Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Day 320

Today's photo shoot involved lying down next to cowpats, getting stung by thistles and sneezing wildly from hay fever. Us artists have always had to suffer for our art! ;-)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Day 319

The First Law of Cat: If you leave something lying around, a cat will sit on it. Or in it.

I made the mistake of leaving my diffuser lying on the floor yesterday after I came back indoors after photographing the dandelions. In the original version of this shot the floor was a bit distracting, with parts of it rug and other parts laminate, so I cut out the diffuser and put it on a black background.

I received a parcel today, and Pookie requisitioned the box as a napping spot.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Day 318

Today I spent yet another photo break photographing weeds. This time a couple of dandelions drew my attention: one flower, and one seed head. They reminded me of the Sun and the Moon, and I processed the images with this idea in mind.

Dandelion Sun:

Dandelion Moon:

Here's the dandelion flower again, this time as a colour negative. I like the background in this one. It looks like party streamers.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Day 317

Please excuse the weird formatting in places in this post. Blogger has decided that 'what you see is not what you get' -- everything looks fine when I'm editing it, and then it changes when I publish it.

Living, as I do, in the middle of an empty field, with nothing but grass, weeds and cow pats around me, it's easy to think, 'Oh, there's nothing to photograph here'. But if I make an effort to look really carefully, I'm always amazed by the variety of subjects all around.

For example, there's a big clump of what I think might be sedge growing next to the water tanks. The sedge (or whatever it is) has recently sprouted flower heads, and although the flowers don't look much from a distance, close up they're really pretty.

The sedge (?)
I found a flower head with an interesting shape which I could photograph from an angle that would give me a relatively plain and unfussy background. As the sun was strong, I used my diffuser to soften the light. I knew I'd be blowing the image up a lot, so I used as low an ISO as possible, to reduce the amount of graininess. It was pretty windy, and the sedge was moving about all over the place, so I needed a fast shutter speed. In order to get that with a low ISO, I had to use a large (low) aperture. This wasn't a problem, as it would give a nice blurry background and if not all of the flower was in focus it would add to the 'macro look' of the final image.

Here's the image that I took, as it looked straight out of the camera. This is as close as my lens would let me focus.


After cropping the image and adjusting the white balance in Lightroom, I erased the upper part of the stem in Photoshop using the clone tool, and then bumped up the brightness and contrast. I also increased up the saturation selectively (reds only) to make the centre of each flower stand out. I then blurred the out of focus areas and sharpened the in-focus areas in order make the distinction between the two more dramatic. Finally, I imported the image back into Lightroom and added some noise reduction.

The finished image

I'm really drawn to macro photography, and as soon as the house has sold I'm going to treat myself to a macro lens!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Day 316

I've had a go at the shot with the hammer.

I've made two versions, but I'm not sure which one works better.

In Version 1 the focus is on the hammer, with the strawberry out of focus.

In version 2 the focus is on the strawberry, with the hammer out of focus. I've also added motion blur to the hammer in Photoshop, to try to create the impression of the hammer swinging down.

I'd be interested to know which version you prefer, and why.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Day 315

I bought a punnet of strawberries at the supermarket today because a) I love strawberries, b) they're in season here and c) I had an idea for a photo shoot. My idea was to use a strawberry to represent a heart, but I didn't think to look at the shape of the strawberries in the punnet. They were all long and thin; shaped more like radishes than strawberries!

My favourite photo gear at the moment is white printer paper. Lots of pieces overlapped make a great background for indoor shots, and it's easy to erase the joins in Photoshop.

Is this hand protecting the strawberry, or about to crush it?

Experimenting with making something delicious look disgusting:

I was hoping the fork poised over the strawberry like this would look threatening, but it doesn't look threatening at all. I think that's because you expect to see the two together, and a fork is associated with eating rather than with violence. Thinking about it now, I should have got the hammer out of the shed and held it over the strawberry. I've still got some strawberries left. I'll try out the hammer idea tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Day 314

Today's wild, wet and windy weather hasn't helped me in my effort to break out of my photo slump. But however frustrating things get, I'm not giving up on this project. Sooner or later I'll find a subject that inspires me, I'll get a shot I'm pleased with, and I'll be enthused all over again.

Marg's roses are starting to die already.

The next shot is of my salad servers. I bought them in Cape Town when I went to South Africa on business in 2006. I love the colours of the beads. Mmm, shiny! :-)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Day 313

Today has been One Of Those Days, I'm afraid. I've found it very difficult to summon up any enthusiasm for anything, including taking photographs.

I forced myself to take a couple of camera breaks with the iPhone, but I couldn't get inspired.

