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There’s a reason I chose the username Monochromejunkie: It’s because I’m obsessed with black and white photography. To me, nothing is more beautiful than a bold black and white image with heavy, dark blacks and stark whites. These days, people are so used to simply slapping a filter on something or doing a quick and easy B&W conversion.
it takes a well-trained eye to look out upon a landscape or street scene and be able to convert that over to a B&W in your mind and truly “see” a black and white. Because reds, greens, and blues all convert into various shades of black, white, and grey, you need to know what would truly make a good black and white, because not every scene does.
This past year, I’ve been in a photographic funk and sorely uninspired. 2018 was one of the hardest years of my life. So many troubles with some of my children and their private struggles, along with the death of close friends and loved ones. It really kicked me in the teeth and that alone can kill your passion for your art.
After coming back to my blog and writing again, I rediscovered my friend Gav’s black and white photography. He’s an excellent street photographer, but what he’s really good at, more so than anyone else I’ve ever known, is staying in black and white mode. Nevertheless, year after year, he continues shooting in black and white and never seems to grow bored with it.
Seeing his beautiful black and whites have woken up my first love: black and white photography. I’ve wanted to shoot in B&W mode (only) for a year straight- for a long time, but never had the courage to take that plunge. I know though, that if I don’t do that, then I’ll never commit. And if I don’t commit to truly knowing the ins and outs of black and white and really learning it, then I never will grow as a photographer and artist to the degree that I want to.
I’ve decided to finally take the plunge! I’m putting my camera in monochrome mode and leaving it there for an entire year. It actually began yesterday, so until March 8th of 2020, I’ll be shooting in nothing but black and white. This way, rather than focusing on various colours, I can keep my focus on lighting and exposure. So Gav, if you’re reading this, thank you! You’ve been a major inspiration and have woken up my love of black and white again. It’s not for everybody. But for people like us, it’s what drives us.
I took these yesterday, at Sellersburg park (Indiana) while taking Chance and Diamond on our mile walk. Just as we were getting ready to leave, it started snowing. That was a nice touch. 🙂 (These are basically SOOTC/straight out of the camera.)
A new bud gets its first taste of the snow. Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35-2.8
The most beautiful rain is falling outside right now. I awoke an hour or so ago to the rain falling on my tin roof in a most beautiful enveloping wall of sound. The rain is my favourite thing ever because I feel like God is corralling me off. It satisfies the intense hermit in me that wants to shut my door and windows and seal off the world. The rain says it’s ok to slow it all down to a crawl and not have to be bothered with the things outside my door. The rain sings a most beautiful song. 🙂
I suppose as I grow older (am I really going to be 50 this fall?!), I’m giving in more to my hidden persona; the Jane Goodall-like hippie that wants nothing more than to spend the entire day in the forest, taking macros of little things in their little worlds- up close. I can’t believe I’ve been in school for an entire decade now! I’m so ready to be finished with it all so I can finally- finally- focus on my art, photography, and music. I’m looking forward to closing the books once and for all (along with my many, MANY research papers) and buy an Epson professional printer and set up a small area of our new home (to be, soon); a proper print shop.
It’s going to take a lot of dedication and time, but I’m so looking forward to it. I’ll be afforded the luxury- after school- of not having to work. Even for several years, or never at all, if I want. I can stay home and go out and about and take all the pics I want- go where I like, and do virtually anything I want. When I’m ready, I can put on that periwinkle suit and Addiction Counselor hat (if I so choose) and make my mark on the world as a counselor. But first, I’ll explore my art. It’s an exciting thing to be able to wake up early in the morning and head out with my camera and collection of vintage film lenses in my Nat. Geo. bag. People who aren’t photographers probably don’t get it.
It’s such a rush to be able to go out into the world and see what only I can see. I can shape my perspective in a unique way and be a storyteller without words. To lay in the plush green mossy ground on the forest floor in the warm, afternoon sunshine and spend hours focusing my lens on tiny little things on leaves. I’m a visitor in their world. It’s an incredible thing to be able to make the tiniest corner of a leaf come into focus, making the rest of the leaf the size of a house, by comparison. Ants become giants and mushrooms- stadiums. It’s exhilarating!
