Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog of the Week awarded to MixedUpMedia! Awesome...

Each week Dora at "Peace From Pieces" awards a Blog of the Week.  I'm delighted to say I have been awarded for this week!

I received the following message from her: 

Hi! Your blog's been tagged as "Blog of the Week" from 30 March to 6 April. Do keep your great posts coming! 
Cheers - Dora

I'm Thrilled!
I'm Thrilled and Motivated!

Dora (Pandora) Poikilos is the author of 2 blogs. Peace From Pieces

In her about me section on her blog she writes that she is a published author, certified bookaholic, owner of a VP Shunt, loves social media and believes in Jesus.

She also answers a few questions about herself:

What’s the ideal dream job for you?
- What I have right now. To write. (Well, I could do with a few more writing assignments to tip the earnings scale in a more favourable manner, but yes, I love what I do.) 

Have you been writing for long?
- As long as I can remember, thankfully. My work centres around book reviews, product reviews, feature articles, ghost writing e-books and as many writing opportunities as crosses my path.

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?
- Cereal, preferably Coco Pops

Wow!  She sounds fascinating.  I'd love to meet her and thank her in person for tagging me.

Thank you Dora!  I'm thrilled more than I can say.

Check out both of her blogs. The award here: Peace From Pieces

Friday, March 25, 2011

The WoW factor of close ups

How to get the WoW factor in close up photography. Close up photography involves a shallow depth of field (DOF) which helps keep the background objects from competing with the main subject of your photo. 

Notice how the background becomes blurred when using the automatic close up mode dial. A shallow depth of field (DOF) has been created.

The simple definition for beginning photographers of shallow depth of field (DOF) means objects closest to the camera lens will be in sharper focus than those further away. This post is applicable for people with DSLR cameras or Point and Shoot cameras. Be sure and read your camera's manual to find the close up or macro setting for your camera.

"Farmer's Market Peppers"

The nearer the subject is in focus to your camera, the depth of field (DOF) will be more shallow blurring the background. The above photo shows the peppers in focus and the background blurred. This draws attention to the peppers and blurs the distracting background.  In our case we are using close up on the automatic dial mode to achieve this effect.  In future blogs we will discuss the semi-automatic (A,S,P) modes and manual (M) modes of using your camera to accomplish what we've been learning in my posts.  

"Mica's Gaze"
Think outside the box when taking photos. Shoot from different angles.

Check your camera's manual for exactly what your close up mode produces and where it is located. On my DSLR camera the automatic mode dial is located on the top of the camera.  Close up mode is generally represented as a flower icon.

Nikon camera automatic mode dial

On my point and shoot camera, the automatic close up mode is a button located on the back of the camera. There are two close up mode settings, each setting proving greater depth of field (DOF).

"It's all in the eyes"
Notice the blurred bushes in the background and the shallow DOF

The photos above and below show more examples of shallow depth of field. The distracting backgrounds are thrown out of focus to draw the viewer's attention to the main subject. Remember, as we discussed earlier, the nearer the subject is in focus to your camera, depth of field will be more shallow.

"Shy Daisy"

In-camera Cyanotype Processing*

Get creative and fill the entire frame with detail and notice that what looked good from a distance looks even better up close.


When we focus in on detail we see textures and colors that we might not have noticed. These details draw the viewer in for a better look.

*Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that gives a cyan-blue print. The process was popular in engineering circles well into the 20th century. The simple and low-cost process enabled them to produce large-scale copies of their work, referred to as blueprints.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Little lady in the jaunty hat

The little lady in the jaunty hat on your camera mode dial or mode settings is the symbol for the auto portrait mode on your camera.  I find her quite charming. Portrait mode is used for still portraits not action or sports shots. Portrait mode tweaks color, sharpness and contrast to produce natural skin tones. Be sure and turn on your red-eye reduction when taking portraits.

Photo of Nikon camera automatic mode settings

Above is a shot of my Nikon camera’s mode dial. Read about each of these modes and how to find and set them in your camera manual. In my blog posts we have been discussing the various automatic modes – the figure icons on your mode dial.  When we are finished learning each of these we will tackle the M, A, S, P modes.  

The portrait auto mode is designed to keep your subject in sharp focus and blur the background. The idea is to focus attention on your subject.

