Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fun with Photography


Here's a before-and-after kind of thing.  This is a tiny Tequila Sunrise rose (the plant is no more than 6" high at this point) in my garden.  The blossom is beautiful, but the background is not great, so I've used some textures on it to make the background more harmonious.  Here's the original, SOOC (straight-out-of-the-camera):

And here's the one with textures on it:  

I wanted to enhance green in the background, so I used the following Flypaper Textures (and blend modes):  1)  Grosgrain (hard light), 2) Verdegris Mist (soft light), and 3) Florek Ice (color burn). 

I think the result does justice to my little flower . . . 

[Visit The Daily Wyatt to enter your textured pic]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I tumbled for words at once . . .


One of my favorite pieces of writing is Dylan Thomas' "Notes on the Art of Poetry," something he wrote in the early 1950's and which has appeared in a number of different forms.  He talks about having loved words before he could even understand what they meant:  "what mattered was the sound of them . . . and these words were, to me, as the notes of bells, the sounds of musical instruments, the noises of wind, sea, and rain, the rattle of milkcarts, the clopping of hooves on cobbles, the fingering of branches on a window pane, might be to someone, deaf from birth, who miraculously found his hearing." 

 [Beautiful textures by Original Art Studio and Flypaper Textures]

I can't remember a time when I didn't love words -- like Thomas, I tumbled for them at an early age and have been tumbling for them ever since.  I hear that some people think in pictures, but I never have -- I think in words and have odd words and phrases floating in and out of my head all day, a sort of "Greatest Hits" from a lifetime of drinking words in as if they were a 15-year-old Armagnac, rolling them around on the tongue, feeling their warm glow as I take them in. At any given moment, if we were able to do a Vulcan mind-meld, you might hear echoing around in my dark cranium:

. . . Tarquin's ravishing strides . . .
. . . the multitudinous seas incarnadine . . .
. . . alabaster crematoria . . . 
. . . Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow . . . 

[Check out Watchful Wednesdays . . . ]

. . . yondir boyes in hir bryghte weedis . . . 
. . . on the most on the molde on measure hygh . . . 

Many, but not all, of my "floaters" come from Shakespeare; many, but not all, are poetry, because poetry by its very nature has a high pleasure-to-word ratio.  But I like prose, too:  "Isn't it pretty to think so" (Hemingway), "and so we beat on, boats against the current . . . " (Fitzgerald), and bits of Joan Didion have taken up permanent residence in my head.

I think photography can be equally as compelling as words, but I'm still compiling my Greatest Hits in that category.  But sometimes I feel like I'm capturing words in an image, like this one that makes me think of Ezra Pound:

[Textures by Kim Klassen and Flypaper Textures]
I'm sure I will write more about words as time goes on, but for now I'd like to know -- if you love words, too, what floats through your head?  Where does it come from? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More tulip mania


[Thanks to Flypaper Textures]

Tulip Mania


Who doesn't love tulips?  The colors of the flowers, the green speary leaves, the neatness of their petals, all combine to make a most pleasing appearance.  Tulips, third most popular flower in the world, come in 3000 varieties, some striped, some frilly, all beautiful and colorful.

Tulips have inspired many artists:  Jan Brueghel the Elder, Hans Bollongier, and the prolific Anonymous, whose painting represents the most expensive tulip sold during the "tulip mania" that struck Holland in the 1630's, at the height of which, a single bulb sold for an amount that would have "clothed and [fed] an entire Dutch family for half a lifetime" (James Grout).    

In the language of flowers, tulips represent "perfect love"; their black center is a lover's heart, "darkened by the heat of passion."  I love tulips; with peonies and ranunculus (oh, and lilacs), they are my favorite flowers.  They are extremely photogenic and lend themselves to the kind of treatment I enjoy -- here, I'm working on making them look like old botanical illustrations.  Elegant in their simplicity, they are beautiful heralds of the spring.  Stay tuned for more tulip portraits, later today.

[Note:  The picture is processed with Kim Klassen's "Chamomile," "Warmsun," and "Sweettreat2" textures.  Thanks, Kim.]


Monday, March 28, 2011

Can you imagine us years from today . . .


Dear friends,

I had a post on tulips all ready to go this morning, but I woke up  thinking about friends and decided to save the tulips until another day.  Entering the blogosphere means that you will soon acquire a bunch of new "friends" -- but will any of them become real friends?  And where do true friends come from?   It seems to me that they fall into a couple of groups.

