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Archive for May, 2013

Absolute Value is Always Positive


Absolute value is always positive. (Nice to know.)

It’s been almost 100 degrees every day in this place: the sun is screaming hot and the air is stifling. We lay around like rags covering the furniture. We have an AC but we need three. Tomorrow we’ll get a couple more.

It’s 1:34 a.m. and it’s deliciously cool in here at the moment. Josh and I are considering exchanging our days and nights so we can work in the cool hours and sleep in the heat. It’s likely.

To recap for the day, we took a mile walk at the park after eating chicken salad sandwiches. The mile walk is a fair trade for a frozen pumpkin yogurt in a large waffle cone. Not that I have to, mind you. I still have a kicking little figure (even at 43) and although I rarely exercise, I do take very good care of my cells, particularly from the inside out. I’ve learned that if your cells are healthy, the rest of you follows. People are quite hung up on “the big picture” with their bodies- over all weight, etc. and I really think the answer to good body maintenance is in blood cleansing, colon cleansing, and proper oxidation. (Because well…proper oxidation does cleanse the blood.)

I really can’t get started on colon cleansing at 1:40 in the morning. Don’t I have better things to write about?

Which brings me right back to absolute value.
I’ve manages to bring my grade up a whole notch in pre-calculus. Just that word “precalculus” used to scare the crap out of me. Who knew that I’m actually pretty good at it? Go figure. I love it, and, I find it very easy to understand. (Hence my notes above.) Let’s see…let’s see…I scored a 50 out of 50 on a monster assignment in Health Psychology- didn’t see that one coming.

Josh is fiddling around with his gadgets and electronics- he continues to amaze me with his inventions. He’s always building something. I hear him now singing and playing his guitar. He’s happy. So am I. :0)

My head is throbbing and I’m sure I should go to bed but I have some reading to do in Public Speaking. Bob is out with friends, and Meatball has come home again! I may have forgotten to mention that Meatball (our 17 lb. cat) went missing several days ago. Alas, Josh rescued him earlier today. Josh is picking away “hillbilly style” now and having a downright foot-stomping jamboree in the other room.

“Wow, you sound really good,” I said to him.

“I sound like Hank Williams, don’t I?” He asked me.

“No,” I said. “You sound like Josh trying to sound like Hank Williams.”

There’s a celebratory vibe hanging in the air now. It’s 1:51.
I think we’re celebrating the cool night air! We know we’re going to be comfortable for at least 6 more hours. I’ve just realized that I haven’t had a migraine in quite some time.

Speaking of which, it’s time to hit the books.

Stress Management

Take picture. Edit photo.
It always works for me.

Image Selfie. Taken this morning. Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass/f/ 5.6
[20+ layers in GIMP]

Lensbaby Composer (Plastic Optic)

I may or may not go out today and experiment with my new Lensbaby lens: the plastic optic from the Swap Kit. It’s so darn hot. 

I took this SOOTC/straight out of the camera pic using the plastic optic:


I like the soft focus haze it puts over everything: in the right setting, this would be perfect. Of course, it wouldn’t work for everything. A street scene or a detail-oriented shot such as facial features wouldn’t be ideal for this lens, but a forest shot, any flower shot, or landscape (barn, abandoned house, etc.) it would be great.

I’m still stuck on the Double Glass optic- I love the focal control it gives you while allowing the warped blur in the rest of the frame.



I’m looking at another solid day of schoolwork. All of these toys and no time to play!

On Green Things and other Deep Subjects


I love my very, VERY weird kids.

This is Brian Bob.

He has a green mouth. It’s usually blue. Today it’s green.
I don’t ask him why his mouth is different colours any more.
I just accept the fact that my kids are a little bit…different looking sometimes.

This makes me smile. And feel very proud of my weird artistic children.

If more people in the world had green mouths then…I guess there would be more green in the world.


This concludes my deep thoughts for the day.
It was good to get away from the schoolwork for a few minutes.

For more on this subject, see: TAGS.


Photo Walk [For Y]

Sometimes, when I don’t have the words of comfort that I’m looking for, I take pictures instead. This is for you, Y, and your friend. I wanted to take pictures of flowers for you, and I changed my mind at the last minute. I took a few pics of the riverside instead.

I hope you like them. xo


Unknown couple, sharing an intimate moment
Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass/f/2.8


Josh existing my mother’s house after dropping off his homemade burgers
Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass/f/2.8

ImageA drinking crowd gathers outside of Third Base tavern.
Lensbaby Composer Pro/Double Glass/ f/2.8



Second Street bridge- joining Indiana and Kentucky
Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass/f/2.8

ImageBrianna sleeps on a picnic table by the riverside
Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass/f/2.8



“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained …”


Drowning in Schoolwork- Literally

I’m up to my eyeballs in monster assignments.

Although I’ve been chipping away relentlessly at my backed up assignments for days, I can barely see the light at the end of the road. Here are just three assignments that I’ve had recently and have completed. 