You can maximize the blurring by placing your subject as far as possible from the background. Use a telephoto lens on a DSLR camera with exchangeable lenses or the zoom on a Point and Shoot camera. On a DSLR for example, if you are using an 18-105mm lens, zoom all the way to 105mm length to maximize background blurring.  If using a Point and Shoot camera zoom to the farthest telephoto length your camera allows.

Photo credit to "KRW Home" krw-Home

When you’re photographing people, even a casual photo, always check what’s behind the subject. Whatever it is, it will show up in your photo.  Is the background distracting? What’s the lighting like? Is it bright and glaring or is the sun directly overhead washing out your subject? Is there unattractive scenery or objects that will draw attention away from your subject?  If so, then you need to either move your subject or you need to move and shoot the subject from a different angle.

I often photograph people I don’t know very well, or people I don’t know at all.  To make everyone comfortable I start a conversation before I set my subject in a scene and start pointing my camera at them. Before I start shooting photos I ask about their likes, what makes them happy, their hobbies – cheerful topics.  I stay away from controversial conversations – grouchy topics make for grouchy expressions and no one’s happy with the outcome of those photos! I love capturing a subject’s personality in the photo.  That’s the best feeling of all when I take portraits. The above gentleman told me he is often mistaken for Santa Claus which gave us plenty to discuss.  

If I’m relaxed and confident my subject soon relaxes and feels at ease. I pose my subject in a location where I can move around and get shots from various angles. I take lots of photos. Think of good locations to shoot photos in your area. Be prepared.  A local park, family outing, a backyard get together, a picnic, places of interest around town, all these make great locations with thought and planning. 

Photo credit-krwHome

Soft diffused window light is one of the best kinds of light to use in indoor portrait photography. Use a room that has soft natural light coming through the window.

Using a tripod will keep you from shaking the camera and blurring the image. The camera’s self-timer can be set to a 2 second delay or you can use a shutter delayed remote for further blur control. Either of these helps with camera shake. Make sure your automatic flash is turned off.  If not, it will probably go off to compensate for the low light environment and wash out your photo. Take lots of shots and have fun with various poses.  

Sometimes the best photos happen when your subject thinks you’re done.  Take the camera away from your eye for a moment or two but be prepared to continue shooting. If you’re lucky you’ll get a spontaneous moment like this one with a terrific pose. A natural relaxed shot that you wouldn’t have captured if your subject thought they were still the focus of your attention. I was thrilled when hubby leaned over and gave his wife an unexpected kiss on the cheek.  I knew they'd love this shot and they did.

I hope you will keep coming back for more beginning photo tips.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Versatile Blogger Recognition

One of my fellow bloggers, JP Brandano, has honored me and 7 others with the Versatile Blogger Award. Jim is a fellow photographer and his work is super sensational!  I'll post a link to his blog below. Please visit and leave comments - we all love those.

So, here’s how the award works: I’m supposed to list seven things about myself and then share the award with seven other bloggers. I've listed my 7 award winners below but first, a bit about me.  Hmmmm, always tough, why oh why does my mind go blank when asked about myself? I'm stalling for time :D.
  1. Everyone in my life knows Not (capital N) to talk to me until I've had my first cup of morning coffee.  Without that first cup things can get ugly fast!
  2. My hubby and I are "of an age".  Seniors.  Grey hair, a few "laugh crinkles" as I call wrinkles. We walk around holding hands and smiling.  People get a kick out of us and I guess think we're cute.  We get great service and smiles back most places we go. It's a nice thing.    
  3. I ride English style in horse shows.  My horse, Mica (registered name Slightly Painted) is a strawberry roan and beautiful. I usually place within the top 3 riders in my age division.   We also trail ride in a beautiful 500 acre state forest.  Grooming her is a Zen experience for both of us - peaceful and relaxing. I brush, she falls asleep. 
  4. Along with photography I paint using acrylics, make collages, pottery and mosaics. I made jewelry for a long time but how many necklaces and earrings can you own or give away? :D With all our Pacific Northwest rain indoor hobbies is a necessity. 
  5. Until my mid-50's I ran in 1/2 marathons (I could never get past 18 miles), and rode my bicycle in centuries (100 mile bike rides). I was bummed that I never ran a marathon. I wanted to ride in the Davis Double (California) bike marathon.  200 miles in one day.  Never made that one either.  Riding a horse is much easier. :D
  6. We live on l.5 acres outside Seattle, Wa with 3 dogs and 3 pygmy goats.  Our pygmy goats are our meadow maintenance; they eat all the dandelions. Mica lives at a local stable. It's very peaceful and quiet here. We are surrounded by a variety of fir trees.  My favorite is the fragrant cedars. 
  7. Summers are spent landscaping with native plants and perennials.  We've been here 5 years and our hard work is paying off.   We have two decks and are rarely indoors during nice weather.

