Mint and Tulle

I had this long post written about free time, photography, cheap shots (as in pictures/shots), and whatnot, but then this morning something happened – I discovered Polyvore.

I’ve heard of Polyvore, of course, through Pinterest most of all. People are constantly posting cute outfits from that site on their boards and I end up pinning a lot of them. But I never investigated who is making all those outfit images until today. Sure enough, you just open up an account and start creating outfits to save and share. Oh dear.

I actually made one using a dress I already own; I was thinking about how to wear it in colder weather and searching for ideas on how to wear tulle in winter – that’s what got me started in the first place. I found a few cute ideas I wanted to pin, then thought wait a minute, people are making these outfits on the internet somehow – let me take a few minutes to try and find out how to do them myself. And about fifteen minutes later, I’d made my first “set.”

Mint and Tulle

One of the main reasons I use Pinterest is to give myself outfit ideas to glance over when it’s time to hurry  up and get dressed already, and now I can do this without even having to try everything on first (although trying it all on is always better). Everything except the earrings (obviously, since I don’t wear them), bracelet, and purse I already own, at least some variation of it, so this is just one more way to plan and put things together without the drudgery that sometimes occurs when trying lots of items on. The dress I was able to search for by name, since I just bought it, and sure enough the site pulled the actual dress right up. Then I searched for a mint cardigan, because I already own one, brown tall boots (none of them that came up exactly match the ones I have, but these are close) and so on for the accessories.

So I’ll post today’s update tomorrow, and leave you with this for now. I am off to force myself to go to the grocery store instead of staying on Polyvore all day long…but it’s going to be difficult. With any luck, my fab outfits will take Pinterest by storm. We’ll see.

85mm

Man, do I suck at post titles! Sorry.

I mentioned yesterday that I managed to catch some evening light and use my 85mm for a few of my outfit photos (I need to come up with a name for these types of shots. “Outfit photos” doesn’t do it for me…feel free to make suggestions). I am spending way too much time sitting on my butt in front of my computer editing all this stuff, but I am also having too much fun doing it to stop. That said, after I write this post I’m going to attempt to get out and make something of my day. Moving on.

These photos are more “me” than I usually show. In fact, the first OP (short for Outfit Photo until I come up with a better name) is something I put together one evening to wear to work the next day, and I got a ton of compliments on it. A co-worker even showed up the next day in similar attire and said she’d gone to the mall after work the day before to try and find an outfit like the one I wore here.

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I also love white pants, but I have to wear something long over them to camouflage my wider areas. This isn’t perfect, but it works well enough for me. 

Sometimes I put a look together that makes me feel great, and this was one of those times. It has everything I love – jeans (somewhat disguised by being white; I’m a blue jeans gal for sure, so anytime I can wear them to work I do), Uggs (yes this is another new pair SO SHUT UP ABOUT IT because I already know I have a problem), flowy knit fabric (which I know I shouldn’t love as more structured pieces work better with my body type, but I love flowy things in real life as much as in photos, so I always keep an eye out for such items that I can get away with), and overall, comfort. In spite of all my costumes and wigs, I’m really a casual dresser at heart, so aside from the wig I’m sporting here, this could be me on any given day.

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You’re way more likely to see me wearing this at a restaurant than yesterday’s space dress.

From a photography standpoint, the white pants caused a serious chromatic aberration problem, but I dealt with as quickly and as best I could without stressing over it too much. No one at ModCloth or Flickr is going to care if there’s some purple fringing around the edges of my pants so whatever (OK, so some people on Flickr might, but not people who follow my photostream). Still love the look of photos taken with this lens. Like the next one:

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In case you’ve never noticed, I have freakishly long hands and fingers. Grandma hands, kids used to call them in elementary school. But my flute and piano teachers loved them.

I die every time I see the bokeh the 85mm creates; I just want to eat it with a spoon. So smooth. I knew putting more distance between myself and that big plant (can’t remember the name of it at the moment) would blur the background more, but I can’t do that with the 85mm when taking a full shot because just to get my whole body in the frame, I have to place the tripod so far away it’s practically mashed up against the opposite fence. So I just scooted in and did some half-body shots for the hell of it. And by the way – that gray ruched tee-shirt I’m wearing under the blue cardigan is from Athleta, a store with fabulous but expensive clothes; the little details they add are phenomenal, like the overlong sleeves this top has with thumb holes to keep them pulled down. Love that look.

