Monday, January 31, 2011

Let it snow, depth of field explanation, 31/365

We made it back from Iowa City just in time today and beat the snow.  Well, we didn't quite beat all the snow, but at least we made it back before the roads got bad this afternoon.  I wanted to catch the snow in a photo.  There are a few challenges to shooting snow.  Like my lighting talk, I'll wait to go into the technical details below the picture.  That way, all of you who don't really care, can just look at the picture.  :-)

One of the first problems that people usually run into when shooting snow is by using their flash.  If the flash is on, it will light up the snow closest to the camera brightly, even though it's probably not going to be in focus.  So, no flash, but it does take a fast shutter speed to actually stop the snow mid-air in a photo.  You can also clearly view the effect of depth of field in this photo.  See how the green bird feeder is the only one in focus?  The sharpest snowflakes are on the same plane as that bird feeder.  The larger, blurry flakes are in front of the area of acceptable sharpness, and the tiny, blurry flakes are behind the area of acceptable sharpness.  

Depth of field... what exactly does it mean?  Well, a pictures depth of field (DOF) is basically the area in front of and behind the subject focused on, which appear to be acceptably sharp.  Now, I'm not going to say, "in focus", because technically only the exact plane focused on is "in focus".  However, the larger the aperture you used to take the picture, the less depth of field.  Slightly more will appear to be acceptably sharp behind the plane of focus than in front of it.  I mentioned this with my picture of Rachael a couple days ago, when I intentionally threw the garage door out of focus.  

This is easily controlled with an SLR and a fast lens (with a large maximum aperture, like f/2.8).  On compact cameras, it's another story.  The smaller the sensor, the greater depth of field you will have.  Meaning, if you want to isolate your subject with a compact camera, that is generally problematic.  There are some high end compacts with super fast lenses that give you a little more control over that, but they are not that common due to the cost.  Digital SLR type cameras provide a pretty good level of control for those who are not willing to let the camera make all the decisions about your images.

I am going to mention one more thing with regards to DOF, just because I find it very interesting.  My favorite photographer was Ansel Adams.  He created gorgeous landscape images, mostly with large format cameras taking film 4" x 5", 8" x 10" or larger.  Remember how I mentioned that the smaller the sensor the more depth of field, and the larger the sensor, the less depth of field?  Well, then how could Ansel Adams create images with both rocks a few feet from him as well as mountains miles away, all sharp, with a large format camera?  On a large format camera, you can tilt the lens, which actually tilts that plane of focus.  So, then it's not parallel with the film/sensor anymore.  That is how he cold have both the rock by his feet and the mountain miles away both sharp.  There are a few tilt/shift lenses and lens accessories for modern SLR's which provide similar control.

Now that I've bored most of you to sleep, I better put an end to this.  It is a somewhat difficult concept.  If anyone has questions or is interested in any clarification, please feel free to ask.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Train bridge 30/365

I drove the kids up to 4-H Junior Fun Day at Fuller Hall in Webster City this afternoon.  So, after I dropped them off, I went searching for a picture around town.  I got a different view of this train bridge, because the river was frozen over.  It was another overcast day, hence the blah skies.  But, you have to work with what you are given.  The four wheelers were having a hay day driving across the ice, and it allowed me to walk out to get a view that you wouldn't usually see.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rachael, post-run, and a lesson on light, 29/365

I was hoping to get out today and shoot a nice landscape picture.  But, it was heavy overcast all day, a grey, blah day.  But, this is the kind of day that portrait photographers love.  More on that below the picture.  Here is a shot of Rachael after an 8 mile run.  She hardly looks like she just did a pretty long run, and said she felt like she could have gone farther.

Now, how about a little lesson on light.  Have you ever noticed that on a cloudy, overcast day, there are no shadows?  And on the other side of the spectrum, on a bright, sunny day, there are very harsh shadows with hard edges, and everything is very contrasty with some super bright areas and other areas very dark?  Well, that is the reason that cloudy days make portrait photographers happy.  

On an overcast day, the face lights up more evenly without the high contrast, the skin is softer, blemishes and pores in the skin don't stand out like a sore thumb.  (With portraits, softer is generally better than really sharp details.)  And WHY is the light like this, you ask?  Read on...

