What Is Orange?

So what is orange?

Orange is warmth and sunlight, whether on my face or basking in a smile from my daughter.

My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.  Post processed with Topaz Effects "Exposure Correction" and on1 frame "Platinum Brush".
My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.

Orange is the glory of flowers, showing off their brilliance for all to see and enjoy.

Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  Processed with Topaz Impressions "Abstract 2" and on1 border "Dano".
Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

It is delicate sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Sunset in Richmond, Virginia.  Post processed with Topaz Effects "Warm Tone 2" and on1 border "Sloppy Border 8".
Sunset in Richmond, Virginia.

It is fruits and vegetables, lined up gaily, whether for eating or decorations.

20111031 (170) Blog
Pumpkins taken in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

 

Orange is the first beauty of fall, the beginning of the long slide into winter (of which I’ve had enough, thank you).

Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.  Processed in Lightroom with on1 border "Ghost Effect Black".
Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

It’s the color of a beagle’s head, waiting to be petted.

Beagle in the backyard.  Post processed with Topaz Impressions "Oil Painting by Jim LaSala" and on1 border "Russell".
Beagle in the backyard.

To see how others interpreted this week’s photo challenge for orange, click here.

Inspiration and A Funny Story

I’d like to thank Robin at Reflections For My Soul. The flowers she posted reminded me of warmth and sunlight. The day I viewed them, we had just had sleet and snow and then the temperatures went below freezing and stayed there.

Funny story there – I have two Robin’s who follow my blog and regularly leave comments. Yep, two of them. So when Robin at Reflections For My Soul started following me, I was initially confused, thinking that Robin at Breezes at Dawn had changed her avatar from the pictures of her crossed feet to that of a western style hat. It took me a few days to realize that no, I actually had two blogging friends named Robin and they were not the same person.

Before and After

Interested in the before and after of these photos? The sunset was truly that spectacular, being caused by a fire in the Great Dismal Swamp (yes, that’s really it’s name), causing a high level of air pollution due to the particulates it was throwing up.  The best camera is the one you have with and that night it was my old Canon point and shoot, the Pro1. It didn’t have a lot of megapixels, but I got the shot! I posted another version of this several years ago, here.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had some discussions with Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing and Dee & Gee at Dee Gee’s Photograph Australia about camera gear and post processing our pictures. The reason I bring it up is to encourage you to look closer at these pictures. It is wonderful to have good gear, which is why I upgraded last year from the Canon Rebel 3Ti to a Canon 6D.  It’s also wonderful to use camera raw to get some extra help when post processing your photos.

But we can take the pictures from the old point and shoots, the pictures we took in jpg instead of camera raw, and the pictures that are just marginal, and make them better. They’re still usable! Yes, they might be better with a better camera, but at least for me, it was an evolution. My husband about sat on me to get to me upgrade my old point and shoot to a DSLR, the Rebel (I wouldn’t spend more than that). Even then, I wouldn’t shoot raw nor was I using Lightroom yet. Finally – FINALLY – I started using Lightroom. Cee Neuner and Steve Schwartzman in the blogging community encouraged me to shoot raw when I asked how they were shooting reds without the colors looking muddy.  My husband was happy for someone else to convince me to do it since he was unable to do so.

So here are the before and after shots, with the camera and type of shot used. Remember that with a jpg, the camera is making post processing decisions for you. That is why, straight out of the camera, a jpg looks pretty good. With camera raw, the camera makes no or minimal decisions, depending on your settings. You have to tell it everything, which is why the raw pictures below look so poor. The upside is there is a great more data available, so a picture can be really pushed with processing before it develops problems.

Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using camera raw:

Taken with the Canon Powershot Pro1, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:

So stay encouraged. Keep taking pictures. Keep improving. And keep using the old pictures as well as the new. You’ve worked hard for your inventory and even if you can’t use them now, who knows what future software will make them usable?

For those who read this all the way to the bottom (thank you!), here is a final thought:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.
– Frederick Buechner, American writer and theologian

Have a good week!

 

Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 3

The final picture after processing.
The final picture after processing.  Taken at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Habor, Maine.

