Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two Versions of these Two Sweeties . . .

Just thought I'd edit this picture a little, changing the white balance and adjusting skin tones. I'm not sure whether I like the first SOOC , or the 2nd edited version better. . .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Angela and Her New Purchase

aka: ShamWow Bliss!

Isn't this exciting! How did all of you not guess this? I was so excited when the UPS man came yesterday, I practically tackled him in the driveway (but Bonnie beat me to it. Sorry about that leg; I hear they work wonders with prosthetics these days.)

I know; I know. . .you're all thinking that this was kind of reckless, and foolish, what with the economy and all. (And besides, what the heck exactly do you really do with a ShamWow?) But you've all seen Vince, right? On the late night infomercials? Who could resist the sheer magnetism of ShamWow and Vince?
My husband is so jealous of this new love and passion in my life. But he had his chance. Was he increasing his attentiveness, and showering me with gifts, (this week, maybe a new camera lens; you know, because of the cataract thing, before I go completely blind, and have to operate my camera by braille)? No, not really. So when ShamWow! appeared on the scene, could you blame me for wanting to cuddle up with this, and dancing for joy?

By the way, there is one Fly in the Ointment, so to speak. It's come to my attention that there's a ShamWow! detractor running about, exercising his freedoms and liberties. Check out his link here, but trust me, it's just sacrilegious: Shameless ShamWow! Detractor
I'm thinking he's become so. . . damaged. . . and distorted in his thinking because of his toddler's pathological use of his credit card: Wild Child

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beautiful Miss Bonnie's Book Recommendation

The Beautiful Miss Bonnie has another book recommendation:

Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, is the most recentbook my book club read, and is roughly a true story about a homeless guy and an extremely wealthy art dealer. The book alternates between their perspectives, and the story about Denver's growing up years in Louisiana, pretty much as a sharecropper, is riveting and disturbing. Bonnie gives the book 3 paws up on her 4-paw scale, and advises that you have Kleenex handy.

And the editing was: a very bad cloning job to take Doug out of the photo. Often Bonnie rolls around on her back on the floor, playing with toys, but as cooperative as Bonnie was, we couldn't quite get the book balanced.

About a week or so ago, I took a walk on the "wild" side, had 2 glasses of wine, and pushed the button on an exciting purchase! I've been playing with it tonight and hope to have a photo with it tomorrow. I know, I know; you are going to be SO jealous!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

London Street: Waterloo Tube & Consulting the Map

In keeping with this week's theme, I'm posting two photos, with their unedited versions.

This first, SOOC shot, is a very unexposed photo of Dianna, Brian & Emily consulting the map, deciding which double-decker bus to take next.

Nobody is patient or trusts my map reading; I have to hold the map 1" from my nose. Yesterday, I found out an icky, luck-of-the-draw, reason why. It turns out that I have the beginnings of cataracts!!!!!

I lost my sun glasses in London, and really hate glare. I have been frustrated with my glasses this past year, and thought it outrageous that less than a year later, I seemed to need new glasses. Losing the sunglass clips gave me justification to check out new glasses.

I'm very excited about the prospect of seeing better, but was not happy to hear the word "cataracts," or the words "$700!" Could be worse, but I'm bummed (no, wait! I'm cantankerous about it); think of the much more exciting lens I could buy with this money!

This photo, while not great, would have been a total reject without having shot it in Camera Raw. In ACR, I increased the exposure, increased black and recovered the detail in the shadows. In CS3, I added contrast with luminosity blend mode, and sharpened. (yep! us ancient ones will probably want LOTS of sharpening in our photos.)

This next shot is a street scene in London near the Waterloo Tube station. The first photo is SOOC.

For this editing, I decided to tweak the photo using Scott Kelby's "recipe." I opened it in Camera RAW, slid Recovery, Fill Light, Contrast, Clarity & Vibrance all the way to the right. Then I opened it as a Smart Object (press Shift).

In CS3, right click and make it a New Smart Object Via Copy. In layers, I double-clicked the image thumbnail, which brings you back to Camera Raw. In the menu in the Basic palette, I selected Camera Raw Defaults. Once this opens in CS3, I changed the Blending Mode to "Color", and played with the opacity, and flattened. I wanted a little more intensity and then ran an acid action on it, giving me this colored-pencil-like version.

(And this photo better look really, really good when I look at it with my frickin' new $700 glasses.) (At least I'll get to show you a picture of them when I get them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Kind of London Vendor: Harrods

After I flew back to Minneapolis from London, we spent a day retrieving Brian and Dianna's cars. (We had stashed them at friend's houses so they wouldn't be on the street in case Minneapolis declared a snow emergency.)

