Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

More Winter Memories

Where do I start when I have so many memories of childhood winters?

There's the time my mom went sledding with us. She thought it would be cool to build a ramp for the sleds to launch off of...and it was...until she cracked her tailbone and had to sit on an inflatable donut for two weeks.

There's the time that she surprised us by building a snow dragon. It was creative and amazing, and I wonder if any of us still have a picture of it...

One winter we had so much snow that we didn't need sleds. We built our own luge tracks and slid down them in our snowsuits.

Or there was winter when my brother built an igloo out of packed snow. My sister and I built a fort next to it and we bombarded each other with snowballs. Our fort fell, but his igloo only lost the roof.

And since it's New Year's Eve, how about a memory related to that? It doesn't have much to do with snow, but it has a great deal to do with what made my childhood winters so special: my family.

For many years, my father took on a second job in addition to running the family farm. Our little dairy farm wasn't very lucrative, and when you add three kids into the mix, a second income was a necessity. So, my dad worked at a local manufacturing plant where they made the plastic parts used in vacuum cleaners.

It was a horrible job. I think his blood pressure took quite a beating during the time when he worked there. The only positive was the year-end bonus.

In the grand scheme of things, I think my family would have been better off with a cash bonus, but as a child, this was better: a $50 gift certificate to the local grocery store.

Did we spend it on milk and eggs? Absolutely not. On December 31, Dad would take the certificate in and spend it all on our New Year's Eve party. He would stock up on everyone's favorite junk foods and sodas. The grocery store hosted a movie rental section, so he'd grab enough movies to make it past midnight. And every New Year's Eve, the five of us would pig out, watch movies (pausing only for the ball drop over Time's Square), and prompt each other into staying awake long enough to ring in the new year.

We may not have always had much in terms of the material things, but I learned from a very early age that material things don't matter as much as having the love of your family and having memories of good times with them.

Happy New Year. May everyone find 2011 to be a year of happy memories...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snowy Days

Winter isn't what it used to be.

Growing up in Northern Pennsylvania, I was accustomed to snow. Tons and tons of snow. If there weren't at least six inches blanketing the ground, then we considered it to only be a "dusting". It wasn't a "storm" until we had over a foot of snow in one snowfall. And school closings? Well, that required at least two feet of snow! None of the namby-pamby closings that we get nowadays!

I'm starting to sound like an old codger now...

I remember one year when it seemed that there wasn't a day that went by that we didn't get snow. We had back-to-back nor'easters that year and each one dumped between three and four feet of snow. Our house was at the top of a small but steep hill; our barn was about fifty yards away, at the bottom of the hill. I think that my parents sledded to the barn that first morning; it was the only way to get there.

Later that day, since school was definitely closed, we all bundled up and went out to start digging. The plow my dad had used to dig us out the week before had broken, so we had to shovel everything by hand. That meant: a fifty yard path from the house to the barn, including one that led from the upstairs of the barn to the downstairs. A similar path to the car, parked at the bottom of the hill. Then, from the car to the end of the driveway? A wide enough path that the car could drive through it. From the car to the end of the driveway? At least a hundred yards, probably 150. That's alot of snow.

We were chipper about it. My parents, brother, sister, and I dug right in...only occasionally pelting each other with snow. We decided to start at the bottom of the hill and work our way toward the end of the driveway. As we shoveled, I discovered that it was easier to chop downward into the snow with my shovel. It loosened the snow and made it easier to scoop and toss. I shared this info with my family, and soon we were chopping and scooping like champions!

Rumble, rumble.

I heard a strange noise and looked up just in time to see the top eighteen inches of snow shift and slide toward me about six inches. We had inadvertently set up perfect conditions to cause an avalanche! Not a true, bury-your-family-alive sort of avalanche but an avalanche all the same.

We went back to scooping, no chopping, after that.

You know, as much as I hate shoveling the measly amounts of snow we get now...I really miss those days. I could probably blog endlessly about my winter memories of growing up on the farm...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Art Room Studies: Final Two

These are my two favorite images from this series. The top one is the picture I envisioned capturing when I first saw all the frames on the wall.

The bottom one? I just really like it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Art Room Studies #3: Point A to Point B

Do you think art gets anxious? Do you think a blank canvas gets tired of waiting for someone to cover its surface and create art? Or that a camera peers at you accusingly, waiting for you to get off your butt and go out to take some photographs?

