The part about learning something about my camera was easily attainable. I watched the tutorial that Audra gave me for my birthday. I learned lots.
The second part of the goal wasn't that easy, and what made it even more challenging, was my desire to move beyond "point and click" and actually apply some settings. This resulted in much trial and error and a mini-breakdown which included thoughts like: "I'll never get it", "I'm not worthy to own this camera", and my personal favorite, "I'm just not smart enough to learn photography".
I spent the day looking for inspiration. The kids were a logical target, though unfortunately, they weren't in "photo-ready condition" (no showers, no coordinating outfits, no combed hair, no beachy backdrop, no bribes/threats).
The first photo on my "keep list" is of Amaya. This took some fancy footwork on my part because my room was dark and I don't have a very steady hand. I messed with the ISO, then the shutter speed, then tried holding my breath, but nothing worked - still blur. Then I opened the blinds. Ah ha! Got it! When I uploaded it into Picassa (yes, I'm still using it - head hung in shame), I decided to "desaturate" the colors because I thought the muted colors worked better with her expression.
The next keeper was this one of my pearls that I really love (thank you Seth - long story). I was trying to get a picture of the pearls without seeing all the crap on my dresser (behind the pearls). I wanted the background to be dark, but I had no idea how to get it that way. I still can't remember what the heck I did, but I do know that it took several attempts. This is SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) and it is not "black and white" ...and my dresser is cherry. The bottom line is that I had a vision in my mind of how I wanted the photograph to look and I was able to somehow capture the image that way. This is kind of a big deal for me because that usually doesn't happen.
This one is simple, fun and clean. I used the "sharpen" function and the "black and white" function in Picassa. I don't know what I like about it, it just makes me smile.
This one is probably more about having a good subject than having any skillz (like that slang action?). I snapped a bunch of headshots of Ariel on the back porch. I shot on Aperture priority (my favorite), lowered my F stop and let the camera decide the rest. The thing that I had to figure out was where to position myself and Ariel. I didn't do this very strategically, I basically took pictures of her from every imaginable angle in hopes that there would be one or two that didn't have her squinting or with a huge shadow across her face. It's so funny that once you figure out all the settings on your camera, you then have to figure out the sun/shade, gravity, E=MC2, the cure for cancer, and pie of infinity in order to get a good shot.