Harsh shadows are caused by having a small light source.  It doesn't matter if that small light source is the bright sun on a clear day(yes, it's a "small" light source, because its' so far away), your camera's flash, a single light bulb, etc.  That small light source will create hard shadows.  Now, how does that apply to taking pictures outside on a cloudy day?  Well, sure, your light is still all coming from the same sun, just like on the sunny day.  But, it is being diffused by the clouds.  Essentially, that diffusion turns the small light source of the sun, into a huge light source, namely, the ENTIRE SKY!  It's the same effect as when you are in a portrait studio and they shoot their flash (small light source) through a light box or umbrella (bigger light source) to soften the light.  (The light is hitting your subject from a larger source, making it less directional.)  So, there you go.  Try taking portraits outside on a cloudy day.  You'll have softer, more even light, no one will be squinting, and you won't have to try to find shade to shoot in.

In case you would like a little more detail on this particular image, yes, she really just walked in to the driveway after running 8 miles.  I shot this with a Canon 50d and 50 f/1.4 lens, at f/2.2 to throw the background out of focus.  I had her stand about 6 feet in front of my garage door, which would have been pretty ugly if I hadn't thrown it out of focus with a big aperture.  I also did take a piece of foam board out and had her hold it just under the bottom of the picture.  This was to bounce a little light up into the eye sockets.  That's about it, pretty simple shot really.  There was no exposure or sharpness adjustment done in post processing.  I'm sure Rachael will yell at me for not Photoshoping out those stray hairs, but she was supposed to look like she just ran 8 miles!  :-)

Comments and/or questions are welcome...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Melting 28/365

Here is a shot of the melting ice sickles on a building in Story City.  They were sure dripping today, it's the warmest weather we've had in a long time.  It was so nice, I finally got the car and the van to the car wash.  I think it's interesting, the shape and texture that they can form in.  TGIF!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bible 27/365

I'm keeping with the religious theme again today.  Here is a shot of an antique German bible from the 1800's that I bought for Kim a few years ago.  I love the metal clasps, and how the light shines through them. 

The word "photography" literally means drawing with light.  Light and shadows are key elements to making powerful images.  I've seen perfect scenes before, and returned with a camera on multiple days only to find that the light just wasn't the same.  It's a great argument for always carrying a camera with you.  You may not get a second chance at the image.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stained glass, 26/365

I believe I have mentioned that I'm a big fan of churches.  The stained glass windows are probably the thing that most fascinates me about them.  The are both an amazing work of art, as well as a religious statement being made to the world.  Regardless what religion you may practice, no one could pass by without admiring windows like this one at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Jewell.  At least no one who knows how to stop and smell the roses, and admire the world around them.

From a photography standpoint, one of the biggest mistakes people make is by trying to show too much.  I did also take a wider shot that showed more of the church, as well as the cross.  But, when getting in closer to look at the main center of attention in the scene, that's when the image with the greatest impact revealed itself to me.  The image was there all along, waiting for me to discover it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

White flower, 25/365

It's been another busy day with the class I'm taking for work.  Then, I had a good run with Kim and Rachael when I got home.  We did four miles outside.  Running outside works so much better for me than the treadmill.  I even tried starting a movie to distract me on the treadmill the other day.  Let's just say, Frodo had not even left the Shire yet, when I couldn't stand to run on that thing anymore.  Now, I have to stay up at least half the night working on a data migration.  But, I have a little downtime while my scripts run to take care of the blog entry for today.

