Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Photo Editing, vs. "Photoshopping"

Sometimes I forget that not everyone is obsessed with photography.  So when someone says, "Is that picture "photoshopped?" it throws me a little. I have to be careful when I tell family or friends that, "I'll email you the pictures from the event as soon as they are edited," because I recently realized that to some people (especially non-photographers), "editing" implies "photoshopping" to the point of changing the basic picture significantly.

That's not what I do.  Most often, I adjust the exposure, usually add some contrast, crop if needed, and sharpen a bit.  I don't alter the photos significantly, as in, I don't make people look thinner or airbrushed or such things. Very occasionally I'll whiten someone's teeth a tad, but only adult's teeth and only slightly. No glowing teeth here.

See how subtle the differences are in the before and after shot of Sunny above?  Subtle, but effective. (Recognize this shot from my last post?)  I edited it in Lightroom, with just a few simple adjustments. These adjustments were all done with sliders. I can choose to punch it up even more if I want to, but these quick adjustments are all that are necessary to me for this photo.

Although I choose to do my editing after the photo has been taken,  there are some adjustments that can be made within the camera of even the most basic DSLRs that adjust the way a JPEG image looks straight out of camera (SOOC).  In Nikon,  this is called Picture Control, and in Canon it's called Picture Style. There are several basic settings from which to choose: Neutral, Standard, etc, and within that,  some fine tuning of Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, etc. These are fun to play around with, and the fine tuning can help you achieve the look you want, without a lot of editing later. I tend, though, to make most of the adjustments afterward. (P.S. I shoot JPEG, but if you shoot RAW, none of this applies to you, as a RAW image is completely unprocessed and needs a lot of editing.)

In the past, I used some free photo editing software that occasionally made changes that I didn't want (like changing the haircolor or skintones), when I was simply trying to brighten the photo. But even the free editing programs have improved a lot since then. I really like PicMonkey.

The duck photo below was one of the first photos I ever edited with Lightroom 5, and I was able to pull the shadows out  and make a dramatic difference very quickly. (Love those sliders!)

So, for me, photo editing is simply adjusting a photo to look its best, in much the same way that back in my film photography days I chose a company to develop my photos. (For instance, the film processing at our neighborhood drugstore  was always a bit off in color and exposure, vs. the processing at the camera shop nearby, who took the time to color correct and brighten the dark ones.)

Photography vocabulary can be a little confusing, don't you agree?  Do you edit your photos?

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Birthdays, An "Ink Book," and Sunny

My birthday came and went earlier this month.  It was a sweet, simple birthday (as my birthdays tend to be these days. I love that.)  My husband and I went out to dinner (gluten free pasta. It's funny how much more the restaurants charge for a gluten free pasta dish, but it's completely worth it. Also, why don't they offer some gluten free rolls along with it?  I've got to write that email...)

These days, my birthday is a guilt-free day of relaxing a bit and a few little surprises from family. This year, I couldn't come up with any gift ideas in time for my husband, so I went online and found a calligraphy book I wanted. (Husband calls it my "ink book."  "Did your "ink book" come yet?)  A couple of new nibs, some red ink (which is great for Christmas, so the description said), and I'm a happy birthday girl, ready to start some calligraphy projects. (Yes, maybe some projects for next Christmas.)

Which brings me to my next random thought, in my series of random thoughts today. I want to say that I'm so glad calligraphy has loosened up.  As in, when I first started learning calligraphy, there was so much emphasis on doing it "correctly."  A sort of highbrow exclusion of any letter forms that didn't follow the rules. That was always a little intimidating, because, after all, it's supposed to be a form of creative expression. So I'm really happy to see the recent acceptance of "modern calligraphy" that allows tweaking the letterforms to suit your own vision.

And, if you all are curious, the book I got for my birthday is called Modern Calligraphy, by Molly Suber Thorpe, and you can get it from BiggerBooks.com.  It's full of examples of pointed pen calligraphy, and it includes lots of projects.  I especially appreciate all of the variations shown for different letters. I love the book. My new favorite "ink book."  I actually have two books entitled Modern Calligraphy, and I love both of them. (The other one is by Lisa Engelbrecht and is wonderful too.)

My daughter's birthday was just a couple of weeks before mine. She's twenty-one. Twenty-one. That is a surreal feeling, and it's hasn't quite sunk in just yet.  I like her so much better than I liked myself at twenty-one.

