Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Capturing Special Memories - Our 15th Wedding Anniversary in New York City

My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in July. Back when we were just youngsters, we loved to travel to big cities like London, Rome, Florence, Vancouver and New York. We simply weren't the lounge-at-the-beach types.

Two kids and a couple of decades later, I have to say long days at the beach sound pretty inviting. For our 15th anniversary, however, we thought it was only fitting that we once again hit the big city of New York for sightseeing, food and good fun. We briefly debated leaving the kids with grandparents, but those little beings are truly the best thing to come out of our marriage, so it's only fitting that they came along.

As I do on any trip, I captured our special anniversary/New York City memories with hundreds of photos. Believe me, I'm not exaggerating! Recently, I was honoured to be selected as a member of the Nikon MOMents team. I was assigned the task of documenting our lives with the Nikon D3300 camera. Hardly work for me - I'm a dedicated Nikon user already.

In my communications career, I was required to take pictures at corporate events. At one point in time, we switched from a different camera brand to a Nikon, and it made a world of difference to me and my job duties. Most notably, our new Nikon worked beautifully in low light conditions, and also captured fast-paced events. So, when it came to choosing a new camera for our household a couple of years ago, I immediately picked a Nikon.

At Chelsea Market, where the indoor light is quite fascinating. The D3300 is able to capture the range of lighting.

As I write my five posts for Nikon, beginning with this post, I hope to share with you some useful tips for using your DSLR camera more effectively. While a cell phone may work for a quick photo on the run, I'm a big believer in capturing your special moments with an effective camera. If you're a beginner photographer, don't fear the DSLR. The Nikon D3300 works beautifully even on auto. No thought required. I prefer to use the no flash auto setting in most cases because I like natural light.

Getting to Know Your Camera - Aperture

When you have some time, if you haven't already, play around with the manual settings of your camera. Start by experimenting with aperture. When you take a picture, the lens opens up to let in light. The size of that opening depends on the aperture setting. Aperture is marked in f/stops and is written as numbers, such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. Lower f/stops mean larger openings and more light. It can be a bit confusing at first, but you just have to remind yourself it's the opposite of what you would expect. Smaller number, more light. Larger number, less light. On the D3300, you can set your camera to aperture priority and then play around with changing the aperture to see what happens.

Aperture & Depth of Field

By changing the aperture, you aren't just changing the exposure of your pictures. You are also affecting the depth of field, or the area of the photo that is in sharp focus. In other words how sharp or blurry is the area behind the subject you are focusing on. The lower the f/stop—the larger the opening in the lens—the less depth of field—the blurrier the background. The higher the f/stop—the smaller the opening in the lens—the greater the depth of field—the sharper the background. In the picture above, I used an aperture of f/5.6 and focused on my son. The background is then gently blurred.

We had so much fun touring New York and taking pictures. The kids even got in on the action. We are a two-Nikon family now, and the kids are often eager to use the cameras themselves. I think the highlight of the trip for them was seeing the Statue of Liberty. As I got some shots of it from the ferry, my son kept saying, "I want to take pictures of it too!" So I handed the camera to him for a few shots.

The kids also loved Central Park. As did I. There is so much to see, with people, performers, ponds, trees, animals and statues. We did lots of walking in the park.

My daughter took this "anniversary photo" of me and my husband. I look slightly dazed because she took a really long time and I wasn't sure if she was still taking the photo.

Another reason to bring along a quality camera and play around with manual settings. We have all taken pictures in front of a window, I'm sure. And how many times have you found that the camera reads the light from the window and ends up putting the subject in pure shadow? With manual settings, you can up the light so your subject is visible. Like my daughter at the window overlooking the MOMA's courtyard.

You can also adjust the settings to capture shots in the evening outdoors, or in a dimly lit room.

My best tip when capturing your special memories - take lots (and lots and lots) of photos! It's digital after all. You aren't wasting film (like I used to do in abundance back in the day). Even professional photographers take tons of photos to get just the right ones.

Follow the hashtag #NikonMOMents on Twitter to see what the other Nikon moms are up to.

Are you comfortable with manual settings or do you stick with auto?

Disclosure: I am part of the Mom Central Canada Nikon MOMents team and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


  1. This looks like so much fun! Congratulations on your anniversary, Joann!

  2. I'm guilty! I seem to be using my iPhone more than the camera, I should be using it more!

    1. If you are going to use a cell phone, the iPhone seems to work well. But I still prefer the DSLR, especially for special occasions. :)

  3. Happy anniversary! I'm guilty of using the iPhone too much too, but I try to drag around my real camera when I can... And I'm guessing that's more than most (document everything!) ;)

    1. Thank you! Whatever you are doing, it's working, because your photos are beautiful. :)

  4. Happy Anniversary! Great advice in your post. I have a Nikon too and admit to using auto more than I should ;) Sometimes it's the easiest option with kids who don't want to wait for me to adjust settings, take pics, readjust, take more pics, etc! Or I use those preset scene or lighting options. It has been a bit frustrating but I'm so glad I can take hundreds of pics and just delete them all. Love the B&W photo!

    1. Thank you! That's so true, it's hard to adjust the settings when you have an impatient subject. I often play with the settings when I'm taking food pics. Or I bribe the kids to wait. ;) Jo

  5. Happy anniversary!!
    I am totally bookmarking this for photo tips-- keep them (and the great photos) coming!

    1. Thanks, you are sweet! I have been taking pictures for so long that I find I can use refresher tips now and again. Otherwise I default back to auto. :)

  6. Thanks so much Lisa! If I don't take the kids, I just worry about them and miss them. ;) We all had a great time in the end. :)