Cucumbers, cats, and how to read about science

Published February 2, 2016 by iampotassium

Yay science posts are back! Today we are (finally) going to start that daunting question about how to read about science by talking a little about experimental design and what to look for when trying to read about a science topic in the news. There’s a lot going on here so take your time and leave me a comment if something didn’t make sense or you want to know more about something.

Let’s start at the beginning. All science starts with a question, such as “Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?” Then, in order to start answering the question, the scientists have to come up with a hypothesis – their educated guess for an answer. For example, “Cats are afraid of cucumbers because they are green.”

Now comes the tricky part. Scientists have to design an experiment that directly tests their hypothesis. This part is tricky because there are always a ton of potential answers and scientists need to figure out how control their experiment so that solely it tests their hypothesis and doesn’t bring any other factors into the mix. For example, if we wanted to test whether cats hate green, we’d want to control our experiment so we wouldn’t accidentally be testing the cats’ response to different shapes or smells.

Designing a good experiment is really complicated. It’s made even worse by the fact that the very systems that some scientists study are filled with differences. For example, all humans share more than 99% of the same DNA but think about how unique we all are (even identical twins who have exactly the same DNA). The term we use for this phenomenon is called “heterogeneous” and scientists are finding to this day that organisms with the exact same DNA can act completely differently from each other. So with all of this crazy heterogeneity in mind, another way scientists can be cautious about designing experiments that solely test their hypothesis is to replicate the experiment a lot or test multiple subjects (cats, people, bacteria, etc).

Replicating an experiment is really important. For example, if I put a cucumber behind my cat and she doesn’t freak out, can I really conclude that all cats are not afraid of cucumbers? Let’s add some replicates in there! I could put a cucumber behind my cat 10 days in a row and then determine if she continues to stay nonplussed by the cucumber. I could also try putting a cucumber behind my cat at different times of the day to determine if it depends on the time of day. Or I could put cucumbers behind a variety of cats to determine if my cat is just weird and likes cucumbers. All of these ideas would add replicates to my experiment and help me identify if my results are just a weird fluke associated with some other factor that I don’t care about or if they are directly related to my hypothesis.

Tarantula says stop talking about cats and cucumbers!

Good science experiments have established controls and include large numbers of replicates to eliminate “weird flukes.” All of these factors should be listed in the original scientific paper describing the study but these papers are often incredibly dense and hard to follow (even for fellow scientists). However, a good science report or article written for the general public should also list these qualifications. So to test the quality of a good source, I like to see what an article says about controls and replicates.

Here is a fake article that I just made up:

Scientists determine that too much sleep causes cancer.

Scientists at Questionable Science University have completed a study about sleep and cancer. They interviewed two different people who have lung cancer and found that they sleep 7 hours every night. As these data clearly show a link between too much sleep and cancer, people should sleep no more than 6 hours a night to prevent cancer.

Yikes! Does this mean we should stop trying to get a solid 7-8 hours a night?

Tarantula doesn’t like this article at all…

Well, it looks like these scientists talked to two people who already have cancer. I want to know more information about the people who were interviewed for this study. Did the scientists take care to control for other variables like age, race, or gender? What else do these people have in common (i.e. do they smoke? Do they exercise? What type of food do they eat? Are they the same age?). All of these questions could have affected their results in a way that disconnects sleep from cancer. Furthermore, they didn’t talk to anyone who doesn’t have cancer (this is called a negative control and is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT). Plus they only asked two people! That’s like me saying cats aren’t afraid of cucumbers because my cat isn’t! It doesn’t look like they have any controls or replicate the experiment so maybe this isn’t a great source after all. Yay! Time to get more sleep! -_-

I like to think of science as “a quest for the truth.” Good experimental design is hard but it’s worth it because it helps scientists get closer to finding out the truth! It’s really important to make sure your sources report on good science so that you can learn about the truth! I tried to give you some tools that let you sift through some scientific topics you are interested in so let me know if they help! Go practice the game and then report your findings back to me! :D

Now it’s your turn: tell me about the science you are the most interested in learning about. Or tell me about something completely unscience related. That was a lot of science for one day…

Moon Fingers

Published January 26, 2016 by iampotassium


Hi all, sorry for the short post today but I have been super stressed out working on essays and job applications (plus working in the lab). It’s been a bit crazy here. I’m still going to try to write a sweet science post for y’all next week though so stay tuned!