Last week, I started a technical series of how to post process photos of stained glass windows.  In Part 1, I went over taking and selecting which photo to use, making adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, and moving the picture to Adobe Photoshop for more complex work.

Part 2 showed how to correct for distortion (i.e., keystone effect) and adding in a hue / saturation layer.

Now that a hue / saturation layer is in place, it’s time to create a mask.  The mask blocks out what part of the picture I don’t want adjusted with the next step.  In this case, I will block out the background, then invert the mask (i.e., turn it inside out) so that any changes I make will adjust the background only and leave the stained glass alone.

Add in a hue saturation layer in order to darken the background.
Add in a hue saturation layer in order to darken the background.

On the hue / saturation layer, click the white box (see where the down arrow is pointing).  Another box will open up to the left, which I’ve put a big circle around.

To the far left are two boxes that should be black and white.  When I hover the mouse over them, they are called the foreground and background color.  Make sure the black is on top as shown here.  If it isn’t, click the tiny double arrow (shown with the tiny circle around it) to reverse the boxes.  If the black box isn’t on top, this won’t work right.  If my boxes have different colors in them, I click the itty bitty boxes next to the tiny double arrow.  That will restore the default colors of black and white.  I will have to click the double arrow to put the black box back on top.

Yes, itty bitty is a technical term, although I don’t think Adobe has it copyrighted :)

Click the mask and make sure the right colors get used when brushing the mask in.
Click the mask and make sure the right colors get used when brushing the mask in.

Now it’s time to brush in a mask and cover up the background.

Continue reading “Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 3”

Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 2

St. Saviour's Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine
Image after all post processing is done.  Taken at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine

In my last post, I began a technical series of how I processed some photos that I took of stained glass.  Click here for Part 1, which explains how I selected the photo and began processing in Adobe Lightroom.  Click here to see the original post with all the photos.

At the end of the last post, I finished my initial edits in Lightroom and loaded the picture into Adobe Photoshop for further editing.  This begins with what I did next in Photoshop to improve the picture.

The first thing I do is create a duplicate layer.  This way, if something goes wrong, the layer can be deleted, a new one created, and I can start all over again.  In other words, I haven’t altered the original photo.  If I make a mistake and forget to add the layer, I save it right away with a new name so that I don’t accidentally overlay my original photo.  If something goes wrong, I have to delete the entire photo, but it’s better than having ruined the original photo.

To duplicate the layer, right click on the layer, which is shown in the down arrow and mostly hidden under the pop-up box.  On the pop-up box, click duplicate layer.  When the next box comes up, you can name the new layer or not.  You can always change the name later by double clicking on the name of the layer and then editing it.

Create a duplicate layer before doing anything.  This way if something goes wrong, you can delete the layer and start again.
Create a duplicate layer before doing anything. This way if something goes wrong, you can delete the layer and start again.

Continue reading “Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 2”

Baby Bump

There are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
— anticipation (looking forward to it)
— savoring (enjoying it in the moment)
— expression (sharing your pleasure with others)
— reflection (looking back on happy times –
  which is why it may be a good idea to take pictures,
  keep a one-sentence journal, collect mementos, etc.)
– Gretchen Rubin
Author, The Happiness Project

Here are the much requested photos of the baby bump!  And I had to get my daughter in a lobster bib. . . not once, but twice!  And oh, look – Junior wanted some blueberry pie to eat.  Yum!

How do you like that baby bump?  What’s that you say?  She’s starting her sixth month and that’s it?  Yep, that’s it.  Of course being as tall as she is helps quite a bit, plus all her exercise and fitness.  I’m 6″ shorter; by that point in my pregnancy I looked like I swallowed a volleyball.

She’s looking good though and she felt good for the trip.  I had warned her that I’d be taking pictures, so she was a good sport about it.

As for nurturing my creativity, some nights it’s fun to just sit and work on photos.  It’s fun (and nurturing) to look through them, process them without a lot of correction, and simply enjoy reliving the moment they were taken.  The quote above was from Gretchen Rubin’s blog and the post can be read in its entirety here.  Tonight was expression and reflection of a happy memory and fun with my daughter before the baby comes.

I’m not sure which one is my favorite, but I think her holding the blueberry pie is the one I like best.  She has such a pretty expression on her face!

