Dec 30, 2010

Wishes For Happiness And Bliss

I just wanted to take the opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year.  Christmas has quickly passed, and the year 2010 is over.  Ahead lies new opportunities for cherishing those we love and living every moment fully.  I hope you take every chance to slow the quick pace of the world and embrace 'nothingness' once in a while.  It is the most healing thing you could do for yourself and those around you.

We all have many responsibilities and obligations, but happiness doesn't lie in meeting deadlines and accomplishing great feats.  It is found in the quiet, restful moments sprinkled here and there amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  It's in the time spent with friends and family, the walks out in nature, and the tender moments with our children and spouses.  True bliss isn't about what you do, but how you do it.

So this year, my wish for you is to be happy all of your wakened moments.  May you find peace within while the world rushes around you and may bliss be yours in all that you do.

Be well in 2011,

Dec 8, 2010

Tips For Taking (And Sharing) Great Christmas Pictures

Christmas is a very special time of year.  The joyous moments shared with family and friends are the kind you cherish forever. 

The latest cameras on the market allow you to capture these moments, but using the automatic settings doesn’t necessarily guarantee a perfect shot everytime.  Whether you have an expensive DSLR or a point and shoot, you may sometimes wonder why your images don’t come out quite as nice as you’d hoped.  The following are tips that I picked up over the years and could help you take Christmas pics you’ll want to share with everyone, including your Facebook friends.

1.  First, I want to talk about automatic flash and the drawbacks of keeping your camera set on this feature.  I know we all hear that indoor shots should be taken with a flash, but I disagree.  I have an aversion to flash photography myself, so I don’t often use it.  One reason is that the flash washes out colours and faces, and often shows up in windows and mirrors in the shot.  Flash photos don’t look as natural, plain and simple.  So for daytime pictures, I rely on natural lighting.  If the picture comes out a little darker than you like, you can adjust the brightness level in your photo editor afterwards.  For evening pictures with indoor lights, you can also increase your ISO setting from the typical 200 to 400 or more, which will allow more light into the camera and brighten the shot without a flash.  This could make the image grainier though, depending on the quality of your camera.  I still prefer this method instead of using the flash; if you choose flash, you might want to set your camera on a tripod to reduce blur from camera shake.

Here's a photo taken with flash:

Here's the same subject in natural lighting 
and brightness adjusted in a photo editor program:

2.  Another tip I learned is that action shots are much more interesting than typical portraits.  So on Christmas morning when the kids are opening gifts, take snapshots of their facial expressions as they rip the paper and get the first look at the present inside.  These are really fun to look at, and they capture the moments as they happen; portraits of the family all lined up on the couch just don’t have the same feel.  For action shots of family members laughing at the Christmas dinner table, or hugging at the door when they arrive, turn the dial on your camera to the ‘action’ or ‘sports’ setting.  These shots will come out clear in spite of the fact that the subjects are moving.  With this setting, you can usually hold the shutter button down and it will take several pictures continuously, giving you a few to choose from afterwards.  Also, don’t be shy about zooming in as close to faces as possible.  Close-ups capture the emotions in a way distant portraits cannot.

Here's an example of a distant 'portrait' style photo 
(I had no live subjects at the time):

This is a closeup of the tree, capturing the details 
and colours more vividly (shot in action mode):

3.  Another aspect of a great Christmas picture is position.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try your shots from different angles.  You don’t need to be right in front of the subject and the subject doesn’t have to be in the centre of the picture.  In fact, the rule of thirds discourages this.  If you picture a tic-tac-toe grid on your viewfinder (some cameras have the grid built in), compose your shot with the main subjects lined up with the lines of the grid; this way, your subject is slightly off to the side.  Similarly, position yourself above a subject or down low, to make the shot even more interesting.  Try tilting the camera slightly as well.  You’ll be surprised at the effect these position changes create.

A front-facing, centred photo:

The same subject, captured at an angle 
and using the 'rule of thirds':

4.  Finally, I just want to touch on a few more aspects of great picture taking:

If you’re going to upload your images to sites such as Facebook, adjust the setting on your camera to the smallest image size.  The smaller the image, the more your memory card can store and the faster it will upload.  Typical size on most cameras include Large (12Megapixels), Medium(6.4)  and Small (3).