After taking some closer shots, I decided to play with using my Speedlite outside for portraits to enhance what available light I had left:

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It was about 5:15 PM when I took this shot, so getting up close to the camera was too dark and created too many shadows without the Speedlite. I think I had it bounced off a nearby wall for this shot, and actually, I was staring at the flash to see what was wrong with it as it hadn’t gone off for the two shots before this one. Then it magically worked (Speedlites overheat easily, not to mention they CHEW through AA batteries), and I liked the expression my confusion created here. It’s a weird portrait, but I think it’s interesting. I take so many photos of myself that I’m always excited by any shot that captures an expression I’ve not seen before.

I kept the editing to a minimum in the shot above, although I did use Photoshop to remove some undereye wrinkles and sun damage where it showed (mostly on my forehead; I’ve pretty much stopped editing out the hyper-pigmentation on my neck at this point. It ain’t going anywhere, and it’s getting more noticeable with age, so it’s time to embrace it. It wasn’t bad here anyway).  But I like the little lines and wrinkles that remained, and although the light is weird here I think it’s a pretty honest shot. This next  one though, I may have overdone a little bit:

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I think my skin is softer than I’d like it to be here, but I did it for a reason. I took all these shots with photography makeup on as usual – extra contouring, highlighting, and blush; loads of black liner, false lashes, lips lined outside them to make them look bigger, extremely dark, painted-on brows – but that was all put on over the normal makeup job I’d done that morning, and it was done in a rush, so my blending was not spectacular. Since I was planning on doing primarily full-body shots I didn’t worry too much about it, but one thing a good camera does is pick up every little color variation of the makeup a subject has on (I’m sure different lenses work to enhance or detract from this as well), and in this shot there were about 3 different foundation shades showing up on my face (some areas were overly orange and others too yellow), as well as spots where the powder wasn’t well-blended and looked chalky. I used a skin softener filter from Nik Software to help blend all that mess together. There are lots of ways to blend and soften skin when editing, and I’m sure there are ways to do it more effectively than I can; this little Nik filter is the best I’ve come across but I’ve hardly done any real investigation of the process. Anyway, whenever you soften skin you lose clarity, but it was a compromise I had to make for this one.  The way I deal with that is to always soften skin first, then add clarity and detail to try and make up for it.

Moving on to another real-life outfit I shot outdoors – I have a third outfit to share but I haven’t edited those pics yet (remember, I shot over 500 yesterday). I got the inspiration for this look from ModCloth’s Style Gallery – another reason why I love it is all the ideas I get there for how to go into my own closet and put things together.

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I’ve recently become obsessed with maxi skirts and dresses, even though this is another style that is not the best on me. Maxis really require long legs (mine are short) and stick-like bodies (mine is curvy) to look fantastic, but even a more normal female body (read; not a supermodel) can pull them off if you find the right ones. The way I find them is to be willing to try lots of them out and accept how often they won’t work without getting discouraged – not a problem for me as I love to shop and blame the clothes when I don’t look good in something, NOT my body. Never blame your body, ladies; always blame the clothes; your body is a shape be it overweight or under, so it’s not that certain things look “bad” on you because of your weight, it’s the cut of the clothing that’s the problem. You could lose 50 pounds and still not look good in certain cuts or fits. So blame the clothes, ALWAYS. Moving on.

I bought this maxi dress at ModCloth over the summer, based on the loads of reviews that said it was flattering on all body types. It’s true, because it works on me too, and maxis generally aren’t good on me. The material is flowy but not clingy, and the top is a bit billowy which always helps me balance my small upper bod with my heavy lower half. I saw a pic in the Style Gallery of a gal out in the snow, wearing one of these with a sweater and some winter boots, and it just worked so nicely that I immediately pulled out some boots, a belt, and a chunky cardigan and gave it a go. Everyone at work loved this outfit, and true to form, I loved it so much I immediately went back to MC and bought it in the two other colors it comes in. Sigh.

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This shot totally contradicts what I said yesterday about how you will never see a shot of me with my upper body leaning back and my hips pushed forward. But whatever – it worked here.

On a more personal note, I have to add that all the fun I’m having with clothes and getting dressed right now has to be connected to the improvements I feel coming with my work situation. For most of the time I’ve worked at that school, I’ve rolled out of bed with just enough time  to throw on whatever’s clean and comfortable, and cared very little about how I looked. But ever since coming back from the break I’ve been really getting into wearing my clothes again, and it’s great fun. I think it’s definitely connected to improvements in my work life and I’m so happy about that,  but my checkbook is feeling the improvements, too, and may be less enthused.

