Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Texture Tuesday Simplicity eDition


Today's Texture Tuesday challenge was to use Kim's "Simplicity" texture. Again, I couldn't resist grabbing up one of those $3.99 bulb pots at Kroger. They are just perfect for this type of composition.

I used my super cool new Nikon Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Lens to create the dreamy blur effect. I'm really enjoying this lens. Kim said her 1.4 changed her life, and I believe it.

Next month's Monthly Mosaic challenge is themed around the color purple and the concept of tranquility. I know this one will make it into my February Mosaic for sure.

Simplicity and repose. Two wonderfully inviting words, don't you think? If only...

Not today for me though. I'm in a bit of a rush because I have to take my car for its 100,000 mile maintenance before work as I have a very BIG and SPECIAL road trip planned very very SOON!

The next two months will be anything but simple and restful. They are going to be packed to the brim with activity, chaos and lots and lots of excitement. I can hardly wait. Stay tuned for details.

Today's Linkups


Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday's Magnetizing Monthly Mosaic

january mosaic

This blog post is brought to you by the letter M.

Today, I'm linking up with Magnetized by Life's Monthly Mosaic Challenge. Each month, there will be a color story based on this chart.

colour - dark red
theme - health & commitment

Here are the rules:

1. capture colour of the month images that represent the theme for that month.

2. write a few words to accompany your image about the theme for that month. it may be something that inspired you, was relevant to you, or something you want to share for that month.

3. a quote to accompany your mosaic.

So, here goes...

"Red is the ultimate cure for sadness" - Bill Blass

The gray of January has descended and is quite possibly the most depressing time of year for me. Christmas and all the holiday festivities are over, the weather generally sucks (although I must admit we've had a few nice days here and there), and reality sets in regarding all the over zealous new years' resolutions.

I think many of us who got carried away with new year enthusiasm and signed up for new classes and blog memes are starting to feel the pressure and wonder what the heck we were thinking? All I really want this month is to crawl under the covers and hibernate.

Focusing on the color red this month has provided a welcome respite from all the gray, gloom, and all the sad things weighing on my heart right now. The tulips, in particular remind me that spring is around the corner and yesterday I noticed a few red buds starting to emerge on my red bud tree. Note to self: capture them.

This little pot of tulips have had more than their 15 minutes of fame, but I am giving them one more showing over at Lisa Gordon's Creative Exchange.

dark tulips

And while we are on the subject of the color red, I will leave you with a song that never fails to cheer me up by a lady whose name also begins with the letter "M" - Maia Sharp. It is called, Red Dress. I have one in my closet and I may just have to put it on.

Today's Linkups

magnetised by life badge

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Soup


Over at Flickr, the Macro Monday weekly challenge is to create a diptych which is defined as "a work of art or photograph made up of two different (yet corresponding) parts which are presented side-by side making a single and cohesive image."

Today's image reflects a new recipe I tried this week for Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup. The recipe calls for jarred red peppers, so I'm cheating a little. Fresh red peppers make a more interesting picture.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is low-carb. For those of you who try to follow a low-carbohydrate diet, you know that traditional tomato soups are high in sugar and generally off limits. This is a delicious alternative.

I found this receipe on a low carb online forum, but modified it because I found the amount of heavy cream was just a bit too much. I'm not claiming this was low calorie, but it is low carb. In winter I really miss tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I bet a little cheddar sprinkled on top would be a nice addition.

Here's the recipe. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Low Carb Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

1 large jar of roasted red peppers. drained
1 15 oz. can whole or diced tomato, roasted or regular
1 c. 2% Hood Calorie Countdown milk (unlike regular milk this brand has only 3 carbs per serving)
1 15 oz. can chicken broth
¼ c. sweet red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs. red wine vinegar (for acidity)
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. onion powder & garlic powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt or to taste
½ tsp. dried basil
3 pkg. Splenda or other sugar substitute to taste
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream for later. Set aside

Sautee onions until translucent and then add garlic, careful not to brown it too much.

Add remaining incredients except cream and simmer uncovered about 25 minutes, stirring often.

Allow to cool and then puree in a blender until smooth.

Add cream and heat on low until cream is dispersed. Garnish with fresh basil before serving if desired.


As far as my photoshop recipe goes, I did do a little white balance adjusting in Photoshop Camera Raw and softened everything up a bit with Topaz Labs' Adjust 5 French Countryside preset.

It is also time to link up with Urban Muser's self portrait project. This month's theme is "pieces of me." I was looking for something red to include in my monthly mosaic, and remembered these red gloves.


