Fixing a Dog Photo

Vizsla adjusted with Topaz Black and White

Vizsla portrait adjusted with Topaz Black and White


As I was playing around with the 100mm macro lens that my favorite boy toy lent me, I took pictures of all kinds of things (you can see more of them here and here).  Because I was learning to use it, at one point I switched back to my regular zoom lens for comparison and in the process, took a picture of the Vizsla on the deck.  The lighting was all off, but when I reviewed it later, the composition was good and I decided to see if I could salvage it.

So here’s the original:


Original Vizsla head shot

Whatever I was metering from, the dog is too dark and the background is too light.  I should have changed over to spot metering and blown out the background.

Using Lightroom, I corrected the lighting as best I could, cropped it down, and got this:

Cropped and adjusted for lighting, with a white vignette to cover up the edges

Cropped and adjusted for lighting, with a white vignette to cover up the edges

It’s not a bad photo, but the vertical beams on the deck railing bother me and so does the fence in the background.  I think it would have been better with a background that was totally unrecognizable.  I added a white vignette to it, which helps somewhat and draws your eye to the middle, which is his beautiful head and gray muzzle.

To experiment, I took the picture into Topaz Black and White.  I used the sepia presets and played with it more to successfully fade out the background.  Because he’s already brown, the sepia worked nicely, leaving some color in the head shot.  I also put a frame around the picture, using the eyedropper tool to pick a color in the picture.  In this case, I used his fur and thought it matched nicely for a frame.

Vizsla adjusted with Topaz Black and White

Vizsla portrait adjusted with Topaz Black and White

Ten years or more ago, I took an on-line class for Photoshop Elements (probably version 2 or 3).  One of the class projects was converting a picture to black and white using the selector tool and then putting a frame around it.  Frames weren’t automatic and you had to use layers to make one.  I was and remain proud of that photo of my baby Vizsla.

Can you tell that we never ever let him up on the couch?

Here’s some pictures from three years ago.  There’s some gray on his muzzle, but not much.

One of the contradictions I have with nurturing my creativity is spending enough time with the dogs.  They are quickly growing old and I don’t want regrets that I shut myself away in my home office after working all day and spent more time with the computer than with them.

Lately, my routine is to sit on the couch after supper and cuddle them until they’re reading to leave.  I’ll have a Vizsla plastered to my hip, a miniature pinscher on my lap, and a beagle sitting near my feet to get petted until he’s had enough.  That seems to work for all of us.  After about 30 minutes (give or take), they’re all ready to go to their beds.  They’ve had enough attention and when they leave, I go work on my pictures or my blog.

Here’s the big event – Mom’s coming home from work!  My favorite boy toy snapped it since I can’t see what’s actually waiting on the other side of the door at the end of the day.  Isn’t it just precious?

Mom's home!  Mom's home!

Mom’s home! Mom’s home!

It was fun nurturing my creativity by salvaging a poorly lit but well composed head shot of the dog.  It was also fun to look at the old photos and show off that I have been post processing photos for a long time now.  And laughing at how special I am to my buddies is always a good way to relax and encourage creativity.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.



Categories: 31 Days, Dogs, Pets, Photography, Photoshop Elements, Topaz Labs, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staying Encouraged

"Mom looks tiny compared to the trees" - text message from my daughter to her father and husband.  Little did she know I'd already taken a picture of her looking the same way!

“Mom looks tiny compared to the trees” – text message from my daughter to her father and husband. Little did she know I’d already taken a picture of her looking the same way as she went running that morning!  This picture was taken at Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine.

At some point, every writer wonders if his or her stories are important,
and if anyone will ever care about them. . .
I told  him writing, like Tai Chi, was internal, not external.
It is about feeling and  honesty, if something wants to come out, it needs to come out.
One has to set up a boundary, you write for yourself and  you hope it has meaning to others,
but when you write, you write only for yourself,
you cannot be thinking about what everyone else might feel or say.
Creativity is a coming out, a leap of faith, it is neither simple nor easy,
but it can be profoundly rewarding.
Jon Katz, Author and Blogger

Two years ago, after I’d been blogging for nearly 1.5 years, I had a fairly major case of discouragement about the whole thing.  I hadn’t yet thought out whether I was doing it for myself or for an audience, but I questioned whether it was worth doing in my limited time.