The Proximity Friend:  Many people fall into this category -- the elderly neighbor you pass last week's People magazine to, the folks you wave to when you volunteer at the dog shelter, the barista at Peet's who asks about your children by name, the forum friend who's helping you with the new hobby you'll be dropping next week.  Because these friendships are dependent on your both being in the same place at the same time, when you're no longer there, these friends likely will not be either.  But they occasionally blossom into "Volunteer Friends," see below.

The Comrade-in-Arms:  Work friends, church friends, parents on the PTA -- these people you know for a long time, and you fight the good fight together, raging against the administration or management, strategizing to get a new procedure put into place or an event to happen, sharing the latest gossip about this one or that one.  These people can be good friends for years (especially if you rarely change jobs), but unless you make the leap to sharing things that go beyond the particular venue, when the long hours you spend together are curtailed, your friendship is likely to be curtailed too.

The Volunteer Friend:  No, these are not people who sidle up to you to say "Can I be your friend?"  They are friends that take you by surprise -- you know how when you spread compost in a garden, and then some time later, you see something sprouting that turns out to be a random, beautiful "Love-in-a-Mist"?  Those are garden "volunteers," and volunteer friends are those that emerge surprisingly in a place you never imagined, but you suddenly find yourself really, really liking this person and wanting to know them better.  They can be a forum friend that you wind up traveling to meet and spending the weekend laughing with (after ascertaining that neither of you is an axe murderer), or the person who comes to design your garden and spread the compost and becomes so much more . . . (you know who you are, Jana).   Because they are so unexpected, these friends are treasures.

The Dear Friend:  These people enrich your life; they have moved beyond the category of "just a friend" to something much more meaningful.  They are there when you call; they listen; they commiserate; they say "Just let me grab my purse," when you want to go to the new museum exhibit; they send you an email about the great book they're reading; you're invited to their children's weddings, even if you don't know their child that well, because they want you to share the happiness. These friends are the constants that give a life its shape and help make it worth living.

The Friend-of-the-Heart:  These friends are extremely rare, and because of that, in a way, the most precious.  You may not see them very often -- in fact, years may go by before you actually meet, though in the days of the internet, you may be in contact.  These are the people who have known you since you were in 7th grade, your first real friend in the world, your college roommate, the people who know you warts and all because they were with you at a time when life was intense (adolescence, young adulthood), when you were unformed and vulnerable and went around with all nerves exposed.  You shared things with them that you may not have ever told your spouse or partner about; you laughed until your sides split, practiced kissing on spoons in case anyone ever asked you on a date, sprawled on the bed together reading Lady Chatterley's Lover to each other, watched reruns of Star Trek while munching on Screaming Yellow Zonkers.  Hearing the first few bars of a song can bring flooding back a time you shared with these friends.  With these friends, it doesn't matter how much time you've spent apart or how much grey you have in your hair now -- when you are together, the years fall away, and there's an intimacy you have with few people in the world outside of family (and maybe not even with them, in a way).  These are friends that never, ever leave your heart.

Here are some tulips anyway, two tulips for all friends, old and new and yet-to-be.  

[Thanks to Flypaper Textures]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just for Fun --


 [Thanks to Flypaper Textures]

There are many sites/blogs on the web where you can have fun with photography, and I will feature them from time to time so that you can join in the fun, too (you all do photography these days, don't you? :)  Today I introduce you to Kristy's Life-n-Reflection, a rich site where you can do all kinds of things -- enter photography challenges, learn about different kinds of processing, and get lots of tips on how to make your photographs great.  Today, among other things, you can enter the "Texture Twist."  If you like to use textures, as I do, you can enter the challenge by posting a picture on your blog and leaving a link to it on Kristy's Texture Twist page.  Whether you win or not, challenges are always fun, and they really help you grow as a photographer -- I owe much of my initial development to a couple of great challenge groups on flickr (more about those another day).  So pick up your camera, fire up PS or PSE or GIMP or whatever you use, and have fun.  That's what it's about.

Here's my entry, from a recent trip to Cabo San Lucas -- this beautiful Madonna and angels are in the church in El Triunfo, an old silver mining town between Cabo and La Paz.

