Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You light up my life

It’s late as I write this and I should really be in bed. I had an errand to run after work today and didn’t get home ‘til late. I then began reading your comments from yesterday’s Q&A. I always enjoy these and respond to as many as I’m able, but sometimes I still get that darn message.

It’s nice getting to know you. Welcome to all the new faces I see here.

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And hey, sorry about the corny post title. Come to think of it, it sort of reminds me of one of my brothers as I was growing up. He was always in trouble, always annoying the rest of us, always wanting attention in any way, shape or form.

My mother gave me some of the best advice on how to deal with a pesky brother. And surprisingly, he stopped bothering me. What I used was this: Every time I wanted to scream at him, I just got close to him and in my most sincere voice told him that he was the light of my life and that I loved him.

This totally freaked him out and I remember having to do it only twice.

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It really worked.

Unfortunately I didn’t find out until later in life that he began tormenting my younger sister.

He could be pretty squirrely, that brother of ours.

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Squirrels? Did someone say squirrels????

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Sorry about that, George.

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It's still raining here and earlier today it was raining sideways, the wind was so strong. I can hear it blowing out there despite these thick stone walls. March is surely going out like a lion here in Maryland. What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Until tomorrow, my friends . . .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays

Today was both a rainy day and a Monday but thankfully, down I was not. Work was busy at school today and I always prefer it that way.

But it breaks my heart at the same time to know that my husband will never experience another busy day at work. Ok. I will stop.

I’m still trying to make small changes to the blog and I thank you so much for all your input. We’re in our usual evening spots, my husband and I ~ he watching Jeopardy and me tossing toys to George, fooling with pictures and writing this post. The rain has finally abated but last night was wicked windy and it poured to beat the band.

Today my husband took some macro shots while walking around the yard. These are a few of the ones I really liked.

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Raindrops hang from the newly sprouted maple leaves.

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I bought some purple pansies last week. He planted them in pots and brought them inside when we had a severe cold snap a couple of nights ago. I love how the drops are all beaded up on this little flower.

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The lilacs are getting bigger every day. He took this before the rain. I love these colors.

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And this one just speaks to me. Those tiny little drops are just so beautiful.

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And now, because inquiring minds want to know . . .

1. What’s your favorite magazine?

2. What book are you currently reading?

3. What activity recharges your inner battery?

4. Do you remember your favorite show/cartoon when you were very little?

5. What do you usually eat for breakfast?

See you in the comments, my friends . . .

All photos taken with a Nikon D80 and a Nikkor macro lens.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My baby, she wrote me a letter

I love handmade cards. And just the other day, when I opened the drawer in the dining room cabinet looking for a set of candles, I spied my letter collection. And I thought to myself that they were so pretty, I’d do a post on them some day.

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My friend, Margie, the art teacher at our school, made this card for me the other day as a thank you. I’d given her one of the Jimmy Belasco candles I’d recently bought because I thought it would cheer her up.

And it did. And that cheered me up.

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Little was I expecting this beautiful handmade card in return. The background is wrapping paper with little dots that are in a swirl pattern. She created all the circles and hand painted them. I love it! She even embellished the envelope with my name. (Margie, if you are reading this, I hope I’m not embarrassing you.)

I have a collection of some of her hand made cards. Most are in frames.

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These are cards, both thank you and just because, from friends and family. My niece sent me the one on the right. I believe she made it herself.

Who doesn’t love getting something nice like this in the mail rather than the usual bills?

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The little handmade one in the center here is from Boneca Linda, where I recently purchased a couple of camera straps for friends.

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This one hangs on my frig. It’s a postcard from my blogging friend, Tracey, who lives the next county over from me. We have yet to meet because of our busy schedules. But we plan on it.

May the art of letter writing never die.

Thanks everyone, for your encouragement with the new look here. Yes, I like it better with the double columns on the right rather than the left. There was something that was bothering me and that was it.

Yes, I have ads on my site now. I had never cared about the money before, but with the encouragement of friends, I decided that if it would even pay for a new lens, it would be worth it.

Hope your week is a good one. Until tomorrow, then?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trying out a new look

I’ve been wanting a 3-column look for this blog for quite some time now. But it wasn’t until I tried Blogger In Draft, the new template designer that just came out from Blogger, that I realized I could possibly do this. So despite my limited knowledge of html coding, I’ve gone to a 3-column look easily with Blogger in Draft.