I got a number of thoughtful comments about it, which I eventually wrote up in four posts (start here with Part 1).  To summarize, here is what I was struggling with:

  • Overly high expectations
  • Being perfectionistic about what I was blogging
  • Trying to do everything and not being selective enough
  • Not keeping perspective that I was trying things out and discovering what did and didn’t work
  • Forgetting that my job and its requirements would have an impact on my creative time
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied
  • Overdoing it (at one time, I was trying to keep two blogs)
  • Concern that my posts were worthy of the time my readers spent on them

I finished off with why I blogged:

  • To record my life for my own remembrances
  • To share my life with family and friends
  • To be an encouragement to others
  • I want to write
  • I want myself and everyone around me to enjoy the beauty and laughter that is everywhere

When I start to feel small (like being in the woods at Acadia National Park), I look these lists over and think, I’m not doing bad.  I did neglect my blog this year from January to July, mostly due to the need to take care of myself physically.  That has improved and while I still need a good night’s sleep, I’m not as excessively tired as I was earlier this year due to some medication that I was on.

I’ve made friends through my blogging, which has been wonderful.  Following others, leaving comments, and receiving comments back is like having a bunch of penpals.  During this 31 Day Challenge, I heard regularly from some of my blogging friends.  It’s hard to believe we’ve known each other so long now.  A few friends had been absent for a while and came back recently.  One friend retired from her blog and I’m sorry she couldn’t see what I’m doing here.  And I made new friends!  We’re having fun encouraging each other through the challenge and reading what each of us is up to.  There’s some incredible creativity out in the blogging world and I’ve enjoyed being part of it this month.

But at the end of it all, I have to do it for myself most of all.  My blog friends, comments and likes are all wonderful (thank you all again!), but I have to be careful to not get too invested in them.  Not every post elicits a good response but that doesn’t make it a bad post.  Some of my posts don’t become important until later.  One post that I’ve shared repeatedly when leaving comments is about the death of a pet.  Another post that I often share is about being a working mother.  I never thought those would be shared so often at the time I wrote them.  Others, such as my daughter’s wedding and her baby bump is getting sent around not only to friends, but also to co-workers and consultants because we share our lives with each other and have gotten to know each other as friends and not just a client relationship.  I didn’t expect to share those posts so frequently either.

Recently, Colleen at The Chatter Blog had a wonderful post about singing because you have to sing.  Her post is enthusiastic, contagious, and full of passion.

That’s how I want to write and do my photography – to do it because I have to do it and want to do it.  To do it whether I have an audience or not.  To do it because it’s me and that’s who I am.  And knowing that nurtures my creativity, especially on the days that I don’t feel like buckling down to do the work to be creative, the days I think this doesn’t matter, and the days that I want to just give it all up and be lazy.  It’s much easier to be a passive observer than to do the work to be creative, the learning of new skills and techniques, and the frustration of failing when stepping out of my comfort zone.  Yes, it’s easier, but far less rewarding in the end.

Doesn’t that just sound wonderful and perfect?  And not at all reality, when most night I don’t want to be here working on my blog, I don’t want to be creative.  I want to just relax and unwind, but no. . . here I am, writing up another post.  I’ll be glad for the last day of this challenge, but it’s also been satisfying that I am getting these posts written (and good ones too) and I am building a body of work from this challenge.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Discouragement, Life Lessons, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My One Thing – Storytelling My Life

Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Pick a direction, start marching down that path and
see how you like it.  Time brings clarity and if you find
you don’t like it, you can always change your mind.
It’s your life.
– Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The One Thing

The Short Version

After reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (see my notes on it here), I realized that my ONE Thing is storytelling my life.  Being a writer is too narrow for my life and being a photographer is also too limited.  I desire both and need both to achieve what I want, which is to record and curate my life.

I first read about curating my life on Gretchen Rubin’s blog (here), particularly her comment from a book that said, “self-curate or disappear”.  She expands on this with these questions, all of which I answered “yes” to:

How about you? Do you “self-curate”?
What steps do you take to preserve memories,
to catalog memorabilia, to leave a record of your life,
thoughts, experiences, and to review it?
Do you do it for yourself, or with an eye to an audience?

Wikipedia says curation is, “archiving, historical record keeping”, and that “in general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist. This means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization”.

This is what I do with my journals and photographs.  I keep a historical record of my life that is mostly unpublished and mostly unique, for which no identical copies exist.

No Longer A Writer

I realized earlier this year that being a writer no longer fit me, way before I started contemplating my one thing.  In my journal, I wrote:

What about not being a writer?

I’m okay with that.

