Thursday, February 27, 2014

Best Adventures with Morris

It was really a bit cold for Morris to come along on my last snow shoe hike, but he is a determined JRT.
He doesn't believe in not being able to do something and he has a huge heart.

He is 10 this year and for the most part hasn't shown his age much except for the greying face and...well, he seems a bit more tired when we arrive home from any hike.

He found out quickly that the snow had a thick crust that would once in a while break with his weight and he'd go down buried...except for his head.  

He took the wise course and followed our blown in trail from the last time we hiked towards the creek.

While I set the camera up on a min tripod, Morris kept and eye and ear out for things.  The bottom of of the creek bed is littered with frozen tracks of raccoon, coyote, deer, and 'possum.  I can only wonder what he smells and hears.

The 'shooting' didn't go as well as I expected.  I spent more time carrying Morris when his feet got cold or he started shaking.
The reasons for his shaking could have been he was cold or coyotes were not far off.  It is the season for coyote mating and they are all around the woods during the day.

I didn't mind at all.
We did manage to find a few sunny spots out of the wind.  And I got some time to mess around looking for rocks, looking at ice formations, and exploring the creek bottom.

I did find another round iron concretion which I stuck in my pocket to take home.

The ice formations along the bank were pretty neat and hard to photograph while squatting in snow shoes with one foot in the water and balancing a light weight cheapo tripod.

But I enjoyed getting these formations.

The water seems to float right under the ice.  I just find it fascinating.

Back at the 'ice wall' I got another shot.  I was hoping for some real drama in the ice fall but that may have to wait until we have warmer days and cold nights.  The rain and snow melted covering the rocks in a huge lump except for one section.

With wind chills in the -28 and below range I doubt I'll get back down to the creek today.
I wanted to go along the western side of the creek and in our deep shadowed bottom.  It is out of the wind and full of interseting rocks.
But I had to leave that for another day.

The temps began to fall and the winds began to get stronger.

Morris and I headed home.
He spent the rest of the day snuggled into a sweatshirt of mine on the couch.
He had gotten worn out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dell update

I ordered via the internet, created an account and found discount coupons.

Just an FYI with ordering this way.
No hassle, and the price difference?

$453 less.

Thank you Dell.  
I will enjoy my new awesome super charged butt kicker laptop.

Doing the happy dance.

And since FedEx can never find my house I am having it delivered to work.
Someone is there to receive it 24 hrs a day.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Conversation with Dell the computer company.

It has been a few years since I upgraded and I thought I'd like to talk to a Dell Rep instead of just clicking on the buttons and making my choice of order.

Little did I know that Dell has really fallen behind the 8 Ball in providing Customer Service.

In 2008 I spoke to a rep when I ordered my spanking new XP Insprion 1501.  That puppy still cranks along very well.  Hubby uses it as his personal laptop to browse the internet and get an occasional email posted.
The Rep at Dell was so kind and easy to work with, my order was quite painless and my laptop arrived in time for me to finish my college work and get my Associates Degree.

Okay, I digress.
Before I went to Hawaii in 2010 with my older son, I decided I wanted a laptop to take along.  Hubby insisted that he keep the Insprion.

I simply opened up Dell's site and quickly ordered what I wanted.

This time after picking out exactly what I wanted, I thought I'd speak to a sales rep right?  
My first clue to hang up should have been when she couldn't understand what I wanted and told me that the laptop I was looking at... did not exist.
I said 'Then why am I looking at it on the website for Dell?'

It was like pulling teeth to get her to understand my address, my name spelling, and where I wanted it shipped to.

I had to spell out the word STATE as Sam, Tom, Adam, Tom, Edward..and she still didn't get it.
Finally we nailed out the delivery address.  Then moved on to pay.
How very painful she made it sound to open up an account.  I couldn't imagine spending another 25 minutes giving her information.
So we went to pay by credit card.

Uh. Oh.
We went over the credit card #.
We did it v-e-r-y slowly.

And she said it was denied.  
'Did I have budget problems?' she asked?