Final random thought (question)--Do your dogs go a little crazy in the snow?  Our Sunny runs back and forth, in a tail wagging, bottom wiggling, crazed running sort of way.  We had our first significant snow a few days ago, and Sunny is loving it. Of course, her favorite spot is on a "softie." She's "not spoiled, just loved."

May we all appreciate the comfort of a warm softie on a cold day as much as Sunny does.

This post contains an affiliate link.

Linking to:
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Good Random Fun
Sweet Shot Tuesday
Think and Make Thursdays
You're Gonna Love It Tuesdays
Creative Inspirations
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Picture Perfect Party
Where Your Picture Says it All
Made by You Monday
Wordless Wednesday at Crafty Spices
Wordless Wednesday at Mama to 5 Blessings
Wordless Wednesdays at The Tays in London
The SITS Sharefest
Creative Mondays at Claire Justine

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Easy Chicken and Dumplings (with a Gluten Free Option)

See this cute recipe box?  It was my mom's.  I love that most of  the recipes in the box are in her own handwriting.  The dumpling recipe I'm sharing with you came from that little box and is a very simple one. It's a staple at our house. Sometimes I just want some comfort food (don't you?), and it's definitely that.
First, place some chicken breasts in a large stockpot with enough water to cover them, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer until the inside is no longer pink (165 degrees internal temperature. I go by color.)  Cooking  time will vary. For chicken breasts with skin and bones, it's roughly 30 minutes. For skinless, boneless chicken breasts, it's about 20-25 minutes, and for chicken breasts cut in half, it's about 15-20 minutes.   Hint--If you're in a hurry, using boneless chicken breasts eliminates the tedious process of pulling the meat from the bones.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot, remove the bones, cut it into bite sized pieces, and return it to the pot.

Next, add a can of chicken broth  or a half container of Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth and season it to taste with salt and pepper. (No firm measurements here;  I usually do everything to taste.)

Now, mix up the dumplings.
*I substitute gluten free flour for regular flour, butter or Earth Balance for the shortening, and I use almond milk in place of the milk, but the following is my mom's original recipe.  (My dumplings are usually not as fluffy as my mom's used to be, probably because of some of the substitutions. But they taste good!)

1 1/2 cups flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons shortening*
3/4 cup milk*

Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl. Cut in the shortening thoroughly until the mixture looks like meal.  Stir in the milk.  Drop dough by spoonfuls onto the hot meat. ( I also sprinkle a little flour in, to make it a bit thicker.)  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook a few minutes longer.

That's it! See, I told you it was easy.  Even the picky eater at our house likes this, and I hope you enjoy it too.  It's dumping snow outside, so I'm feeling the need for some warm comfort food today!  (Are you getting the snow too?)

Linking to:
Think and Make Thursdays
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Narnia? Why Yes, Behind the Feather Boas

The magic of a little child's brain is one of the most exciting things on this earth, isn't it?  The thoughts hidden inside those cute little heads, behind those big eyes are amazing.

My kids had really vivid imaginations when they were small. (They still do.)  My daughter, now 21 (!), lived in a preschool world with very fuzzy boundaries between what was real and what was imagined. (She would plant beads in the ground and wait patiently for the "bead tree" to come sprouting through the soil. Things like that.) 

We were at Hobby Lobby recently, and, as she always does when we pass by the feather boas, my daughter told me that when she was little she knew there was a Narnia world behind those boas.  Despite the fact that every time she parted the boas and found only the display wall instead of a magical world, her little mind still believed that if she found just the right moment to part those boas, she would be able to enter that world.

I don't remember how I responded to her when she did that.  In my hurried "mom rush,"  I probably responded with some "how fun" response or something similar. She says she vaguely remembers me gently explaining that Narnia wasn't actually behind those boas. I'm sure I was trying to soften the blow of her finding only a white metal wall.  But, she tells me now, that she remained undaunted by the wall. She was still very sure that the magical world behind those feather boas truly existed.

Thinking about that makes me happy. 

Do you have some magical memories too, even your own?

Linking to:
Handmade Tuesdays
Good Morning Mondays
Wordless Wednesday at Bravely
Thursday Favorite Things
Create with Joy

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Photography Tips for New DSLR Owners-Modes and ISO

Maybe some of you are where I was when I got that first DSLR in 2007, afraid to take it off automatic, for fear you will break something if too many dials are turned or the wrong buttons pushed.  (Can anyone relate to that, or was I simply paranoid?)  The feelings of the brand new DSLR owner--both ecstasy and fear!