Today’s picture: moon fingers! So I am still obsessed with the moon after reading Seveneves last year. On Sunday night I was writing at my desk when I looked up and noticed the moon out my window. It looked particularly awesome hiding behind the branches of the tree by my house and I wanted to capture it. I know that the moon is a bit overexposed in this picture but 1) it was hidden in fog anyway so focusing on it wouldn’t be very exciting and 2) I like the bright backdrop it provides for the tree branches. Creeeeeeepyyyyy.

How are you guys? Anyone reading from the east coast? What did you think of the most recent storm? It was 56 degrees here in Boulder on Saturday but it snowed a tiny bit today. Boulder weather is weird… :-/

Just a shell

Published January 19, 2016 by iampotassium

This past Christmas eve, Cobalt, our nephew C, and I were inspired to go outside and take pictures of the moon. I am not really sure why we thought it was a good idea considering it was COLD and windy outside but we were determined! C borrowed his mom’s camera and I grabbed mine and we set up our cameras in the freezing cold on the front porch. After playing around with camera settings and trying to photograph the moon from many angles, C went to take cool pictures in the street using the light from nearby street lights and I decided to play a little with night time photography. For those of you who’ve read my blog for a while, you probably remember seeing some pictures with ghost Cobalt or double Potassium and Cobalt ghosts. Fun times! For this one, I wanted Cobalt standing in front of an empty swing with his arm around a ghost. So we planned the picture where Cobalt was standing there throughout the exposure and then I would run into frame and then out again to give me some of that “ghosty see through look.” It turned out to be more challenging than I originally thought because the snow in front of Cobalt was sooooo bright that it overpowered my slight existence in that area. Cobalt suggested that we both start out in the picture and then I leave and then stop the exposure super fast after running away so that the snow wouldn’t have time to overexpose me too much. We ended up getting C to control the camera for all this maneuvering and I think it turned out pretty neat.

Sometimes this picture makes me sad because it makes me think about when I am super anxious or stressed out about something and I am totally in my head, then that is kind of all I really am – just a shell of Potassium. I feel like this is sort of a self portrait of me right now while I am freaking out and trying to figure out the next step in my career. The problem is that it’s hard to live life and spend time with the ones you love when you’re stuck in your head. So this post is also a reminder to me to get out of my head and see what’s already happening around me! I hope you’ll join me in non-shell land.

PS – More science posts still to come! In February! Now…. tell me about your three day weekends! Anyone do anything cool? Cobalt and I started working on a comic strip/book/issue!

So you think you want to try science

Published January 12, 2016 by iampotassium

Hey everyone! I thought I would spend today’s post talking about how I got into science.

So it all started when my parents got PhDs (before I was born). There hasn’t been a time in my life when I didn’t know about the option of getting a PhD. Not that that’s what I wanted to do necessarily. Let’s see – I wanted to be a paleontologist or a veterinarian or a marine biologist or a neuroscientist orrrrrr a biochemist? My parents attempted to encourage me to think about engineering so we built a bunch of radios together. However, I was really into cats, dolphins, whales, and other creatures. Hilariously, my 8th grade science fair project nicely merged engineering and animals. My dad and I built an “apparatus” that fed my cats if they pressed on a dispenser with their paws. My project was to train my cats to use the “apparatus” with different paws to see if they would selectively continue to use whichever paw I trained them with to eat. However, mostly my results showed that my cats were scared of the “apparatus”…. except when there was food available.

This is my cat Smokey enjoying the benefits of the “apparatus” – FREE FOOD!