Oh, and I love to bake and cook! There, 8 items - I never could follow the rules lol. 

Now,  drum roll please, my 7 Versatile Blogger Award picks.

Here's someone I recently discovered and absolutely love. Sunny Sings the Blues.  She writes with humor, pathos and passion about very personal issues. Or, as she puts it,  "Cultivating plucky blooms from the fertilizer of grief." 

Another fave is Creative Cakes by Saru.  The page can be translated from Italian to any other language through Google translator.  Her cakes and pasties are truly works of art. Saru includes recipes and photos to help you along. Yum, yummy, yummiest!

Benjamin Heine is an amazing  photographer, painter, illustrator, portraitist, and caricaturist. He's a terrifically talented guy and a must see.  His blog includes videos of his work including pencil vs camera and digital circlism. Take a look at his flickr site if you like what you see. He shares a link from his blog to his flickr account.  

Phew - this is tough!  There's so many talented bloggers I like.  Okay, on to #4.

As soon as I spotted the following blog I knew I had to subscribe.  Erin Is Love:  "Reflections on life with the world's best dog, world traveler, therapy dog, church attendee, stage performer and beloved friend." I enjoy following Erin's stories.  It's rewarding to read David's recounting of her life.  

Wan has been a tremendous help in explaining some of the ins and outs of blogger which has helped me get my blog going. Thank you Wan.  Her recipes are delish and easy to follow. Her blog, Cooking Varieties, includes excellent photos of each dish she prepares.  She also writes and publishes eCookbooks.  Smart lady. If some of the ingredients in her recipes are not available in your area she may be able to give you substitutes if you contact her.

A Kindle In Hong Kong  Shannon used to have a love/hate relationship with bookstores. Every time she went into one it made her sad that she didn't have time to read every book that jumped off the shelves. Then she moved to Hong Kong and got a 35 minute commute and a Kindle. Now she's catching up. Her blog is interesting and she includes lovely photos to match her posts.  Best of all she reviews books in a very insightful way.

And last but hardly least here is Alida, Blackpurl's Knitpickings. She's an expat journalist living in Belize and chronicling her experiences through her blog. She is a missionary to people recovering from alcoholism and/or drug addiction.  Alida is also in training to be a Family Intervention Specialist with The Child Development Foundation of Belize. This organization is working to educate the public about the growing problem of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Belize.  Her blog is filled with great photos and inspiration.  It's very impressive and so is she.  

Thank you to Jim Brandano for giving me the Versatile Blogger Award along with his other fave bloggers.  Check his blog out and be sure to leave your comments.  His photos are beautiful.

Here's a few snapshots of our "family" that you might enjoy:


Rob Roy napping in "Grandpa's" chair
Suzie our adopted rescue dog
Frankie trying to hide from the camera

Mica in her silver bling show halter

I'm looking forward to reading the posts of the seven bloggers I have nominated.  


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

The above quote is attributed to Margaret Atwood, a Canadian poet and novelist.  I love the quote. I'm ready for Spring and digging in the dirt. So enough of winter!  After reading my friend Kriti's latest blog about color, I decided to share some color of my own and cheer myself up. I hope it cheers you up too.  There's a link at the bottom of my post to her blog.  Be sure and read it.

We are in our grey, rainy season with periodic bouts of snow.  I'm dreaming of my garden and the brightly colored flowers that grow during Spring and Summer.  Since we moved into our home we've put 5 years of labor into our yard and what was sand, bare soil and weeds have become lush gardens with lots of perennials and native plants. Our hard work has paid off! 

Peony - "A Hint of Pink" digital art
Digital art done with Photo Shop Elements and Topaz Labs Filters

Peonies are my favorite flower. They were my Mom's favorite so I'm guessing that has a lot to do with my love of them. She had a wonderful green thumb and her peonies were magnificent!  I have 8 peony bushes in shades of pale pink to deep rose planted in what I call my "peony garden".  The colors are delicate to bright and vibrant. They start blooming in May and last until mid to late September. Nice! Future blogs will get into some of the specifics of digital art so stay tuned.

