Just an Impression

I’m trying out a trial version of some photography software. It converts photos into different styles of paintings or drawings. Photoshop has similar functionality, but I’ve never been incredibly impressed with the results. So I didn’t have a lot of hope for this new software. Turns out, I was wrong. The results aren’t always great but when they are, wow.

5DM36279Take this photo of Nola, for example. It was taken in poor light and is obviously blurry, but something about it still really appeals to me. So I gave it the artistic treatment.

5DM36279Charcoal (web)

 

This is a conversion to a charcoal drawing. There’s enough contrast for it to work in black and white and the blurriness no longer matters.

 

5DM36279Chiaro (web)

 

This is a painting style called Chiaroscuro. I like how Nola turned out in this one, but the fish got a little too bright and abstract.

 

5DM36279Seurat (web)

 

 

I think this one is the best. It’s done in the style of Seurat. The fish turned out better than any of the other ones I tried.

 

 

There are 12 different styles available and it takes a bit of experimenting to find images that work well. Landscapes are usually good in multiple styles, people are a lot trickier. Some of the images of Nola made her look evil – eyes are really tricky. I still haven’t decided if it’s actually worth purchasing the software, but it’s really fun to play around with it.

Abstraction

Today’s images from the vault were all taken at different times and in different places.

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And yet, they all share a common theme – abstractions in black and white.

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When I’m photographing something that seems a little mundane or a subject that I’ve revisited multiple times, I try to find a unique perspective. None of the subject matter in these three photos is identifiable, hence the abstract part. The first two are clearly man made. The top left photo is from the Domes in Milwaukee and the top right one is from the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. The bottom image is of marsh grasses.

I’m always mucking about with these types of images. I think I’m getting better at them (these were all taken within the last year) but I don’t feel like I’ve really knocked one out of the park yet. It’s these types of challenges that keep me shooting.

Warning – Cute Baby Ahead

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

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I know everyone thinks their baby is the cutest baby ever, but seriously, is she not just the cutest baby ever? I never get tired of photographing our niece. These were some of the literally hundreds of photos I took of her back in September. She’s getting trickier now that she’s more mobile. She just loves to charge at the camera. I have a lot of blurry shots.

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You can see her coming for me in the photo on the left. In the one on the right she’s occupied with an empty orange juice bottle my husband gave to her. That’s good for about two minutes of entertainment. You can see she’s already giving me the eye. I prefer to take really tight shots, so I have to be pretty close to her unless I’m using a telephoto lens.

5DM36277Which is pretty much impossible indoors. This was taken at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. She was looking at a bunny rabbit, not one of the zoo animals. At least she isn’t at the age where she’s doing a big fake smile for the camera. Yet. Can’t wait to see her beautiful little face in person again. Meanwhile I’m making do with fuzzy photos from her mom’s iPhone.

More Randomness

A couple more images from the vault today.

5DM34465 (Copy)This one was from last year’s Fiesta Bowl parade. It didn’t really fit with the other parade images I posted, so it got left in the unused folder. But I really like it. Sometimes I think the crop might have been a little too tight. Sometimes I think it would be better in black and white. But at the end of the day, I still think it stands up as a solid image. So there you go.

5DM34489 (Copy)Another parade photo, obviously. I’m not sure why I didn’t use this one. I only wrote one post on the parade last year and I used three photos. I think I was just underwhelmed by the number of keepers, so I wasn’t really inspired to post much. Hopefully, this year’s parade will be more successful. Assuming the weather cooperates and we actually attend.

[20141202]5DM34248Now for something completely different. This is the sole remaining image from our 2013 wildflower photography session. We didn’t have an opportunity to go out this past spring, due to our extended vacation in Australia. Maybe next spring. The wildflower season varies dramatically from year to year, depending on rainfall. I should probably find a new location, as the one we’ve visited twice is getting a little boring.

Well that’s it for today. Warning – my next post will probably be full of adorable baby pics.

Cleaning Out the Folder

I keep copies of images used on my blog in folders on my laptop. They are also stored online, of course, but I like to have local copies. The posted ones are all neatly organized by date. Then there’s the unused folder. This is full of images I’m thinking about posting. What usually happens is that I put a bunch of images there right after I process them (like the ones from our recent Sedona trip) and some get posted while others languish.

5DM30708 Such as this one from our summer 2013 trip to Jerome. The languishing photos aren’t bad, they just tend to be repetitive. So after posting 11 photos from this particular outing, I left the remainder in the unused folder. Eventually I have to clean the folder out.

