Moving vs. Zooming with a Point-and-Shoot Camera

I was surprised a number of years ago when I found out that using the zoom feature on a point-and-shoot camera isn’t the same as a telephoto lens on an SLR camera. I was a bit skeptical when I read my first article on the topic of moving closer to the subject versus zooming in on it. It stated that the results were different because of the change in relationship between the subject and the background. I read and reread on the topic and still couldn’t get my head wrapped around it. Finally, I did what I force my students to do. I took my camera outside and tried it for myself.

I had a student stand in front of the playground equipment. A “busy” background helps show the difference better.

First, I stood back a ways and zoomed in to get the composition I wanted.

Then, I put the camera back in its wide angle mode and walked closer until she was about the same size in the viewfinder.

I was shocked at the difference in the background! But also notice the difference in photo quality. The reason the first photo is grainier is because all the “zoom” is doing is cropping the photo and thus stretching the pixels so the photos are the same size.

Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a photo I took the other day with my point-and-shoot camera.

Now, for comparison, here is the same photo cropped.

And now, using the zoom feature.

Even though I didn’t manage to get them to match up perfectly, see how both of them are grainy and blurry? Personally, I think the cropped original actually is better quality than the zoomed version.

Now, here is what it looks like if I use the camera without the zoom and walk closer.

The relationship between the tulips and background have changed, plus the tulips are more in focus. (Please understand, this is a fairly inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, so the quality isn’t anything like my good SLR camera’s photos.)

So, the next time you are in a situation and are tempted to zoom in on something, resist the urge!! Move closer, if possible. If moving isn’t an option, remember that cropping the photo later on the computer actually gives better results than having the camera crop the image for you.

But, also remember that if you are trying to get rid of a busy background, zooming might actually have an advantage.

On a size note, actually telephoto lenses don’t have this issue because they are really magnifying the scene and pulling it closer, so to speak. I’m assuming the same is true for the zoom feature on camera phones, even thought I haven’t tested it personally.



Breakfast Cookies

These are so much better than store-bought breakfast cookies or bars for a quick grab-and-go option. The oats, whole wheat flour and peanut butter help keep you full for a long time. The cookies were soft & delicious which contrasted nicely with the crunch of the Cheerio’s.

Make sure to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make the cookies. If you make them smaller, they will be too dry and hard. My kids prefer dates over raisins. I’ve used both old fashioned oats and instant without difficulty. The recipe works well with either wheat or white flour. I have used store brands, but the cookies are definitely better with Cheerios. It also makes a difference to use real butter rather than margarine.

Cheerios Jumbo Breakfast Cookies

1 1⁄4 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup butter
1⁄2 cup peanut butter
1⁄4 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup raisins or dates
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal

Heat oven to 375°. Stir together sugar, butter, peanut butter, water, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients except cereal. Gently stir in cereal.
Drop dough by rounded 1/3 cupfuls 4 inches apart onto ungreased large cookie sheet. Flatten dough to about 1 inch thick.
Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Store in a zip-lock bag.

Yields: 18 large cookies


Beef and Bean Oven Tacos

These are a nice change from traditional tacos. Baking them in the oven adds a different dimension to the overall taste. It also helps soften the hard shells, which makes them easier to eat. Sometimes, I place the filling in a crock-pot and used it to assemble traditional tacos later. This approach works well for having supper ready within minutes of walking in the door or when taking something to a potluck meal. It’s especially popular with the kids.

Beef and Bean Oven Tacos

1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained (optional)
8-10 taco shells
1 cup shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Brown the lean ground beef with the chopped onion. Drain well, if needed. Stir in the black beans, taco seasoning, petite diced tomatoes and corn. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Line up the taco shells in a 7×11-inch baking dish that has been lined with foil. (Easy clean up!)
Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top with cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Serve with any or all additional toppings: shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, avocado chunks or guacamole.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Several years ago, I started making my own taco seasoning. It tastes better and is so much cheaper than buying the little packets. Plus, there aren’t any additives. One of my nephews used to get headaches every time he ate tacos. They finally figured out it was the meat seasoning. Apparently, he was allergic to the preservatives used.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 6 tsp. chili powder
  • 5 tsp. paprika
  • 4 ½ tsp. cumin
  • 2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients together and keep in an old spice jar or other sealed container.

Makes enough for about 4 or 5 pounds of meat, depending on how much you use each time.

Use 1 ½ – 2 Tbls. of seasoning per pound of hamburger.

Lemon Limeade Bars

I love a Sweet Tarts.

I love Sweet Tart Jelly Beans.

I love homemade Lemon Limeade.