Rose of Sharon after the rain
This is a "straight out of the camera shot" (SOOC) 

I love the colors on my Rose of Sharon bush. The white petals are a pure, very bright white, and the center is a deep crimson red.  The crimson red really "pops" against the white petals.  Green and red are complimentary colors so the leaves also set off the red center of the flowers.  When I'm on a photo shoot I look for complimentary colors in the scene and include such elements in my photos.  The play of colors off each other can turn a snap shot into a stunning photo. Straight out of the Camera, SOOC, means the photo has not been edited in any way.  

Gerber Daisy digital art using pencil sketch and filters
Digital art done with Photo Shop Elements and Topaz Labs Filters

I have super size container gardens on my decks.  I fill them with Gerber Daisies and other annual flowers.  Gerber Daisies come in amazing colors like shocking pink, bright orange, goldenrod yellow and pale cream.  I like to plant bright pink and orange together for the shock value of the colors playing off each other.  The above photo manipulation was fun to create.  I took a photo of a pink Gerber Daisy covered with rain drops and manipulated it into a pencil sketch. After playing with the color and adding a slight cream glow to the bottom half of the flower I was satisfied with my creation.  

Photo manipulation is great fun, the problem is knowing when to stop tweaking but that comes with trial and error.  I save my work as I go, bring up a saved copy, tweak some more, save again.  I can always go back to either the original photo or any one of my saved edits in case I'm not happy with a particular version of the photo.  

This little guy is a Willow Goldfinch
Another "straight out of the camera" (SOOC) photo
The Willow Goldfinch is the Washington State Bird. Their golden colors are beautiful. They are abundant all year but especially in the Spring and Summer.  We love sitting on our deck watching them.  We attract them by putting suet and seeds in our bird feeders and keeping the birdbaths filled with clean water.  They're curious, friendly and love to pose.  

The sun was out today so there's hope that Spring is coming soon.  Here in the rainy Pacific Northwest we take all the sunny days we can get.  

My inspiration for this post came from my friend Kriti's blog about "colors that I am made of".   

Please leave your comments below, then take a look at Kriti's blog.  I know you'll be inspired too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Twilight, the series...

I love this photographic digital art series. I've had a number of people ask to see the before photographs as a comparison to the digital art set, so I decided to repost this blog and show you both the before and after photos.  The photos were taken of the woods in front of my house.  It was late in the day just after a lovely snowfall. A fog had settled in so the air had a gray-blue tinge. 

I grabbed my camera knowing I wouldn't have much time to take photos before dark.  I set my camera's automatic setting to landscape/panoramic mode, opened my front door and leaned my arm and shoulder against the door jamb to minimize camera shake and the possibility of blurry photos. Keep this tip in mind when you don't have a tripod handy.  Trees and walls work as well.

Automatic landscape/panoramic mode is designed to capture scenic vistas, city skylines, and other large scale objects.  It’s designed to keep both objects close to the camera and in the distance in sharp focus.  Check your camera's manual for information on setting this mode.

The auto landscape mode does several helpful things when you’re shooting outside.  This mode produces a large area of sharp focus. It boosts colors and contrast slightly.  It also produces rich, bold hues that we want in our landscape photos, unless you're shooting in fog :-).  Greens and blues are emphasized.  I wanted the blue in the fog to "pop" as much as possible.

Twilight Pine (digital art version)

Twilight Pine (original version)

Twilight Woods (digital art version)

 Twilight Woods (original version)

Twilight Aspen (digital art version)

Twilight Aspen (original version)

There's quite a difference between the original photos and the digital art, also called photo manipulated, versions. Any photo, even portraits, are great for manipulating and turning into digital art.  And, if you have a so-so photo that has good composition but lacks pizzazz you have a perfect candidate for digital editing. 

Ok, how did I do this?  There's several options, some free, some quite inexpensive, and some very expensive.  I've tried all but the very expensive and have been happy with the results.

My photos are stored on flickr and I used a photo editing software called Picnik for a couple of years. Both have a nominal yearly fee.  I love flickr and was very pleased with Picnik.  Gimp is a free photo editing software which I also liked and used along with Picnik. Goggle searches will bring up all three.

Currently I use Photo Shop Elements (PSE) with Topaz Lab plug-ins. The photos above were edited using PSE and the plug-ins.  You can Goggle these as well.  

Later blog posts will include basic editing using Picnik, PSE and Topaz.

This digital art series is one of the best sellers at my photo gallery.   

Take a look at this series and some of my other work which also includes 
<a href="http://fine art photography</a>