[Excuse me while I take time to do a primal scream or two here and maybe go punch a stuffed animal to smithereens.]
'Sweety, I could buy this cash.'  I repeated the numbers to her. She only repeated this:

'You need to call your bank.'

By this time my patience had broken.  'How can I call the bank when I am on the phone with you?'

She gave me a 7 digit extension to call back to.
I called the bank.
She had put the 'secret code' number in wrong...twice.

I called the number she'd given me.  
Dialed the extension.
'We are sorry this extension does not have voice mail.'


Try that for a half hour and see where your blood pressure goes.

I called the number but went through some voice mail choice hell trying to get a live person to talk to.
'Order number? Please?'

'Sorry never got that far, she never gave me one!'

3 transfers later and 24 minutes on hold, I got another live one.  I told her to cancel my order and confirm it by email.  NOW.  That they had put in my credit card # incorrectly and THANK you very much, but I would never order with a rep again!
Here is where I sound a bit nasty.  The reps do not have a great command of English.  I had to repeat myself often and spell it out.  I was hard for them to understand and vice versa.

I get it and I won't make rude comments about it.
But Dell, Inc., get your stuff together!

I spent over an hour and a half trying to order a laptop.  And another hour cancelling the order.
And more than an hour waiting on a confirmation of the order cancellation~~~which hasn't happened YET!.

Then ... as I am getting ready to leave for work the phone rings.  It is the original sales rep of whom I tried to call for 30 minutes wondering why she just saw my order cancelled.

I said simply and politely 'I feel more comfortable ordering this on line.  The shipping address will be correct, the credit card will be correct and it will be easier all of the way around.  This was a mess since you were not able to get the numbers and info I gave you correct.  I am sorry.  Maybe I'll just go see what they have at Best Buy.'

Don't know why, but I was polite, I can't be a jerk.

So Dell,  I can look up the specs I want and go get them from HP, Toshiba, and several other brands, but I have been a true blue Dell person for 7 yrs.

Shall I indeed look around?

Oh yes.
"Thank you for choosing Dell, have a nice day!"

Are they serious?

I'll still get an awesome monster laptop meant for some serious graphic artwork and photography work.
Just won't get it ordered today.

Have a nice Day! 


Update. February 25, 2014
I went on line again today and this time decided to just work with signing in and creating an account.
Then I went and added coupons from Dell's site.

What I ended up with for my totals were $453 less than the purchase would have been by telephone.

It took me 15 minutes and my order went in without a hitch.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blowin' in the Wind

The NOAA had predicted dire weather for Thursday.
What we got instead was about 4" of snow after a LOT of rain which added to the warm up of two days preceeding it...made for lots of slop to turn to instant ice.

The winds that followed were quite intense.

The above shot is our ridge road corner.  At the sign you can pick up the main gravel road that heads west or east.
Apparently, the wind was working hard to create drifts.

The top of our driveway was also quickly filling in.  Under the snow was glare ice.  I wore my snow shoes so I could keep a grip and not fall flat on my face.

The winds were supposed to subside around noon.  
So I went back out about 4pm and ...
They hadn't.  In fact I thought the winds were more fierce.

Anywhere you stepped out of the cover of the woods, the snow was whipping into a frenzy and it stung.

I finally climbed a huge snow bank and got behind some trees. 
I wanted an overview of the ridge.

Here, all seemed calm and quiet.
I stood here for a while and listened to the winds howl and the trees behind me creak.

I enjoyed the clean lines of the crop fields along with the beauty of the landscape curves.

Despite the winds, it was a beautiful day to be out with a camera.

Most of the shots were taken with my pink Sanyo point and shoot pocket camera.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tired of Winter yet?

After a 1/2" of rain yesterday afternoon that melted a lot of snow, the temps began to drop rapidly and by dark things were pretty quiet.

We'd apparently dodged the blizzard that hit just across the river.  But the gravel roads had turned into pure ice.
We like our isolation, but rain on cold gravel roads = instant ice.

My husband used the skid steer to try and chew some of the ice up on the driveway.  He has ice picks on his tracks and said there was no way a vehicle was going up our hill.

