Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why I send Christmas Cards

After reading a blog today explaining why the blogger was not sending Christmas Cards, I felt very defensive about the fact that I do send them.  Then the blogger asked for one reason why I am sending cards.  Here's a list:

  • I send them every year. I send a letter.  I suppose that I am one of those annoying people who irritates the crap out of everyone.  I do try very hard not to make my letter vomit-inducing, but I am probably deluding myself.
  • I send cards because I enjoy it.  I enjoy it much more now that I quit hand-making my cards (whose crazy idea was that, anyway?)  I enjoy the act of addressing the envelopes and signing the cards and spending a moment thinking about that recipient and sending them glad tidings from my heart.
  • I send cards because I love receiving cards.  One of my favorite things this time of year is heading out to the mailbox and settling in and savoring those cards and photos and letters.  Yes, I even love the letters.
  • I send cards because I have elderly family scattered all over the US who are not on Facebook.  I want them to know that I am thinking of them.  
  • I send cards because I think that good, old-fashioned communication is a lost art form.
  • Also, I love addressing the envelopes.  Weird, huh?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Fall in the Midwest: crisp mornings and beautiful trees.  Years ago, we had to take down our poor old oak tree, and all that we have left is a massive white pine that had been planted by the previous owner.  Blah.  Pine needles are not full of fall glory!
After 15 years, I have finally started to pay attention to the cycles of my pine tree.  Every year it loses some, but not all, of its needles.  And some years it produces a few pine cones, some years it seems there are none at all.  
This year is going to be an exception.  The top branches are struggling under the weight of  all of those pine cones.  Only a few pine cones have made their way to the ground so far.  There will be many many more where this came from.  Let me know if you need any.  ;)
I went out in the evening to take photos of the pine cone.  The first thing that I did was purposely underexpose the image, by two full stops.  I wanted the photo to look like reality, not how the camera thought it should look.

I love a lot of bokeh, so this was shot at f/2.0, 1/20, ISO 400, 35 mm.  In an ideal world, I would have increased the ISO for a faster shutter speed, but this was shot with my old camera and I don't like to push it.

I transferred the photo to my computer and took a look.  I was pretty happy with it, but in the digital age, there's no such thing as leaving well enough alone, so I started editing.

The first thing that I did was a slight levels adjustment.  I made the photo just a little darker to reflect the actual light.  And then, because I had missed the warmth of the sunset, I tried to add some warmth with one of Love that Shot's glows:  "Golden Glow Top." I applied it in soft light mode at 50%.

Next I wanted to try out a little texture.  "Fire" from the Simplicity Collection is my go-to, so I made myself try something different.  I chose " Woodsman" from the Fairytale Collection.  I applied it in Soft Light mode at 50% and then added a layer mask to remove just a little of the texture from the pine cone.  I used a soft brush at 50% to wipe away just a little texture.

It's so much fun to play.  You can check out Love that Shot's Photo Veils and Textures here

Monday, June 23, 2014

Photo Recipe: Salvaging a crummy shot

Last Saturday I got up bright and early (for me) to cheer on a friend who was completing her first triathlon.  We drove out along some back country roads and parked and waited for her to come by on her bike.  We nearly missed her the first time and then had some time to kill before she came back by on the return trip.  The girls were a little bored, so they hopped in the back of another parent's truck to wait.  I looked at them sitting there and thought it would make a great photo of rural America.  I tried to snap a couple before they saw me (I prefer natural photos to those with typical tween girls poses) but I failed.
In fact, when I got home and looked at the photo, I pretty much hated it.
But I wanted to love it.  I really really wanted it to look like I had it in my head.  But it was kind of awful.  Rather than just deleting it, I decided to play around.

After looking at it a little more, and realizing that it would have been 1000 times better if all four girls had been looking off into the distance, I decided to treat it like an old-fashioned photo.  You know those ones where no one is really looking at the camera, someone is grouchy, but it was all people had back in the day because film was expensive and photos were rare?
So, I converted it to black and white using a layer.  I played around with the different options and chose "High Contrast Red."  And then I decided I wanted a hint of color, so I set that layer at 75% opacity.

