Peer One Portraits

Stupid title, but it’s a play on Pier 1, which is where I got all these props. Moving on.

Pier6_final

My initial plan was to wear one of my silvery gray wigs in this getup, but it ended up getting tangled in the garland so I put a thick silver headband on my head, on top of my wig cap, and pinned the poinsettias to that instead. Ended up working out great; I forget how much more difficult long wigs make taking self-portraits. They’re a bit hot under the lights, they get in the way constantly (snagged up in the costume or in my eyes while I’m trying to see what I’m doing or set up a shot), plus they tangle a lot when I’m flinging them around. Believe it or not, having 4 poinsettias clipped to my head was actually easier than putting on one wig! And yes, the poinsettias came with clips attached – I’m sure they are meant to clip to Christmas tree limbs or something, but that’s why i snatched them up, because I knew they’d be super-easy to pin to my head. And they were, except on one of them the clip broke off after about 20 minutes – kinda chintzy for a $5 decoration if you asked me, but then again, I’ve always found Pier 1 to be overpriced. Moving on.

Pier8_final

I was on my way to the register with some other stuff when I spied this white, sparkly garland shoved into a basket and snagged it instead. It was really fun to work with and created some very cool looks – the downside was that it was terribly itchy (then again, it wasn’t created to be worn by a human, so there you go). I loved the shots I got with these props, so much so that I’ve already edited – including the pics I shared yesterday – ten shots! That’s way more than I usually process from a shoot where I didn’t change costumes all that much. But the garland really added interest to the photos, and I found myself struggling to decide which shots to process.

Pier7_final
Remember when I said yesterday how I changed the colors up in every shot? Here I went for an icy blue that’s probably more green than I inteded.

When deciding what shots to edit, I try to find pictures where either my pose or facial expression isn’t so typical, but I do just have one face, after all, and I do tend to make the same faces over and over (which I discussed in a previous post). I think this is where the props can help a lot; to add some visual interest to the photo besides my face. I had very similar expressions going on in all the shots I took with the garland (about 200, in case you wanted to know), but the garland created a lot of interesting shapes and was fairly easy to manipulate. In fact, I totally want to work with it again – it’s very sturdy, and the wires are thick and strong so I can move it into a shape and it will hold it for several poses before it starts to collapse. I could have done a lot more, but as I said, it was terribly itchy and my skin was starting to get irritated, so I had to stop playing around. Plus, there’s only so many shots I need of me in this particular look with the same garland no matter how much I can manipulate it, so I figured I’d stop while I was ahead and leave more to the imagination for a future shoot where I can look completely different.

Pier11_final
Another favorite

As far as the technical stuff, to change things up a bit I used my 70-200 telephoto lens that I normally reserve for plane shots in this shoot. There was no real reason for this other than wanting to try something different and see how the photos turned out; it was nice to have more room to work with while I posed since I could keep the tripod pulled quite far back instead of needing to keep it closer with my 50mm or 85mm prime lenses, but I didn’t get the lovely focus and camera blur those lenses would have provided. Still, it did a good job and for the most part  the auto-focus was dead-on – easier than either one of the prime lenses, in fact, but I guess that finicky focus is why they create such nice portraits in the first place. Another benefit I’d never considered was that I could stand much farther away from the black backdrop, so there was very little light from the flash reflected in it to alter the solid black effect – another thing I probably should have known by now but never did.

Pier13_final

Because I used my Flash Bender on my Speedlite for this shoot, I got a lot of sharp, strong shadows that created some nice black and white shots as well, so there’s quite a few I converted to B&W when processing. I also kept my cheap ring light handy (and managed to knock it over and break it as well, so it’s time to buy another one of those) and for the most part had it set up behind me on a tripod to give my head and shoulders a bit of an outline against the black backdrop; occasionally I also placed it right in front of me to get some catchlights in my eyes. Unfortunately, in some of the tighter close-up shots the ring light tends to create a lot of chromatic aberration that I forgot to edit out (you can see it in the close-up shot from yesterday and the one above), and my eyes came out looking a little pink. I may go back and edit that before uploading to Flickr, but for the blog, pink eyes it is. And by the way, super-easy Photoshop technique for fixing chromatic aberration is located here – a two-minute YouTube tutorial that is simple as pie to do. Has saved my butt on many occasions when working with bright lights and getting all those purple rings around high-contrast areas.