But the real rush is taking the loot home and going through all of the images: Sizing up what stays or what gets tossed out. Whittling the pile down until only a few remaining “money shots” remain and those are the ones which will be edited and post processed. A full day’s shoot- and many hours- for 3 or 4 shots in the end. It’s the experience of it all, from loading up the bag to editing the chosen few to submitting or uploading the shots. And it’s all free! You really can’t beat that. It’s therapy. Photo-therapy at its finest.
Although my latest course Addiction Counseling and Families essentially began yesterday, my Discussion Board posts aren’t due until Thursday. Ever the procrastinator, I think I’ll spend the day lounging in my insanely plush (new) pillow top queen bed (that I um…bought Josh for Christmas. That’s right…it’s all for him! 🙂 ) and edit a new batch of pics from our Thanksgiving trip in the Smokey Mountains. Yes, my life ha been so busy and crazy that I’m only now getting around to editing my Thanksgiving shots from 2018!
Despite having 6 vintage (imported) Bulgarian and Romanian film lenses, only the Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8 (my favourite lens ever) was used- throughout the entire trip. It never left my camera. These are two of many I’ll be editing over the next few days:
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8 film lens (Canon Rebel t3i) – An interesting tree I found on the way up to Clingmans Dome, in Smoky Mountain National Park, in southeastern Tennessee and North Carolina, U.S.
This one is Josh’s. (His capture, my edit.) The Appalachian Trail sign at the base of Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon film lens 35/2.8- Canon Rebel t3i
I feel like I’ve finally turned a corner. Tomorrow makes a whole month that my little brother has been gone. I’m so comforted by the fact that he’s in Heaven with my Dad, my Pastor (Rev. Hicks), and my grandparents. The first few weeks were absolutely brutal, but I’m feeling life again. I’m allowing myself to laugh again. Death is part of life, after all.
Soon, it’ll be a new season. Josh and I will be moving into a new house, leaving this place behind. I’m so ready for a new start; a new beginning. My kids are all grown and have flown the coop. I’m still studying, and as I mentioned not long ago, I have a year or so left and I’ll have my Master’s in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. This degree has not been easy! I’ve had to do continual research and writing 7-10 long page research papers weekly. It’s hard to stay motivated sometimes, but I push on. I’ve been in college for ten straight years! It’s so hard to believe. After I graduate, I’ll take a couple of years off. Maybe do a bit of traveling. Maybe write that memoir, finally.
For now, I’ll continue playing my adventure games during my 2 week break from school. Josh and I recently bought our HTC VIVE/virtual reality headset. My laptop is an HP Omen- it’s already VR-ready. I just finished the game Lone Echo- made for Oculus (Rift) but I “revived” it so I could play it on my Vive. It was an awesome game. 🙂 “Red Matter” is next on my list. (Currently playing “Before the Storm” again, after replaying “Life is Strange” again.) Nothing new to report. Perhaps I’ll go on a photoshoot in the next few days and throw some new pics up. “Photo Therapy”. ❤
Carl Zeiss Jena Flekton 35/2.8 Clingman’s Dome- Smokey Mountain State Park- Tennessee- Thanksgiving 2018
I feel…SO pregnant. My tubes were cut, tied, and burned 20+ years ago, and while it’s rare to conceive a child after all that, it does happen. I really do believe I’ve had a number of ectopic pregnancies in the past 5 years or so, given the evidence at the time. That’s not uncommon. Most ectopic pregnancies self-abort, and although it all happens without much incident, the emotions (of being pregnant) are very real and very much the same. I’m now caught in a semi-pseudo- (or not) preggers limbo of sorts- the kind that many women dread and for good reason. Home pregnancy tests (HPT) are negative while having every symptom of pregnancy known to man. The problem with this scenario is that the body is not yet producing enough HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) to result in a positive HPT, so the woman is left feeling as if it’s all in her head and the symptoms are merely phantom. It can really mess with the head.
And so the problem with this scenario is that she can truly be very pregnant, but her hormone levels are still too low to trigger a positive, and for whatever reason (mostly, if it’s eptopic), has a miscarriage, which is then perceived as a late period- just heavier than usual. So it’s its own little hell- all of it. I’m laid up on the couch with a heating pad on my lower right kidney; I can’t tell if it’s a bum kidney or a pulled muscle. Whatever it is hurts like the dickens. Also, I skipped my period last month, altogether, which never happens, and I haven’t had one this month either- but the HPT I just took read negative (of course!).