I liked the way it no longer looked like a bunch of girls squinting in the early morning sunlight, but I wanted to make it look grainy and old and well-worn, so I chose Calais from Love That Shot's Old World Collection.  I added it at 75% opacity in overlay mode.

And because I am never satisfied and like big changes, I added one more layer for more oldness (is that a word?) and drama.  I chose Sicily and added it at 45% opacity in linear burn mode.

It's not perfect, but I like how the sky looks moody, just like my daughter's face.  If I edited it again, I might go ahead and remove all color from the photo.  But that's the fun of digital photography, isn't it?  You can just play and play.

If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Unsolicited Advice

My kids wanted to run to the mall today.  It's summer vacation.  I "need" some new Bath and Body Works foaming hand soaps (that lavender scent is uh-mazing.)  I'd rather drive around and wander through stores than stay home, fight technology and do laundry.  I was in.
We had lunch at Avanti's and then wandered over to the mall to do our shopping.
On our way out, I wanted to look at dresses at Penney's.  I have this sudden strange love for dresses.  I found one that was a coral and hot pink pattern.  I held it up to show the kids to get their opinion.
KJ said, "I like it mom.  It looks like you."  (Translation: Please buy it so we can leave.)
Boo said nothing. Instead I got a shoulder shrug and eyeroll. (Translation: You have already pushed me past my limit.  Take me home NOW.)
Old Lady I've never met before, "Do you want my opinion?"
I answered gamely, "Sure."
She replied, "I don't like it."
"You don't like the pattern?"
I rambled on something about modern colors and patterns then turned away and she added, "You sure won't be wearing that if you get a sunburn."
I smiled and commented about needing some sun to balance out the farmer's tan I have going from sitting at the kids' ball games.  She responded with some comment about how she doesn't sit out in the sun anymore because her doctor got all upset about it.
I turned away and she still felt the need to drive home the point that she didn't like that dress on me.  She looked at the 2Ks and said, "Don't you think that she is too red to wear that dress?" They looked at me because they had no idea how to handle this one.
And because that wasn't enough, she told me to hold it up and go look in the mirror and I would see how I was too red to wear it.
At that point in time, I hung it back up and walked away.
And she said, "Oh dear, I made you change your mind.  I'm sorry."
Unsolicited opinions about my clothing choices, or my eyebrows make me all paranoid.
Maybe I should have invited her back here to go through my closet.
Then again, maybe not.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Photo Recipe: Faking the Golden Hour

You've heard of it, The Golden Hour, that magical time of day just before sunset when the light is warm and bathes your subject in the most flattering light.  Perhaps you've even had the skill, or luck, to capture it beautifully.  I've been lucky once or twice.  My very favorite golden hour photo is actually of my daughter, in the softball dugout, with a giant welt on her shoulder after she wore a pitch.  Is it wrong that I love it?
Two weeks ago, my son had his first baseball game of the season and it was beautiful (a bit windy, but hey, it wasn't snowing.) As the sun set, and I realized there were no artificial lights, I was giddy about the quality of the light.  By the way, I am fairly certain the other parents think that I might just be certifiably insane, but whatever.
I got home and looked at the photos and was kind of disappointed.  They weren't nearly as golden as I had hoped they would be.  (Um, it would probably have helped if *some* people didn't leave their white balance on auto all of the time, but it was too late to deal with that issue.)
I was disappointed until I remembered my most favorite Love that Shot photo veil ever.  It's called "Fire" and it's found in the Simplicity Collection.  I pulled it up and added it to my two favorite shots of my son from the game and I fell in love.

Here are the before and after of my son at bat:

And one of my son after he caught a fly ball (the center fielder is ducking down so as to not take a baseball to the face.)

Isn't it amazing how that single, simple veil changed the photos?  They now look like they had looked in my head.  And the slight vignette does a great job of placing the focus on KJ.