When I awoke this morning, it was because of the sounds of howling winds hitting the house.  Our house lays in a protected pocket. 

The snow is blowing sideways outside right now.  The winds are wicked and howling.

Most of our critters have gone down into the woods to avoid the winds and blowing snow.

I'm grateful for the snow that we did get this morning and overnight.  It will add a bit of stickiness to the glaze of ice in the pastures.

Our Dexters are laying on their fodder pile this morning, cozy, out of the wind and chewing their cud.

Seems the animals are taking the weather in stride.

I don't think I am.
I think I am tired of ice, snow, and the wicked winds.

Although it can make for some rather beautiful black and white photo ops.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What a difference a day makes.

Here is a peek at the road.  Yes, this was early and those tracks were gone in about 20 minutes.
The snow was coming at about an inch and hour or a while.

It did ease up in the late evening, but the blowing snow always makes for interesting road conditions.

The wind carved some beautiful snow sculptures.  Hard packed drifts!

Surprisingly the donkeys didn't seek shelter, the temps were not cold and they stayed out in it playing.  Sally sported some interesting icicles on her brows.

And yes, I checked her undercoat and it felt nice warm and dry.

So today I decided to take advantage of the warmer temps and head out with my older snow shoes and my faithful dog, photography assistant and resident clown.

No black and white for this day!
Hello sunshine!

For the first time in weeks I could actually enjoy the sunlight on my skin.

The creek was rather pleasant and I actually didn't get cold at all this visit.

I stood with the tripod in the creek and got a few nice shots which made me quite pleased.

The snow was getting mushy and clumping onto my snow shoes as we headed back.  It was warm, nearly 40 degrees.  A temp we haven't seen in ages.

Morris felt invigorated and decided to end our outing with some 'snow swimming' Jack Russell style.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

She needs a break ~ By Morris

What a past few days it has been!  SHE is trying to do some things with this camera group thingy she belongs to.

So she gets all obsessed by wanting to take the exact right photo.  Huh.  
I nagged at her until SHE took me for a walk yesterday.
Time to leave the photo brain behind and relax and enjoy taking photos of me, her all time favorite model.


Of course it started to snow right away as soon as we got out in the woods.

The snow is over my stinkin' little head.  If I get off the trail, I literally have to snow swim.

Hey, don't laugh.  It is not easy with my magnificent height of about 12" to my back.  9" to my chest if you need to know.

First off to irritate her I usually need to find something buried in the snow.  We ALL know what I am looking for, especially if you've read any of my other posts.

I am looking for 'smart pellets'.  You know, the kind left behind by rascally rabbits, and deer.

A jack russell delicacy ... they ARE!

Find a prospective spot, sniff.
Then shove your whole face deep into the snow to get a good whiff of course.

Keep an ear out for HER...she may start something quick like hollering ....
Those every famous words that all good dogs will ignore....



But make sure you keep an eye peeled in case SHE comes to push you away from the delectable delights.

Then casually nibble on the forbidden goodies.  Lick your lips and enjoy.

Then when SHE starts getting upset, just sort of saunter away and ignore her for a a bit.
However don't ignore HER too long SHE can get ornery.

I can always resort to pretending to be cold.  I walk up and put my paws on her leg...look sorrowfully into her eyes and emit a wee shiver.

Works every time.
I'm scooped up.

Then I don't have to wade through all the snow!

Despite my best efforts, I think she may have sorta got the photo SHE was looking for.
But I think I really got her to relax and just think of fun for a while.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

How do you photograph?

Yesterday I was driving to work and I was looking around the Bad Axe river valley for something interesting to photograph.
I was looking to stop the Subaru and take a photo.

I wasn't looking for 'leading lines', selective focus, DOF, POV, long exposures, or anything special at all.

I was just looking to see what caught my eye.

That's what I do.

Since I was small, my dad would play games with me.  He'd have me use my hands to create a 'focus box' to frame a photo in.  He would let me look through his camera lens and pretend to take photos.

He never gave me rules.
He never told me I had to be balanced.
Or that I had to follow the rule of thirds.

