Winter in Woodlake Valley

The scenes as I walked along Millwood Drive took my breath away. Maybe if I stayed in shape… Eventually my husband  picked me up and we enjoyed the warm photoshoot together.

Mountains
original picture

While our eastern friends bury under mountains of snow, in Woodlake Valley we welcome a few inches of water on the valley floor and many feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It rained this weekend, and in December, so while we get the most wonderful winter weather in the world, we wish for more precipitation so our wells won’t run dry. I took these pictures December 27th a day after it rained.  One rain yields instant green fields.

MountainsC4
cropped picture in perfect obedience to the Rule of Thirds

 

The mountains glowed with the snow. Don’t you love snow from a distance? I experimented with composition, and used the trees to frame the picture, but couldn’t get a Rule of Thirds picture that I liked. I cropped it in Photoshop, and I’m still not sure which way I prefer so I’ll let you decide.

Old barn1

I love this old barn. However, beautiful winter weather doesn’t insure eternal life even for barns. I wish I knew an interesting story about it. Maybe someone who reads this post will have some insight that I don’t. Or maybe someone will make up a good story. As we came back from taking the shots of the netted trees which was my goal for the day,  my husband said, “I know the perfect place to take a picture.” We got to the barn, and he said “This is it.” What I had missed being so focused on using my zoom lens was that there was a path with no fence, and I could have walked up to the barn. How did I miss it? I’m so zoned in that I miss the obvious.

fruit tree in a bag2

As the road curves following the sandy bed of Cottonwood Creek, rows and rows of netted trees appear on the east. Slowly the daylight ghouls creep up on a lone kid-tree trapped in the center of the row as he tried to run away. They raise their arms and close in for the big take-down. He should have stayed in line.

in line

Netting provides protection for stone fruit trees from birds. The nets also prevent frost and insect damage. I don’t know how any fruit tree lives without its net. However, trees in most fields don’t have nets.

fruit tree in a bag

I shot this little tree with its see through gown, and thought it looked sexy. Vince disagreed and he thought eerie described it better.

cement buildingFrom a distance smoke seemed to pour out of the top of this building. On closer inspection with a zoom lens, the building grew a tree. Probably if I had climbed over the barbed wire and snuck up behind the structure, the tree would have pretended that it was no where close to that building all along. I staged this picture with these photogenic pieces of dead wood that had nothing more to do than lie there and look pretty.

I wonder if this is the building Bob Hengst built with friends to launch their rockets.

Hengst3-16

I’ll let you know.

 

 

 

Three Easy Steps to Start Blogging for the New Year

Happy New Year!!! Are you celebrating yet or all done?

RR MuseumR Dining carA few days ago a new blogger asked me for information about blogging.  I remember life as a  neophyte blogger.  Blogging experts wrote in a foreign language, as did photographers.  My blogging friends still help me learn new techniques.

SFW History Ladies SD 1-5-2013141a
Blogging friends Marsha and Russel Ray

 

1. Decide the Purpose of Your Blog – Is it for you or for you AND readers?  Remember you can change it later.

  • Are you a vanity blogger or commercial blogger? Vanity bloggers DO NOT selling products.
  • If you want ANY traffic, you want to increase statistics. To build statistics quickly experts teach that specific blogs draw more readers. True! Readers click in and out rarely leaving a comment. If the information is good, blog statistics climb rapidly.
  • Random blogs get less traffic, but attract like-minded readers who chat and build friendships instead of statistics.
  • Most blog readers prefer positive blogs to negative ones. Complaining housed in humor works, but most venters need a private blog. Cause-venting attracts readers, but doesn’t necessarily build long-term relationships. If something bad has happened to you, but your overall blog is positive, sharing makes you more human, but folks DO NOT want a constant diet of it unless it is VERY humorous.
  • If feedback is important to you, short articles (500 words or less) work better than long ones. Edit, edit, edit!  Break long posts into chunks and publish them later.
  • If your blog teaches a skill, share what you learned AND what you thought about your learning, including your mistakes. People will get to know you, learn from you, and keep coming back.
  • Blogs NEED pictures even if you borrow images from Google. Daytime bloggers enjoy music, but songs and videos load slowly, and impatient blog surfers may give up. Sleepless bloggers with families won’t listen to your music at night unless they have a blog cave, or their families are deaf.

kildeer 1

2.  Label Posts with Blogging Categories

  • Organized people may start with categories, and then write posts.
  • Random bloggers like me start rambling, then determine what categories fit.
  • WordPress will suggest tags. Tags differ from categories, and help WWW readers find information quickly.
  • Categories help readers who come to read you find what you write about. They also help you find articles you already wrote about specific topics.
On the Floor of Congress http://www.ushistory.org/us/19e.asp
This ia a battle in your brain. Is it History? Blogging Skills?, Famous Art? Best Lectures Ever?