Because of my age (48), there’s a new uninvited guest who crashes this little party I’m having here and it’s called perimenopause. Now, the hot flashes that I’m having (which are also a sign of early pregnancy) and sudden weight gain (ditto) aaaaand heart palpitations (yep, those too) can all be ticked off in either category, so that makes it super fun and mysterious!
And I swear I’ve been feeling little thuds deep within my being, very much like little kicks or movements which are not gas. Any fetus at this stage would be developing its CNS, so little shocks are flushing through its system, which accounts for the little jerks and thuds that are felt. I’ve waited 25 years to go back to school and begin my career. I put my kids first, always, and now it’s finally “my turn”.
Or is it?!
So I asked Josh to make me some mushroom rice last night. This is what he bright me:
And some pics from our mushroom hunt the other day at Henryville Forestry/Clark State Forest, after the rain. Shot in monochrome/experimental high ISO (3200) f/18 using the Super Tak SMC f/4 50 MM vintage film lens.
Until next time, WP. Back to “Behind Mansion Walls”.
And some random pics of my guy, Josh, over the years. My best friend and THE love of my life. ❤
(Cue romantic music)
Life has simply been whizzing by at the speed of sound, lately. Today, I started another semester and as much as I wanted to take it easy and take only one course, I took two (again). At the Master’s level, this is considered full-time. My undergrad. years were so much easier! I had tons to read each week, of course, and tests at the end of each week, but at least I didn’t have research to do (on this level) and the research papers never end; they really don’t.
I’ve spent the past week in bed, nursing a pulled muscle in my back. For some unknown reason I thought it’d be a good idea to touch my nose to my knees- like I did when I trained as a cross-country runner from ages 9-12. Um, not a great idea! I’m 48, not 28. 😉
Yesterday I had planned to stay in bed, healing my back, but in all honesty, I was all better. I just wanted to stay in bed- I’m not going to lie! Josh challenged me to get out and grab some fresh shots, seeing how we were hit with a freak-blizzard on the 2nd official day of spring. So, I did, and came up with these:
Cemetery- Super TAk 50 MM f/4-film. Shot in monochrome. 8th street.
Nothing new to add; just wanted to check in and leave a few words as a “time marker”. I miss my kids SO MUCH. Especially Brian. MAN I love that kid….I love them all, but he’s my only son. My kids own my heart and it hurts so much to let them go! But as a parent, life becomes a long succession of always letting them go. Again and again. You just have to work around it and make your happiness and peace with it, through it, and around it. Enjoy what love and laughter you have and appreciate the good times when they come. It’s taken me a long time to understand that pain is also a friend. Darkness and loneliness make the good times that much better.
oh. And speaking of bad times, perimenopause has me in its wretched teeth and has me sweating all throughout the day. It’s just God-awful. The hot flashes! 20 times per day. I swear, they are HORRIBLE. I just got out of the shower and I’m already drenched.
And here’s my 8 pic pano. of the cemetery that has absolutely nothing do with anything that I’m saying. Again- “time marker”. My blog is my little time capsule. I can tell where I was in my life (at whatever time) by the pics I take. I appreciate my ever-changing style too though, so this blog is a good way to track my growth and artistic evolution.
Until next time!
8 pic stitched-pano. Super-tak 50 MM f/4- film- cemetery- 8th. st.
Josh and I have been making some serious changes to our lifestyles. We watched the Netflix documentary What the Health two weeks ago, and were absolutely livid at how the animals are treated as they’re “super-raised”. Most all meat manufacturers (and “growers”) admitted that they pack their animals in so tightly that they can barely move around, and it’s not uncommon at all for many of them to be inundated in their own waste. In fact, many of them stand in several feet of their waste, and many of their neighboring animals were sick and diseased; those who weren’t sick and dying were already dead.
Watching that document opened a dialogue in which we discussed not only animal cruelty and our desire to omit all meats from our diets, but our desires to take better care of our bodies. I saw videos of people who were fighting cancer who decided to switch to a plant-based diet. After consuming a plant-based diet consistently for a year or so, one particular woman was able to eradicate cancer altogether. Today, she is healthy, happy, strong, and cancer free. Also, we learned that when a person eats meats- especially the unhealthy kinds- there are lipids and certain compounds that actually attack the arterial walls; not unlike a dart which sticks in the side of something. Over time, that dart changes the molecular structure of the artery so that it thickens up, ultimately causing it to harden.