I couldn't let a bouquet of flowers go to waste without working with them a little more.  So, I took one of the flowers in a dark room and back-lit it.  Yes, I purposely overexposed, I wanted the bright petals in the back to be blown out and focus on the center detail.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Self Portrait, 24/365

I started a week long PowerShell class at work this morning.  So, my brain is full for the day, and has been concentrating on very technical material.  All the more reason to try something creative tonight for my photo of the day.  With that thought in mind, here is a self portrait of me and one of my favorite little cameras, an Agfa Isolette.  They were actually made in Germany, in the early 1950's.  But, it uses 120 film, which is still available. I picked this one up in an antique store a couple years ago.  With a little cleaning and repair on the bellows, it's a keeper.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Flower, 23/365

I haven't shot flowers in a while, we usually don't have any around during the winter.  Kim picked up a bouquet for Rachael, to congratulate her for Honor Band.  Flowers are one of the most interesting subjects to shoot close ups of, because the pollen and every little detail shows.  The only way they could get any more interesting would be if there were insects on the flowers.  But, you'll have to wait at least until Spring for that.  :-)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Karl L. King Honor Band, 22/365

I knew that I didn't need to get out shooting today, because Rachael had Honor Band in Ft. Dodge today.  Rachael made 4th chair out of 18 flutes.  I am very proud of her, and all the kids who put on an impressive performance tonight.  Without a doubt, our favorite piece that the 7th graders performed was "Highlights from Aladdin", a medley of several songs from the Disney movie.

Just like last year, they didn't have near enough seating for the size of audience that they bring in for this event.  Luckily, we planned ahead and got there mid-afternoon.  So, I got a good parking spot, put our coats on good seats, and listened to the practicing while we waited for show time.  We celebrated Rachael's honor with Fazoli's after the concert.

Here is a pic of Rachael getting a little practice in before the show.

Another piece was called, "Stand Up and Swing."  Throughout this song, different sections stood up to play their part.  Her friend Raquel is also seen in this one (back row, center of the pic) doing percussion.

Rachael also ran into a couple people that she went to 4-H camp with last summer.  So, it sounds like she had a good time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eating alone, 21/365

Some day soon, I'm going to get bored trying to find a picture while walking through the skywalk.  Luckily, that day was not today.  I found this man having lunch by himself, amongst the empty tables.  Looks like Chinese.  Mmmmmmm...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

King, sun dogs, 20/365

You see some interesting people around downtown Des Moines.  But, I usually don't actually meet them on my walks.  Today, I fully intended to go outside over lunch and even had a subject picked out.  But, it didn't take long to decide that maybe it would be a nicer day to stay inside.  So, I was walking through the skywalk, taking a couple unexciting pictures.  I had a camera around my neck.  I usually try not to have a camera visible, for security reasons.  But, this time, it was out in plain view.

I was walking along and noticed someone walking in my direction.  He saw the camera and asked me, "Hey, do you want to take my picture?  I'm a real king."  I replied, "You're a real king?"  And he answered, "Yeah, do you want to take my picture?"  Now, how could I turn down the opportunity to photograph a "real" king?  He introduced himself as Moses, and I snapped one quick picture.  He told me to have a nice day, and walked away.  

Now, this whole exchange took place over the course of about 30 seconds.  I would have loved to have moved him away from the windows for some better light and background.  But, this is how he posed himself, without any external influence.  At first, I thought he was just spreading his arms as a symbolic "king" action.  It wasn't until later when I looked at the picture closer that I realized he put his feet together also, like Jesus on the cross.

I'm going to break my "one picture" rule again today, because I don't know if I'll have another chance to photograph one of these this year.  I was on my way home from work and saw some nice sun dogs.  If you are not familiar with sun dogs, the ice crystals in the air on either side of the sun act like a prism and create a nice effect.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gambling Problem, 19/365

I am not much of a gambler, but once in a while, I'll see a snack partially stuck in the vending machine and know that there is a good chance that I can get two for the price of one.  I faced a similar situation today.  The treats were not as good, but quantity made up for quality.  Obviously, I was not the first person to have this idea, because there were three bags of popcorn and a bag of pretzels all holding on by a thread, just above the pickup area.  

A careful evaluation of the situation was required.  Is there anything heavy (and preferably delicious) above this mess, like a Milkyway or Twix?  No.  Nothing heavy.  However, there was a bag of Keebler Elfin Crackers three rows up that looked like an acceptable treat.  They had the red heart sticker beside the price, indicating a healthy choice.  Granted, they don't weigh very much, but perhaps the additional velocity from the added distance would be enough.  I estimated about a 40 percent chance that it would knock the whole works down, a 55 percent chance that the crackers would hit, but not break the motherload of treats, and simply fall to the pickup chute alone.  Oh, and that leaves a 5 percent chance that my crackers would actually get stuck on top of the three bags of popcorn and one bag of pretzels.