3. Label Pictures with Blogging Categories – rainy or snowy day projects!

  • Most of my picture titles started with the letters IMG. Poor labels filled my blog with repeated pictures, and used up my storage capacity. Edit using the scale changer. (Later, no hurry on that!)
  • Click on a picture to edit it and change the title using category names.
  • Use the text feature as you process your photos to  write your name on the image.   If you don’t, some malicious person might Photoshop your image and re-purpose it.  I did not sign them at first as you can see with my killdeer, but who cares if she ends up protecting a lion in Africa and not her eggs in my driveway?
Blogging skills
Blogging skills See the copyright signature????  Its tiny.  I make them  more pronounced now!  

That’s enough for today because you need to go post your first post of the new  year.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

Can a simple picture of a building in Chicago make the hair stand on the back of your neck stand up?  Does someone have to scream or appear with a light illuminating their expression visible dread with a light shining under their chin to spook you?  Definitely the post needs scary music, so if you turn that on, you will have just enough eeriness to read this post.  Go ahead, click.  HEHEHE  Don’t be afraid…

Chicago_0220r

Riding in a tour boat up and down the Chicago River on a clear, 80 degree October afternoon did little to inspire uneasiness.  But the curve of this building makes it seem like a tall cardboard centerpiece curved just slightly so that it doesn’t fall off your table into the bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy – very irritating, if not eerie.  Of course, who uses a thin piece of cardboard as a table centerpiece?   But that’s another issue.  Sooner or later, you know this building is going to tumble, and you wait uneasily hoping that it won’t fall while you are near it, or when it is full of people.  If I was in this building instead of looking up at it, I would feel some butterflies.  I know Randy would!

Superhero RandyAs it was, I just hoped it wouldn’t topple on our boat.

Chicago_0220rwb

If I were writing horror films about otherworldly I might make not-so-subtle changes in my photo to help create bit of mystery.  I think Alfred Hitchcock might be able to work some magic with this black and white photo.  He might add some birds or a space ship in the sky, or some people on the roof, but I could definitely see this being the start of something eerie.

Chicago_0220rbg

Adding layers in Photoshop altered my building in the blink of an eye.  Some of them looked more dreadful than others.  I think this one came out of an alternative universe, or from Jupiter, at the very least.  While it may not inspire the supernatural, green sky is definitely strange and unnatural.

Chicago_0220rpy

This looks more like a comic book horror story from the 1930s.  The building has no dimension to it, and the contrast with the sky is a simple matter of using complimentary colors of yellow and purple.  It’s horror from a simpler time, which then wasn’t simple at all.  The enemy of a super hero lurks just behind the building waiting to push it over on our incredible protagonist.  You can see its breath at the upper left of the picture.

For more eerie sights click on the word SCARY.

 

Ask Marsha: The Ins and Outs of Guest Blogging

Before I get to guest blogging, let me make a confession.  The pure, honest, and whole truth is I’m not sure why my husband thought people would write in and ask me questions on my website.  Really!  It’s not that I don’t get tons of questions daily.   I do.  “Where are my glasses?”  “Have you seen my keys anywhere?”  “Could you come here and hold this?”  “Do you know if this or that person is on this or that committee?”  “Do you want me to make coffee this morning?”  “What are we having for dinner?”  “Did your power go off in the storm last night?”  Each of those questions would make a marvelously interesting post, don’t you think?

Glasses male

I mean, after all, where could glasses be?  In the refrigerator, I doubt that?  I’m always in the middle of something when Vince asks me that question in a  tone reminiscent of lost homework when you can hear the school bus is turning the corner approaching your stop.  So mid-email, I get up, start looking for the glasses, in all the right places, and can’t find them.  I’m worried for him.  I know he has an important meeting sometime that morning.  So I search all over the house, and in the meantime, he quietly slipped outside to check the truck, found the glasses, put them on, and is now out in the back yard watering.  Meanwhile I’m still looking for the glasses.  There ought to be a rule, if you answer your own question, please tell the researcher so they will quit researching.

