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Sunday, February 24, 2013

a mother's prayer

mouse over to see the original

Why the interest in genealogy and family heirlooms, especially personal effects, photos and life stories? Really, beyond a casual curiosity, what does it matter what these people looked like, where and how they lived, what joys and sorrows they experienced, or who these people were?

I suppose you could say that these items intrigue me...tangible reminders of my own ancestors, sometimes haunting me for days, months, years. I have always been drawn to true stories of old: of faith, hope and love; of honor and dignity; of survival and endurance in hard times: war, poverty, illness, desolation. These folks passed on their wisdom, their values to their children and - directly or indirectly - to their grandchildren.

Lately I find myself thinking of the mothers in my own family in this light. Being women of faith - specifically Roman Catholic - they each prayed the rosary on a regular basis. It's not about worshiping Mary, but rather asking her to intercede, or pray for us and with us, much as you might ask a friend to pray for you or a loved one.

I think of it most often as a mother's prayer, and find myself praying for my own children and for the children of other mothers that I know. You know: from one mother to another. After all, Mary's own son was born to suffer. She will understand...

This little still life is a compilation of some of my grandmothers' things, passed on to me by my mother. The rosary and the Italian ceramic jar belonged to my paternal grandmother, Adele Libonati Notarianni. The handkerchief - adorned with embroidered rosebuds, a symbol of Mary and of the rosary (rose-ary) - is from the collection of my maternal grandmother, Edna Swanson Toomey. They would understand...

Linking up with Beyond Beyond, Day 5...creating light via post-processing. I used Kim's "Let There Be Light" Preset in Lightroom, and bumped up the exposure a bit. I also pulled down the yellow/gold tones, which bothered me. Then into Photoshop, where I followed Kim's "Sybil Trick" tutorial; the Color Burn layer brought back the unappealing yellow tones, so I applied a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to the background layer and reduced both yellow and green. I tried Kim's "blanket of light, " but it was a no-go for this photo; it took away from the rich textural detail of the jar, which the previous processing seemed to enhance so nicely. Gotta know when to quit.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

cash for junk

Kim's challenge this week for our Beyond Layers class was almost - well, beyond me. It wasn't until a couple days later, when I had shelved the idea...fortunately not too far in the back of my mind, that I found my subject. That's usually how it works for me.

The assignment was simply this: bring the indoors outside, and shoot something with that in mind. Well, I have driven past this little second hand store hundreds of times over the years, and have often thought that I should stop and do a photo shoot. There is always an interesting, random collection of odd things on display in the parking lot out in front; some you might even call "antiques."

I had found my assigned subject matter! It dawned on me as I was spinning at the gym early last Friday morning while studying photographer David Duchemin's book Within the Frame. He was talking about shooting on location, and capturing how the place feels to you, as opposed to just recording what it looked like. With only my cellphone camera on me, I decided right then and there to stop on my way home and shoot as many photos as I could before rushing off to work. There was a blanket of fresh snow on everything, heightening the drama of these "relics" which now exist out of context...exposed to the elements. What I felt was the rather forlorn quality of a place where the personal possessions of assorted nameless people - quite likely gone from this earth - are unceremoniously dumped onto the pavement, to be sold to some sharp-eyed, thrifty shopper.

I don't have anything against thrift stores or antique malls, having frequented them myself in years past, both to buy and/or drop off something. But with the recent passing of my father, and the heart-rending but necessary distribution of his possessions, I feel a little bit saddened by this sight. Dad (the ever-pragmatic lawyer, who handled many estates over the years, and himself an avid antique collector) would be the first to tell me that this is all just an inescapable part of life.

All of this has, in recent months, caused me to re-evaluate my own state of affairs, so to speak; I can't help but think about what will happen to my things one day. These ruminations have unexpectedly influenced my recent creative endeavors: what used to put me off about digital art was that you couldn't touch it...it existed only on your hard drive or on some blog server somewhere. For many years I have felt the need to make a tangible creation. Now when I ponder creating something I can't seem to avoid thinking, "What am I going to do with this when I finish it?" At least a digital file it won't end up in some thrift store or tucked into a box on a shelf.

all photos shot with my Samsung 4G cellphone

The best things in life aren't things.