I'm a bit obsessed with photography.  (I've talked about the genetic quality of my photography obsession before...)  Although I am a reading tutor by profession, (and I love it), last year I did some newborn photo shoots and would love to make room in my life for more professional photography. But the day I got my first DSLR was a scary one.

I've had this post partially written for months, and my drafts of it have been way too long, trying to talk about everything a new DSLR owner might want to know.  So, for now, I thought I'd just talk about modes and ISO.


I recommend moving away completely from full automatic as soon as you feel comfortable,  but if you are not wanting to veer too much from automatic just yet, at least switch from full automatic to Program mode (P-mode, which is still an automatic mode, don't worry.)  Program mode will give you more versatility, while still choosing proper exposure settings automatically.  For instance, it will allow you to choose the focus setting so that the focus will be exactly where you want it, whereas full automatic often just focuses on the closest thing. THAT is a big deal.  NOTE, though, I am not  saying you must switch to manual focus. No matter which mode you are in, you can still use autofocus. I do occasionally use manual focus, but not typically.

Aperture Priority  mode (abbreviated A on Nikon, AV on Canon)  is one of my favorites, because if I use a wide aperture (small f-stop number) it allows me to get a nice blurred background.  With aperture priority mode, you set the aperture, and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed. A wide aperture (small f-stop number) will give you a more shallow depth of field. That just means that less of the picture will be in focus, and you can get the subject (the part you focus on)  to "pop" out from the background.  (If your camera has a Portrait mode, that basically does the same thing.)  A narrow aperture (bigger f-stop number) allows you to get more of the scene in focus.  Aperture Priority mode works best for subjects that stay still!  For children, I tend to use Shutter Priority instead.

Shutter Priority  mode (abbreviated S on Nikon, TV on Canon) is a great mode to use, especially when taking pics of children. With Shutter Priority, you can freeze motion (fast shutter speed) or blur it (slow shutter speed.) You set the shutter speed, while the camera automatically sets the aperture.  For moving subjects, if you set your shutter speed to 1/200th of a second, or even 1/500th of a second if kids are moving quickly, you will be able to eliminate a lot of the potentially blurry shots. (Or, if your camera has a Sports Mode, that works too.)

Manual  mode (abbreviated M) will give you the most control over your camera.  Don't be afraid to learn it!  It's actually very simple.  I tend to get the best exposures when I use manual. With full manual mode, you set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO yourself, and keep an eye on the exposure meter (seen through the viewfinder)  to determine if your photo is exposed correctly. There are many great videos online and instructions on Pinterest that demonstrate manual mode. (Again,  I am talking about manual MODE here--not manual FOCUS.  I still use autofocus in manual mode.)

Don't feel pressure, though, to learn different modes until you are ready. I shot on Program mode for quite a while after I got my first DSLR.


Generally, the lower the ISO, the less "grain" in the shot, so I generally shoot around 200 ISO outside, or 100 ISO if it's really sunny. On a cloudy day, I'll use 400 ISO.   Inside, without the flash, I can go up to, or even over 3200 ISO, with my Nikon D5100, and still get good images, even in pretty low light. When you use a flash, you don't need higher ISOs. (I use an external flash and bounce it. I'll talk more about that in a future post.)

Cameras these days really vary in their ISO abilities. My Nikon D200 (an older, "semi-pro" DSLR which I love), for example, is very "noisy" (grainy) if I go much over 800 ISO, while my newer Nikon D5100 (a basic DSLR, great for bloggers, now discontinued with a successor available), gets clean shots at even 3200 ISO.  I've also shot with a D7000, which has more features than the D5100, but if you aren't needing a professional camera body, the D5100 will give you quite the same image quality for much less money. (The two cameras have the same sensor.)  Many of the pictures on my blog were shot with the D5100.  The newer version is the Nikon D5300, with more megapixels and features.  I purchased my D5100 for a great price at Adorama, a wonderful online source. They have both new and used equipment, and I highly recommend them.

The D5100 allows me to get clean images inside, without a flash.

A good book that explains the relationships between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (the "exposure triangle"), is Understanding Exposure.  Once you have a clear understanding of the exposure triangle, things will fall into place with practice. The best way to learn is to pick up the camera and shoot, because, honestly, you could read about this stuff all day, but practicing it (as with all skills), is the quickest way to learn.