These next few are pretty experimental and I don’t care for them quite as much as the more straightforward shots, but there was so much I wanted to work with here and I started feeling the need to change things up a bit.

Pier5_Snapseed

When this shot was taken, the Speedlite failed to go off, so the resulting photo was really dark. This happens several times throughout any shoot, and sometimes I try to process one of the pics to see if anything interesting can come of it. Usually nothing does, and I don’t think this one is very successful either. I pulled it into Pixlr to try and generate some added interest, and honestly I can’t remember what all I did to it there, but in the end, I still don’t think I like it very much. But hey, I tried.

Pier9_final

Mostly I just liked the way the garland was framing my face here; this is another shot I Pixlr’ed like crazy, but I think it worked better here. I used some of their graduated color filters as well as a space filter to make the costume sparkle; I just discovered that Pixlr’s desktop app can utilize masks so I was able to apply the stars without having to add them to my face, which is cool. I love textures and filtered effects, but for the most part I don’t like them to muck up faces, and it’s nice to be able to erase that out now.

Well, that’s probably all I have from this shoot, although I have one or two more I’m still eyeing. But I pretty much marathon-edited this weekend, partly because I had the time, and partly because it’s been a long time since I just worked with portraits and had forgotten how much fun it is. Busy week coming up at work – the week before any vacation is always stressful, and this one is shaping up to be the same, so I may be MIA until the holiday starts next weekend. Happy Monday everyone!

Men Don’t Make Passes…

I think you know the rest.

Anyway, I got new glasses last week, as I do every year – not because my prescription changes all that much, just because I get bored. I decided not to get my glasses through Zenni Optical this year, because I wanted a higher-index (and therefore thinner) lens, so I went to my old standby LensCrafters instead. My husband keeps insisting I can get better-quality frames from an optometrist, but I tried that last year and it was disastrous as the lab kept screwing up my order and I had to take the glasses back three times to get them right, then never liked the frames I got and ended up wearing the cheapies from Zenni as my regular ones. Plus, I always find plenty of nice frames at LC that last a year with no problem. I did try this year to get glasses from the optometrist (a new one, since I essentially fired my old one last summer) but once again the cost was going to be outrageous – $850 for one pair of glasses! I knew I could do better than that, so I said never mind, paid for my eye exam, and took my prescription with me to get it filled elsewhere.

I’ve personally never had a problem with LensCrafters glasses, and my eye prescription is quite strong. What I like about them is, first of all, the 30-day guarantee. I also like that the salespeople there don’t just immediately ring you up for the highest cost, but will work with you to come up with creative ways to keep the cost down. The woman who helped me this time calculated four different prices for me, each price having different features for me to choose from. I really appreciated that. In the end, I went with the thinnest lens, but to keep the cost down I didn’t get lenses that will transition to sunglasses when outside. The cost came to about $600, which is still a lot of money compared to getting a pair from Zenni for $130, but the lens is thinner and lighter. And I absolutely LOVE the frames!

day5c_final

Most people can’t tell I got new frames at all, because they’re dark and cat-eye shaped like my last pair and let’s face it, people don’t pay all that much attention to such things. But I can tell, and I love these – I think they are an even better shape than my Zennis I was wearing before. I’ve had a heck of a time getting used to them though; they don’t have spring hinges which means they are a bit less comfortable and press against the back of my ears harder, but after wearing them for five days I am finally starting to get used to them. I was considering taking them back for a different frame (something I can do at LensCrafters, remember) because for a few days there they were really hurting my head – but I hate to give them up, because I think they’re great looking. So I’m glad to be finally getting used to them. They’re a Tory Burch frame, by the way, style #TY2044, if anyone is interesting in looking them up.