Fashion show at 85mm

First of all – holy cow, have I taken a load of photos this month! Even before Christmas Eve and my recent adventures with the 85mm, I had the feeling I was dealing with an unusually  high volume of photos in my December folder (which is how I organize my shots, if you can call it organization – you should see me trying to find an old photo; it’s tragic). But today alone I took SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTY FOUR photos. I’m tired just thinking about it. Of course, many of those shots were blurry and useless due to trying to use the 85mm again, but still. That may not be much when you’re shooting other people, but those were all self-portraits!

This fact motivated me to add up just how many shots I’ve taken this month, and I can now tell you that I’ve taken well over 2,000 pictures since December first. It’s so overwhelming, I’m sure I’m going to forget to share some here or upload them to Flickr, not to mention all the decent shots that won’t get edited because I’ve already moved on to the next set. I was actually already behind on uploading photos; most photos I process get shared here, but I only upload one photo a day at Flickr (for various reasons), and I still have some from June that I’ve yet to post. I am either going to have to do a photodump where I just upload a ton one Saturday afternoon, or maybe a collage where I collect some of that older stuff that didn’t thrill me enough to upload at the time, but I don’t want to go completely ignored. I may work on that.

For now, I want to share some of the 600 or so pics I took today. I tried to move outside again and use the 85mm for some outfit shots – I wanted to play in the new stuff I got over Christmas, and I also like to upload photos of ModCloth’s clothes to their style gallery. So, these are pretty editorial shots, nothing arty here – but the clothes are pretty and I wore many different wigs, so there’s that.

But first of all, check out this makeup! I was pretty proud of this attempt, as I managed to do it fairly quickly and without following any sort of tutorial. I may actually be getting the hang of this (although, after thoroughly mangling two sets of false lashes, I said to hell with it and just went with loads of mascara. I’ll never get the hang of applying those damn things). As with almost all photos you’ll see here today, this was taken with my 85mm:

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The wig is called “Yaya,” and it’s made by Sepia. It’s discontinued but I managed to snag one recently on a clearance sale. Cute, but a terrible plastic skin part makes it look a little fakey. And yes, that is another fuzzy sweater. I love fuzzy!

So here’s how this shoot went down: after applying the face and taking some portraits while the makeup was still fresh, I gussied up in my first outfit and ventured out into the backyard. It was about 3 PM by this time because I am taking advantage of my vacation and sleeping late ( I didn’t sleep that late, but I spent the whole morning puttering around, then had to run a few errands and eat lunch, then an hour to apply the face and set up and another 30 minutes taking the portrait shots. So there). The light was pretty weak today as it was cloudy, which I actually prefer because I struggle with lighting in outdoor situations (as you’ll see shortly), so I thought things might go OK.

But – mistake #1 was making my first go at it with the outfit pictured below. I’d picked at least seven different outfits I wanted to photograph (which was way too ambitious, although I managed to slog my way through all of them, one way or another) and since this one made me feel the silliest, I chose to do it first while my husband was napping so I wouldn’t feel even sillier. The problem was the heels – it really takes me some time to figure out where to set up the tripod using this unfamiliar lens that needs a lot of space between the camera and me to get my full body into the shot, so I had to do a lot of trial and error – setting up the tripod, setting the focus, walking over to where I think the camera’s focus is going to be, taking the shot, walking back to see if I actually stood in the right place, then walking back to my spot to re-adjust as needed. And all of that back and forth in a tight skirt and five inch heels, even if they are wedges, is no kind of fun; in fact, it got downright irritating pretty damn quick. I would have been better off wearing some flats and a flowy skirt while getting a feel for the lens, but by the time I realized this, of course, the outfit was on and I had to soldier on.

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Doug was baffled that I’d take photos of the backyard when it was covered with leaves, but I liked them.

And oh Lord, problem #2. Putting aside the aforementioned numerous out of focus shots due to using a single focal point to get the job done with this lens, I completely forgot about the terrible chromatic aberration problem this lens has. I am not capable of explaining what chromatic aberration is, but I can show you what it looks like – purple or green that appears to “outline” parts of a photo, such as the silver handle of the parasol and my belt buckle in the photo below. Both of these were ringed with purple right out of the camera – and upon closer inspection, so was pretty much everything else. It wasn’t until the photos were done and I went to edit them that I remembered this issue – it’s a known problem with this lens, and most people say it isn’t any better on the $2,000 version (and yeah, you can also see in that before shot all of the wrinkles I smoothed out of the final version, LOL).

