Friday, April 19, 2013

Any lens can be a macro lens with extension tubes.

When I bought my first DSLR camera (a Canon 50D) a few years ago, the first thing I wanted to do was shoot macro/closeup photography of flowers.  I love flowers and am obsessively attracted to ridiculously bright colors.  It didn't take me long to decide that I couldn't get adequate results with the equipment I already had.   Because I didn't want to spend a whole lot of money, I researched how macro photography worked and found a few important points:

  1. Macro photography obviously requires getting as close as possible to your subject, which means your lens has to be capable of focusing at a close distance to the subject.
  2. Most lenses cannot focus if they're too close to a subject.  The typical focusing distance is a few feet.
  3. The best way to enable close focusing of a lens is to find a way to "move" the lens a significant distance away from the camera (while still keeping it attached to the camera to take the picture). 

Photographers use many ways to accomplish my #3 above.  One of the most amusing looking and maybe oldest ways of doing is is with bellows:


You can see how the accordion-shaped bellows could dynamically expand or contract the distance between the camera in the back and the lens in the front, allowing for variable levels of close focusing.  Bellows are still used, sometimes on extremely high end projects.  They can be relatively EXPENSIVE if you buy them new.

Another device that serves a similar purpose is a set of "extension tubes," which literally ARE tubes that move the lens further away from the camera, while still providing electronics so that the camera can control the lens.  Extension tubes come in several different sizes, so you can add or remove them to expand or contract the distance between lens and camera.  Shown below are 3 tubes that can be taken apart and used individually or put together as they are in the picture.

Kenko Extension tubes
Extension tubes look like a lens, but they have no glass in them, no optics at all.  They are just air and electronics (via the pins on the lower left of the tubes in the picture shown below).  Some people like to call extension tubes "expensive air".  The electronics are the costliest part.

Looking through the extension tubes at the picture above.

Extension tubes will allow any lens to focus closer than it ordinarily can, meaning that they turn ANY lens into a pseudo-macro lens.   How much closer you can focus depends on the lens, but the tubes often enable focusing at about half the distance to the subject that the lens without the tubes can focus.  Note that super wide angle lenses (e.g. a Canon 10-22mm) won't effectively work with tubes, because with tubes added, the focusing distance is so close that the maximum focusing distance is INSIDE the front glass element of the lens!  The only way you could focus on anything with such a lens and tube combination is if you could somehow place the subject inside your lens!  You don't want to do that, ha.

Whatever lens you choose, you'll want to choose the sharpest lens you have, because sharpness can be even more critical at close focusing distances.  The tubes have NO EFFECT on lens sharpness, because they have no optics.

Of course, this closer focusing with extension tubes comes with a down side, which is that you "lose infinity".  To lose infinity means that when the tubes are attached between the camera and lens, the lens can no longer focus on anything that is more than a foot or so away.  Say, if you were shooting flowers in the garden you could not focus -- manual or otherwise -- on that bird sitting on the fencepost a few feet away.    The laws of physics just won't allow it.  But to solve that problem you would remove the tubes and attach the lens to the camera as you normally would.  Of course, by the time you do this, the bird will have flown away ;-).  The other down side is that the tubes cause you to lose light and focus speed, so you need a brighter environment to shoot.  I typically use a tripod and focus manually when doing macro, so focusing speed isn't a huge issue for me.

My first macro setup was the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens (aka "the plastic fantastic") and the Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set for the Canon EOS AF Mount.  The Kenko tubes have a fully functioning electronic pass-through, meaning that with the tubes attached, the camera can: (1) autofocus the lens (which often comes in handy with macro, but not always); and (2) adjust lens aperture.  The latter ability is highly necessary with macro photography, because aperture controls depth of field, thus how much of your image is in focus.  You can find less expensive extension tubes, but they either don't have electronic controls at all, or are poorly functioning in other ways.   I've even heard of people taping cardboard tubes between camera and lens, but I don't suggest this! You can also buy Canon-branded extension tubes, but they are ridiculously expensive, and only slightly better in build quality than the Kenko tubes.  The Kenko tubes are a happy medium.

Note:  If you buy Canon Kenko extension tubes, make sure and get the ones that allow focusing with EF-S lenses.  Ask whoever you buy them from to confirm this. They will know what this means.  I can explain the reasoning for this in detail if  you like, but just know that it allows use of the tubes with more lenses. Also, make sure to get tubes that fit your make of camera.  Kenko makes tubes for both Canon and Nikon.  For other manufacturers, I don't know.

Here is a sample from one of my first attempts with my original macro setup.  These are Japanese Andromeda flowers, an early spring bloomer.  As you can see, composition was not my forte back then, but the droplet on the right is pretty sharp and that is a tribute to the lens!

