs who are like my children. You will probably see dog pictures here, but you won’t see many of my husband. He hates the camera!

I am a kid at heart and I have always been a Disney fanatic. I try to take a trip to Walt Disney World every year, if possible. You will see a lot of Disney pictures here as well.

I still have a lot of growing to do as a photographer, but I hope you enjoy being part of my journey.


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Good Cameras Do Not Make Good Photographers

How many times has a photographer taken a good picture and and someone says, “That is a great picture. You must have a really good camera. What kind is it?” What most people don’t realize is that the camera doesn’t make the picture, the photographer makes the picture.

If I had to start at the beginning of my photography journey again, I would do things differently.  Hind sight is 20/20, right? Most of us photographers are also equipment junkies. I still have my Nikon N75 film camera and my Nikon D50. I just can’t seem to part with them. I love getting new toys though. When I was starting out, several photographers told me that you can do a lot with basic equipment. However, I didn’t want to listen. I wanted that new lens and that new filter! While you may have some limitations to the types of pictures you can take because of your equipment, you can still do a lot with the basics.


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Meerkat at Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World      Nikon D50, F5.6, 226.3mm, 1/2000, ISO 800

I currently shoot with a Nikon D3200, and while I am not going to get an amazing landscape shot or a picture of the Milky Way with this camera, it meets my needs for now. What I would tell someone who is just starting their photographic journey is to get to know your camera. Even iPhones can take great pictures if you know what you are doing with them.

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Seagull, Chincoteague Island, VA, Nikon D3200, f7.1, 60mm, 1/2000, ISO 320

If you want to spend money, invest is some classes or some good photography books. Get involved with a local photography group. If you can’t find one, start your own. You can even start a group online if you have to do so. Check with your local community college or your local art museum for classes. You can even take classes online if that is more your style.

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Stumpy Lake, Virginia Beach, VA, Nikon D3200, f16, 52mm, 30 Sec, ISO 100

The most important thing that will make you a better photographer is to practice. You won’t get any better unless you practice. Those New Balance tennis shoes don’t make you a marathon runner. Only training will do that. It is the same with your camera. That top of the line, full frame camera will not make you a better photographer, knowing your craft will!

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Illuminations Fireworks, EPCOT, Walt Disney World, Nikon D3200, f22, 18mm, 45 Sec, ISO 100