Saturday, March 31, 2012

a rainy spring break

Today is the first day of the girl's spring break - the forecast for t his week?


Rain rain and more rain with the chance of an occasional thunder storm.

So today we decided to go to the mall. All we did was play in the Soft Play area, hang out at the book store and buy some bubble gum.

I used to love these when I was a kid!

Josiah got a really big one
I snapped this on the way to the mall.,, I have such a crush on this van model.

my adventure today...

This story actually starts several months ago, while I was waiting in a doctor's office. I don't usually read magazines, not even when I'm bored out of my mind in a doctor's office, but this magazine was one that I'd never seen before, full of short little tips on how to make your life more peaceful, natural etc. etc. it had a great yoga sequence in the middle. Anyway, in one of the interviews I read that this mother enjoyed mowing her yard with one of those old-fashioned push mowers that is powered only by the person pushing it (upon farther investigation I discovered that these are called Reel Mowers... but back to my story) she said she'd wear her baby in a carrier and mow a little each day,  it was a meditative practice for her. I thought that is so cool. good for her. 

Fast forward to earlier this month. I was doing some organizing in the garage so that finally, after living here for nearly a year, we could park our van in the garage and out of the blazing sun. Among all the other odds and ends of stuff I found the hubs yard tools. I didn't even realize we still owned a lawn mower. We'd hired someone to do it for us last year and while it was somewhat satisfying to have shirtless teenagers zoom around our yard on their riding lawnmowers and have the entire yard cut and edged in what seemed like mere minutes, I thought - hey, maybe I should give it a try.

Which brings us to today... after doing some research online I realized that I didn't want to wait a week for Amazon to ship a mower to me. My grass needed to be cut today. So I packed up the boys and headed to the Home Depot. I decided I was going to get the smaller version the they had available, because I'm cheap like that I didn't want to pay more than I needed to for my little mower, and they have a really generous return policy.

I was so excited to try out my little mower that I started mowing the first little bit of dry grass I could find. Which was the grass in the front yard, right there in front of the door - for all of my neighbors and the dozens of people who use our cul-de-sac as their personal turn-about to see. It didn't go so well 

My little man thought it would be fun to try it, so I let him - which is one of the awesome things about this kind of mower, it's practically impossible for my kids to accidentally hurt themselves. The only problem is that it took me like half an hour to mow that one little bit of grass. Apparently these types of mowers are meant to just take a little off the top, not do a major style change. I didn't think my grass was all that long - the mower disagreed. And let me know. repeatedly. 

Horrified. That is how I felt after that first bitter struggle. Totally horrified. My sweet beautiful green lawn was turning into something brown and gross. I was worried that the grass underneath was going to get ruined, I felt horrified that I'd cut a strip of grass down the front of my lawn and now regretted it.

So I did what every Mommy knows to do. I stopped and ate lunch. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Then I called the Customer Service desk at Home Depot and asked if I needed to return this thing in the box "preferably" was her absolutely perfect reply. So I disassembled my little mower, tried to ignore my half-mown lawn and returned the mower.

Not to be defeated, I got a bigger version of the same mower I had just returned, came home. Assembled it and finished mowing the front lawn... in the scorching deep-south mid-day heat. I don't think I have ever sweated that much in any exercise class. Of course I could barely walk (maybe that is a slight exaggeration) but it was a lot more workout than I am used too.

I can just imagine the neighbors calling their landscapers to see if they could get a two-for-one deal, just so they didn't have to see me push my silly thing. Who knows what the neighbors next door who moved in just yesterday think of me. 

The grass finally got cut and KA and I raked up the grass clippings after dinner while the baby sat in his high chair and squealed at us.  After the girls got home from school I mowed the back yard too. I had to stop every two seconds to mediate fights disciple the littles, see the caterpillar that Katie-Abigail caught. I'm really glad I wasn't stopping an engine every two seconds. I think I would have completely dislocated my shoulder trying to do something like that. So we'll see what happens with this. I'm looking forward to having a reason to spend more time outside. Like bangs that you cut too short - I'm also looking forward to that patch of short grass near the driveway to grow out. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

52 Weeks of Editing in Elements: Layers

Okay, I promised the second part of the edit from yesterday's post  and here it is. The original image is by my friend Spring Kraft. I've already done some selective sharpen and blur now I'm going to add some layers of color. 