Luckily for me, there was a ton of stuff available for me, a budding young scientist, to do to explore various aspects of science. I participated in Expanding Your Horizons, which was like a mini day of college where I signed up for various science workshops. All I remember now are two different workshops: one in which I learned about math (we did something cool with geometry and shapes) and another where I learned how to give “vaccinations” to oranges. This program is all over the country. Find a location near you for your middle school or high school girl!

Another fun activity I did was I took a marine biology class at the local university one summer. This class was a week long and we did all sorts of fun activities – like going out on a boat and getting sea sick testing various properties of ocean water, studying crabs, and dissecting *gasp* sharks. (Note: this was before I found out how much I loved sharks, though I still wasn’t super excited to participate. Also, our shark was pregnant! Did you know that some sharks give birth to live babies?! Craziness… sharks are so cool!). Anyyyyyyway – most universities have programs like this for high school students. I taught at one last summer and my students got to learn all sorts of biology that I didn’t get to learn until I was halfway through college! Super awesome (fair warning – the one I taught seemed really expensive so check out the prices before you get your kiddos all excited…. :-/)!

Some students might be interested to see if they like doing research in labs. I didn’t get to experience research until I was in college. For my first research project, I did a summer internship in Fort Collins, CO where I studied how a nasty virus called HTLV-1 takes over our cells. It was SO COOL. That was over 10 years ago and yet I can still tell you all about it.

Potassium showing off the lab to her mom at the end of the summer.

I was super proud that I got my own freezer box in the lab. This was my box where I put all of MY samples from MY experiments!

College students – this is the best part – you can get paid to do research! My first research experience was through a “Research Education for Undergraduates” program and it pays you a stipend to play in the lab! Also, at CU, we have the SMART program that I’ve worked for for the past 7 years. I like it even better than REU programs but it’s the same deal – think you might want to try research? Get paid to do it! Plus in the SMART program, you get to present your findings at a national conference (all expenses paid)! Besides summer research, most universities offer a chance for undergraduate students to work in a lab throughout the school year. Step 1: Find a professor you like. Step 2: Talk to him/her and mention that you would be interested in working in a lab. Depending on the professor/school/your schedule/etc, working in the lab could mean anything from making solutions to having your own independent research project so make sure you chat with the professor about his or her expectations for your experience. Also, if you have your own independent research project, chances are that you can apply for a grant through the school and get paid to do research during the school year! Awesome!

A note – high school students, don’t want to wait till you go to college to check out research? See if there is a professor in your area who wouldn’t mind having a high school student shadowing in the lab. We even have a program at CU for high school students to work full time in a lab (disclaimer: also super expensive)! However, you probably won’t get paid for this type of opportunity. Booo…

Since I didn’t do research until I was in college, I spent my summers and Saturdays at the best job ever – working at a vet clinic. I started out volunteering there the summer after my freshman year of high school and then they offered me a job starting that fall! My job started out with me working in the kennel mostly – walking dogs, feeding cats, etc – but then as I was there longer, I got more responsibilities. I learned how to hold animals for procedures, make up prescriptions, help with surgeries, and make surgery packs (which is where you clean all the tools and organize them appropriately for the most common surgeries). Making surgery packs is to this day one of my favorite work chores. There was something so delightful in the cleaning of the tools, the precise arrangement of everything for each pack into this neat square of fabric, the wrapping of the fabric around the pack, the sticking of “magical” autoclave tape (it turned black when the pack was sterilized) to close the pack, and then finally, the placement of the completed packs in the autoclave (=big scary machine that sterilizes things with heat and pressure) to be sterilized. I loved my job. I had so many fun stories about crazy clients and crazy animals. I had my favorite animals who boarded with us a lot (remind me to tell you about them sometime). It was an AMAZING job. I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they like science/might want to be a vet some day.

