Office Race

My first goal towards creating a studio out of my office was to get this big, old, cheap Sears bookcase that takes up half a wall cleaned out and out of the room. I told myself I would get that done this weekend, and on Sunday I finally got up the energy to give it a go. It took longer than I expected, because while cleaning out the bookcase I realized I had to find somewhere to put the stuff I cleaned out of there (the stuff that wasn’t total junk anyway) which led to me having to clean out some other drawers and cabinets to make room for it. I don’t think I realized before today, because I don’t generally pay attention much to my surroundings, just how much useless crap I’ve accumulated over the years and strewn all over the house, as well as stuffed into cabinets and drawers. Every available space here within which junk can be placed is full, and I’d wager that 97% of it is useless. So there’s that.

I ended up throwing out 6 bags’ worth of said junk, along with the bookcase, and let’s just say I achieved two goals today – getting rid of the bookshelf and getting back into a workout routine – because at the end of the day I was tired and quite sore all over. But goal #1 is accomplished, and every time I walk into my office I do a little happy dance to see that open space against the wall, which I’ve already used to move my umbrella stands against instead of having them hovering over my computer desk like they were before. At one point today I got really overwhelmed thinking about all those overstuffed drawers and cabinets and bookshelves and feeling the need to de-clutter the entire house, but I calmed myself down and reminded myself I’d do a better job of it if I stuck to the plan and took each step one at a time. I don’t want to burn out by taking on too much too soon, and forgetting to celebrate each little victory. So, here I am with one more wall of free space, a sore neck, and a sense of accomplishment. Yay me.

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Un-insert big ugly bookcase here

My next goal is to get rid of that little cheap black and white love seat that is basically a dog couch – I’m going to take it up to the school for the students to sit on in the learning center next year. Hope they don’t mind sitting on a dog bed for relaxation! I’m hoping to get that done some time this week. I’m not sure I even need a truck to move this thing; it was delivered to my doorstep in a box, so it isn’t exactly heavy, just might be too bulky to fit in my car. We’ll see. And yes, I am sorry to separate Penny from one of her favorite resting places, but my mind is made up and this room will be a photo studio, so we’re all going to have to make sacrifices. Moving on.

I also edited two more photos from Friday’s shoot:

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I have no idea why I was making that face, but y’all know I like to find shots where I don’t look anything like the other 5,000+ shots of myself I’ve stared at over the years, and this one fit the bill. It kind of looks like I just spied a tarantula crawling up the wall, but I thought the expression lent an air of mystery and humor (and maybe even drama?)  to the portrait, so here’s hoping I was right about that.

This next one was really frustrating – I liked it enough to run it through Photo Ninja and Photoshop, but once I started tweaking it in Snapseed I couldn’t get all that into it. It was boring me, and I felt like something was missing. I liked the focus a lot, though, and way the light played on the hair, so I kept working at it.

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Even when I uploaded it to Pixlr and started trying out different effects and overlays, I  couldn’t hit on anything that gave it the pizzazz I wanted, and I was about to abandon it entirely when, as a last resort, I decided to try out some borders, thinking I could edit the heavy frame out as I’d learned to do recently and just keep whatever textures the border might impose on the image. And just like that – BAM! It all fell into place.

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See what I mean? The difference is subtle, but the visual interest the specks and smudges create give the portrait a grittier feel, as well as adding some warmth and light to the shot. I cropped out the dark black borders so that they weren’t so obtrusive (this was actually done using three different borders layered over each other) and was just left with the touches of texture and color that made me happy. Now I really love this shot!

Got to go in to work today, but we’re on summer hours now so I only have to be there from 9 AM to 1 PM. I’m planning on editing more from this set as well as move more furniture, so another busy week awaits. Happy Monday everyone!

Beach Patrol

The benefit of hanging out with my family when on vacation is that they don’t care at all if I spend the entire time taking photos and edited them on my computer. My husband gets annoyed if I spend too much time doing that, but no one in my family cared so I got to snap and edit away. In fact, my dad is as obsessive about his hobbies as I am, so while I was editing on the computer he was trying to learn some James Taylor song on the guitar.