Assignment # 1 (Public Speaking) <<<<<<<<<<

  • Discuss the tips for formulating a specific purpose statement.
  • What is the difference between the specific purpose and the central idea of a speech?
  • Identify the six demographic traits of audiences, and discuss why each factor is important to audience analysis.
  • Discuss the five elements involved in situational audience analysis.
  • Speakers need to use audience adaptation both before and during a speech. Identify three hypothetical situations that might occur during the presentation of a speech, and discuss how you would adapt to these unplanned circumstances or experiences.
  • In your first set of speeches for this course, you will be presenting four speeches with a hypothetical audience. Audience analysis affects the ideas you will present as well as the instructor’s evaluation of your ability to adapt your remarks to a particular group of listeners. With these thoughts in mind, prepare a written analysis of your audience using your knowledge of demographic characteristics. For example, a hypothetical audience may be comprised of nontraditional students, international students, European Americans and/or minorities from various geographical locations, individuals varying in socio-economic backgrounds, persons of different genders and body types, and scholars with various majors and academic abilities. Your analysis may include details related to each of these variables or others that apply to your particular audience. The hypothetical speaking context could be a classroom containing 23 students, who have convened for a 50-minute class session at 10:00 a.m. Incorporate applicable factors into your analysis related to demographic and psychographic variables outlined in the textbook. In addition, discuss any needs that you are going to try to fulfill for your audience.
  • Discuss the five resources noted in the textbook for finding information for your speeches in the library.
  • Discuss the three criteria for evaluating research material that you find on the internet.
  • What should you do during the three stages of an information gathering interview to ensure a successful interview?
  • What information do you need to record in your preliminary bibliography for the following: (a) a book, (b) a magazine and (c) an internet document?
  • Discuss five things you should do to take research notes efficiently.


Assignment # 2 [Earth Science] <<<<<<<<<<



NAME________________________   DATE_____________


This exam has 3 parts.  The first two parts can be answered in tables in this document and submitted as a .doc file, but the third part should be submitted as a word document or powerpoint file (.doc or .ppt).  Please attach the two files to an email and send to my address which is  I will send an email confirmation when I receive your exam.  You can use your notes and the textbook for this exam.  Use the samples from the Rock and Mineral Kit that you purchased from the VU bookstore to make observations as needed.

PART 1.  Minerals


For each of 9 minerals in your kit (numbers 1, 3, 7, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19), record the following information:

A.  Write the mineral name.


B.  Write the mineral’s chemical formula.

C.  If the mineral exists in one or more of the rock samples in your kit, name which ones, OR, if not, indicate the name of a rock in which it does commonly occur.

D.  List three diagnostic properties (properties that can be used to identify a particular mineral) and their values that can be observed in each of the 9 samples.  For example, the gold color of pyrite (number 6) is a diagnostic property of that mineral.

E.  Indicate an economic use or societal importance of this mineral or a rock that this mineral is commonly part of.


Record your answers in the table below. 


Mineral ID

Mineral Name

Chemical Formula

Occurrence in rock samples

Diagnostic Properties

Economic Use/ Societal Importance
























































PART 2. Rocks

For each of the indicated samples from your kit, please record its name, rock type (igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary), and sub-category within each rock type (e.g., foliated, extrusive) to which it belongs.  Also describe the texture including features such as fossils, sedimentary layering, foliation, interlocking crystals, etc.  Include minerals observed in the samples.  If there are two or more, record two of the minerals.  If only one mineral is present include its name.  If no mineral grains or crystals are observable, write “not observable”.

Rock ID

Name of Rock

Rock Type


Description of Texture

Two minerals observed in the sample (if visible)



































































Part 3. 


Find three different geological materials, each at a separate location (at least 0.5 miles apart) near you.  These can include bedrock outcrops (road cuts are convenient), pieces of three different rock types so long as each piece is large enough to cover most of your open hand, or large boulders used in landscaping. You also may find it helpful to wash the specimen off.  Don’t use soils because I haven’t given you enough tools to work with them.

For each of the materials, take two pictures (one showing the whole area of the material exposure, and one close up), sketch and label texture and minerals on the photos in MS word or powerpoint.  For each of the separately located materials, also include a paragraph or table with the rock type, complete texture description, sub-category, and rock name.  If using landscaping cobbles or gravel, pick one piece and describe that.  Be sure that each specimen is of the required size.

Assignment # 3 (Health Psychology) <<<<<<<<<<


Assignment: Unit Two

1. With respect to the Stress scales:
a) Discuss your results on the three stress scales
b) Do they agree/disagree with your perception of your stress level
c) How do you know when you are under stress
d) Identify whether the indicators of stress that you listed are physical, psychological and/or
2. Discuss your results on the two coping exercises.
3. Using information from the text/lecture, how do these results affect your life and what can
you do to reduce stress.
4. Regarding Proschaska’s stages of change model:
a) identify and describe with regard to your stress and your plans to manage it, at which
stage of Proschaska’s model you believe you are at the present time.
b) if you are planning (or were to plan) to manage your stress, describe yourself in terms
of each of the other four stages (minus the one from question 4a).Which of the following events have you experienced in the past 12

