Saturday, January 30, 2016

Still Life on the Cheap

I just started a class in Still Life and this is week two.  At first I thought I was an idiot for trying something out of my comfort zone.

I like hiking, I like nature, I like outdoors so that is usually what my subjects are. I learned something from my father, as long as you had some light coming in from the outside, you could take photos on the inside of the house.

So I decided I'd go ahead and try 'Still Life'.  What could it hurt?  I could learn something and it is never bad to learn something new.

First here is my really expensive set up for my 'table top' shot I wanted to do last week.

Please note the helper in the photo.  Hedgehogs are common missiles when I am sometimes working this close to the floor.

However it was an overcast day and I was trying to make the best use of the light. I set up a white foam board behind the basket, which Morris promptly nosed down.
But eventually we worked it out and I came up with this.

I used an old lace curtain on top of a box.  I tossed in some carnations along with a card someone had given me. I put some coffee in the coffee cup and gave Morris a very stern look.  I set the camera to manual and used a tripod and remote to get the shot.  
I did use Topaz Glow to pretty it up a bit.

Not satisfied with just that as a shot, I set some other things up.  Barbed wire, a rusted clip and some brass bells on a ribbon.

I used more of a limited color in this shot and a narrow depth of focus.

Week two asks that we shoot a photo with negative space and the rule of thirds.

Here is how I set this week's shots up.  

Yes, a dresser, a white sheet, and a white board next to a window.

And I decided to go with a Valentine's Day theme so I added candy.

Oh darn.  That funny stuffed donkey just wouldn't leave my thoughts.  So I decided to photograph it too.

However the donkey turned out okay but the photo really seemed quite lacking. I wasn't that impressed at all, even if the idea was fun.
Well, simply put.  It had too much empty space!

Exactly what it was supposed to have.
So I changed it like this:

It sort of has a vintage feel to it yet doesn't feel so empty.

I stopped right here.  Too much messing around would probably ruin this.

So you can do some pretty impressive Still Life work without a whole lot of investment.
I just did and found out that I really enjoyed it.

Just make sure your photography assistant isn't going to grab your toy Donkey and run off with it.  Or decide that tossing a hedgehog into the works would make it look so much better.

I used AfterShotPro by Corel for the RAW files, I used Topaz Adjust for making the donkey look 'vintage', and PSPX7 [PaintShopPro] for the editing. CS2 for any additional work.

Texture added to the first shot from mercurycode at deviantart.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Day Spent Tracking and Wandering

Small coyote track, my small hand for comparison.

On Wednesday I heard a lone howl of a coyote that would have sent shivers up my spine had I not been seeing this 'yote for a few months.  He/She has a trail that runs through my neighbor's cattle pasture and up into the woods.

I was hanging out laundry and caught sight of him trotting away.  I am assuming that it is a He because he is quite large and we watched him chase another coyote away just before deer hunting season.

I thought since we'd had a nice snowfall on Monday night, it would be fun to go out and see if I could track some coyotes and perhaps see what story the snow tracks would tell me.

I picked up the large coyote's tracks fairly close to our fence line and began to follow them.  Mr. Yote had a meandering track and it appeared that he was a lot more interested in rabbits than in any of my stock.

No, Morris did not go on this hike with me.  He gets pretty nervous when he smells coyote [smart dog] and he would run around and mess up the tracks I was looking at.

I followed several sets of tracks of 'yotes.  Most were smaller than this fellas tracks.

In some places the tracks were mingled with deer and rabbit tracks.  I lost the tracks in some of the heavier trafficked areas, but was able to pick them up again by carefully studying the snow.

Clever coyote walked right across this pile of downed limbs.

Interestingly enough, in some places, the tracks lead right across deer beds. I am sure they were not both there at the same time.

Nicely formed deer bed.

I didn't find any dens but I spent about two hours following tracks and I found a beautiful view of our place from the neighbor's pasture.

Our house and shed in the distance.  Coyote tracks in the middle of the photo.

I did a lot of looking and finally found The Big Boy Tracks!  He is huge, but he is not a wolf.
A wolf's tracks would be nearly as larger than my hand.