My final "leg" of this trip was getting back to Grand Forks from Minneapolis, another 300 or so miles. I had decided to do something which I haven't done in 35 years. . . take the train. Brian's roommate scared me about this, telling me I should try to scope out a "normie" to sit next to, and then smiling a slightly knowing (but truly menacing, like something out of Stephen King) smile and saying I should be "fine." (sure, sure, "fine," but perhaps no longer able to make eye-contact with anyone other than my senile dog, and having to take copious amounts of medication with insane co-pays that, in order to afford, I'd have to sell my camera equipment on e-bay for a mere pittance. . . . that kind of "fine." But I digress . . .)

And Amtrak really was fine! Fine, as in wonderful! You get to the station, drop off your luggage (without paying extra for it, and can check two bags), and then simply walk to the train and get on it. No taking off your shoes; no answering penetrating questions about who packed my bags and if they have been under my control at all times (what exactly does that mean? will they know that my husband really was the one that put them in the car for me at the start of the trip? do I really want to implicate him with Homeland Security?) And you get to pick which seat you want to sit in!

The train was not full, so most people pretty much had two seats to themselves, and I wandered toward the back, and picked a seat. And just like how I manage to pick the slowest, most jinxed, line in the grocery store, within about 5 minutes, the seats behind, in front of me, and across from me came alive with cell-phone chatterboxes, and crying children. And this was going to be an 11pm to 5am trip!

But then the magic happened! As the train pulled from the station, people ended their phone calls, the kids fell asleep, I discovered that trains have leg-room that would accommodate the Jolly Green Giant, and the conductor came by and passed out pillows. (not the smother-you-in-your -sleep-kind; the kind that you can wedge between your head and the window ) I turned on my i-pod, and strangely, it seemed to play only one song.

I looked again, and it had really played the whole album! I'd fallen asleep! I started it again, and was again asleep within minutes, and before I knew it, I was back in Grand Forks!

Taking the train was far, far better than flying on a plane, and certainly better than driving myself through winter weather. About 10 minutes before my stop, the conductor came by and told me we were almost there. And the conductors take your luggage off the train and it's waiting for you in the station.

Take the train, if you get a chance!

This week's theme is SOOC and processed versions. Here are two sets:

Compare this to the vendor in yesterday's photo! Un-edited Harrods

Un-edited photo of escalator in Harrods (before I saw the sign that said "no photography."

And the edited version:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Color!: Flowers and Another London Street Scene

I needed a little color today. So here's two macro shots of my Valentine flowers:

And a random street scene from the minivan tour.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guinness in Grand Forks and Random London Shots

Friday morning, we began our long trek back to the Northern Plains. We took the Connect First Train from St. Pancras station to Gatwick, and at first I was worried. We stepped out of our hotel, and there were snowflakes. Already, the Luton airport was shut down, but we were lucky and managed to leave London before dampness stranded us there. It did seem to delay our train about 40 minutes, which cut much too far into the 3 hours before our flight. Once we left the train, at Gatwick, I looked ahead of me and saw a stairwell of about 5000 steps that I had to climb with my suitcase. Being the agile, swift person that I am, I began to take one step at a time and hope I'd make it to my flight. I was afraid it was going to be like something out of a Greek tragedy, Sisyphus, where I'd bring my luggage to close to the top, and that have it all fall back down on me.

But a miracle happened. First an incredibly generous, strong soul, happened along and picked u Dianna's suitcase for her, bringing it all the way to the top. And then another came along and simply carried mine up! I was astonished and so, so grateful!

OK, so it looks like I'm going to have to gradually wean myself away from London and the London photos. Tonight, my husband and I are going to watch a movie that appeared on the BBC, "Keeping Up Appearances: Life Lessons from Onslow." And my husband bought a Guinness (primarily for photographic purposes, of course) that we both enjoyed.

And these are just a few more random photos shot from the window of the mini-van during our Rock Legends Tour:

See what I mean about the dogs in London being beautiful? And the guy's not bad, either.

This was a school group lining up outside the Albert Lea for some kind of performance. I liked their cute knee-sock uniforms and ties. Kind of reminded me of Catholic grade school.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The British Museum, Rosetta Stone & Lost

Journal for Thursday, Feb 4, London late afternoon and evening

We split up, after lunch, and made our ways separately through the Tube, and back to the hotel (sort of.) I headed off to the British Museum. Originally, I'd planned to spend much time here, but had only an hour or so, because I wanted to be sure to get back to the hotel to meet up in time with Brian, Dianna & Emily to go to Wicked.

