Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playing around with photos

I've been learning how to use my camera's settings recently through Kat's online course and the last lesson  pushed me to begin exploring the Photoshop Elements program that I received last Christmas.  It's quite complicated to learn so I've been putting it off--but the journey has begun.

Up to now I've been using the iPhoto program to adjust contrast and saturation and color balance but the Elements programs also includes some very cool effects.

Just look at the differences between these photographs of an unknown plant in a pot that caught my eye in the garden shop.  I was drawn to the shapes of the leaves, the veining and the curly part in the centre but the photograph didn't really look like much even with cropping and increased contrast.

But when I added something called paint daubs it turned into something quite different.  The pink showed up a lot more.

Then when I added a holga lens effect it changed into something you might find in the Amazon jungle.

There are also different textures that can be added as layers in a photograph.  I'm still finding my way around this aspect.  Isn't it amazing how much learning there is to be done in this world?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Autumn mosaic

This has been a lovely autumn for leaf color so here's a mosaic featuring some of the trees and leaves that caught my eye over the last few weeks.  We're into the gloom now so it's nice to feast one's eyes on the warm fall color.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A mountain of leaves

Is it just me or has this autumn provided more than the usual quota of falling leaves?  I've asked others here in Victoria and the consensus is that it's been a bumper crop.  For whatever reason, we've been raking and blowing in our yard for many hours.  And the result has been this mountain of leaves.

Our municipality comes by with a truck to suck up the mountain and we're fortunate that they arrived yesterday--just before yet another storm.  

Do you see that green grass?  Today it's been covered again with a blanket of cedar blown off the trees from last night's windstorm.  I'm  nursing a pulled muscle in my back back from raking a couple of days ago and Harry's out there again with the blower.  But we're not complaining--we're saving money on gym memberships.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

From fall to winter

This image from our recent jaunt to Vancouver says it all.  We awoke to snow.  I guess winter's here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

David Suzuki's thoughts

A few days ago we went to a screening of David Suzuki's film,  Force of Nature, and after that we got to hear both him and Elizabeth May, Canada's only Green Party MP speak.  What a fascinating evening!  The film, Force of Nature is a distillation of this amazing man's life and thoughts.  It's a compelling call to all of us to get mobilized to do something now about overpopulation, climate change, and political apathy.
If you get a chance to see Force of Nature, make sure to do so.  The message in this film could be depressing but he has such energy and optimism and heart that it's actually very inspiring. 

One of the things Suzuki talked about after the film was the need for those who care about the environment and social programs to find a way to get together politically.  He spoke eloquently about the Occupy Movement and how it's opened a dialogue about capitalism and its failings.  And he also said something I've been saying for a while--that the left wing political parties, which are now split into three (Liberal, NDP, and Green), must find a way to coalesce as a valid opposition to the current Harper Government.  Until that happens effective change just won't come about.  

On a personal level, I'm trying to figure out how best to make small changes. Just what to do is of course the problem.  I've decided that what I can do is make sure to speak up about my views whenever possible.  It's important that we all speak our truth and avoid the temptation to shrug things off and ignore things.  We humans are creative and caring and now is the time to start turning the ship around.

If you want to learn about some small ways to make a difference, go to the David Suzuki Foundation's website and have a look around.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flying Betty

Here's my car (her name is Betty) and she's just hitting warp speed I think.  This was a lucky fluke from my most recent photography assignment.

I was learning about shutter speed and how images  change as shutter speed is adjusted.  I took many photos of cars on the highway starting with very fast shutter speeds and then slowing them down and down and down.  To me the most interesting photos were the ones with a lot of blur.  But the best of all was this photo of Betty accelerating.  The effect came from a car coming the other way with the blur perfectly placed to show the driverless car accelerating.  I've also adjusted it with antique colours in the post processing.  I'm having so much fun learning about all these things.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shadow on Hydrangea

As the sun sinks lower in the sky it casts lovely shadows.  This late season bloom was in the right place to display an intriguing shadow of the faded flower above it.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flower mosaic

Thanks to Anna from Alchemy of Art, I found a free application to create mosaic photos.  It's really easy at a website called bighugelabs.com/mosaic.php and I was able to create this in just a few minutes with my flickr account.  I'm using flickr for my photo course and it's pretty easy to use as well.

In doing this I see that it does take some skill to select photos that work together, depending on the light and dark areas and the direction the flowers are facing. This was my third try. I'm going to do some more of these in the upcoming days. (The learning never ends!)

And if you like nature photographs, check out Anna's blog.  It's very inspiring.

Thanks so much for your suggestions Anna.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dog games

Every morning we take the dogs to the park by the school to play.  For us it's sometimes a chore but for the dogs it's the high point of their day.

I'm learning to use shutter speed in my camera to stop the action and here are a few of the first attempts.  I still have much to learn but thought I'd share these photos of the dogs' games.  They are pretty entertaining.

Here Maggie's running around in circles while Geordie watches the Frisbee sail above his head.

Whenever Mags catches the ball she does a big victory lap around us all.

Geordie sometimes plays with the Frisbee as if it's a squirrel he's trying to shake the life out of.

He's awfully proud when he catches it.  (He's always on a rope in case he needs to be reined in.)

When the games are over we say, "We're going now"-- and that's the signal for Maggie to start leaping around like a baby goat to try to entice Geordie into one more game.

They really are such characters!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gerbera daisies

So I was unable to find a way to put these four photos in a square frame.  Here there are in sequence.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nine image frame

Does anyone know how to create a nine image frame box to post multiple images like this?

x        x        x

x        x        x

x        x        x

Or even like this?

X           X

X            X

You know, the way that the followers show on some sidebars, in little squares bunched together.