I really need to learn that gambling is not worth it.  Today, I got a taste of the price of greed.  And that price, was 80 cents.  But, I didn't feel so bad after I walked by the vending machine later and saw that someone else added another bag of pretzels to the pile after I left.  :-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Noelle, Claire, 18/365

I never tire of pictures of the kids playing instruments.  Well, sure, they're my kids.  But, anyone making music on an instrument has another dimension of art, even if you can't hear it in a still picture.  So, here is Noelle practicing her violin.

I also dug one of my old cameras out of the closet tonight, just to check it out.  Here is Claire, shooting with a Canon A-1 and 28 2.8.  This particular camera is way overdue for a little exercise.  Time to run some film through it, to keep the shutter happy.  The worst thing for a manual camera is non-use.  Unfortunately, people have a bad habit of putting old cameras in the attic or basement for years before they decide to part with it.  This one was a yard sale find.  Luckily, it was in very nice shape and operating order.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

No power, 17/365

I was off work today for MLK Jr. Day, but everyone had school.  So, as usual, I planned on having school lunch with the kids.  Somehow, I ended up going to Ames and back three times today.  I had an appointment for an oil change in the car at 9:00, then last night, we got a message that Rachael had an orthodontist appointment at 7:45 this morning.  Combine that with snowy roads, I ran Rachael down to her appointment, then back to get her to school.  Back to Ames again, I was only 10 minutes late at Honda.  Everything was still going as planned, I'd have plenty of time to get back to Jewell for lunch at school.

Kim paged me that there was no electricity in Jewell.  They let out of school at 11:15.  Since we had no power or heat, we couldn't even cook.  I did have lunch with everyone, but at Fazoli's instead of school.  We decided it would be a good day to go sit in a movie, so we took the kids to see Megamind at the dollar theater.

It was a busy day off, but I got to spend most of the day with the family.  I didn't have to take a vacation day and they still got to count it as a school day.  So, it was a win/win deal, except that I didn't get out to take any pictures.  After the movie, and a quick run with Kim and Rachael, I sent the kids out to make snowmen.  At last, a photo op.  Here are Rachael, Matt, and Noelle with Matt's snowman.  Is it "art"?  Well, no... But, these are the kind of images that I know I will treasure most 20 or 30 years from now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Star, 16/365

Well, unfortunately today's picture is going to be proof that we haven't taken our Christmas decorations down yet.  This is the star on top of Kim's ceramic tree from her Grandma Smith.  It has a certain simplicity to it, focusing on the star and isolating it from it's surroundings.  And stars hold a lot of symbolism today, the quest to find Jesus in our lives, our source of light and heat to survive, and the mysteries of the unexplored universe. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pantorium, 15/364

One of the best ways to find new, interesting things to take pictures of is to visit different places.  That's the beauty of vacations for a photographer.  But, there is also a lot of interest right here in our surrounding communities.  We spend quite a bit of time in Ames for shopping, but I don't usually take pictures there.  I've always liked this sign in the downtown area, so I photographed it this morning when I stopped by the library.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Movie night, 14/365

I'm looking forward to the long holiday weekend, and will hopefully have a little more time to think about taking pictures.  I haven't shared any family pictures yet.  So, here is my family watching Wall-E on the laptop.  And maybe a little multi-tasking/homework too.  Sorry about the distortion, as you can see, it takes a wide angle lens to get my family in a picture, not to mention a big couch.  :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Corporate Des Moines, 12/365

So far, I have managed to make time to shoot, process, and post a picture every day.  It really hasn't been that difficult, but it certainly does take some time that I used to have free before.  I have started to think that maybe I shouldn't post multiple pictures every day, and should just limit it to one.  Even if I had other shots for the day, that subject matter could then be shot again and used on a different day.  There are countless things to take pictures of out there, but it will require me to go outside of my comfort zone and shoot things that I wouldn't usually shoot.  It's not day 12, but day 312 that has me concerned.  However, at this point, I am not only optimistic, but excited for the challenge.

