Grandpa and Baby Conspire

I have new baby pictures, including a short video of Grandpa conspiring against me with the baby.

I’m trying out Vimeo for the first time. To see the video, enter the password baby.

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And for your laughter, here are some other pictures. I would like to point out that the furry ears are not from our side of the family. My son-in-law is responsible for those. It’s all his fault.

One last set of pictures – there are actually two babies in the household. And from time to time, they both sleep at the same time too! These pictures were captured just a few minutes apart.

So I hope you had some smiles and laughter before you return to your day.


Cat #3 aka the kitten. Seal point Siamese cat.

Evolution of Digital Cameras

As much as I love digital photography, I’m glad it’s improved so very much. So when this week’s photo challenge was to show the word blur, I thought I’d share how far the cameras have come since 2001.

Back when digital cameras were new, I bought an upper end point-and-shoot, the Canon Pro90. I quickly discovered that a) the cats moved faster than the camera could record and b) the flash was waaaaay too bright. In fact, the picture on the left was the primary reason I continued shooting with both film and digital for several years after we brought the kitten home. As for the picture on the right, everytime digital photography improves, I try again to save it. This is the best I could do using Topaz Black & White. I like the picture, which is the only reason I don’t delete it.

By the way, having the flash too bright remains a perpetual problem for me. Here are two more! The Vizsla on the left was taken in 2011 with the Canon PowerShot G12 (also a point-and-shoot). I took my daughter last fall with the Canon EOS 6D, an upper end DSLR. I used an add-on flash with it and clearly didn’t understand how to use it, although the next few photos turned out  much better (click here to see).

But to return to the topic of old digital cameras – blurry cat photos and overexposure on the flash weren’t the only problems in 2001. That first digital camera had a bad problem with chromatic aberration, where the pixels get chunky and sprout weird colors. This is due to the low pixel count. When you start doing any adjustments to the pictures, the pixels start corrupting.

With only minimal adjustments made (to lighten the shadows), you can see that there’s something a little weird about the picture on the left. It’s got faint traces of pink and purple on the fur. The picture on the right was somewhat cleaned up using Topaz DeJpeg and looks good as long as you don’t get too close. It just isn’t possible to do much else to this picture without the chromatic aberration getting worse.

Because when you get close, this is how it looks. Those weird squiggles are called jpg artifacts, which is caused by the same problem of not enough pixels.

By 2005, I’d upgraded to the Canon PowerShot Pro1. This picture is noisy (i.e., grainy) – the lighting was too low and I didn’t use flash – but the chromatic aberration is minimal. This picture is straight from the camera without any adjustments. With adjustment, it wouldn’t be so yellow. I still wouldn’t expect it to have much aberration as the camera technology is so much better.

So, here’s the kitten in 2001 with some crisp digital pictures:

And here’s a blurry kitten that couldn’t quite get caught on camera, especially when he’s doing the dance of joy because a camera bag provocatively dangled its straps on the stairs. I took out the battery and pushed it towards him to see what he would do and the dance of joy got wilder, even though he couldn’t carry it away.

By 2005, he was a gorgeous hunk of muscle with the full markings of a seal point Siamese cat:

Cat #3 aka the kitten. Seal point Siamese cat.

Cat #3 aka the kitten. Seal point Siamese cat.

Some of these pictures were previously posted. The kitten at play is here and the three cats are here.

To see how others interpreted the challenge, click here.

 

 

 

 


Tree Creates Portal to a Fantasy World

The finalist in all the experimenting.

The finalist in all the experimenting.

It’s time once again for ABFriday – After & Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing. This month’s photo was submitted by a fellow blogger, Cee Neuner.  To see her interpretation, click here. Click here to see all the other interpretations over at Visual Venturing.

Here’s the original photo:

Original photo by Cee Neuner

Original photo by Cee Neuner

As you see, the house is a bit ugly and a lot cluttered. I found it pretty uninspiring except for that tree.  I’m sure is why Cee took that picture – that tree is fantastic. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, where the movie starts in black and white, and when Dorothy hits her head and starts her adventure, it all goes to beautiful technicolor. I needed to know WHAT was behind that door. Curious minds wanted to know or better yet, invent a new world.

In my defense, this is all Stacy Fisher and Laura Macky’s fault. Laura added a moon into the February challenge (here), which made Stacy reposition March’s cherub into Seattle (here).  That made me decide to try compositing on this photograph! My skill set for masking, layers, and composites was minimal, so I found a great course on lynda.com by Julieanne Kost called, “Introduction to Photo Compositing”. It helped me tremendously and I played it a number of times as I worked with this.
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To that end, I experimented repeatedly and my bloopers are below.
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My first try was to mask the background so that only the tree remained, then drop the tree into a different picture so that you looked through the the outline of the tree to see a doorway beyond it. Good idea, but nothing worked. My technique is poor; had I liked any of the pictures, I would have cleaned that up more.