Life Event Point Value
Death of a close family member 100
Jail term 80
Final year or first year of college 63
Pregnancy (yours or your partner’s) 60
Serious illness or injury 53
Marriage 50
Any interpersonal problems 45
Financial difficulties 40
Death of a close friend 40
Arguments with your roommate (more than every other day) 40
Major disagreements with your family 40
Major change in personal habits 30
Change in living environment 30
Beginning or ending a job 30Problems with your boss or professor 25
Outstanding personal achievement 25
Failure in a course 25
Final examinations 20
Increased or decreased amount of dating 20
Change in working conditions 20
Change in your major 20
Change in your sleeping habits 18
Vacation of several days 15
Change in eating habits 15
Family reunion 15
Change in recreational activities 15
Minor illness or injury 15
Minor violations of the law 11
Score: ________
(1) Interpretation
Life events can function as stressors that influence the body through
activation of the stress response. An accumulation of 150 or more points
(see point ranges below) in a 1-year period may lead to increased physical
illness during the coming year. Of course, you must remember that, for a
given person, certain events may be more or less stressful than the point
values indicated.Less than 100 limited likelihood of stress related illness
101 to 200 moderate likelihood of stress related illness
201 or above high likelihood of stress related illness
(2) To Carry This Further
Having completed this Personal Assessment and evaluated your responses
based on the interpretation, were you surprised by the number of stress
points that you generated? Are there stressors listed that you have not
en-countered either in your own experiences or in those of your close
To evaluate your level of stress and to help you identify changes that you
need to make, circle the number under the appropriate response to each
Use the following guidelines in making your decisions:
Rarely Almost never
Sometimes Once or twice each week
Often Four or more times each week
Experience one or more of the symptoms of excess
stress such as tension, pain in the neck or shoulders,
or headaches?
1 3 5
Find it difficult to concentrate on what you are doing
because of deadlines or other tasks that must be
1 3 5
Become irritable when you have to wait in line or get
caught in a traffic jam?
1 3 5
Eat, drink, or smoke in an attempt to relax and/or
relieve tension?
1 3 5
Worry about your work or other deadlines at night
and/or on weekends?
1 3 5
Wake up in the night thinking about all the things
you must do the next day?
1 3 5
Feel impatient at the slowness with which many
events take place?
1 3 5
Find yourself short of time to complete everything
that needs to take place?
1 3 5Become upset because things have not gone your
1 3 5
Tend to lose your temper and get irritable? 1 3 5
Wake up in the night and have a hard time getting
back to sleep?
1 3 5
Drive over the speed limit? 1 3 5
Interrupt people while they are talking or complete
their sentences for them?
1 3 5
Forget about appointments and/or lose objects or
forget where you put them?
1 3 5
Take on too many responsibilities? 1 3 5
1. Add the numbers together that you circled.
2. Enter your score here: ________________
Evaluate your score according to the following criteria:
Potential level of stress
Low #60; 35
Moderate 35-42
High 43-50
The following gives a list of common events you may sometimes find unpleasant because they
make you irritated, frustrated, or anxious. The list was taken from the Hassles Assessment Scale
for Students in College, which has respondents rate the frequency, and unpleasantness of and
dwelling on each event.
For this exercise, rate only the frequency of each event. Beside each item estimate how often it
occurred during the past month, using the scale:
0=never, 1=rarely, 2=occasionally, 3=often, 4=very often, 5=extremely often.
___Accidents/clumsiness/mistakes of self – e.g., spilling beverage, tripping
___Annoying behavior of self – e.g., habits, temper
___Annoying social behavior of others – e.g., rude, inconsiderate, sexist/racist
___Appearance of self – e.g., noticing unattractive features, grooming
___Athletic activities of self – e.g., aspects of own performance, time demands
___Bills/overspending: seeing evidence of
___Boredom – e.g., nothing to do, current activity uninteresting
___Car problems – e.g., breaking down, repairs
___Crowds/large social groups – e.g., at parties, while shopping
___Dating – e.g., noticing lack of, uninteresting partner
___Environment – e.g., noticing physical living or working conditions
___Extracurricular groups – e.g., activities, responsibilities
___ Exams – e. g., preparing for, taking
___Exercising – e.g., unpleasant routines, time to do
___Facilities/resources unavailable – e.g., library materials, computer
___Family: obligations or activities
___Family, relationship issues, annoyances
___Fears of physical safety – e.g. while walking alone, being on a plane or car
___Fitness, noticing inadequate physical condition
___Food – e.g., unappealing or unhealthful meals
___Forgetting to do things – e.g., to tape TV show, send cards, etc.
___Friends/peers: relationship issues, annoyances
___Future plans – e.g., career or marital decisions
___Getting up early, for school or work
___Girl/boy-friend: relationship issues, annoyances
___Goals/tasks; not completing enough
___Grades – e.g., getting a low grade
___Health/physical symptoms of self – e.g. flu, PMS, allergies, etc.
___Schoolwork – e.g., working on papers, reading hard/tedious material
___Housing; finding/getting or moving___Injustice: seeing examples or being a victim of
___Job: searching for or interviews
___Job/work issues – e.g., demands or irritating aspects of\
___Lateness of self – e.g., for appointment or class
___Losing or misplacing things
___Medical/dental treatments – e.g., unpleasant, time demands
___Money; noticing lack of
___New experiences or challenges; engaging in
___Noise of other people or animals
___Oral presentations/public speaking
___Parking problems – e.g., on campus, at work, in the mall
___Privacy; noticing lack of
___Professors/coaches – e.g., unfairness, demands of
___Registering for or selecting classes to take
___Roommate(s)/housemates: relationship issues, annoyances
___Sexually transmitted diseases – e.g., concerns about, efforts to reduce risk of
___Sports team/celebrity performance – e.g., favorite team losing
___Tedious everyday chores – e.g., shopping, cleaning
___Time demands/deadlines
___Traffic problems – e.g., inconsiderate or careless drivers, traffic jams
___Traffic tickets; getting
___Waiting – e.g., for appointments, in lines
___Weather problems – e.g. snow, heat/humidity, storms
___Weight/dietary management – e.g., not sticking to plans
Add all of the ratings for a total score. You can evaluate your relative hassles with the following
schedule compared to the stress other college students have from hassles. A total score of 105 is
about average, above 135 indicates much more stress, and below 75 indicates much less stressPositive and Negative Coping Skills
People react differently to stressful situations. Following is a list of what
would be considered “positive” responses.
Check off the appropriate response for each of these. If there are other
positive ways that you deal with stress, please list them at the bottom of the
Meditate _____ _____ _____
Stretch _____ _____ _____
Engage in progressive muscle relaxation _____ _____ _____
Listen to music _____ _____ _____
Exercise aerobically _____ _____ _____
Watch television _____ _____ _____
Go to the movies _____ _____ _____
Read _____ _____ _____
Work on puzzles or play games _____ _____ _____
Go for a leisurely walk _____ _____ _____
Go to a health club _____ _____ _____
Relax in a steam room or sauna _____ _____ _____
Spend time alone _____ _____ _____
Go fishing or hunting _____ _____ _____
Participate in some form of recreational activity _____ _____ _____
such as golf _____ _____ _____
Do some work in the yard _____ _____ _____
Socialize with friends _____ _____ _____
Sit outside and relax _____ _____ _____
Engage in a hobby _____ _____ _____YOU’RE FOCUSES IN COPING
Think about a very stressful personal crisis or life event you experienced in the last year – the
more recent and stressful the event, the better for this exercise. How did you handle this
situation and your stress? Some of the ways people handle stressful experiences are listed below.
Mark an X in the space preceding each one you used.
___Tried to see a positive side to it.
___Tried to step back from the situation and be more objective.
___Prayed for guidance or strength.
___Sometimes took it out on other people when I felt angry or depressed.
___Got busy with other things to keep my mind off the problem.
___Decided not to worry about it because I figured everything would work out fine.
___Took things one step at a time
___Read relevant material for solutions and considered several alternatives.
___Drew on my knowledge because I had a similar experience before.
___Talked with a professional person (e.g., doctor, clergy, lawyer, teacher, counselor) about
ways to improve the situation.
___Talked to a friend or relative to get advice on handling the problem.
___Took some action to improve the situation.
Count how many of the first six ways you marked – these are examples of “emotion-focused”
ways. How many of the second six – “problem-focused” – ways didIdentification of Coping Styles
There are a variety of ways and methodologies to help us deal with stress.
Consider each of the activities below and determine whether you are
currently using any of them to deal with stress.
Often Rarely Not at
Listen to music
Go shopping with a friend
Watch television/go to a movie
Read a newspaper, magazine, or book
Sit alone in peaceful outdoors
Write prose or poetry
Attend athletic event, play, lecture, symphony,
Go for a walk or drive
Exercise (swim, bike, jog)
Get deeply involved in some other activity
Play with a pet
Take a nap
Get outdoors, enjoy nature
Write in journal
Practice deep breathing, meditation, autogenics,
muscle relaxation
Straighten up desk or work area
Take a bath or shower
Do physical labor (garden, paint)
Make home repairs, refinish furnitureBuy something – records, books
Play a game (chess, backgammon, video games)
Pray, go to church
Discuss situations with spouse or close friend