So what happened to get me where I am today? Well after I graduated from college, I was still fairly undecided between vet school and grad school so I decided to see where life took me. It took me to New Mexico where I was in the PREP program (which was like a mini version of graduate school) for a year (also I met Cobalt). I worked in a lab full time (and had two independent projects). I also took some fun math and physics classes because I am a nerd and they were cool (also my advisor made me take the chemistry class he was teaching). This program paid me a nice salary and prepped me for graduate school. I really enjoyed working in my lab in the PREP program and decided that grad school sounded really fun (if this was a mini version of grad school, the real thing had to be way cooler). Plus, I really wanted my PhD (see my previous post for more info about that). So I went to grad school.

Note: I just want to remind you that my tuition was paid for for the PREP program and grad school. Plus, I got paid to work in the lab and all through grad school. This is the only advanced degree program that does not require you to be filthy rich or to take out tons of money worth of loans.

Grad school was pretty cool. I traveled all over the US to present my research at conferences and I got to go to France to learn about data analysis. Plus, I learned a LOT about microscopes. But it was also really hard. REALLY REALLY hard. And at the end of it, I realized that maybe I don’t want to do research anymore. As cool as it is being the expert of some crazy problem, and as much as I love sitting in the dark watching cells crawl around on a microscope, I think I need to be out of the lab and in the world with you guys!

So what’s next on the list? Not sure but I hope whoever hires me next is ready for this surgery pack-making, microscope- and camera-loving, stuffed shark- and kitty-cuddling doctor! :)

Now it’s your turn – what’s going on in your life career-wise? Did you have any crazy unexpected turns? What do you want to be when you grow up? Don’t you wish there was a class called “Hello, now that you are (insert age here) and have figured yourself out a little, take this class to figure out your next step”? I would take it!

This concludes our science posts for the month of January but stay tuned! More science is coming you way next month! We still need to talk about how to read about science and how to figure out who to “trust” with your science news!

Potassium’s search for what’s next

Published January 5, 2016 by iampotassium

Potassium ponders her next career move while on a train in Germany

As many of you know, I received my PhD in Biochemistry last fall. Since then I have been continuing to work in my PhD laboratory getting a paper submitted and exploring my next step as a scientist. Now that I am not struggling to get my degree, I decided it was a great time to explore other areas I am interested in – science education and making science/education accessible to everyone. In no apparent order I have:

  • joined a committee (the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Race and Ethnicity) where I work to inform the Chancellor about what is happening on our campus with regards to race,
  • attended a science education class where I learned how to design science education curriculum using the principles of active learning and backwards design (such fancy words!),
  • taught high school students over the summer of 2015 and will be co-teaching a Science and Society class this semester,
  • co-founded a new seminar series at CU that brings diverse scholars to this campus so that we can expand our network of scholars as well as show that broader community of CU and Boulder that scientists (and professors in general) can be of any race, gender, etc.

As I got involved in all of these activities, I realized that I have a much stronger passion for all of these things compared to working on actual science at the bench. Yes there is a part of me who loves to sit in the dark and look at those pretty cellys on the microscope. And there is a part of me who loves to play with microscopes because they are soooooo cool (I also took a 2 week microscopy course in New York this year). But I really like people and helping to make a difference in people’s lives. I feel more and more that my future career may lie away from the bench and away from those cozy towers of academia.

So then what will I do with myself?

Thus began the epic year of existential crises. It’s still not over yet so if you get stressed out by unfinished stories, maybe skip the rest of this post and tune in next week instead! Basically, it’s been a bit frustrating for me to search for jobs because I’m worried that I’ve worked myself into the corner with this PhD thing. For me, there were two main reasons for getting a PhD:

  1. I wanted to learn how to think critically about a subject (any subject really) and to have the tools be able to answer any question/problem thrown at me. This is really the point of any PhD program. Granted, it would be easier for me to answer questions regarding stuff that I directly work on but really it applies to anything – getting a PhD means that you have solved a problem/answered a question that no one else has answered/solved ever in the history of the universe, which in theory should mean that you now have the tools to look up/learn new skills very quickly.
  2. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself but I thought that getting a PhD would give me leverage that would allow me to waltz into a room somewhere and be like “Hello. I have a PhD. I know about this stuff and I am super creative! Give me a job!”