I don’t want to be in front of the computer for long periods of time, just staring at it.

I really really hate the thought of writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting all those drafts.  I’d rather watch grass grow – at least I’d be outside!

My imagination / observation is not up to that of authors.  I read all the details they put in to bring a story to life and it just blows past me.  I skip over a fair of that, which is NOT helping develop my skills as a writer either.  But if I find it interferes with the enjoyment of the story, I’d find it tedious to no end to actually write.

My life experience is actually pretty limited to be a writing what goes on in my Walter Mitty imagination.  My real life is narrow and boring with few opportunities to experience what I daydream about.  In other words, I would write without authority or knowledge.  I suppose I could obtain such knowledge through research but my time is limited, my energy is low, and my desire to do so is non-existent.

And the photography? It’s easier for me, goes faster, I have my favorite boy toy as a resource,  and people would rather look at picture than read something thoughtful anyhow.

So I guess I want to keep my journals, but for now, nothing more beyond that.

After I wrote that, I stared at it for a couple of days, then grieved.  I wasn’t ready to give up being a writer, something I thought all my life I would do.  So I decided to not give it up.

And a few days later realized that yes, this door was closed for now.  It really was good to decide that I’m not a writer.

Not Only a Photographer Either

As the summer went on, I realized that I didn’t want to be just a photographer either.  It would have been easy enough to convert my blog to mostly photographs.  I’m capable of some really good work and have enough inventory that I could post a daily picture for a fairly lengthy period before I’d run out of ideas.

But that didn’t suit me either.  Just as being a writer was too limiting, being only a photographer didn’t contribute enough.

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Being a Storyteller

That’s when I realized that I wanted to tell stories from my life, with both writing and photography.  They complement each other and together give a fuller, more rounded story, the story of me.  Something to remember my life by and hopefully pass to generations after me.

Per Wikipedia, “storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences”, which is what I want to do.

Margaret Heffernan wrote an article in Inc. about a narrative template for storytelling, called ABT, that said:

So if you start with your information (And)
but only pile on information, you lose momentum
and a sense of destination. So you have to
move on to your challenges (But) and then
imagine a resolution (Therefore).

I haven’t overly focused on technique, but it matches what I try to do.  I make a point, share from my life how I executed (or failed) and why it was important to me.  As with anything, it doesn’t work everytime, but I get (and appreciate) the comments that you all are relating to many things that I post in my blog.

As I’m writing this, I did some research on Google about storytelling techniques.  Needless to say, there are all kinds of hints and tips out there. had a useful list of tips for those telling verbal stories that also applies to what I’m doing.  Two particularly good reminders were to tell stories that I like and to not hesitate to remove slow moving parts.  Amanda Lewan’s blog post is directed to the fiction writer, but she has a good reminder to show, don’t tell.

I’ve been working on this approach for a while and need to continue honing my skill at storytelling my life.  For now though, for my creative side, this is my ONE Thing.  Identifying it and writing it out nurtures my creativity by giving me focus and helping me prioritize my time and efforts.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Goals & Resolutions, Maine (Acadia National Park), Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The One Thing – Book Review

View from Cadillac Mountain, Mount Desert Island, Maine.  This was taken from the Blue Hill Overlook.

View from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. This was taken from the Blue Hill Overlook.

It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants.
The question is, what are we busy about?
– Henry David Thoreau

Among the things I’ve done recently to nurture my creativity is to finish the book, “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.  I’ve been reading it off and on all year, going back over parts several times.  More information and resources can be found at their website,

Below are some of the parts that I highlighted because it really spoke to me.

My purpose here is to create a short list that I can refer to going forward.  The book is much more involved than this, with lots of examples of how to apply to this and pitfalls to watch out for.  The constant theme is encouragement that I can do this – it’s within reach.  But I have to act on it.  Reading about it, thinking about it, and talking about it is not enough to reach my goals.

