Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 26: Outliers

Bonnie is also quite interested in this book, which I just finished reading (Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.) I managed to catch a picture of her, using my flash, while she studied a chapter.

Actually, she was most agreeable to be my model, to get back into good graces, after knocking my husband's laptop over yesterday, and bending part of the charger. Many bad words emanated from our house, and are probably still floating around in frozen ice chunks up and down our block.

All of Gladwell's books have been fascinating reads! This book is making me think about my own growing up years/culture/class background, and the impact on my life decisions. It makes me think about decisions I've made regarding my children, and how my husband and I bring our different life stories to bear on this.

I think this is one of those books where now that I've gotten to the end of it, I want to start all over and read it again, because I just keep thinking about new implications.

Unfortunately, the author doesn't address gender, at all, in any of his three books. I'm seriously thinking about writing to him to tell him what his next book should include! Freud said, "Biology is destiny," and I think Freud had some points, but was a nutcase. I think, though, it may be that "Biology(gender), as interpreted by culture, is destiny."

But within Gladwell's framework, being aware of our cultural learnings gives us much more choice in changing what needs to be changed (like when you're trying not to crash into a mountain!) Seriously! Read the book! The whole part where he talks about reducing mitigated speech among pilots, and how it tremendously reduced accident rates in the airlines industry over the last 15 years, is well worth the price of the book alone!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day 25: They're BAAAaaack!!!! Sundogs!

As I was driving to work Friday morning, I slammed on my brakes, jumped out of the car, and shot this photo. Sundogs! Finally! If we have to have "seemingly interminably endless winter events" (aka 20 below weather), then I want SunDogs!

And they finally showed up. These look different than last years'. Last year, they almost looked like an eerie eye-in-the-sky. This year they look like a rainbow on either side of the sun. In this first photo, that is NOT the sun at the base of the rainbow. The sun was actually all the way to the right, almost at the base of the other side of the SunDog.

This is the view outside my window at work, so there's some reflection in the image.

I tried a polarizing lens to reduce the reflection, but it changed the exposure and coloring, and there's still some reflection.

Sundogs are formed by the refraction of light through hexagonal plate-like ice crystals whose flat faces are oriented horizontally and whose diameter is larger than 30 micrometers.

As sunlight passes through the crystals, it's bent 22 degrees. As a result, it looks like that light is originating from two spots on either side of the sun as well as from the sun itself.

Most sundogs and halos are white, but occasionally, some will show some color. That appears because white light is actually made up of many different wavelengths, or colors, of light. Each wavelength is slowed, and thus bent, at a slightly different angle than the next, which has the effect of separating the colors and making them individually visible. That's how rainbows are formed, but water droplets, which cause rainbows, are better refractors than ice crystals, and so the colors of a rainbow are more distinct than those of a sundog. With this ND weather, the water in the air is definitely NOT going to be droplets, and the ice crystals in the air are wonderfully suited to form ice crystals.

And so we have SunDogs! A slight reward for living on this frozen tundra. . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 22: The Corpse

Hattie Gaertneri, born December, 2007, died, Jan 13, 2009. Hattie was ruthlessly murdered by a member of the household who recklessly opened the window behind it, when it was frickin' 36 degrees below zero before windchill. The wind was blowing from the north, at approximately a windspeed of 15 miles per hour, resulting in a windchill of between 40 and 50 below zero.

Rescue operations by the wiser female of the household, when she got home from work and came upon the scene, were unsuccessful and the victim was not responsive.

The suspect, with no legitimate defense, claimed that the kitchen was filled with smoke because of some kind of maniacal, poorly-thought-out cooking venture. Although window-opening is not unheard of under such circumstances, moving helpless life-forms to another window is often considered prudent and obvious. Epiphyte-slaughter charges have not yet been filed. A memorial will be held in the compost pile come spring.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 21: Moving Day!

