Renovations – Part 3

Feb 22nd – Renovation Update

Three weeks ago I was calling contractors and having them in to quote on doing renovations with the goal of having everything complete in early March. I guess that was a little ambitious of me. Both in the matter that I had a lot of decisions to make (I’m a slow decider) and in that contractors have their own way of dealing with time and deadlines.

Here’s what has been accomplished, along with approximate working hours to complete.

Carpet removal from upstairs – 8 hours
Staple pulling & clean up – 9+ hours
Taking carpet to recycle depot – 1.5 hours

Removing cabinet doors in kitchen (hinges & handles) – 2.5 hours
Removing wallpaper in kitchen & clean up – 10 hours

Cleaning out kitchen cupboards & boxing items – 3 hours (only 1/2 done)

Removing face plates, switch covers & hand rails – 1 hour (1/2 done)

Researching & Buying supplies:
Flooring – Home Depot / Kent / Happy Harry’s / Floors Plus
Paint – Home Depot / Kent / Color Your World / Sherwin Williams

6 hours meeting with friends and contractors for quotes & discussing plan of action
3.5 hours meeting with real estate agents

4 hours (2 separate evenings) – researching paint colours in general
6 – 8 hours (with my sister on a Saturday) – Happy Harry’s / Floors Plus / Kent – Bought flooring / handles / hinges / backsplash tile and carted everything from the car to the house. Had to make two trips to Kent to get the flooring. Looked at kitchen lighting.
1 hour (lunch break) – researching paint colour

Random other things that needed to be done.
4 hours – sorting items, donating to Value Village, putting items on kijiji
2 hours – emailing Photo Tour participants & Young & Fearless participants about photo pick ups.
Undetermined amount of time for kijiji & photo pick ups.
2 hours Financial Planner
1 hour finding out exact debt amounts (Line of credit / vehicle / mortgage)

That appears to be a total of approximately 64 hours in the last 3 weeks. Geeze, no wonder I’m exhausted! And, that doesn’t count the 10 – 15 hours of overtime I’ve done at work in the last two weeks.

Renovations – Part 2

Here it is February 22nd and life has been so busy that I haven’t had time to write about the trials and tribulations of renovations.

Beware. Post laden with sarcasm, coming your way!

I don’t complain very often about being single, or needing a man, but let me tell you … doing renovations when you are single and not ‘handy’ is tough. I’m all there for you women who love to do renovations. I do believe that women can do it, just not me. And, it’s not that I don’t think I can – I’m sure I can – But, I really really really hate fixing things. I always have. My past roommates have been known to hang pictures for me, put together desks and barbecues and likely anything else ‘handy’ that needed to be done around the house. I don’t want to learn how. I don’t particularly like putting puzzles together (especially when sometimes pieces are missing or cut just a little bit wrong, but still have to fit together properly). It’s true. It’s just not my thing. And when people say ‘just do that yourself’, or ‘you can do it’, I just glare at them and say ‘no kidding, I can, but I have zero interest in doing it.’ It amazes me how many people push forward and try to ‘force’ me into doing things that are ‘sooooo easy’ … ‘anyone can do it’ … ‘I don’t know why you’d pay someone to do that!’

Ah hem … Are you offering to do it for me because I think you missed the part that said ‘I JUST DON’T WANT TO.’

Wait … Since it’s so easy and you have so much free time in your life, why don’t you come do it for me? Oh yeah, right, I forgot … you’re busy. Hmmmm … funny how you can be busy, but I should do EVERYTHING myself because it is so easy.

My favourite is ‘Shari, you should do that yourself. You don’t need a man to do it. You’ll feel so proud and accomplished when you are all done.’

UMMMMMMM Let me see …


NOOOOO. I won’t be proud and accomplished. I’ll feel weak, annoyed, frustrated and like I could have been doing something more important with my time.

Case and point … Four hours (with a friend – so actually 8 working hours) pulling up carpet and removing tack strips.

Case and point … Six + hours (alone) pulling staples from stairs and then another two pulling staples from the floor.

Proud and accomplished? Um, no. My hands had calluses and hurt. My fingers were aching. My wrists were sore and my arms started falling asleep at night. Not to mention the couple of scares I had when I pulled so hard that I nearly fell backwards down the stairs.

Sleeping. Writing. Traveling. Spending time with friends. I would take any of those pleasurable activities over manual labour any day. A big shout out to the folks who do manual labour daily either by choice or by necessity. I feel lucky to have the strength and situation to choose other means of earning an income.

To any of you who are saying ‘quit whining’, you need to go back and read again. I’m just stating the facts. I’m not whining at all.

It is hard work. Fact.
It takes a lot of time. Fact.
I’m not interested. Fact.

For those of you who love doing renovations, who love fixing things and find pride and accomplishment in all of this, here’s to you! It is a very important job that not everyone has the time and talent to do.

If I were to say to you ‘Why don’t you write a book, or do some volunteer work’?
Oh that doesn’t interest you? Hmmm. It’s easy. You should totally just do it yourself! You’ll feel so proud and accomplished!