I took this first shot from the track on my way back from the mailbox. I liked the unusual viewpoint of grass growing above your head. The original image was a Hipstamatic shot, but I played around with it in Photoshop.

I took this one lying on my back on the kitchen floor.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Day 312

Warning: This blog post contains flowers. It may offend those of a macho or insensitive disposition.

As promised yesterday, here are some shots of the roses from Marg's garden. What an exuberant bunch they are!

Hipstamatic shot on the iPhone:

Canon shot with the kit lens:

I'm thrilled to see that the blog passed the 10,000 page view mark last night. Thanks for stopping by! I really appreciate your views and comments.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Day 311

I'm still trying to decide on a mini project that I can do to round off my 365. I feel in need of a challenge and a kick up the bum.

I've had the following ideas so far:

  • For the last 26 days, shoot subjects beginning with each of the letters of the alphabet in turn.
  • Ask friends and followers to submit a word each, and then used each of the words as a jumping off point for an image.
  • Do a series of shots (e.g. an entire week's worth) on a single subject, taking a different photographic approach each time.

If you've got any other suggestions, do let me know.

Today I've been playing around with the artistic filters in Photoshop again. Since the cutout filter worked so well yesterday on a photo in which the light was poor, I wondered whether I could rescue any more previously rejected shots.

I took this shot of a koru (curled fern frond) the other week, but it wasn't quite sharp enough. I found that the lack of sharpness wasn't visible when I applied most of the artistic filters in Photoshop. I like the effect produced by the 'glowing edges' filter on this image.

My neighbour Marg brought me a bunch of roses from her garden this evening. Guess what tomorrow's shot is going to be of? :-)

P.S. The car started!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Day 310

I'm feeling really, really annoyed with myself today. Due to a moment of carelessness, I've missed out on a whole lot of fun, and spent a good part of the day trying to get things sorted.

I was supposed to drive into town to go to a friend's working bee, but when I got into the car, it wouldn't start. I found out that I'd not closed the boot properly, and the tiny warning light that lights up on the dash when you leave one of the doors open must have drained the battery overnight. It took me ages to find the battery charger, and when I did, I found that the lead wasn't long enough to plug into a socket, and of course, it goes without saying, that I recently got rid of all my extension leads. Aargh!

I rang round the neighbours to see if anyone could lend me an extension lead. I was in luck, but the neighbour in question is a half hour walk away, so it was another hour before I could start charging the car. It sounds pathetic, I know, but I've never had to charge a car battery before, so I quizzed my neighbour about what to do. I had no idea how long it took, or whether I needed to set the charger to 6 Volts or 12 Volts. My neighbour told me I need to charge the battery for 3 to 4 hours, by which time the working bee will be over.

My neighbour didn't like the fact that the car made absolutely no sound at all when I turned the key. He said it should have made a clicking noise at the very least; so it could be that the battery is completely dead and needs replacing. I hope not!

I hate missing out on social events. And I hate letting people down. And I hate being a pathetic woman who doesn't know how to do a simple, everyday task because her husband always used to do it.

Today's shot shows one of the neighbours ploughing a field. The light in the original photo is really bad, and the image wasn't working at all, however I processed it. I found that converting it into a cut-out collage in Photoshop worked, and somehow made the bad light irrelevant.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Day 309

None of the shots I took today were any good at all, so in desperation I started playing around with a very boring shot of clouds to try and jazz it up a bit. Nothing was working, so I kept messing with it more and more, and eventually I ended up with an abstract image which bears no resemblance at all to the original photo.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to a 'working party'. A friend of mine is moving house, and a load of us are going round to help her pack. I shall take the Canon and see if I can take some 'action portraits' (preferably candid, if I can manage it).

Friday, 18 November 2011

Day 308

Today's photo is inspired by Lisa Gordon's gorgeous flower shots at Lisa Gordon Photography. In her latest post, she explains how she uses Gaussian blur to achieve a beautifully soft focus effect, so I thought I'd give it a go.

The roses I bought the other day have opened up a lot and are looking beautifully blowsy, although a little wilted around the edges. I set up near a window and used my reflector to bounce light onto the far side of the rose. After cropping the image and adjusting colour balance, brightness and contrast in Lightroom, I opened up the image in Photoshop. I selected the central area of the rose, and inverted the selection. I then used the 'refine edge' tool to feather the selection heavily. Next I applied a Gaussian blur filter. After reopening the image in Lightroom, I 'dreamified' the image even more by reducing the clarity, applying noise reduction, and adding a heavily feathered white vignette.