Four was a meaningful number for me this month, so I'll just go with this for my contribution to the monthly linkup.

Today's Linkups

In The Picture

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trying Softer

try softer

Over at Beyond Layers, our focus this week is blur. Somehow that sounds a bit contradictory doesn't it?

For this assignment, Kim gifted us with a new texture to try entitled "Plaster Squared." She also challenged us to choose a theme based on a single word, thought or mood. Today's image are the same tulips I featured last week, just opened up and revealing their lovely interiors.

Soft is the word that came to my mind with this project, and I was reminded of the advice John Ortberg gave in his book The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You. That is, instead of always trying harder, why not try softer?

I'm a try hard person. That's not necessarily a bad quality to have, and trying hard has allowed me to get ahead in circumstances when I didn't have the natural talent, ability, or education to smooth the path for me. Trying hard has allowed me to push through pain, overcome odds, and transcend adverse circumstances.

But, as Ortberg observes, "there are limits to what trying harder can accomplish." Trying hard has a dark side as well. It can make us prideful, judgemental, controlling, pushy, and rigid.

Trying too hard can also be self-defeating, painful, and lead to feelings of frustration and failure when nothing you "do" seems to bring about the desired outcome.

Some things just can't be fixed, no matter how much elbow grease you put into it. Sorta like this dang circular polarizing filter that seems to be permanently affixed to the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 lens I got for Christmas. Apparently, many people have complained about this particular problem with this type of lens, and the general advice WAS to try softer and not squeeze so hard. Still no luck. I'm either going to have to try a filter wrench, take it to a shop, or resign myself to using this lens primarily for outdoor photography.

This past week I've experienced the less desirable effects of trying too hard, so much so, that I'm going to give the trying softer chapter of Ortberg's book a thorough reread.

While I prepared to trudge back over this all too familiar territory, I decided to console myself with some retail therapy and purchased a new Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Lens per Kim's recommendations for achieving this soft and dreamy effect.

The most awesome part about it was that I had a $50 credit at Amazon, and it was on sale, so I got a great deal. No doubt I have a huge learning curve on this lens, but I'm already in love with it.

So, I'll leave you today with some samples of my first attempts with the lens.

The one below is SOCC (straight out of the camera) with only a white balance adjustment in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw).

three tulips

This one went through a bit more adjusting in ACR and I put some additional "Soft Focus" on it with Topaz Labs Adjust 5.

Soft, What Light Through Yonder Window

Today's Linkups

beyondlayersQuotography at {My}Perspective

Friday, January 27, 2012

Solitary Journey

Solitary Journey

Today's PhotoArt Friday challenge is to use three different photographs in a composition. This seemed like a prime opportunity to create another piece for my illustrated memoir of my journey into solitude and silence at St. Mary's Sewanee.

This image utilizes Bonnie's "Impressionistic Music" texture and loads of Topaz Labs adjustments. I used both "French Countryside" in Topaz Adjust 5, and BuzSim in Topaz Simplify.

Today's Linkups

Photo Art Friday

Thursday, January 26, 2012


red peppers

In January the weather is supposed to be frightful, but the kind of fright we've had is not snow, cold and ice. Rather, it has been a lot of unseasonably warm temperatures and all night tornado warning vigils.

Winters in Tennessee aren't all that beautiful. Everything is just sort of brown and gray, and we don't get that much snow if at all. Although Monday evening the sunset was so spectacular that all my local friends were taking pictures and posting them on facebook. And, I...I did not have my camera with me. Lesson learned.

Anyway, it looks like this may be one of those snowless winters, although the way the weather in Nashville is we may get a blizzard somewhere around the end of March. This morning as I took Grand-dog Crockett out for his morning constitutional the weather was downright balmly.

Regardless of what mother nature may or may not have in store for us this winter, my intention in this season was to focus more on indoor shooting - specifically still life compositions. Today's image, which will be shared over at This or That Thursday was shot in my newly cleaned out basement "studio" if you can call it that. One day, I'll post a picture of what it really looks like.

The textures are Kim Klassen creations (Paper 4 and Granny's Cupboard) and as usual, I did a lot of adjusting in Topaz Labs. Speaking of Topaz, they offer some really great tutorials and free online webinars that have been very helpful. Of the three I've participated in so far, they've had a drawing for a free license for the product they are discussing. If you are curious about Topaz, visit their web site and see all the great information they provide, online training and free trial versions.

Today's Linkups

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sadness Flies Away

sadness flies away

Today's quotography theme is sadness, and there is very little photography in this image save the clock face (from my dad's collection). It turned out a little dark, so I may work on it a little more later and submit it as some sort of encouragement greeting card to make available at Greeting Card Universe.