He let me explore with a child's inquisitiveness.
I was curious.
He let me play.

He'd sometimes peer through my pretend lens and smile.

He never asked me to explain.
But as I grew older and I got my own cameras, I started to recall the times when he'd use a light meter, stare at the sky and the light...then fumble and talk out loud about his settings.
He talked a lot.  I listened a lot.  I think I must have studied composition through him.


Because today I rarely think about things like rules of thirds, composition, or other things.
The scene will strike me and I will take the shot.

How in the world does that happen?

Really?  How can I not think about taking a shot?  But bring it into focus and go from there.

NO, not every shot is a success.
And yes, I am studying methods to get much better.

But do some people just acquire a natural talent?

Not saying I am that talented person.

Maybe just lucky.

I took this shot last week on a whim.
The photo went positively viral on Flickr.
But it was an 'in the moment' shot.  No extra special thought went into it.

 Yesterday I pulled the car over to the side of the road to get this.

From what I am learning, there are a lot of technical 'good' things about this shot.

Leading lines.
Shadows, subject matter, ...taking the viewer's eye through the photo.

In my opnion.
It is just a shot.

Of the Bad Axe River Valley.
I wanted to have the trees lead the viewer to the bridge.
I thought the bridge was interesting in this rather sparse valley where cattle roam in the summer.

But, it is a bridge for snowmobiles in the winter and for stock in the summer.

Nothing special really.

And that is how I view photography.
It is just my way of seeing the world around me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Be Mine says Morris.

Happy Valentine's Day for those of you who celebrate it.

Morris would like to present you with his Valentine's Wishes.

He was a very good little fella, posing for these different shots for 
'his kids'.  
He likes to send cards out to his special friends.

In 2008, we had one of the most memorable and wicked snowstorms ever.

I recall deciding not to drive anywhere and got out my snow shoes to walk up the driveway and see what the ridge looked like.

Here is a shot of the driveway.

When I did get to the top of the hill I stood on a snow drift and reached down to my feet to check our mail.

You read that correctly.  I reached down to check the mail.  The snow drifts on the ridge were so packed that I could walk on them with snow shoes.

Today the sun is shining and it is NOT snowing!  Since the end of December it seems like we've had snow every day or every two days.
We've had one to two inches at a time.  Thankfully...not yet, no large storms!

According to the National Weather Service, things are going to get a bit more volatile.

So weather aside.
Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lines Lines, Everywhere a Line

So our assignment this week was on leading lines in 256SOG.

I watched as many folks posted beautiful shots of perfect lines.  Many photos involved sidewalks, bricks, buildings, alleys, people, benches, and parks.

I was pretty sure that my lines were not straight nor correct.  But the nature of our area geographically makes for an interesting study of 'lines'.

For our terrain really doesn't have a straight line.  It is all about gentle and steep curves.

I can think of one stretch of road in the 30 miles I travel to work that has an actual straight line.

So there was my dilemma.  How to find a photo that represented leading lines.
I was walking with Dixie in a snowfall when I thought to take this.

The cornrows were curving lines.  The ridge road was curving lines.  The fence was futile attempt at making a straight line.

Then Sunday as I was walking up the driveway to meet my neighbor I glanced over into the woods and was startled to find the following lines in the trees and their shadows.

Now here are lines!

I had to take the shot. 
To me it was just curious and interesting that I had happened upon such perfect lines in our crazy hills.

Rarely do the shadows line up properly like this.
And generally only once during the winter do I get a 'find' like this.

Enjoy my 'lines'.

Sunday, February 09, 2014


The woman unsnapped the leash and Dixie looked up at her.  First Dixie sat, then she realized she no longer had to 'heel'.
She ran off through the snow covered soy bean field.  She turned and ran back to the woman who only smiled and let her bare fingers trace the top of Dixie's head.
Dixie pushed her nose hard into the hand and took off again for another boisterous romp through the deep snow.

Dixie quickly discovered that it was much easier to follow in the woman's snow shoe tracks and let her break the deep trail.  When there was a deer path in the snow, Dixie ran ahead smelling and pushing her face deep under the snow.