  • Not everything matters equally
  • Success is sequential, not simultaneous.  You do the right thing and then the next right thing, building success over time.
  • Only ONE Thing can be the most important.
  • No one succeeds alone.
  • Passion and skill are connected.  Passion leads to disproportionate time practicing or working on something.  When skills improve, results improve, which leads to more enjoyment, more passion, and more time invested.
  • Achievers work from a clear sense of priority.
  • Multitasking is a lie and exacts a cost few realize they’re paying.
  • We don’t need more discipline than we have right now.  What we need is the habit of doing it and just enough discipline to build the habit.
  • Build one habit at a time and give it enough time (66 days at least) to get solidly established.
  • Willpower always being on will-call is a lie.  Willpower has a limited supply and has to be managed like food or sleep (see the extensive list of what taxes willpower in Chapter 7).
  • A balanced life is a lie.  Time on One Thing takes away time from another.
  • We have to envision our own journeys, make our own maps, and create our own compasses.  What we want doesn’t come with a set of instructions.
  • See Chapter 11 for the focusing questions to help identify my ONE thing.
  • Productivity is driven by purpose and priority.
  • I need to know what matters to me and take daily actions in alignment with it.
  • Goal setting needs to work from the distant future back to right now.
  • Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another (Walter Elliot).
  • My biggest challenge is likely to be my need to do other things besides my ONE Thing.
  • It takes elite performers 10 years to gain mastery.
  • The four thieves of productivity are the inability to say no, fear of chaos, poor health habits and an environment that doesn’t support my goals (both people and physical surroundings).
  • Success is an inside job.
  • Chapter 8 has a great discussion about balancing our lives.  For our personal life, the authors talk about the need for tight counterbalancing and that the need to avoid long periods where we’re out of balance.  For our work lives, it will be necessary to be out of balance for long periods to achieve extraordinary results.  They include a quote by the author James Patterson, that describes our personal life as glass balls which if dropped, are irrevocably scuffed, nicked or shattered, whereas our work life is like a rubber ball that bounces back.

I see where I’ve done many of these things at work.  I unwillingly took a job doing state income taxes, only to find out I was very good at it (I wrote the story up here).  The more I practiced and studied, the better I became.  Over time, I pared away the things that kept me from being an expert in my field and concentrated on mastery.  Although I will never know it all, I know more than many people do about corporate state income taxes.

So for my next post the question will be, how do I apply that to my creativity?

Note from yesterday’s post – I went back and added another item to my checklist of what I need to remember for next time.  I also added in some more blooper pictures.  I did a lot of experimenting and it’s a shame to not display all my ideas, even though they didn’t work.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.



Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Goals & Resolutions, Life Lessons, Passion, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bloopers and Practicing Failure

This week’s assignment for my close-up photography course (I discussed in more detail here) was to use items from the kitchen or bathroom.  The three above turned out really well.  I especially like the bubbles that’s almost entirely green.  But wait until you see what didn’t turn out.

I spent all afternoon working on this and by the end, was really frustrated.  Not only did I feel like a real fumble fingers trying to do this, but a lot of what I tried didn’t turn out.  Some of it was that my subject matter was just bad.  Others were bad technique, from not paying attention to the composition to being out of focus.

I did this outside on the deck and what  mess!  Eventually I realized that the tripod was not helping.  I had to move around to catch my subject matter and I couldn’t predict ahead of time where my focal point would be.  My favorite boy toy helped me figure out how to keep that cardboard upright (there’s a box behind it, plus the two Windex bottles to push it back against the box).  Sitting on the stool gave me the right height, but only some of the time.  The sun got really hot, but not until after I’d brought out the chocolate to photograph with the tea.

Geez, what a mess.  The only thing not here is the miniature pinscher who is off to the left, guarding me from elderly women taking a walk.

Geez, what a mess. The only thing not seen here is the miniature pinscher who is off to the left, guarding me from elderly women taking a walk.

So here are some things that I learned:

  • Pay attention to the composition!!!!
  • Keep a spoon, fork, and little bowl out there with me to dip out gunk that floats to the top.
  • Be sure to remove any little insects that fly into the tea, using the same fork and spoon.
  • Have a towel to clean the white plate off from melting chocolate and whatever else mars it.
  • Have a back-up towel and back-up white plates for when the chocolate gets too messy.
  • If I don’t want condensation on my clear glass teapot, brew the tea beforehand and let it cool.  THEN pour it into the pot.
  • If I want to see steam coming from the teapot, wait for a colder day.
  • It was great that I wiped down all the glasses I’d be using.  It’s too bad I didn’t do that with my clear teapot too.  Next time, run it through the dishwasher the night before to get rid of all the greasy fingerprints and water spots.
  • When I buy chocolate for my pictures, buy a few extra pieces to eat too so I don’t have to wait until this is all done to have a treat.
  • Be careful about the shape of the chocolate that I’m buying.  The two half domes of truffles looked like. . . tits on the plate.  And the two round truffle balls looked like, well, I didn’t like them.  I liked the squares and rectangles the best.
  • When I’m putting the chocolate on the plates, pay attention to how the end looks that faces the camera.  Sheez, that should have been simple.  Ya’ think??
  • I disliked the plain white background.  Later I figured how to put my colored dishtowels onto the backdrop – way later.
  • Move the grill so I’m not cloning out reflections.