I wonder these things as I stare at this stack of frames. Are they tired of waiting? Does art hunger to be created?

My camera is looking at me right now. It wants to go out in the blowing snow and play. Yet here I sit in my flannel pajamas, inches away from a roaring fire, unwilling to give up my toasty warmth for 40 mph winds.

Do you think art will forgive me today?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Art Room Studies #2: Painted Frames


When I was in school, I belonged to an enrichment program that allowed me to participate in educational opportunities beyond the normal classroom. Among other things, I got to participate in a weekly elementary news broadcast (including anchoring it a couple of times), visit the Corning Glass Museum and a Wild West museum, and learn how to do computer animation.

My favorite year of participation, however, was when I was a senior. I wanted to do something that I would enjoy for my senior project, but I went to the group's advisor feeling a little melancholy. I didn't know what I wanted to do.

She gave me a catalog (I don't know what it was called) filled with anything and everything that anyone could possibly need to make any sort of project. It was a little overwhelming. Still, I sat and flipped through the pages, looking for something that would interest me.

Then, I saw it. I had watched the show on PBS while babysitting my cousins in the summer. I had been enamored with the idea of trying the same techniques.

The Bob Ross Oil Painting Starter Kit.

You might know who he is. Aging hippy with a gentle voice and puffy, curly hair. He always painted "happy trees". I loved watching him work, and suddenly, I had my chance to try to oil paint like him!

Then, I saw the price of the kit. $128. I didn't have that kind of money. My parents didn't have that kind of money, not to put toward a box of paint and brushes anyway. $128 would feed us for a month.

At that moment, the advisor came over and asked if I'd found anything. I told her I had but that it was $128, expecting her to understand that I couldn't afford it and to hopefully offer a cheaper alternative. She looked at the item and the cost and said, "Okay! We'll buy it for you!" I wasn't sure that I'd heard her correctly.

"'s $128."

"That's fine," she said. "We'll order it out of the budget." She smiled brightly at me before looking back at the page. "Wouldn't you rather have the full kit, though?" She pointed to the larger kit that cost nearly $200.

"Well, it would other one's fine," I stammered.

"Eh, we'll just order the big one." She circled it in pen and walked back to her desk to phone in the order.

To this day, I'm quite sure there was no budget for the Enrichment program. I'm quite sure that I had a fairy godmother who wanted to give me a chance to fulfill a dream.

I still have the kit. These sixteen years later, it's still in my basement. I'm afraid to open it; I'm sure the tubes are full of more oil than paint. Probably, I should just throw it away...

Maybe next year...


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Art Room Studies #1: Buckets and a Cabinet



I'm terribly tired this morning (so much so that I just had to delete: "I'm teribbly tiered"). I wish I could come up with something wise and interesting to say about each of these shots....

....Nope. Nothing coming to me. Except to say these are my least favorite of this series. I like them, but I have some others that I like even more. And one that I LOVE.

Stay tuned! Ha ha!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Project: Art Room Studies

I have a new project!

Well, I should say "had" as I've already finished processing the pictures. But since this is the first I've shown anyone, we'll stay in the present tense.

I stopped into the graphic arts room a couple of weeks ago, and while I was talking to my colleague, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screenprinting frames hanging on the wall. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I asked if I could bring my camera in (like a graphic artist would say no).

So, camera in hand, I started snapping. I started with the frames because I just thought they were so cool. I snagged a couple of other shots, too, so as not to snub the rest of the room. Honestly? Most of the other shots got canned. The frames really were my muse.

For the next several days, I give you:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cathedral of Learning

My brother-in-law gets to go to school here:
I get to "go to school" in the typical bricks and mortar construction from the seventies that one sees scattered all over the state, if not the entire country.

It just doesn't seem fair somehow. I put in my dues in high school. I dealt with the drama and the stress. And now I'm back. You'd think that being on the other side of the desk would change things.

It doesn't. It's still stress and drama. Still in a institutional environment.

I wonder if things would be different if, instead of going to school, we all went to the "Cathedral of Learning" or to some other interestingly named building. I wonder if it would be different if our school looked like this rather than...well...rather than what it looks like.

