Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Amazing World of Actions!

For those of you who don't know what Actions are (in terms of image editing), they are a series of editing steps that are saved, which can transform your photograph completely to have a different look to it than what came straight out of your camera.  You can pull up a photograph, click on an Action (in Photoshop), push play and watch your photograph take on a whole new feel. Actions can also be used to assist in editing photos for things like brightening an image, lightening up eyes, bringing out the vibrancy in colors in a photograph, sharpening an image, etc.  Until recently, I hadn't been able to figure out how to make them work or how to create them on my own.

Last month, my friend Tracy came into town, as some of you might have seen and we spent the day in Chicago having a whole lot of photographic fun.  That night, we sat side by side on my couch and she showed me the actions on her computer, how they worked and exactly what they did. It all finally came together in my mind and I ended up buying a  couple of sets of actions, from 2 different wonderful photographers - Paint the Moon and Florabella.   I've just signed up to win another series of actions from a company called Totally Rad Actions! All 3 of these companies can be found on Facebook, for any of my photog friends who'd like to take a peek.  (Fingers crossed that I win the drawing!)

Let me tell you, these things are ADDICTING!  After you run the action, each step within the action is adjustable.  You can run more than one action. You can add textures over the image after your run the action (more on textures later in an upcoming post). This equates to hours and hours and HOURS of editing bliss.  Below is an example of how actions can change your photographs. The first one is the original image from the camera.
Original image SOOC (straight out of camera)

I decided to play with a bunch of different actions to show you just a handful of ways you can change the image. Turns out, black and white isn't simply black and white. There are so many different shades within black and white and other effects to make your image look unique.

Black and White Dream Glow Action from Paint the Moon

Retro Lollipop Action from Florabella

Vintage Buttercup from Florabella

Vintage Wine from Florabella

Obviously, everyone's taste will differ and each person may have a preference on which one they like best. It also depends on what you are trying to communicate with your image and the kind of feeling you are hoping to evoke.  My favorite one is the last one - Vintage Wine. There is something that I feel is classy about it, whereas the 2 black and white images give a better sense of nostalgia.

I'm just learning how to work with these and I can't begin to tell you how much fun it is.  Fingers crossed that I win the new set of actions from Totally Rad Actions as that would give me even more tools to play with! As with everything, the more you do it, the better you get at it.  Someday, I hope to create some of my own. Until then, I'll play with everyone else's! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A missed Sneak Peek

Whenever I have a photoshoot, I post a "Sneak Peek" on my blog within a few days of the shoot so my clients don't have to wait a full three weeks to see any of the images.  Not sure how, but I missed posting this one for Little Man C and Little Miss M. (I did, however, post some of these on my personal facebook page).   These were taken this past November.  It was 50 degrees out, sun was shining, there was no wind and it was simply a perfect day. These 2 little people were an absolutely joy to photograph.  Their personalities came through loud and clear and they couldn't have cared less that I had a camera on them for about an hour and half. Their mom and I used to dance together in high school. So funny how life can make you cross paths again, some 20 years later!

These photographs were taken at Grau Mill.  What a lovely little area with fences and bridges and water and beautiful trees.  The house on the property also gave us a great spot for some fun moments.
As you may have already noticed, Little Miss M carried her stuffed giraffe around with her through the entire shoot.  I checked with her mom first to make sure it was okay to have him in all of the photos and she said "Absolutely!" I love little touches like this that show so much of who these little people are at this time in their lives.
This next image might just be my favorite one from the whole shoot.  I asked Little Mr. C to give Miss M a hug.  He reached out, put his arms on her shoulders and started walking and pushing.  I laughed the whole time this was occurring and still, again, whenever I see this image!
What a fun session this was! I look forward to photographing these two little sweet peas again in a different season.  I love watching the kids grow.  Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to capture these moments with your munchkins. They are such wonderful little beings!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Picture Inspiration - Week 4 - Stacks

The word prompt for this week is Stacks.  Once our assignment came out,  I knew what I wanted to photograph almost immediately.  Tracy, our teacher, suggested that perhaps we actively create what we wanted to photograph instead of finding it already in existence.   Creating still life images is not my forte.   However, I know that if I don't step out of my comfort zone from time to time, then how can I grow or learn?  So, I grabbed my subject matter and got to work with a few different scenarios.
These are antique books which I inherited from my Grandma Meg.  Unfortunately, I didn't learn of their existence until after she passed.  Most of these have copyright dates in the late 1800's.    Additionally, there are handwritten names inside each book with dates as to when they belonged to my family members.  It's so amazing to hold these in my hands.   A little piece of history that has landed in my home.
As they are antique books, I thought it only appropriate that process them with an antique feel.  I couldn't decide which one I liked best, so I posted them both.  Which one appeals to you more?