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This was the neighbor’s beach house, actually; I took that one with my telephoto lens from our balcony as it was actually pretty far away. This was our house:

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I took some quick snaps of the interior that I can edit later; it was a really beautiful house. I was deluded that it would take an hour to get there though; it was more like two hours. It was just me and my parents for a few hours, then my sister showed up with three of her four kids and their significant others. They’d had their senior prom the night before and seemed to really enjoy having a day on the beach. They wanted their pictures taken, and then after I took them they wanted to see them right away, so that’s a lot of what I have to share today.

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My nephew and his girlfriend

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My niece and her boyfriend – that date in the sand is the day they met. Cheesy, I know.

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They dug big holes into the sand to sit in. They also dug cupholders.

I took those with my 17-40mm, but since I knew I’d want to take lots of pictures I brought along all my camera gear. I took a bunch with my macro lens, but have only had time to process one of them; it’s a good one though:

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I forgot to bring my lens hoods so I started to get nervous about wandering around the beach with them because it was ridiculously windy outside. So windy, in fact, that all of the rocking chairs on the balcony were rocking without our assistance. Of course, I had to film this:

Here’s another I took with the 70-200; I liked how the bird looked like he was tilting in the wind.

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I’ll finish up with this one, and tell one sad story: at one point in the afternoon, I was sitting at the dining room table which sits in front of the long row of windows overlooking the balcony and the beach; I looked up just in time to see a Beach Patrol helicopter fly by right in front of our balcony. I literally could have licked it if I’d been on the balcony – OK not really, but if I’d been outside with my telephoto lens and been able to take pictures, it would have looked like it. Sadly, I missed it, and it never came back by. Ok so here it is – it’s Sunday morning and my parents have Fox News on, so I have to hurry up and post this and get the hell out of the room, so  sorry  if this isn’t the most well-written post ever:

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Photo-Fitting

My husband went out of town on Sunday night, so of course the first thing that had to happen was the clothes dryer had to break. Usually Doug is here to deal with getting things like this taken care of during the day, but since he’s gone all week I had to make a bunch of calls while at work, then leave early to get back to the house and sit around waiting for a repairman to arrive. However, in the end it worked out well, because it forced me to find a handyman in our area and get him out to the house – we live in an older home, and are notoriously bad at getting things fixed when they break (seriously, it’s been a joke at work for two years that our stove has slowly been narrowing down its number of working burners – we were literally down to one when this guy took a look at it). If we can find a way to force an appliance to keep working, we will do so, dammit, but when they do break, they are ancient and require an act of God to get them repaired. Well, this repairman is our new appliance god, because not only did he fix the dryer and promise to help us fix our 30-year-old stove, but he told me we were wise to keep all these old appliances as long as we could, since they were so much better-made than newer models. Ha! Now I realize this could be because he looked around and saw our house as a huge money-making opportunity with all its ancient stuff, but I don’t care, because I’d much rather mess with getting appliances repaired than buying new ones, which both bores and depresses the crap out of me. Moving on.

While I was waiting for him to show up, I decided to look through my movement photos from Saturday and see if I wanted to edit any more of them. The general consensus here on my last post, as well as on Facebook, was that the first shot was so good any others I processed really wouldn’t compare, and I rather felt the same way, but out of boredom and curiosity more than anything else I decided to play around anyway.

I’ve always felt that I process too many shots from my sets, and that really I should limit myself to one or two good ones and let the rest go rather than share five or six from each set with at least four of them being mediocre. It’s one of the reasons I ultimately ended up appreciating having to switch my Flickr page, because it gave me the opportunity to go through my photos and thin the herd, so to speak – to only add to my page those photos from each set that I feel are truly good ones. I’d been meaning to do that with the old page for a long time, but as I mentioned before, with thousands of photos uploaded the thought of going back through them all was overwhelming, and I never did it.

I’m not sure how I feel about only sharing a few shots, though. Ultimately I would like to keep Flickr as a place to share everything initially, but perhaps once or twice a year go through and delete those shots I’ve deemed truly mediocre, while keeping this blog as a place to talk about and share everything in detail, and then have some third space where I share only my best work and don’t socialize. I just haven’t gotten to that third step yet. And Luanne asked me yesterday about submitting my work, which is a step I’ve not even seriously considered because that is the part of the creative process that bores the hell out of me. I still have a complete poetry manuscript I’ve never submitted for publication anywhere – and it’s pretty damn good. I keep thinking I need to send that sucker off soon, before the style of poetry I wrote in 15 years ago (lyrical poetry) becomes obsolete and no one wants it anymore (I think that may, in fact, already be happening).