I love coming up with a recipe that satisfies that sweet/tart craving in a cookie form. These bars are a slight tweak of a recipe I had tried before that I felt needed a little extra umph. If you don’t care for a strong lime flavor, use only half the zest from the lime. It does seem to be stronger than the lemon. You can also use 2 lemons, but what’s the fun in that?? Now I’m trying to figure out how to add some cherry flavoring for when I’m craving Cherry Limeade….

Lemon Limeade Bars

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3⁄4 cup flour
2 eggs, large
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 lime, juice and zest
3⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
Zest and juice the lemon and the lime. Combine the juices and zest in a small bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar, salt, and softened butter until combined with an electric mixer. Beat in the flour.
Measure out 4 Tbls. of the juice and zest combination (it should leave you with about 2 Tbls.) Whisk together the eggs and 4 Tbls. of juice and zest. Beat it into the flour mixture for 2 minutes at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 23-25 minutes, should turn golden around the edges.
Allow to cool completely before glazing. Do not over bake, or the bars will dry.
Add the powdered sugar to the remaining 2 Tbls. of juice and zest. Adding more powdered sugar if necessary to get the right thick-glaze consistency.
Spread the glaze over the brownies with a rubber spatula and let glaze set. Cut into bars and serve.

Comparing the Islands We’ve Been To

A while back, I shared why we prefer Sandals Resorts when we travel to the Caribbean. I thought it might be helpful to touch on the pros and cons of the various islands we have visited around the world.

1992 – Cayman Brac (Divi Tiara Dive Resort – destroyed by a hurricane several years later)

  • British territory – very clean, low crime rate, friendly locals
  • Caters to divers – Divers were gone all day & went to bed early. It was almost like having our own private resort.
  • Island very rocky with scrub brush.
  • Very little to do besides lounging, snorkeling, diving or fishing.
  • Easy access to snorkeling on the pink sand island of Little Cayman

2003 – Kauai, Hawaii (Marriott Beach Resort)

  • US state – no passport needed or having to exchange currency. Also clean with low crime rate.
  • Lush and tropical
  • A lot of things to do off the resort like hiking, shopping, golf, helicopter rides, kayaking, and touring coffee or sugar plantations. Also an easy day trip to Pearl Harbor, which was completely worth it.
  • Lengthy flights and drastic time change from the east coast.
  • The resorts are very family oriented and touristy.
  • Seafood is pretty limited to fish. Shrimp and lobster hard to come by.
  • Water is clear and not near as salty.

2008 & 2011 – Bahamas (Sandals Royal Bahamian & a cruise ship stop)

  • Absolutely gorgeous crystal blue water.
  • Not overly lush but not rocky and scraggly either.
  • Locals are a bit pushy sometimes, especially when haggling over prices.
  • Easy-to-use public buses.
  • Low daytime crime rate. We were advised to stay on the resort after dark.
  • Very popular with European tourist.
  • Easy to get to from the east coast.
  • A lot of snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, stingrays or pigs, glass bottom boat tours, sunset cruises, large resorts with casinos & shows like the Atlantis.

2012 – Jamaica (Sandals Montego Bay Resort & Royal Caribbean Resort)

  • Very rocky with a lot of scrub brush.
  • The water isn’t as clear for snorkeling.
  • A lot poverty and crime.
  • Safe on the resorts and on resort tours but friends were mugged when they ventured into town on their own.
  • But on the other hand, some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.
  • The nicer resorts are a lot further away from the airport. The resorts right by the airport have a lot of jet noise during the day.

2015 – Bermuda (cruise ship port)

  • British territory – very clean, low crime rate & friendly locals
  • The most upscale island I’ve been to so far.
  • Easy to get around on buses, rented mopeds or the boat taxis.
  • A lot of historical forts and ruins to explore.
  • Gorgeous pink sand Horseshoe Bay
  • In the middle of the Atlantic, so chillier than the Caribbean or Hawaii.
  • Amazing snorkeling of the shipwrecks of the Bermuda Triangle. (Water temp only 68-70° in May)

2016 – St. Lucia (Sandals La Toc Resort)

  • Very lush jungle mountainous island.
  • A lot further south and very hot & humid even in April, even though they said it was unusual for that time of year.
  • Long flights with no return options that didn’t include an overnight in Atlanta. (But at least you are still in the same time zone, which helps.)
  • It’s an hour bus trip on winding mountain roads to & from the airport.
  • Some poverty & crime issues downtown in the city. Villages seemed a lot more friendly and honest.
  • Good snorkeling and water clarity.
  • Friendly locals on the resort. Some pushier, ruder ones in town.
  • A fairly large island which offers more things to do, like catamaran cruises to the Pitons, zip lining or hiking the jungles & mountains, plantation tours, rum factory tours, tall ship cruises etc.

We still haven’t found our “absolute perfect island,” but we are willing to keep looking!!