Now I worry that instead, my PhD says to everyone “Hello. I like labwork and scientists. I want more of that!” I can’t really find jobs that ask for people with PhDs and do not include benchwork, teaching, or working at a tech company either as a research scientist or technical/medical writer. Maybe I don’t know the right places to look? (Note: if you know of the correct search terms/websites/etc, please please please let me know). Maybe I need to solidify what I’d like to do? I am actually not sure because I don’t know what’s out there in terms of alternative careers!

Right now I have been looking into interesting fellowships and certificate programs. Today I am visiting UC Santa Cruz to look into their Science Communications program. I have also looked a little into some science policy fellowships in DC. All of these sound neat but I’m still not sure if they are right for me. More searching will commence for now!

Next week – more about science research opportunities for high school and college students!

Potassium’s top books of 2015

Published December 29, 2015 by iampotassium

So as some of you may know, I am a member of GoodReads, which is a website that allows you to review books that you’ve read or see reviews of books that you might be interested in reading. COOL! Anyway, every year, GoodReads allows you to make a reading challenge for that year, where you propose to read x number of books. I used to up my challenges every year by 10 but that started getting ridiculous because I generally go through at least one month where I don’t feel like reading and any challenge greater than 52 requires you to be reading (on average) at least a book a week! So anyway, I’ve been chillin’ at trying to read at least 50 books per year for the past few years. This year, a surprising number of them happened to be published in 2015 so I thought I would write a post about my favorites! Note: these reviews are similar to my reviews on GoodReads so if you follow me on GoodReads, don’t be surprised.

This list is not going to be into any apparent order and because it’s my list, I get to make up the categories. Yay!

SciFi/Epic Book – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
The first line of this book is “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” I think that is description enough. But if you really need more here it is – the first 2/3 of this book is about the immediate struggle to save humanity after the moon blows up (without warning) and the earth is deemed doomed. The last 1/3 of the book is 5000 years later when the human race returns to earth.

This book is really long but really good. I was totally absorbed in the first 2/3 of the book. I loved most of the characters (so many smart and awesome women!) and was really captivated by the struggle to save the human race under ridiculous circumstances (i.e. how do we survive in space?). I felt that Stephenson accurately captured the craziness of humans and the lengths we would go to survive. Also he very nicely summed up how helpful/hurtful social media and the internet can be. Plus now I understand so much more about orbits and other space things.

The last 1/3 of the book took some warming up for me. I almost wish it was a separate book but that wouldn’t have been true to Stephenson’s style. The first hundred or so pages of this section moved really slow as I, completely whiplashed from jumping 5000 years in the future, tried to get caught up with all the newness of this universe all while following an incredibly slow plot (the new main character does one thing, 10 pages of backstory, etc). I realize that it was kind of necessary to do that if he wanted to keep the book with both parts but I realllllllly missed my old main characters. Once I got caught up though, this last section got much more interesting and I was really sad when it ended. I want to see more from this universe!

One warning – if you have never read a Neal Stephenson book before, you should know that Neal Stephenson likes technical details. So there are a lot of pages describing how everything works. Sometimes I find it interesting and sometimes I want Neal to get back to the story. For the record, the descriptions seem to only exist to add to your experience in the world; you can easily skim them and not miss out on much plot.

One more thing – this book made me really notice the moon, especially because whenever I was reading the book, I was surprised to see the moon in the sky, since, at least in the book, there was no more moon. So I took a lot of moon pictures this year and I thought I would share some of them with you.

Some context for these moons! Leftmost orange moon: an orange moon from this summer. Middle tiny moon + Venus: Seen on the flight back from Hawaii while I was reading Seveneves. Rightmost moon: the nice big full moon on Christmas Day (first time since 1977!).