This is the lobby of the British Museum:

And a sculpture:

And someone dead a very long, long, long time. The British Museum has tons of antiquities. Of dead things.

The one thing, I really, really wanted to see, was this. It's the Rosetta Stone. This was the stone which helped decipher hieroglyphics. This baby was written (chiseled?) in 196 BC (a tad earlier than Word), and then discovered in 1799.

Shhhhhhhh! If you look closely at line 8, you'll see all the passwords to my foreign bank accounts.

I kept an eye on the clock while I was here, because I was worried about getting back in time. I had plenty of time, but I'm intimately acquainted with me, and my very sad sense of direction. The sun was beginning to go down, and truthfully, once it gets a little dark, I can't read street signs well. (keep that in mind next time you make me the navigator on a trip )(which I actually like to be.)

And I didn't have a compass with me.

And then I discovered something which made my blood run cold, ND cold, and alter time as we know it: the map I had with me didn't include our hotel.

Now, before our trip, I'd made many copies of Tube station maps for everyone, had acquired London maps from all kinds of brochures, had highlighted every map in my 3 guide books showing where our hotel was. . . and didn't have any of these with me. Except one lame map showing everything south and west of where I happened to be, lost in the universe.

I headed first in one direction. Then the other. I walked down streets that looked roughly familiar, because we'd been on them over and over over the last 4 days, walking when the buses weren't running. . . but they all looked . .. . different. Different as in, before I just wanted to take pictures of this and that; now, I just wanted to know which way to walk.

Ok, I took a deep breath, decided one direction was probably roughly northeast, which was probably, roughly, where I should go, in some kind of deranged zig-zag fashion. And walked and walked. My camera didn't feel so light any more.

Finally, I decided to start asking people, but pretty much no one had heard of the little street I was looking for. And with every other little building being a hotel in London, my hotel name didn't mean much. Eventually I went into the lobby of the British Medical Association, pointed out roughly on my lame map where my hotel should be. . . if the map extended, and a very wonderful, angelic, keeper-of-the-wisdom-of-the-universe took pity on this pathetic foreigner and downloaded and printed a much better google map for me. And pointed out a short cut for me to take to the hotel.

Remind me to never accept the words "short-cut". They always lead you to the edges of Oblivion, or possibly a sidestreet in Deliverance. Anyway, I was lost again. I asked a Random Unhelpful Guy in the street, showing him the map, trying to reconcile the street signs with where I was at. . . and he basically had no clue, but gave me wild sounding directions to ask some security guard how to get there.

I decided to skip his well-intended wild goose chase, and retraced my steps all the way back to the British Medical Association, and tried again.

This time, taking the EXACT SAME ROUTE took me SOMEWHERE ELSE!!! (how does that happen?) and it happened to be right in front of the hotel. Right in front of the hotel, at the exact moment that the same Unhelpful Guy walked by!

Yeah, no pictures of THIS fun little jaunt. Just in time for me to collect my (geographically-impaired, frazzled) wits and head off to Wicked with my family.

And Wicked was so , so worth it! The best part of the day! And yes, Kerry Ellis plays Elphaba and she was great!

I'm not sure if it was because of the weather issues this week, but the theatre was not full at all. I wished we'd gotten the half-price, same day tickets at Leicester Square. But what we were able to do was move up from our crappy, way in the back, off on the side seats, to much closer up and center seats. But if you ever go to London, consider the same-day tickets. Which is what I'll do if I ever get to go back. That and bring a map for every frickin' pocket of my clothes. And one for each shoe.(2)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tate Museum

Journal for Thursday, Feb 4, London late morning, afternoon

I was going to finish up my London photos tonight, but realized it's going to take one more day to do so. This first photo is of one of the absolutely delightful young women who served us breakfast each morning in our hotel. You can see a little of the breakfast area in the background, and I wish I'd taken a few more photos in there. It was fun, some mornings, to join a table with people from Italy, or Australia, and hear about someone's research, or acupuncture practice.

Here's my very tired little one, on the Tube, heading from the Buckingham area, to the Tate Museum.

Can you tell that the Tate Museum is modern art? It's another of the many FREE London museums (a VERY nice feature!) This was a work of many brightly colored bunk beds, many of which had books on them having to do with the Holocaust, and then large dinosaur sculptures here and there interspersed among the beds. You be the judge, and extract meaning from this . . . .

Here you see a bit of the dinosaur just above the beds. You entered the room through the plastic . . . ribbons? . . . down below. This room, the Turbine Room, was the only one in which photography was allowed. We felt very rained on as we got to this museum, so I liked this quote.