No dead plant story/photo could compete with this! What an exciting day! (And thanks, MBC, for the photo op!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 20: Christmasy Stuff that I don't want to put away

I like the colors in this Christmas decoration. . . and just don't want to put it away yet. The tree is down; the snow village stuff packed away. . . even most of the outside lights are stowed for the year. But this little spot of bright color just makes me happy! (Unlike the dead Christmas cactus MURDERED by a certain household member, who shall hereforth be unnamed. I'll probably post a sad, sad photo of its corpse tomorrow.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

You gotta hear this: Listen to your heart

I hope you enjoy this! Listen to it all the way to the end.

And here's just an every-day photo out my office window.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 17: The Big Brother

And this is the big brother of the little guy I posted yesterday.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 15: My Sweet Little Neighbor

Isn't this little guy cute?

He and his older brother (and parents) are my next door neighbors. My friend is letting me take pictures whenever I want, and these two little boys are the cutest guys ever. I have a whole new respect for photographers of little ones now! They move fast! And I was rapidly losing the sunlight, and relied greatly on the parents for eliciting smiles. I'll post more of these two in the days to come, as I do some editing of the photos for my friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 15: A Christmas Present. . . .

. . . from Dianna. Oh, we pathetic mom-photographers! My Christmas present from Dianna was that I got to take photos of Dianna on NY's day. Here's one with my flash. She was very sweet about all this, but I do have some where I get "the look" anyway (not this one).

HHCC most appreciated.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 14: News Flash: Frozen Weather Pixie Revived by Steel Cut Oatmeal

Poor Frozen Weather Pixie . . .

When I got up this morning, it was -36 degrees (before windchill!) Weather Pixie just does not dress right for this. I had to feed her some of this delicious steel cut oatmeal, which I had cooked overnight in my crock-pot, and the aroma of vanilla and cinnamon was wafting through the house, reaching her sitting on my house roof. (I'm assuming she sits on the roof.) It's the only thing that revived her. . .

Steel Cut Oatmeal

2 cups steel cut oatmeal (best purchased in bulk, in a natural foods store or section of
grocery store)
4 c skim milk or water
1/2 t salt
2 T butter (optional, but it'll help you avoid craving chocolate in about an hour, otherwise)
flavoring options: vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice
additions:milk or yogurt, or apple pieces, bananas, walnuts, blueberries (a superfood), almonds if walnuts give you cancre sores which I get and makes me really whiney and inclined to snarl at the innocent.

Before you go to bed at night, put all except the "additions" in a crockpot, preferably lined with one of those baggy/liner type things for crockpots so you don't have to do much cleaning up in the morning. You won't have time to clean up; you have to chisel your way to your car under a glacier in the morning.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours to a tremendous breakfast! DO NOT try to substitute quaker type oatmeal. It'll be a mushy yuk-ness. This is a little more chewy than that. This makes about 6 good sized servings, and here's the best part! You can put the leftovers in little containers and heat up again for about 30 seconds in the microwave another day. . . or for lunch! You can't do that with ordinary old oatmeal.

I'm so glad my Weather Pixie revived, or I'd have had to bury her dead little pixels here. And the ground is way too frozen for burials right now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 11: My Good Friend

My good friend, Mischief, hosted the book club I'm in this past week. She was kind enough to let me take her photograph and post it. Wouldn't you just love to have a name like Mischief, and isn't she beautiful?

I really admire her intelligence and sense of humor. AND, here's a recipe that she made for our book club. I don't think she'll mind that I post this, but I have to tell you, it was incredibly delicious!

Cranberry Cake
Cream together:
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp soft butter
1/4 tsp salt
Add alternately:
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
Add 2 cups raw cranberries, whole
Bake in greased 8X10 pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Serve warm.

Mix and let come to a boil:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream

Pour hot sauce over warm cake. Cake can be made ahead and reheated.