Young Adult book – I Crawl Through it by A.S. King
This book didn’t seem to make waves through the young adult community (judging by its absence as a GoodReads Choice Awards nominee) but I thought it was phenomenal. Also, it seems to be one of those books that grabs hold of you and never lets go – I still am thinking about it to this day. Anyway, this book is weird. I am going to warn you about that right now – it’s incredibly surreal and disconnected from reality. And yet at the same time, it’s very real.

In this book, we follow four teenagers through a few weeks of their high school careers. There are regular bomb threats and a lot of tests. Overall, I thought it was an excellent portrayal of smart teenagers and what our current educational system is doing to them. Being disconnected from reality really made all the thoughts and feelings the characters have so much more real – sometimes overwhelmingly so.

This book broke my heart in the same way that all the violence at various schools this year (and previous years) breaks my heart. I also really appreciate the discussion of how schools are ruining creativity in our kids and I applaud A.S. King for finding a way to stand up and say something about it.

American memoir – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book is a letter to Coates’ son about what it’s like growing up black in America. As I am an African American woman who grew up here in the US, I was interested in what he had to say about our potentially “shared” experience.

This book made me feel both heartbroken and relieved sort of for the same reason- that what I feel is a real and common. It is interesting to be younger than Ta-Nehisi and older than his son because I have my own social/political events that affected me in the same way that the deaths of Prince Jones and Michael Brown affected Ta-Nehisi and his son, respectively. Reading this book helped solidify my current thoughts about how I live my life too, which is neat but also still super heartbreaking…

This book is written in a way that will make many people uncomfortable or even angry but that doesn’t mean that what is said in here is not also true or at least worth pondering. Toni Morrison is right. This book is required reading. Please go and read it (and then tell me what you think)!

Foreign memoir – The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee
This is a powerful look at what it is like to grow up in North Korea and then lose your identity several times in order to be free. I found this book both eye-opening about a world I know nothing about and also interesting in that it really makes you ponder the concept of being ‘spoiled.’ Now I really want to help out! Warning – I read most of this book all in one sitting so be careful – it sucks you in!

Humor – Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
This is an amazing book about depression (yeah you read that right – I put it under the humor section). Jenny Lawson does a great job being brutally honest about what it’s like to live with depression and anxiety disorders while also being hilarious. They might not seem like they would go well together but I assure you, this book is incredible. If you have ever suffered from depression and/or anxiety OR if you know someone who has, please pick up this book and read it. You will not be disappointed.

Serious Comic – Bitch Planet Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson
Bitch Planet is about a society where women must conform to societal norms (i.e. whatever men want). If not, they are labeled “non-compliant” and shipped off to Bitch Planet. This is an amazingly smart comic with a unique perspective on modern feminism. If you consider yourself a feminist, read this. If you don’t, too bad- you still have to read this. It’s totally necessary for everyone. I can’t wait for more issues!

Fun note about being non-compliant: The women who are sent to Bitch Planet have NC (for non-compliant) tattooed onto them. This has inspired many “non-compliant” fans of the comic to also get NC tattooed on them! I think that’s really neat! I don’t have any tattoos so I had to get NC nail wraps so I could add my name to the list of non-compliant individuals out there (see below).

PS – The individual issues of this comic are really neat because each issue contains a feminist essay at the end. The essays didn’t end up in the trade paperback so it’s worth trying to get a hold of the issues (or finding the essays).

Sweet glow-in-the-dark NC Bitch Planet nail wraps from Espionage Cosmetics! Note: cats like to play with glow-in-the-dark nails at night… you were warned…

Fun Comic – Lumberjanes Volumes 1 and 2
by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, and Maarta Laiho
This story is about 5 girls who attend “Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for Hardcore Lady-types” and have all sorts of adventures. It’s really fun, has great art, and how can you not like a book where someone shouts “Holy bell hooks!”?! Also if you were ever in Girl Scouts, this book is for you (though I think being a Lumberjane would have been waaaaaaay cooler than being a Girl Scout).