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.

#write31days

Stained Glass in Maine

During my recent weekend in Maine, my daughter and I went into St. Saviour’s Episcopoal Church in Bar Harbor.  She waited patiently as I oohed and aahed over the stained glass, then proceeded to take a bunch of pictures.  According to its website, the church is the “oldest, largest and tallest public building on Mt. Desert Island”.

I offer a selection of those photos as my interpretation of this week’s photo challenge on refraction, which Wiktionary defines as, “the turning or bending of any wave, such as a light or sound wave, when it passes from one medium into another of different optical density”.  These windows were so very detailed that the light coming through was a jumble of bright colors.

I’d like to blithely expound on how this nurtured my creativity.  Well, it didn’t.  I found it frustrating and time consuming, although the end result was quite good.  I think once I get over being frustrated, I’ll be happy for the time I spent on it, but I’m not quite there yet.

Processing these took most of today.  The top 1/3 of several of them were overly dark, I think due to eaves on the outside.  Once I got them looking good, the backgrounds lightened up and the wood paneled walls showed up as maroon noise.  Ack!  My favorite boy toy made several trips upstairs to answer questions and teach me how to use layers and masks in Photoshop.  I got it figured it out too!  So that’s good.  I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so much long.  As is typical with the learning curve, it took me as long to do the first one as it did to do the rest of them together.  Of course, I was doing laundry too, so there were interruptions to hang up and put away clothes.

The pictures were a challenge to take, which is why they needed so much processing.  Thankfully my photography has improved enough that I could switch to manual mode and use spot metering to determine the optimal settings.  However, anything that was lightly colored was blown out (i.e., it showed no detail).  I had to keep slowing down my speed to darken the photos.  Worse yet, I had no tripod and wasn’t sure the church would like me setting on up anyhow.  So I hand held as best as I could, increased my ISO, and hoped for the best.

Below is how it looked before I processed it.  Everything is crooked (something I do too frequently).  The panel of three also has keystoning.  The left and right windows leaned in and while it didn’t look bad, I used transform in Photoshop to straighten them out.  And oops, I also included what my daughter was doing as I took pictures.  She was so intent on her phone, she didn’t notice me taking her picture with my cell phone.

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.

 #write31days

Working A Day Job – Part 1

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine.  Taken at 7:30 am.
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. Taken at 7:30 am.

“I find that having a day job is one of the best things
that in the world that could happen to me,” he once said.
“It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life,
I am just as free as I want to be and of course
I have nothing to worry about the money.”
Wallace Stevens, American Poet, as quoted in
Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry

It’s not a surprise that working a day job interferes with nurturing my creativity.  I need it – predictably – to pay the bills, provide benefits for my family, and to foster a valuable career.  I’m thankful to have a good job, although it hasn’t happened by accident.  God has blessed me richly with my employment, in addition to a lot of work and hard effort.

But how do I reconcile the two – my creativity and my employment, especially when I’m working a lot of overtime?

There are several ways I frame this up for myself, to keep myself encouraged when it seems my photography and writing are far from me in my daily life:

  • My commute to work is short.
  • I’ve learned discipline.
  • I am exposed to all kinds of technology.
  • I have a highly developed business knowledge.
  • I have the money to do my photography and writing.

My Commute Time

I have my daughter to thank for this one, when one day during year end close, I was complaining about all the overtime.  She pointed out how short my commute was by today’s standards.  Most days it’s 30 minutes one way, more or less.  If I lived closer to her in Atlanta, my commute could easily stretch to 1 to 1.5 hours one way.  If I lived in the Chicago suburbs and worked downtown, it would be the same between the train ride and walking from the train station to and from work.

So while I work a lot of overtime at various times during the year, I’m not sitting in the car in traffic.  My field requires large amounts of overtime, which would be worse if I worked in consulting.  My overtime is fairly limited by comparison and a short commute makes it easier on my personal life.

I’ve Learned Discipline

Do I feel like being at work every day?  No, of course not.  But I show up, regardless of how I feel about it.  People depend on me and it’s part of the job.

