Sunday, January 29, 2012

iPhoneography Mission #22: Through the Wires

It has been a terrible, difficult week. The sudden loss of my father-in-law....well, it changed everything. We've spent every day at the house, comforting my husband's step-mother and younger sister, and each other for we're all facing this terrible loss together. We've cried. We've laughed. We've remembered.

I find that I have an overwhelming need to be the strong one, to hold it together so that I can care for everyone else. I have had my moments of overwhelming grief, but most of them have been in private.

As I have gone through this horrible journey with my husband and his family, I have sought respite through photography. In the previous post, I showed the image of my father-in-law's empty chair, probably the most profound, physical proof that he is really gone. I have posted images to Flickr and have been warmed by the outpouring of sympathy and support.

I also completed this week's mission. Partly because I started before we received the tragic news. Partly because I needed distraction and to feel a sense of normality that is probably gone forever.

So, here are my submissions for this week's mission to "Create abstract compositions of electrical wires on a backdrop of sky" (though not all of them are necessarily abstract):

An Upward Glance at the World Above

The Arrival of Darkness as the Watchers Wait

Follow Us, For We Know the Way Home

A Spark, Electric, Then Gone

And Then the World Burned Down

Find Your Way Through For They Await Your Arrival

As I said, I found this mission to be at least a little therapeutic. And I needed to have that distraction just for a few moments.

I look forward to the next mission, for I think it will be part of what helps define my "new normal".


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Untitled...For There Are No Words

We always think we have more time.

My father-in-law passed away suddenly yesterday. A state trooper called the school looking for my husband and asked that he drive to one of the local hospitals.

Somehow, we knew.

And yet, it is still impossible. Despite his congestive heart failure. Despite his failing health over the past several years. Despite that deep-rooted understanding that we are all mortal.

It is still impossible. How can someone so much larger than life be gone?

We've spent the last two days at his house. His leather chair sits empty. The colors seem dull and the air seems to have been sucked from the room. There are moments of remembrance that bring us laughter, and for a moment, he's there with us. And minutes later, the breath catches in my throat and reality falls heavily into my heart.

Every ring of the phone is the potential heartbreak of telling someone who somehow didn't know. Hugs bring comfort and a paradoxical shower of renewed grief...for those hugs have a different meaning right now. Food trays come to the door and we burst into tears.

I have been through sorrow and loss. It doesn't get easier. Nothing about this is easy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mission #20: Mission (Nearly) Impossible

I have come to realize that there are not nearly enough shiny, metal objects in my life. And while this might not normally matter much, it did cause one small issue this week as the iPhoneography mission was to "Find your image in a shiny metal surface."


I did what I could, and I can say that I made some creative choices. Doorknobs? A given. Gear shift? Unexpected. And while most of the shots ended up being an image of my fingers holding my phone, if you look closely on some of them, you can see my head peaking in, going "Am I getting the shot?"

Where Shall We Go Today?

Just a Glimpse

Holding On

To Wash Away...


Frozen in Space and Time

I am glad that this mission is over. But at the same time, I am glad that we had this mission. It was tough. It required observation and creativity (and sometimes desperation). And it's the tough missions that really stretch me to try harder and try new things.

So whatever the next mission may be...Bring It On!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Barns: A Tutorial

I love barns. If I have my camera with me, I try to snap a picture of every barn I see. Sometimes, those pictures are just a blur, and I'm forced to delete them immediately. Other times, there are those images with a bit of possibility...Like this one:


I open it in Photoshop, my first step is to deal with the composition. It's not perfectly composed (difficult to do in a speeding car), but it's relatively free of blur and with a little creative cropping, I'll have an image that I can work with:


The next problem, for me, is the sky. It's too gray and flat. Sometimes, that works perfectly when  you're doing texture work, but I want more contrast and interest. Looking through my personal stock, I find a shot of sky and clouds that I'm fond of: 

Interesting Skies

I add a layer of sky to my barn image and set the layer opacity to "Multiply" since I want the sky to seem like it's really a part of the image. Using the eraser tool, I erase the parts of the sky that I don't want (on the mountain, barn, silo). Then, I merge the image together:

Now we're getting somewhere...

Next, it's time to start adding textures. For the ease of this tutorial, I am using two free textures that are available from Distressed Jewell. The first texture is called "Moody Fall Sky":

I add the texture as a layer and after playing with the different opacities, I decide on "Overlay." This part is really a personal preference. We'll be doing more edits later that will enhance the choice, so go with your gut:

Overlay Texture

I really like how this looks, especially the taller, white silo. But I am rarely content with just one texture, so I add one more. This one has a canvas appearance that I really like. Again, it's a free one from Distressed Jewell:


I add this layer, and after playing, I decide on "Soft Light":

Soft Light Layer

Now, it's time to adjust the original image. Click on the original photo in your layers toolbar. Once it is highlighted, go to "Adjust>Brightness/Contrast". I rarely touch the brightness slider, but I almost always adjust the contrast. In this case, I slid it up to +10 so that the lines and shadows would stand out, but not so much that there were gaping black holes in my image. A trick I learned from Distressed Jewell was to do these adjustments after I added the textures so I could see how much adjustment I actually would need:

