Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Gives You Peace?

Peace for me is found in a simple few things.

A walk in the woods with the dog.
I don't do it to 'clear my head', I do it because.

Mind you, this is not a hiking trail that is groomed. This is a wild forest, overgrown with briers, thorn patches, and strewn with downed trees and rocks.

A wild place.
A place where you can spot a coyote or a fawn in the daylight.

It isn't dangerous. It just takes away the whole outside world as you make your way down an old cow path turned into a sometimes 'mule path' that is also shared by me and Morris.

My feet get soaked from wandering down the stream and surveying what the latest gully washer did for redecoration.
I'm not unhappy about the wet feet, it feels nice on this hot day.

The bugs swarm around my face but don't bother me as I applied the homemade 'stinky' stuff to ward them off.

Truthfully, I think they call their friends and say...
*Whoa, come and take a whiff of this human...yick!"

I'm not one to stop and set for a while and contemplate either.
I like to move.
Although there is a spot that I happen to enjoy.

The creek runs hard over some rocks under a basswood tree. I'll sometimes sit and listen to the breezes in the trees up on the hill and get mesmerized by the water.

[There used to be a bank here that I could lay on and watch the trout flit has to lay absolutely still...unfortunately the latest flood waters washed the bank away.]

I don't stay long though, there is always so much to see...
and of course try to figure out the easiest way to eventually get back home without using a pocket saw to fight my way through the multiflora rose bushes and berry briers.

Oh and there is always a delight for me to find. Sometimes it is an odd weed and sometimes the color just suits me.
This is what gives me peace and sense of self.
Wandering, not thinking of the world outside.
Breathing in the scents of the woodland.
Watching, listening, taking it all in...
...heck after that?

Who has time for anything else?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Topaz DeJEPG4 & Topaz Lens Effects~ Review

I decided to download the 30 day free Trial of Topaz DeJPEG 4 plug in.

I rarely shoot in RAW format, I won't argue the pros and cons here, that is just my method of choice.

Sometimes with my point and shoot camera [after all, we all don't run around with $thousands of dollars of camera equipment and lenses do we?] ... because it is easy to carry around with me.

LinkAnd I am not afraid of losing it. is mostly always at hand.

That said.
The top photo is a 100% crop of a photo taken with a Pentax Option W60.

Yes, there is definitely noise in this photo. Most would say that it isn't a big deal. But sometimes I like to smooth out the noise.
Hence the plug in from Topaz DeJPEG 4.

Original photo taken through a tinted windshield of my car. Not an impressive photo, but let's work with it a bit and see what can happen.

Well this sure doesn't do 'much for me.

So I used the DeJPEG4 first.

Topaz DeJPEG4 > settings > Noisy:

Wow, still pretty boring.
Try Topaz Adjust 4 > settings > Vibrance.

Better! There is a bit more excitement to the photo. A bit more pizazz. And since I prepared the photo with DeJPEG4 first, there is not much 'noise', which would normally occur at this point.

Well I had also decided to try Topaz's newer plug in called Lens Effects.

I've found some very useful settings for this. Especially the graduated filters.
Lens Effects > settings > Filter Graduated Density Filter > Filter Duo Tone > Cool to Warm II > Graduated Color > Graduated Orange > and then adjusted the bars under Graduated Color Adjustment...

Not an exceptional photo by any means. But a slightly more interesting one at least.

My conclusion on this is that while the Lens Effects are fun and sometimes even useful....

I'm not so sure that it is worth the hefty price tag that is put on it. I can create some of the same effects with the dodge and burn tools in PSE 5 or other means.

However I do like the Topaz DeJPEG4 program and its nice and easy on the pocketbook price of $29.99.

After all I do take many photos while hiking and riding. I cannot always be carrying a high end quality camera and lens.
This just helps the .jpeg format a bit less noisy to work with while processing.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Music and Art

By Tracy Chapman

Is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like sorry like sorry

Forgive me
Is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like forgive me forgive me

But you can say baby
Baby can I hold you tonight
Maybe if I told you the right words
At the right time you'd be mine

I love you
Is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like I love you I love you

Thursday, June 23, 2011

All About Grandma's House ~ by Morris

At the Grandma's House, you can jump on her bed to look out the window. What a good Grandma she is to provide this service.
I did growl at the neighbor because I am used to a more rural area you know.
After all, they could have
might have
been strangers of dangers.
I did save the Grandma from a very terrifying Eagle that was swooping down upon her garage.

