Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Confections

We've started making the goodies for Christmas weekend.  My mother in law made several cakes and a peanut butter pie (mmmmm, one of my favorites!)  Since I like to take some as a hostess gift when we make our Christmas rounds, I made a lot of candy.

3 dozen Oreo Truffles

4 pans of Pretzel Turtles

1 pan of Peppermint Bark

I've also made a Caramel Pie, but it still needs to chill in the fridge a bit.  I'll probably dip some pretzels and Ritz with peanut butter tomorrow since I have some almond bark leftover.  So far the turtles seem to be the biggest hit this year, thank goodness they are the easiest to make.  Now I'm going to sink into a sugar crash coma and rest for a while. 

Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home Invasion

Last night the dog was making a fuss.  I assumed he just needed to go out to take care of business.  A few minutes later, he started barking; I thought he was ready to come back in.  I yelled for Babe Jr to let him back in, and she exclaimed "There's a cat on the porch!".

Now if you know me personally or are friends with me on Facebook, you'll know there was an unfortunate encounter this past summer in the back yard with an unknown animal, most likely cat, that resulted in a trip to the vet, a pitiful little doggy, and very worried pet parents for quite a while.  So I immediately panicked and ran out in the cold in my pajamas.  There was a gray cat hanging off the side of the porch.  I yelled for it to scat and stomped a few times hoping it would go away.

A few minutes later I heard something on the porch again.  I looked outside, thinking it was my father in law, but the cat was clinging to the screen of the front windows.  My mother in law opened the door to look.

Here is a dramatic photo reenactment of what followed:

You can see how frantic the cat was because he is quite blurry while the dog remains clear.  We had to lock the dog in the bedroom for a little while, but eventually, once my father in law got home, he chased the cat away.

The dog remained unconvinced.  This was over 30 minutes later.

P.S.  I feel like I should add that we are not totally cold-hearted and uncaring about the poor kitty's plight.  Since we live in the country, all the neighboring cats just run loose.  This one was obviously well fed, so we knew it had to belong to someone nearby.  As you can see from the photos, he wouldn't have got much respite here in our home on account of the terrible terrier.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dealing with a Diva

Today I wrangled my niece, AKA the Wild Child, into a dress and tried to slow her down long enough to take some photos.  Here are some outtakes that were more than just a blurred tuft of blond hair.

And a few I've had time to edit that we've deemed print worthy.

The "I'm up to something" smile.

The real thing :)
 Thanks for looking.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My niece was uncooperative today for a proper photo shoot, but I still wanted to try and put up a post with something tonight.  I recently figured out how to download actions in Photoshop and have been playing around with free ones.  All of the ones I used tonight are from Pioneer Woman.  Here are some shots I took on auto the first day I played with my camera.

Boost and Sharpen


PW Black & White

Old West

 Straight out of Camera

I think the different effects are pretty cool.  I may have them printed and frame a group of them together.  Kind of a neat thing since I took them the first day out, even if it was in auto ;)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A more serious attempt

It warmed up to a whopping 25 degrees today, so I went back out to to attempt a few more pics of the snow.  Today it was not actually snowing and it was very clear.  And just to point out, I have an official watermark to label my photos.  I'm big time now, be jealous.

 Some nifty sun-flare.

I blew the tree a bit on this one.  I wish you could see more detail on the trunk, its a really cool old birch.  But, I had been overexposing a tad to compensate for all the snow and didn't readjust for this shot.

The weather man is calling for an ice-storm.  As much as I hate the havoc they wreak and dread the possibility of the electricity going out, I really am eagerly anticipating some cool photo ops.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I♥faces photo entry: Pet Faces

I decided to enter a photo contest for the first time.  I love taking pics of my dog, so I thought this contest was the perfect opportunity.  This photo is my puppy looking at me questioningly because he just got in from the cold and wants in my lap, but I'm holding a camera instead.

I had to clone part of my leg out of the bottom of the photo.  I used an action to burn the edges, then ran Coffee Shop's Vanilla B&W action and tweaked a bit.  Hope you like :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snowy Session

I've started another online photography course (I know, I never finished the first one on 2peas, leave me alone, this one covers the same material and is a bit more expansive).  I've been wanting to work on the first assignment because it is very similar to the first few I did for 2peas.   I have to get the familiar stuff done before I can move on to the more exciting new lessons.  The holdup has been that it is required to be shot in natural light and its been ridiculously cold, or on days when its been bearable, I've not been able to get anywhere pretty to take them.  Some of our neighbors here have really junky yards and the house is right between 2 mountain sides, so everything immediately around us is not what one might consider a desirable backdrop once the leaves have fallen.