Would it be a happier place? Or would it all still be about standardized test scores, about students becoming nothing more than a number charted and graphed by faceless droids? Would it still be about jockeying for position at the right hand of an administrator, even if it means alienating your colleagues and stepping on them if it means little more than a lateral move?

I think I'll go back to college...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Castles in the Air

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ~Henry David Thoreau

I have been building castles in the air since I was a little girl. Some of my castles have been typical, I suppose. Wanting to meet Prince Charming. Wanting a fairy tale wedding. Most little girls dream of such things.

There were a couple of castles in the air that had to float away. I wanted to be a famous singer, but I don't have much of a singing voice. I wanted to be a supermodel, but I'm built like Great-Grandmother Smith; she was a short, sturdy woman. I wanted to be a member of Scooby Doo's gang, but hey--I'm not a cartoon!

As I get older, I find that I still build castles in the air. I find, too, that it's the same castles over and over again. The wind will blow one away, so I'll build the next one. When that one drifts off on the lazy haze of a balmy summer evening, I'll put up the next dream. I wouldn't say that I'm fickle, but I do tend to jump from one dream to the other depending on my mood.

I dream of being a writer. I've finished two projects and self-published them. I've made a couple of dollars. Most importantly, with one of them, I impacted a couple of lives and helped some people through some difficult times. I wish I had more time to devote to writing. As it stands, I have a jump drive full of beginnings and ideas. But they're just castles in the air...

I dream of being a photographer. More than just as a hobby. I don't have grand ambitions of making a living by it. It would be nice to make a supplemental income by it. It would be even nicer if that supplemental income supported a full-time income made by writing.

(Insert heavy sigh here.)

Thoreau would shake his fist at me. I have filled the air around me with castles; where I get hung up is on building the foundations. The castles? They're fun to build. They require minimum effort sometimes. After all, it is only necessary to lean back, close my eyes, and imagine.

The foundations? Rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty? That's another story...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hear That Whistle Blow

"Leaving Town"

My husband loves trains. Many of the men (and women) in his family worked on the Lehigh Valley Railroad in a time when much of the area's industry and jobs depended on the railroad. I think he must have inherited a gene that makes railroads and trains one of his favorite pastimes. In fact, though it is currently being rebuilt, we have a permanent O gauge train layout in our basement.

I, too, love trains. When I was in fourth grade, we took a field trip to the Lancaster area. We gawked at the Amish and visited the Choo-Choo Barn in Strasburg. I fell in love. I found the Amish fascinating, and I decided that I wanted a train layout.

Little did I know that I'd someday have a layout in my basement!

Anyway, there are still numerous railroad tracks in the area, some relatively abandoned and some daily used. The set at the top of the page are behind one of the local banks. It's not often that you get to see a train on them, but it does occur occasionally. I had to make some cars and buildings disappear from this shot, and as I processed it, the cloudy texture made me think of all the steam being released from an engine as it pulls out of or into a station.

The picture below may be, to me, my crowning achievement so far, however. I think I may need to get out there and spend a little more time working on the railroad...

"Two Seasons Meet"

Friday, December 17, 2010

On Their Own

To explain the picture at the bottom, let me say: Pigeons remind me of doves, and mourning doves are my favorite bird.

Living in the country, we had to catch a bus to and from school each day. My brother, sister, and I would walk down the hill from our parents' house around 7:30 each morning. Depending on the weather, we'd hang out at the end of our driveway or we would sit on my aunt's front porch.

In the warmer months, the trees on the other side of the road would be home (or at least resting place) to a couple of mourning doves. Their distinct call (Coo-ooh, coo-coo-coo) was always so calming and peaceful. I would get a kick out of trying to call back, and I think I was able to have more than one conversation with these beautiful birds (though what we said to each other is beyond me).

Somewhere along the way, someone told me that doves mate for life, and that cemented my love for them. Who doesn't love a creature that can make a lifelong commitment?

A couple of years ago, I heard a mournful sound from the front yard. Under the big hedge was a mourning dove. Someone had callously shot her with a dart. She was trying to fly, so confused and so hurt. I couldn't remove the dart, though I tried. She let me hold her and sooth her. I made her a nest in the mulch and set her there. She lay still, breathing heavily. I brought her a small dish of water. I told her I was sorry.

The next morning, she had died. From a tree across the street I could hear a mourning dove calling. It was low and quiet, so full of sadness...more so than I had ever heard from a mourning dove before. I am still quite sure that it was her mate, calling to her in a sort of hopeless desperation.