Big Boy Tracks

Wolf tracks for comparison

Later I did take Morris for his daily hike and he stuck pretty close to me in the creek bottom.
The trail we normally take was full of coyote tracks and places where the 'yotes had 'marked' their territory.

We are coming into the 'dogging' season for coyotes, so I imagine Morris will be spending less time with me in the woods and we'll do our daily walks on a leash on the gravel road.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nature ~ Spend more time in it

I was driving home the other evening through the beginnings of a snow storm and listening to NPR.  I'd hit the radio on button and came into the middle of a very interesting program.

They were talking about something I'd never heard of or dreamed of.  

Nature Deficit Disorder and the health benefits of simply being in Nature.  This applied to both adults and children.  I was interested in the conversation as they talked about how today's children don't spend time outside and spend nearly 60+ hours a week hooked up to modern electronics [think iPads, laptops, smartphones, DVD players, TV].

There has been quite a bit of research done on what is called NDD.  Over the years parents have stopped letting their children play outside more because of the 'fear' of letting their children play outside, ride their bikes, go to a playground or take a walk.  Personally I think the media has had a major role in this with fear mongering reporting regarding child abductions and other incidents.

Being outside or being in Nature relieves stress. Studies show that children and adults benefit by being more creative, happier, healthier, smarter, more cooperative, and better problem solvers.  
These are actual studies, not just theories.
Children and adults who spend little time outdoors or being in Nature have higher incidents of depression, obesity, less self discipline, low self esteem, diminished health [think of constantly being sick], reduced congnitive, creative, problem solving abilities, and in some cases ADHD.

Think of it like this.  The more a person sits at a chair, the shorter their life span is.  Studies have shown that sitting is the new silent killer.  Activity is a way to keep your mind and body sharp.

The idea of children spending most of their lives indoors floors me.  The world was not much different when I was a child.  We lived in the suburbs during the school year, and mom would shoo us outside after we'd done our after school chores.  
During the summer, we rarely spent time indoors.  We made up things to do while living at the summer cottage with no TV and a radio that seemed to only get Country and Western music.

Personally I find that no matter the weather, I feel the need to get out of the house daily and do something outside.  Yes, nature is easier for me to access because I live in the middle of forests and meadows.  However, when I lived in a city apartment I'd go for a walk every day, just to blow the cobwebs of work out of my brain and come home with a clear mind.

Sure it is easy for you, you say.  Yes it is, because I don't believe in spending my days in front of a TV or computer screen.

I need to have a daily dose of outside.

It is only Natural.

Interesting article from, Reconnecting Children with Nature.

Don't stay inside, an interesting adventure awaits near you, just go out the door.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ice Cave Trail

There is no doubt in my mind.
Winter is a wonderful time of year.  Of course there are those who dislike the cold and the snow...oh, and the ice too.

But there are no bugs, no annoying plants like stinging nettles, and the landscape is open for all to see.  No leaves block the view of beautiful vistas or interesting rock formations.

On a whim, I did something I never do.  I posted a question on Facebook, "Who would like to go on and adventure to Wildcat Mountain with me? Hiking, snowshoeing, and perhaps the Ice Cave?"

Friends replied and I even got a phone call from some friends on the other side of our state.  They couldn't make it, they wanted to.  But could we get together like last year and do a weekend in Baraboo, WI and explore some great hiking places again?  Yes! Sure! And we made arrangements.

The next morning I had a comment that asked, "We'd love to go but don't want to cramp your style, we have 3 little people."  This was from our neighbors at the top of our hill.

I was ecstatic and we made arrangements to go check out the Ice Cave Trail at Wildcat Mountain.

We did hike directly there and the scene was beautiful.

The kids took a look at it and thought it was very cool, but they were more intrigued by the little frozen run off created by the water coming over the ice cave wall.

And this started our true adventure.  What is more inviting?  A slippery frozen stream of water?
Or a nice trail?

Oh the frozen water of course!

There was hill climbing.
Ice crawling.

Adventures with Doe, Stinky, Dino, and Rex.
And, lots of adventures.

We eventually made our way back to Billings Creek and admired the formations of ice on the bluffs.
And the upside to all of this adventuring and hiking?  The little people got worn out ... as did this older person!

Where most people that come to the Ice Cave trail simply walk the 1/2 mile trail to the 'cave' and then back to the car...they miss all of the fun and beauty in between.