Once you upload the photos to your computer, delete the blurry or really bad ones immediately, right from Windows Live Gallery or your picture editor.  This save time looking for the good ones to edit later. 

The first thing I do with my snapshots in my photo editor is use the ‘smart fix’ or ‘adjust levels’ feature.  This first step is especially good to brighten or darken images.  Bear in mind though that this is not always necessary.  And sometimes, it actually makes the image look worse.  Only use it on images you think need improvement.  If you know your way around the photo editor, you can tweak the levels more precisely if you wish.  

Once you’re happy with the picture and you’re ready to save it, give it a new file name, one that you’ll recognize.  This way, when you’re ready to upload, your search for the pictures on your computer will be much quicker.

Christmas photos are fun, especially when you can share them.  If you’re looking to improve on your photo skills, I hope these tips find their way into your Christmas pictures this year and that you’ll show them off on Facebook.  I’d love to see them!

Dec 2, 2010

Home For Christmas...

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~ Norman Vincent Peal






Nov 25, 2010

Less Is More This Christmas

With the Holiday Season fast approaching, we’re being bombarded once again with advertisements on television, the internet and everywhere, telling us to buy this or that to make our loved ones happy.  We’re being encouraged to be all things to everyone and spend, spend, spend…

I know this will sound cliché, but that’s not what the Christmas season is about.  We all know this and yet every year, we let the stress of the shopping, baking, spending, eating, and dieting get to us and vow to do better (as in less) the following year.  And of course the following Holiday Season comes along, and we get sucked in.  Does this sound like you?

I used to let it all get to me as well.  I wanted so much to please everyone and to make sure everything was perfect.  But there’s nothing like a little reality check to make you stop the madness and do LESS.

The last few years have brought about some changes in our home, financially and otherwise.  After I stopped working, I had no choice but to slow down and really look at what matters.  The money just wasn’t there to buy expensive Christmas gifts, and physically, I wasn’t able to do as much with the festive decorating as I used to.

But guess what? Christmas came and went, just like it does every year, and it was wonderful and memorable, the way it should be.  We were with family and friends.  We shared memories, laughs and good food.

This whole ‘less is more’ concept gets lost on many people.  It’s not only important during Christmas time, it’s a way of life that should be adopted year round.  For one thing, it takes away a lot of stress when you choose to simplify your life and let go of the need to be or do too much.  It also gives your children a powerful message about not buying into the insanity of acquiring material things.

So this Christmas is going to be another simple but happy one for us.  I have no intention of mingling with the stressed out crowds in the malls and department stores or making my home look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  I'm not going to spend money I don't have, waste energy on things that aren't important, or worry about what others think.  I’ll leave that to those who think they should still do MORE… ;) 

Nov 24, 2010

Another Wallpaper For You...

This photo was taken just a few weeks ago in the garden.  It's the seedhead of a clematis flower once the petals have gone.  I love the clematis vine because it looks beautiful all year round, at all stages of growth.  The wispy strands here remind me of bird and angel feathers...

Feel free to save it as a desktop background :)

Nov 16, 2010

'Reflections'- A Collection Of Thoughts

I named this collection 'Reflections' because of the phrases that entered my mind while I was photographing.  Sometimes when I'm taking pictures this happens.  Thoughts, words or emotions emerge with each new photo I take.  So, I thought it would be fun to finally combine the two.

These prints are all available in my Etsy shoppe.

Nov 12, 2010

Through The Viewfinder-A New Twist On Vintage Photography

A few months ago, I decided to buy a vintage 1950's camera.  I had heard that some photography enthusiasts were using these old classics to give photographs a vintage feel.  This technique is known as Ttv, which stands for 'through the viewfinder'.  I found an Argus Argoflex Super Seventy-Five to try it out.  

How does Ttv work?  The technique involves taking a picture with your DSLR camera through the viewfinder of the old one.  It takes a little getting used to at first because of the position of the camera.  These are the type you look down into, so you're DSLR is pointing toward the floor, into the top of the old camera while you're shooting.  