Contrast Adjusted

Next, with my original image still highlighted, I go to "Adjust>Saturation". This is another matter of adjusting to your liking. After sliding the saturation around (take it all the way to 100 for fun), I decide that +20 is just the right amount of color without looking psychedelic:


Finally, because I can't resist, I use a bird brush by Distressed Jewell to add a bird to the wire. A wire is often wasted without a bird perched upon it! Then, I flatten the image and save it:

"For Storage"

Ta da! That really is it. I don't have any real magic trips that I use. I just play and go with my gut. I find that simplicity is best. The more complex methods I've tried, the more unhappy I have been with the results. I'm a simple girl. I use simple tools (Kodak Z981 set to sport mode and PhotoShop 7.0). And I get some pretty cool images that make me happy!

Have fun!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beginning of the End...

That title sounds more ominous than what the situation warrants, but to's still a pretty ominous situation.

My laptop is dying. I've said this before and for months. I thought it was done for before Christmas, but it returned from the edge, and I went about my business.

Now, not so much. I couldn't log into Windows at all  yesterday unless I used Safe Mode. And even then, it was spotty.

I ran a disk check overnight and was able to (slowly) log in this morning.

This time, I'm taking it seriously. I'm going shopping for an external hard drive (which I should have gotten months ago). I'm going to save all my files.

And then I'm going to breathe.

Wish me luck!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

iPhoneography Mission #20: Close To You...

Can this really be mission #20? That's twenty weeks of missions? Countless photographs taken on the ol' iPhone. And I have to say, these missions are teaching me so much! Composition, technique, patience...I am truly having a great time, and I'm so glad Laura suggested it!

This week's mission was to "Position yourself as close to your subject as you can get."

For the most part, I took this as an opportunity to try some abstract images. I was snapping shots of the strangest subjects...just to see what I would get! So, let's see what ended up on my "film roll"!

Morning Routine

No Easy Escape



Dig In

Bottoms Up

The Sound of Autumn Leaves Falling



Daily Advice

Some of them are obvious, but I feel like I should provide a key for the other ones! Let's see, the first and last ones are coffee mugs (two of my favorite ones). In the middle, and in order, are an escape button, a ceramic pitcher, the inside of a bag of chips, a Solo cup full of clear plastic spoons, the bottom of a drinking glass, a mixed media picture, a lampshade, and a cup from McDonald's.

Phew! What a fun mission!! I'm looking forward, as always, to getting started on the next one. I've been enjoying playing with the new Hipstamatic Disposable app, and I've especially enjoyed the fact that I can share the "rolls of film" with Laura! It's so cool seeing what catches her eye. Hmm...maybe we can incorporate that app into our next challenge!!



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Evening with PhotoShop

Time does not seem to be on my side much these days. I have been feeling very swamped and out of sorts. This feeling comes on me every once in a while. That feeling that I'm already carrying the world on my shoulders and now I have to carry the solar system too.

It's not true. I know that. And I know that I have a relatively stress free life because I make it that way. Still, almost like clockwork, that overwhelmed feeling hits me.

Tonight, the little guy fell asleep very, very early. This is actually very, very bad since he'll probably wake up around 9:00pm and want to play for a few hours. But never mind that now.

What matters now is that I spent the last couple of hours creating...


"Beneath the Enchanted Forest"

"Another Family's Farm"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

iPhoneography Mission #19: The Space Between Us

It's the end of my photography week! Which means it's time to post the results of this week's iPhoneography mission!!

The mission for this week was to "Document your conversation partner and what fills the space between you." What an outstanding prompt! There is so much that could come out of this. Think about it. If you're in the middle of a fight....if you're sharing laughs over old photos...

The possibilities are endless! Of course, most of my conversations are either A) with students whose pictures I won't/can't take and post to the Internet, or B) with my husband and son.

So guess which ones you're going to see....

"Hey, Mommy..."

Like most three-year-olds, my son is a close-talker. I think they want to make sure that they have your full attention, and they do so by absorbing all the space between you and themselves. I don't remember what he had to tell me in this particular picture, but undoubtedly, it was very important!

"Now You Say..."

What fills the space between most of the conversations between myself and my son? Thomas the Tank Engine. And what is our conversation? It's usually dictated by the little guy. He has a script in his head, and he tells me exactly what to say and when to say it. "Now, Mommy, I will say, 'Oh no! Trouble ahead!' and you will say, 'But Thomas didn't slow down...' And then Thomas will crash."


The space in this conversation with my husband is filled not by actual space. But look at his eye. While I was talking to him, the space between us was filled with him looking at the vehicle behind us. Tailgating or just a cool car? I don't know...