And, many of you did figure out my husband's Christmas ornament. It is the leg lamp from the very funny Christmas Story movie. We love watching this movie during the holiday season, but I told my husband that I worry about how the dad's are portrayed in some of the movies these days. I mean, think about it: there's the dad in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Homer Simpson, the dad in Christmas Story. . . not the most competent, shining examples of brilliance. . . but they do have a lot of heart.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 9: Noah, Skin, and The Deep Freeze

Pat is so funny! She thought Noah might be getting kind of bored when it issued the "seemingly interminably endless winter event" last week! I forgot to mention that Noah is actually NOAA, the North Atlantic Atmospheric Organization, and is a computer-generated voice. NOAA alternates between a male voice and female voice, and the male voice sounds like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Hawkings. Today, NOAA said we might get wind chills of 40 below in this next week, and "a cold weather warning may have to be issued." "MAY have to be issued!!!!!" If this doesn't result in a cold-weather warning, what exactly would?

Here's a photo taken of me and my daughter, on auto, with on-camera flash, in a restaurant about a month ago. I tried to play with the skin tones.

Last night, I liked it. Today, I don't know. My daughter's skin looks pretty good; maybe I need new skin. (And hair.)(Dang, it was after a long day of work.)(I think my husband's tired of hearing about this.)
But here is a tutorial, and a thread on 2peas, that I did find helpful in trying to establish a beginning point for skin tones. Now, my plan is to first try to adjust for color balance, whether it's with a WhiBal or custom white balance, or finding a neutral point in the photo. Then I'll try the smugmug settings in cmyk mode.

From this, I'll guess. I'll probably use a selection tool around skin areas and an adjustment layer, either selective coloring, or hue saturation.

Any HHCC most welcome!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 8: Skin Issues

Hooray! It came! I ordered a 50mm 1/4 Nikon autofocus lens in November. And it finally came yesterday. It's the new lens that autofocuses on a Nikon D40, so I, too, can joined the ranks of the "nifty-50", and so far, I'm loving it!

But I'm having skin issues.

Well, obviously, in these 2 above photos, there IS no skin! And the issues don't really have to do with the lens, as it does in getting "perfect" skin tones in , well, skin!

f/1.4 ~ 1/40
ISO 400
hand-held, no flash
tungsten wb, adjusted in ACR
uncalibrated monitor

I did so many things to this photo, I don't even know where to begin! I keep changing my mind about what "works". I first open the photo in Camera Raw (ACR) and then adjust the white balance. I didn't use a gray card, but DH had on a gray shirt that I already knew would come close. I decreased contrast in ACR so that I could deal with it in photoshop. I increased clarity and vibrance slightly, sharpened slightly, including in the color and luminance channels, and opened it. Then in photoshop, I adjusted curves, slightly increasing contrast. My DH's face was too red, so I "lasooed" his skin in an adjustment layer, used the red channel, and decreased the saturation. I just moved it about until it looked "right", but it's the "right" that drives me nuts!

Finally, I picked up a portrait book, looked at the faces, and thought, "what the heck, they look all wrong!" and am beginning to come to the conclusion that I'm chasing after a chimera, a thing that doesn't exist. There is no right skin tones; just something that looks relatively good, for the person, with the colors all around them. And that's it. ?

HHCC desperately requested and most appreciated!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 7: More of Minneapolis

Here are a few more photos from our trip to Minneapolis to bring our daughter to the airport.
I used a color wash action on this first photo. I just liked the nice, soft glow of the night as the snow was falling.

We took my daughter to the airport because she's getting to do a study abroad program. Right now she's in Greece, for about 3 weeks, then Turkey for a week. Then she and her friend are heading to Amrsterdam for 3 days and staying in a hostel (oh, God help me!)

And then! I get to fly to London with my son and meet my daughter and her friend for 5 days in London! I'm really hoping this will be a trip in which I am NOT talked into doing life-threatening, hazardous, vacation things.

Silly me; I should have taken a photo of this first. Today, I took my poor old car off to the car wash to get the Minnesota salt washed off of it. The car wash guy asked my how on earth I'd managed to get 2 1/2" of ice on my front bumper, lights and license plates! (And that's after we'd scraped it off several times during our trip back!) I knew that if I didn't take this through a car wash now, it would still be on my car until the spring melt in April. We don't normally lose what we get in snowfall here, until spring; we just keep accumulating it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 6: Too Much Personal Information!!!