Nurturing my creativity is the same.  I don’t feel like going out to take pictures some days.  It can be a fair amount of work and effort to show up when the light is right, especially if that happens to be 5:30 am or 9:30 pm (sunrise versus night photography).  That picture above?  I took it at 7:30 am.  By then, my daughter and I had been up for over an hour, having dressed for a cold morning, driven to Acadia National Park, left the car and walked the path to that part of Witch Hole Pond.  The path was uphill most of the way to the pond too (but very worth it).

It’s easy to be undisciplined with my hobbies – to keep reading, watching television, or even cooking another meal instead of going out to use my camera or sitting at my computer to write or process pictures.  It’s even easier to decide I’m too tired to learn something new or try another technique and keeping doing the same old things.  I wrote more extensively about this on the post, Creativity versus Craft.

But if want satisfaction, I have to be as disciplined as I am at work.  Well, okay, maybe not quite as disciplined.  It’s supposed to be fun after all and not another drain on my emotions!

But I have to show up, learn, push myself to do new things, and most of all, just be there.  Just like today – I’m up early before work to write this, having worked late again last night and then gone to bed early.

So I think I’ll stop here and write about the rest of my points in my next post, as well as share a little more about Wallace Stevens who is quoted above.

Have a good day!

Click here for Part 2 of Working A Day Job.

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.

#write31days

Creativity Versus Needing Sleep

My daughter and I together in Bar Harbor, Maine
My daughter and I together in Bar Harbor, Maine (I’m holding a blueberry hot tea that was delicious)

I had fun with my daughter these last few days, but after a late night flight yesterday and working all day today, the best thing I can do to nurture my creativity is go to bed at a decent time. In her blog, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes repeatedly about the importance of enough sleep.  One of her best posts is here, where she shares how a lack of sleep creates problems for her and tips for getting better sleep. There are multiple reasons I need to be careful about getting enough sleep.  It impacts my desire and patience with being creative, especially if I just don’t feel like doing it.  Getting enough sleep helps with other things as well:

  • I’m in the middle of tax season right now, so I have to be on my best game at work.  Many decisions, large and small, are getting made all day long.  These state income tax returns are more problematic than usual due to a large divestiture that my employer had in 2013 (which is public knowledge).
  • Discouragement is usually a physical issue for me.  The days I’m the most discouragement and feeling defeated correlate directly to how tired I am.  Tuesdays are generally the worst day of the week for me too.  So when I’m talking particularly nasty to myself, feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, or not coping very well with stress, I need to stop and ask a) is it Tuesday today? and b) am I just tired?  By the way, when I ask if it’s Tuesday today, it might be Monday or Wednesday instead.  Sometimes my Tuesday comes a day early or later, but it helps if I can identify that Tuesday is happening on a day when I’m down.  So Tuesday, in this context, is a verb and not a proper noun.
  • I’m happier and enjoy life much more.  I’m easier to be with, it takes less effort for me to spread cheer and kindness to others, and my little corner of the world is just better if I’m in a good mood.  And a happier “me” makes for a better blogger as well.

I haven’t downloaded pictures from the weekend yet.  I tried to get some baby bump pictures, which I will share.  But my daughter isn’t showing much yet!  She finds it amusing that my friends want to see what she looks like.  Of course, she’s 6″+ taller than I am, so I’m not surprised she looks pudgy instead of pregnant as she finishes her fifth month of pregnancy.

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.

#write31days

The Golden Hour

Our first morning on vacation in Maine this year
Bar Harbor Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine

This week’s photo challenge is “The Golden Hour“, the first and last hour of sunrise.

For me though, the golden hour is not about the sunrise or sunset.  To me, the golden hour is what happens at the end of the day.

It’s sitting on the deck as the sky grows dark and the stars begin peeping out.  It’s listening to the frogs and insects as they start their evening song and watching as the bats fly overhead.

It’s a time for reflection on the day, of what went right and what went wrong, of thinking ahead to tomorrow and what needs to be done.

But as the darkness sinks in, my spirit calms – listening, watching, relaxing into the quietness.  I wave to neighbors as they walk by, but mostly I’m alone with myself and my thoughts.