I'm not ashamed to say that I called back. I filled my call with sadness and with apologies; I wanted him to understand that she would never return his call again. He was silent a moment before calling back, a short outcry, before he took wing and flew away, passing over my head...alone.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big Red Building

How does one not notice a big red building?

My husband and I had went out to dinner last week. As we passed through town, I was looking out the window, looking at Christmas decorations and not really paying attention to much else. Then, I saw it. I've seen it before; I've known it was there, but I never really SAW it before.

Yet, there it was. The roof coated in a light dusting of snow. The sunset orange against the red bricks. Glorious.

Some sort of manufacturing building decades ago, it now sits predominantly dormant. There used to be a gym inside and, at one point, an indoor archery range. Now, nothing as far as I know.

Last Saturday, we stopped at the bank which is right in front of this ol' beauty. I came prepared:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lead Foot Finale: Into the Setting Sun

It's hard when something you love comes to an end.

I started this little series as a lark. My only intention was to pick on my husband's inability to take his foot off the gas pedal and let me take a picture. I didn't really expect it to turn out as it has, and I definitely didn't expect it to affect me as it has.

I'm not a professional photographer or graphic artist. I have a decent camera. I have Photoshop, and I'm self-taught on it. I believe I have a good eye...even at 80mph.

But I have so much more to learn. I have images in my mind that are beyond my ability, and I want to learn how to bring them to life. I think I've made positive steps in that direction, but I want to go further. I see the images that show up on my contacts photostream, and I think, I want to make something like that! Will I ever be able to make something like THAT?

This series has been a step in the right direction, I think. It's all about practice, about multiple attempts, about not saying "Good enough" and striving to say "Good." About working toward "Great."

Thank you to everyone who has followed this little journey. Now...on to the next adventure...

The Grand Finale...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lead Foot #10: Sunlight on a Red Barn

Sometimes it's hard to let go.

This is a great barn. Bright red, hex signs, stable doors along the bottom. Just a lovely little bit of rural architecture. We were going so fast that I nearly missed catching its picture. And between the speeding car and my motion as I spun to snap a photo, there's a great deal of blurring in the original.

I should have deleted it.

But I couldn't. It's just such a pretty, quaint little barn! I mean, look at it! How could I delete it? Could you have hit that button?

Don't answer that.

So I worked on it. I sharpened. I duplicated and multiplied. I textured and textured. I contrasted and adjusted. I started over and did it all again.

It's just not a good starting photograph. I should have let it go, but I couldn't. I wanted so badly for it to work out that I just kept going, kept processing. I felt like that proverbial movie doctor who keeps using the crash cart paddles long after the patient has expired.

At what point do we just let it go?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lead Foot #9: A Fleeting Glimpse

The fields lay fallow and the birds fly away, seeking food from backyard bird feeders and fast food restaurant parking lots.

The transition from autumn to winter can be a real downer. All the color is gone. Nature is going to sleep. Even those who love winter sigh to themselves.

As I looked at this picture and thought about what to title it and what to say, I noticed two flashes of color. The first is the red barn. A neat little burst, but not enough to make my heart sing.

Then, the second one. That flash of brilliant blue in the upper right corner. The promise of spring in the crisp air. Just a fleeting glimpse, but enough. Enough...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lead Foot #8: Abandonment Issues

Why do we leave things behind?

This old barn sits alongside Route 309. The farm to which it must belong is across a very dangerous intersection. As you can see from the original picture, there's even a sign warning of the sharp curve on which the intersection is located.

I suspect that this barn was largely abandoned when 309 was built. As I said, the intersection is located right on a curve. Who wants to try to cross the road there, especially on a slow-moving tractor. Or even worse, with a horse and wagon?

That being said, there are other abandoned barns and houses scattered all over the county. Is it so easy to leave things behind?

Do destitute families leave with tearful backward glances, devastated at the family's inability to maintain the land/farm/home that they worked so hard to keep? Or do they leave dry-eyed, stubbornly refusing to weep over what is soon to become the past? Is it a mixture of both?

How do we abandon something we once loved without it leaving a hole in our heart?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lead Foot #7: Storm's Coming

When I was little, our house didn't have a basement, just a rough foundation. For the most part, this was no big deal other than the fact that we didn't always have enough storage space. Besides, all I knew of basements was that they were dark and musty and usually full of foul spiders who would surely attack me if I lingered too long.

