Saturday, January 30, 2010

Christmas - The End

Here's the last Christmas present that I made this year!
This is Noe l'Phant.

He's a smallish French gentleman, knitted, obviously, for my nephew Nolan.
While his eleph-riends dream of joining the circus, this little one gazes off into the distance and dreams of joining Cirque du Soleil.
He likes peanut butter sandwiches and thinks mice are rather nice.
He's a little different, you see.

And, while I'd love to take credit for his name, which I think is so utterly brilliant it defies words, I have to bow to man of the house. Chris is not a wordy fellow, but when he says something, it's usually worth paying attention. He just came right out with Noe l'Phant and it was perfect.

I had a lot of fun knitting up this pattern, until it came down to the ears. The ears were downright hard. I think I knitted them over three times - on Christmas Eve. But it was worth it. How could you deny destiny?

The pattern is Ysolda Teague's Elijah and he is so adorable. I really fell in love with her patterns over this holiday season - they are full of gorgeous details and clever stitch witchery. I'll definitely be knitting more of her designs in the future!

Friday, January 29, 2010


I don't usually toot my own horn here, but I did some work this morning that I'm really proud of. Check out my sister-in-law's blog to see some pictures I took of her and that sweet baby nephew of mine this morning.
Baby goodness.


Hey guys. Are you ready for this week's photography assignment? It's a doozy for me, but I think I've finally devised a way for you to do pretty much the same thing.
I will be taking a single-light, white-on-white portrait of someone who is willing to sit still for hours while I move a light around them and diffuse it with various materials to see what I like best. Oh - and I'll be using reflectors too.
Just like a real photographer.
But I don't want you to have to buy lights.
Grab somebody you love and dress them in a white shirt.
Find a window that lets in some decent light - north and south facing windows are usually best. If you are feeling ambitious, use a sheer piece of fabric over the window to diffuse the light - to make it soft and pretty.
Grab a white sheet and tack it up to your wall, throw it over a closet door or just have somebody really tall hold it up as a background.

Now, if your camera has manual settings, set your camera to aperture priority and your aperture to a low-ish range, like 5.6 or so (everybody's camera seems to have different f-stops. You can try a lower one if you'd like to). set your ISO to somewhere between 400 and 800. Take several shots to see what works best.
Adjust your aperture and your ISO until you find a combination that works for you.
Walk around your subject and take notice of how the light carves shadows and creates highlights on their face. Pick a few different angles and take notice of the different effects.
Now, pick your favorite angle and start snappin', baby.
Try it on one of your kids or your hubby or your bestie, or even the weird dude down the street.
If your camera doesn't have manual settings, it might have a "portrait" setting. Give it a try.
Just no flash, please.

And please, please, please share your pretty pictures, even if you don't do white-on-white and just take a window-light portrait of someone. I'd love to see them!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Under Construction

I've finally decided to take down my Thanksgiving blog decorations.
Turns out it's a lot like cleaning out a drawer.
It leads you into so many other little tasks that need to be done.

So, I'm taking down my links and stuff in an effort to do a little maintenance. Hopefully, when I finish (taking my own sweet time, I'm sure), there will be fewer dead links and even greater stuff to show you and maybe even more informative sidebar stuff. We'll see.

I'm feeling full of organizational ambition! But don't worry, it'll pass momentarily.

Daily Bliss: milk glass at garage sale prices -tons of it!
Wake-up Playlist: Train, Hey Soul Sister

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today's Homework

I have waited and waited until the last minute for this week's homework. Mostly it isn't my fault - we've had nothing but clouds this week and these shots needed to be done on a tabletop in window light. The only sunny day was, well, Saturday when we went to Disney. Not exactly going to do a technical camera exercise amid the swarms of people there. Nope.
So, today it was.
I worked with so many ideas for these tone-on-tone tabletops and, frankly, didn't get very impressive results. I have concluded that the camera I am using is just a really good one (I'm using my sister-in-law's nice camera for assignments this semester...). Sometimes I got a result using a gray card and sometimes, the exposure looked exactly the same. The camera seems to be automatically adjusting the white balance even when I've held the shutter halfway down after zeroing in on the gray card.
Oh well.
I think I'll ask about it tonight in class.
Here is one set of pictures where you can see the difference, though, the lighter one being before the gray card, the darker one being after:

They're not my favorite shots of this typewriter, though. He is very photogenic, it turns out. He deserves a post of his own and will have his day, I suspect. Nonetheless, it demonstrates that I was doing this right at some point. The rest of the before-and-afters turned out with little difference between the shots. Here are a few of my favorite pairs, though:

Overall, I'm least happy with the white ones, though after consulting the camera's manual, I think I understand how to fix the problems and get a good white color. I just don't have time to set back up and do it before class. I think it's in setting a custom white balance based on your gray card. It's a little more complicated of a fix. Whatever.