Taken with Canon 50mm f/1.8 and Kenko Extension Tubes

As my lens acquisition syndrome became more severe ;-) and as I moved on in macro photography, I bought an actual macro lens.  My first macro lens was a Canon 100mm f/2.8, and then my generous boyfriend surprised me at Christmas 2012 with a Canon 100mm f/2.8 L macro lens.  These two lenses are very similar.  The "L-glass" version has image stabilization.  In addition, it may be a tiny bit sharper and have slightly better contrast than the "non-L-glass" lens.  It also has 9 aperture blades, which make for prettier starbursts (see my starburst post).  The jury is out on whether or not its improvements warrant the price.  Suffice to say, the new lens was a luxury, not a necessity for macro.  If not for the better starbursts ;-), I think I'd have buyer's remorse.

The main benefit of using a macro lens is that it has a built-in ability to focus closely.  Whereas the closest I can focus with my regular zoom lens (without tubes attached) is about 4-5 feet, with my macro lens I can focus on subjects that are about a foot away. This means I can completely fill the frame of my camera with a flower. Another benefit of macro lenses is that they are typically very, very sharp lenses.  Unfortunately, the tradeoff for optimizing macro lenses for close-up photography is that they are horribly slow focusing.   You don't "lose infinity" as I described with the extension tubes, but you would not want to use a macro lens for wildlife photography on a regular basis, at least not with moving subjects....If you have to catch that bird on the fence while you're shooting flowers, you MIGHT be able to focus on it with your macro lens before it flies away.  No promises.  If you do happen to catch it, you'll get a nice sharp image.

Now that I have both a macro lens and extension tubes, I sometimes like to use both for the uber-macro effect.  Here's my macro setup with just the macro lens attached.  As you can see, I can shoot subjects that are up to about a foot away from my lens front.

Macro lens alone
And here's what the resulting picture looks like (totally non-scientific, I may have cropped a little):

Taken with macro lens alone

And now here's what the camera setup looks like with all three extension tubes added between camera and lens.  Note that the lens front can now focus at about 3-4 inches from the subject, rather than the one-foot or so distance of the macro lens alone.

Camera with lens and extension tubes attached
And a resulting image. 
Taken with macro lens and extension tubes
Most of the time, a macro lens is more than sufficient for obtaining a close, sharp image, but if you want to get an almost microscopic image, the macro lens plus extension tubes can often give you that.


The bottom line is that you can really do macro with either a macro lens or extension tubes and a non-macro lens -- or you can combine tubes and a macro lens.  The macro lens is better, generally, because it is a bit faster and more accurate at autofocusing, works a bit better in lower light, and because you don't "lose infinity" (as I described above).  It is also great for shooting portraits and other non-moving subjects, especially if you want SHARP pictures.   The tubes work well too, and if you only do macro work occasionally, they are a great choice.   They also are light and travel well, so you can throw them in your bag just in case you want to do macro at some point during a trip, but don't want to carry an additional lens.  And they are a great starter device, to see if you even like macro.  Macro can be back-breaking and sometimes a test of patience.  Because it isn't for everyone, the $200 investment in tubes might be a safer bet than the $500-900 for a macro lens.  Resale value of tubes on the used market is high because I think people tend to keep them.  Thus if you decide you want to sell them either to upgrade to a macro lens or because you find that you don't enjoy macro photography, it won't cost you much to do so.  Or, if you're anything like me, you'll want to keep the tubes even if you also buy the lens.

My writing here is certainly not intended as exhaustive coverage on macro equipment.  There are other tools you can use to achieve fairly good macro results.  For instance, you can buy a close-up filter, which is just a magnifying glass that you attach to your lens' filter threads to magnify whatever subject hits the lens. The downside is that the filter degrades image quality.  You can also use reversing rings to mount a lens backwards to another lens that is attached to your camera.  The result is super-magnification.  But the only way to focus with this setup is to move the subject back and forth toward the lens, which can sometimes be frustrating.  My setup is less frustrating.

I hope this is helpful.  Let me know in comments if you have questions.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Daily Ukulele Leap Year Edition


The Daily Ukulele Leap Year Edition (Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Songbooks) is one of my favorite ukulele song books. It is a compilation of old-old-oldies, and a few new songs.  Some of the songs are so old that, -- old fogie that I am -- even I don't recognize them. When I don't recognize a song from the book, I'll go out to You Tube and see if I can find a version of it.  What I typically find is that the oldies I didn't recognize become my new favorites!   

I had so much fun finding and listening to the songs that I've decided to share.  Here, I've listed all the songs from the book along with links to my favorite You Tube versions of them. Some of my favorites are "alternative" or silly versions, but often I've listed the "classic" version or maybe a remake/cover that might be even better than the original. Some of the songs are great, others gag me, LOL, but all tolled, this is an entertaining list.

Have fun and let me know in the comments if anything is broken or if you know of a better version of any of the songs.  