I decided instead to leave the house in, but change the doorway. The clouds only wasn’t quite enough, so I made the whole doorway into a fantasy portal that was lined with flowers. The desaturated result was a close second to the winner. I liked the petunias around the doorway, but the shape of the flowers just wasn’t quite right for what I was trying to do. Had I liked these, I would have gone back to the masks on the tree and restored more of the foliage above the door so the line wasn’t quite so straight (which I changed in the final photo).

I finally hit on a good look, but it still took a while to get my technique down. I created masks for the doorway and windows, then using free transform, worked in an image from Colonial Williamsburg that showed a house with the long path leading up to it. I only had that one photo with the blue sky from that shoot, so I used it for the door and both windows, adjusting with free transform to change the appearance of the trees and clouds. This kept the coloring the same for the sky and trees, which were brilliantly colored that day.

I did some minor cloning on the front steps, adjusted brightness, and added a frame from onOne. It sounds easy, but it took me a good amount of time to get something that I liked. To create the mask, I used a brush with a straight edge on it. Later, my favorite boy toy showed me several other tools that would have made the masking go much faster, as well as how to copy over the mask layers from one picture to another.
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But I got it done and completed a goal I’d had of learning how to use masks and layers better. I certainly got that accomplished (thanks Cee!).

Interested in how I post processed other photos?  Click here to see more.


A Late Winter Walk

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
– Henry David Thoreau

A few days before the official start of spring, I took a walk at one of my favorite places, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The shadows were lovely, even though the trees are still bare. The crocus were in bloom – just barely – so spring is definitely on its way.

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The last time I shared pictures from the botanical gardens, it was still early fall (click here to see) and there was an abundance of colors all over. The day I took these photos did not have such. I still enjoyed being there, but had kept my expectations low as to what I would see.

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

When the leaves are down, I see things that are otherwise covered up. I made that observation years ago and it’s still true today.

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Here’s another view of the greenhouse. I don’t normally stand this far back, but I loved the composition of the center of the greenhouse against the empty trees.

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I also don’t normally photograph the bridge from the gazebo (my gazebo shots are usually taken from the bridge though!), but once again, I liked how the light played with the shapes. Plus it was pretty empty, so I didn’t have to wait so long to get pictures without people in them.

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I’ve noticed when I walk the dogs around the neighborhood that the leaves are sounding like fall when they skitter across the blacktopped road. We have a lot of old oak trees around the homes here and they don’t drop their leaves until they’re nearly ready to start putting out new green ones. So everyday there’s more leaves on the grass, the cars, and skittering around in the wind.

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I was cold. I didn’t wear a winter coat, but I was wearing a heavier hat and my fingerless gloves.

Self-portrait

Self-portrait

The greenhouse was its usual oasis of warmth and bright colors. I love going in there when it’s cold out! Years ago, a fellow blogger (Patti at A New Day Dawns) left me a comment that the greenhouse was like dessert after a cold day in the garden. I laughed then and I still laugh now at that, because that’s exactly what it reminds me each time I go in there when the garden has so little color. In fact, some of the pictures that I took in January 2012 had more color and foliage than I found in mid-March of 2015.

That statue had a little brown spider (most likely a wolf spider, nothing more) on its head. I didn’t realize it until I was nearly done shooting the picture and the spider moved! And yep, every one of my carefully composed pictures had that little spider on it. I did clone out of the final photo above. Still, wish I’d known it was there. I would have come back later to take the pictures.

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I enjoyed the beauty of the day. No, it’s not the over-the-top cacophony of colors that I see from April to October. But it was pretty, the fresh air was great, and I enjoyed finding new photos that I wouldn’t have probably taken when the trees were in full leaf. It was a good day.


Walls of Creativity, Part 2

Continuing with this week’s photo challenge of walls, another great exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) was that of Japanese woodblock prints.

There were two exhibits – prints from Kawase Hasui (1883 to 1957) and a commission from a more contemporary artist, Miwako Nishizawa.

Sign to the Kawase Hasui Exhibit

Sign to the Kawase Hasui exhibit

Unfortunately, I could not take pictures at the Kawase Hasui exhibit. I watched a film of his process and how the woodblock prints are made, which was interesting. The chisels and knives used to carve out the prints and the precision to get it done was incredible. This process took years to learn and Hasui had two different men who helped him – one that created the woodblock and the other that mixed the dyes and created the print. Hasui’s work is on display on the Internet at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and also at the Hanga Gallery. The Hanga Gallery can be accessed by clicking here, then at the top selecting the artist Hasui, Kawase.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide a direct link.  Note also that these links are good at this time; if they stop working, please let me know.

Miwako does her own woodblock prints, from creating the woodblock to making the print itself. She taught a class at the VMFA and made a short video of the woodblock process:

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Miwako was commissioned to do an exhibit “Twelve Views of Virginia“. She spent considerable time traveling around the state, taking sketches, and deciding on how to best convey what Virginia is about. I know many of the places she visited – Skyline Drive, Colonial Williamsburg, Natural Bridge, Hollywood Cemetery, Manassas National Battlefield. Others were not familiar to me, but her work made me feel that I would easily recognize them when I visit.