Thanks for the inspiration, Lisa! :-)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Day 307

Today's official shot is the volcano Mount Ruapehu, as viewed from 'the nob', the highest point on my property. I'm a bit happier with this shot than my original shot of the mountain (in black and white, below), because the light is much better and the slopes are snowier, but I'm not satisfied with it. To be honest, I don't think I'll be able to do much better. I need a higher vantage point and a more powerful zoom lens.

I'm also posting two newly-developed shots from my spinning and weaving shoot a couple of weeks ago.

Marg & Mike's wood pile:

I took a shot of Marg & Mike's pump house a few months back. (See the second image below). I love the ramshackle look of this little shed, which is why I decided to revisit it as a subject. The angle in this shot is an improvement, I think. I got a bit closer, much lower and moved around to the right so that the drinking trough isn't obscuring the side of the shed. The light is also better in this shot, as it's diffuse and isn't casting any shadows.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Day 306

When I was at the supermarket today I treated myself to a small bunch of white roses. $5.99 bought me over an hour's fun, shooting and processing. And a cheerful decoration for the house, too, of course!

I'll let you into a little secret: I've got such a habit of knocking things over, I keep vases of flowers in the sink, just in case. Also, I'm not the only member of the household with a propensity for creating chaos. ;-)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Day 305

I snapped both these shots from the veranda. Living here is making me very lazy.

The sun setting last night:

The moon setting this morning:

Monday, 14 November 2011

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Day 302

One of the advantages of being left on your own is that you find you have a lot more free time than you ever had before. Time is the only thing we ever really 'have' in this life, and suddenly finding that you have a lot more of it feels like a blessing. I'm aware that the majority of women my age are so busy in their roles as wives and mothers that they have very little free time. So I've resolved to become better at time management, and use my free time as constructively and positively as I can, with the exception of a little ITD (Internet Time Dilation) now and again. ;-)

Today the weather's been cold and wet, so I decided to stay indoors and do some life planning brainstorming. Apart from making the decision to sell the house and move back to the UK, I've not made any major decisions about my future since Iain left, and I think that it's time I did. I'm finally starting to think straight again, and doing some planning is certainly better than sitting and twiddling my thumbs while I wait for the house to sell. Today's photo shows my brainstorming session in progress. I normally do all my writing on the computer, but for anything like this I always prefer to do it by hand, so that I can spread out all over the floor. I feel like I get a better overview of things that way.

I know I said I was beginning to think straight again, but I must have had a relapse yesterday, because I got my hair dyed red. I only went into the hairdresser's for a bit of a trim, but I came out looking like a Belisha beacon!

Now that I'm past the 300 day mark with this project I'm looking around for a project within a project: a hook to hang the last two months' worth of photos on, that will help me keep motivated and engaged. If you've got any suggestions for what I could do, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Day 301

Today's photo is a poppy for Armistice Day.

In the UK, commemorations are held on Remembrance Sunday, which is the Sunday nearest to the 11th of November. Paper poppies are sold for a couple of weeks beforehand to raise money for retired service personnel.

Armistice Day is recognised is New Zealand, but the main day of remembrance both here and in Australia is ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day, on April 25th, which is the anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli in 1915.

I thought I'd share a few personal stories to mark Armistice Day. My Granddad fought in World War 1, in a cavalry division. Most of his friends were killed. In World War 2 my Dad drove fire engines in Birmingham during the Blitz. He wasn't allowed to join the army because he had a withered leg from contracting polio when he was a boy. My Mum's boyfriend fought in the Pacific, was captured by the Japanese, and died in a Japanese POW camp.

I'm sure every family has similar stories of family members who have fought in wars. If you have any, please consider sharing them in a comment. I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Day 300

I really wanted to get an interesting and unusual shot for day 300, but it didn't look as though that was going to happen. I've got a writing deadline tomorrow, which means I need to get lots of work done today, particularly after being ill for a couple of days. I knew I wouldn't have time to take off on a photo walk. The neighbours have taken their cattle off the land, and even Harry and Nemo have gone (shipped off down south; don't worry, they're both fine!) This means I'm left with just grass, weeds and a cat as potential subjects. So it was with a heavy heart that I carried the Canon down to the mailbox today. On the way back I took a bit of a detour across the lower paddock, and I spotted the sun coming out from behind the clouds, reflected in the algae-festooned water of the drinking trough.

I'm a huge space nerd, and this photo reminds me of an image from the Hubble space telescope, so I'm really pleased with it. I always used to think that the best shots always came when you went out with a particular idea in mind, but now I'm not so sure. Sometimes, just sometimes, good shots can arise when you have absolutely no idea what you're doing, but you're open to spotting and taking opportunities when they come along. So I guess photography's a bit like life, really!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Day 299

Having spent most of the day in bed, I realised after dark that I'd not taken a photo yet. So please excuse today's effort.