Josh and I decided together that we would cut out all meats from our diet. Also though, we learned that milk manufacturers, and paid dairies, add hormones and other awful things to cow’s milk so that it contains puss and hormone-packed mucus that also contributes to unhealthy fats attacking our arteries. (Not to mention, milk does a number on both of our internal systems.) So, we tossed out milk as well. But then we learned that 1 egg yolk is equal to 5 cigarettes in the bad cholesterol department. So, bye bye eggs! As long as we’re cleaning house, we wanted to cover all of our bases.
That pretty much puts us level with vegans. Except, vegans don’t eat honey- seeing how honey is considered “animal-based”. But honey is where I draw the line. I consider raw honey somewhat of a super food, seeing how our it’s fantastic for boosting and protecting the immune system. Nope. Honey and I will never part. Besides, I don’t like to be labeled, and as far as I’m concerned, Josh and I are “plant-based” in our diet choices. We can eat anything we want, at any time. We just choose not to. And for me, having that allowance open at all times, but choosing not to will only continue to fortify our resolve.
We both feel so much better and far more energetic! It makes perfect sense, really. Eating meats (with all of its unhealthy fats) attack not only the arterial walls, but the brain itself. It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience a “clearing of the mind” when going Veganish, and that clearly happened to us as well. We’re alert, and focused and have even noticed that looking at lights and their auras seem so much brighter too. Everything is brighter! Josh has lost 10 lbs. in only two weeks and I’ve lost 7. We’re not even exercising yet, apart from the occasional mile walk at the park with our dogs, or the trip down to the river on the rocks. We’ve decided to join a gym, however, and are looking forward to starting that.
School is going terrific. I’m halfway through my 2nd semester. My two classes for now are: Addiction Counseling Theory and Practice, and Psychology of Addiction. Grad. studies are much different than I thought they would be! This stuff is not easy. I’m seriously giving some thought to obtaining my R.N. license in Nursing, after receiving my Master”s in Addiction Counseling, simply because I’m thinking about having a dual-license. I could work in Rehab as a nurse or an addictions counselor, but that’s so far down the road. And, as it goes with other things, that may not pan out at all. It’s all part of tossing ideas around until it gels and feels right. For now though, I’m focusing on Addiction Counseling.
I would have written here again sooner, but it was the holidays and Josh and I had to endure yet one more year of my sister inviting the entire family unit to her house for Christmas and purposely leaving us out. This has been going on every year for many years now. I’ve told her on more than one occasion that what she’s doing is extremely hurtful. It’s simply neither fair nor “right” to host the most family-focused event of the year at your house if you and another sibling are not speaking. What hurts the most, however, is that my mother knows that it cuts our hearts out, yet she continues to go over there- year after year- knowing that Josh and I are not welcome. It would have helped, tremendously, if my Mom chose to have the family gather at her house instead. That way nobody would feel left out and all would feel welcome, but that didn’t happen, so, we’ll forge ahead, Josh and I, alone.
Close the door and move on.
Meyer-Optik Görlitz Diaplan 80/2.8
Everything looks better in black and white. 🙂 (I know a few hundred people who’d agree.)
Spring Mill Park- Mitchell, Indiana – a warm day in February, on a day trip with Josh and Brianna- very little editing/Lensbaby Composer/ f/5.6
I don’t remember a crazier time in my life than the past 6 months.
I’ve been dealing with a dying family member, the hospitalization of one of my children, an ongoing legal situation that has drawn on for more than 3 years, and 9 months of freezing cold “Arctic showers”, thanks to a rickety old water heater.
Believe me when I say, those cold showers are no joke. I’m not at liberty to expound on any of the (aforementioned) scenarios- save the water heater- but suffice to say, this year has already damn near killed me.
But, you know what they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you
stronger bitter as hell! 🙂
But really, thankfully, we’ve finally been able to replace the water heater and are at long last taking scalding hot showers once again. The legal situation seems to be coming to an end, my child has made a miraculous recovery, and life seems to be slowly stabilizing once again, making me believe that it just might be doable. What’s made everything particularly challenging is the fact that I’ve battled through all of these things tackling 5 classes as well. The 5 classes alone are enough to take someone down, but combined with everything else, it’s really tested me to the fullest.