The display also had information showing her sketches and preliminary work, as well as other information about the exhibit. I don’t recognize the sketches in any of the woodblock prints, so it is likely they were studies she did but ultimately did not use.

One other curious thing that my favorite boy toy and I both noticed was that almost every picture had three stamps on it – two black ones together and a red one on the other side. We’re not sure what they signified but we speculated it could be the stamp of authenticity by the woodblock preparer, the inker, and the artist.

The Kawase Hasui exhibit and Twelve Views of Virginia commission were donated courtesy of VMFA members René Balcer and his wife, Carolyn Hsu-Balcer. Carolyn grew up in Richmond and is active in education and the arts. René is known as a television writer, director and producer. His shows include Law & Order and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I very much enjoyed their generosity in viewing these exhibits and am fortunate to have such beautiful things available to me here in my hometown.

Part 1 of Walls of Creativity is here. To see what others did with this week’s challenge, click here.

 


Walls of Creativity, Part 1

During a recent visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA), I came across an exhibit of 20th and 21st Century Art. Although I’m often not a fan of what is in these galleries, they changed since the last time I walked through there and I was impressed by their creativity. For this week’s photo challenge of “walls“, I wanted to share some of what I saw.


 

Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

This sculpture is cast from a real model, with the scars and blemishes added in as the artist created her. What fascinated me was that despite the gray tones used on her skin, she was so life like! I fully expected her to lift her head up from the wall and say “gotcha!”. Her muscle tone, stretch marks (look at her right hip), and nails were just perfect.

Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

Here’s a close-up of some details:


 

The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a-Cinchin’ by Trenton Doyle Hancock

There’s so much to notice on this picture! I found it easy to look at though – the artist does a good job of moving your eyes around it without causing mass confusion. As for meaning, it’s whatever I, the viewer, want to make of it. Is it about the glory of something past? Or feeling like I’ve never arrived? Is it a commentary on work and climbing the corporate ladder? It’s hard to tell, but I found myself thinking about it for quite a while.

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The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a-Cinchin’ by Trenton Doyle Hancock

Here’s a close-up of some details:


 

Zero Hour from the Wayfarer Series by Hank Willis Thomas

According to the sign, this exhibit was to explore assumptions and attitudes about black identity, as well being “an emblem of racial hybridity”. This is the reason for why the model is half black / half in white face.

There were several notable things about this exhibit. As you can see, the model turns from fully black to partially black / partially white to all white as you move from right to left. The glass is frosted, so that no matter where you stand, only one panel is in focus. The rest is blurry. And it seemed that because of that, the model was looking right at you no matter where you stood.

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Zero Hour from the Wayfarer Series by Hank Willis Thomas

 


 

Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey

Surprisingly, this was not about Christopher Columbus (notice there is only one ship). It was about slavery. The artists’ ancestors escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad by following the North Star. The ship represents passage from Africa, the glass is displacement, and the map is the Mason-Dixon line along with the regiment numbers of blacks who served in the Civil War.

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Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey

Here’s some detail:


 

Four Men in Formal Attire (after Guston) by Charles McGill

Before I explain this picture, take a close look at it. Does it remind you of anything? It did me and I don’t mean in a positive way either. It strongly reminded me of the hoods of the Ku Klux Klan.

Reading the description, that is what the artist wanted. I’d even go another step and say that the rims of the golf bags remind me of chains used to bind slaves together around their waists. I would have never imagined golf bags to be so evocative, which is why I found this so creative.

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Four Men in Formal Attire (after Guston) by Charles McGill


 

Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira

This was the first museum piece sold by this artist. It consists of plywood that has been soaked, stained and painted. In the end, it looks like driftwood, doesn’t it?

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Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira


Here are the wall cards explaining each picture. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. Whether you like what the artist did or not, it was certainly different!

To see what others did with this challenge, click here.

 


The Joy of Common Work

Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

. . . Do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
– Robert Lewis Stevenson

It’s easy for me to get caught up in wanting everything fancy, just like I think everyone else has it.

But of course, very few have everything fancy. For most of us, we have to cook and wash dishes, do laundry, clean, and take care of our children and / or pets.

There’s a joy in it – in the routine of scrubbing pots, folding clothes or sweeping floors. There’s a joy in the pleasure of a dog when you’ve bent over next to them to put on your shoes and they can look up at you and wag their tail.

Joy is everywhere, but we have to remind ourselves to seek it and be aware of it in the little things in our lives. To not let daily living overwhelm the sweet little things of our everyday actions.


For your amusement, below is the original and some experiments. I like the one that includes the “worn brick” texture and really found it hard to choose between it and the one I finally used. Both look good, but for different reasons.