The past few days, I have walked around over lunch to find some images waiting to be captured.  I didn't feel like going out today, so instead, I made this image before work.  The winter months in Iowa don't provide us with too much daylight.  So, some night time, long exposures will certainly be needed from time to time.  Actually, I enjoy photographing the night sky better during the summer, but don't like having to stay up so late.  I can have convenient night-time shooting hours (winter) or more comfortable weather (summer), but I can't have both.  At any rate, this night shot was taken in downtown Des Moines this morning.  Without mentioning any companies, I'll just call it, "Corporate Des Moines."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reflection, 11/365

Today, I walked through downtown Des Moines looking for anything interesting to shoot.  When you spend a lot of time in a place, it's easy to get so used to the scenery that you don't notice the details anymore.  Hence, the importance of being observant and "seeing" your surroundings.

In order to get a different perspective on the usual, I went to the top of a couple parking ramps to see what I could see.  I framed a reflection of the giant umbrella from the Travelers sign in this mirrored window for one of my shots.

Here is an image taken down on a fire escape from above.  Normally, this would disappear into the dark background.  But, with a fresh layer of snow on it, the fire escape contrasted the brick wall nicely.

Here, I just liked the steam coming out of an exhaust vent in front of the building, with the bright windows.

And finally, an alley behind the Marriott.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A couple shots in the skywalk, 10/365

Here are a couple quick shots in the skywalk, looking down on umbrellas in Capital Square, and the shoe repair shop.  The weather was too blustery to go for a walk outside, so this will have to do for today.  From a technical standpoint, there's nothing to brag about here.  I shot these with a compact digital, which didn't quite live up to my standards for indoor/low light shooting.  I actually blurred both of these shots a little bit, because I liked it better than the standard, in-camera over processing and jpeg artifacts.  

Someone once said that the key to taking good pictures is not dependent on the quality of camera you have, but overcoming the limitations of the equipment you have to work with.  I've always said that I'd rather see Ansel Adams images with a cheap camera, than an amateur's photos with an expensive camera.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Painting with light, 9/365

Tonight, the kids got glow bracelets as party favors at Ashlyn's 5th birthday party.  I knew that both them and I would have a blast doing some long exposure painting with light shots. I put the camera on a tripod and made the living room as dark as possible.  Here's what you get when you combine 4 kids times 3 glow bracelets each.

Star or Christmas tree?

Here, Rachael was trying to draw a lion in a field of grass...


Saturday, January 8, 2011

A couple astro test shots, 8/365

Tonight, I did a little testing with some wide field astrophotography.  I've dabbled with it a little on and off every since I got my first DSLR.  But, the problem I had then was that it was practically impossible to accurately focus.  The viewfinder was too dim to even see the stars to focus, so it was a matter of trial and error... very, very tedious.  The newer DSLR has live view, which I can zoom in to 10x on the LCD to manually focus.  Even more magnification would be better yet, but this is enough to make it work.  Unfortunately (for astrophotography), Canon has improved their infared filtering over the years, so the new camera isn't as sensitive to IR light.  So, a couple nights ago, I focused the stars on the new camera, put a piece of tape on the lens, and marked infinity.  Then, tonight, I put that lens on the old camera, turned the focus to line up infinity with my mark, and shot.  This shot is across the street from my house, showing Orion, the hunter.

This second shot is a 100% crop of the Pleiades star cluster, the seven sisters.  It was shot with a wide angle from my deck, so it is extremely cropped.  I had to include it though, because when I brought the picture up on the screen and pointed it out to Rachael, she said, "Oh, I thought that was a smudge on the laptop."  Come on!  Zoomed in, it's obviously a star cluster!  :-)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sculpture Park 7/365

I walked over to the sculpture park in downtown Des Moines today.  I'm generally not a fan of pictures of sculptures like this.  It feels like I'm trying to make art from art.  But, there are some interesting things none the less.  I framed the white tree with the brick building to contrast the white tree, on a snowy day, no less.

There are also two sculptures that look like a giant white metal snowman, and a giant black one.  The black is very reflective, so I used it to take a self portrait on a very cold day.  I'm actually surprised that it wasn't more distorted than this, being a spherical surface.