Anyway, since I wasn’t going to have transitions lenses put in, I figured I’d pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses from good old Zenni. And since they were only going to be for wear when out in the sun, I figured I’d get some fun ones. They came in Monday morning, and I decided to make a pic of me wearing them my Day Five shot for my 365 project:

day5a_final

Yep, that’s right – I got some John Lennon sunglasses and I love them (or, depending on your age, Harry Potter sunglasses). The frame was a whopping $19, and with the mirror-tinted prescription lenses and express shipping, they came to $130. So, two pairs of glasses from LC and Zenni for less than one pair from the optometrist (oh and get this – the frames I was going to buy from the optometrist were also at LensCrafters, but for $40 less! So much for my husband’s theory that you get better frames at the doc’s office). The style number on these little round plastic frames is 430023, in case anyone wants to get a pair. For most people, they won’t cost near as much as mine did, since my prescription is stronger than most. I’m thinking about picking up another spare pair, because with these I should have just gotten a distance prescription and left off the bifocal part; I have to look through the top half pretty carefully when driving. Or maybe I just want a second pair because they’re so cute. I kind of do that sometimes.

Anyway, a lot of these test pictures for my Day Five photo turned out cooler than I expected, especially since I threw them together without much setup or planning, so I processed a few more (including the test shot of me in my regular specs which I posted above). I edited these shots using both the RadLab plugin and my new Nik collection one; I am really loving the Analog filters on the Nik software and am learning how to use it to nice effect. Here’s one more I worked on tonight:

day5b_final
And isn’t that necklace fab? Got it at Nordstrom during my latest Galleria trip. On sale for about $24.

I love being able to add and adjust light flares and textures, and had a good time working on these. Of course, I worked on them to the detriment of other things, like working out – but that isn’t my fault I swear. My computer did that thing where it freezes up entirely and you have to shut it down, then you boot it back up and it says it needs to run a disk check, and you let it even though you really don’t want to and it takes thirty minutes, so rather than go do useful things for that thirty minutes you sit and stare at your computer while pouting because it’s really screwing up your plans not to be able to use it. OK, so maybe I’m the only one who does that last part. To sum up: I did get Day Five of my 365 project done, and I did get new glasses and sunglasses, but I didn’t work out. Moving on.

In other news, work is going to be hectic as hell the next week or two, so I may slow down on blog posts. But I’ll still be around, doing my 365 shots if nothing else. Or I may not have to slow down at all. We’ll see. And yes, my perm is still going strong! I’m  figuring out how best to style it, so I was in the midst of a good hair day when I shot these. Always helps. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned this all that much, but I am still growing out my hair dye and letting my grey come in – not sure it’s really noticeable at all, but there is some gray in my hair as I haven’t colored it since March. Not sure why that matters, just filling you all in. Unlike my gray, which I am not filling in at all.

And by the way, I didn’t share Day Four’s 365 shot, so I’ll close this out by sharing it now. It’s Simon, doing Simon-things in my bathroom:

Day4
And yes, I still hate that wallpaper.

Hairy Birthday

Welp, today is my birthday, which means I will start telling people I’m 46 even though I’m really turning 45, because I started telling people I was 45 last July when I turned 44. I just completely confused myself by typing that sentence.

But if you thought the occurrence of something like a birthday could stop me from posting about my hair YET AGAIN, you’re wrong! Because once again I got up Monday morning and decided my hair wasn’t quite right and started snipping. The thing is, there was this same swatch of hair hanging down into my face that was annoying the hell out of me, and since stylist #2 didn’t cut as much off around my face as I’d hoped he would, it was still hanging around bugging me. Allow me to give you an example:

before cut 2

Not only did this bit of hair keep hanging into my face, it also wouldn’t curl; I don’t know if it didn’t get wrapped properly during the perm process or if it got fried or what, but it looked really wonky to me. So Monday morning I started snipping at it, again (this is the same bit of hair I snipped at the first time I messed it up and had to go get a trim). And it ended up really short. Of course this looked terrible since I was cutting with nail scissors, of all things (don’t ask). And since it was Monday, I was pretty limited in my choice of salons to get it fixed. I ended up hopping in my car and zooming over to the local mall, where a very nice young woman at Visible Changes evened out my latest wonky hack job, blended everything together, and did the same to the other side for balance. The funny thing is, I think this is what the haircut was lacking all along, and it only cost me 30 minutes of panic and five dollars for a bang trim. And on another positive note, the people at the salon raved about my perm and said they never would have guessed it wasn’t natural.