I've got cuddle duds! Yep, on a blog, I'm telling you about my Long Underwear!!!! (Told you it was too much personal information!) Apparently, according to my friends, I am the Last and Only person left in North Dakota who did not know about cuddle duds, about these very sleek, warm, long underwear things everyone else here wears under their jeans and slacks, except for me, who has been freezing to death needlessly. See the psychotic weather pixie in the upper right corner? It's just a balmy 6 or 7 degrees below zero now, but this am, it was 26 degrees below zero (before windchill) (and she had nothing covering her face, which is why she is psychotic!) So I'm sure she doesn't know about cuddle duds either. So maybe I wasn't the last (even if she's just animated pixels.)

Here are a few more photos of our trek to Minneapolis and back.

For awhile, we were driving with what seemed like a postage stamp opening through the ice on our windshield. We literally were driving with our defroster on full blast, the wipers going at full speed (and shredding before our very eyes) and one window rolled down because of how hot it was getting in the car.

We finally stopped at a Checker auto parts store, and this wonderful young guy sold us really expensive new Bosch windshield wiper blades, and RainX washer fluid. He even came out to our car and installed them! (with no jacket on or gloves). What a difference! So that we didn't have to end up like this poor soul, and many others we saw like him along the side of the road.

Actually, on the way back, we saw the spires of a church, a ways of the interstate, and detoured to get a closer look. I tromped around in snow to get a nice shot, and then noticed a little cemetary off to the side. The sun was setting just so, and I had to have a few shots of this. I liked both the color and the b&w, and used Jen's B&W creamy action for this.

f/8.0 ~ 1/320
28-75mm @ 32 mm
cloudy wb
ISO 400
HHCC very much wanted and appreciated. . . particularly in the last 2 photos.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 5: Trekking off to the Airport

. . .some 300 miles to drop off my daughter for her flight to Greece. She might actually get there before we get back home!

And no, I definitely did not set up a tripod outside to get these! I mean, even I have my limits!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 3: Just seconds from being seriously grumbled at

. . . by two of my beloved. Can't say I blame them.

Any CC on the processing? f/4.0 ~ 1/40; ISO 400; manual, raw, hand-held, using SB800 flash in TTL BL mode, custom white balance; 28-75mm @ 31 mm.

I opened it in ACR, increased "black" slightly, increased "fill light", decreased contrast to 0, increased clarity to 2, vibrance to 35, and then detail 40, masking 40, noise reduction color 25 and luminance 28.

Then in Photoshop (CS3), I spot healed, and then I color balanced by using image>adjust> levels>blue channel--.90 input; Image>adjust>hue/saturation-red channel, saturation -7; I adjusted curves to brighten and increase contrast; adjustment layer increased saturation +10; adjustment layer contrast +10; curves increased midtones and used luminosity mode on the layer; used an eye action; smoothed skin with a gaussian blur; used burn tool on hair (Dianna's) and lips; used a sharpening action; sized and saved for web.

No way would I do this on every photo, but am just trying to learn strategies that would give good skin tones at this point. (and learn my flash!) Any thoughts on all this? Especially, does the skin look too red? I wonder if I should reduce the red channel further? What is your usual processing approach?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 2: Easy Cinnamon Pecan Caramel Rolls

Oh, this is so easy, and people think you've been baking all morning. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a round cake pan in the oven, set at 375 degrees.

Spread abut 1/2 cup of nuts, like pecans, or whatever you've got available, along with 1/2 c of brown sugar, over the melted butter.

Open a package of cinnamon rolls, like Pillsbury or whatever you have available. Put the rolls on top of the butter/sugar/nut stuff.

Throw away the little package of powdered sugar/icing that came with the cinnamon rolls package. Or let your kids eat it and go ahead and make that annual dentist appointment for them now.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Take out of oven, put a pretty dish on top of the pan, tip it over, and let the wonderful smells permeate the whole house, like you're some kind of phenomenal cooking maven. Hold fingers and thumb that you've just burned under cold water.

Share the rolls with any family members that get up out of bed before noon.

f/4.0 ~ 1/10
ISO 400
28-75mm ~ 48 mm
custom wb with WhiBal card