During the winter, there is so much more to see in my opinion.

Although this trail is unique and would be fantastic to walk on in April when the Spring Beauties, Trillium, and Blood Roots are coming to life.

I hope to go back in a week or so to check out another trail that is much longer.  I took that trail this summer and loved it.  In the winter it becomes a snow shoe trail.

Old Settler's Trail, is next on my winter list.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Still Life B&W

So I enjoyed my recent experiment with still life and am looking forward to week two.
But the day was gloomy and with chores done, I decided to stay in the house and do a little editing on those shots from last week that I didn't use.

I thought, maybe these would look much better in black and white.

For the 'table' I used a wicker chair.  I took an old pillow case that had a design on it and tossed in the dried up flower, the putty knife and some crinkled wall paper.  I couldn't find my large paint brush so I used a very small one.
After all, I will be repainting after the house remodel.

I overlayed a photo of rose wall paper and used some 'grunge' brushes in CS 2.  I also used a nifty little filter called AAAFotoFrame, which I can't seem to find anywhere on the internet.

Here is the wicker chair with a whiteboard as backing.  The same pieces are in this shot.  I again used a texture from Mercurycode at deviantart.  I used Overlay to blend it and then took out what I didn't need.

I took some more shots today and will start lesson #2 this week. I had to take advantage of having no one else around while I messed with objects and textures.

This was fun and a great inside distraction when the weather is not so great outside.
Even an old chair can be used to arrange still life.

Today though I had Morris's help, he kept nudging things with his nose and getting in my way.
I finally took the hint and took him for a nice little hike.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Be Still Week One

I did something I didn't think I'd ever do at all...

Take a photography course.
Something about Kim Klassen's work has always had me intrigued.  I have followed her blog for quite some time now.  She used to make textures and I used to admire her beautiful still life work and the textures she used.

So, I signed up for a class.  Be Still 52.
And yes I am going to work at it.  Still Life has never been anything that interested me so I figured, why not?

Why not reach out of my photography comfort zone and ... do something different?

And so I begin.

Be Still And Be...

or with the words added...not sure if I like the words added.

I picked this shot today because of what we are going through and have gone through in the past year.
Everything was put on hold last year due to Rich's diagnosis with Throat Cancer and we are now forging through with a house remodel.

Patience is something I am learning.  I am pulling wall paper with a vengeance and it is a messy awful job.
When the job is finished I imagine we'll have taken a sow's ear and made into something lovely.

I took a series of shots.  My makeshift studio included a white foam board, a south facing window, an old chair, an old white sheet, coffee cup, shredded wall paper, beads, chain, and of course the scraper.

The day was overcast so the light was very subdued and I tried to go for the high key sort of look.

The second shot I liked was with a carnation bud, a dried up amaryllis flower that I'd kept for some reason, the white sheet, cup and well, there it is.

I took time just looking and from my first week's lesson.
Breathing. Pausing. Relaxing.

I practiced a some Tai Chi and then got to work on this thing I was certain I could not pull off.

Old and New

I have one very similar to this shot that doesn't cut off the petals on the top of the flower.  I need to look it over a few more times to decide which of the three shots I like the best.

That is it for now.  I'm looking forward to working with this.

Be Still.
It is something I often do in the woods, to hear the nature around me and to appreciate the sounds of the forest.
Now I can practice this in a different sense.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

But He is a Velcro-rapper!

Today finds Doe with Dino again.

He asks her if she would like to go on a Spa Date with him.
Doe says she doesn't know what a Spa is.

Dino takes her to the fresh spring along the creek bottom.  He jumps into the water and takes a dip.

He tells Doe to come on in, the water feels wonderful.

Doe jumps in and is surprised at how refreshing it is.  She tells Dino that her forest friends just call this 'taking a dip'.

He explains that Velociraptors are much classier and they take Spas, not dips.


Stinky comes along and is horrified to find Doe in the water with a Dinosaur.  He begs her to get out right away.

Doe can't understand why Stinky is so upset.  She takes Dino and decides to find Bo and introduce her new friend.

Doe introduces Dino to her forest friends.  Bo gets upset and tells Doe that she shouldn't be making friends with strangers!  Especially a Velociraptor Dinosaur that eats meat.