Speaking of GCU, I should be receiving my first commission check from them shortly. It will be approximately $78, and most of that is from sales of the patriotic greeting card I created benefitting the LCPL Franklin N. Watson Scholarship fund. I'll be happily sending that money along (along with a personal donation) as soon as I get it.

In terms of money made with my art, the GCU avenue has definitely been the clear winner. The only thing I've sold on Fine Art America has been to myself. I'm doing very little to market myself there anyway. But, some of you have asked how that's going and I wanted to report back to you.

I got a call yesterday for a small free lance web design gig that I'm excited about. More details will be forthcoming later, as well as a discussion of my web design history and aspirations.

Macro & Monochrome  {EXPLORED}Even more exciting was finding my very first photo made it to Flickr Explore! This is sort of the grand prize for flickr photogs. There's no money or prize except for that huge adrenaline rush that courses "feel good" hormones through your entire body. That's a pretty good prize. Please may I have some more?

It is my understanding that it is quite difficult to get a photo to Explore and its not always the best photos that make it because there's a complex super secret algorithm that determines what they call "interestingness." There are several sites that explain (as best they can) how this all works, and here's one I found.

You might be wondering if you've had a photo make it to Explore. Flickr doesn't tell you, and unless you notice it or someone congratulates you you may not know it. You can find out by using Big Huge Lab's "Scout" service, which is how I found mine. It is sort of ironic that I searched for the very first time the DAY AFTER my image made it.

Finally, it is World Bird Wednesday over at Pine River Review and I'm picking this Robin shot last spring while on personal retreat.

Red Robin building a nest

Today's Linkups

Quotography at {My}Perspective

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Standing at the Fork in the Road

fork in the road

Today's image was taken last fall while on retreat at St. Mary's Sewanee, which was my fifth sojourn to the mountain in a year for the purpose of resting in silence and solitude.

On my first retreat, I had no idea where either of those roads lead and was a bit afraid to venture up there. On subsequent visits, I grew braver, chose a path and walked it.

Perhaps this scene reminds you, as it did me, of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Well, folks, I can tell you it made no difference at all, they both led to the exact same place - The Templeton Library. One road was apparently going up and the other for coming back down.

It was a beautiful building with a breathtaking view from the top of the bluff overlooking Winchester, TN. In front is a large and well kept pond with benches for sitting. I've spend many mornings up there by those still waters, praying, meditating and just enjoying nature's beauty.

So, I suppose Yogi Berra was being more than funny when he quipped "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

One of my all time favorite songs, "Watershed" by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls hits me right where I live in so many ways. Initially I was hooked by the line "every five years or so, I look back on my life and I have a good laugh."

How many of us can identify with that? When I look back on my own in five year increments (which is easy for someone math impaired like me since my birth year ends in 5), I am astounded by how much can change, how much I can change, and how differently things turned out from what I would have expected.

The song is primarily about making choices, and the futily of over-thinking our decisions.

The chorus goes like this:

Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony's your heaviest load.
You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.

Today's Texture Tuesday challenge is to depict a "story". The textures on this image were Kim Klassen's "Paper 4" and "Storm." I'm also still enjoying playing around with Topaz Labs to create painterly effects.

One of my projects is to write a memoir about the time I spent in silence and solitude up on that mountain and illustrate it with my photographs. I've pretty much made the decision to make photoart out of all the images, using Photoshop, plug-ins like Topaz Labs and Rad Lab, and textures. But, that's a story for another time.

Over at Beyond Layers we've been having fun discussing our stories in a much, much, shorter form - six words. Smith Magazine is the home of the Six Word Memoir, and people from all over share their stories in six words.

Since I'm not known for my brevity, and I generally use too many words to get a single point across, I do find this quite challenging. Here are a few I tried:

Oh! Now I get it! Duh!

There's a reason for all this.

Don't worry, it will grow back. (inspired by my son Adam)

You can't make this stuff up.
But, I think I'm going to just unapologetically plagarize Ms. Saliers and choose this one as my final answer:

Every choice is worth your while.

Today's Linkups


Monday, January 23, 2012

Macro and Monochrome Monday

Macro & Monochrome

It has been awhile since I participated in Macro Monday over at Flickr, and being blocked for ideas this morning, I decided to check out today's theme which is "monochrome."

This is a rose from my garden captured last summer. I did quite a bit of tweaking to get the details and tones right in Topaz Labs

It would have been better if I'd had more time, but I'm running late.

Ciao for now!