The only times I longed desperately for a basement were the nights when we might have a tornado.

I grew up in Northern Pennsylvania. We didn't have tornadoes. They were a wonder mentioned on the world news reports or used as fodder for disaster movies. As far as I was concerned, I never had cause to worry about a tornado. Well, for a while, anyway.

One summer night, we had some strong wind storms come through. Our house shook and rattled, and my siblings and I thought it was great! We turned off the lights and played spooky games with the flashlight. In the midst of our fun, there was a loud roaring noise. Cool! The wind was really adding to the atmosphere of our games!

An hour later, my dad was down at my uncle's house (about 300 yards downhill from our own). One of his trees had been uprooted. This wasn't just any tree, mind you. My uncle had three trees in a row, three giant pine trees. Each was easily forty feet tall. The trunks, at the base, were about six feet in diameter. I used to crawl under the lowest branches and use the trees as tents; I could walk upright under the tree's weighty boughs because there was so much clearance.

The center tree had been completely uprooted. A circle of dirt that was twenty feet across was all that remained once they hauled the tree away. My dad called it a "cyclone" but to my ears that simply meant "tornado."

That summer was very stormy, and a couple weeks later another wicked storm blew through. Through a living room window, I watched the clouds roll across the pasture, and my mom peered over my shoulder.

"Look at how green the sky is," she said. Indeed, it did have a yellowish-green cast to it. "That's a tornado sky. If we ever have a tornado, you have to get your brother and sister and run down to your uncle's basement." She patted me on the shoulder and walked back out to the kitchen to prepare dinner.

My mom didn't know it, but she terrified me that night. I spent the entire evening at that window, watching the clouds and listening for a telling freight train roar.

Ever since then, I've had the occasional nightmare about tornadoes. In my dreams, I can never get everyone down to my uncle's basement in time. And even now, when the summer storms hit, when thunder quakes the house and lightning streaks across the sky, I watch to see if the atmosphere has turned to that ugly, greenish hue.

Lead Foot #6: Primitive Uncommons

"What is a primitive uncommon?"

I asked myself that as I processed this picture. I've always admired this barn and have wanted to capture a picture of it. Since we always fly by at speeds best not mentioned, the sign on the barn is nothing more than a blur most times.

This is the first that I had the chance to read the sign. Granted, it's not entirely interesting, but the idea of "primitive uncommons" is.

I mean, I know what primitive antiques and decor are. Though it doesn't fit into my house's overall decor, I've managed to sneak in a piece or two. My sister-in-law has much of her house adorned in primitives.

But what are primitive uncommons?

I thought about it off and on all last night, coming up with and discarding theories. The English teacher in me was going nuts. I didn't want to just look it up; I hate resorting to that.

I decided, however, that this morning was it. If I didn't figure it out, I'd look it up. I stared at the picture, reading the sign one more time in the hopes than the answer to this elusive mystery would present itself.

It did.


Two different sets of objects.

I read the sign wrong.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lead Foot #5: Homeward Bound

Wearied to the point of collapse, Lt. Benjamin Castle staggered through the remains of a corn field. The soles of his boots were nearly worn through, and each dried stalk of corn made him wince as it stabbed into his tired feet. His blue, wool uniform--once so proud, so debonair--was covered in dust and mud. The hole where the bullet had torn through his hip was blackened and crusted with his blood.

Reaching the crest of the hill, he paused to catch his breath, hands on his knees and panting with exertion. Straightening back up, he looked down the hill. His heart swelled with joy and his vision blurred with sudden tears. "Home." He looked down over the white barn he and his brothers had so carefully built ten years ago, the hex signs still visible though faded. The summer house he had built for his wife.

He knew that, just beyond the barn, his house was waiting. His wife, unaware that he would be home soon, would be playing with the boys and getting ready to start supper. A laugh bubbled in his throat and he found himself racing down the hill, whooping with unsuppressed glee. Home.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lead Foot #4: Rise Above

No one's life is perfect. There are some who will pretend the case is otherwise, but their lives tend to be more imperfect than most. I know with all certainty that my life isn't perfect. True, it has had its perfect moments of sublime bliss, but it has also had discord, sorrow, and hatred.