Does that make you want to run out and try it?
No? Oh, really? Hmmm … funny how you telling me how easy laying flooring is also doesn’t make me want to run out and try it!

Funny how people can be so different … I’m ok with that. Are you?

Renovations – Part 1

In the middle of January I decided that it was a good time to start thinking about selling my condo. My mortgage is coming up for renewal in August and I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with responsibility. So, selling the condo and becoming debt free seemed pretty liberating.

Five days into February and I’m moving right along with my plan, almost on auto pilot. It just seems as if I’m in a space where one thing after another just has to get done.

I’ve now had two different contractors in to quote on doing renos to my condo. I’m just waiting to get both quotes in before deciding who to go with. Honestly, they are very different … one seems very knowledgeable, lots of ideas and opinions to share. The other guy seems a little less business-minded and more like one of the country boys I grew up with. Both come highly recommended, so I’m just waiting to crunch some numbers.

With a self-inflicted goal of getting my house on the market in early March, I have no choice but to get things underway. Here’s my list of renos to be done:

Wall paper removed.
New paint – walls and baseboards.
Ceiling touch ups, but hopefully not repainting.
Backsplash to be added.
Recaulk sink, countertop etc.
Cabinets sanded and painted white with new pulls.
Planning to leave the countertops and flooring as is.

Living Room & Dining room
Fix laminate flooring, but not replace it.
Paint all walls, window frames, baseboards.
Remove broken blinds.

Stairs & Hallway
Remove carpet
Paint walls, baseboards
Paint / varnish stairs or replace with new treads
Laminate flooring
Paint closet doors

1/2 Bath
Recaulk around counter and sink
New flooring – laminate / tile or linoleum

Full Bath
Paint walls & ceiling
Recaulk around counter / sink / tub
Paint door

2 Bedrooms
Remove carpet & replace with laminate flooring
Paint walls & baseboards
Paint window frames
Touch up ceiling
Paint closet doors

Throughout the house, replacing switches and face plates.

Some of the above I can get my handyman friends to help out with. And, I even have a couple of people who have offered to help lay the laminate flooring for me. But, I’m waiting to get the quotes in before I rely on the kind assistance of friends.

With the help of one of my friends, I’ve already removed the carpet from the stairs and hallway. It took two of us about two hours last night, but there’s still a lot of staples and bits of carpet to remove before the job is done. Next up, carpet coming out of the bedrooms.

What did I learn?
1. The difference and benefits of both ends of a crow bar!
2. During renovations is no time to be gentle.
3. That carpets are disgusting.
4. That staples are my nemesis.
5. That you’re not allowed to dispose of carpet in the dumpster.

Let’s Focus

I often get the question from photographers ‘Why are my photos out of focus?’ Which leads to … ‘Is there something wrong with my camera?’

I tell people, it is all about balance.

So, how do you find this elusive balance?

More often than not, the photos aren’t out of focus, so much as they are blurry from movement (either of the object or camera shake from the movement of your hands while you take the photo). There is a difference between a focusing problem and a motion blur problem, but they can look very similar! Out of focus means that you (or the camera) did not focus on a specific spot. Sometimes you can actually find that the camera chose to focus on a different spot than you would have liked it to. There are several factors that play into this:

If you are using autofocus, your camera usually focuses on either the brightest object in the frame, or the closest object in the frame. There are ways to override this, but each camera is different. Here are a few of the options you might want to consider and look into in your manual.

1. Can you change the focus point of your camera? There may be options to focus on the centre, the entire scene or to choose a specific area to focus on. What is your camera currently set to focus on and how do you change it?

2. On my camera, I use automatic / centre focusing. I put my centre point on the part of the picture that I want in focus, hold my shutter release half way to lock focus and then reframe my photo before pressing the shutter release all the way. Not all cameras allow you to do this, but many do.

3. Can you choose to shoot on manual focus and trust your eyes to tell you when the subject of your photo is in focus? This is the tried and true way, but it does count on you having good eyesight and your subject being stationary. It does not work as well with moving objects.

4. Want to make sure that your entire photo (or as close as possible) is in focus? Try shooting with an aperature of F16 – F32. This gives the greatest depth of field. If you focus on something mid-distance from the camera, most of what is closer to the camera and further away should also be in focus. Of course, there are exceptions to this, such as if something is extremely close to the lens, it may still not be fully in focus. But, this is a trick that can help you in a lot of situations.

5. Want to make sure that only one part of your photo is in focus? Try shooting with F2.8 – F5.6. Focus on the subject of your photo and then reframe to line it up the way you’d like. Your subject will be in sharp focus, but you’ll see that everything else quickly becomes out of focus. Tried this but it looks like nothing is in focus? Try once more and focus manually on your subject. If it still doesn’t work, change your aperature from F4 to F5.6 or F2.8 to F4. Don’t forget to adjust your shutter speed or iso to compensate so that you still get a properly lit photo.

