Sea Blue Lens


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Pastel Perfect

I love color. I love bright colors, flower garden colors, but I’m especially drawn to pastels. This week’s Be Still assignment was to create a still life featuring pastels, in honor of springtime and Easter. I thought about dying eggs, but it didn’t interest me much. And it would have required buying things — white eggs and dye to color them with — specifically for the photo shoot, which is against the “rules” I have set for myself regarding Be Still, to use what I already have.

Besides, I had other ideas. A couple of them.

The first was fashion, something that relates both to Easter and spring, right?


IMG_9881-2Pearls and Lace

IMG_9880-2Pastel Pretties

I used my desk chair for all the photos in this post. It was backlit by the living room window, with a linen curtain pulled closed to filter the light. Rather than spot-metering, I overexposed the images to compensate for the bright back light. Both of the photos above were processed in Lightroom with Kim’s “Pastelhaze” preset. What it did to the images felt like magic!

Well, now that I’m all dressed up in my Easter finery, how about a nice springtime tea?

DSC_8946Simplicitea

I found this irresistible little bird creamer the other day, and thought he’d pair well with my porcelain butterfly teapot, and that they would work nicely together for this pastel photo shoot. (See how arbitrary my “rules” are? But I loved him in his own right, so I wasn’t buying him just for a photo prop; therefore, it was okay. Besides, he was less than $3. I love TJ Maxx.)

DSC_8952-2Tea for Me

Both of the tea set images were processed with Kim’s “Breeze” preset. It gave me just the soft, glow-y mood I wanted.

I have actually learned quite a lot because of my silly, self-imposed rules and other logistical limitations. They have caused me to think creatively about how to adapt Kim’s prompts to my own life and style, and to come up with solutions for space and light problems. And I love finding ways to feature and highlight some of my own favorite possessions. It makes me happy to see my old keepsakes and everyday utilitarian objects become art!


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Put to Good Use

Finally, I found a use for the old milk crate I rescued from “the dump guys” who were loading up junk to haul away from the old house I lived in last year. Our still life assignment this week was to play with light and shadow in, on, and around a crate, box, cupboard, or what have you. I remembered that old crate, which has been sitting in my laundry room, just waiting for something to do, ever since I moved into this apartment. It would be perfect for this!

Or would it? Once I got it out and took a look at it, I was a little less optimistic. I’d forgotten that it has a metal bottom, perforated with a grid of holes, plus handles cut into all four sides. Here’s what I started with:

Crate duoIt Has Potential

I put my little desk at right angles to the bedroom window and put down a piece of black poster board to protect it from the rough crate. Then I propped a piece of black foam board behind the crate to block the light from those holes.

I gathered a couple of props — two little ceramic birds I picked up at Michael’s yesterday for a dollar apiece, and a little ivy plant from Home Depot which I popped into a pot I had bought at the Acton, California, farmers market a couple of years ago. I tried a few shots with my iPhone to see how well the crate was going to work.

Testing…iPhone FourOne, Two, Three, Four

Okay, I can work with this. I got out my Nikon to shoot the setup “for real.” Kim’s suggestion to underexpose by a couple of stops if I wanted to go for a shadowy image worked out well. I found that by starting off with underexposed images, much less post-processing was required to get the effects I wanted.

DSC_8815-soocStraight out of the Camera

DSC_8815With Kim’s new Shadows Lightroom preset

DSC_8796Also processed with KK_Shadows

DSC_8794-2Processed with KK_Moody-ish. This is one of my favorites of Kim’s presets.

DSC_8811KK_Shadows again

DSC_8814KK_MoodSwing — Another of my favorites. Are we sensing a theme here?

All of this dark and moody processing makes those holes in the bottom of the crate virtually disappear. However, looking over the unprocessed images from my photo session, I found that I actually didn’t mind the holes. They can add a bit of interesting pattern, as you can see in the second photo in this post, the SOOC image. I suspect I’ll be using this beat up old crate for a photo prop again in the future.

Thanks, Kim! This was a fun one.