A - You're Adorable -- The Muppets (starts at 33 seconds)
Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive  -- Willie Nelson
Act Naturally  -- Ringo Starr and Buck Owens!  They're bad, but in a cute way.
Ain't No Sunshine  Daryl Hall ('s House) with Finger Eleven.
Alabamy Bound  -- Les Paul (yes, that one) and Mary Ford
All The Way -- Brenda Lee belts it out ;-).
Allegheny Moon  -- The Patti Page classic version.  Shine, shine, shine!
Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy) -- A Meh-dventure classic from Helen sombody;-).
And I Love Her  -- Bobby Womack, a more soulful, interesting version, IMHO.
Annie's Song  -- John.  Wow, what a talent.
Anticipation -- Yes, I linked the Heinz Ketchup commercial ;-).
April Showers  -- Bugs Bunny, of course!!  Who else?
Are You Havin' Any Fun?  -- Includes the future of Social Security?
As Tears Go By -- Nancy Sinatra.  My mom owned this album.
As Time Goes By  -- Sam, of course.  Who else.
Atlantis -- Donovan.  Love the Irish accent.
Autumn Leaves  -- Eric Clapton in a different era woulda been a crooner.
Back In The Saddle Again  -- From Sleepless in Seattle  (NOT the Aerosmith version).
The Banana Boat Song  -- Harry Belafonte.  From Beetlejuice.  Makes me wanna go to a Bon Marche sale ;-).
Bang The Drum All Day  -- Todd Rungren. 
(It's A) Beautiful Morning  -- The Rascals.  A cute version
Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel)  -- A Uke version.  It's for his father....
Beyond The Reef -- Classic Hawaiian version
Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (Means That You're Grand) -- Joss Stone. 
Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea -- George Harrison.  On the uke. Really.  The Beatles were the first modern day uke hipsters.
Bewitched -- Tony Bennett
Big Girls Don't Cry -- Falsetto gives me a headache, Frankie Valli
Black Magic Woman -- Alicia Keys with Carlos S. on guitar.
Blue Bayou -- Linda and the Muppet Bayou accompaniment
Blue Moon Of Kentucky -- Anything with Albert Lee is for me.
Blue Velvet
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy -- The "Divine Miss M!" 
Book Of Love -- The Monotones
Born Free  -- Andy Williams
Born To Be Wild
Brand New Key -- Melanie ... and babies on roller skates.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do -- DAVID!!!! My "ex-fiancé" from the teenage years.
Bring Me Sunshine  -- WILLIE!
Bubbly  -- Colbie Caillat -- it starts in my toes
Build Me Up, Buttercup -- An amateur Ukester.  Hey, she got 2 million hits.
Bus Stop -- By the songwriter.  A stalker song.


Calendar Girl -- Neil.  I hear him, but I can barely see him! (red on red)
California Girls -- Oh yeah, the Beach Boys really were young once.
Call Me -- Donna Loren. Hollywood a Go-go-go?
Can't Get Used To Losing You -- The Beat
Can't Smile Without You -- Saved by the scenes from Lady and the Tramp
Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You -- Heath Ledger and the High School Band
Candy -- Manhattan Transfer
Cara Mia -- Jay Black.  He apparently still has lungs.
Carolina Moon
Catch A Falling Star  Perry Como.  Fun song!
Catch The Wind -- Donovan and Crystal Gayle
Cecilia -- No trees were lost in the making of their percussion.
Cherish -- Oh, David.
Circle Of Life -- Elton.  Love this.
Come Go With Me  -- The Dell Vikings.  Get ready for some street corner doo-wop!
Come Monday -- Jimmy!
Come Saturday Morning (Saturday Morning) -- Percy Faith
Could I Have This Dance -- Anne Murray
Crocodile Rock -- Elton, back when he wore good glasses.  On the Muppets.
Crying In The Rain -- A-ha.  That's not a revelation.  It's the band name.
Dancing In The Street -- Jagger and Bowie.  Oh my. 
A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Manha De Carnaval)
'Deed I Do -- Diana Krall.  Jazzy.  Love this version
Delilah -- Tom Jones.  Who else?
Do You Believe In Magic -- Lovin' Spoonful
Do You Know The Way To San Jose -- She can actually still sing.  Amazing.
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans -- Billie Holliday with Louis Armstrong.
Don't Fence Me In -- David Byrne.  Were you expecting someone else?
Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying -- Ray Charles
Don't Pass Me By -- Ringo Starr.  Very catchy and fun.
Don't Stop -- Fleetwood Mac
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right -- Johnny Cash
Don't Worry Baby -- Billy Joel
Down At The Twist And Shout -- Mary Chapin Carpenter
Down In The Boondocks  -- D-Faction.  Reggae!
Down On The Corner -- Fogerty and an orchestra.  Not sure it works ;-).
Down Under -- Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band.  Craving some vegemite.
Dream -- Frank Sinatra
Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) -- Roy Orbison
Dream Lover -- Ahhh, 60's teen movies.
Drifting And Dreaming (Sweet Paradise) -- never heard of it.
Duke Of The Uke-- nada
Elenore  -- This one is a bit hillarious
The End Of The World -- Skeeter Davis
Every Breath You Take -- Sting, Live AID
Everybody's Talkin' (Echoes) -- Nilsson, from Midnight Cowboy
Everyday -- Buddy Holly. I think Lennon and Maisy should do this one with their butter dishes.
Everything Is Beautiful -- Ray Stevens
Exactly Like You  -- Diana Krall again