Still With Last Week's Assignment

Here are a few more shadow pictures, maybe better than the first group:

I know I said I was soooo over "reflections and shadows," but I just wasn't 100% happy with the images I had - especially the shadows. There were a few more things I had in my head to try and I just couldn't rest until I'd followed through with them - whether they worked or didn't.

And one more reflection shot (also the previous post is a reflection shot of the moon in a cup of coffee) - Nobody else turned in night shots for this assignment, so I though I'd like to try it:

And this one has reflections and shadows:

Moon In My Coffee

Required listening while viewing this photograph:
"Luna" by Malajube

Sunday, January 24, 2010


So, we took the kids to The Magic Kingdom yesterday.
Pictures forthcoming.
You know how, on the rides they have signs that say you're not supposed to go on the ride if you have a neck or back injury?
Turns out they mean me.

Did I see these signs and take notice?
No way.

A great time was had by all, though, even if I'm paying for that second trip around Thunder Mountain today.

Daily Bliss: Tabasco Cheez-its
Wake-Up Playlist: Owl City, Fireflies

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Today, I was a piano teacher and nothing more for the first time ever. I'm not a secretary or an office manager or anything else horrifyingly boring like that. I spent two days training the new secretary who is taking my place, and I will do the same next week, and that will be it - finished! Done! Wahoo!

Today, I closed my checking account too.
Chris and I have found that separate accounts, for the most part, help keep the peace in our household. That's not true for everyone, but it sure is for us. But I was paying a penalty fee because I don't have direct deposit set up, which is really rotten because the little church I was working for, of course, doesn't know how to set up direct deposit as a payroll option. So the fee was rotten, as we've established, but the fee was also recently increased. It almost doubled. And my income just halved this week. So, I went in and closed my first-ever, very-own checking account.
That made this whole transition seem very, very real.
It wasn't scary or unsettling or anything, just suddenly real.
I might have to pick up some other demeaning, minimum-wage job to make ends meet, but I haven't thought that far ahead and I'm certainly happy to do that if it means leaving the awful place where I was and moving toward the happy place that's in front of me.

Today, I had Slow Coffee because I didn't have to gulp it down in order to wake up as fast as possible. I drank it out of a real coffee mug, too. Usually, I have my first cup in a real mug and then reluctantly switch to a travel mug.
I don't like travel mugs.
They make my coffee taste all plastic-y and bitter.
PS - I almost left my pajamas on while taking the kids to school. But then I realized that I had to go to the bank too and that would be a little silly. Some girl in pajamas and (probably) high heels (because that's the only kind of shoe I like, so it's the only kind of shoe I own) with serious bedhead (I mean the totally-flat-in-the-back-but-the-whole-top-is-sticking-straight-up bedhead), holding a (non-travel) mug of coffee shuffling in to close her checking account?
Suspicious, I say.

Today, I played the piano to my heart's content, I knitted a bit and pondered the ramifications of knitting for fun and not just as a means of filling up otherwise-wasted moments in my day. I had leftovers for lunch and saw my baby nephew. I caught up on all the blogs in my Google Reader account. I picked up my kids on time from school and after-school club and took them on time to their evening activities - a jazz band concert and ballet class. I was fully present the whole time.

Today, I had a fresh start.

Daily Bliss: Emma's pure excitement over the presence of capers in our dinner
Wake-up Playlist: Neal McCoy, Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Ready for this week's photography assignment? Yeah, me neither. It's actually sort of a technical assignment, so I'll leave you guys with a couple of options after I try to briefly explain the procedure involved.
This week's assignment deals with light metering and gray cards, sort of using manual controls to override our camera's instincts when it comes to recording the light that's reflected off your subject. This isn't meant to be a class or a lesson in itself, and if you feel like getting all technical with it, you can just Google "light metering" and you'll get all sorts of helpful information.
Stated briefly and insufficiently, your camera is seldom going to record an image as your eye sees it. Our brains do a lot of color correcting for us! A piece of white paper looks white to us under lots of different lighting conditions because our brains automatically adjust and correct what we see, but your camera is going to record that piece of paper based on the light that's reflecting off of it (think of how things look under the terrible lights at WalMart compared to how they look under lovey morning light). But there are lots of different tricks you can use to fool your camera into recording the type of image your eye sees.
So, this week, we are doing some experimenting. We will be shooting two tabletop scenes, one black set-up on a black background and one white set-up on a white background, in order to show what the camera would automatically record and to show what you can trick it into doing using a gray card.