I emailed the pix to myself and saved them to my hard drive, then did some basic photo editing in Lightroom. I applied a RadLab filter - 60's Beach Recipe - before moving on into Photoshop, where I applied two texture layers (kk_crackerjack/Multiply 60% and kk_mary/Soft Light 50%) and then a Photo Filter (Cooling Filter #80/Normal 100%).

Linking up with Beyond Beyond and Texture Tuesday.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

faith, hope, love

Happy Valentine's Day
to the
love of my life


thank you for putting your faith and trust
in me,
for sharing your hopes and dreams,
and for
being more than charitable
by always giving of yourself
and your



Today I am linking up with Texture Tuesday, where the theme this week is, of course, LOVE.

This is a macro shot of the gold charm that was a wedding gift from my husband - a gold version of the silver charm he had given me over two years earlier when we had to part after meeting and falling in love during a two month trip to Europe. Bob composed the verse to accompany the original gift.


Two hours and over 40 takes finally produced the tack-sharp image I was after. Lensbaby + different apertures, different backgrounds (finally settling on the louvered laundry room door!), and a tripod, of course. Aw heck...off with the Lensbaby. On with my 'Nifty 50' (50mm, ISO 200, f/14, 2.0 sec) . Whew! What a process!

In Lightroom I selected the best shot; cropped, then played around in the Basic panel, adjusting white balance, exposure, contrast, clarity, etc. and adding a gradient filter to the right side. Then I tried several ways to achieve a richly toned b&w, finally settling on the split tone method from Scott Kelby's book. Love that book! BTW have I ever mentioned David Duchemin's wonderful series of books on photography and photo editing? I have learned so much from him about vision and intent; and he is so readable! Both authors are highly recommended and often referred to...

Once in Photoshop I simply added the text and two layers: kk_chill (Multiply blend mode @34%) and kk_0101 (Multiply 28%).

Golly, that was fun!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

tea towels for the girls

Today I am linking up with Beyond Beyond (the second year of Beyond Layers) for our latest assignment. Kim is continuing to help us hone our photography skills - in-camera and post-processing, including Lightroom and Photoshop. This week we played with focus points: emphasizing different parts of the same scene, depending on what you want the viewer to - well, um - focus on

I was already planning to do something with the wonderful old baking powder tin we found in my mother's laundry room, inside the wonderful old pantry I "rescued" from obscurity there (more on the pantry in another post). What a delight it was to discover that the tin was full of dried fennel seed, a staple in any Italian kitchen, used mainly for seasoning sausage. They say that the sense of smell is one of the strongest memory triggers. The spicy-sweet anisette aroma is simply magical, transporting me back almost 50 years to my grandparents' little house in north Denver.

I quickly selected a snapshot of "Dudie" as we kids called her, taken in 1945, an amazingly timeless image of her, as that is pretty much how I remembered her over 20 years later, before she passed away suddenly in 1968, when I was just a little girl. Then I recalled a set of embroidered tea towels that she had made many years ago...her hand-written note says it all: Tea Towels for the Girls. "The Girls" were my two sisters and I, who along with our brother were her only grandchildren.

I think Dudie would have approved of this little "portrait" of her, don't you?


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

intersecting ripples

I am linking up with Photo-Heart Connection, choosing one photo from last month that really connects with my heart, and think about why it does so. This is a rewarding challenge because it makes me really think/feel about what I capture with my camera, how I choose to edit it, and what exactly am I trying to communicate with each image. I think of it as what makes it a Photograph instead of just a snapshot.

I took this photo a week ago Sunday, while on a Walk and Click Wednesday excursion. I had my Lensbaby with the plastic optic lens...just playing with it and learning what it can do, strolling around nearby Crown Hill open space park, with its peaceful little lake and abundant waterfowl, shooting into and towards the setting sun. I think this was the only keeper from that afternoon.