brick8

This is the sort of face-framing I was hoping for with my first post-perm cut and didn’t get. I think it finally took the weight off my face and got rid of the part of my hair that was refusing to curl nicely. It also makes my hair look bouncier, as I think stylist #3 blended some of stylist #2’s layers better. So yay for accidental butchery. But seriously I have to keep the scissors out of my hands now…I won’t get lucky enough to have one of my disasters easily fixed a third time.

That photo, by the way, was edited using the Nik Collection for Photoshop plugins I finally broke down and purchased last week. I had a heck of time using them, though, because they kept crashing Photoshop, and I spent about four hours figuring out how to correct the problem (ended up being an out of date driver). I spent $150 for the software, though, so I was determined to get the issue resolved. And when I finally got it fixed, I decided to use it to mess around with my new hair photo – so there you go.

Also, I finally unpacked and hung up that brick wall backdrop I ordered from China. It’s OK, but not long enough to cover the floor, and the furry floor rug I bought to cover the carpet because I thought it would look cool ended up being a disaster – it shed like crazy, and all three of my pets were immediately chewing up pieces of fake fur like cows chewing cud. I had to get rid of it before it killed one of them. So in the end, for my test pictures I had to just crop all the floor out of the shots. The backdrop itself looks OK, but I’ve got to find some other option for the floor for full-length shots (the backdrop just sort of piles onto the floor, and isn’t long enough to pull out onto it like my solid black and white ones are. So it needs some sort of transition between it and the actual floor. Hard to explain, but trust me):

brick5_final

That right there is the first photo I’ve ever edited totally in Photoshop, which is a big deal to me even if no one else cares. Unfortunately although I took some more cool jumps, I don’t have more to share because I spent so much time last night trying to correct my device driver problem that I ran out of time to edit photos.

Here’s one more nice little lucky shot I got Monday, then I’ll share more later.

brick1

I say lucky because Penny never poses for shots, and in truth she isn’t really posing here either, but this still came out kind of sweet. And I guess it looks a little awkward having a wrinkled brick wall, but maybe no one will notice.

 

Portrait Portions

A few more photos from my recent portrait session here, but first, I have to mention the spike in traffic I saw on my blog yesterday. Keep in mind that for me, a spike in traffic means I went from about 30 views a day to almost 200, so overall I still don’t need to quit my day job or anything, but what the hell, it was still a big jump over my usual numbers. What did it was the Stitch Fix people finding my blog post from yesterday, and creating a pin on Pinterest of one of my photos (the one with the aztec cardigan). The Pin sent people to my blog to check it out, and here’s what happened to my stats:

stats

I think you can tell where the spike is (and no laughing at those sad numbers, BTW). Always interesting when something like that happens, so I thought I’d mention it. Moving on to the shots – I have three more self-portraits to share, all taken after I’d starting destroying my costumery and makeup:

done5_final

I edited the hell out of this one to reduce my skin tones and up the contrast; not sure I like the way it came out but at least it was something different.

done6_Snapseed

I like this one better, and as I mentioned in my previous post about these shots, I really liked how cutting a hole in the top of the wig and pulling my own hair through it worked. It almost does look like a dye job on my actual hair instead of a wig (or half-wig as the case may be – and yes, half-wigs do exist. They just don’t work at all like this one). The last one utilizes these great costume glasses I got off Amazon a while back – in my current Sopranos-obsessed state they reminded me of Junior Soprano:

done7_final

I Rad-Labbed and Dirty-Picture’d the hell out of this one to bring the light down and add some interest. I think it worked out well.