Today, we are in the middle of a blizzard.  So I figured I would venture out with the dog and try to take some pics while all the ugly stuff is covered in a white blanket.  I didn't get very far with my assignment, and I think I did some of it wrong.  But what can I say, it was freezing, the snow was pouring, and I didn't bother with an instructional printout to refer to as I was shivering and fumbling with dials.  

Here's one that I that I found amusing.  A few forgotten fall decorations, don't they look sad?

And here's a few that have nothing to do with the course.  The dog, running around frantically in the parts that had been packed down.  

And now he's had enough.  This is his flee for the safety of the porch.
Now, back inside the warm house after a considerable amount of snow removal.  The poor thing gets big clumps of it in any hair not covered by a sweater.

And my play at a B&W action in photoshop.  The exposure is a mess, the snow out the window was so bright compared to the dogs dark hair, but I think its cute anyway.

I may try to get back out in another day or so and try again, its rumored that we'll be snowed in all week.  But I'm not making any promises, I'm a wimp in the cold.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Photo of the day

This is actually a pic I took a few weeks ago, but its so weird that even though I posted it on Facebook I still wanted to document it here on my blog, too.  Its not a technically good pic by any means, it was taken with an iPhone.  I was driving home from a friend's house that I hadn't seen in a long time.  When I got to the stop light at the entrance to her neighborhood, I looked down and this is what I saw.

Yes, I know, the speedometer shows I was driving when I took it.  In my defense, I tried to take it while waiting for the light to change but the camera app froze up on me and took a minute to open.  I hurried and shot it right after I went through the stoplight because I was afraid the temp would change or the odometer would roll over.  It was late at night and there was no other traffic, so the roads were empty. 

But how weird are all those 5's?  What kind of sign is that?  All I could think about was that movie about the girl that had the baby in Walmart and how 5's meant bad luck for her.  I drove very carefully the rest of the way home

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas lights!

I've been really swamped with school lately; the semester is almost over and I'm trying to catch up with my online work.  But, I've seen a lot of tutorials on taking photos of Christmas lights recently and wanted to take a little time to play.  These were taken with my camera as it came in the box, no special lenses or filters.

Here's a sort of abstract photo taken with a wide aperture.  I really like how the lights are big dots.  This looks really cool with colored lights on a tree, especially when the top is lit as well.

This was taken with a really tight aperture and a looong shutter speed, I had to use a tripod.  Look at how all the lights are little twinkle stars.  This would be really pretty for family portraits, but no kids would ever sit still long enough with that shutter speed.  I think I'll buy a star filter for next year so I can do this with a normal speed.

Its really amazing the differences you can get by just using different settings!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lesson 3: Color of Light

Tonight I looked over the .pdf for lesson 3.  After I shot the photos, I got on 2peas to see where the rest of the ongoing class were in their lessons.  I started this on my own because the group on the website was several weeks ahead of me.  I was thrilled to find that some of them were also a few weeks behind.  So if I can get in 2 lessons each of the next 2 weeks, I will be caught up with the class!  Here is a link to that class thread for week 3 in case you want to see:

Now, about the actual lesson.  Most cameras have a setting called WB, or white balance.  I have always just shot on AWB, or auto white balance, in the past.  Well, low and behold, there are multiple different setting for the different types of light and a custom setting so that you can adjust it yourself for your conditions.  This is a huge development for me (no pun intended).  Now I know what to change on my camera to get rid of certain color casts and that yellowish glow you get when you take pictures indoors with artificial lighting.

This concept is best illustrated with a white or colorful subject.  I'm working on this in my bedroom while everyone else in the house is sleeping, so my subject is a bundle of cheap pearl bracelets and a fleece blanket.  And without further ado, here are my photos:

All shot ISO 1600, 1/50 sec,  f/5.6

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tattoo Shoes

A few weeks ago I came across a photo of some really cool custom designed shoes.  They were designed and painted by the girl on this website:

The subject matter of the designs on her shoes is usually related to weddings, and it seems her target customer is brides-to-be.  I was enthralled by them and desperately coveting a pair.  But, since I am already married, I really had no use for a pair with my wedding date and theme drawn on them.  Then, a few weeks ago I pulled a box of shoes out of my storage unit in search of boots to wear this fall and came across this old, cheap pair of scuffed up white heels.

I had already given several pairs of heels away because I no longer have a professional job that requires me to wear them every day.  Plus, living in a rural area with a lack of sidewalks and driveways, and an excess of gravel and mud, sort of limits the ability to wear nice heels on a regular basis.  So, rather than let my entire collection sit in a closet and collect dust unappreciated, I gave away a few of the pairs I was least likely to wear again.  Since these aren't that comfortable, and had multiple scuffs, I very nearly threw them out.

Then, it occurred to me that since they are white and serve no current purpose, I could use them to experiment with this method of sharpie shoe doodling.  I began thinking of what I could draw on them, and decided that since I really like tattoos, but can't accept that kind of lifelong commitment to something that's essentially cosmetic, I could in fact, tattoo my shoes.