Yeah, and this doesn’t include all of the precalculus problems.


The Dance


“I’m swearing off all sugar,” I said, to Josh.

“Good! You can do it.”

“Yep. Starting tomorrow. ‘Cause I start my fast tomorrow, so…that would be a good time to start. Besides, there’s a strawberry cake on the stove.”

“Well good, Birgy. I know you can do it,” says Josh again with a hint of boredom.

“Oh crap! I just found a whole bag of Blow Pops!”

I can’t explain this sugar craze I’ve been on lately. I’ve been eating so many Lifesaver Gummies- it’s sick. Whole packages. Generally, I fast 5 days per week. I do this because it brings me closer to God. I intentionally suffer. On the week ends, I eat whatever I want, but really, I usually eat in moderation- never a second plate and I don’t eat until I’m stuffed. Why blow your levels all out of whack?

Besides, I eat to sustain life- not to cram stuff in my face. I respect that my body belongs to God- and it’s His “house”. So I keep that in mind when I’m preparing food and cooking. Usually, I’ll have a small (healthy) breakfast, oatmeal, etc. and take my daily regimen of pills which consist of:

Cayenne pepper
Evening Primrose Oil
Super B Complex
Milk Thistle (cleanses and detoxes the liver)
Fish Oil
Colon Cleanser (psyllium husk/herbal)
Multi-vitamin + Iron

After this, I won’t eat until 6:00 p.m. After breaking my fast at 6, I’ll eat a healthy meal: veggies cooked in either 100% canola oil or imported cold pressed olive oil, + meats (beef/chicken/pork, usually) + multi-grain baguettes toasted in olive oil or something along those lines- but always pretty healthily. I allow myself to snack on fruit and cheese usually, and ice cream and chips- I don’t limit myself to ounces and stuff. I don’t count calories. I don’t “diet” as it were, not in the traditional sense. I don’t fast for aesthetic purposes. I fast for spiritual discipline and cleansing- I’m a big believer in fasting.

Five days per week- Monday-Friday.
What this does is teaches me inner strength and control. When you have the ability to control what you do and do not eat most every day and aren’t “governed” by it, then you’re able to control your thoughts, behaviors, willpower, and many other areas that we often battle and give up control to.

And generally, I don’t go around telling people that I fast often- many people don’t understand. They don’t see why it matters. But it brings me closer to God and His will rather than my own. Also, when you take food out of the equation and “pleasing the self” for 8 hours of the day- it teaches you to “lay down”. It teaches you to be still and be very quiet. At least for that time. And over time, you learn to appreciate these low places in the spirit and soul. Good comes from it. Growth.

So usually, I don’t go hog-wild on whole bags of Lifesavers. I justified it by my fasting I suppose, but then, it does little good to fast like I do, if I give up complete control and eat whole bags of candy after my fast ends. It defeats the purpose of the whole thing.
So, no more wheelbarrows of sugar!

I thought it was about time for an update on my relentless jaw and tongue chewing habit. “Habit” is a mild way of looking at it, actually. When you spend 10 hours a day doing something, it’s no longer a habit, but an obsession and addiction. I was biting the sides of my tongue and jaws on the inside so much that it often bled and was sore much of the time. This exacerbated my TMJ tremendously. What I was doing daily went against all of my beliefs and norms and everything I knew to do. I simply couldn’t stop. I researched it and made a remarkable discovery: this is an area in psychology that is rarely focused on and discussed! I couldn’t even find the scientific name for it and barely was able to find forums where it was openly discussed. Not many cries for help- not many confessions. This confirmed my suspicions that this disease is still done in secret mostly, and so well hidden that it’s rarely discussed. There’s a tremendous amount of shame that accompanies this disorder because it doesn’t make sense to begin with. To confess would be an open acknowledgement that “something is wrong with me”. It’s so much easier to keep it in a locked closet and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

It’s no different than cutting or any other form of self- mutilation. It’s the same processes in the brain that sanction gashing open the flesh and feeling the pain. Not only feeling it, but welcoming it.  In my case, it was my teeth doing the cutting instead of a knife. I guess I had to get so sick and tired of being sick and tired of the disease controlling me rather than me controlling it, but finally, I was able to get to the place and recognize that “jaw-biting” was like an abusive partner that I swore to love and commit myself to and even protect. I needed to view it differently if I expected real change. I needed to break up with it.