I have the feeling that more of my grandmas's treasures will come in handy as I travel this journey through my Picture Inspiration Class.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One for the Memory Bank

Yesterday was one of those days that when they come along, you wish they could just last and last and last. My muchkins and I left our house about 11:15 to go meet a girlfriend and her two daughters for lunch.  After lunch, we headed to see a play called "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...and other stories."  The show was fabulous and we all enjoyed many laughs. Afterwards, we parted ways with my friend and her daughters.  The kids mentioned a nearby park on our way back to the car. It was a beautiful day so off we went. They played at the park for about an hour or so, having a fantastic time. The weather is getting warmer and everyone is so ready for it to just stay that way.  I snagged my camera and happily clicked away while they happily played. My own little monkey made a beeline for the monkey bars.  I lost count of how many times she went back and forth!
My little guy went in a different direction and headed for the slides.
There was climbing and swinging and so much happiness!
He's a bit of a goof - can you tell?
Finally, it was time to go and so the kids needed to empty the sand out of their shoes.  (I must admit, sand is my LEAST favorite part of any park.)
As the day was such an enjoyable one, I figured I would surprise the kids with one more treat. Guess what we did next?
Yep!  Ice cream it was.  Or rather, gelato to be more exact. There is a wonderful little store downtown where we live that sells the best tasting gelato!  I got chocolate hazelnut, my daughter chose strawberry and my little man got mint. We shared and mixed and matched and enjoyed every bite. 

What a fantastic day! My husband and I refer to these as "one more for the memory bank".  How I love this time we have together.  I'm one lucky mom.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week 3 - Picture Inspiration - Motif

So, this week's word prompt is Motif.  Part of the definition, and a guide to our assignment are these words: A distinctive and recurring form, shape, figure, etc, in a design, as in a painting or on wallpaper.

While neither wallpaper nor a painting, what you see below is an item that represents so many things to me.  As you can probably tell, it's an afghan.  What you don't know is that it was made by my Grandma Meg, who passed away almost 9 years ago. That doesn't really seem possible and I miss her more than I could ever express.  This one was originally given to my mom.  My mom then gave it to me and now it's one more memory I have of my Grandma in my house.  I also have a blue one which was made for me, but it's much smaller as I was a far littler person when she crocheted it.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely DETEST being cold. It can almost top the list of things I can't stand to feel.  So, blankets of any sort make me very, very happy.  Afghans made by family members - even better and definitely more meaningful.

I love the pattern of this afghan along with the colors. I'm a warm color junkie so browns are always attractive to me.  When I look closely at the repeating pattern and details, I honestly have no idea how my grandma had the patience to create this large amazing piece of love. Because that's what it is. Something that she created with her own hands, out of love, for the people in her family.

So this is my motif. A recurring pattern of brown and white, that represents warmth and love, held close to my heart.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

New experiences

One of the most fun things about having traveled this photography path for the last few years is that everyone I know is used to seeing me with a camera everywhere I go.   And when I say everywhere, that's not much of an exaggeration. It gives me the opportunity to capture moments and experiences on a regular basis, especially those involving my children and those times that are truly extra special.  I like the every day stuff, too, but I make an extra effort for the "first time" events.

My mom called yesterday and asked if we had plans for that evening. We did not. She suggested going out to dinner to use a fabulous coupon she bought from Living Social for Shinto.  Shinto is both a sushi and hibachi restaurant. While I couldn't imagine my kids enjoying sushi (although, I do think my daughter could get into it) I had great visions of their faces during an hibachi dinner. Plans were made and we met at 6pm.

While we were waiting for dinner to get underway, we began to explain how it all worked. As they got the idea of what was going to happen, their anticipation and excitement grew.  We had drinks and salads and lesson in how to use chopsticks was conducted by my mom and followed closely by my little guy.

Our hibachi chef was Victor.  He was full of fun and energy and was great with my kids.   The dinner began to get underway and the excellent food started to sizzle on the grill.  While things were heating up, Victor poured us all a little bit of what he called "yum yum" sauce.  I can assure you that no other dipping sauce has ever been so aptly named! Holy mackerel was that ever yummy!

Next came the main entrees and my all time favorite, the flaming volcano!  I had built this up to the kids and I'm pretty confident that the final result didn't disappoint.  Every time another volcano went up in flames at another table, my kids were heard shouting, "Volanco!!!"

In the end, it was truly a fantastic night. I walked out of Shinto, pretty sure I wouldn't eat again for another full 24 hours.  (I had my leftovers for lunch today, so I guess I wasn't accurate in that thought).  Victor was kind enough to pose for a photo with each of my little people after the cooking was done.