6. If you are seeing ‘ghosting’ in your photos where the image looks like it has a bit of a shadow, this is likely due to either the movement of your hands when you are taking the photo, or the movement of the object itself. This happens when your shutter speed is too slow. Most people can hand hold their camera at about 1/60th of a second, depending on the length and weight of the lens they are using. When I use my 70 – 200 lens, I can only hand-hold at 1/200th of a second. If you are getting ghosting, you need to increase the shutter speed. For example, if you are at 1/10th, change it to 1/125th. This will also mean you will have to adjust your iso and / or aperture accordingly to still get the proper lighting for your shot. Or, keep the 1/10th of a second, but put your camera on a tripod to reduce camera shake. This will only help if the ghosting was caused by your own movement. If the object is blowing in the wind, you will still see movement of the object at 1/10th of a second.

Always use protection

Photo tip: Always use protection!

Protect your lens folks!
Filters are expensive, but they are part of the whole kit and caboodle and I’m a strong believer that they are worth their price ($40-$100 per lens depending on the brand you buy).

Filters protect your lens from dust, scratches, rain and the elements in general on a daily basis. Lose your lens cap? At least you have a filter on so that your lens isn’t taking all of this daily abuse.

And, when you have an incident like I did where you drop your lens, face down on some rocks on the banks of Lake Titicaca, Peru … it might just save your sanity!

There it was, my 5D MK II, face down on the rocky beach …

Pretty much everyone in the group turned to look, and I’m pretty sure my face was white.

I picked it up off the ground and looked at the damage.


After letting Clever (our local leader) know that he could continue explaining to the group, I half paid attention and half studied the damage. The entire filter was smashed. The question was, did the smashed glass from the filter hit the lens? A filter is $60-$100 to replace. The lens is about $1000 to replace.

I slowly and tentatively unscrewed the filter from the lens. I could hear the glass shifting and starting to come loose. I had no idea what I was going to find behind that filter. Would my lens be equally as shattered? Finally, when the filter was off, I could see the lens. It had not broken, which was a good start, but with the shards of glass and dust all over it, I couldn’t really see how much damage there was.

A little in shock, I decided to just ignore the damage for the time being, pay attention to the day’s plans and deal with it later.

When I reached my home stay (about an hour later), I took a closer look. I carefully used my blower & lens pen brush to dust the remaining glass off the lens and held it up in the sun light. Miraculously, the filter had sustained all of the damage and the lens came out perfectly fine. As far as I can tell, not even a scratch. Guess it was my lucky day!

How will you see the world through your lens?

Every year that I take photographers on a photo tour I am absolutely amazed and inspired by each of them. It is unbelievable how a group of people can stand in the same place and capture so many different perspectives. It truly gives you a feel for what other people are seeing, through their eyes … through their lens.

The Vietnam: Through the Lens Photo Tour will be no different. It offers a variety of classroom workshops, hands on practice and loads of camaraderie that will leave participants inspired and sometimes overwhelmed by the world and the beauty around them.

If you are interested in improving your photography skills while discovering the culture and beauty of Vietnam, now is the time to get in touch.

I’m looking for four more people to join us on this next amazing journey.
Final deadline to book your spot is December 31st, but please contact me ASAP to confirm space is available.

VIETNAM: Through the Lens
April 6 – 19th, 2014

$2780 (land based)

Tour Highlights will include:

Two photo workshops including a variety of classroom learning & a lot of hands on practice.

City tours of Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh

One night on a beautiful junk boat in Halong Bay – visits to floating villages / sunset & sunrise from the boat

Hoi An Volunteering by taking photos for STREETS International to help end the cycle of poverty through education and work opportunities.

Hoi An Full Moon Festival – where the city closes its streets to traffic and stores are adorned with beautiful coloured lanterns.

Mekong Delta Homestay – 1 night

Traveling by boat along the Mekong Delta

If you are interested in more information, please send me an email –

Wake up early and see the sunrise!

Photo tip: Wake up early & see the sunrise!

As hard as it was to get up before sunrise while I was in the Dominican Republic on hire for a Destination Wedding, I am so very glad I did.

Early morning sun is soft, beautiful, yet dramatic. It is quiet, peaceful and very few people are around for sunrise, so you have your location all to yourself and your camera! It is a very relaxing and mindful way to practice your photography skills and creativity.

When you meter for your photo, take a reading off of your subject or the ground not off the sun. If you point toward the sun your camera will be fooled and your photo will not turn out as you had imagined. If you take a meter reading off your subject and put the sunrise in the photo you’ll have better luck in getting your subject exposed properly, but the sky / sun may still be over exposed in the background.

A couple of tips to get your subject and sky closer to the same level of brightness to bring out the best in your photographs …

Wait until the sun is behind clouds to make it more diffused and less contrasty.

Use a little bit of fill flash (if you know how) to brighten your subjects just slightly so that the sun in the background isn’t over exposed and blown out in your photo.

Choose the setting you think is correct, then bracket your exposure both over and under exposed and compare the difference on your computer when you get home. Then, next time you shoot at sunrise you’ll know better what to expect!

Dominican Republic Sunrise

Dominican Republic Sunrise