Falling In Love Again (Can't Help It) -- Billie Holiday
Falling Slowly  -- Glen and Marketa.  I love this
Ferry Cross The Mersey -- Gerry and the Pacemakers
Five Hundred Miles  -- Peter, Paul and Mary
Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)  -- Frank.
For All We Know -- Lots of good versions.  I had to post Karen.
Forever Young -- Rod Stewart
Freight Train -- By Elizabeth Cotten, the woman who originally wrote it.
From A Distance -- Bette Middler
Fun, Fun, Fun -- I finally broke down and posted a Beach Boys version
Garden Song -- John Denver and the Muppets.  So cute
Girl -- Sung by its authors (John and Paul).
Goin' Out Of My Head -- The Zombies.  Brains! ;-).
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)  -- Glenn Campbell
Goodnight, My Someone -- Shirley Jones
The Great Pretender -- Freddie Mercury
Groovin' -- The Young Rascals (um when they weren't so young ;-)
Hallelujah -- K. D. Lang.  Gives me chills.
Hanalei Moon -- And a mini hula lesson!
Happy Days Are Here Again -- Sam Lanin.  The 30's version
Have You Ever Seen The Rain? -- Creedence
The Hawaiian Turnaround -- Liz and Jim Beloff (the book authors).
Heatwave (Love Is Like A Heatwave) -- Linda! (Linda Ronstadt)
Hello! Ma Baby -- That darned frog!
Hello Mary Lou -- Freddie Mercury
Hey, Look Me Over -- Luuuuuceeeeee
Hey, Soul Sister -- Adrian! (an 8 year old).  He'll give you a nice strumming pattern to use too.
High Hopes -- Bob from Sesame Street!
Homeward Bound  -- Paul Simon and Willie Nelson
Honey Pie -- Sung by its authors.  Paul and John.
Honeycomb -- Jimmie Rodgers
Honeysuckle Rose -- He calls himself "Fatsie Watsie" in this video, LOL.  Fats Waller.
Honolulu Baby  -- ClaraetBilly
Hooked On A Feeling -- Vonda Shepard.  Couldn't do the Oooga-Chaca version ;-).
Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) -- Apologies in advance on this one ;-).


I Can't Help But Wonder (Where I'm Bound) -- Johnny Cash
I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine -- The King
I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)  -- The Gallants?
I Got You Babe -- Sonny and Cher.  Who knew the guy in the fur vest would go on to be a Republican Congressman.  RIP, Sonny
I Heard It Through The Grapevine -- Marvin Gaye Live at Montreaux
I Just Called To Say I Love You -- Stevie Wonder.
I Love How You Love Me -- The Paris Sisters
I Only Want To Be With You -- Bay City Rollers.  Oh my.
I Saw The Light -- Todd Rungren (not the hymn)
I Think We're Alone Now  -- Tiffany
I Wanna Be Free -- James Messina and friend
I Want To Be Happy -- Sammy Davis Jr.
I Want You Back -- Jackson 5!  Get up and dance!
I Whistle A Happy Tune -- Animated version ;-)
I Will Survive -- The Alien version
I Wish You Love -- Harry Connick
I'll Never Fall In Love Again  -- Dionne Warwick.  I love this woman.
I'll Never Find Another You -- Zooey Deschanel
I'll See You In My Dreams -- Joe Brown.  Concert for George
I'm An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande)  -- Amusing video from MIB III
I'm Confessin' (That I Love You) -- A Louis Armstrong classic
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter -- Paul McCartney remake
I'm Into Something Good -- Partridge Family
I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover -- Chevy Chase ;-).
I'm Sitting On Top Of The World -- Al Jolson
I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes -- June Carter Cash
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm  -- Sophie Madeleine
If We Only Have Love (Quand On N'a Que L'amour) -- Celine Dion
If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out -- Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens).
The "In" Crowd -- Dobie Gray
In My Life -- Jake S and Bette Middler
In My Room -- Crosby, Carly Simon.
In The Middle Of An Island -- Ozzie Nelson.  LOL
In The Still Of The Nite (I'll Remember) -- Dirty Dancing
Isn't She Lovely -- Stevie.  Nobody does this song like he does.
It Had To Be You -- Harry Connick.  When Harry Met Sally
It Never Rains In Southern California  -- Hammond.
It Was A Very Good Year  -- Kirk.  LOL.
It's A Good Day -- Peggy Lee.  Hey!  Why don't I have a guitarist out my front window.
It's A Sin To Tell A Lie -- LOL, Fats Waller
It's Not Unusual -- Glee.  I just couldn't post the Tom Jones version.
It's Now Or Never -- Elvis in concert
It's Too Late -- Carole King changes it up.  Or not.
Jamaica Farewell -- Harry Belafonte.  Rasta fa!
Java Jive -- I'm pretty sure the Ink Spots are my favorite band ;-).
Kansas City -- The Beatles
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine -- Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne
Knock Three Times -- Tony Orlando and Dawn!  Who else.