Here is where we stop and realize that most of you don't have a gray card.
Here is also where we stop and realize that my professor gave us another week to shoot more shadow and light pictures if we wanted to - he'll grade that work after the extra time has passed.
If you want to keep playing picture games with me and you don't want to learn the wonders of gray cards and white balance and light metering, just skip the rest of this post and take more pretty pictures of shadows.

You need to shoot these pictures in Manual Mode - shutter speed should be pretty fast. Maybe 1/60 or faster. ISO? 200-400. Aperture? Whatever works well once the other two are set. What you may notice is that you do not get true whites or blacks. They're all sort of grayish. HaHAAAAA! Your camera is not as smart as it should be considering how much you paid for it.
Just kidding.
It wants to bring everything in balance to a nice, neutral 18% gray. Are you ready to fool it? Fill the frame with your gray card and take a picture. Don't have a gray card? It's okay. Betcha can find something else gray. Try it out. It might not give you the dramatic results you'd hoped for, and any teacher might kill me for suggesting it, but I still think it's fun to experiment and learn more about your camera and how it works. Maybe you could even Google for an image of a gray card and fill the frame with your computer monitor to take your gray picture. Maybe. I don't really know. Again - not the teacher.
Once your camera has been fooled by your gray card, it's going to take much nicer picture of your monochromatic table settings.

I'll let you know if this doesn't work well for me. But I have a gray card and I want an "A" pretty badly, so I'm going to do whatever I need to do to get it to work!
I'll be posting pictures, but it's going to be a while. I have no idea what to take pictures of. Marshmallows? Chess pieces? Should I spray paint something?

And I'd like to remind you that there's nothing wrong with continuing to take shadows and reflections pictures. Nothing at all. I'm going to continue to take more and I like lookin' at your pictures too. You can also just take pictures of your black stuff and your white stuff with your camera and play with the "levels" sliders in your photo editing software (Photoshop or GIMP). This is not as great as getting the shot right the first time, but still, you'd be amazed at what that can do.
Or you can take pictures of your black stuff and your white stuff and simply be surprised by how your camera seems to make the blacks look washed out and the whites look gray and then don't bother to do anything else about it. You know. Whatevs.

Daily Bliss: my brother and his dog came for dinner this evening
Wake-Up Playlist: "Buffalo Gals" (traditional children's song - and no, I don't know why I woke up singing this one!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Christmas Presents #2

I sure am taking my time getting my handmade Christmas stuff posted, huh? Sorry 'bout that.
These photos are not exactly things I could turn in for class, but it's what I've got, and I'll include pattern links where I can.
I made Andrew an awesome Goomba hat. He's a little embarrassed to wear it, but I knew he would be. It was worth the effort, though, just for the laughs and the "wow" factor it elicited from my son.

I made Emma a hat and gauntlets set. She looks super-cute in it. The Ripley hat is designed by Ysolda Teague, who designed all those knitted toys I made, too. It's a really clever little pattern with darling pleats on one side, giving it the perfect slouch.

The gauntlets were a super-simple little pattern that didn't necessarily go with the hat, but I made them from the same yarn, so...Boom! Matched set.

For everyone else, as I mentioned, I made an emergency, Plan B gift of never-ending vanilla extract and raw vanilla sugar, which I made with organic, raw sugar.

I commandeered some clip art from somewhere online and made some cute labels for pretty jars. I even made some goodies for myself, since there were some leftovers. I cannot wait to use them up!

And almost last, we have two Mario mushrooms - a 1-Up Mushroom (for an extra life) and a Super Mushroom (makes you really big).

I wanted to knit some Mario mushrooms for the kiddos and I just couldn't find a knitting pattern that I liked. But I ran across this crochet pattern and just fell in love.
However, I don't know how to crochet.
Well, I didn't know how to crochet. These were so absolutely adorable that I had to teach myself to crochet. And it's pretty fun, actually!
I am still missing pictures of one last thing - the little knitted elephant. I'll get it up here soon, I'm sure. I'm a little overwhelmed with photography stuff. My head is just jammed full of pictures to take and things to try. So jammed, in fact, that it's a little tough to concentrate on most anything else.

Monday, January 18, 2010

One More

One of the ideas I had for this assignment was re-visiting a location I'd been to years before to take pictures of my kids. It was an abandoned shell of a building - maybe a gas station or a train station. I couldn't tell anymore what it used to be. I piled everyone in the car this morning, hopeful that this would be the inspiring spot for my "shadows" pictures.
Alas, it was gone.
Torn down long ago, I guess, because the grass had spread out lazily to blanket the lot and there was only the weensiest bit of cement foundation left peeking up out of the dirt.
It's a shame, really.
Oh, I suppose that it isn't a shame to everybody. To most, it was a dangerous eyesore and probably a haven for unsavory characters. To me, it was romantic and beautiful, filled with history and ghosts (not real ones, of course - just the ones I imagined).
I can't really turn in old work for my class assignments, but I dug up my favorite photo from that spot to show you.