After “breaking up with” my sick disease, it’s been three months. I haven’t done it once even! A life-time addiction- gone in once second. And I have been through some serious ^&%$ since then. At first, my thoughts were overwhelming. My anxiety was through the ceiling. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. My thoughts were working overtime and very much in an OCD-related way. So much chatter. It wasn’t easy- I just knew I needed to stick it out. After many uncomfortable weeks, the chatter dissipated and all was quiet. Finally, there was peace.

Recapping the letter:
[Originally posted February 12, 2013]


Dear bad habit,

I don’t know how to tell you this, but  I just want to be friends I want to break up with you. You know I love you! And it’s not you- I swear- it’s me. I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t like the way you’re constantly attacking me, and it’s like I have no time to myself. What you’re doing to me seems harmless, but it’s abuse, and I will not stay with somebody that abuses me. We’ve been together for 35 years. I know I’ll never see you again after today. I can’t say that I’m sorry about that. Goodbye. And thanks for everything.


Photography Basics and Layering with Textures

So Jen, I realize that if I’m waiting for a chance to “open up” for me to not be so busy, I’ll be waiting for a very long time. I’ve decided to sacrifice a bit of my schoolwork to share with you some of the photography tips and tricks that I’ve developed over the past decade. I’m going to demonstrate the four main areas of a photograph that are the most important to me:

  • Composition
  • Lighting and exposure
  • Mood
  • Rule of thirds

These are four areas that must be present in most of my photos and if they aren’t, then I supplement one of the other areas with an extra amount. Such as, if the lighting isn’t the best, kick up the mood. (Etc.) This is a good short list to stick with and think about these things always when taking your photo. Because of the ability to simply slap a filter on a photo in post processing (Iphone apps, Photoshop, Gimp, Picmonkey, etc.) it’s all too easy to fall into the “lazy photographer” trap and think, “Eh…I’ll fix it in Photoshop.” But again, this makes for bad pictures that are heavily “shopped”. I’m going to teach you a few in-camera basics that will give you a good solid pic to start out with. That way, when you dress it up, it’ll be that much better (not that much worse). What I’m going to teach you is going to seem like a lot of hard work! That’s because it is. Everything I do is manually done in “layers” – sometimes one photo can have 20+ different layers blended together. If you learn how to do these things though, instead of just “slapping a filter on it”, you’ll have your own style that is tailor made and it will be very difficult to replicate. Editing is very much like gourmet cooking. We photographers all have our own “recipes” and we guard them closely! I’m going to give you all of the ingredients for you to create your own style. And, if you have your own style- you’ll stand out from your peers in this area. Compare every photograph you take with a painting. The SOOTC / straight out of the camera pic is the canvas. We’re going to use our photo editor to “paint it”.

First, here’s a small list of abbreviations that you’ll need to learn:

SOOTC: straight out of the camera
AP: aperture
Sh. Sp.: shutter speed
WB: white balance
PS: Photoshop
“Shopping”: Photoshopping
BG: background
FG: foreground
B&W: black and white

Let’s start with toilet paper.

I took this shot a moment ago on my bathroom floor. I like using toilet paper because it’s simple.


This is a SOOTC shot, or, “straight out of the camera”. I like using the Lensbaby Composer lens because as you can see, it naturally blurs the edges of the frame. This particular kind of lens is great for moody, dramatic images (my trademark style) and especially vintage pieces. Here are the specs for this shot:

Lens used: Lensbaby Composer

Aperture: f/4
ISO: 400
Shutter speed: 1/15 sec.

I know you’re using a point and shoot and that’s ok; it’ll do just fine for this.

The first thing to do, always, with a shot is correct the WB/white balance if necessary, and much of the time, it’s necessary. You can see that the toilet paper is a little blue looking.  It’s a good thing to make sure your WB/ white balance is preselected on your camera (this is the shady, cloudy, night shot area). If I would have paid attention beforehand, I would have selected “cloudy”, alas, half the time I don’t. For the record, it’s best if you do.

We’ll adjust the levels (midtones, shadows, contrast, lighting, and highlights in a few moments but let’s continue on first with the basics). Notice the composition: it’s off-centered. When composing your single subject, you should always try to off-center them slightly, no matter how slightly. This is where you’ll learn about “rule of thirds”. Imagine that a 4 lined grid is over your image: 2 lines vertically- 2 lines horizontally. It would look like this:


Notice the 4 connecting areas in the center: these are known as “power points”. Always place your subject, or subjects, in one of these areas. I have an invisible grid in my mind’s eye that is always there when I shoot and I’m always mindful of this. Over time, your “natural rule of thirds grid” will kick in and it will become like a second skin: you won’t even need to think about it.

Now let’s do a bit of post processing.
We’ll start with our levels.

We’re going to use GIMP because it’s a free photo editor. It’s a lot like Photoshop and much of the time, I actually prefer GIMP over PS/Photoshop.  It can be daunting or overwhelming if you’ve never used it. Remember, fear is nothing more than the lack of education in an area. We’re afraid of what we don’t know much of the time. By learning the basics of photo editing, you’ll take the fear out of the equation and it won’t seem overwhelming any more.

You can find GIMP here:

Just click on the 3rd or 4th line down in the first section.