Speaking of glasses, I ordered new ones for my day-to-day life this afternoon and will of course take pictures of them when they come in. Oh and I’ve also discovered the joys of toeless socks, so I’ll have to write about that sometime too, won’t i? There is nothing I won’t write about here, after all, so please try not to go giddy with anticipation waiting for my yoga sock review. Happy Friday everyone!

Flower Trip

More flower macros! Today I decided to share some comparison photos as well; the first set shows the difference the FlashPipe made on the macros when I was focusing in really tight. Without using an external flash, such shots were too dark:

lana8b

I’ve used the Speedlite on macros before, and it definitely helps, but because of all the weird angles I’m using to get the shot I want the light kind of bounces all over. With the FlashPipe I get a nice soft diffused light that’s much more even, and definitely brighter than taking the shot without any flash:

lana8a

My next set of comparisons shows how using the RadLab plugin for Photoshop helps edit a SOOC photo into something more magical. Here’s the original shot:

lana9

And here’s the shot after I adjusted the contrast and used RadLab filters to brighten and enhance color and detail:

lana9_RadLabbed

Big difference! So even if in the final shot you can’t tell how RadLab might have helped, it definitely does. Of course all this could be done without it, but for someone with limited Photoshop skills like myself the plugin sure makes things easier.

I then used Snapseed for final sharpening and to enhance color a little further, as I felt the yellow was a little blown out in the original shot (the downside of using the flash). So here’s the final version:

lana9_RadLabbed_Snapseed

This next one is a bit similar to a shot I shared in Sunday’s post; but that one was taken without the Speedlite/FlashPipe combo while the one I’m sharing today used those two additions. So as a reminder and further comparison, here’s the shot I shared Sunday:

lana6_final

And here’s the same flower (different angle though) taken with the external flash and FlashPipe (as well as water spritzing):

lana10_Snapseed

Both are nice, but the effect is totally different. Again you can see how the color gets blown out a bit by the flash, even after all my edits (this is a final version, achieved using the RadLab filters and Snapseed).

And here’s my last one for today. Definitely a favorite – final version only:

lana11_Snapseed

More flowers later, I am sure. Another busy week ahead, and then next week I must start getting back to work at least once a week to prepare for the year. Enough time to do a full self-portrait set complete with costumery still eludes me, but I’ll get to it when I can.

Do Overs

I’d been eyeing this skirt at my new obsession, Free People, for about two months and finally decided to buy it Monday morning. Then I decided to try some levitation shots in it, since a Flickr friend was complaining (jokingly) about my lack of self-portraits lately and I thought I could show you all the fabulous skirt. Unfortunately, the levitation stuff didn’t work out at all. It’s difficult for me to get the color balance to match when I am using a white background; much more difficult than when I’m using the black, and try as I might I could not get a decent composite shot at all. I did my best to process a few of my attempts anyway, but they aren’t very good. Still, you can get a gander at the skirt if nothing else:

skirt3_Snapseed skirt4_Snapseed

After the disappointing results I got with those, I decided to take older photos I’ve not yet uploaded to my Flickr account and re-work them by running them through RadLab. Every time I process a shot, I save a copy in a file I’ve titled “To Be Uploaded,” and it’s gotten ridiculously full lately. Since I have some pretty old stuff sitting in that file right now, I decided to see if I could turn any of it into something I might actually want to go ahead and share on Flickr.

portraitzoom6retry1a_final

This was one of the shots I did back when I was just learning how to smooth skin in photoshop; I think I took it with my telephoto lens when it was new. I also edited two shots from my pink fuzzy sweater set I did back in November of last year:

044_Snapseed (2)

I added a lot of light and contrast to this one; still not sure I like it any better than I did before, which clearly wasn’t much as it’s still sitting in the To Be Uploaded file.