As far as my photography goes, I’m not sure what my “style” is anyway. When the idea of submitting my photographs came up in yesterday’s comments, I began reflecting on how my movement photos in particular aren’t easy to categorize according to what other people do that is similar. For example, I tried to post one of these recent shots to groups on Flickr yesterday, but I struggled to find the right home for them; they aren’t levitation or jump shots in the true sense of the word, as everyone else who takes these sort of photos seems to include setting as a key element of the piece – the subject is in a forest, or a darkened room with a window, or a field – but the point is, they are somewhere levitating. In my shots, I’m nowhere; it’s just me floating in front of a backdrop. Same for the jumping shots; the key for others seems to be jumping outdoors, mostly, and the focus is on the jump itself – for me, again, it’s in front of a blank space that may be black or white or blue, but I’m not anywhere at all. I’m just jumping, and I’m not in normal clothes like other subjects are.

I don’t think this is a bad thing at all; in fact, I like that my movement shots, be they levitation or jumping, have something unique about them. In no way am I saying I’m the only one doing this, but I can honestly say I haven’t come across many people who are – except for fashion photography, actually, which often uses backdrops and may have people moving about. But my shots don’t really fit there either, although with the focus on makeup and clothes that may actually be the closest fit for me moving forward. Anyway.

This is all one big ramble, so let’s get to the new photos (I’ve only had time for two today):

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For this one, I was kneeling on the ottoman, and right when the shutter clicked I lifted the one hand that was on the floor holding me there. Somehow I managed to do this and still catch my fall before I broke my face on the floor. I had a hard time editing out a small part of the ottoman, though, so I used the same Pixlr smoke border I used in yesterday’s favorite shot to conceal that a little. Ultimately I don’t think it’s going to be noticeable to anyone else, and I wish I’d thought of that border sooner, because I spent almost an hour trying to get the ottoman edited out of the shot perfectly. In the end the border covered it up completely anyway. Live and learn. And another thing about this shot: I am not centered at all, which was unintentional. Because I was using a vertical orientation with the camera, it was a crapshoot as to whether or not I’d get my entire body in the frame, and in fact, in several shots I didn’t. I use the vertical when jumping or trying to get my entire body into a shot as routine, and often when I compose myself more horizontally I forget to adjust the camera accordingly. Happens a lot, and I have to just deal with the less-than-stellar results. It’s always somethin’.

This second one is a re-work of a shot I posted yesterday – I decided to use Pixlr on it to see if I could make it more interesting. As a reminder, here’s the original:

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By the way, I love that in the shot above, you can kind of see the ‘farmer tan’ I am sporting from my outing with my father to the aviation museum. I had on a v-neck t-shirt and no sunscreen that day, and my neck and chest where my skin was exposed got sunburned, and is still a different color from the rest of me. LOL. This became even more evident after I messed with the color and shadows in Pixlr:

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So there you go, an updated and Pixlr’ed version of a photo that was only so-so before, now complete with farmer tan! We’ll keep that part to ourselves, and hopefully it won’t be that noticeable to anyone else. Since it was already a jpeg when I pulled it into Pixlr, I didn’t want to risk reducing the quality even more to open it back up in PSP and edit out the sunburn, so I figure it’ll just be a nice little inside joke. Aside from that, I do like this edited version much better; it conceals the obviousness of the ottoman I was at one time standing on, and kind of makes it not matter even if it obvious; the whole appearance of being a little phony now seems intentional. A little texture also never hurts to add interest, and the dark green light gave it a nice dreamy quality (I like this one better now, in case you can’t tell).

I’m going to work with a few more shots, so we’ll see if anything else interesting happens with them. Until next time, friends!

 

 

 

Stripe Jumps

As I mentioned in my last post, my foul mood over losing out on plane spotting this weekend was partly alleviated by getting dressed up a bit and taking some photos in my little studio. Always good for getting me out of a funk.