Doe flicks her tail and tells Stinky and Bo not to worry, Dino and she had lunch of moss the other day and besides, "He is a Velcro-rapper, not whatever it was you said!"

And thus Doe has made a new friend in the forest.

Will Doe ever learn?
Or does Doe have a point?  Sometimes we can trust strangers!  And Dino does have big teeth and looks fearsome.  Perhaps he can protect her.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Time for a Toy Story

Let me begin by saying that this is an on and off again thing I have fun doing with my Grand daughter Ariel.  The Toy Story that revolves around the little toy deer that I have called Doe. Doe always takes off in crazy directions and does insane things, like trying to live in an ice cave.  Or trying to live in a parking lot.  Or wandering off and getting lost.

I carry Doe in my camera bag. And sometimes I carry other toys too and I always look for someplace interesting to photograph them and then make a short photo story of it.

Well the other day, I added a toy to my collection.

Thus the story.

Doe wandered off down the creek.  Her friend Bo that she met during hunting season had gone with Stinky to find another home for her. They said she needed a nice place to stay come early this Spring.  
She didn't know why, she preferred wandering much better than just finding a home.

Bo and Stinky tell Doe they will look for a new home for her.

Well, she was going to show them!  She just wanted to take a walk by herself. She liked the creek in any season, it was always so interesting.

What did she hear?  Was that growling?

Doe looked up the rock wall where an ice cave had been forming.
What on earth was that???

Doe ran up to it and introduced herself. 
[Oh what would Bo and Stinky think right now?]

The creature had huge teeth and tiny eyes and funny looking hooves.  He said he was a Dinosaur and a Velociraptor.
Doe certainly didn't know what that was but she was hungry so she asked the Dinosaur if he was hungry.

Dino said yes he was very VERY hungry.  

Doe said she knew of a nice place where they could 'do' lunch.

And off they went.

Doe noticed that Dino had some very big teeth, but he was very polite and ate the moss with her at the sunny ice cave. Doe liked her new friend and couldn't wait to introduce him to Bo and Stinky.
She wondered what her pony friends would think of him too?

We can only assume that Doe's complete lack of fear and total innocence can work in her favor.  How often does one meet a Velociraptor and 'do' lunch?

House Remodeling Stinks ~ by Morris

They are messing up the house and calling it Remodeling preparation.  

She took the pictures off the wall and started taking Wall Paper down.  She pulls, strips, and goes up and down the stool thing. I watch her and it makes me tired.

Every day I have to guess where my water bowl is going to end up because She has been moving my dishes around so She can work. I hope she finishes up soon!

But then He started to work on my most ever favorite place.  That most wonderful excellent spot in front of the heater blower.

I take my toys there and lay down in front of the heater every time it turns on when it is cold outside.
How dare He?

I should have seen the signs. 

Invaded by tools.

When He uses the pounder thing, I don't like it much.  I climb that step stool thingy where She is working and hide between her legs.

Especially when He starts the Thing He calls the Shop Vac.  

I wasn't really scared.  I just wanted to make sure They knew that They were disturbing my place.

I just wanted to lay in the sunshine on the couch with my favorite toy and enjoy the afternoon. 

But NO.  

Pound, pound, pound.  Noisy Vac Thingy.  Scary, nasty, dusty, and noisy.  I kept climbing the foot stool and making Her laugh.  She had to stop pulling wallpaper and comfort me. I think I'll make a big fuss every time He brings out those tools. I learned a good trick, she gave me a treat and held me.  I like that.

I didn't even want anything to do with my comfy corner of the couch or the heater.

Before the work:

After yesterday's pounding noisy session:

It is just not nearly as nice.  

I have lived here my entire life and saw absolutely nothing wrong with the house what so ever. And now I find out that They are going to change things around.

Finally They quit making a mess of things and cleaned things up.  I finally was able to grab a little quiet time on my corner of the couch.  

They talk like this Remodel is going to be a great thing.  I don't think so, not if it is going to disrupt my life.

I may just run away from home.
Sleep on the couch with my Angry Bird Toy.
Or...I could hide the remote on Them and see how They like that!

Remodeling stinks.  And that is my opinion on the matter.