The Grandma explained to me that in fact the 'terrifying' Eagle was a painting.
you never know.

I was also able to play tug of war with the Grandma. She is pretty good at it, but says I'm a bit rough.
I was really trying to impress her with my tugging abilities while Sammy stood behind us and barked.
I think she thought I should be more of a quiet dog like her.

We decided to go for a walk.
Much different than a country hike.
It is a must to wear a leash and stay by your human on the side of the road.
I tried to walk with the Grandma.
Sammy liked it when I walked with her too.
We had many things to smell and pee on.

We even made many neighborhood dogs bark.
They were jealous because we were
and they were not.

To end out bike outting, we went to a park and sat on a small pier kind of thing.
The Grandma held the both of us while SHE took our picture.

Sammy and I had a wonderful time...I'm sure that
I irritated her quite a bit, but when we wore each other out~

I took the Grandma chair and Sammy stretched out in the doorway.

I got a special blanket from the nice Grandma. On my road trip back home I took advantage of it and let HER do the driving.
My trip was long and I figured SHE could navigate without my help.

Besides, I was sad.
I had to leave Sammy, she was a lot of fun.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sometimes...there is a traffic jam

Commuting to work in a rural area can always be interesting.

There is the morning mists rising from the Bad Axe Valley that should stop any traveler and cause them to pause.
Then there are mornings after a heavy rain when the threatening skies are lit up with a golden glow to start your commute...
...and as you pass through the Bad Axe Valley you are amazed at how well this valley takes the run off and slowly passes it down river to the Mississippi. [5" of rain]

The next day, this field was clear of water.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Fake a Layer Mask in Elements

Yes can actually accomplish this!
It isn't very hard to accomplish.

I did this with Elements 5.

Make sure that the top layer is 'grouped' with the levels layer above what you have chosen as a backround.
It absolutely won't work in any other combination.
Use a gradient, or a brush to paint away the sections you want or the sections you wish to keep using the white or black colors.

You can accomplish this in multiple layers, just watch your ordering of layers carefully.

This little secret gives Elements a bit more power than I previously thought.

There is also another great tutorial at that shows this editing too. I think however you can get quite creative with this ability.

Written for Press The Shutter.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

She's Packing! by Morris

I'm worried.
She's packing.

It could mean a road trip for me.
Or it could mean I'm 'sentenced' to spend time with the Grouch who is only slightly amused when I toss my Hedgehog onto the table and it spills his morning coffee.

I'm hoping I get to go.
I like trips.
I love trips.
I love to navigate and put my nose prints ALL over the Cavalier's windows.
I love to travel.

SHE put the back seats down in the Cavalier.
That means serious road trip.

So this morning I am her shadow. Underfoot, in the way, cling to her every move...type of shadow.
Pretty irritating isn't it? Well, I have to know what is going on.

I don't want to stay with Grouch. He doesn't take me on walks or hold me in his lap.
He does feed me though and play tug of war -- only because I'm a real nag at that.

I'm going to put some toys in that little case, and then I'm going to lay on it and look at her with big soft doey eyes.

Think she'll get the hint??

Monday, June 13, 2011

Working with Siera

From my previous post you know that I've come back to Siera who is a relatively young mule.

She has some great trail experience and is quite lovely to ride in the saddle.
After the other night's success, I decided this morning to put the saddle on and see how she'd react.

The most interesting and amazing things occurred.

Siera under saddle was quite good. She gaited out where I pointed her and remembered all of her commands.
There were small things to indicate to me that she wasn't exactly thrilled to be back under saddle.

When we got to a dirt pile, I decided to climb it with her.
Mind you not a large pile but a hard pile of dirt.
She climbed it.
Then immediately decided that it would 'eat her alive'.
No she didn't buck, she just turned and refused to go back on the pile by turning or backing up.