This next shot has always miffed me. I really liked the pose and composition of the shot, but the picture itself lacked punch. I went ahead and converted to B&W when working with it, since the color seemed to be working against it, and after further RadLabbing I think it actually works now:

113_Snapseed

Also, I have a bunch of shots left from when I got that $16 space dress, because I managed to make myself look really good in that thing so I processed a ton. I’ve never uploaded all of them, though, because how many shots of me in a curly wig and a space dress does anyone need to see? But to give myself an excuse to upload another one, I ran it through the Dirty Pictures filter to add some texture – I thought this texture really worked with the off-center stance I had here:

space3_Snapseed

And last but not least, I used both RadLab and Dirty Pictures on this last shot, which was taken when I was testing out a snood on my Speedlite:

spot 1a_Snapseed

Not sure I like this one all that much, but still, it was fun to re-work some old stuff and RadLab makes it very easy. I paid $150 for the plugin, but it was worth it. I may go through the To Be Uploaded folder again tomorrow and see what else I can improve (or destroy as the case may be). Happy Tuesday everyone!

Stitch Fix Stitch Pics

Several months ago, one of my friends showed up to work in this fabulous maxi dress, which was particularly notable because she’s someone who up until that point had never worn a long skirt in her life. I asked her what prompted her to buy such a thing and she told me her “Stitch Fix Stylist” sent it to her, and she loved it. Stitch Fix (if you sign up by clicking that link it gets me a referral credit, just FYI) is a company that’s all the rage right now; on their website, they take a profile of your personal style then send you “fixes” when you request them – you can request a scheduled monthly fix, or choose to get them more or less frequently. A fix is just a shipment of five wardrobe pieces, supposedly chosen based on how you answer initial questions about your style and then, as time goes on, also based on how you respond to the items in each shipment. You try everything on, decide what you want to keep, go pay for that stuff on the website and plop the rest of the clothes into a postage-paid mailer that you drop into any USPS mailbox, and that’s that.

It sounded pointless to me when I first heard about it, not being one who needs any help buying clothes; but after seeing my friend show up in three or four more fabulous outfits she got through the service I decided to give it a whirl. And one of the things I’ve appreciated about Stitch Fix so far is not how they zero in exactly on what I would love to buy for myself, but rather, the things they toss into the box that I never would have tried on had I come across them in a store. I think to get anything out of a service like this, you have to be willing to broaden your horizons – and be patient. My first shipment wasn’t all that great, and I only kept one of the five items, but I went to the site and gave very specific reasons why I didn’t like what I got, and my next fix was much better. Another thing I changed from my first fix to my second one – I upped my bottom line. You select a price range you’d like the clothes to stay within; I went for the cheapest level the first time out, and well, I got cheap stuff. So in my profile I bumped up what I was willing to spend, and between that and the feedback I gave the stylist, they really improved the second shipment. It was almost twice as expensive as the first one, but I kept three items instead of one.

So, I thought I’d let you know about the service now, because I’ve used them twice and found it enjoyable both times, as well as very little hassle. I also decided to snap some quick pics in the antique room I’ve mentioned before, just to see if it really would be a good place for photos now that’s it’s free of excess junkery. So, here you go – everything I’m wearing here is from my second “fix” and I kept all of it:

stitch2_Snapseed
New clothes – with that just-out-of-the-bag wrinkled look

I’ve been looking for a kimono-style jacket that doesn’t cost a fortune for awhile, and although I really wanted a black one, I kept this one anyway. The tank underneath it is a nice staple I’ve also been trying to find – a sleeveless tank to wear under jackets that isn’t completely plain or too clingy.The jeans I did not need at all, and I never would have tried these on had I seen them in a store due to how “destroyed” the finish is, not to mention they are low-rise to the point of being obscene, but when I put them on I absolutely loved them – in spite of the fact that I have to wear very long tops with them due to the low-rise factor (plus, as you can see in the photo below, they photograph really well).

stitch3_Snapseed
Still had the tags on everything when I took these as I was deciding what to keep

I think that shot shows the jeans and the tank much better, as well as the cool movement I can get out of the kimono. It’s hard to be overly impressed with five little pieces of clothing, I think, so the Stitch Fix stylist includes a printout with suggestions of how to wear each piece with other basics you might already have in your closet. Again, not really something I need or even pay attention to, but it helps generate more excitement about what might otherwise seem to be five random pieces of clothing – especially if they’re all rather basic, like mine were.