La Vie En Rose (Take Me To Your Heart Again) -- My fave.  Louis Armstrong
The Lady Is A Tramp -- Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
The Last Time -- Rolling Stones
Lay Down Sally -- Quite an ensemble cast.
Lazy Day -- Spanky (Elaine) and our Gang
Lazy River -- Mills Brothers
Lazybones  -- Leon Redbone.  Famous jazz musician.
Lean On Me -- Nicholas David from The Voice
Leaning On A Lamp Post -- George Formby. Very big box office star of the 30's. 
Leap For A Man, Girls, It's Leap Year -- somebody needs to make a You Tube of this one
Leaving On A Jet Plane -- John.  (Denver).
Lemon Tree  -- Peter, Paul and Mary
Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella -- George Clooney's Aunt Betty Clooney
Let Your Love Flow -- Bellamy Brothers
Let's Get Away From It All -- Frank.  Typical crooner stuff
Longing To Belong -- Eddie Vedder.  The song that got me started on the uke.
The Look Of Love -- Diana Krall.  She's great
Lookin' For Love -- Johnny Lee.  the classic from Urban cowboy
Lookin' Out My Back Door -- Stray Cats, one of my favorite college bands.
L-O-V-E -- Nat -- I mean NAAAAT King Cole.
Love And Marriage -- Married with Children opening credits (Frank)
Love Is In The Air -- John Paul Young
Love Is Just Around The Corner -- Louis Armstrong again.  He's my guy
Loving You -- Elvis.  Multiple takes.  What a voice.
Lulu's Back In Town -- The Muppets ;-).
MacArthur Park -- Richard Harris
The Magic Islands  -- make me a You Tube
Make Your Own Kind Of Music -- Mama Cass Elliott
Mama Tried -- Merle Haggard, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson.  Love this song.
Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys -- Waylon and Willie.  High school.  Me
A Man And A Woman (Un Homme Et Une Femme) -- James Last.  This is best as an instrumental.  I don't know why it's in the uke book.
Maneater -- John Oates....unplugged.  These guys are so much better when they aren't doing the pop thing....IMHO.
Massachusetts (The Lights Went Out) -- The Bee Gees...pre-disco
Memories Are Made Of This -- Johnny Cash
Mr. Bojangles -- I loved Sammy Davis doing this song
Mr. Tambourine Man -- Dylan et al.
Mockin' Bird Hill -- Burl Ives.  The kiddies know him as the narrator of Frosty the Snowman.
Monday, Monday -- Mamas and the Papas
Moon Shadow -- Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens)
Moondance -- Van Morrison.   Great blues tune
Moonglow -- Tony Bennett/K.D. Lang -- Great jazz
More (Ti Guarderò Nel Cuore) -- Instrumental
More Today Than Yesterday -- Bruno Mars
Morning Has Broken -- Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens).  He is just awesome
Move It On Over -- Ye Olde Hank Williams (Sr) classic
Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter -- The first time I ever wanted to fake a British accent ;-).  Herman's Hermitts
The M.T.A. -- Kingston Trio.  A political song
Music To Watch Girls By -- I had to finally break down and link to an Andy Williams I linked to a Man from Uncle video....The Man From Uncle is actually Ducky on NCIS
My Cup Runneth Over  --  Ed Ames....D-awwww, so sweet.
My Way -- William Shatner --  Regrets I've had a few (Howard the Duck).
Never On Sunday -- The Chordettes.  Meh
No Moon At All -- Ella Fitzgerald
No Particular Place To Go -- Chuck Berry
Nowhere Man -- Beatles.  Cuts from various concerts. 


Octopus's Garden -- Ringo.  2005 concert.
Old Cape Cod -- Patti Page
On A Carousel -- The Hollies.  Seriously, if it were the 80's the lead singer would be in a hairband.
One Fine Day -- Okay it's a movie trailer.  But the song is in there.
One Love -- Bob Marley -- Getchu hands a-clappin maaaan.
Only You (And You Alone) -- I really don't like this song.  I made it better for myself okay?
The Open Road -- Jim Beloff wrote this song and performed here.  I like it.
Our Day Will Come -- Amy Winehouse.  What a talent
Paddlin' Madelin' Home -- LOL.  The Lawrence Welk campus quartet.
Peaceful Easy Feeling -- Eagles
People Got To Be Free -- The Rascals
Please Mr. Postman -- Oh wow.  The Beatles
P.S. I Love You -- The Beatles
Puff The Magic Dragon -- Peter, Paul and Mary.  Was it really about a dragon? ;-).
Ram On -- McCartney on the Uke
Ramblin' Man  -- Allman brothers
Ramblin' Rose -- Nat King Cole
Red Roses For A Blue Lady -- Eddy Arnold
Red Sails In The Sunset -- Deano.  How did he smoke and still have that voice
Release Me -- Engelbert Humperdinck. 
Return To Sender -- Elvis.  He was so flippin' danged cute.  I'm sorry.  But Sandra Dee had to try really hard to seem peeved.
Rhythm Of The Rain -- Dan Fogelberg
Rockin' Robin -- Jackson 5
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms -- Scruggs et al.
Route 66 -- Rolling Stones