Install the program and open up your pic : FILE/OPEN

It should look like this:


Be sure to open up your Toolbox panel on the left and have your “layers” there on the right. If these two crucial boxes do not open up on their own, you can do it manually by clicking on the WINDOWS tab at the top right corner. WINDOWS/DOCKABLE DIALOGS/LAYERS and WINDOWS/TOOLBOX.

You’ll need to keep these two boxes open throughout all of your editing.

Almost everything I do has to do with “layers” and this is not uncommon in photo editing. Even the most basic of editing (level adjustments) will often contain several layers and it’s one of the areas of photo editing that is an absolutely MUST to learn. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with cheesy filters and one dimensional photos.

Right click on the Background layer in the LAYER box on the right. Select DUPLICATE LAYER. Now let’s go to the LEVELS area so you can make some minor adjustments.

Go to the COLORS tab at the top and select LEVELS.

You’ll see the LEVELS box pop up:


 The diagram at the top is what you’ll want to adjust. Underneath the words INPUT LEVELS you’ll see 3 sliders. These control your shadows/midtones/and highlights. The shadows are the blackest/darkest parts of your image, the midtones are the midrange tones and the highlights are the brightest parts of the image. Always be careful with the highlights slider- you can easily blow out your whites. Let’s start with the middle slider:

It’s naturally set at 1.00 so set it at 36. Set the 1st slider (on the left) that controls the blacks or the shadows to 1.11 and set your highlights slider (the one all the way to the right) to 1.97.

You can see that the lighting is a bit more dramatic. Go ahead and duplicate this layer again. Double click on the text to rename it, (Rename it LEVELS) and then press enter to stabilize it. Rename the new layer CB for COLOR BALANCE.

Now let’s fix the colours and the WB/white balance. Go to your COLORS tab at the top and select COLOR BALANCE. This is another area that I’m constantly using. Let’s get rid of that blue cast. You’ll notice in your COLOR BALANCE area 3 specific ranges: shadows, midtones, and highlights. There are 3 sliders for each one and 6 hues to adjust, per slider. Remember, your highlights are the brighter areas of the photo, in this case, it pertains directly to the toilet paper, so select HIGHLIGHTS. Your goal here will be to move your sliders AWAY from the dominant colours here, which hare CYAN and BLUE. Every photo is different and the colour values and ranges will be different for every one. Instead of simply telling you which values to set your sliders to here, I want you to analyze the photo’s values, highlights in this case, and adjust each slider accordingly. I’ve learned over the years that a good counterbalance to CYAN is yellow and red, so let’s increase those channels’ values, decreasing the CYAN. Again, be sure that your HIGHLIGHTS channel is selected. Be sure to check that it’s indeed the top layer you’re working on (the layer named CB). Ok, let’s go.


Move slider AWAY from CYAN-    +29
Move slider AWAY from MAGENTA-  + 13
Move slider AWAY from BLUE (toward the YELLOW) -17

Be sure that your readings are the same:

29, 13, -17

The midtones look pretty good so let’s move on to the shadows and give them some warmth.

Move the top slider TOWARD the RED- +9.
Keep the center slider set at 0.
Move the bottom slider TOWARD the YELLOW-  -11.


Notice in the LAYERS box, you’ll see a small EYE icon. This is your visibility toggle. If you can see the eye there, it means that that layer is visible. If you uncheck the eye, it means that that layer is currently invisible. This is especially useful as it allows you to toggle back and forth between pics for comparisons. Go ahead and click on the top layer which will set it to “invisible”. Continue clicking the CB-layer EYE and compare your LEVELS pic and your CB/color balance pic.

You’ll notice that the top layer has more reds and yellows- it’s your “warmer” layer. The layer underneath has stronger greens and blues- this is your cooler layer. Let’s mix the two. Notice that each layer has an OPACITY slider. This controls the visibility amount for each layer. Again, always be sure that you’re working in the correct layer beforehand. Choose the top layer, and bring your OPACITY slider down some. Let’s take it to 45%. This will give us a well balanced amount of reds, greens, yellows, and blues in the pic. What this does is increases your colour ranges and adds more depth.

Now, merge all of the layers together. Go to the IMAGE tab at the top, and select FLATTEN IMAGE.

It’s always best to duplicate any image you flatten. You’ll find in editing, it really is a continual cycle of merging and duplicating. So, duplicate it and be sure that you’re working in the top layer. Now, let’s add a textured layer to this. We’re going to bring a dramatic flair to this and give it a haunting feeling.

For this, let’s convert it to a B&W. Yes, all of that colour modification just to convert it to a B&W! The reason for this is to give it a better value and tonal range once it has been converted. There will be added layers of depth by adjusting the colours beforehand.


Click on your COLORS tab at the top and select DESATURATE. A small box will appear allowing you to choose from one of 3 areas: lightness, luminosity, and average. Select AVERAGE if you’re not sure which one to go with, but again, because every photo is different and every photo contains different values and ranges, some photos would be best suited for “luminosity” and so on so be sure to test all three for every image and choose the best one. (If you’re still unsure what to go with, choose AVERAGE.)

You’ll notice that we have a good range of tones here from the deepest of black to the brightest of white: this is what makes a good black and white photo. Rename the top layer to “B&W”. You should have the coloured image on the bottom and the B&W one on the top. Now, duplicate the B&W layer. You can rename it B&W2.

Let’s add a texture. (Adding a texture isn’t necessary at all, and it can be very tricky at first, but it compliments many photos, especially portraits, abandoned houses and such.) I like to add a texture or several sometimes because it too adds depth to your photo. I like things that look like hair or old film scratches- it gives my images a dirty, ugly-ish appearance and that’s exactly what I like.

So let’s add a dusty old film-scratch texture to this. Here’s what the texture looks like by itself:


It’s one of my favourites.