It made the woman smile.  Dixie liked that.  They hiked across a large open field.  The woman kept doing something with a camera.  She never said a word except a quiet 'Good Girl Dixie' whenever Dixie checked back with the woman.

While going through a drift, the woman paused to catch her breath.  Dixie took that moment to stand on the back ends of the snow shoes.  The woman tried to take a step forward and ended up going face down in the snow.

Immediately Dixie decided the woman needed help and assurance.  Surely she shouldn't be sputtering snow.  Well, maybe she smelled something good.  Dixie plunged her face into the snow next to the woman and smelled.

The woman said something quietly that sounded like 'sh...t'.  Then the woman reached out and firmly grasped Dixie's back and helped her self up.
Then came the nice gentle hand and the trace of the finger across Dixie's skull.
Dixie was so pleased that she banged her hard long tail against the woman's legs.

The snow fell hard, sometimes the horizon where the field met the sky would disappear.  Dixie didn't mind, she was with the woman.

Dixie turned to eat some snow.  The woman called softly to her.  The woman opened up a bottle and poured water into her palm.  Dixie liked that.  Water from the nice hand.

They came across a scary place.  It was an abandoned mobile trailer on the edge of the field.  Dixie growled.
The woman put her camera away and carefully looked around.
Coyote tracks.

The woman called Dixie quietly to her side.  Dixie obeyed and sat in the deep snow.  The woman stood rock still and watched the woods and the edges of the fields.
She saw it.  A slinking coyote.  The woman touched Dixie softly on the head and said 'Come'. 
They headed back following the broken trail.  The woman watched carefully for the coyote, but he/she had melted off into the deep woods.

When they reached the road, the woman took off her snow shoes.  She held up the rope with a snap and clicked it.  Dixie came and sat next to the woman. 
They walked down the road towards home, Dixie walking quietly and stately by the woman's side.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Follow up to Bones ... more cool photography on a budget.

The weather was again cold.  -8 with winds type of cold.  It actually got up to 11 degrees yesterday but I had no desire to go tromping through the snow in the blinding sunlight.

Towards evening I decided to try another Bone & Light experiment.

Here is the lamplit version:

Of course the light shows up with a yellow cast and the velvet reflects light.  I don't mind the texture in the velvet, but decided to get rid of it and the yellow cast.

I turned this into black and white using Topaz B&W Effects.  Then I went back and brushed out the velvet and light spots by simply adding a layer and using a pure black round brush.
I thought it would be faster than using the burn tool.
I was wrong.
The blacks did not match and I had to go back more than once to get this the way I wanted.
So much for short cuts, right?

The skull was off center a bit so I added a canvas portion to the right and to the bottom. 

You can get rid of the yellow cast from the lamp and get a floating skull.

Next I decided to keep the lamp on and use an LED flashlight to light up the dark side of the skull.

That was interesting!  Now I had a yellow cast and a blue cast from the flashlight!  Plus the mess from the textured velvet.

And then edited:

Well, that was cool!

What IF I turn out the lights and just use the flashlight?

Well that didn't work so well.  But the camera was set on a 30 second exposure and I kept moving the flashlight to try and expose the skulls.  It turned out overexposed.  
But, what if I can tone it down and get rid of the colors?

Not too bad.  
But I can see I didn't use a lot of sense placing the skulls.  I also left some of the velvet in.  
Not sure if I like that either.  I can always brush it out.  But I was able to sort of fix the shot.  However I am unhappy with the placement of the items.

So this will have to be a re-do.

Lastly, I thought I'd not highlight the whole skull and just experiment a bit.

Here is what I got with 'light painting' the deer skull.

and then this:

I like this last shot as it doesn't highlight the whole skull, but I think the left side of the skull is more complete and I should try a side shot with this method.

Items used for this.
Camera with long exposure capabilities.
Old chair.
Black material, in this case velvet, but muslin may work better.
Bendable desk lamp.
LED cheap flashlight.
Living room.

Shot with a light on in the other room so I could see what I was doing.