San Francisco Bay Blues -- Eric Clapton
Satin Doll -- Nancy Wilson
Scarborough Fair/Canticle -- Celia Pavey, The Voice Australia.  Pretty accent
Scotch And Soda  -- Kingston Trio.  Love it.
Sealed With A Kiss -- Neil Sedaka, LOL
Seattle -- The Here Comes the Brides opening credits.  Bobby Sherman and David Soul
Secret Agent Man -- Johnny rivers
Sherry -- Jersey Boys
The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) -- Cher
Show Me The Way To Go Home -- Scene from Jaws (movie)
Singing The Blues -- Marty Robbins.  I want a uke with my name on it.
(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay -- a street musician.  Gave me chills.  Very good.  Then another.  And another.  This is a fantastic recording.
Slow Poke -- Pee Wee King (NOOOOT the April Wine version tho).
Snowbird -- Chet Atkins instrumental version.
So Long It's Been Good To Know Yuh -- Woody Guthrie.  A WWII song, part of US history
Somethin' Stupid -- Frank and Nancy.  A father-daughter duo.
Somewhere, My Love -- Theme from Doctor Zhivago.  Andy (cough) Williams. 
A Song Of Old Hawaii -- George de Fretes
Soon It's Gonna Rain -- From the Fantastics.  The version in the uke book is abridged.
Sophisticated Hula -- a nice uke version
Southern Nights -- Glenn Campbell
Spanish Eyes -- Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias
Spooky -- Dusty Springfield
Stayin' Alive -- Bee Gees.  Get ready to point your finger North and then Southwest (I'm left-handed)
Stoney End -- Sara Bareilles
Stop! In The Name Of Love -- The Supremes
Stormy -- Santana
Sugar, Sugar -- The Archies!
Sukiyaki -- Best version I could find on You Tube.  You'll recognize this song
Summer Breeze -- Seals and Crofts
Summer In The City -- Joe Cocker.  I really like this version
Summer Wind  -- Crystal Bowersox.  I loved her on American Idol.
Summertime -- Norah Jones
A Sunday Kind Of Love -- Ella Fitzgerald, of course.
Sunny -- Bobby Hebb (also wrote the song)
Sunshine (Go Away Today) -- Jonathan Edwards (with lyrics!)
Sunshine Superman -- John Cougar! (Mellencamp), with Donavan
Sway (Quien Sera) -- The Pussy Cat Dolls
Sweet Caroline -- Ed and the Guys.  I'm not a huge fan of this song so I had to post an alternative version.
Sweet Georgia Brown -- Harlem Globetrotters video
Sweet Pea -- sadly this isn't the version in the book.  But it's a perfect ukulele song.
Sweet Pea -- this is the version in the book
Sweet Someone (35) -- Don Ho on the ukulele.  He's better than Bobby! and he can sing too!