I have some flower shots that I'd like to present in this format on my blog and I can't find out how to do it.  Is there something I can download to help me?  By the way, I don't know how to work with scripts.

Hummingbird at the window

We have hummingbirds in our back yard and I can't tell you the joy they bring us.  We faithfully keep the feeder filled and are rewarded with visits many times a day.  As summer ends the Rufus hummers leave and the Anna's Hummingbirds take over the plum tree.  Both are beautiful birds but I've not been able to get very good photos of them.  Until now.

I've been learning a lot through the online digital camera course I'm taking with the Kat Eye Studio. This week we were working on depth of field achieved through a wide open lens. The photo above was taken with a shallow depth of field so that the background of the plum tree is blurred and doesn't distract from the bird.

But I discovered that my hands aren't steady enough to take a clear photo in this situation without a tripod.  So off I went to buy one (on sale -- only $24), and with its help I was able to capture this little male Anna's at the feeder.  Now I feel like both a birder and a real photographer!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunlight on oak leaf

Another image from my walk in the park the other day.  I love the light shining through these leaves and the glimpses of sunlight in the dark background. To me this is quintessential autumn.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beacon Hill Park, late afternoon


Photos from an afternoon stroll in the golden sunlight in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park.

I'm really enjoying getting to know my new camera's capabilities.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lemon and blueberry gelato

When we were in Italy in June I became addicted to gelato.  I think I had a least one gelato every day I was there.  So it was only natural when we got together with some friends to view some of the photos from our trip that I would serve gelato.

It is possible to buy it here but it's very expensive so I looked into making it myself.  I found lots of recipes for gelato online, most of which called for an ice cream freezer.

And I actually had one of them sitting in the back of a cupboard.  We got it as a gift over twenty years ago and it even survived our most recent move.
This is the gizmo.  Inside the plastic case is a heavy aluminum double sided container the you put in your freezer overnight.  Then you fill it with the mix and  stir it around with the handle for a few minutes to create a frozen treat.

For gelato you use a custard made with egg yolks, sugar, and milk or cream, plus  plus the flavor element.  We'd been enjoying lemon gelato and other fruit flavors so that's what I decided to make.  I have to admit that it isn't diet food though.  The lemon mix includes six egg yolks plus a pint of whipping cream.  But it tastes sublime.

The blueberry mix has less cream so makes you feel a little bit virtuous.  And isn't it a most amazing colour?

Here's the recipe in case you happen to have an ice cream maker hiding in your cupboard.

Blueberry Gelato

3 ½ cups blueberries  (Can be frozen or fresh)
5 egg yolks
2 cups milk cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup water

Step 1 -- make blueberry sauce

In saucepan dissolve 1 cup of sugar in ¾ cup of water over medium heat.  Add blueberries and simmer for a couple minutes until you have blueberry sauce.  Cool it and then blend it at high speed and set aside.

Step 2 -- Make custard

Beat the egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar, then add ½ cup of heavy cream and beat until creamy and white.  In a saucepan heat the milk and the rest of the cream until bubbles form at the edges.  Take ½ cup of this hot mixture and add it to the creamy mix while constantly stirring to temper the egg mixture.  Then pour the custard back into the pan and cook slowly until it coats a spoon.  Cool quickly in a sink full of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Step 3 -- Mix and cool

Add the blueberry sauce to the custard and cool overnight in fridge.  Then freeze in your ice cream freezer.

If you can't eat it right away just keep it in the freezer but make sure to take it out and let it warm up and melt a bit before you serve it.  Apparently gelato freezers are not as cold as those used to store ice cream.  Gelato changes from solid quite quickly and the trick is to get it just the right consistency.   Mine tasted just as good as the stuff I remembered from Italy.

We're going to be trying other flavors very soon.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Frosty leaf abstracts

The other morning while playing with the dogs under a tree I looked down to see the sun beginning to melt the frost off the fallen leaves.  Of course I had to stop and take dozens of images.  Here are just a few.  It was hard to choose.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Flower rescue

The other day while playing with the dogs across the street at Haliburton Farm I noticed that there were new buds on the tree peony in front of the house.  This plant has been blooming all summer but it seemed to have begun again even as the frost came on.  I felt it was my duty to rescue these buds and bring them into my kitchen to see what they might do.  They seemed to have been affected by the cold as they didn't open up quite the way they usually do.

The petals stayed crumpled and stuck together as in the photo above.  There are actually six petals but each is stuck to the one behind it.  Of course it's the centre of the peony that's really stunning.  I love the details of the pistil surrounded by all the waving stamens. I was hoping that they'd all open up to give me a big beautiful bouquet but most of them had already suffered from frost.

This back view shows what was happening.  The inner parts is ready to see the world  but the petals are still stuck together in front.  This one did finally open but within hours the  stamens began dropping, followed quickly by the petals.  But what a beautiful sight to see its life force pushing through!

I'm glad I rescued these flowers even if it was only for a short burst of beauty.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall inspiration

 This morning the grass was white with frost; very apt for the first day of November.  Time to pull out the winter clothes and the hats and gloves for our walks with the dogs or working in the garden.  We're deep into our fall routines now.

These include garden cleanup, Pilates, and now learning Italian.  We are both attending a weekly class at the university here on Monday mornings.  We're supplementing this with an online course that gives us lots of practice listening and speaking.  It's fun to learn a new language, especially Italian with its lovely sound, and the accompanying idea that we may again travel to Italy.

Meanwhile I'm enjoying the bright fall days and taking lots of pictures of the fall color and in the evenings we're building cozy fires and watching Montelbano, an intriguing Italian police drama to get additional language practice.   Fall is really quite an inspiring time of year.