This past year I got out and played tourist in my own city.  I do tend to complain about my city sometimes--the distance from any ocean, the humidity in the summer, the cold in the winter, etc., etc. BUT, St. Louis has an incredible zoo, art museum, botanical garden, ballpark (go Cardinals!), restaurants, theaters, children's museums, and many, many other fun places to explore and photograph.  Here are a few shots from around our city this past year. (And it never hurts to have a daughter who is a fellow photographer and loves to edit photos!)

The art museum is amazing.

The  herpetarium at the zoo is gorgeous.

I'm so glad to be back, writing at my blog again. It just feels like home.  I'm hoping my voice won't go off into echoes, since I've been gone a while. Thank you for spending time here today. Maybe one day I'll talk about some of the reasons I've been gone, but for now,  I'm looking forward to re-connecting with old blog friends and making new ones!
This post contains affiliate links, from companies I love and recommend.

Linking to:
Katharine's Corner
Creative Inspirations
Create with Joy
Handmade Tuesdays
Think and Make Thursday
Crafty Spices
Friday Favorites
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Friendship Friday
The Chain Linky Climb
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Sundays in My City

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Friday, July 11, 2014

A Day in July (and a Tire)

Our pool is full and sparkling, (unlike last year when we couldn't keep the pool clear at all, because we didn't realize the filter needed new sand!), the garden is thriving, and my glorious gladioli are blooming again (just a little late. I was beginning to think we had lost them to the horrible winter, along with the hydrangeas.) These good things take my mind off of our continuing house disaster.

AND, we've been out and about taking pictures (even if they are just pictures from the phone. Not the best resolution, but it does capture memories. And often, that's most important.)  So I thought I'd do a little phone picture dump today.

When my sister moved to Florida a couple of years ago, I adopted some of her pretty daylilies, and
they're beautiful.  (When I planted them, I had them all labeled nicely, but the labels are long gone, so I don't know the names of each one. I should probably ask her...)  They are wonderful perennials--I recommend them!  She gave me several colors, and this is one of the more pastel varieties.

We have a sculpture park near our house, so my daughter and I had a walk there yesterday.  Here and there among the sculptures are some fun things for kids. Like this....pod? My daughter called it "the pear." Whatever you call it, it's amazing, and several little girls were having fun climbing the ladder to play inside.  (My daughter was a tiny bit jealous because it wasn't there when she was little.)

There's also a huge red sculpture that's made from salvaged oil tanks.

We happened upon this huge tire, thinking it was another fun thing for kids to climb on, but no, it's one of the "sculptures."  See the sign?  A sculpture?  It's a tire.  I'm pretty opened minded about art, but hey, it's a tire.  

A fun place for some photos though. (And no, we didn't climb it!)

Do you have any unusual parks near you?

(P.S.  Is there a Blogger guru out there who can help me figure out why my vertical photos are posting so HUGE all of a sudden?  I've had this blog for almost 3 years and have never had this problem before.)

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Make Envelopes with Scrapbook Paper (or Magazines, or Calendars...)

Although I haven't been crafting or creating too many fun things lately, my daughter has, so she gave me permission to share some of her creations--like these pretty envelopes.

She made them with scrapbook paper.  That brought back memories of making these myself.  I've always  loved to have cute envelopes to send real mail. Sometimes I address them in calligraphy, sometimes I pull out some fun rubber stamps, and yes, sometimes a sticker or two. (Embrace your inner child...)

(By the way, I have a LOT of pads of 12x12 scrapbooking paper that I've been collecting through the years, and from the look of my stash, you would think I was saving it for some future crafting apocalypse. I'm really happy that my daughter is actually using hers.)

It's easy to make the envelopes. Here's how:

Carefully take a plain envelope apart, and use it as your template.  (No need to buy an envelope template, as I'm sure you have some different sized envelopes around the house. With that said, I do have some cute little envelope stencils.)

Trace around the unfolded envelope onto your pretty paper.

Cut out, fold, and glue with a strong gluestick.  (When you buy a greeting card, instead of using the envelope that comes with it, consider making one to coordinate with the card. Just use the original envelope as your template.)

Think outside the box.  Do you have some magazines with pretty photos or some beautiful calendars?  Papers like that are shiny and perfect as envelopes. Depending on the type of paper you use, you may have to use an address label.

This is the paper pad my daughter used.

You can also dress up your envelope with pretty stamps. I love these songbirds.

This would be a fun summer project with kids.  You probably already have everything you need to make these.  Have fun!

Linking to:

An Alli Event

Create with Joy

Creativity Unleashed

Katherine's Corner

Fridays Unfolded

Making Monday

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