Take A Chance On Me -- Erasure
Take Me Home, Country Roads -- Ray Charles
Tammy -- Debbie Reynolds.  Movies from my childhood
Tea For Two -- Backwards by the Muppets
Teach Your Children -- Two young French girls in a diner.  One plays the kazoo.
Tears On My Pillow -- Little Anthony.  I'm gonna say it.  He's hyperthyroid.
A Teenager In Love -- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Tell It Like It Is -- Aaron Neville.  That man swallowed a saxophone, I swear.
Tennessee Waltz -- Bonnie Raitt & Norah Jones
That's The Way (I Like It) -- KC and the Sunshine Band.    Love the horn section.
There'll Be Some Changes Made -- Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed
These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You) -- Emmy Rossum
They Call The Wind Maria -- Harve Presnell.  Paint Your Wagon.
This Is My Song -- Petula Clark
This Magic Moment -- Aaron Neville again, live on a Seattle radio show.
Thriller -- The obligatory music video.  I wanna definitely play this on my uke.  The strumming pattern is hard.
Till There Was You -- Maisy Stella.  The Stella girls are incredible.  This is a pretty advanced uke song.
Time After Time -- Quietdrive
Tip-Toe Thru' The Tulips With Me -- Tiny Tim.  The Johnny Carson clip.
To Love Somebody -- Bee Gees.  I loved THEM before the Saturday Night Fever days.
To Sir, With Love -- Natalie Merchant with Michael Stipe from REM.  She's a little flat, but at least it's modern version.  I love him, looking like a crooner.
Tomorrow -- From the musical, "Annie"
Too Young -- From another childhood "ex-fiancé".  Yes, I was going to marry him.  But he never called, he never wrote.  So we broke up.  (LOL).
Top Of The World -- Carpenters.  That characteristic Carpenter lisp.  Ahhhhh
Traces (of Love) -- The Classics IV
Tracy -- The Cuff Links
Travelin' Man -- Ricky Nelson. 
Twilight Time -- The Platters.  I am looking for a more modern version of this one.
A Ukulele And You (68)
Ukulele Central -- British Ukuleleists!
Undecided -- The Delta Rhythm Boys
Up Around The Bend -- Creedence!
Walk Away Renee -- Vonda Shepard from Allie McBeal
The Wanderer -- Status Quo
Wanderin' -- Dave Van Ronk
Waterloo  -- Abba (cough)
The Way You Do The Things You Do -- UB40
We Are The World -- The original USA for Africa video.
Wedding Bell Blues -- The 5th Dimension. Who is this Bill guy?
What A Diff'rence A Day Made -- Dinah Washington
What Have They Done To My Song, Ma? -- Miley Cyrus
What The World Needs Now Is Love -- Dionne Warwick.  I used to pay this song with a comb and a piece of paper.
When Will I Be Loved -- Linda Ronstadt
Where Have All The Flowers Gone? -- Pete Seeger, classic, classic folk singer
White Rabbit -- Jefferson Airplane.  Classic Woodstock footage
White Sandy Beach -- IZ.  RIP
Who's Sorry Now -- Clay Aiken.  Okay, it was either this or Marie Osmond.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow -- Amy Winehouse.  RIP
Windy -- The Association.  From a 7-up commercial.  LOL.
With A Little Luck -- Paul McCartney and Wings
A Wonderful Day Like Today -- Anthony Newley.  I miss the old variety shows.
Wonderful! Wonderful! -- Johnny Mathis
Worried Man Blues -- Pete Seeger and Johnny Cash
Y.M.C.A.  My Blogger linking tool broke with this song.  It wouldn't load the dialog box.  I had to restart.  But I felt it was for a reason.....
You And I -- Ingrid Michaelson, the song writer
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life -- Can anyone else sing this song but Stevie?
You Belong To Me -- Jason Wade.  Nice current cover.
You Can't Hurry Love -- Dixie Chicks
You Didn't Have To Be So Nice -- Jerry Yester from The Lovin' Spoonfuls with a wooden banjo
You Don't Know Me -- Michael Buble
You Got It -- Bonnie Raitt
You Won't See Me -- Paul McCartney
You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful And You're Mine) -- Ringo Starr
You've Got A Friend -- James Taylor and Carole King
Young At Heart -- Classic Jimmy Durante
Your Mama Don't Dance -- Poison
Your Mother Should Know -- Beatles in white tuxes
Your Song -- Who else?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mod Podge -- Expensive Elmer's Glue for decoupage

 Grooovy, but sorry, not rain friendly.
From GypsyPurple

I have a more than abundant fabric collection, so lately I've been satisfying my need to buy ridiculous colors and textures via buying paper.  In a grand attempt to try and figure out what to do with all of this paper (!!) I've perused the foray of paper art tools and have purchased a few of them.

Much of what I've bought is awesome.  A few items leave me cold, and one should be illegal to sell!

I suppose it would be nice to talk about what went well, but more entertaining (for me at least) to rant about what didn't.


So, my first rant is about ModPodge.

In case you' re not familiar, ModPodge is a decoupage glue that brags that it will glue about every material known to man to about every other material known to man.  The idea is that you ModPodge/glue material A to material B and then paint more ModPodge over the materials you've glued in order to seal them into place  -- and also just because you like that 70's tacky look! ;-)  The technique I'm describing is called "decoupage," which is French for "paste like a school child."

I cannot believe I let myself buy this stuff.  I'm having difficulty thinking of any craft medium that is more unforgiving, besides the fact that it's basically Elmer's Glue, with a smelly chemical added to make it seem "serious."  The odor makes you think you're harming your future child rearing potential by using it.  Some say it smells like paste...but no, THAT smell is wintergreen. I would describe the ModPodge odor as, um, "early American nuke".

I might have been better off with this:

 Link to original photo

My basic gripes with ModPodge are that it is both sticky and runny at the same time, dries too quickly, and leaves brush strokes no matter what brush I use -- and always in places where I least want them. In Seattle, Washington, it never dries beyond tacky so that within a day it has dust adhered to it.  Also, it is NOT water proof after drying so if it gets wet it will regress back to white glue.  And the worst of all -- While it promises to work on paper, the result for me looked like I was going for the seersucker wrinkle effect. Of course, if I were TRYING for the seersucker effect, what do you bet that the ModPodge would glue my paper down nice and flat.  Curse you, ModPodge!!!! ;-)! I have pictures that will be forever warped because of ModPodge.  And when I Googled for solutions to these issues, as it turns out we the users are to blame for our ModPodge failures. Who knew? Oh, okay, ModPodge, it's not you, it's me.  As long as we break up, I'm fine with that.

In general, people have a love it or hate it relationship with ModPodge.  The author of ModPodge Rocks has seemingly dedicated her life to it.  I've never seen anything like it.  But her site screams "affil, affil, affil!" (no affil).  What do you bet that the people at "Plaid" are shipping her the stuff by the gallon.

I will allow that folks have done some creative and wonderful things with ModPodge....
From DIYInspired
From Carolyn's HomeWork

 ....wall art

Link to original photo

....but my favorites are the shoes:
From BitRebels

ModPodge Shoes
More ModPodge Shoes
And Oh Man, SOOO many Mod Podge Shoes

Okay, the shoes have put me in a good mood so I don't feel like ranting anymore....