And it only took me three days to figure it all out.

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It usually takes me awhile to figure things out.

I wanted the extra column to accommodate any future advertising I may want to install and the timing of my acceptance into advertising through BlogHer coincided nicely with the new template design offered by Blogger.

Can anyone tell me how many times I’ve said either the word Blogger or BlogHer because I’m going crazy here.

Regardless, I kept the background color and my banner the same. And I’ve placed all my YouTube videos at the footer. And this is my test post for the new look.

Respectfully submitted,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blackie. Because she’s had enough George.

It’s come to my attention that although we have two pets in this family, only one gets to shine in the spotlight. For as much as George loves the camera, our cat Blackie does not.

To get a photo of Blackie, one must be discreet. Blackie is most distrustful of the camera.

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Use of the long lens is highly recommended.

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This way she doesn’t know you’re there.

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A less effective method is keeping the camera behind your back and pulling it out while she’s looking the other way.

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Or catching her taking a nap. On a bed, I might add, she believes to be hers.

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You can run but you can’t hide from the lens, Blackie!

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Um . . . I can still see you.

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All in all, the long lens works the best with her. But she really is a beautiful girl.

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Have a great weekend, all. And, as always, thanks for coming by.

Until later, then . . .

Friday, March 26, 2010

Angel of the morning

It was dark when I left the manor house on the hill this morning. I had an early appointment scheduled at the lab for a routine blood screen and was ready to go by 6:20. He was already outside with the dog, his hiking poles at the ready. “It’s gonna be a really good sunrise”, he said to me. And then he kissed me goodbye.

And when I came home from work today, I found these on the camera disk.

He was right about the sunrise.

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He stood here next to me tonight as I looked through them, choosing the ones I wanted to open in Photoshop. I love these photos he took.

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In PS, I removed those pesky dust specks and slightly sharpened. And for the two above, I ran Pioneer Woman’s Lovely & Ethereal, lowering the opacity considerably. I told him how I could make this one look better by cropping it. He agreed and was pleased with the result.

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I want to encourage the photography thing for him. I think it’s something at which he could excel.

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Sometimes I can’t believe how fortunate we are to have stumbled on this place.

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It’s a place that has room for our dog to run and room for us to walk.

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It’s a place we find beautiful, despite the proximity of the housing developments. And the highway. And the interstate.

This house has been standing since 1769. It was here during the Revolutionary War, when George Washington rode up this hill to take advantage of the then-spectacular view as he observed the British troops as they landed on the shore just 8 miles from here.

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And it is still here, surrounded by 20 acres of land and bordered on one side by a housing development.

Good morning, house.

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Thanks for all the positive feedback on my first Photoshop tutorial from yesterday’s post. I hope to do more of them. As I said before, I am not an expert. I just know how to get around when I want to make simple enhancements to my photographs.

Until tomorrow, then?

Attention Photoshop Elements Users: Free actions are available for Elements now on Pioneer Woman’s Photography site. Yay for you!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photoshop Tutorial: How to apply texture to a photograph

I want to begin by saying that I am not an expert in Photoshop. Far from it, if you want to know the truth. However, after viewing several different tutorials I found online as well as the advice received from other bloggers, I began to understand how to apply a texture to a photograph.

And I fell in love.

And got a little addicted, if you want to know the truth.

I’ve created this tutorial because of a blog I visited today. The author was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t make the texture the right size and was just having a lot of problems understanding it all. I remembered when I was starting out and all of the hours I’d spend trying to make sense of the whole process, only to feel defeated much of the time.

And then, one day it just clicked.

If you’re not into this sort of thing, please feel free to run away now. I’ll see you tomorrow and I promise I’ll understand your desire to flee. But if you are into this sort of thing, please bear with me. This is the first tutorial I’ve ever done.

The finished image is below. So let’s begin.

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1. Start by opening an image in Photoshop. I use an older version: CS2. In the picture below, I’ve opened the image I want to work on.


2. Open a texture that you’d like to use. On my PC, I hit Control O (Open) and then choose a file. I’ve chosen Florabella’s Platinum (cool). It’s a pretty blue.

3. In your Tools Palette, choose the Move tool. It looks like a triangle on its side. Now, using your move tool, drag the texture directly onto the top of the photograph below.


4. Grab onto that little square in the corner there (I’ve circled it below) and drag the texture to fit exactly over your photograph. You’ll have to do this with the other corner(s) as well.