I didn’t bother with too much studio makeup, just put on enough to make my features stand out in the photographs as I was in a hurry and also wanted to snap a few pics of a new wig for a blog review over on RLW. Here’s one quick wig snap, since I took them at the same time:

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Can you believe that thing was $230? What a mess! Not that I paid that much for it, but still. It’s pretty awful. However, my Photoshop skin-smoothing skills are getting pretty awesome – check out a little B & L:

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Before
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After

Still me, just a little better. And it didn’t take me all day to do this, and I didn’t have to go view the video tutorials a thousand times to pull it off, so yay for that. And now on to the jumping, which also involved a little photo editing magic:

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This one, I think, is the best I’ve edited so far – mostly because I got the technique down by the third photo and didn’t feel like going back and re-editing the first two. I was actually standing on a wicker ottoman here that I covered with a black blanket, but I also took a background shot of the black backdrop and then pasted this photo over that background as a layer, and then erased the stool. I think this photo is the most crisp and clear, and in spite of the fact that I pretty much hate that wig (it’s the new one from the portrait posted above) it moved well and looked good for the photos. Doesn’t make it worth $230, but still.

I edited this one using the same basic technique, but here I used the photo of me on the stool as the background, and made the photo of just the black backdrop the layer I pasted over it – I don’t think this worked quite as well:

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It’s not bad, and it could be that the movement of the first photo is what makes it more effective, as it really looks like I’m doing some sort of weird squat-jump in that one while here it’s more obvious I was standing on something that got edited out. But working this way, rather than trying to cut myself out of one photo and paste myself onto the backdrop shot, eliminated at least some of the issues I was having before with shadows, and I didn’t have to totally re-create them this time. Also, this black backdrop creates one hell of a vignetting problem when editing and I’m not sure why that is; I feel fairly certain no one else cares about the little color rings that form around the edges but me, but it bugs me to no end and always has. Not sure what to do about it, although for jumping pic #1 I did figure out to go into Pixlr and use one of their “smoke” borders to conceal it a bit.

Also, that dress, which I’ve had for a couple of years now, is amazing for jumping and movement photography! It’s been hanging in my costume closet all this time, and although I’ve used it twice already, it’s been a long time since I’ve put it on, and I hadn’t thought of using it again until recently – my parents have rented a beach house for this coming weekend, and I am going down there Saturday, so I’ve been thinking about bringing this dress to use for some shots on the beach (either myself wearing it or someone else). When I decided at the last minute to take some movement photos, I guess that’s why it sprung to mind, and I’m glad it did, because it reminded me how great this thing moves. And to think I bought it at some fairly cheap clothing store while wandering around aimlessly, waiting for my nail appointment to begin – I bet it was $40 max if it was a dime. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it has one of those awful skirt linings that only comes to mid-thigh, making the rest of the full-length skirt transparent (God how I LOATHE this whole maxi-skirt-lined-only-to-the-thigh trend and want it to DIE already) which is really distracting in photos. So, I had to put on full-length black tights to conceal the lining a little, otherwise my legs would have shown through the skirt. Last one for now:

MilaJump1_Snapseed

My issue with this one is that the lighting and focus were off, and the subject doesn’t look as well-lit and defined as the other two. But that dress! It created such an amazing shape, I just had to process it. I actually went ahead and created a Pixler version too, and I’m not sure which one I like better. Perhaps you could view them both and then let me know:

MilaJump1_Snapseed_pxr

 

I was trying to detract from the fact that my face isn’t in good focus and came out kind of flat; but I’ve lost the attention-getting color aspect of the material, so I don’t know if this one is better or not. I’m now leaning towards the color one. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

More to come from this set, did some for-real jumping and may process one or two more levitation ones. And no, I haven’t forgotten about the aviation history museum photos, although at this point when I finally do upload them they’ll be anti-climactic.

Happy Monday everyone!

Yoga Shots

I may have used that title before, but here it is again. Processed a few more of the yoga shots this afternoon, so here they are:

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I felt these all worked best in some sort of monochrome rather than color; while the gowns were pretty and flowy and the fabric worked well, in color they looked a little too ballgown for the yoga poses. Monochrome worked best to highlight the flowy-ness of the fabric without drawing attention to the fact that it was actually a gown; which doesn’t make much sense when thinking of yoga poses and didn’t come off ironic or humorous enough to work from that angle, either.

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In this one I think the sleeves of Tamara’s dress worked nicely again; they really created some interesting shapes. I’m sure my late mother-in-law had no idea this dress of hers would get put to so much weird use!