What didn't occur to me as we made the plans on that evening, is now that my kids got a taste of this kind of dining experience, how often they would be asking to come back.  Oops!  That's okay, though, they know that this is a special occasion restaurant ... though they did both mention that this is where they'd like for their birthday dinner to be.   Fine by me - I want more of that yum yum sauce!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Picture Inspiration - Week 2 - Rhythm

This week, our assignment was to take a photo that reflected rhythm. While rhythm can be defined in a myriad of ways, this is the definition we were given to work from: a harmonious sequence or pattern of masses alternating with voids, of light alternating with shade, of alternating colors, etc.

I must admit, this one challenged me a bit. While there is rhythm all around, I wanted to take an image that was different than ones I've taken before. And, while I have some images in my arsenal that fit the bill, I thought it was only right to take a new image. After all, this class is for learning and if I'm using old stuff, then it's cheating. Or laziness. Neither of which I want to participate in. 

It took me about 5 tries to find an image that made me happy. First, I tried the railroad tracks. How perfect is that, I thought! But, when I arrived, there was very little differential between each railroad tie and the stones in between them. Next, I tried the front of my dresser. I know that may sound funny, but it's a light wood dresser with dark blacks rings as the handles. When the light hits it just right, the patterns are really cool. But, given that it was such a skinny area, I couldn't get the image framed without getting too much else of the dresser. Next, I hopped in my car and when to an area where there is an old train car parked next to the train tracks. (still on the railroad theme as you can tell). But, my memory of the wheels that were there must have been created in my mind as there were far fewer than I remembered.

Next, I ended up in the high school parking lot. Close to our house are electrical towers. Sometimes I notice them, sometimes I don't. When I do, they are all I can see. I've been wanting to photograph them for awhile and it struck me that this assignment was the perfect reason to do so. I took a few images with different compositions.

Finally, I headed to the park. I snapped a few shots of some of the playground equipment and I felt I had some interesting patterns and got a couple of photos that made me happy as well.

In the end I decided to go with the towers for my class. But, I'm including a few additional images here that I feel fit the bill too.

I see multiple patterns of rhythm here from the design of the towers themselves, to the repeating structures to the wires that come from each of the towers.

I liked the repeated pattern of swings with the poles. And, I can hear the rhythm in my head and see the kids on these in the summer as they go back and forth with squeals of happiness!

This last one is a repeat from the last blog post but fits the bill for rhythm, both in image and movement so I wanted to include it was well.

I wonder what challenge next week will bring.  I can't wait!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Funny where life takes you

For those of you who have only known me in the past 10 years or less, you may not know that I used to be a dancer.  I danced for 24 years.  For more than the first half of my life, that's how people identified me - as a dancer.  I made a decision to stop dancing over 12 years ago now and my life has taken me on a very different path. Being a dancer is something I miss, but not enough to regret the decision I made. It was an amazing experience and taught me more than I could ever express.

Now I'm on this amazing journey called photography.  It's wonderful to still be able to have a creative aspect to my life.  I love everything about it.  I must admit, I think I love it more than I ever loved dancing. I was a good dancer, but not an amazing dancer. It's much easier to be realistic about my abilities now that I've gotten quite a bit older.  I held my own, had some great performances, made some extraordinary friends and memories and then it was time to move it.

In high school and for a short stint in college, I danced with Salt Creek Ballet. Later on I became the advanced jazz teacher.  Now, I sit on the Board of Directors. Had you asked me when I was 16 if I would still be involved with SCB at this point in my life, I would have said no. But, here I am, still getting to enjoy this beautiful art form called dance and support it from a different place.

Last Saturday, I got to combine these 2 artistic endeavors I've been involved in during the course of my life.  Each year, Salt Creek Ballet participates in the Regional Dance Association Festival. Around this time every year, an adjudicator comes out to observe the girls, give feedback and decide which, if any, of the pieces they've shown that day will be included in the various performances that happen during the course of the festival.  I remember what it felt like. We worked harder than we ever did with this person sitting in front of us evaluating our individual performances and the company as a whole. For the past few years, I've been an observer, watching in support of the girls who make up the company now and representing the company as a Board Member. There is such strength, effort, determination and pride these dancers have for this art form and for Salt Creek.  This time, I brought my camera with me and took over 100 photos.  Below is a sampling of some of the beauty these young women posses doing this most exquisite art form.

I've chosen to edit these images in a variety of ways to create a different feel in each one.  But, that's a topic for a completely different blog post.  Enjoy the photos.

Good luck at this year's festival. I know you will be amazing!