As long as I can come through it all with some compassion left in my heart and serenity in my soul- I really can’t ask for more than that. Understandably, I blew an exam in one of my Psych. classes- (unacceptable!)- but still have 4 strong A’s in my remaining 4 classes, so I’ll be working extra hard to repair my grade in my Psychology of Personality course. My GPA is still right at 3.6, but I’m working hard to try and boost that up to a 3.8 before applying to grad. school over the next few weeks.
I’ve been working hard trying to complete all of my requirements (on the side) for the Society of Leadership and Success, and I’m 3 small projects away from being fully inducted. Afterwards, I’ll be able to take advantage of most of the Society’s scholarships. I’m racing against so many deadlines! I’ll be graduating in May, so I’m continually racing against this merciless clock- and the world seems to be spinning so fast. The days are just flying by.
I’m so busy that I haven’t been able to go out on a proper photo shoot, except for the picnic at Spring Mill Park last weekend that Josh and I were able to take with Brianna. She’s been staying with us for the past week and I’ve been so happy to have my little girl back, if even for a few days. Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences is going remarkably well; I can’t believe I have an A in the class still. On that note, I can’t believe I’m still making the Dean’s List so far this semester. I’m almost at the halfway point: I just have to keep hanging in there. I nabbed a shot of a few (mock) soldiers out at the Pioneer Village on Saturday; it would have been better if the modern-day cars weren’t included in the shot, but I don’t have time to clone them out right now. Still, it’s a cool shot. And that super furry dude isn’t Wild Bill Hickok, it’s Josh, with his winter beard that I love.
The last of the snow- taken last week
Josh, overlooking the Ohio River at a restaurant called “The Overlook”
View of the Ohio River at the Overlook
Spring Mill Park/Lensbaby Composer/ f/5.6- manual- Feb. 20- Pioneers
Note to self: clone out those cars!
Josh and Brianna on our picnic
Josh, in the Weaver’s House- Pioneer Village
One of my favourite pics of Josh ever- love that BG.
Taken yesterday. Lensbaby Composer f/4.
The obligatory selfie/taken yesterday/Lensbaby Composer
That pretty much sizes up my mood right now. I think I’ve reached my serial killer threshold.
My alternator finally died (for good) and so I had little choice but to sell my lenses. Not my camera! Just the lenses. The good side is that I’ve fixed my car. The bad side is that I’m stuck with one 28 MM film lens which doesn’t even attach to my camera. Yeah. Hard times!
Nevertheless, I force myself to see this as a positive situation; with much everything else. Having to hold my lens up to my camera, I discovered that I can bend the light in Hitchcockian fashion, if I do it juuuuust right. I get a good amount of blur (which I love) and heavier in-camera contrast. Not a bad thing. The downside is that it really sucks having to hold your lens up to your camera manually.
Alas, it served its purpose, which was to distract me from having to write my 6 page term paper today. About…you guessed it! Serial killers. I can’t believe I’m actually looking forward to beginning my psychology classes again next month. A person can handle studying only so many paraphiliacs before the brain begins to involuntarily shut down.
Which is what’s happening in my case.
On to my paper…
Image may be purchased HERE
Stretched Canvas/Gallery Wrap
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.4 film
So in love with black and white!
I’ve got until Sunday to cover 400 pages- midterms. [Insert scream here!]
Midterms (and finals) are always so much freaking pressure! I’m still at a B+ in Behavioral Neuroscience and a strong A in Cognitive Psychology, but any ole way you slice it- midterms are crazy. I find myself using straight up avoidance (which is actually worse than denial, because at least with denial, you’re not always aware that you’re in denial, but with avoidance, it’s sort of like knowing you’re in denial and choosing to do so anyway- and yes, I’m aware that I’m starting to sound like a psychologist!) and so it’s Friday night and I’m down to the wire.
What am I doing? Installing Still Life II. I actually get to be the detective and the abducted person who’s trapped in the psycho serial killer’s booby trap-laden house (think : “Saw”).
Avoidance. Utter, blatant avoidance.