I began Googling tattoo designs and art, and the next time I went to Walmart I invested in a 6 pack of fine point permanent markers.  After a few sketches in pencil, a little removal with nail polish remover and a cotton swab and what equated to a few minor cover up jobs, these were my result:

I am rather pleased with them.  It was actually a really fun project.  At first I just sketched on a design in pencil, and then I went over it with a super fine tip black permanent marker.  After I colored the design in, the outlines would get blurred and smeared by the colored markers, so I had to go over all the outlines a second time to darken and sharpen them after the coloring in process.  The entire process took about two weeks of time spent every few days in the evening while I watched TV.

I decided I wanted to keep true to the tattoo theme, so I picked designs that had some sort of personal meaning to me and then researched sleeve and full back tattoos for backgrounds to link the design as a whole together. 

On the shoe in the foreground you can see a sparrow and a traditional Japanese dragon.  The sparrow has personal meaning because my maternal grandfather had two of them tattooed on his chest.  Another family member got a sparrow tattoo in his honor after he died.  I have tossed around the idea of following suit, but again, I can't make the commitment.   The dragon is a classic tattoo design and symbolizes strength, courage, and power.  I think every woman feels strong and powerful in a sexy pair of shoes.

The shown side of the shoe in the background is sort of my personal homage to my husband.  He has this eternal campaign of the idea that I should brand his name somewhere on my body, well this is the closest he'll every get.  I gave him some nice scroll font and the key to my heart.  (Aw, ain't I sweet?)  The skull and barbed wire are also references to him because he has tattoos that incorporate both on his arms.  Roses are also a typical romantic symbol and I made this particular one blue to be a bit more masculine.

personalized tattoo custom shoe heel

You can see that the front of the shoe in the foreground is the sacred heart with the cliche "Mom" banner.  The sacred heart is typically associated with Christianity and symbolizes the unconditional love of Christ.  This is why people often pair the symbol with the name of a loved one.  I am a mother, and I love my mom, so I thought this would be the perfect addition.

This side of both shoes is where I began to get a little more creative.  Tigers are also a common tattoo.  Here in our town, it is the mascot of the local high school.  My husband, both parents, aunts, uncles, brother and sister have all attended this school.  No way could I overlook it.  Now, the red maple leaves and waves usually are paired with Japanese Koi fish, which symbolize good luck and good fortune.  They are paired with the fish because they spawn in the fall.  For my purposes, I put them with the Tiger here because, well, fall is football season and that's when the Tiger makes his biggest yearly debut in our area.  The high school itself sits on a river bank, so the water fits nicely as well.

The background shoe in this picture shows a sun and clouds with an eight ball.  The eight ball is typically associated with risk or gambling.  Recently, we took a risk at relocating and had to deal with some cloudy times, but in the end the sun is rising and revealing a bright new phase in our life.  The nautical, or compass star, symbolizes making my own path.  I know, I'm getting really deep here. On a lighter note, I added the roses because they are one of the most popular tattoo images and look really nice with the rest of my work.  My favorite rose is the two-tone yellow and red or coral colored variety, so that's what I tried to illustrate.  And just so that I have complete research, the red rose symbolizes love while yellow is for joy.

I hope you like my latest project; I can't wait to wear them.  I'm hoping they will hold up nicely and I'm debating whether I should spray them with some type of sealant.  If they do fade or chip, I still have all the markers handy for touch ups.  If you are thinking about trying something new, go for it.  If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, I hope you will do at least as much research as I have before you permanently mark your body.  These are just shoes, and it didn't take that long, honestly Google is your friend.  Inking your body is forever.  Even when you're ninety, in a nursing home, and gravity has dropped or stretched all the images a few inches, you're still stuck with them.  I, however, will have gone through hundreds of pairs of shoes by then.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lesson 2: Shutter Speed

OK, I admit it, this assignment is about as close to a failure as I can get.  I feel like I'm turning in a project in high school that I know is crap because I totally slacked, but the teacher really likes me, or knows my family, or I'm on the football team (not really) so I know I'll pass regardless.  I guess that's kind of how it is when you are your own judge.  But for the sake of getting a post up in a timely fashion and following through on this project as promised, here it is:

This week is all about shutter speed and ISO.  Shutter speed is exactly what it sounds like, its the speed at which the little opening on the lens shuts to take your photo.  A faster shutter speed can capture movement in a freeze frame; a slower speed will show moving elements in a blur and convey motion.  The assignment was to take photos of running water at different speeds and compare them.  This is where ISO and my problems began.

The best way I can explain ISO is that it is the speed at which the photo develops.  With film cameras, this was the number listed on the film box.  Photos are developed by exposure to light, so if you have less light, you need a higher ISO.  If you are using a fast shutter speed, the little door opens and closes quickly, not letting much light in, so we use a faster ISO to compensate.