Here’s a shot of something I sent back, as well as another shot of the antique room (which is the real reason I’m sharing the photo):

stitch1_Snapseed
Nothing like a top that makes stumpy legs look even stumpier

Um, yeah – this is why taking pictures of yourself in new clothes is a good idea. I thought I was going to keep this top until I saw the photos; it’s supposed to tie but I cannot stand things tied around my waist (I despise belts, too), so I thought I’d snip out the tie and wear it open as it is above. But it really doesn’t look good that way, and made me look frumpy. However, it’s the right idea for me, and I did like it a lot as far as the attitude of it goes. And by the way, that piano behind me belonged to my great-great grandparents.

As far as using this room for photos, I think the walls are really pretty but I’d use it more for portraits than full-body stuff for the most part. There’s a lot going on, and while my 17-40 is great at getting a whole lotta room into the shot, it keeps everything in such focus that it’s hard to know where to look, kind of. I do think with the 50mm lens and the framing on just the upper body, that wallpaper would make a beautiful background. And I also have that nice settee you can see in the other photos, as well as the piano, to use as props. The mirror behind the piano causes problems, as well as some huge pictures hung on other walls – but hopefully those could be taken down and put back up without much trouble. So, there you go. A little note about Stitch Fix, which just might be worth the hype, and a glimpse of the antique room I’m always talking about. You’re welcome.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about cost – you do pay a $20 stylist fee for each shipment, but it is deducted from the total of whatever you buy out of that fix. If you buy all five pieces in the shipment, you also get 25% off the entire order. So, worst case scenario would be that you keep nothing they send you, and you’re out twenty bucks. My first shipment was the one where I’d chosen the “low cost” option, and if I’d kept the entire shipment it would have been $187 (that’s with the 25% off). The cardigan I kept from that shipment was $48. For this shipment, if I’d kept everything, the total would have been $320 with the 25% off. The jeans were the most expensive item in this shipment at $128, then the kimono at $78, and the tank was $48. I know the jeans were pricey, but they look damn good on me, y’all.  Granted,I can’t gain an ounce or they won’t fit, but hey, exercise motivation (edited to add that the jeans actually stretched out perfectly and fit like a dream now!).

Getting Catty

Inspired by one of Leanne Cole’s recent posts, I decided this afternoon to pull out my macro lens and give that thing another go. This time, I rolled out my black backdrop, set up a TV tray covered with a black blanket, and aimed two umbrella stands with gold reflectors at it so I could control the environment and lighting better than last time when I just walked around with a ring light shooting objects at random (and yes – it was definitely easier to get things set up and work in my de-cluttered office space).

I took some fairly cool pics of this wooden Buddha I found underneath our bed while cleaning one day this week – we bought it in San Francisco while on our honeymoon, so who knows how or why it ended up there. Most things in our house end up under the bed at some point or another, so that’s probably explanation enough. Anyway, the macro caught a lot of dust in the cracks and crevices of the figurine that I’ll attempt to edit out – I haven’t actually processed those shots yet. Then I took some pretty cool pics of some perfume bottles that I also want to edit and share, but the first ones I processed are actually the last ones I took. I decided right before I packed up to put some cat treats on the TV tray and see if I could get Simon up there for some macro shots, and it turned out better than I expected.

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Did someone say treeeeeaaaaats?

Lemme tell ya, that macro lens is hard to work with. I think I’ve mentioned that before, but this time the problem was its weight, and that my cheap tripod had problems holding it steady. I’d focus on something, adjust the tripod to hold that focus, and when I let go of it the lens would immediately drop down below my focal point due to its weight. I ended up having to set the tripod above where I wanted to focus and hope that when it dropped, it would be where I wanted it. Not a very precise method. I also decided to set the shutter to remote triggering so I wouldn’t wobble the lens any when I took a shot. But with Simon I didn’t want to have a 2-second delay, so I just snapped away while he ate (in the shot above my husband had actually whistled, which cause the cat to look up) and hoped some of them would be in focus.