But fun! 🙂
And this is for you, Gav. I know you’ve been down lately, and you’re not feeling much inspired, but I want you to know just how much you inspire me. I have so much respect for you because over the past 8 years or so that I’ve known you (originally from Redbubble) but here too these past few years, you go out – day after day- and shoot nothing but black and white/monochrome. Street scenes, people- life. And, you have a prominent talent with shadows and lighting- which I love. I’ve only shared this with one other person, but I’ve decided to devote an entire year- all of 2015- to solely black and white/monochromatic photography. No colour allowed! For an entire year. it’s going to be great. 🙂 So, while you feel “blah” lately, please know that your work and talent continues to inspire others. This is for you:
Dried flower stems in a small vase. Simple. Beautiful.
I love my Helios 44-2 (M42) 58 MM. Best (film) lens ever. :0)
Yep. (Gas station lighting.)
Zeiss Jena Flektogon film lens/35-2.8
Pics taken manually with the Super Tak film lens + Digital Rebel XSI. Natural sunlight- some SOOTC/straight out of the camera/Spring Mill Park- Mitchell, Indiana 9/8/14 (“Painting with Light” my interpretation– start out with total blackness. Bring in the light subtly via ISO/sh. sp./ & ap.)
SOOTC/straight out of the camera- cropped only
Josh’s Potato Onion
Well life has been a crazy blur of love and laughter: the hardest winter of my life is over. Josh has come back from Shelbyville, and from wintering with his family and Heidi is in from Portland, OR. Brianna is visiting with her boyfriend, Will, and the living room is abuzz with chatter and laughter: I’m positively ecstatic and my heart full of love again.
I’m still drowning in schoolwork- that seldom changes- and I’ll be starting my intern work at the Psych ward soon. Today I’ll be cramming 50 pages of sexual deviance into my head and testing before midnight. (Lovely.) And so I must get started.
I’m off to bake a homemade apple pie with Josh. I wanted to pop in and say that I’m still alive- not only that- but doing very well.
Life is sweet again. 🙂
Until next time!
My son, Brian, and his little Mandy Tator Tots. Helios 44-2
For my friend: All the Avenues Look Ugly.
I know you hate the world, I do too sometimes, and I know you want to die and think about it a lot. I want to tell you while there’s still time that you are a beautiful person! We all shine in different ways. Some of us are happy, bubbly, people that refuse to see negativity in the world, and some of us see the wreckage because we know it’s there.
I wish I had something profound and life-changing to say. But I really want to say that even dead flowers in a jar can be beautiful, and the point to all of this is that I care. You are loved, friend.
Jellies at the Aquarium of the Smokies- Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Canon G3/manual)
Today is my birthday; I’m 44!
I have a roaring migraine.
But, given the circumstances, it’s not surprising. I could write a book on the (mis) adventures of our vacation in the Smokies, but my head won’t let me and I have to start on homework soon. Right- on my birthday-with a migraine. I’ll keep things short.
As we were leaving Maggie Valley in North Carolina on the 15th (Sunday), putting along down the interstate, my Mom’s car died. On the interstate. We pulled over off the highway and sat on the roadside. (It was 3:00 p.m. or so.) Numerous calls were made to AAA- hours went by- my daughter, Heidi, was violently ill and my Mom, who is almost 70, was exhausted. People needed to pee and we were making very little progress with AAA. More time passed. More calls were made. (More waiting. More calls.)
Finally, after being stranded on the interstate for 7+ hours, our guy pulls up in a (very) small tow truck. He then tells us that he can’t tow more than two people and we were basically screwed. I was able to pull a few strings and he called his buddy (unbeknownst to AAA) who owned a double cab who promised to come and tow us to a hotel and auto body shop.
More time passed. It was now pitch dark and we were on the side of the highway in a black car and a dead cell phone. Nice.
Finally, after much cussing and praying, our 2nd guy pulls up and tows us to safety and a Comfort Inn in Ashville, N.C. After hanging out on a small hill the following day, among the sweet smelling pines for several hours, we were told that the mechanics had found the problem and we would be on our way soon.
By this point, I had incredibly bad “highway hair” and could feel my head slowly cracking; I just wanted to prevent “the migraine”.
After returning home that evening, I was informed that our dog, Chance, had run out when Brianna left that morning. Naturally, I couldn’t receive text messages on the road because my cell phone had died hours before. After I was told that he had run outside 10 hours earlier, I was crushed. Josh and I spent the next few hours combing the city; whistling, calling…we didn’t find him. I was devastated. I couldn’t blame Brianna, of course. Chance no doubt wanted to be with us and might have run out to try and find us, but really, he’s a “bolter”. He loves to get out and run- full blast!