Today's Linkups

Sunday, January 22, 2012


simple tulips

This week's challenge over at Beyond Layers was to go minimalist and lighthanded with processing. I have a tendency to go heavy on the texture and love to use saturated, dark and moody tones in my photos, but I've also always admired Kim's flair for light, breezy, sigh-inducing stills.

She gave us a lovely texture named "Awaken" to work with, and this is the only texture used in the image. The final result seemed to awaken an immediate longing for spring in some of my flickr friends, so I believe the texture was aptly named. I'm ready for spring, too.

I also did some "light" tweaking in Topaz Labs and Photoshop Camera Raw as well.

I saw this little pot of tulips at my local Kroger and thought they would be the perfect subject, and for $3.99 it wasn't that hard to decide. I'll be planting them in my garden once it is time.

The stunning lighting was made possible by morning light streaming through the french door leading out from my walkout basement. And taking advantage of that light would have not been possible had it not been for my son's diligent efforts over the last three weekends to declutter my basement. He cleared enough space to make it possible to set up stills using that wonderful diffused light (I have sheers on the window for some privacy).

We still have a good bit of work to do, including some demolition of the half way started attempt to turn it into a basement apartment that the previous owner made, but I am beginning to visualize what an awesome studio/work area this could be. For a basement, the light is good and there's plenty of space.

I've lived in this house for thirteen years and imagineered many different uses for this space: a rec room for the kids (who have now moved out), an apartment that I could rent out, a bitchin home office, and even an tricked out master suite. I never had either the money or the time to execute any plans. Maybe it was just meant to be my studio. Who knows? All I know is that my tiny home office upstairs is not going to be big enough to house all my props.

My set up for this shot was simple - a piece of foam poster board on the floor by the door and the pot of tulips. Simple, easy, and effective.

The color story of red was driven by my participation in Magnetised by Life's Monthly Mosaic Challenge and this month's color theme of deep red. I'll be posting my mosaic next weekend.

Here's wishing everyone a "simply" wonderful Sunday.

Today's Linkups

beyondlayersClick It Up A Notch

Saturday, January 21, 2012

At Both Ends

At Both Ends

I decided to knock out my weekly self portrait this morning since I have a busy day ahead of me (what else is new?) I'm hoping to have some time this weekend to take my very simple picture for Beyond Layers and also write my creative story.

Obviously, I cropped today's photo for dramatic effect (yea, that's it...) but I was struck by how tired and old I look in the raw shots. I really didn't want to see that. I accidentally uploaded one of those to flickr instead and promptly deleted it before anyone saw it (I hope).

This composition also provided me the opportunity to try out the beta version of Topaz Labs' new "Star Effects" plug-in. It is officially set for release on January 26, 2012 so be watching for it.

I've not had a great deal of time to explore the possibilities, but according to the description in the beta release email I received "This program will make it easy for users to manipulate and enhance light sources in their images to create unique light and star effects." And, yes, I used it here to enhance the candle light.

From what I've seen, there are endless possibilities and combinations of effects one can create. I can't wait to play with it some more.

But, for today my agenda includes going to get my hair did, do my bankin' and straighten the house as much as possible in this little window of time I have before I need to leave for my appointment. Somewhere in there some groceries need to be bought as well.

Well, time to get going. As John Wayne says in the movie "Cowboys," I'm burning daylight!

Today's Linkups

In The Picture

Friday, January 20, 2012

Where Will I Find the Time?

Do you have the time?

I don't know if you can really buy time, but my dad certainly is trying with his collection of clocks. Oh that finding time would be as easy as raiding my parents' upstairs closet.

Obviously, I'm later than usual with today's post, but I hate to miss PhotoArt Friday, so I'm coming in under the wire with this one. I can't say I spent a lot of "time" on it.

Feeling the frustration due to lack of time, I took some photos of my dad's clock collection and threw them all together with Bonnie's "Off Kilter" (also apt for today) and came up with this bit of abstract photo art. Topaz Labs Simplify and Adjust also went into the soup.

And since I'm running short on time today and plan a longer post for tomorrow, I'm going to get myself on out of here and so I can have a hot date in with a little vino (Dorian said I deserved it, so there) my camera and try something a bit "simpler" for my Beyond Layer's challenge.

Happy Friday to all and have a wonderful weekend!

Today's Linkups

Photo Art Friday

Thursday, January 19, 2012

White Space


What I could use now is a little more white space in my calendar.

It is off to work early for me today and every minute of the day is jam packed. I've been working (at my day job) already this morning and running into problems already.

Hope this is not an indicator of the way things are going to go today.

Today's Linkups

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