I desaturated it (took out the color/made it black and white) for printing and framing, but this is the original. I'm sure you can see why this was the one location that was stuck in my mind for this assignment and why nothing else in the shadows department was very inspiring to me. I already had this in mind and nothing could compare.
But, who are those two children sitting on the ground? That little boy who's nervous about the "No Trespassing" sign and that little girl who is lost in her bouquet of daisies are very cute and very small. Surely I don't know anyone like them.
Oh wait...

I do know them! Only now, they are much bigger and far wiser.
They know how that "No Trespassing" means "Photographers Are Welcome."

More Shadows

Okay. Here are the last few on the shadow-y side of things.
I had lots of ideas, most of which didn't quite come out right because it's been cloudy. No sun = no shadows.
So, here we have sad little Zeke, traveling down the road by himself. However, there isn't a strongly defined shadow and all the vegetation is dead due to the freeze, so it isn't a nice picture. Still, I wanted it to be sad, and it is.

And the giant butterfly scenario - great in my head, but hasn't worked out yet in real life. We didn't fix up Emma's hair this time and she was much less cooperative this time too. Add in the pressure of dinner in the oven and a fussy baby (Mindy kindly donned the giant wings for me), and I just didn't get much to choose from. If he asks me to re-shoot some of this week's assignment, this will be the first one I try again.

A few pretty pictures at a local church this morning:

And just some shadows:

I am so done with this assignment. I have taken an unfathomable number of pictures this week! It's been really fun, but I'm over the concept of reflections and shadows for now. I really hope these go over well enough to let my work stand without re-shooting!
I'm loving all the pictures you guys are posting - I'm so excited to see the world through the eyes and lenses of my amazing friends and family. Keep 'em coming! New assignment Wednesday (my class is Tuesday nights).

Daily Bliss: My first day as a non-secretary.
Wake-up Playlist: Jimmy Eat World, Sweetness

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I've had a harder time with the "shadows" portion of this week's assignment. I suppose that's largely due to the massive blanket of clouds hovering in the sky. No sun means no shadows. I've been vigilant and found a few moments, but so far, I'm not 100% in love with the results.
Here are a few that I like so far:
This one's really subtle and I might try to re-shoot for a little better focus:

Some pretty trees:

And the beginnings of something I'm working on - this isn't quite what I want yet, but I might keep trying when the sun comes back out:

I'm so excited that so many of you want to play picture games with me! Don't forget to leave a comment to let me know if you post some photos based on my homework assignments. I'd like to think that I will post links to all of your blog posts, but I know I don't have my act together enough right now. Heck, I still have my fall header and color scheme on display here. At the least, if you leave a link in the comments, we can all find each other.

You guys are the best. I mean it.


More Reflections

Here are the rest of my "reflection" photos. I've been having lots of fun, taking pictures everywhere for two days straight!

Thoughts? Favorites? Rotten tomatoes?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Digital II

I had my first Digital Photography II class this past week.
It's going to be a challenge. I'm a little bit intimidated.

Okay, I'm a lot intimidated.

But it's so much fun to show you guys my pictures, so, I think we should just get on with it, don't you? This week's assignment is "Reflections and Shadows," which is pretty much what you would think it is. My teacher asked us to just walk around in the morning hours and afternoon hours, be observant, and take lots of pictures and come back with ten images.
Ten images?
He showed us a few inspirational photos and then let us go.
Just like that.
So, I borrowed the "good camera" from my sister-in-law, who is letting me rent her camera a few days a week in exchange for a few piano lessons (she felt like she was getting the better end of the deal, but I assured her that it was I who was the winner here), and I haven't stopped snapping pictures since last night.
First up are reflections. It seems like this is going to be an easier one for me than shadows, honestly. Emma has a ballet class that meets on Thursday nights, so, ballet mirrors - duh!
Here are my favorites from ballet class:

And this morning, I had a little time to myself, so I stopped at my favorite morning light spot and tried for a second round of "reflection" photos.

So...which ones from each group do you like?

PS - Know what I think would be fun? Will you take some pictures too? I won't post lecture notes or anything like that, out of respect for my professor, but I will post the week's assignment theme and I'd love to see some pictures you guys take along the same themes. Wanna play?