I didn’t get much sleep that night and cried, so much. Chance is my baby. I’ve trained him to fetch things, to give me a kiss, and he’ll chew on Josh’s beard, as if to groom him; it’s totally adorable. He’s been our baby for 10 months now, which makes it especially weird when I received an email from his former owner’s girlfriend, telling me that they received a call that Chance had been picked up (when we were broken down in N.C.) and at first, I was glad to see her email, as we have stayed in contact with each other, remotely. She has written me several times asking for updates on “Willy” (his previous name). I had felt a bit uncomfortable with her wanting to stay in contact with us (regarding Chance), but didn’t see any reason not to send her a few shots of Josh and Chance out at parks, etc. and share some information on how he’s doing. (Big mistake.)
After spending the night searching for Chance, crying- exhausted from being stranded on the highway and just exhausted in general from not eating and sleeping properly because of the whole chaotic “stranded situation”, I continued reading her email, and quickly became outraged. She had the audacity to tell me that they received a call that Chance had been picked up, and that she and her boyfriend were going to go and get him on Thursday (tomorrow), and that, “We are going to pick Willy up from LHS thursday and he will not be given back to your custody.”
After keeping her updated on his well-being and even sending her cute little pics of him? What the hell is wrong with people? They’ve lost their decency and ability to exhibit a smidgeon of compassion anymore it seems. She had no idea we were stranded, or that we’d all just been through 2 days of highway hell. (Yeah, and his name is not “Willy” lady! It’s Chance. Get it straight!)
When Josh and I got Chance from her and her boyfriend (also named Josh), they failed to mention that we would need to register Chance’s microchip with us. They gave us no information on it at all. It’s not absolutely mandatory and it has no bearing overall on actual and legal “ownership”. It’s a good idea for new owners to do that, but if the new owners choose not to, that doesn’t mean that the dog still belongs to the previous owners simply because his microchip number still bears their contact information. She could have chosen to contact us in a civil manner rather than outright threatening us. Not the best idea.
After researching microchip ownership and conferring with an attorney, I discovered that many animal shelters refuse to let a new owner register the animal’s microchip in his or her name, because often, the animal will wind up right back in the shelter and the shelter gets tired of having to (re) register the new contact information over and over again.
I would have been completely willing to continue to apprise the former owner of Chance’s well being and maybe even share a few more pics, but certainly not now. I believe she’s a bit unstable and out of touch with reality. Who would give you a dog and then tell you almost a year later that your dog is still named what they named him?
Things are slowly returning back to normal now; Josh is in the living room playing the guitar and singing, our feline and canine family are lounging around enjoying the music, and Bob is at the table with me- he wanted to come and see me for my birthday- it’s a treat. :0)
In other news, Carl is losing his fight against feline AIDS and although he’s still eating voraciously, the food is just going through him so quickly- like water- he’s wasting away. Brianna has made the executive decision to have him put to sleep tomorrow; she doesn’t want him to suffer further. She’s being incredibly strong right now and I’m so very proud of her.
Even with the migraine, the crazy mishaps in the mountains of North Carolina, and the psycho- former owner of my dog threatening to “dognap” him, I can say that all is well still: I’m alive and still carry a smile.
(selfie in the Smokies)
Tickles the cat.
Canon G3/manual/RAW/natural lighting
Heidi is here with us now; she’s hacking and coughing but still going to the Smokies with us; she’s a trooper. We leave in the morning. I’ve just finished an assignment (at 1:30 a.m.) and just want to shower and collapse. Unfortunately, I’ll have to take my laptop with me and complete several assignments overlooking the mountains on the cabin deck. Lovely.
I’ve purchased our Ripley’s Believe It or Not oddities museum and Aquarium tickets and have printed them out; they’re tucked away snugly in my purse. Josh says we’re both “overpreparers”. I can’t disgree- we spend more time preparing for a trip than we do actually on a trip. Brianna won’t be able to come along because she has to work.
It’s way past my bedtime.
Next time I write, I’ll be in the mountains. I hope the sunrise out on the deck with be misty and majestic. I’m craving coffee just thinking about it. Man I’m getting old…
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:
- Lighting and exposure
- 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
Sh. Sp.: shutter speed
WB: white balance
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
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.