It's life.

Life shouldn't be a continuous plateau. It should have its ups and downs. That is how we grow as human beings and how we learn to value the good things we have.

I have held the same philosophy for many, many years. In life, when faced with difficulty, we have two choices: Rise above or sink below.

I tell my students (as I'll someday tell my son), when they're in the midst of some petty drama, that they need to "Rise above." Rise above the drama, the petty rivalries, the gossip and lies.

It generally doesn't change the situation, but they're in high school, a bastion fraught with drama.

I'm okay with that.

I'm not okay with adults who don't rise above. Perhaps a major character flaw or fault on my part, but I have no patience for adults who throw themselves pity parties, who let their circumstances defeat them. Maybe someday I'll meet an adult whose circumstances make me reevaluate my stance. As it stands, I have yet to meet an adult  in my life who is truly the victim of all circumstances, who has no hope of rising above...

But enough pontificating. When I saw the tree in the photo I snapped (back at 80mph), I thought about how it was rising above the dark clouds. It's not rising into the blue sky. It's rising to meet the storm clouds.

I like that. I like that very much.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lead Foot #3: Heaven's Buck-Toothed Grin

I didn't notice it for quite a while.

I was focused on processing the print, on duplicating layers to add sharpness and glow. My mind was on the colors and on the use of textures.

When I finished all the technical work, my brain tried to wrap itself around a title for the print. The clouds are so dark and turbulent compared to that bright patch of blue sky. The blue sky reminded me of a metaphor for hope, and I had initially contemplated an appropriately matching title. I even saved the image with that title.

Then, I saw it. I wanted to unsee it instantly, but my brain had already latched onto the image. In some circles, it's called "matrixing," where your brain tries to make sense of a random pattern. "Matrixing" explains why people see ghosts in photographs where all there is are random tree branches and a barn owl.

Anyway, no ghosts here, I'm afraid. That would have been too much to hope for.

Nope. I've got a big, ol' buck-toothed grin.

See it? Look again. Those perfectly positioned white clouds at the peak of that bright blue sky.

Even heaven has a sense of humor.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lead Foot #2: Curves Ahead

I didn't mean to get the speed limit sign in this shot. Frankly, I didn't even see it. Though it's cautioning my husband to drive at 40mph, I'm quite sure we were going much faster than this posted limit. Ol' lead foot isn't much for cautionary signs, it seems.

I nearly deleted the shot when I saw it. Who wants a road sign in there anyway?

Then, I looked at the warning of "curves ahead" and the ominous clouds in the sky and thought, Why not?

As I post this, I'm chuckling at the irony of this post today. The morning has been full of curves. A little more than a dusting of snow fell overnight making the roads, sidewalks, and wet hallways of the school a recipe for a disastrous fall (close, but caught myself). My first period of the day is a period in which I can get work done, so of course, I did nothing after school on Friday, figuring I would do it all first period. Nope. I'm covering a freshman class. (Thank God, they're honors and have work to complete. I can quick put this together.) I ran around before homeroom and got forty minutes of work done in about ten minutes.

What curves are going to be thrown at me next? I'm sure there are more to come. Murphy's Law dictates it.

Still, if you look at the picture, there's hope. See that stretch of blue sky? That pure, white cloud?

Just have to make it there and hope abounds that I will!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lead Foot #1: The Farmstead

Whenever my husband and I travel south, we tend to take the same route. It leads us past several rural farms, and I'm always seeing old barns that I'd love to take pictures of. We never stop so I can do that, though, because of a variety of reasons: we don't have time; our son will want to get out; there's no place to pull over; etc.

It tends to drive me nuts, though. My mind is capturing all these great photos, but my camera remains snuggled away, lens cap on.

I was excited when I saw that this shot turned out fairly well despite our cruising speed of 60mph. I'm quite infatuated with the whiteness of this barn and its overall structure. The corn crib next to it is a nice element that I never really noticed before. And I'm glad I captured the "window" at the barn's peak. Not really for looking out and enjoying the view, these "windows" allow air into the hay loft so you don't spark a fire in the summer when the hot (and sometimes damp) hay is being stacked. The air also prevents the hay from rotting. Not even cows want to eat rotten food.