I am drawn to this photo for a couple reasons: the almost magical effect of the rim light on the birds, branches, and even on the little bits of melting ice; the warm glow of the setting sun. I like the Lensbaby blur effect. That's a brief summary of the aesthetic appeal. 

The Photo-Heart Connection is in the subject: a family navigating life's challenges. It's as though I am watching a play about this family of birds, living day to day together, traversing the icy lake, sometimes walking/skidding on the thawing ice, sometimes swimming/gliding through the water. I noticed that the transition from ice to water was not always gracefully executed, but they manage to recover nicely...and stay afloat. If one slipped and panicked it was only shown in a brief flutter of wings...but then all was okay. The others seemed oblivious to the struggle, letting him recover on his own, apparently not wanting to interfere.

What caught my eye when I shot the photo were the two little wanderers, off doing their own thing, their watery ripples briefly intersecting with those of the group. They reminded me of my daughters, recently moved out and on their own.

Notice the ever widening pattern of intersecting ripples radiating from each bird: its own circle, initially independent, but gradually intersecting with that of its neighbors.

It reminds me of how our family is...sometimes we stay close together, sharing in the big and little moments of life, the joys and the sorrows. Sometimes we go off and do our own thing, needing a little space to discover who we are. Our ripples eventually intersect, connecting us in mind and heart...always there for one another.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

hidden harmony

Linking up with Beyond Beyond, in which our assignment this week was quite simple: Play with aperture/depth of field and then watch the video and play with some photo editing and a texture, and maybe a quote.

Okay. So that's not exactly what Kim said, but that's what I took away from the lesson.

And also, I had floating around in my mind the upcoming Texture Tuesday challenge: Include a POP of color in your photo, and add at least one layer of any of Kim's textures.

So I went in search of a POP of color, contained in an image that would rely on depth of field for expression. Well, this is a somewhat drab, colorless time of year in these parts, with only our beautifully brilliant blue Colorado sky (hard to make a little POP of color out of a whole sky)...and a plentiful selection of gaudy suburban colors - signage, vehicles, architecture. Nothing inspiring between home and work.

Time for a still life set-up...miraculously pulled together in my studio, focusing on a red bowl full of some old spools of thread...sitting on a shelf inside this rusty old dental cabinet/autoclave. I played around with several variations, adding the old medicine bottles and a tiny cup of acorns (I figured I could place them in the blurred zone). Moved stuff this way and that. Opened the door. Closed it. Focused on various elements. Tried several different f-stops and points of view. All the while I could feel it in my bones: there's a Subject here somewhere...

I loaded all 25 shots into Lightroom so I could cull them. The last shot was It, I was sure.

Funny thing, though: out of all the somewhat contrived compositions...there was this one that cried out in a small voice,
"pick me"

I've learned to listen to small voices...

mouse over to see the original

After a careful bit of straightening and cropping in Lightroom (I can spend a long time with this, trying to achieve just the right balance and harmony among the elements within the frame, as well as determining the proportions of the frame itself), I played around with white balance, exposure, and split toning, following Kim's video. But I was distracted by the tiny bit of distortion in the strong - and crucial horizontal and vertical lines, so I went to the Lens Correction panel, got out my Scott Kelby book to see how to straighten things out. Just a little "stretching" this way and that was all it took.

Then I jumped over to Photoshop, where I continued with Kim's video for guidance, adding a texture (kk_minus43 @Soft Light 49%) then toned down that layer with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, pulling down the yellow quite a bit and bringing back the color to my original vision (that special vintage-enamel-dentist's-office-sterile-white-with-a-turquoise-color-cast)...and which complements the red so nicely.

And then a quote. ..maybe. I wasn't sure if I even wanted a quote; I didn't want to disturb the balance and harmony I felt I had achieved. Well, I might as well try...I can always leave it out if it doesn't look good. I think I googled something like "hidden quotes" And there it was...a valuable lesson for me from a true Master. Sometimes it is better to be open to what is already there, instead of trying to make something appear.