Tomorrow's a bit of a milestone - Day 300. I'm going to have to try harder for that one, I think!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Day 298

I woke up this morning with a streaming cold. I'm contemplating buying shares in Kleenex.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Day 297

Pookie and I found a magpie feather on our way back from the mailbox today. My photographic skills don't do it justice; it's very beautiful. I tried some almost-macro shots showing just a small part of the feather, but none of them looked as good as the feather in its entirety. I suppose an ideal photo of a feather would be huge, so that you could stand back and look at the whole thing, but also get close and see all the detail too. Come to think of it, I reckon every photo should be like that! :-)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Day 296

I spent hours working on today’s shot. I’ve done a couple of yoga shots so far in this project, and I felt like it was time to try something a little more ambitious for my next one.

My original idea was to create a shot in which I was doing a handstand on one side of the shot, and tree pose on the other side. By using the tripod I was able to get the shots to match up okay framing wise, but I struck a problem with the lighting. Because I was relying on daylight, the light didn’t stay constant between shots, and when I came to put two shots together I could never get the colours of the wall to match up. I spent ages trying to remedy this in Photoshop, but I wasn’t able to get a satisfactory result.

So I abandoned my original idea, and instead decided to use just the handstand shot, and add an inspirational quote on the subject of having your life turned upside down. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an inspirational quote I liked. And then I stumbled on this quote from Mitch Hedberg, and decided to go for silliness instead of inspiration. J

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Day 295

I woke up this morning with a raging sore throat, so I've stayed at home today rather than going on a photo walk. This is the first time I've been ill since Iain left, and I'm really surprised I've made it this long (11 weeks). Like a lot of people, I almost always fall ill straight after an emotional upset.

I decided to have another go at shooting smoke today. I attempted it a few months ago, but I wasn't pleased with the results. I'm happier with what I've managed to get today.

Here's the final image:

This is the original shot, straight out of the camera:

I cropped the image (a square crop worked best for this particular smoke pattern), and then I played around with the contrast slider, blacks slider and tone curve in Lightroom to get the background as dark as I could. I then inverted the image in Photoshop, to give dark smoke against a light background. Finally I brought the image back into Lightroom. I applied the 'purple glasses' preset and tweaked it until I got an effect I liked. Finally, I made the smoke as fluid-looking as possible by reducing the clarity and adding a fair amount of noise reduction.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Day 294

We had some crazy weather today. Bright and sunny one minute, lashing with rain the next, and a wind that kept dying down and then building up again. I took the Canon with me when Pookie and I went on our daily walk down to the mailbox, and I took some shots of grass flowers on the verge, against the background of the stormy sky. It was so windy I had to shoot with a very fast shutter speed in order to freeze the movement of the grass and get a crisp shot. I got an effect I liked when I inverted the image (i.e. made it into a negative).

If the weather is favourable this weekend, I'm planning on going on a photo walk. I quite fancy taking some beach shots -- the nearest beach is only a twenty-minute drive away.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Day 293

I've sold my spinning wheel, so I've had to find something else to do during spinning and weaving meetings. I've started knitting a scarf that I thought might a) keep me warm and b) cheer me up when I land in a wintry Britain. With the housing market in the depressed state it's in at the moment, it'll be summer in the northern hemisphere by the time I get there. Summer 2013, probably!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Day 292

Today was spinning and weaving, so I got to take another photo walk around one of my neighbours' gardens.

I managed to get one decent shot, of an insect drinking nectar. I'm not sure which version of the shot I prefer. Do you have a preference?

Yours truly, snapped by Gloria, looking every inch the intrepid photographer. ;-)

Here are the fig and ginger truffles I made to take with me. They're delicious and they disappeared very rapidly.

Here's the recipe, which I got from my friend Melissa Pasanen. She got the recipe from Jess Bongard, who adapted it from Ellie Krieger's book, "So Easy."

Fig & ginger truffles (Makes 12 to 16 truffles -- I got 14 out of it)
8 ounces dried figs, stems removed
2 ounces crystallised ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2.5 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips (I found the chocolate ran out two thirds of the way through, and I had to melt some more. I probably used about 4 ounces in total.) 
1. Put all the ingredients apart from the chocolate in a food processor. Process until finely chopped and beginning to clump.
2. Meanwhile, put the chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water, and stir until just melted. Turn out the heat but leave the chocolate pan over the hot water.
3. With damp hands, roll fig mixture into small balls.
4. Using a fork, roll the balls in the chocolate until covered, and then put on greaseproof paper.
5. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes to set the chocolate.
6. Store in the fridge, but serve at room temperature.