And here's a link to Kristy's page:

In Just- spring


In my part of California, the transition between winter and spring is not so sweet or joyous as it is in other places; we slip and fade from one into the other, without crocuses peeping up through snow or rhythmic drops falling from icicles. We're neither exhausted from five months of snow-shoveling nor cranky and depleted from lack of sunshine, and we don't put our winter clothes in mothballs because we don't have winter clothes, just less summery ones.

And yet . . . in a place that is basically desert rimmed by a little ribbon of coastal abundance (take a look at Sunset's climate zones), we do have a sign of spring: Green. And Yellow. Verdure. Freshness. Green blanketing the hills like velvet. Yellow mustard so brilliant that if you saturate it enough in a photograph, it looks fake.

Farmers grow mustard as a cover crop that they then plow under to enrich the soil. Like the yellow flowers, the green velvet hills are soon gone. Their transitory presence is therefore accompanied by a poignancy that hurts the heart -- they are there, but they will soon go, and unlike the places with real summer, with rain and peonies and cumulonimbus clouds and fireflies, California will be dry and cloudless until November, and the hills will be the hue (let's be honest, brown) that gives the Golden State its name.

I always feel sad to see these things disappear, and I look forward to when the cycle returns to them.  But summer has its charms too, I guess, and I think of George Santayana's view:  

[Linkup to Quotography]

 "To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Turn and Face the Strange . . .


I hate change. Seriously, I do -- when I move into a place, I put the furniture down and never move it again. Never. If I like the green curry or beef teriyaki at a restaurant, I will order that and nothing else, or if I do order the red curry, I will immediately regret it. I have worn my hair the same way for about, oh, 25 years now. So making all the changes I've made in the past seven years has been unsettling, to say the least: deciding to end a 28-year marriage, playing the dating game for the first time in 30 years, meeting and marrying a wonderful man, acquiring the little girl I'd always wished for, moving far from where I'd lived for most of my adult life, changing positions at work, actively planning my retirement -- and wondering where I got the ooomph to do it all, to uproot myself from essentially everything I've ever known and plunk myself down in a completely different world.

Accompanying all these life changes has been a creative change as well -- having defined myself as a writer since childhood, I am now reinventing myself as a photographer and artist. In a way, the change from being accomplished in my work and creative life to being a newbie, from being a teacher to a learner, from being verbal to visual, has been as startling and unsettling as any of the other major changes I've made -- in a way, more so. It involves literally seeing the world differently, from a different vantage point, and also opening myself up to experimentation, error, and failure, along with surprise, delight, and success. It has moved me way out of my comfort zone, but in the end, that's a good thing, because it allows me to see that hating change is a way of staying closed to life, of hoarding up and protecting what's safe and predictable, of saying no to the possibilities that still exist out there, no matter what stage of life you're walking through.

"So I turned myself to face me . . . " If nothing ever changes, then you never have to take a look at yourself, because it's all so well known. Take a chance. Turn and face the strange.

And here are some little orchids that are kind of strange.

[Thanks to Florabella Textures]

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Flower after the Rain


And because it's been raining for days, a flower for you all:

Just Jump In . . .


Welcome to my journal! I have been an educator for most of my adult life, a teacher of teachers, a writer and teacher of writers, but in the past few years, I have become a learner again and am in the process of reinventing myself. So with some confidence, at this point I can say: I am a photographer and digital artist living on the Central Coast of California. I am inspired by nature in its many forms, by the sea and its environs, by the beautiful agricultural world that encircles us in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Having long contemplated beginning a blog, I've decided to just jump in. I'll be finding my way for a bit, but I want to start out by linking to some of my favorite places on the web, to people and places that have played an important role in the reinvention of this one woman:

Flypaper Textures: Jill and Paul create some of the most beautiful textures on the web, and they are very generous with their "recipes" for the pictures they create.

Cambridge in Colour: An amazing community of photographers, populated with incredibly helpful, generous and often irreverent people; includes excellent tutorials for doing the various things we do with pictures.

Kim Klassen Cafe: Kim is another very generous web resident who offers free textures to fans and who has created a number of short courses on Photoshop and textures that she offers at a very reasonable cost. Thanks, Kim!

WoodSong Nature Photography: Cindy Mead is a wonderful nature photographer and artist. Her blog is lovely, as is her website. A fierce advocate for nature in all her forms, Cindy captures its beauty in her images.