When I pulled the picture up in Photoshop, the first thing I wanted to do was to get rid of the power lines. In some cases, I have enjoyed the added touch of electrical lines, but I thought they were overwhelming and distracting in this case. Getting rid of them, however, would have left an empty mass, so I simply traded them for a great texture from Distressed Jewell. I think this is one of my favorite textures that she's created.

That done, and with the background looking like an aged oil painting, I added an overlay texture by Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations (see my blogroll). I love the way you get the impression of brush strokes and more aging across the entire photo.

Throw in my favorite bird brushes and a signature and voila! I'm reasonably satisfied with the outcome!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fast Photos with Ol' Lead Foot

My darling husband is very supportive of my photography habit. On weekends when we don't have plans, he'll take me on "photo safaris" so that I can snap some cool shots and feed my need to be creative.

The problem is his lead foot.

The drive will start slowly enough. We'll pull over a couple of times. Then, it kicks in. Soon, we're zooming over hill and vale at 80 mph. Scenery is zipping by faster than I can say "Cheese!" Not wanting to nag, I'll drop hints like "That barn sure is pretty!" or "Ooh! That'd make a cool picture." He responds with a grunt and a nod. Manspeak for "Me drive fast."

Today, I decided to poke fun at this little phenomenon and take some blurry shots as we sped through the countryside. But then I had an idea.

My challenge: Take random, out-the-window, super-speedy shots and make them look good. I managed to get about a dozen shots that are more than just a blurred mess, so over the next dozen-ish days, I'm going to see what I can do!

Here's a sneak preview at some of the shots I have to work with:

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fathers and Sons

It must be difficult to be the only son of an only son.

So many expectations, hopes, and dreams ride on you. Will you follow in your father's footsteps? Will you follow the path that he always wanted but couldn't attain? Will you provide the heir to these family dreams?

It's a lot to live up to. My husband is the only son of an only son; so is my father.

So is my son.

It's likely that our son will remain an only child, and I wonder what sort of impact this role will have on his personality, his decisions, his life. I know my husband strives to please his father, even now. And I know there's no one like his father who can make my husband feel like he's a all the best and worst ways.

I think it's probably like that for all fathers and sons. Caught between the roles of father and friend. Trying to teach while still learning.

And still, in those fleeting moments of grace, you see the relationship at its best. When they forget about their respective roles and just get lost in the moment...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

All Is Right with the World.

I had given up.

I searched again last night. Every spot that I had ever left them. The corner by the closet where we keep our shoes. Under the bed. Under the cabinet in the bathroom. I even checked my son's diaper bag because, hey, you never know.

Still no sign.

I looked down at my feet. They were shoved into an old pair of bright red chenille socks. Said socks are stretched beyond repair. They constantly slip down my feet, forcing me to walk with a sort of kick step so I don't trip over the empty fabric pouches which are flopping five inches ahead of where my toes actually are located. I have to shuffle over the hardwood and linoleum so as not to slip due to the lack of rubber nubbins on the sole of the socks.

Even through the fabric, I could see my feet glaring at me in accusation.

I fell asleep, weary yet restless. My dreams were unkempt and blurred, moving too quickly for me to maintain any control over their direction. There was a journey. A beautiful road. An idyllic village. I remember turning around, backtracking, leaving Nirvana behind as I sought something that eluded me. I couldn't reach my destination. I was running late. Nothing was going right. Everyone was laughing, even me, but my laughter was forced.

When I woke up, I felt dreadful. Lack of sleep. Pounding head. After using the bathroom and calling in to work so I could schedule a doctor's appointment instead, I padded softly back to my darkened bedroom. Settling back into bed, an image appeared in my mind. A single remembrance of a moment from my dream, frozen in time. It was of my mother, standing in my bedroom, looking through the white laundry basket that sits in front of my dresser.

Could it be? Would it be so easy and obvious?

Hesitant. Halting. Unsure. I approached the basket. Folded jeans and t-shirts lay on top, ready to be shoved into dresser drawers or simply pulled out of the basket and worn. Under the top layer, a pair of lounge pants I had thrown into the basket a few days ago, intending to get one more wear out of them and then forgetting they were there.

I dug in, pushing aside neatly folded clothes, diving for those pants. A cuff appeared, then part of the leg. I pulled and stopped. A flash of color in the darkened room. Bright pink. I stared, joy thumping in my heart.

I found my comfy socks.