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This may mean just deciding they’re not worth posting and deleting them or it may mean using them in a later post, after you’ve forgotten about all the photos I used the first time.

5DM30724Clever, no? It’s a good way to fill out a dry spell, photographically speaking. Since it’s getting close to the end of the year, it seems like a good time for a little clean-up. So I’ll be featuring some photos from the vault over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

Red Rocks in Black and White

5DM37769bw (web)I couldn’t resist turning a few of my Sedona photos into black and white. I haven’t accomplished a whole hell of a lot since we came to Phoenix nearly three weeks ago now. What’s worse, I have totally blown off my training. My shoulder was acting up when we left Minnesota and I’ve used that as an excuse to do nothing. We walked for 90 minutes yesterday and today and my body’s acting like I ran a marathon.

IMG_0164 (web)This was a faux macro shot I took during the birdless bird walk we took just before we got to Sedona. So where was I? Oh yeah, whining about my total lack of ambition. I really have to get off my butt and clean the house this week. We are heading back to Minnesota a week from Tuesday and won’t be back until just before Christmas. It would be nice to have a clean house for the holiday. I need visitors to get motivated for serious cleaning. Unfortunately, we’ve only been averaging one visit per year since we bought this house.

Yes, we have a dedicated guest room that has been used exactly five times in five years, twice by my mom. It makes me want to get rid of the bed and put a treadmill in there. At least that would get used. Right now we have three friends considering a visit, two in January and one in March. But I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, the dust is thickening.

And We’re Back

After our exhausting Jeep tour yesterday, we strolled around Sedona for a while and then had an early dinner. Or a really late lunch, depending on how you look at it. Either way, it was delicious and considerably less expensive than last night’s meal. We were back at our suite in time to see the sunset lighting up the red rocks. We also caught the evening news coverage of a fatal crash that had closed down a section of the interstate. If we had driven up a day later, we would have been caught in a nightmare of a traffic jam.

So after two relaxing evenings in our cozy little vista cottage, we headed back to Phoenix this morning. We talked about stopping along the way, but once we got it the car it just seemed easier to head directly home. All in all, a nice way to spend a couple of days.

IMG_0162 (web)I’ve been pretty lame about flexing my creative photographic muscles lately. (Not to mention my actual physical muscles, but that’s a whole ‘nother story) So while we were walking around the birdless bird sanctuary, I tried a few experiments with creating an impressionistic image using camera motion. Turns out it’s a lot harder than it looks. I’ve seen some pretty amazing examples, so I definitely want to give it another try.

Pink Jeep

After a delicious, albeit ridiculously expensive dinner last night, we were back at the resort restaurant for breakfast this morning. Also delicious and expensive. Did I mention the resort credits don’t cover tax, tip or alcohol? So one dinner wasn’t enough to use up all of our credit. Plus you really can’t beat the convenience factor.

The sole item on our itinerary for today was a Pink Jeep tour. Our driver picked us up at the resort for our three hour tour. Yes, you heard that right – a three hour tour.

5DM37721 (web)I had booked a combo tour and the first part was a scenic rim drive. This was the view from our stopping point. I don’t have any photos from the driving part, as it was a gut busting ride that really didn’t allow for much in the way of photography. We got super lucky with the beautiful weather and some really cool cloud formations.

5DM37745 (web)This was our stopping point on the second part of the tour which is on an off-road trail. You need an ATV or a Jeep that’s been modified for rock crawling to drive on it. We met some hardcore mountain bikers from Canada while we were there. We were lucky enough to be the only people on the tour (they can take up to 8 in a Jeep) so our driver waited patiently while we took advantage of the photo op. Then we did some serious rock crawling.

5DM37785 (web)This is one quick shot I managed to take from the Jeep just before we started a steep descent. It was a great tour, but not really ideal for photography. In the future, I think we’d be better off renting an ATV, so we can stop as often as we want. Of course it would have to be a two seater, because I sure as hell am not going to drive on this crazy trail.

Quick Getaway

I booked a last minute two night getaway in Sedona. We’ve been to Sedona many times, but the first time we stayed overnight was on our family trip over Labor Day weekend. I had always envisioned that our first overnight stay would be at a luxury resort, not at the Hampton Inn. So when we came back to Phoenix in November, I started looking for a re-do.