Please share your comments on any of my pictures/blog entries.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Close up time - 6/365

I sat at the supper table tonight and said, "I have not taken a single picture yet today."  My kids were quick to volunteer to let me take their pictures.  And technically, I took one of them up on the offer.  

It's tough to get out to take pictures during the winter due to the short days.  It's dark when I head out to work and it's dark when I get home.  But, I've always got the option to shoot some macro shots.  Even the most common household objects are interesting when viewed close up.  And one of the coolest macro subjects has to be the human eye.  It's been called the window to the soul, and for good reason.  This picture happens to be Noelle's eye, shot in the kitchen while they were trying to bake a birthday cake.

And here is a shot of the strings on Noelle's violin.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CCD night 5/365

This was one of those days that never gave me a break to take pictures all day long.  I didn't have time over lunch and as soon as I got home, we ate supper and headed to Boone to take the kids to CCD.  I was hoping that there would be choir practice or something in the church so I could photograph the stained glass windows from the outside, but it was all dark.  However, the leafless trees were casting some interesting shadows on the front of Sacred Heart.  I'm a huge fan of churches/cathederals, and can guarantee that this won't be the last one you'll see in my project this year.

And finally, a fun shot I did while driving home tonight on Highway 17.

Please share your comments/critiques/suggestions with me, as the feedback helps me grow as a photographer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

4.5/365, an astro shot

Ok, maybe one more photo today.  I took this 15 second exposure of the north/northwest night sky over my neighbor's house and garage.  It's in town, so the light pollution shows pretty bad in the lower part of the sky, but I liked the smoke coming out of their chimney.  Notice Cassiopeia at the top left (the upside down, wide "W" shape.)

Abandoned plant, 4/365

I took another walk over lunch today, but this time, tried to get away from the modern, corporate part of downtown.  I've been by this old plant a couple times and wanted to walk in for a closer look.  It's not really far from brand new structures, just south of MLK.  But, this area looks forgotten, with weeds and vines taking over the fence and every single window broken out.  There is also a homeless camp just a couple blocks from this plant.  I like old, decrepit structures and try to imagine when they were in their glory decades ago.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Camera phone shot over lunch, 3/365

It was back to work today after a week off.  I intended to take a DSLR with me, but decided it was too big and bulky to drag along.  I don't currently have a compact digital, so I was stuck with a rather lousy camera phone.  I went for a walk over lunch around downtown Des Moines and caught this shot of a walking bridge going over the river.  I'm hoping not to have to stoop to the camera phone level much, but I didn't have anything else to work with today.

I should have had a little more time to take pictures on my walk.  But, I glanced at my Blackberry to see how I was doing on time and saw that I had a meeting in 8 minutes!  So, I ran back to the office and when I got to my desk, realized that the time was wrong on the BB!  Rats!  Anyway, I also got to thinking today, I'm going to have to expand my usual subject matter to fill a year up too.  That should be a good challenge though.

Please share your thoughts or questions with me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A cold walk on day 2

The sun was shining and it looked like a beautiful day out, but that wind was bitter cold.  Rachael and I did take a walk to downtown Jewell and found a couple gems in the alley east of Main Street.  Behind the bowling alley was what appeared to be a bowling ball graveyard.  You would never see it unless you walked through the alley and looked over that direction.  But, the balls sticking out of the snow caught my eye and was worth stopping for a look through the gate.

I also admired this Studebaker by the body shop, in very nice shape, if I do say so myself.

Finally, for a more enjoyable photo shoot, I set this bottle of wine by a south window in my house for some natural, late afternoon light.  The wine is compliments of Ted and Marilu.  It looks too good to drink.  :-)

In case you hadn't guessed, I like black and white.  These shots were all done on digital, but shot as B&W in the camera.  I like the timeless simplicity of B&W.  As a matter of fact, I also shot the bowling balls in B&W, but went with a separate color shot on this one, because it really made the colored balls stand out.

Please share your critiques and/or comments as I love to get feedback on my pictures.  It's that feedback from viewers that makes it feel like there is a purpose to taking pictures.  So, please share your thoughts.