The assignment specified to use an ISO of 1600, this is the fasted setting my camera would allow anyway, and put the camera in Shutter priority mode.  The first few photos I took at slower shutter speeds were not that bad.  Here's one:

1 second
One second is actually considered a pretty slow shutter speed.  I had to use a tripod because any camera movement would have totally obscured the shot.  Notice how the water is sort of blurry as it hits the glass.  This next shot is a bit faster.

1/50 of a second
Now you can see more definition as the water hits the glass.

You are about to see where I started having problems.  The situation is that high speed shots really require good (read: natural) lighting.  The only sink in the house near a window is in the kitchen, but unfortunately those particular windows face a mountain side.  So good, natural lighting is pretty much impossible.  If I hadn't waited until the last minute and it weren't blue cold today, I guess I could have gone outside and used the hose or spigot on the side of the house.  But I'm a wimp, and it was frosty, so I didn't.  Here's an even faster shot:

1/500 of a second
You can see a lot more definition to the water, even droplets are beginning to be made out in the stream.  But the problem with higher ISO is noise, or in layman's terms, the graininess of the photo.  I had to increase the brightness the most my little edit slider would let me and bump up the contrast as well so you could still make out the photo.  This is the best I could do with it since I am still totally ignorant with photoshop and am currently refusing to even start the program because I'm intimidated.  This next shot is the fastest I attempted to shoot:

1/1000 of a second
If this photo weren't so distorted it brings to mind the TV screen in poltergeist, it would be totally cool.  If you look closely you can really see the little droplets and how the motion is stopped.  You can also tell that it's a faster shutter speed because the photo is even darker.

In conclusion, I really wish I'd had better lighting, but I think you get the gist of what I am attempting to learn.  Hopefully I'll get some spare time and a few moderately warm days this week to play around outside a bit and have something I'm a little more proud of to post.  

If I get really ambitious, there is a creek nearby that could be's that as a cliff hanger for ya?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lesson 1: Aperture

I had time to go over week one material and attempt the first challenge earlier this week.  But, with all the Halloween hoopla, this is the first chance I've had to write a post about it.

Week one focused on aperture.  Basically, the aperture is the size of the opening of the camera lens.  It determines how much of the photo is in focus.  For a more detailed and eloquent explanation, see the website and lessons I linked in my previous post.

The challenge was to take photos with 3 different f/stops and compare them.  F/stop is what the setting of the aperture is called.  These photos were all taken in aperture priority mode, meaning I can adjust the f/stop, but the camera does everything else automatically to best suit the conditions.  I chose my mother-in-law's porch rail as my subject because it was the only thing standing still on a windy day that didn't have shadows cast over it.

Notice the contrast of the finial in sharp focus so that it really stands out, to the the leafy yard out of focus keeping attention from being called to the background.  This is a good setting for portraits.

This is sort of a midway setting on my camera.  See how the leaves are a little clearer in the grass?

 In this photo, everything is in focus.  
This is a great setting for landscapes where you want to see all the scenery clearly, and people who keep their houses clean all the time and don't have to worry about clutter in the background of family photos.

I can't wait to spend more time playing with these settings when its not so windy and I can get nice shots of things like flowers or tree branches, or I can round up a really patient willing subject to participate.

Stay tuned for next weeks homework on ISO and Shutter Speed involving interesting water photography.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More work, but for fun! is one of my favorite websites.  It's first and foremost an online store for scrapbookers, but its so much more than that!  I stumbled onto the message boards, which are a ton of fun and have a plethora of information about everything you can think of if you check the non-scrapbook related board (NSBR).  But today, I want to share about the photography board.

Currently, I do not have the time or the finances to take a  photography class.  Not to mention the fact that living in the stix sort of severely limits your choices for that sort of thing.  2peas has solved all my problems.  They have an awesome online course and message boards so that you can interact with classmates and many talented professionals.

As I go through the course, I plan to post pics to document my progress.  It should be really interesting.  So, check out the site and stay tuned for my homework!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall pics

I was hoping to get out and take some more photos of the fall foliage, but yesterday's rain storm seems to have thwarted me.  The trees are looking pretty skimpy now and the hills are getting closer to an overall shade of brown; the warm yellows, gold, and reds falling with leaves.  For your viewing pleasure, here are a few that I got on my maiden shoot Sunday.

This is a barberry bush in my dad's driveway.  They are really very pretty, but a nightmare if you ever have to prune or transplant them.  Mr. Backwoods learned his lesson about wearing gardening gloves with one of these a few summers ago.

My step-mom's Japanese Maple.

Hopefully this will soon be where my house sits.  Babe Jr thought she was out of the frame, heheheh.

And a few random other shots of the scenery:

I hope you liked them :)