Feel free to let me know how wrong I am in the comments.


Monday, April 1, 2013

How to learn to play the guitar

So you think you want to delve into the world of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, maybe even.... the great Albert Lee!
Here's how!!!!!

Step 1: Learn to play a ukulele.


Screeeeech. What?  I know, I know, this sounds like redirection humor. It’s like that old joke:
How do you get down from an elephant? (You don’t. You get down from a duck.)
But I’m serious. The uke is a great “gateway instrument” for learning guitar. Why?
  • One of the most important skills for guitar playing is coordinated hand strength. The ukulele gets your hands about halfway there, all the while being easier to hold and play.
  • Entry level, decent-sounding ukuleles are affordable for just about everyone. 
  • You can learn hundreds of songs if you know how to play just a few really easy chords.  Thus your efforts are quickly rewarded.
  • The ukulele is sort of like a soprano 4-string guitar. The reason for this might be too technical to explain if you don’t understand stringed instruments, but trust me or ask in comments and I’ll explain.
  • The ukulele makes a happy sound, which in turn makes you smile. For me, learning to play the uke helped me through a very trying time in my life. Even if you decide not to play the guitar, your uke will provide mood enhancement for the rest of your life.

The guitar is nice, but playing the ukulele is a musical mecca in its own right. Tiny Tim probably put the uke on the map, elevated it to infamy, you might say ;-). However, it has since been adopted by some extraordinarily proficient musicians (and here).

Eddie Vedder got me started.

Yes, MISTER Pearl Jam created a whole album called Ukulele Songs and included this, one of the sweetest, most romantic songs I’ve ever heard.

“I’m falling harder than I ever have before. I’m falling fast while hoping I’ll land in your arms.”


(Alternate link for when the embedded video doesn't appear. Curse you, Blogger! ;-))

Eddie made the uke cool, a hipster’s instrument. However, even though I’m PROUDLY and defiantly NOT cool, this song hooked me into playing. And as it turns out, Longing to Belong is not only a beautiful song, it is also very playable for a dedicated ukulele beginner. Which I am.

Another thing: I think we uke players have a warrior's mentality. Ukes are often considered toys and uke players are VASTLY under-rated. Thus we band together. I have found that even the most skilled ukulele players are some of the nicest, most information-sharing people on the planet. This is not an instrument for huge egos, which is really refreshing.

Are you snared in to the wonders of this tiny little soprano-pitched 2/3-guitar yet? 

If so, here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Buy a Uke. I got my starter Uke at Costco (no affil). It is very pretty, nice sounding and has Cadillac Aquila strings (which is important for sound quality). Ukes come in many sizes, from ultra-small super-soprano to much bigger baritone and bass. However, the in-between Concert size like my Costco uke is preferred by many players and is the one I would recommend.  Some people balk at buying musical instruments at Big Box stores, so another source that people tend to recommend  is Uke Republic (I have no experience with them).  They "set up" almost all of the instruments that leave their store, so I suspect you have a good chance of getting a very playable uke from them.  Other internet sources are available too.

Step 2: Buy or borrow one of these books, preferably the one on the right.  Note: I'm not trying to insult your intelligence at all!  The Dummies books are my favorites when learning new things.  Also, visit Ukulele Hunt, the web site written by the Dummies book author.  It has many songs and tutorials categorized by difficulty.

Step 3: Join Ukulele Underground. I heart, heart, heart them. A very nice youngster named Aldrine Guerrero has created some phenomenal beginner ukulele lessons. In addition, you’ll find a forum full of wonderful people who don't mind letting me you whine about my your uke playing, about B-flat problems, etc. They UNDERSTAND rather than ridicule. Incredible.

Step 4: Buy either “Daily Ukulele” or “Daily Ukulele Leap Year Edition” by Jim Beloff. Or buy both books like I did. It’s one thing to do drills and scales. It’s another to actually learn the ukulele by playing songs. These books have some incredibly good, easy, fun old songs that are perfect for camp fire, etc. 

Step 5: Search YouTube for its wealth of fun tutorials, so many more videos than I can possibly list here.  You'll also find a wealth of inspiring, riveting amateur uke performers.

Step 6:  Do one thing I haven't done yet, join a song circle.  They look like fun!.

.....And then, once you have some experience with your uke, but are feeling starved for a little bass sound (which a uke typically DOESN'T have) THEN buy a guitar.  You'll have a head start on the guitar because you played the uke first.

....oh, and be prepared for instrument acquisition syndrome to hit ;-).

Enjoy. Feel free to let me know how your uke playing is going.

Leaving you with a few of my favorites:

From "A Concert for George (Harrison)"

IZ.  You may not recognize him, but you'll recognize this song immediately.  This is a lovely video, shows a whole legion of people spreading his ashes after his death.  RIP, IZ, your voice will live on with us forever.

And my fave.  The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. A lot of people playing Dolphin Ukes (the candy colored ones.)  They call this the 1018 part Ode to Joy ;-).

Mahalo for reading.