Sharing A Passion For Photography

Day 2, 4:00 pm
Day 2, 4:00 pm

My favorite boy toy has been in love with the camera for years and I have the pictures to prove it too!  (Click here for pictures of a younger boy toy with his camera.)

He’s encouraged me over the years to do it with him, with varying levels of success.  Not that I’m stubborn or anything (cough, cough).  Not that he wasn’t insistent that I do it exactly the same way he did it (more coughing).  Over the last few years though, we got it figured out.

Day 5, 7:30 am
Day 5, 7:30 am

So our vacations don’t quite fit the norm of everyone else, as these pictures show from our recent trip to Maine.  Our days might start at 5:30 am to catch the sunrise.  It might not end until after midnight if we’re out doing some night photography.  We catch up on our sleep in the middle of the day, when the light is flat.

He enjoys using a tripod and composing each scene to the nth degree, a holdover from his days of film when film and processing were expensive and took way too much money from our household budget.  Me, I hand hold my camera and in a short period can shoot several hundred pictures.  After that, I get bored waiting for him.  Eventually I find someplace to sit and read while I wait for him to (yet again) get done.

Sometimes I amuse myself by taking pictures of him.  It’s best to catch him from behind or when the camera is in his face so he’s not scowling at me.  It did occur to him though that he might want to use some of these on his website and he got much friendlier about it!

Day 5, 3:10 pm
Day 5, 3:10 pm

There are other big differences in how we approach our photography.  He’s blowing his up into 18″ x 27″ canvases to sell for hanging on the wall.  Mine are going into a blog or photo album.  His have to be perfect – people don’t want to pay for “it’s good enough”.  Mine are “good enough”.  I have limited patience and time for editing and processing them and because they’re so small on the screen, they don’t have to be perfect.  My audience loves them as they are; his criticizes everything he does.  Not everyone, but every year there’s a few customers who get nasty about it.  I don’t know why they don’t just keep walking and feel they have to tell him what they think is wrong with his work and how they can do the same thing with their little point and shoot camera.

Day 5, 3:40 pm
Day 5, 3:40 pm

It’s taken us a long time to get to this point.  He was critical that I didn’t do it the way he did.  I responded by not bothering to take pictures.  If I took pictures, I came home with all kinds of good things.  He’d come home with a few, then complain that he didn’t get any good pictures.  He’d give me advice, I’d ignore it, then find out the hard way why it was good advice – like when I tried taking pictures of the lightning several years ago.  He insisted that I upgrade my digital camera several years ago and he was right about how the quality improved.  But when I turned up my nose at learning Adobe Photoshop, he backed off and suggested I try Adobe Lightroom instead, which I love using.

Then one day he looked at my pictures and realized that I’d gotten very, very good at the photography.  When I demurred, he told me to look around at the art fairs and art galleries that he liked checking out.  He was right – my pictures were nearly as good as his and in some cases, even better.  I definitely had an eye for composition.  Funnier yet, I was asking him questions about Lightroom that he couldn’t answer.  He’s still the king of Photoshop, but I’m not bad with Lightroom!  He’s been more supportive of the way I do my photography and as a result, I’ve been much more receptive to his advice.

Day 3, 10:00 am
Day 3, 10:00 am

According to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, sharing an interest good for a relationship as it prevents boredom and complacency, and encourages the brain chemicals related to pleasure and bonding.  In the article, it talks how learning a new hobby from scratch is one way to go, but another way to consider is when one partner has a passion already.  For the other partner, they have a build-in teacher and get bonus points for efforts.  Of course, that has its pitfalls, as my husband and I found for ourselves.  For the newbie, check the attitude, take direction, and don’t kill the joy for the partner with the passion.  For the proficient partner – reward the newbie, be patient, and stay focused on the long-term goal of introducing your passion so the other partner will want to learn it.

Day 2, 7:00 am
Day 2, 7:00 am

At the end of the article, one of the partners commented on learning beekeeping with his wife saying,

“If you create fun, enriching experiences together, you reinvent yourself and your marriage. . .
you look at your partner in awe.”

[If you’re interested in improving your photography or other skills, check out this review of Lynda.com for inexpensive on-line training.  I highly recommend it!]