I got off and attached a lead rope to her.
The pile was 'sorta' okay. She stepped onto it but stood with nostrils flared.
To her credit she did not pull but stood as if frozen, eyes wide.

We worked a bit more and ended it on an easy note with 30 minutes tied to the shade tree while I had lunch with hubby.

After I unsaddled her, I thought...hmmmm.

I took her back by lead rope and without any hesitation she climbed with me on to the very top of the very same pile. She picked her way beside me.

In the very 'scary spot' where monsters had lain...was now a free dessert of long grass.

It hit me as I put her things away.
She is confident on the ground with me.
She is not as confident while saddled -- mounted or dismounted.

Very interesting.
So confidence building will take place one itty bitty baby step at a time.

Mules are so interesting ... they can teach you so much!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Is it Destiny?

Sometimes you just have to wonder.
Is it destiny?
Is it something that has been pre-determined?

Siera came into my life as a young mule that I did not want my husband to buy. I'd had surgery on my shoulders and elbow and didn't want to get involved in training.
After all, I had Badger.

I started Siera under saddle two summers ago. Just before Badger fell ill. She was amazing. She learned quickly and was extremely response to anything I asked of her.

After 3 rides in the round pen, we went solo.

Last fall, after hubby rode her [she definitely does not like men with growly voices], we put her away.

So this spring, Badger's health deteriorates to the point that I cannot ride him. Period. The veterinarian says let him be a pasture 'pet' but at any time he could go into organ failure.
I understand the progression of the disease [COPD] but don't like it. It hurts to watch Badger breath hard, even while at rest. I feel I'm on death watch and cry often.

Early this spring my hubby says *Ride Opal!*. She'll take you anywhere!
...and so I do, and I work intensely with Opal *the seriously people challenged mule* who will come to me now and doesn't show nervousness during being caught. She seems to 'bond' with me but at 28 years old, she isn't going to change that much. She is a nice ride.
A hairline crack shows up in her front left hoof.
Yesterday after a 1/2" rain I come home from work and groom her...the crack has opened and it looks like she'll slough off part of her hoof.


Disgusted and disheartened, I take my lead rope and halter, and work with Eddie and Sundance, grooming them and working on their manners. They are too young to ride and are entering 'the kindergarten' of equine training.

I later walk into the molly pasture and figure I'd call out to Sunshine, Badger's little half sister. She is experienced and may be a good candidate as an alternate. She ignores my call.
But a mule far off by herself picks up her head and
gaits her funny Peruvian Paso gait...
towards me.

She stops in front of me and shoves her head towards the halter in my hands.

I feel something between us. It is not something I can put into words, but it is strong. She is begging me please, take me!

I halter her, groom her, and then decide to see what she remembers. She has only been handled for trimming hooves for 8 months.
With a light touch I am able to go through all of her halter commands.

I ask her to walk through mud puddles [she hates mud and puddles].
She stands in the offending goo quietly.
When I trip on some old fencing hubby left in the yard and nearly fall. Siera blows a snort and stiffens up, then softens.

On the trail, she has patience and rarely startles.
Hates mud, some water crossings, but generally aches to please me.

So now I wonder.
A mule I didn't want on our farm...
A mule who seems to silently communicate with me...
A mule who comes to me when Badger falls ill...
A mule who seems to have a spell over me..
[and I over her...silly isn't it?]

A mule I trained so easily...
Did she come into my life for a purpose?
Was it destiny?
Was it good luck?

All I know is that last night my steps were lighter, a smile was on my face, and my heart did not feel so heavy.
Something very intense passed between a human and a mule last night that words cannot describe.

What the hell happened?

Find more Mavis Staples albums at Myspace Music

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Essence of A Dog~by Morris

The forest is a wonderland full of mysteries and scents.

I love the feel of the damp grass and ground under my paws. Each leaf that I pass gives me pause for there are smells that intrigue me.

What has been here? A deer, a rabbit, a ‘possum, skunk…or the intoxicating scent of a mouse!
My nose is on overload, my eyes follow HER. Except of course when I’m distracted by making sure the forest is marked with my scent.