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Tamara really does know her yoga moves and is quite graceful in performing them. For the hell of it, I flipped this photo sideways and edited out the horizon line as much as I could to fool the eye a bit better.

Possibly more jumping photos tomorrow; we’ll see if I have time since it’s my first day back to school after a week off.

Porch Song

Since yesterday’s post was all shots of Candace, today I’ll share some photos of Tamara, the other model from Monday’s shoot. But first I want to share one of Candace I forgot to share yesterday:

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There was the slightest bit of color in those trees, so Candace tried her best to trudge through the weeds and stand in front of them; this angle was the only one I could get to and manage to get any of the purple buds in the shot. It’s weird, but I kind of like it. Moving on now to Tamara:

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There’s the big-ass hair wreath I got for a steal off Etsy; it matched this old ball gown nicely. The sleeves on this dress absolutely make it; they are long and light and flowy and take wonderful photos, so I blew the fan on her and told her to just wave her arms around while I took some shots.

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I did less processing to this second shot, although I still did some – I kept the color more true to the original though, and didn’t use any filters. I rarely smile in my own shots as I tend not to look natural when smiling for a camera, so I’m always glad to get a nice shot of someone with a lovely smile – and this one came out great.

I also loved this next one, but it came out a bit yellow in spite of my ExpoDisc, and try as I might I couldn’t correct it without something else going wrong, color-wise:

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Notice this one was taken on the fabulous front porch I was so excited to use. Another thing you’ll probably notice is that I barely took any shots using it. There are a few reasons for that: first of all, when I got to the space the woman working there informed me that they actually don’t allow any outside shooting due to liability issues. I guess my disappointment was evident, because she ended up agreeing to let me shoot on the porch as long as I didn’t tell anyone (which of course I just did, oops), but quite honestly after shooting inside for two hours I was pretty burned out and not all that excited about using the porch – I’m sure the fact that I knew we weren’t supposed to shoot out there probably affected my attitude as well, as I am generally a rule-follower and wasn’t anxious to go take pictures somewhere I wasn’t supposed to. The other reason was that the night before the shoot a slight cool front blew in, and it was a little cold outside, so Tamara wasn’t all that game for hanging out on the porch anyway. In the end, this is one of the few shots I took out there that I liked, but I really loved it, in spite of the yellowness.

Right at the end of the shoot, Tamara pulled a prop chair onto the set and just started posing in it very spontaneously, which I liked but unfortunately most of the shots are a mess because I was just sitting on the floor and feeling tired and sloppy so the framing is all wonky. This one came out great, but in looking over it now, I think I may have overprocessed it:

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I thought there was something interesting about this shot, her expression is stern in a very vintage way, but the pose is so relaxed; I really liked the contrast. Also proud of the fact that her boots were actually black, but I managed to tint them dark blue without it being obvious. Oh, and throughout the shoot she was complaining about her being too flat, so I actually fluffed it up using some Photoshop trickery. Here’s the pre-Pixlr’ed version, though, which I’m starting to think I like better:

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In looking the two over now, I think the Pixlr version has too much going on. What do you think?

Onward and Upward

When reading Natalie Dybisz‘s book recently, I skipped over the part where she talked about making composite shots for her levitation photos. What I mean is, I read about it, then rather forgot about it when trying out some of the techniques she mentioned on my own. Then, when I was reading people’s responses to my first levitation post, it suddenly came back to me that she often takes a shot of the set without being in the shot at all, then can use that shot to layer her image over it and avoid some of the complications that come up when trying to just edit out chair legs or something. I know I’m doing a lovely job discussing all this in a technical manner, so you’re welcome for that. I am nothing if not completely incapable of discussing photoediting using proper terminology. Moving on.

On Saturday I decided to quickly give this process a shot. And I do mean quickly (although once again I managed to spend the rest of the day editing). The process for these shots couldn’t be more different from how I usually work. My usual method involves very little in the way of set dressing – I just hang a backdrop, pull my lighting umbrellas out and into place, put the camera on the tripod, and jump around for an hour or two. My vision usually involves fabric, hair, makeup, color, and movement, but all the shapes that get created are a surprise to me, which is why I take loads of jumps, then pick my favorites based mostly on the shapes those jumps create.