52 weeks of editing
Click on the Layers tray and select  Merge Visible
52 weeks of editing
Right click on the background layer and click Duplicate Layer
Set it to "Soft Light" by clicking on the Layer  Mode drop down menu
Set opacity to 40% & Merge the layers
Click on the New Layers icon. Click Solid Color and add a solid layer of creamy orange
Set the layer mode to "Soft Light"
This is what it looks like when you set it to "overlay"
Change the opacity of that layer - I set it to 70%
I've added some other color layers. I'm going to go through these now setting their layer mode to "soft light" and the opacity to less than 10% I have a layer of cool pink set to 8%
I have a layer of deep orange set to 4%
I added a level of deep orange and set it to 4%

These are just the colors I used for this edit. I played around with a blue exclusion layer, but I didn't like how it effected the grass and eyes. I wanted to play up the orange hues and add warmth to the image. I've only been editing like this for a little while and I'm still working on the palette of colors that I work with... so play around with your edit, tweak away.
Then I'm going to Merge Visible layers again.
I thought that my edit was a little too bright so opened the light levels tool
This is what the light levels looked like when I started
On the top slider I slid the mid-point toward the bright end, making the whole image a little darker, and the dark end up. On the output I slid the bright down a little bit. I thought this made the edit look a little bit more natural.
Then I merged the layers again
I cropped the image. I set it to a vertical 8x10 and cropped out the distractions in the background

52 weeks of editing52 weeks of editing

There are some more things about layers that I want to show you but that is going to have to wait for another post...

Do you enjoy this style of learning? I just got my first copy of CS5 and will be working on writing a class for it soon! I'll be taking you step by step through everything I've learned how to do when it comes to editing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

52 weeks of editing: Blur & Sharpen

One of my photography students, the wonderful Spring Kraft, submitted this photo as one of her assignments this week. She and I have been chatting about editing lately and I edited this photo for her to demonstrate the principle I was talking about. She gave me permission to publish her photo in this tutorial to demonstrate the edit that I applied to her photo.

There are two things that I see in this photo that need to change. The first, is some distracting background. You can clone that out or crop it out. For the sake of time I choose to crop it out (I'll do that as the final step of this edit). The other issue is one that is super-common, especially when you're shooting with a Nikon - the white balance is too cool. You can correct this in-camera while you're shooting a number of ways. You can set your White Balance to one of the pre-set options. The "Shade" pre-set would be a good one in this situation. You can also set a custom white balance (which is something I teach in my SLR class) or you can set the Kelvin white balance (which is something that I will be teaching in my Advanced SLR class later in the year). Or you can fix it in post--processing, which is what we're going to do. This is only one  of many ways to do this.

First I'm going to show you how to selectively sharpen and blur. If you do this another way I'd love to hear your method!

52 weeks of editing
Original photo by Spring Kraft 
52 weeks of editing
Duplicate Layer
52 weeks of editing
Change layer mode to "soft light"
52 weeks of editing
Apply a "High Pass" filter
52 weeks of editing
I like to over-sharpen slightly and then I use a transparency brush to soften where I want it and will sometimes change the transparency of the layer.
52 weeks of editing
Select the eraser tool, set the transparency to 70% and the radius to 99pixels then erase the high pass filter layer on the cheeks to make the skin look smoother.
52 weeks of editing
Now I'm going to duplicate the background layer again
And I'm going to apply a gaussian blur 
52 weeks of editing
I'm going to use the gaussian blur filter to smooth the skin a little more
52 weeks of editing
Select the eraser tool again
52 weeks of editing

Erase the blur on the eye

That is step 1 of my edit... next I'm going to add some layers of color but I'm going to put that tutorial in a separate post tomorrow.