And then we headed off in search of food. We found a little cafe, where people were standing around throwing darts, and I ordered Scotch Pies & Chips. No color balance here!

We headed back toward the West End, where our hotel was. The parks (Russell Park) were open by this point in the trip, and this was the first non-frozen fountain I saw. The parks in London are wonderful, and I'd love to see what this is like, with lots of people all around (and pigeons!)

I'd been secretly wanting to photograph a mom with her baby in the stroller, but this was the best I could do. People in London have much, much nicer baby strollers than we have here!

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

London: Thursday at Buckingham Palace

Journal for Thursday, Feb 4, London morning

Now, if you go to London, it's practically a mortal sin to not see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. So we tried, and tried. The ceremony occurs on alternate days, and the (imaginary) Big Snow wiped out a couple of days. Thursday morning, our last day, we awoke to drizzly rain, and I worried that this would stop it as well.

Our hotel proprietor assured me, not without some pride, that it would occur today, and that ran would not stop them. "They're our MILITIA after all; rain shouldn't bother them."

So we trekked through the Tube to the area, my camera protected by my umbrella and a plastic bag, and got to the gates.

Some of us tourists asked the guards if the ceremony would occur, and they basically wouldn't answer. I understand that the guys in the cool hats won't talk to us, but I was pretty sure these people could if they wanted to.

Pretty horses, though.

Eventually, guards must have gotten some kind of word, because they started telling everyone to "move along", and "quit standing here in the rain; there's not going to be a changing of the guard ceremony," and some general, "keep moving."

But then there were these guys at least moving along in a line. Not doing much impressive, except wearing their fluffy hats, just crossing the area close to the doors of Buckingham Palace.

And then these guys, in spiffy finery, entered the area, rode in one circle, and then left.

Huh? I'm not exactly sure what we saw. When I got back home, I picked up a DVD from our local library, Rick Steve's Great Britain, and watched the ceremony. It was definitely much more impressive than what we saw, so I seriously doubt that we did see any "changing of the guard." So much for the militia. . . .

This was probably my least favorite of the four days in London, except for the absolute, over-the-top, sheer delight of finally getting to see Wicked in the evening!

Here, Brian, Dianna and Emily, after laughing about the non-event, are reconsidering options for the day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

London & the Ghost Tour

This is the home stretch, the end of the 3rd day in London. After Hard Rock Cafe, we headed over to Harrods. By this time, I was too tired (and grungy looking) to enjoy wandering around shopping in this very fancy, impressive, store filled to the brim with unpleasant-looking security guards. For awhile, I stood by the escalator and took photos. . . until I noticed the sign that said "no photography." So then I headed off to their book section, skim through a book on night photography, and went outside to try this technique:

While holding my 28-75mm lens in my hand, I pressed the shutter, and rapidly changed the distance setting from 28 to 75. Try it! My photo came out looking like this, but it might work much better with a tripod.

Then Dianna, Brian, Emily and I headed off to the Holburn Tube exit to meet Richard. Richard was listed as our Ghost, Gaslights & Guiness tour guide through London Walks. You exit the Tube station, look for the guy holding the LondonWalks brochures, and ask the secret question, "Are you Richard?" I saw this man with brochures, decided he probably wasn't really Jack the Ripper, and asked, "Are you Richard?", and he said, "N-o-o-o." Before I shouted anything calm like, "Run for your lives!" someone else approached, and asked, "Are you Charles III?", and again he said, "N-o-o-o." Ok, others started gathering, and if he wasn't our tour guide, we were going to draft him, by the authority of his holding 6 brochures and collecting our money.

He was Peter, a former actor, and he took us on a 2 hour walking tour of London, hearing about lots of historical gore, the history of the term "drawn and quartered", various places of hauntings and sited ghosts, and eventually stopping at Nell's pub for a Guiness.

Nell was a character done off by Charles Dickens. People were obsessed with Nell, as Dickens doled out tidbits of his story in his serial, with much concern about whether Nell would survive Dicken's plotline.

Of Nell, Oscar Wilde wrote: "he has a heart of stone, who can read about the death of poor Nell. . . without laughing." Good ole Oscar Wilde!

I thought I'd try my hand at panning as this cyclist whisked by in the night, and I liked its ghostly effect.

Covent Garden at night. . . yep. . . it's haunted.

I liked the tophat this guy was wearing.

This alleyway is still lit by gaslights. They're different from the ones from the London of old, which would emit a greenish, fog-like vapor, partly accounting for the pea-soup atmosphere of London at night.

And then we headed back to the hotel. If you ever get to London, there're a number of different types of evening walks, some focused on history, some on literature, and some just on pubs!