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Friday, September 26, 2014

life's passing seasons: an organic still life

a quick assemblage
of some
organic treasures
I found in a box
right in my own studio:
sea shells
gathered on a Scottish beach
a sprig of dried heather
from the southwest coast of Ireland
an old wooden bowl I got
on eBay awhile back
stage of life

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours.
- Irish toast -


Here is what I started with:
Canon EOS 6D
Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 lens
Manual Mode
no tripod
ISO 3200
f/4.5 1/160 sec
afternoon light

I tried a couple different crops
to make the most of the pensive white space;
I wanted to de-saturate and cool the color a bit
so I played A LOT in the Develop Module
with HSL and Tone Curve panels
and fine-tuned Kim's Melancholy preset.

Lots of experimenting
textures, layers, layer masks
and adjustment layers
to get the feel
just right.

and with Kim's help
I've figured out how to
get my drawings
into my blog!
(I'll save that for another post)

Linking up with

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

pink ribbon warrior: a still-life portrait

nounoften attributive
\ˈwȯr-yər, ˈwȯr-ē-ər, ˈwär-ē- also ˈwär-yər\

a person engaged in some struggle or conflict 

 This week's Be Still 52 challenge:
create a
'still-life family portrait'

Today I pay tribute to
my late sister
'pink ribbon warrior'
in the truest sense.
Back in 1995, when Lissa was diagnosed at age 40 with Stage 2 breast cancer
I embroidered this pink sun hat for her to wear.

Lissa endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
She won her battle with breast cancer.

Two years later
she succumbed to Leukemia -

She won the battle
but lost the war.

I still have her day planner
with her last entries from 1997
in her own handwriting.


I still pray for understanding 17 years later, asking God the unanswerable question: Why? Why, dear Lord, did you take this young, brilliant scientist in the prime of her life, who obviously had so much more to give? (Lissa earned a PhD in Anatomy, had herself done cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute before discovering her true calling as a teacher: of anatomy to medical and dental students, then biology to community college students.) Why did the very science that she loved fail her? For what purpose?

While not exactly getting an answer to this prayer, I have come to be at peace with it. You see, in 2006, I was diagnosed with Stage 0 LCIS. Because of my sister's medical history, I got a 'front row seat': extra-close scrutiny from that point forward, including treatment from Lissa's own oncologist, a simple biopsy, plus five years of hormone therapy, and continued vigilance with yearly mammograms. I've been free and clear for eight years. Easy.

Last month my annual routine mammogram revealed Stage 0 DCIS. You might say things are dialed up a notch this time. This time I was tested for the BRCA gene (negative, thank God), and my MRI was clean. It was recommended that I meet with a plastic surgeon 'so I could make an informed decision' (if you know what I mean...YIKES!). Well, we finally decided on a simple lumpectomy, which is scheduled for early next week. My doctor says I might not need radiation...just more hormone therapy and mammograms every six months for awhile...because we caught it early. Easy...again.

In no way do I consider myself a 'pink ribbon warrior.' My path has been easy because Lissa's was not. If not for her diagnosis in 1995, I myself might not have been as vigilant with yearly mammograms - which have since twice averted a much more serious diagnosis later on.

Lissa was both a pragmatic scientist and a devout Catholic. I firmly believe that she would see the good in this for her little sister - from both perspectives.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

"Notice that the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And notice that God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following Him."
Lee Strobel - Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?


Canon EOS 6D
Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 lens
Manual Mode
Aperture range: f/5.0 to 6.3
Early morning 
in my
basement studio
with Lillian.
I kept her laser-light cat toy handy
'cause she just seems to know
when I'm ready to
press the shutter button.
Both hand-held and flash
were out of the question
with the available lighting
and subtle shadow-play I wanted,
so I improvised
to get a vertical shot from ground level.
Resting the lens on fabric
probably interfered with its focusing function:
out of over 30 shots,
only one was 'tack sharp'
even though I used the
10 second shutter delay. 
After that first photo session
hauling out the tripod
suddenly seemed to be
not such a bother!

I am still working my way through
Kim's 31 Days of Lightroom class,
especially Custom Layouts
and Snapshots
at my own pace.
I love auditioning and fine-tuning
presets...I finally settled on
for all photos.

Just this texturizing:


Linking up with

Thursday, September 4, 2014

a still moment: after the rain

It's amazing what you can find
when you step outside
and wander around
your yard
summer rain.

 I ended up 'rescuing' this sweet aspen leaf
from our driveway
so I could draw it later
(and I couldn't bear the thought
of backing over it
with my van)
 standing in the shelter
of a giant old blue spruce
looking out
toward the
late afternoon light
I truly do love
our aspens...
a beauty both



Canon EOS 6D
Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 lens
Manual Mode

What better way to practice
focus and depth of field techniques
than with
tiny raindrops?

Lots of fun
with the
Develop Module
Presets (kk_gentle)
Print Module
as I follow along

Yeah, I know it would have been simpler
to mask off the textures
with a wider brush,
but I really wanted to emphasize
the water drops


Let My teaching fall like rain
and My words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain
on tender plants.
Deuteronomy 32:2


If you get a chance, do sign up for
Kim Manley Ort's E-course
or at the very least
subscribe to her blog.