I’m sure there’s more to add to the list, but that’s a good start for when I do this again.

So here’s the bloopers.  If you roll over the picture, you’ll get a little commentary as well.  I’ve removed the profanity from the captions.

So did this nurture my creativity?  I’m sure it did, but I don’t think I’ll actually feel that way until after I do this a few more times.  There was too much I didn’t know about what I was doing or how to do this.  Setting up and getting into position should be faster and easier the next time.  I know what didn’t work with my subject matter, so I can go onto new ideas to try.  And the compositions that worked, I can go farther with.

I also have a list now to refer to and that should help me get everything ready to go with less hassle and less trips back and forth for what I forgot.  Not that it took me 4+ trips to get the fork and spoon, then a bowl, then a white towel.  And then a second white towel because there was too much chocolate on the first one.  Then another white plate because the chocolate made too much of a mess.  Did I need more chocolate because what I was working got too soft?  Yes, indeed, that was another trip into the house.

The flip side to this is the question – do I want to work this hard for some pictures?  I enjoy my photography and having nice pictures to post with my blogs.  But it took precious time away from other things.  I didn’t get a walk, I didn’t relax, I got no chores done.  I’m thankful my favorite boy toy took care of meals and getting the dogs back from their monthly bath at PetSmart.

Nurturing my creativity also includes prioritizing my time and wisely pursuing what is of interest to me.  For these class assignments, I can’t just throw up my camera and snap a few photos.  I want something that I can be proud of and enjoy looking at later.  I accomplished that, but I have to decide if it was worth the price.  It very well may be, but I have to think that over more.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.



Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Photography, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Walk in October (2014)

I went to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens last weekend.  I wanted a walk, I wanted some fresh air, and I wanted to see what was new for picture taking.

What a change from just three weeks earlier!  Many of the flowers that had been in bloom were no longer there.  The top row of the gallery above is what I saw in October; the bottom row is from September.  There were still things to see, but only the rose was brightly colored.

My first clue as to how much the garden had changed was as soon as I walked out the doors of the visitors center.  The lush greenery and flowers around the fountain were gone and in its place, some rather sparse potted plants.

A few more feet out and the next fountain was actually shut off (the only picture I could find of the fountain working is from April 2012; the fountain is to the far left of the photo).

The greenhouse fared no better.  All those lovely red flowers and yellow bromeliads from the photo on the left were gone.  Violas, a winter hardy pansy, were waiting in pots to be planted.

The gardens on the side path leading to the greenhouse were also gone (left photo).  The dahlias, lantanas, and orange gerbera daisies were all gone, replaced by more violas.

I saw only one – ONE – bee the entire time.  There were no butterflies, no dragonflies, no wasps, and few birds.  Of course, with how few flowers there were, I wasn’t overly surprised.  But still, it was warm enough I would have expected to see at least a few bees getting a last load of pollen before winter.

I did see Christmas lights and they were lit up too!  You have to look closely due to how bright it was outside, but those yellow dots on the shrub and the white dots on the ground cover next to it are Christmas lights.

Did I have fun?  Of course!  There’s always something to take a picture of and as I said at the beginning, the opportunity for a walk and some fresh air is important too.  So here’s a few more things that I saw last weekend.

Remember to keep looking for beauty everywhere.  Enjoy the seasons, such as they are.  And take a walk to get some fresh air, everyday if possible.

Go outside.  Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone.
Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road
like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads
day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. 
We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking
and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. 
Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. 
Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. 
And that’s the point.  Just walk, see, sit down if you like. 
And be.  Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have,
and realise that that is enough to be happy.
~ Charlotte Eriksson

To wrap up – did this nurture my creativity?  Actually, it was a difficult post for me.  I had to scan two sets of photographs, looking for commonalities and differences and keep a storyline straight.  It would have been so much easier to just post what I saw on my walk in October, but that didn’t accomplish what I wanted to set out.  So yes, trying something different did nurture my creativity and give me ideas for future ideas with showing my photography.

To see what others are doing for their Walks in October (or contribute your own link-up), click here.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.




Categories: 31 Days, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Seasons, Virginia, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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