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I think you can see all the purple outlining the metal as well as the umbrella, and parts of my skirt and my arms, in the first photo – the belt buckle in particular looks completely purple. I corrected it as best I could, but I didn’t do a great job, and it took awhile.

Why it does this, I am not technical enough to understand, but I do need to remember that it happens and stop down next time I use this lens instead of foolishly keeping it set at f/1.8 (for this an other reasons I should have considered but am not used to thinking about). As it is, all of the photos I took outside using it have this problem, and it’s why ultimately I didn’t edit many of them,  because it’s a pain for me to correct and I wasn’t up for doing it too many times. Not a huge loss in the end, because only three of my seven outfits made it out the back door anyway; I ended up taking the bulk of them inside using my familar setup and my familiar lens.

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I did pull off a jump or two though.

Now I swear, I am not being super-picky about the chromatic aberration thing; it’s something any photographer worth his or her salt would avoid or correct lest they come across like a complete novice. I didn’t notice it when I took shots yesterday because it wasn’t as extreme; the metal in these shots really emphasized it and then I started noticing it everywhere. Doesn’t mean I can’t use this lens, I’ve just got to remember to stop down next time. Ah, the wonderful learning curve with new (or so old they’re new) lenses! And also – that fence behind me was way too bright with the sun hitting it. Something to remember next time I venture outside – gotta avoid that spot at this particular time of day. Anyway, moving on.

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Happy accident

The shots in my new tulle dress went better; chromatic aberration has something to do with high contrast, and these were much softer colors that blended with the surroundings better. It was still there around my shoes and in the leaves, mostly, but I was able to accept it and just edit the shots without so much fussing over it. And gosh, what a pretty dress this is! I actually had a lot of nice shots with this one – I guess that first outfit didn’t lend itself to much movement, so I didn’t really know what to do. But give me something flowy and I’m off to the races.

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Tried to Photoshop the remote out of my hand, but it made me look really creepy, like I was trying to claw someone’s eyes out. 

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No idea why, but I wanted a shot of me walking away from the camera. And see how the light has shifted and that fence is no longer blindingly bright? Much, much better.

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Love the color of this dress, too. A gorgeous taupe-y brown.

I haven’t edited the other outfit I shot outdoors yet, and who knows how long it’s going to take me to play with all this stuff. As it is, it’s 2:30 AM and I’m still typing up this blog post. So I may have to put the brakes on shooting for awhile until I catch up. But I say that all the time, don’t I?

Anyway, after I managed to get the outside shots done, I took a long break to edit some shots and see how it was going. That was a bit discouraging, since I didn’t get as much as I thought I would, so I kept the photography makeup on, ate dinner, then decided to pull out the trusty 17-40mm and studio lighting and shoot the rest of the outfits in my familiar setting. Needless to say, my love for the 17-40 was renewed; after struggling with the much prettier but far more temperamental 85, it was a heavenly to strap that puppy on the camera body and let the magic happen. Everything in focus, no weird color issues, and clarity by the truckload. I easily managed to knock out the four other outfits and threw a few more in to boot. Not to mention doing some jumping.

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Ohhh 17-40, how could I have ever doubted you?

I’ve only edited the pink sweater pics from this portion of the day’s picture-taking festivities, however – I want to knock the 85mm outdoor stuff out of the way first, since it takes more time and I have to do all sorts of editing techniques that are not second nature to me. But I did a few of these just because I enjoyed the color here so much (the cardigan – which is fuzzy, of course! – is what’s new; I’ve had that fabulous scarf for years, and it’s quite accustomed to being photographed).

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This was the last outfit I shot today, and I can tell I was pretty tired of the whole thing by how unvaried the poses are. I basically looked in a different direction with my eyes and that’s about it. I started shooting at 3 PM, remember – and at 10 PM I was finally wrapping it up. Ridiculous? Maybe. But I got a lot of nice shots out it- especially the studio stuff, but some nice outdoors shots too.

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Whaaaat – I’m doing something different here, I’m looking right at the camera. See? Different!

So, so much more to come. I haven’t even shared all the photos from Christmas Eve yet! So much to share, so little time.