When adding a texture to a photograph, it’s very important to make sure that your sizes match up. Check to see what size your image is in GIMP. You can do this by clicking on the IMAGE tab at the top and then select SCALE IMAGE. Notice the sizes there. Be sure that it’s set to PIXELS (the box on the right) and that the width and height are written down (or memorized). Those are the exact measurements that you’ll need to resize your texture to. I recommend using IRFANVIEW as a basic photo viewer, it also reads RAW files so that’s perfect. (I’ve used IRFANVIEW for 8 or so years now and it’s one of my most used tools.) You can get it here:

Download and install that. Once you’ve opened up your pic in IRFANVIEW, resize it to your proper width and height, and then IN IRFANVIEW- select EDIT/COPY. Now we’re ready to paste the texture into GIMP. After copying the texture, go to GIMP and select EDIT/PASTE.

Once the textured layer has been pasted into GIMP, you’ll notice on the right side in your LAYERS box that the top layer has been added. It’s what is now called a “floating channel”. You’ll need to stabilize it like the rest of the layers and it’s very simple to do. Right click the (top) floating channel (your texture layer) and click on ANCHOR LAYER.

Now you should see 3 stabilized layers there in your box. The texture in the top layer, the B&W image in the middle, and the coloured BG/background image in the bottom.  We no longer need the coloured image in the bottom channel/layer so you can go ahead and click the eye, switching it over to invisibility if you like, or, you can leave it as is- it won’t hurt anything.

Now it’s time to learn about BLENDING MODES. In the LAYERS box you’ll notice the word MODE above the OPACITY slider. This is the area that gives your layers different effects. The blending modes I use most often are: overlay, multiply, screen, and soft light. There are lots of useful blending modes here though.

Be sure that you’re working in the top layer of the LAYER box (should be named B&W2 copy I think) and take the OPACITY down to about 63.4%. Go to your blending mode area which is MODE (again, it can be found  above your OPACITY slider in your LAYER box) and set the mode to SCREEN. This is a bit of a light, silkscreen and gives your images a soft, smoky look. Afterwards, go ahead and flatten the image, again, you can find this area at IMAGE/FLATTEN IMAGE at the top tabs, and then immediately DUPLICATE the layer.  It will then look like this:


Next, let’s run it through the LEVELS again to increase the blacks/SHADOWS. I often repeat my processes two and three times throughout one photo edit. Increasing the shadows at this point will give the blacks a smeared/chalky chemical look. Let’s try it:


INPUT LEVELS/3 sliders:

Shadows (1st slider all the way to the left)/ middle slider- midtones- .80/3rd slider all the way to the right (Highlights)- 245. Now, DUPLICATE the top layer again, and let’s hit the LEVELS one more time.

Set them at or around these levels:


Shadows/1st slider all the way to the left- 29
Midpoint/middle slider- 1.34
Highlights/3rd slider all the way to the right- 255

Notice the darker “burned” looking areas in the shadows now. It will look like this:


Now I’m going to teach you another useful trick. It’s the CURVES area and it will give us master control over our colours and hues. Go here: COLORS/CURVES from the tabs at the top. You’ll see a CHANNEL dropdown menu box. Inside you will find the RED, GREEN, and the BLUE channels. We’re going to edit each of these three channels individually. Think of your primary colours and the various colours you can create by mixing them. Let’s make a base/foundational colour of bluegreen/yellow. Select your BLUE channel, and then make a backwards or inverted “S”, like this:


Don’t go over the top or it’ll be overkill. Remember to do all things in moderation. Now, let’s kick up the reds. Select the RED channel from the same area (dropdown menu):

Let’s do something a little different here. Experiment. You don’t have to do the exact same thing- find your distinct style here and work with it.


Let’s experiment with the GREEN channel, found in the same area:


There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Do what makes you happy.

Now, merge the two layers IMAGE/FLATTEN IMAGE and then DUPLICATE the layer once again.

Now you’ll use the same thing: CURVES to adjust your overall lighting. Select COLORS/CURVES. In the CHANNELS box there- the drop-down menu, it’s preset to VALUES. Leave that as is. The diagonal line that you see is the line you’ll be using. Pull the bottom left part of the line straight down to increase your shadows/blacks. As seen here:


It’s still a bit too red for my liking, so let’s run it through the colour balance again to decrease the reds.

Go to COLORS/COLOR BALANCE from the tab at the top and select your MIDTONES channel. Move the slider toward the CYAN -14. Leave the middle slider as is, but set the bottom slider to -1 in the direction of the YELLOW. (In other words, TOWARDS the YELLOW.)

It should now look like this:


It’s a mixture of yellow, red, cyan, magenta, green, and blue but the dominant colours are yellow and green. You’ll notice that it’s not one “flat colour” or tone.  There’s more depth here because of the broan ranges in colours. Let’s do one final thing to it to give it a bit of a smoky vignette around the edges. Select your BURN tool. In your TOOLBOX area it’s the tool that is at the bottom, just aboce your colour palette boxes. Move your cursor over it and it’ll read: DODGE/BURN tool. (The DODGE lightens it the BURN darkens it.) We’ll need a bigger brush than the ones offered so let’s create a larger one.

Select your BRUSH tool.
At the very bottom of the pop-up box that displays your brush selection, find the bottom right brush icon and select it. You’ll need to click on the actual CIRCLE brush picture in your brush area to activate it first. That can be found just underneath the OPACITY slider and above the SCALE slider. Once the popup box opens up, you’ll see the needed brush icon in the bottom right corner. If you move your cursor over it, it should read: Open the brush selection dialog

Now at the bottom of THAT area, you will find a NEW BRUSH icon. Click on that. Increase the radius to your desired amount and rename the brush something like LARGE. It will then be added to your brush collection. If you do this, it will come in handy tremendously. You’ll need larger brushes for partial erasing, burning, etc.