For these shots, the workflow was totally different. I had a very set idea of how I wanted to pose and how I wanted the final shot to look. That’s pretty new for me. Because of this, the setup was more particular. A lot more thought went to being in exactly the right spot when the flash went off, too, so I posed very deliberately and carefully instead of just leaping around. Then, once I had what I wanted, which happened pretty quickly, I was done. Instead of my usual two or three hours shooting, I only shot for about 15 minutes, which was weird as hell.

And, since I had no idea how this process was going to work out, or even if it would work out at all, I decided to forgo my usual prep time on makeup and just went barefaced, with only a touch of lipstick. If I’d had any daytime makeup on before getting started I would have looked better, but it was Saturday afternoon and I’d run errands that morning barefaced, and decided I didn’t want to waste time putting any on for shoot that might produce nothing edit-worthy anyway. Even if I did get some decent shots out of it, though, I figured my face would hardly be the focus, so I just decided to rough it this time as I wanted to get to it. I did put a wig on though, since my own hair is so fine it doesn’t provide much movement.

My first step was to take a background shot of the wall I’d be posing against, so I could layer myself over it later. So here it is, in its unexciting glory:

backdrop 1

It was important to be sure the lighting was exactly in this shot as it would be when I was posing, which means I of course didn’t do that at all. Hey, this is a learning process people. Anyway, for the first shot I’m going to share, here’s the pose I chose to edit:

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I was annoyed at first that my hand is covering my face, but in the end it didn’t matter; as I got to working with the shot I completely overlooked it. I used a wicker ottoman that usually sits in front of a chair in my office, and covered it with a white blanket so it would provide a matching backdrop against my body to the wall – this makes it easier to layer myself over the background shot and make the edges blend.

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So there I am, layered over the background shot. It was still a bitch to get all my edges smooth and blended, but with each attempt at this sort of thing I discovered more techniques to make this easier. I’ve got a long way to go, for sure – but one thing at a time. So far so good on this one, except that it looks terribly flat. I should have shadows in the shot somewhere – but where? Honestly I had no clue, still have no clue in fact, but I gave it a try:

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Those shadows aren’t all great at all, but for a first attempt at this it’s not too bad. Moving on to attempt #2.

When taking the background shot, I’d also had the idea it might be fun to take one with Simon in it, so I could be floating above him. A little kitty snack strategically placed on the floor took care of that (as a side note, Simon is the first cat I’ve ever had who liked treats, and as he’s been taking steroids to heal up some ulcers on his lip for the past three weeks – they’re called rodent ulcers, although they have nothing to do with rodents, and they are rather common – man is this helpful. I can finally  just shove a pill into a treat and the cat will eat it. Yay!):

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Yep, he’s still eating

Unfortunately, when I was attempting to pose on the ottoman, I forgot that a cat would be down below me in at least one of the photos, so I didn’t take any shots where I was looking down. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot more planning that goes into shots like these, and I’m not used to thinking ahead about stuff like this. I tried flipping my body around so I’d be looking down, but another thing I forgot to do in these first shots was fling my wig about – again, just too much I was already thinking of and I forgot some details. Flipping me upside down so I’d be looking at the cat didn’t really work when none of my hair was moving in a downward motion (it looks weird enough when I’m right side up and the hair isn’t moving) so in the end, I had to just float above the cat without acknowledging him.

Also, I tried something else here that Dybisz mentions when discussing her levitation shots; I used my upper body from one pose and my lower body from another and merged them together. I’m not sure this is something I’ll do all that much in the future, but I intentionally wanted to try it here just to see how it would work out. I can see how it could be useful to twist the body into some really crazy shapes, so it’s good to know moving forward if I can pull it off. I used my lower body from the first pose already shared above, then the upper body from a different shot:

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Doing this actually wasn’t as big of a challenge as I expected, although I’m sure a skilled photo editor could pick out my body reconstruction easily:

float composite cat 1

What was a challenge, though, was shadows again. Adding shadows is definitely the most difficult part of this process, for many reasons. Where to put them, how dark they should be (answer: NOT DARK unless you are a master at creating them), how to create them effectively (without looking like the cheesy evil spirits whisking souls away to hell in that Patrick Swayze Ghost movie), this is all pretty tricky stuff in my opinion, and I made the whole thing trickier by tossing a cat into the picture. Poor Simon kept getting overshadowed, literally:

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As I kept trying to get the shadows right (well, right wasn’t even what I was going for here, just, not ridiculous-looking) he kept getting more and more…gray. When I finally had some shadows I was OK settling on, I went back and brightened him up as much as possible, and he bounced back all right. But working around him here was a bit of a pain.