PS – My friend T did a really good job getting me obsessed with comic books this year so this category was really hard to do because I read some really fantastic ones. So here are some more great options:

  • If you like going on supernatural adventures with some really cool girls, you should read Rat Queens
  • If you like epic sci-fi stories with amazing art, you should read Saga
  • If you like awesome women superheroes, you should read Miss Marvel and Squirrel Girl
  • If you like really pretty art and creepy western-ish stories, you should read Pretty Deadly

Cobalt’s top choice – The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
He didn’t read a lot from 2015 this year (too busy reading for classes!), so he’s gonna go with this one. The novel is a great satire of young adult books for people who notice too many similarities in that market. Definitely worth your time.

I am super happy Cobalt picked this book because Patrick Ness is one of my favorite young adult authors!

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. What did you read this year? Did you read any of these books? Did you love them or hate them? Tell me everything! Also have a Happy New Year!!! Any traditions?! Any New Years resolutions? I am struggling with mine because I want to use the same one I used this year but I think that might be cheating…

Hawaii behind the lens

Published December 15, 2015 by iampotassium

Never fear science readers… I have some ideas for a new post (think – what kinds of jobs can scientists have?!) coming soon. But for today, let’s put science on hold and talk about something else I am passionate about – photography! I miss my photo blog! The end of the year is coming up really soon and I have been thinking back about everything that happened this year. One really cool part of this year was that Cobalt and I got to go to Hawaii with my family for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary! My aunt and uncle live there so we stayed with them for a lot of our trip, which was really awesome because I haven’t seen them since I was in high school (or even younger?!). Plus I got to hang out with my cousin, whom I also haven’t seen in forever. Yay family!

My family at my aunt’s and uncle’s farm shortly after we arrived. That’s a pretty good looking family if I do say so myself!

Anyway – so we were in Hawaii surrounded by so much stuff to photograph. Really it was kind of overwhelming for the photographer in me. Part of me just wanted to experience everything not from behind the lens of a camera and part of me wanted to take a picture of everything so I wouldn’t forget it. Also, it was the first time I’d pulled out the DSLR in a while (So sad…) so there was a lot of remembering what to do under various lighting conditions. It was also fun to challenge myself to take unique photos. A photographer once told me that all photographers need to find their own style so I like to take these opportunities to figure out what my photography style is. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite DSLR pictures with you from our trip.

Some creatures of Hawaii

I really like how this picture turned out even though it was really overexposed. I think it looks a bit like a painting. Look at that happy bee!

In Hawaii, you learn to look closely to find those little geckos hiding in plain sight. This little guy was chilling on the farm.

At one point we went to a park and there were stray cats everywhere! I wanted to take them all home but Tarantula probably wouldn’t be very happy with me… Anyway, I really like the lighting in this picture. I think there was a streetlight or something else orange going on to the left of me and this kitteh?

Playing with lights

You can’t visit Hawaii and not talk about volcanos! This used to be a full lava pool a few months before we got there but by then the lava had flowed elsewhere and all that was left was this creepy glow…

See? Creepy glow!

More fun with lights. This is my sister and my shark Scrarmpl in a lava tube. I like the lighting… it’s so weird and orange. Plus my sis and Scrarmpl look happy.

Plants

Baby fern!

Did you know that orchids have what looks like baby manatees in them?!

See for yourselves! It’s a manatee surrounded by a heart! <3!

That’s all for today but never fear! There are tons of pictures left for me to share with you! We did so much in Hawaii that this first post barely scratches the surface (clearly… as there are no pictures of food in here!)! Be prepared to see more Hawaii sprinkled into my posts soon! Plus Cobalt and I also went to Germany so there will be some Germany pictures sneaking into the mix too!

Now it’s your turn!
What did you guys think of that post? What is your favorite picture? Have you been to Hawaii? Did you like it? What was your favorite part? Where did you go on vacation this year? What are you doing for the holidays? So many questions…

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