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Be Still Weeks 40 and 41: Make and Take

It’s another Be Still twofer! For week 40, we were supposed to photograph making something that we would then include in a still life that we would photograph during week 41. I swear I’m not trying to be difficult, but once again I had a hard time with this assignment. I don’t do crafts. I don’t sew anymore. I can knit but haven’t in ages. I thought of something garden related — planting a dish garden, maybe? — but it’s still winter here and there aren’t any plants available yet.

I don’t cook much, either, but it was the only thing I could think of that I could photograph while making, and then photograph again when finished. And that’s the reason the two weeks are run together here, because the perishable nature of food meant the “making” project had to be followed immediately by the final still life “taking” project.

In honor of the first day of spring, and also to cheer myself up because we have snow predicted for the second day of spring, I decided to make strawberry shortcake. That’s usually an Easter tradition in my family, but Easter is late this year and I can’t wait!

Part 1, Making

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Part 2, Taking

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Part 3, Partaking!

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DSC_8788Yum!

It’s probably not necessary to explain which part I enjoyed the most! Actually, though, I really did enjoy setting up the tabletop still lifes. That shot from overhead is my favorite of the project. I think it captures that happy, springlike mood I wanted. It really does cheer me up to look at it.

Cleaning up afterwards was no chore at all!

 


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Be Still Weeks 38 and 39: Dark vs. Light

I have two Be Still lessons to post today. The first, from last week’s assignment, is a still life with organic elements, photographed with side light. Kim’s examples for this lesson were dark and moody, so I headed in that direction, too. I used one basic setup for these, varying the cropping but mostly just experimenting with some Lightroom presets in post processing.

IMG_8582
Processed with Kim Klassen’s kk_organic, with decreased clarity and slightly increased saturation.

I bought this hand-painted bowl on a trip to the Grand Canyon about 20 years ago from a Native American man sitting on a blanket at the side of the road, selling pottery that he told me he made himself. It is stained with smoke inside and out and looks like it was fired in a campfire! It reminds me of my roots in the Southwest, as well as of that rather magical trip.

IMG_8580
Processed with David duChemin’s Toxic Warmth preset.

The little lizard crawling out of the bowl is one of those little critters that are meant to be hung on the rim of a flowerpot. I don’t remember where I got him, but I do remember that I bought him just because he looked so much like the lizard painted inside the bowl. It amuses me to think they might be related.

IMG_8583
Processed with kk_moody-ish
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I found the nest when I was living in California a couple of years ago. The egg, which is broken open on the side you can’t see, I picked up here in Maine. I have no idea what kind of bird made either one. The stick and cluster of cones came from two unrelated trees in my daughter’s yard.

This week’s lesson is just the opposite: glass, light, bright, white, airy. For this one I tried several different arrangements.

IMG_8610
Sea Glass

Vintage mason jars filled with sea glass, old linen napkin, backlit through lace curtains. Processed with kk_slightlight with clarity reduced quite a bit because I wanted that glow-y look.

IMG_8618
Sea Girl

I’m afraid I can’t begin to tell you how I processed this one. I tried so many variations, including starting over several times,  that I completely lost track. I’m not thrilled with it, but it’s a whole lot better than what I started out with!

IMG_8623small
Home Comforts I

This is as it came out of the camera, plus Kim’s kk_touchof-1 texture. I like the soft, natural look of this one.

IMG_8623
Home Comforts II

Here it is with with the same texture, processed with Kim’s kk_slightlight preset. It’s more dramatic and I like it, too. It’s so hard to make decisions about these things.

And that’s me caught up again and looking forward to the weekend! I hope you all have a good one.


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A Natural Spark

This week’s still life exercise was a continuation of last week’s, another “spark” from that same catalog spread. Assignment: to create a vignette and hang or attach pompoms or bunting or something to the background. Well, I’m in full rebellion mode now. I don’t have any bunting, I’m not interested in pompoms, and besides, I draped a necklace over a flowerpot last week. Doesn’t that count?

Just kidding. Sort of.

Anyway . . . .

I collected a few goodies from my bookshelves and carried them up to the spare bedroom my Studio, where I arranged them on my little antique maple writing desk.