One last shot from this first set I’ll share (yes, I did two sets this day, so I have more to share later) is one that didn’t work out, mostly due to the pose. I wanted to try one more edit using two different bodies, and used the same lower body as in the previous two shots. The upper body I pulled from this original:

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I just ended up looking goony when it was all pulled together; as I mentioned earlier, the lack of hair movement meant I couldn’t flip this upside down so the cat would be getting any attention, and this upper body didn’t work too well with the legs. But what the hell, I’ll share it anyway – I’m not going to show it anywhere else, but I don’t mind sharing it with you all.

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I don’t know, it just looks like I’m imitating a jumbo jet banking into a death spiral or something. Just a weird pose, and I really didn’t need another shot of me levitating over, and ignoring, my little cat. But once again it wasn’t particularly hard to merge the two bodies together, just the damn shadows giving me hell, so good to know.

Tomorrow I’ll share part two, where I got wild and threw a sofa into the mix. And a dog. It all sounds like too much craziness to handle, doesn’t it? But I managed.

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.

The purple series

Oh Lord have mercy, I have a ton of these I want to edit. I think I might actually do it this time, instead of saying that then getting bored after processing 4 or 5. I’ve already processed 14 of them – using a backdrop that required no editing and sticking to the basics when processing helped to move things along for me. Plus, when I’m all dolled up in costume I feel no one wants to see 30 pictures of me in the same outfit just moving my arms a different way; with the purple sheers, it’s more about the shapes the fabric make than anything I might be wearing, so I think that gives this set more longevity. If that makes sense.

And by the way, I woke up with sore shoulders from all the steaming I had to do the night before to get the wrinkles out of both the backdrop and the sheers. I did get my husband to move the backdrop all the way up to the ceiling, and after all the work I did on it I am just leaving it up for now. No way am I folding it back up right away and creating more wrinkles! So, when I turned my studio back into an office I left the backdrop up and kept the pictures that usually hang there off the wall. The more I get into this photography stuff, the less office-like my office looks, and the more it transforms into some crazy photographer’s messy, chaotic work space. Oh well.

For reference, here’s how wrinkled everything was right out of the boxes – I took some test shots Saturday night, and yes I was in a pair of swim shorts because it was so freaking hot that day – but you can see how much better everything turned out after steaming (although according to my husband I have damaged the sheetrock by steaming the backdrop right up against the wall; didn’t have the heart to tell him I’ve been doing that regularly for the past two years):

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This entire set needs Botox.

I did do a few outfit changes, although they were slight, so perhaps I’ll try to upload over the next few days by collecting the different looks together – but in many of them, you can’t tell what I’m wearing anyway. For today’s installment, I didn’t have much of a ‘costume’ on with the sheers at all, just black tights and a black leotard, and a black wig cap to hold my hair in place. (Moment of vanity here – the leotard was a weird fit on me, as things like that always are due to my long torso/short legs body type. The way it was pulling on me made me look much thicker around the middle than I actually am; my waistline was pretty much disguised, and I readily admit that there are a few cool shots I passed over because I looked, well, chunky. And yes, I did try to edit my waist into the shots, but you could tell. Moving on.)

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I love how tall this one made me look, and the balance of the feet peeking out on one side, and then the opposite hand. Totally accidental on my part, of course.

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Love the shape this one created.

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This reminded me of an octopus, or a flower. The two do have things in common, you know.

For fun, I’ll go ahead and throw this B&W in here. The photo itself wasn’t all that thrilling, but I did like how I came out looking like some sort of sad, gothy sea-creature, so I thought a little monochrome might add to that mood. Throw in some overlays and textures via good old Pixlr, and there you go. Nice and spooky for Halloween.

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I did make a collage of all these with the idea of sharing them in one shot, by the way – but I do not like how small it makes each picture. I prefer to share these full size, or as full size as they ever are when I post them on the blog. For a true high-quality copy you can check out my Flickr page, but I only post one photo there per day.So much more to come from this set!