I first fell in love with Fire back in the fall when editing some senior photos.  It was another case of the photos not matching what I had remembered.  They just weren't as warm as they had been in my head.  I added a little fire (and some other senior-type edits) and voila!

So, to test my theory that Fire is amazing and can give photos that nice, warm glow, I tried it on a photo that I took of my daughter's softball team at about 11:00 am.  No warm glow from the sun at that time of day.

Here's what I started with:

Then I added the Fire veil from the Simplicity collection, in Overlay mode at 50% and here's what I got:

The shadows give it away that this was not taken at sunset, but I love how warm it makes the photo.  I may just start putting it on every photo I take. ;)

P.S.  I tested it again today on my daffodil.  I still love it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Photo Recipe: Using Textures to disguise a background

I am attempting my 4th Project 365 (I made it about 75% through the first one, completed a second and then let's not talk about the third time.)
Some days, I am inspired. Other days, I look around my house for something-- anything-- to shoot. This was an "other" day. An, "Oh, crud, it's time for bed and I didn't take a photo today." I looked at my dining room table, covered in the paraphernalia that broadcasts, "Two very busy kids live here" and saw my son's new baseball glove. I took one shot, didn't like it, re-positioned the glove and ended up with this:
 I liked it, but then again, I like photos that document my kids' lives. What I didn't like was the warmth of the glove against the cool white window frame, green curtains and that chair on the right.  I went to my favorite textures from Love that Shot, the Old World Collection, and chose "Madrid."
I have a penchant for the dramatic, so even though I toyed with taking the opacity down a notch, I ended up keeping it at 100%, soft light. I love the brick texture on the left and how it made the photo seem more artistic.

 I decided to apply a layer mask, though, and remove the warmth off of the baseball a bit.


Finally, I added one last texture from the Old World Collection, "Salerno."  I applied it at 50%, soft light, to give the photo a little more vignette and to draw focus to that ball and glove.
  I really liked the way that the photo went from being a snapshot in my dining room to something a little more artistic. The warm background isn't as much of a distraction from the glove and ball.
If I can do it, with no formal training, you can too! Misti and Michelle at Love that Shot have taught me all that I know. If only they could end this long, drawn-out winter so we can play some ball!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Photo Recipe: Fun with a snapshot.

Last week, I was lucky enough to go to Las Vegas with my husband, just the two of us.  I left the DSLR at home, so that I wouldn't be all-consumed by trying to find neat angles and interesting subjects and in turn, ignoring my husband.  I would like to say that I was moderately successful.  I was still a little obsessive about documenting the trip, but not as crazy as I would have been with lens choices.  :)

One of my favorite photos from the trip is this one of flowers in the Atrium at The Mirage.

I was pretty darn happy with it, SOOC.  I like my little point-and-shoot.  But, I also like to play and to see what fun changes I can make to the photo.

This time, I decided to concentrate on using Love that Shot's Simplicity Photo Veils.  My favorite one in the group is called "Fire."  It's great for warming up a photo that is too cool.  I applied it in overlay mode at 50%.

I liked the way that it made it seem like we were in the warm wonderful sun, and it added a slight vignette, drawing your eye to the tulip.  I decided I wanted a little more vignette, so I chose the "Northern Lights" Veil and applied it in overlay mode at 25%.

And because I can't just leave well-enough alone, I decided that I wanted a little texture.  The "Twinkle" texture is totally fun.  At full-strength, it will give you the feeling of light being reflected off of a disco ball, or bubbles underwater.  I restrained myself and dialed it down to 50%, soft light.

If you look closely, you can see the texture in the sky.  I think it makes it look like there are clouds floating by.

Hop on over to Love That Shot to check out all of the photo veils and textures that you can use to make your photos more eye-catching!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Photo Recipe: Using textures to add a vignette

This has been the never-ending winter.


I set a goal for myself to use my Lensbaby for all of January.  It was fun at first, but after a while, because I was stuck inside due to the NEVER-ENDING WINTER, I had run out of things to shoot.