Now let’s go back to the burn tool and select your large brush. You’ll need to decrease its size right off the bat, significantly. I set mine to .74% SCALE and 28% OPACITY. Your goal will be to burn the very edges of it neatly, not add a big, puffy smears.

After it’s finished, it should look something like this:


Last but not least, we need to add a bit of a guassian blur to it and then sharpen it. The blur gives it bit more of a vintage finish and we’ll slightly sharpen the focal point afterwards. Let’s go ahead and merge the layers again, IMAGE/FLATTEN IMAGE. (From the tabs at the top.)

DUPLICATE the layer, of course.

Then you’ll choose (from the tabs at the top) FILTERS/BLUR/GUASSIAN BLUR. You’ll see a BLUR RADIUS area which will allow you to set your horizontal and vertical blur radius. Select 2 for both. Click OK.

Next, you’ll need to select (from the tabs at the top) FILTERS/ENHANCE/UNSHARP MASK.

Set the amounts for the following:


Over time, you’ll grow more aware of what radius you’ll need for each image.
Now we’re going to layer this underneath our blurred layer. First, let’s name these layers accordingly so we don’t confuse the two. First, be sure to duplicate the bottom layer, always. Anytime you make significant changes to your layer, it’s good practice to duplicate the BG or base layer so you can go back to it if you mess up. So, duplicate that bottom layer. Toggle the EYE icon to invisibility (again, on the bottom BG/layer).

Now, rename the top layer to SHARP and the middle layer to BLUR. The middle layer should be the Guassian Blur layer.

Now you’re going to learn how to erase. First, let’s switch the layers. We want the blurred layer on top and the sharp layer underneath it. You can do this easily by pushing the BLUR layer right up to the top.

We’re all set to erase. Go to your eraser tool which you’ll find in the TOOLBOX area. Select your LARGE brush that you’ve just created. Our goal here is to isolate the focal point, which is the center of the toilet paper roll in this case. We’re needing to erase the blur from the top layer so the sharpened bit can bleed through from the layer underneath. This is one of my most used techniques in editing and I use it with lighting, tones, colours, practically everything. You’ll be able to “paint things” into your photos with your eraser brush this way. I can’t stress the importance of doing this for added depth in an image.

Let’s set our brush to .96% SCALE and about 24% or so for the OPACITY.

Now because we’re going to be erasing FROM the BLUR layer, we’ll need to right click on that layer and select “Add alpha channel”. You’ll need to do this for every layer  you’re needing to erase onto. (Only the BLUR layer in this case.)

So let’s erase just around the toilet paper roll itself so that the sharpness will be revealed underneath. If you find that you’re still needing more sharpness, increase your eraser brush’s OPACITY to 60% or so.

I think we’re just about finished here. You can use these steps to create moody, dramatic, “haunting” images or chemically processed, burned “ugly” type works. They’re not for everyone, but they’re my favourite. Here is a comparative before and after:


I strongly encourage you to experiment with these steps. Again, there are no right or wrong ways to do them and really, every person is different and we all like different things. In time and through trial and error mostly, you’ll come to find your own distinct style. It took me a good 7+ years to discover most of these things. (Lots of tears, frustration, and aggravation.) I know this seems like a lot of work, but this is actually a “quick edit”. It can become a complex procedure when 5+ textures are involved. All of this is a lot of fun though. I hope I was able to help you some.



Early Morning Speakeasy


“Third Base” biker bar- early Sunday morning drive-by/50 MM natural lighting/manual

There’s something about typing late at night that’s so very gratifying. Maybe it’s the “me time”, I don’t know. Josh is sitting beside me and everything in life has fallen back into place. It’s funny how that goes; all of the “normal everyday things” that one simply expects to be there over time are there, and they’re very small things not even worth mentioning. But take those little “connectors” away- those small unmentionables and it shakes the very foundation of all that is solid in your life. This proves to me that it IS the little things that are most important to me. When they’re gone- everything changes down to the very way you perceive the world to be. When Josh and I are tight, as we are now- the world is “doable”. I’m careful to give him his space and am even suggesting he get a shed so he can have a bit of a man-cave going on. (Guys need a “safe place” to go where there are no women. It’s funny to think about, but it’s so very true. I support him in those endeavors fully.)

The construction trailer outside didn’t work out so well. The new management approached us and gave us a 2 hour warning to move it or lose it. They had already called the police and a tow truck. We were in a bit of a jam, but that’s when I’m at my best, not surprisingly. Maybe it’s all of those McGuyver episodes (or the hundreds of adventure games I’ve played over the years) but I like to get creative and resourceful with practically nothing. We called the Uhaul facility- they had no trucks with a hitch at the moment. After several other phone calls, we were able to find a guy that hauled it away to storage at the drop of a dime. Josh would have lost his trailer for good- it would have just been too expensive to try and retrieve it. Darn it. That means he’ll have to actually stay INSIDE here with me. (I’ll try to not be disappointed.)

I wonder what Josh thinks about me sitting here typing all of our business to the world. 🙂 He’s a good sport.

We have to be up at 8 in the morning- there just aren’t enough hours in the day! Josh is getting ready to start his semester also- I love it when we’re both in school at the same time. He’s working on General Studies for now but he’s considering moving in the direction of Physics. (He and his sister are both terribly smart.)

I have a Health Psychology assignment to do first thing when I get up and after that, a Public Speaking assignment + 25 more pre-calculus problems and that’s all before 10:00 a.m.! Life is a blur.

But at least I’m using exclamation points again so hey- it’s not all bad.


And smiley faces.




Taking a break from the schoolwork.
Jeffersonville Marina- early this morning in the fog. 


Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass/ f/4/ISO 100