What’s also really cool are the effects the process produces.  Not only are the photos square with rounded dark edges, the lenses are usually very dirty and scratched so you get a real nice vintage look to the digital image.  

Here’s a photo of a grouping of glass bottles taken with my DSLR alone...

…and here’s one through the viewfinder of my Argus

I'm really pleased with the results.   As much as I love digital artistic effects, using vintage equipment gives the images an aged, authentic appearance.  I plan to create an entire collection of Ttv photography for vintage art lovers.  

A few more pics that I took using Ttv:

Nov 11, 2010

New Logo!

If you've been reading my blog posts and visiting my website, you've probably noticed that the look changes every so often.  That's because I've had a hard time getting a handle on the look and feel that I want and the image I'm trying to convey about the photography I do and the person behind the work.

So after lots of contemplating and just getting down to the essence of who I am, I've settled on the look you now see here.  I hope you like it.  It's not fussy and it's simple.  Like me.  Like my art.  There you have it.

I'd love to know what you think about it, so please leave a comment.

Nov 10, 2010

All The Pretty Horses...

My brother lives on a large rural property right outside of town.  He is fortunate enough to be neighbours with some very pretty horses.  Last weekend, I went out there for a visit and got a chance to photograph these beautiful creatures as they grazed and played in the field next door.  I watched them more than I shot them, but here are a few pics from that delightful afternoon.

Nov 1, 2010

Square Is In - New Items In Etsy Store

My Etsy Shoppe is now open. It features my most recent prints in 5x7 and 8x10, framed in cream coloured mats.

Also, I've started a new line of trendy square prints. I sell them in two popular sizes: 5x5 and 8x8.


Oct 25, 2010

Weekly Mystic Pic - Desktop Wallpaper


A Letter To My Younger Self

The other day, I was taking photos of crimson and gold leaves in a landscape that just a few weeks before, was still green.  The gradual changes in its appearance struck me and I was sent back in time to my earlier days of adulthood, prior to the many twists and turns my life would take.  As I sat there in the changing colours of the season, thoughts about the changing seasons of my own life prompted this letter to my younger self:

My Dearest Self,

You're barely 20 years old, but already your ambitions and desire to climb beyond your humble beginnings make me proud.  Though your family supports you and is proud as well, they are struggling with difficult things right now, so your departure for the 'real world' goes somewhat unnoticed.  This will make you stronger though, as you learn to rely on yourself and the inner warrior that you are.

But beware.  Being stoic and independent will come at a cost.  You'll come to refuse help or support from anyone, afraid to burden them with your problems; and thus, many bad decisions will follow as you fend for yourself and jump the gun.

Although you've always been mature beyond your years, you lack proper guidance.  You are so caught up in moving forward and leaving your past behind that your forge ahead and ignore the warning signs your intuition is giving you.  Within the next two decades, this will all catch up with you and bring your stoic walls down.  Don't be afraid though, it will all eventually be o.k.

You will develop a persistent physical ailment that will sometimes disable your body and cripple your spirit.  There will be suffering as your ego struggles with accepting that you need others during these difficult times.  You'll also be frustrated at the lack of understanding and quick judgments people make based on your seemingly 'healthy' appearance, and sometimes you'll feel sorry for yourself.

But you will have a few strong friends along the way that help you find acceptance and compassion for yourself.  You will eventually drift apart in proximity, but the closeness and gratitude you feel for them will always remain in your heart.

Over time, you'll lose alot of independence, the driving force that lead you here, and you will have to rely on your spouse and family for things you cannot accomplish alone.  You'll feel alot of guilt about it as you are less able to support them and yourself and you'll compare yourself to more 'able-bodied' women.  But alas, this is a waste of precious time!  Your inner strength wil eventually emerge and with complete surrender, you'll come to see that every challenge has hidden opportunities.  In your simple and secluded lifestyle, photography and art will be your greatest solace.

Hold strong to your resilient spirit and always remember who you are. Share your gifts with those who receive them.  Know that you are loved and blessed beyond belief.

In love and compassion,

If you could write to your younger self, what would you say?
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