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I didn’t plan the Simon session out very well – I’d been changing the ISO settings and lighting for each object up to this point, but putting Simon up there was a spontaneous thing, so I think the color is off (as I mentioned already, I was using gold reflectors so the light was very warm, which is nice for objects but not for animals or people) and the light was too bright,. But overall I’m pleased with how these turned out.  And I love the cat against that black background – pretty slick looking.

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Is this cute or irritating? I’m not sure.

Another discovery tonight – setting up a TV tray to place objects on for macro shots meant I was on my knees for the entire shoot, which, with my middle-aged knees, got old real quick. Next time, self, find a way to shoot objects at eye-level so I can stand, thanks. And in spite of the tripod, all the adjusting and re-adjusting of the camera meant my arm still got tired. So (and I know I’ve said this already too) it may be time to invest in a better tripod at last.

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I think the first one and the one directly above are the best of the bunch, but I liked so many of them I had to edit them all. I’ll share the Buddhas and perfume bottles later when I’ve had time to edit them. My friend and I are hitting the Galleria tomorrow for a little start-of-summer shopping, so I’ll be indisposed most of the day, but I may sneak my little SL1 into my bag and see how many pics I can sneak while I’m there. Here’s one more of Simon to finish this post off:

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Simon about to attack a treat

Oh and I also discovered tonight that I am NOT a good nighttime videographer. Like, at all. The International Space Station has been flying over our city all week, and Doug and I have gone outside a few times to watch it pass over – the mosquitoes are hell right now, so we try to make it a quick trip. Tonight I decided to try and film it with my camera, and what I got was six minutes of blurry sky because I completely aimed the lens in the wrong place (my 7D will only film in Live View mode, which I do not know how to use at all, and I just could not see what to aim at without being able to use the viewfinder), Anyway, out of six minutes of film I managed to get five seconds of Space Station in the very bottom of the frame, so being me, I uploaded it anyway. And here it is – five wobbly seconds of the ISS floating over my driveway!

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!

Lightening Up

First of all I apologize for the rambling mess that is this post; it’s late and I am struggling to keep my eyes open, but I wanted to post some shots from today’s spontaneous set before turning in. So forgive me for being less than eloquent here.

I got off work early and decided to play around in makeup and take portrait shots,  then the best pic of the 500 I took was one where my face doesn’t show at all – go figure.

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I love that top for photos, even though the cropped aspect of it is problematic. Sure I look OK in this photo, but there’s plenty of others were I most decidedly do NOT, which is why I tried to take all my photos of the head and shoulders only; I just missed the mark in some of  them like the one above. But the asymmetry and vibrant color really make it a good photography top, exposed skin notwithstanding. I actually cropped this one to share it on Facebook because I’m not totally thrilled with the amount of skin I’m showing here; it’s just that the shape my body made in conjunction with the curls and the one-sleeved top was very visually appealing, so I prefer this longer version to my Facebook one (which has cropped out the entire abdomen area. I’m a bit of a prude about skin-showing, what can I say).

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Anyway, there’s the makeup. I think I did a pretty good job. I really wanted that yellow to pop, so I loaded up on it as well as on eyeliner and brow pencil (as usual). I even added a little cleft to my chin, but it may look more like I smudged off my makeup right there. not sure.

This next one was a mistake – I  meant to reduce the exposure of my Speedlite but accidentally increased it instead, and this shot was blasted out from the flash. I decided to try and edit one of the shots I took like this before I realized what I’d done, but on its own it wasn’t quite right.

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The highlighted areas are all too flat and there’s a lot of purple tint to my skin, so I uploaded this one to Pixlr and came up with the following:

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Eh, it’s a little campy but I like it all right. I have a lot more to process as I was actually playing around with light a lot in this set – using reflectors and off-camera Speedlites and what have you – and I took over 500 photos (!). But I ran out of time and energy tonight to edit any more than these, so more coming over the weekend I am sure!