5. Hit the Enter key.


5. You now have a Background (your original photograph) layer and a texture layer. See where I’ve circled that? All you can see at this point, however, is the texture. It's because it's set to normal blending layer at 100% opacity. So let's fool around with that.


6. Over there on the bottom right is your layers palette. If you click on to where it says Normal, (just above where I’ve circled) you will get an option list for the different blending modes. I’ve chosen soft light as the blending mode here. I’m also going to slide the opacity bar to the left until I like what I see. The opacity bar is to the right of the blending mode. As you slide the opacity bar, watch how the texture changes.

Experiment with the different blending modes and opacities. I find myself mostly using overlay, soft light and hard light. But I’ve gotten some dramatic photos using linear burn and multiply. Have fun with it.

And remember, subtle changes.


At this point, you can flatten the layers and call it a day, but I’ll show you one more thing.

7. Brushing off some of the texture is a tool I often use. First, you need to create a layer mask. With your texture layer highlighted (where the arrow is), click on the little square with the circle inside. It’s at the bottom of the screen (I have it circled). This will give you a layer mask.


8. In your tools palette, choose the brush tool. You want a nice, soft brush here. I went with No. 9 with a hardness of 0% and a brush big enough to cover some of the flowers. I also set the opacity and the flow (I have it circled at the top) to around 35%. Make sure your foreground color is set to black. See that black square there on the left?

9. Now gently brush off some of the texture. In your layer mask, you will begin to see areas of gray and even black. This shows you where your texture has been brushed off.


10. All done. Flatten the image by going into layer (at the top of the screen) and then flatten. Save as you normally would.


And that’s that. I hope this has helped those who needed it. And if any photographers and Photoshop users out there know of a different way, please feel free to let me know. I still don’t know if what I’m doing is right but the cool thing about Photoshop is that there’s always several different ways to get the job done. And this works for me.


PS ~ On my sidebar, directly beneath my photo gear is a list of textures I love. If you’re just starting out, you may want to check out the free ones at Shadowhouse Creations. Nine Acres Designs also has a couple. les brumes and Alphabet Soup Studios, both on Flickr, are also cool. Check the copyright rules. Some of those who offer free textures have specific instructions that include a link back, etc. while others just require a simple thank you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hidden treasures

First of all, I want to thank you so much for your kind comments regarding my husband’s photography from yesterday’s post. He doesn’t like me making a fuss over it, or even mentioning when he is the photographer but I have told him before that I will not take credit for another person’s work. I did tell him at the dinner table tonight what some of you said.

He quickly changed the subject.

He’s always been a bit of a hermit, my husband has. And this post is about something he discovered in the yard several weeks ago.

I took these photos on March 6, when we still had snow on the ground but the weather was the warmest we’d experienced since last fall. And as much as I love winter, I was incredibly happy that weekend because of the warmth of the sun. These photos were taken the day before my husband set up the tent in the yard, the post that earned me a finalist award in The Smitten Image’s Post of the Week.

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There is a small stand of black locust trees in the middle of the yard and the vines growing up and around them were terrible. Ever since we moved here in October 2008, we could see that there was what looked like a pile of rubble deep in the recesses of the vines.

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My husband had slowly been hacking away at these vines that week and I hadn’t even noticed. So imagine my surprise when the weather turned warm that Saturday and I found a barbecue grill in the yard.

What my husband had uncovered was a very old outdoor fireplace.

DSC_0453 copy 2I can’t even begin to guess when this fireplace had been built, but the stone and the mortar look just like the stone and mortar on the breakfast nook, seen in the photo to the left.

The breakfast nook used to house the well but was turned into a room addition at some point. The original house is right next to it and dates to 1769. Next to that is the 1810 addition with the widow’s walk on the roof.

It’s not that we’re going to use the newly-uncovered fireplace. But it’s nice to have it out in the open.

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My husband cut the vines as high as he could and at least that may stop them from continuing to grow and killing the trees. And because I made such a big deal out of the whole thing, it probably contributed to him setting up the tent on the following day.

And I will always remember that day. It was a treasure.

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I’m looking forward to LOST tonight and it promises to answer some questions on Richard, who is quite the Mystery Man. The Man Who Never Ages. Any LOST fans out there?

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I’m just throwing this photo in because I think it’s cool-looking.

And on that note, I’ll say farewell for now. Until tomorrow . . .