Where are my glasses

To be fair to Vince, turn about is always fair play, and I FINALLY found my sunglasses the other day wound up in the dog’s retractable leash laying on the antique sewing machine, right inside the front door, where we always dump stuff.  I don’t remember if I told Vince that I found them after we both looked for 10 minutes – EVERYWHERE – even in the bathtub.

The the only question that might interest you this week involved preparing a guest post. My friend, Carol, graciously asked me to do an article for her blog.  I think that is an honor, by the way. I mean she could have just pressed the reblog button.  I’m not sure there is a lot of difference, really.  The problem she ran into was that even though she had access to all my pictures, some of them were in galleries.  WordPress galleries don’t transfer when you cut and paste.

When you trade posts, or write articles for magazines, it is best to have the pictures in a folder to pass on to the publisher.  In the case of blogs, it is best to resize them to either 400 X 600 or 600 X 400 pixels.  If you want credit, you can either put a watermark signature or embed it in the photo information.  Then save them at a low quality – I choose 3.  This takes time to prepare the photos unless you do batch processing in Photoshop, and that is another lesson.

I have a blog just for unpublished materials, and Carol has administrative access to that blog.  In her case she could open two windows of the post from “our” blog.  Leaving one post open in preview form, she could use that as a template to see what pictures were intended to got with which paragraphs.  Then, in the other window, she could edit the post, remove the galleries and go to the media library to insert the pictures individually into the article.  Finally, she could cut and paste the finished article into her other blog, The Eternal Traveler.  Look for it on September 3rd.  She’s already scheduled it.  How cool is that?  (Another question!)

After
Take a journey with the Eternal Traveler to a far away place, Fresno, California.  

Sharing blogs with someone else is another lesson for another day, but it can be either interesting or forgotten.  I’ve done both!

So is my husband right?  Do you have questions for me?

 

 

Ask Marsha: Three Easy Steps To Create a Business Photo from a Snapshot

We all take pictures, and many of them are good ones, but they wouldn’t work on a business card or on a website.  What’s the difference?  When I had professional pictures taken last month, I learned so much.  The biggest difference for business shots is the background.  The photographer told me that most people choose a brown background for their business shots.  Unless you have a swirly brown background sheet to hang from ceiling to floor, you might have thought you were out of luck.  A friend asked me if I could do the same thing in Photoshop.  The good news is that you can.  Here are the easy steps to turn your snapshot into business photo using a processing program like Photoshop.

Tools2

I used Photoshop Elements, but you can use just about any program.  The main tools I used are down the left side of the screen.  When I use the paint and smudge tools, I will talk about the size and strength that appear across the top of the screen.

V & M1

 

A waitress took this picture of Vince and me in Hawaii.  I liked the picture of Vince so I played with it.  

Step One: Cropping

First I cropped me and the glasses out!  

V & M2

Step Two: Painting Over the Background

After I cropped I pressed the control and #0 on my keyboard to get the picture back to the normal size you see it.  Then I chose the business color of brown as the background, and started painting, but not over the whole background.  I chose a couple of different colors of brown, a dark and a light.  I used the eye dropper tool and clicked on a couple of browns that I liked in the background.

Step Three: Smudging the Background

After I painted a good part of it, I used the smudge tool to blend it.  Smudging is interesting.  If you smudge at full strength, it wipes out all other colors.  So I set the strength to 45.

You have to smudge towards the color you want to disappear.  To me this is just like coloring when I was a kid.  I had to cover a big area so I changed the size of the smudge brush to about 150 or so, and smudged away in a circular pattern in the middle.

V & M5

When I got close to Vince, I made the picture larger by pressing control 1 on my keyboard, and outlined him using a smaller sized smudge brush. about 15-20.  

V & M8

When I got close to that outline I smudged with small strokes using a small smudge brush about 25-30 towards him erasing all but the tiniest bit of the outline.  

V & M9

After I got the area around Vince done, I changed the size of the picture back by pressing control 0 on my keyboard.  At this point I changed the size of the smudge tool to about 250 and stroked out away from Vince.  I finished up with a size 100 smudge tool and swirled a bit more until I was happy with the look. 

 The background work is really easy if you are careful around the hair.  

This is another one I did of him.  

These are the professional ones I had taken with a real background.  I still had fun with the photos.  I took out my scars in the head shots (as much as possible!)  I also decreased the clarity for the starry-eyed look.