52 weeks of editing52 weeks of editing

Do you enjoy this style of learning? I just got my first copy of CS5 and will be working on writing a class for it soon! I'll be taking you step by step through everything I've learned how to do when it comes to editing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Photography link-up: comfort

I had such grand aspirations for today's post. One of which was getting it up before noon. I ended up taking Eli in to see his doctor yesterday which turned out to be a very good thing. Thanks to his new meds we got a full night of much-needed sleep. But no photos. So my photo for today, humble though it be, is of one of my favorite comfort foods - the PB&J cut diagonally. They're my favorite. And my kid's too - if peanut butter and jelly is on the menu that is what they want! 

Grab my button and post it in your sidebar or in your post (a text link back is fine too) and link up your photos!! You can stick to the theme or just link up your latest photos! Thanks for your participation. Can't wait to see your photos. 

P.S. registration is open for my SLR e-class. Click on "my photography e-classes" above to learn more and register!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tomorrow's challenge theme... comfort

Fwd: Photo for blog post

Life has been C R A Z Y lately. Eli is (still) sick, the hubs was sick as a dog over the weekend,  I haven't been sleeping much and have had pretty much zero alone-time... but the weather has taken a turn towards beautiful. This morning, after a night without much sleep - spent walking the floor with my coughing little guy - I just sat on my front porch snuggling with my baby, watching Josiah run around - drinking coffee and browsing Instagram, birds singing, a cool breeze gently blowing. Perfect.

Sunday morning we had a big storm. All my kids woke up and we snuggled on the couch counting the seconds between the lighting and the thunder (it's amazing how calming that is) my ever-scientific little oldest daughter said "you know, we're only safe if we know the direction that this storm is headed" I just laughed and said "don't worry, it's only a thunderstorm" after the storm all of the bushes in our yard burst into bloom - I guess that's just what they needed. It seems like there is a life lesson in there but my head is too fuzzy to find the words to wax eloquent on it. But every time I see that bush it makes me feel a little bit better about the "storms" I've weathered in my life.

Anyway... the reason why I sat down to blog is because I picked a theme for tomorrows link-up! The theme for tomorrow is: comfort. One thing that comforts me is coffee - I guess that's why it's in both photos in this post. I am also comforted by the feel of an afghan, the smell of a freshly-bathed baby, a nice hot shower, the sound of birds... I could go on and on.

If you have a tripod (or can jerry-rig one) maybe for this challenge you could try using your remote or the time-delay function on your camera to get a self-portrait of you and your littles snuggling up together. Or hand-hold a selfie that doesn't include your face - just to try something new. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

P.S. please remember that the theme for the link-up is always optional. You can choose to participate in the theme or not, you are always welcome to link-up your photography post.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

spring has sprung... and my sweeties

Spring has sprung here in Georgia! The flowers are blooming and I've seem bulb flowers peeking up here and there. The down side is that seasonal allergies are starting to flare up and my van is slowly  being covered with a thick coat of yellow pollen (ew!) We just turned out clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time (I am so not a fan of time changes) loosing an hour in the morning has majorly messed me up. We missed the bus twice this week! I am so ready for spring break.

On the home front - Eli has learned to crawl! He's not a full hands-and-knees crawler yet, but he can scoot mighty-fast. He has already mastered the art of turning the Xbox on and off and opening the disc tray. Oh joy. Not even eight months and he's already trying to play video games (ha)

Josiah has also stepped up his homeschooling work. We've started doing a few pages in his workbooks every week, we're practicing writing and reading and I'm really happy with his progress. He's only 4 so there's no pressure. We work on this stuff mostly just to give him something stimulating to do. Because of his late birthday he still has an entire year left before he can go to school - but I'd rather he go later than earlier. Boys can have such a hard time with the sitting-still and staying on task thing.

The girls are doing well in school too - Katie-Abigail has had that "aha" moment with reading and writing when  it's not constantly a struggle for her. Emma just finished a project on Cesar Chavez - I'll have to post a video f her practicing her presentation - this girl has mad public speaking skills. Beth is in love with mythology, especially Egyptian & Greek, it's been really entertaining hearing her talk about Greek gods & goddesses in the present tense. She loved the Percy Jackson series of books, I think that's what got her interested in it.

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