The creek water is very cold but soothing. I jump off some rocks and wade through the water lapping at it with my tongue. It is crisp and so good tasting.

I find a deer trail and follow it up the muddy track. How enticing, I smell something absolutely exotic and wonderful. So I drop immediately and roll, making sure my shoulders and neck are covered.

This act will probably warrant an offending bath later. But alas, humans have absolutely no sense of smell do they?

I’ll delight my HER by behaving and suffering through an embarrassing bath when we get home. I’ll bring her toys and shake them for HER afterwards so she won’t feel bad.
I’ll run in circles and make HER laugh.

But for now, while in the enchanted forest, I’ll sniff, roll, and enjoy what it means to be a real and true dog.

At the end of the day, a nice meal of kibbles and a comfortable bed will await me.

After all, it IS a dog’s life!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Good Mules Help Heal

A while ago...well last September I believe, a good friend of mine got severely injured in a pretty awful horse - motorcycles incident.
Yes, she even had to be 'airlifted' to a larger hospital.

Her injuries were pretty bad.

You can read about it on an old blog post:
Horseback Rider Harassed by Motorcycles

This friend introduced Badger and I to Endurance Riding. She rides a beautiful mare, the same one involved in the accident.
But since the accident, she has been unable to ride.
I suggested she take her time and perhaps come with me on one of my good quiet mules.
Yesterday, she took me up on the offer.
Mind you, this is a woman who suffered a cracked vertebrae and traumatic injuries...
she has GUTS.

We saddled up and went for a short 'test' ride to see how her old injuries would feel and if she'd be able to handle riding again.

Guess what? She loved it. She enjoyed it.

This morning she called my husband and thanked him for letting her use Fred [which is his mule].
She had thanked me profusely while we unsaddled and had asked if we could do it again, but perhaps go for just a bit longer.

Of course.

Let the healing begin.
She is back in the saddle and getting both her mind and body healed.

Mules can be good for that [oh yes, horses can be too...but she was injured on a].

I watched with great pleasure as my friend got into her car and drove away.

I heard something in her voice that I hadn't heard in months.


I saw something in her step and her body language that I hadn't seen in months.


I put my hand on Opal's head and rubbed gently as my friend left.
Mules can be healers.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Ride off into the Sunset

This is not Badger, it is Opal.
But let me say this, she is a hoot and we are learning each others idiosyncrasies.

She is still terribly shy around strangers, but a go-getter under saddle. She has no fear ...
unless it is a car parked on the side of our gravel road that doesn't seem to fit.
Then she will do the most smart looking sidepass and snort as she passes it by.

[Who knows? It could just be a mule eatin' vehicle waiting for a strawberry roan mule...or worse yet, it could be laying in wait for her innocent yet unaware rider!]

I have to give her that though, as she never even flinches when a vehicle goes by [not often on our roads].

We rode up to the ridge to visit with the two neighbors that live up there and to socialize a bit about the weather and ...
admire the sunset.

We could have just kept on and Opal. It was a beautiful night and if you stood still too long those pesky little gnats came along with fierce bites.

We watched the sunset and then headed home.

Badger gave me the 'evil' eye as if by riding Opal, I'd betrayed his trust.

Unfortunately his ROA or COPD has advance so that he is suffering from inversion which is:
A dangerous condition where a horse's respiration rate is higher than its pulse rate.

He is now permanently retired from riding and we are closely watching him with the heat and humidity.

All signs point to it being a matter of time.
So each sunset I watch now while mounted on another mule brings bittersweet memories of all the years Badger and I have done so together.

How many sunsets have Badger and I ridden off into?
Many, many.
I have the beautiful photos to prove it.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

One shot, different looks in different Programs

This is the original photo without any editing. Below I used Photomatix Light and Elements 5, with various plug ins.
Default Photomatix Light Grunge Default Photomatix Light Grunge-> Elements-> Levels-> Filters-> Paint Daubs Topaz Adjust ReDynaMix HDR Simulator Plug-In

And one last shot to leave you with.
A single exposure of wildflowers that was tonemapped in Photomatix Light.