And then, miraculously, we had a day that was 45 degrees F.  The clouds parted, the angels sang and I took the Lensbaby outside looking for something other than snow to photograph.  I found this flower between my yard and my neighbor's yard.  I have no idea what it is, which is embarrassing since I have lived here for almost 15 years, but we won't worry about that.  I just liked what I started with:

I liked the blur.  I wish I had placed the flower a little more off-center, but with an impatient puppy, it was good enough.

I wanted to make sure that attention was drawn to the flower, so I wanted to add a vignette.  I went to Love that Shot's Olde World Collection (because I am in love with the textures) and chose "Calais."  Calais reminds me of an old parchment with ink spilled all around the edges. I added it to my photo in soft light mode, at 75%.  Here is the result:

I liked the vignette, but I am never satisfied with subtlety, so I went back to the Olde World Collection and grabbed "Sicily."  I added it in overlay mode at 50%.  And I was in love.

I really liked the strong vignette and glowy center so that your eye is drawn to the flower.  And I loved the colors that the textures added to the photos.

Two simple steps and my photo became much more interesting.

Check out the products and workshops that Love that Shot has to offer!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

True Story

My daughter is amazingly creative.  She draws. She makes all sorts of things out of duct tape.  She made herself a skirt and even made a jacket for her American Girl doll. WITHOUT A PATTERN. Granted, the lack of stretch meant that it took 45 minutes to get the jacket on the doll, but it fit. And it was cute.  She makes duct tape flowers and duct tape wallets and purses and messenger bags. 
She has made all sorts of Minecraft paraphernalia out of those melty plastic beads: diamond swords and iron swords and bows and even a heart.
Her current obsession is the Rainbow Loom.  If there is a YouTube Video, she can follow the steps and create it.  Hexafish? Nailed it.  Tuxedo?  Nailed it.  Turtle?  Nailed it.  Starburst something-or-other?  Nailed it.
So imagine the head scratching when I pulled this project out of her school papers.  It's a simple, follow-the-directions stitching project.  She cross stitches.  She can follow directions.  She should be able to handle this.  You can see what it is supposed to look like.  Nailed it?  Ummm, no.  Not at all. 

I was seriously shocked.  I just stared at it, trying to figure out what in the world she had done.  I mean those stitches look NOTHING like the project is supposed to.
I shook my head and flipped it over to look at the next paper and then I discovered this:

I had been looking at the back of the project...
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Blowing bubbles in Winter

I've had several people share this article with me about gorgeous frozen bubbles and suggest that I give it a try. Since I live in the Land of Lincoln, the land of weather extremes, I knew it was just a matter of time before a nice cold day would come around. 
Enter Winter Storm Ion.  I sent KJ out the the garage last night to bring the bubble mix inside. It was frozen solid. I was really excited by the prospect of super-cool science and photography all mixed together!  Geeked out!
We went out this morning, with the dog.  Winter is fun! Snowstorms are exciting. The dog loved it for five seconds!  Woo hoo!  Snow! Wind! Doggie winter coat! (She secretly hates us.)

After we put the dog back inside, we got the bubbles out and couldn't wait to create gorgeous bubble art (in15°, 20mph wind weather.)  Yay! Frozen bubbles.

More like, "Yay! Frozen bubble solution." Within 5 minutes, I had bubble slushie.

Sure, I was able to blow bubbles, but the 20 mph winds took them away faster than my frozen fingers could get the camera out.  And even if I had been able to get the camera out, there's no way I could have actually found the bubbles in the viewfinder.  Between the gray sky, snow-covered background and swirling snow, I could barely find them with the naked eye before the wind demolished them. Boo.  Stupid Winter Storm Ion.

There was one that froze and then started to pop and drifted about in the the sky like a deflated balloon.  I consider that my victory.  It was awesome.  Can't you just imagine it?

So, those lovely, frosty bubbles, the ones that look like broken glass that the mom in the article managed to capture with such beauty?  Not so much.  Here's my Central Illinois version of gorgeous, frozen, broken-glass bubbles.

See them there, on the stick?

Nailed it.