DSC_8714What This Country Needs

DSC_8712 Chickadee and Field Guides

DSC_8725Goldfinch & Grapevine

DSC_8729First Draft

Then I started playing with the pieces, trying different setups. After a few tries, I decided the Goldfinch was too much. That bright spot of color didn’t seem to fit with all the other muted tones, so I eliminated him from my next compositions. (Processed with Kim Klassen’s Lightroom preset kk_summersun)

DSC_8719Revision I

I tried a dark background, and I did find something to hang up that made sense to me.
(Processed with kk_darklight preset)

DSC_8722Revision II

With light background (the bare wall) and kk_truegrit preset.

DSC_8709-2Final Version 

(kk_darklight with some adjustments of my own)

If I had to turn in homework, this would be the one. As I look at it now, I can see things I’d like to change up a bit — maybe the placement of that little hanging ornament, for one — but overall I’m pleased with the way it turned out. And I enjoyed spending some time “in nature” even though it was again too cold (minus 15, brrrr) to go outside.


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A Tiny Spark

Well, we got another 13 inches of snow over Saturday and Sunday. It’s a good thing I have Be Still – 52 to keep me busy indoors! This week we had a spread from a catalog to draw a spark of inspiration from, with instructions to do basically whatever we wanted. “No rules.”

I like rules. I like guidelines. I like instructions to follow. The inspirational image wasn’t very, either, as far as I was concerned. The largest photo in the catalog layout was a springlike outdoor scene — a model in a lightweight white dress, sitting casually on a wooden chair on what looked like an outdoor patio, with a lovely textured plastered wall behind her, framed with blooming vines. Have I shown you what it’s been like around here lately? Here’s the view from my living room window:

DSC_8499Fairyland – but even the fairies are getting tired of it

DSC_8508Mush!

IMG_7225 Maintenance Parting the Snowbank

Well, you get the drift (pun definitely intended). There won’t be any springlike outdoor photo shoots around here any time soon. So I tried setting up something in the spare bedroom that I call my studio, trying to capture that outdoor patio feeling. It didn’t go well.

DSC_8640Trouble Underfoot

Ugh, that carpet. It was newly installed when I moved in here, but it’s landlord-standard, industrial grade brown and beige tweed, and it’s wall-to-wall in every room except the kitchen and bath (neither of which have a window). I tried various textures and Lightroom presets, but there was no getting around that ugly carpet.

I remembered that one of the smaller photos on that catalog page showed a jewelry display, so I decided to work with that idea. I picked out a few pieces that, to me, had a bit of the flavor of our jumping off point, and moved in close, avoiding the whole background problem.

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I kept the white cotton skirt and the potted plant, and used the patio chair as my support. The stone necklace and silver bracelets are pieces I’ve had for years, and each carries its own memories.

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Of course if I were doing a real jewelry layout for a catalog, I’d need to either arrange all the pieces in the same plane, or use a depth of field that would keep them all sharp. But since this is my own “artistic” still life, and there are no rules, I can do whatever I please. I enjoyed bringing attention to the pieces individually while letting the others play a supporting role.


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Contemplating Breakfast

Ah, breakfast. The most important meal of the day, or so I’ve been told. I can remember Mom urging me to go have some breakfast, as she sat at the dining table having hers (black coffee and a cigarette) while reading the newspaper. Somehow I just was not convinced.

I’m still not a much of a breakfast person, although I will happily eat it if someone else cooks it and puts it in front of me. And I love going out for breakfast with a friend. Nevertheless, our subject this week for Be Still was “breakfast,” so I have done my best to come up with something.

Thinking about breakfast:

IMG_7276Wake Up Call

What I could have for breakfast:

IMG_7267Good Nutrition

What I usually have for breakfast:

DSC_8582Mini-Maker

DSC_8592Kuppa

What I actually had for breakfast today:

DSC_8604Breakfast of . . .

DSC_8607Yum!

Yes, that’s exactly what it looks like. Coffee (with real cream) and a piece of chocolate cake which I made from scratch yesterday because while the snow was falling for the third straight day of the fourth storm in two weeks. It has walnuts in it — that’s healthy, right?

Well, you’ve got to admit it’s better than a cigarette.

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