"What You Don't Know"

We went to dinner at a new restaurant the other night. It was fabulous!! Definitely a new favorite for me! It was fairly dim in there (not dim as in "we don't want you to see the dirt" but dim as in "we're setting a romantic atmosphere"), but I decided to capture the space between my husband and I as, instead of conversing, he was texting. Turns out he was texting me. And being a little silly and frisky. (Insert huge smile here.)

"Miles Away"

This is something of a setup. My husband was getting drinks for us, and I took the opportunity to snap the shot. True, we were having a conversation at the time, but this shot makes it look like we are miles away from each other both in our words and our emotions. Thought-provoking, huh?

And finally...

"Crumbs? I Hate You."

...A lesson in sharing. Share with the cat. Or he will cut you. Seriously. Or he will be ticked.

Well, off to tend to my wounds and await the next mission!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Awe-Manac: Six Things So Far

My friend and creative sister, Laura, gifted me the awesome book called The Awe-Manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder by Jill Badonsky. It's a wonderful book of daily inspiration and joy and thought and awe.

I've dedicated a couple of moments each morning to the book. Just quick jottings before I continue the rest of my daily routine. My hope is to devote more times on Saturdays and/or Sundays to actually working through more of the prompts and ideas for that day.

For now, thought, it has proven to be a good way to start the day. 

This morning's page included one of my favorite journal ideas so far: "Since it is January 6, give yourself credit for six small things you are already glad you have done this year."

1. I went to Piloxing! I signed up for the month and wen to the first class on Monday. It was tough but awesome! I missed Wednesday because of a sinus infection, but I'm getting up to go to tomorrow's 8:00 a.m. class. Must get in shape! And a shape other than pear, thank you very much!

2. I have written in my Awe-Manac journal six days in a row! Six! And I have a 5-year diary with daily questions that I write in each night. Six for six on that one, too! And in a couple of weeks, my creative writing class starts, so I'll get to write each day with them, too!

3. I posted some SOOC (straight out of the camera for non-photogs) pictures to Flickr. Most of my photography is graced by the beautiful textures that various artists (mainly Cheryl Turrant) create and share with the world. But I want to do more with my photography than just post it this year; I'd like to make some money from it! Sounds bad putting it in writing, but it's true. And I think that diversifying my portfolio is part of that process!

4. I made the little guy sit on the potty. It was a rough time, but each step in the process is a big one! 'Nuff said on that...

5. I read the zombie novel my brother got me for Christmas. The storyline was really good. The writing was, at times, mediocre (hence me not naming the book). One wouldn't think that reading a semi-mediocre book would excite anyone, but this one did. Reading it made me think that I could get published, too. There were times--without being egotistical because anyone who knows me well knows that's just not within me--anyway, there were times that I thought I could have written parts of the book better. That the book I've been working on is better. It was a good push to get me to continue writing.

6. I woke up every day. That is a blessing and gift. Now, however, I must wake up with a purpose, and more of a purpose than just to get through the day or follow my routine. I need a specific purpose for each day, even if it as simple as tackling a small task or smiling more than I frown.

Not bad for only the first six days of 2012!

Monday, January 2, 2012

iPhoneography Mission #18: Falling Flat

This past week's iPhoneography mission was to "Study the texture of natural objects."


I kind of fell flat on this one. We did so much running around this week. Much of my time was spent in the car, spent visiting and not thinking about photography, or spent sprawled out on the sofa. The times when I was working on creative endeavors were fairly plentiful, but my iPhoneography mission only crossed my mind a couple of times. I don't know if it just didn't inspire me like it should have or if I was just to focused elsewhere.

Now, that all being said, I did fulfill my mission in a couple of different ways...

The extreme closeup of textures:

Poinsetta Petal, Curled

My favorite of all nature's textures:

Psychedelic Skies

Mix-and-match textures:

Gnarled Wood by Stream

And finally, my favorite, animal textures:


I am very much looking forward to the next mission. Partly because I look forward to all of them! And partially because I want to do a better job this week! Now that I'll be going back to a routine, I can better manage my efforts!

Have a beautifully textured day!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012: A Year of Awesome!

New Year! New beginnings! New ideas and thoughts and endeavors and beauty and magic!

It is going to be an awesome year!

To start the year, I began with The Awe-Manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder (Thank you, Laura!). It is a book of daily thoughts, musings, prompts, quotes, and myriad other things to get one to embrace the awe that each day can bring us.

"Today I get to....consider all the possibilities!"

What will 2012 bring? What new experiences will I have? What new ideas? I'm trying not to plan, per se; I'm just trying to imagine all the wonder of the year to come!

New Thought (to be thought in 15-second increments throughout the month): "I am better than this."

I am hoping that can be my mantra in those moments when my red-headed roots rear their tempestuous heads. I can be quick to fury and indignation; I'd like to better quell that in 2012.

What Worked in 2011: Barn images, opening up, putting myself out there, compliments, being real, giving in to the muse.

I'm going to stick with all of those for the coming year!

I can't wait to see what awaits in these next twelve months!

Upward, Just Reach