The advantage of booking just a few days in advance is that we knew the weather would be gorgeous – mid sixties and sunny. The advantage of going in mid-November is that the rates are about as low as they’re going to get. So after stopping for a late breakfast, we hit the road a little after 11:00 this morning. Since we had plenty of time before our check-in, I mapped out a more scenic route, based on a recommendation from Arizona Highways.

Our first stop was a little park on Oak Creek in the village of Cornville. The magazine article assured me that it would be easy to find, as it has a working windmill. Well it was easy to find, but instead of the charming replica of a Dutch windmill I was expecting, what we found was a small version of the metal windmills you see on farms. And while technically Oak Creek runs alongside the park, it took a bit of hunting to find it. All good for a laugh.

Our next stop was a wild bird preserve. At least, that’s what it was billed as. The only birds we saw were a flock of ducks that took off as soon as we got out of the car. Oh, and one heron that flew quickly overhead, being careful to keep a stand of trees blocking our sightline. Well, we got a little walk out of it, anyway. Plus there were two wineries right across the street, so we did a little tasting and picked up a few bottles for our romantic getaway.

The resort where I had booked a room is right next to the main street in Sedona, but it’s tucked down by Oak Creek, well below street level, so it’s quiet and private. It also has valet parking only, which I did not realize until we pulled up. So we had lots of little bags (clothes, cameras, laptops) plus the purchases we had made along the way. It was an embarrassing amount of stuff for a two night stay. But the bellman didn’t bat an eye as he loaded it all into a golf cart for the drive to our suite. Our accommodation for the next two nights was called a Vista Suite, but it was actually a small cabin.

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As for the “vista” part, here’s a photo taken from our little deck. I’m pretty sure they got that part of the name right. After stowing away our massive pile of stuff, we had about 45 minutes to relax before heading down to the main lodge for our dinner reservation. Normally, we wouldn’t eat at the same place we’re staying when there are so many good options nearby, but the room rate included a large resort credit that needs to be used on food or spa services. So off to dinner we go.

Kitchen Disasters

I have a very small repertoire of idiot-proof recipes that I make on a rotating basis. But every once in a while I get stupidly ambitious and try something different in the kitchen. More often than not, it ends up in disaster. Back in late September I took a couple of classes at a co-op in an effort to expand my culinary horizons. Thus emboldened, I’ve tried out a few of them over the past few weeks, with vary degrees of success or failure.

The first class was on fermenting vegetables. I’ve attempted sauerkraut twice so far. The first time I didn’t really have the right bowl for crushing the cabbage (a flat bottomed wood one works best) so I made a bit of a mess. Actually, more like a pretty big mess. My second attempt, after purchasing a more appropriate bowl and a decent mallet, was considerably more successful. I’m hopeful the third try will be the charm. Thus emboldened, I gave kimchi a try. From a taste perspective, it wasn’t terrible but the overwhelmingly pungent stench of garlic threatened to ruin everything else in the refrigerator. So I consigned it to the trash, where it stank up the entire garage until garbage day.

My second class was on Paleo cooking. We learned three basic recipes with flavor variations. The first was a very simple veggie dip that I’ve managed to make twice now without screwing it up. The second was meatballs. My first attempt at the meatballs was pretty good and my husband made a few suggestions for the second try. One was to accompany them with a marinara sauce. Of course I was stupid enough to try making the sauce from scratch. Which took FOREVER. But the end result was tasty enough to make this recipe a keeper.

Today’s overly ambitious experiment involved making pizza using cauliflower “dough” for the crust. Cauliflower is a popular substitute for starches among the low carb crowd. It’s used for “rice” and “mashed potatoes.” I’ve tried the latter and it’s actually pretty tasty, especially with the addition of an enormous quantity of butter. The trick to making the pizza crust is to rice the cauliflower in a food processor and then steam it. With the addition of an egg and shredded cheese, it makes a passable crust.

My efforts were once again undermined by the lack of proper tools. I have a tiny food processor, so I had to chop the cauliflower in many tiny batches. A lot ended up on the counter and the floor. I don’t have a proper steamer, so I bought a crappy little folding one at Target. It was too small to hold much, so I steamed it in three batches. Towards the end of the third round, I noticed a burning smell, which I attributed to the cauliflower I had spilled all over the stove. Turned out to be the pot burning because I had let all of the water boil away.

So, I managed to make a hideous mess of the entire kitchen, ruin a pot and spend 90 minutes in the process. All to make a couple of pizza-like crusts which took another 30 minutes to cook. The end result tasted decent, but I’m not sure I can afford the collateral damage that might result from another attempt.