Thursday, July 29, 2010

There is no joy in Mudville (well, maybe just a little)

Well, the ride is over for my son's Little League team.  They lost tonight and were eliminated from the state tournament.  It was sad, but they left with their heads held high as the third best team  in Northern California.  As we drove home, my son said, "I guess that's the end of Little League for me."  He's been playing since he was five, and I hadn't thought of this moment as the end of Little League.  It was such a bittersweet thing to stay, and it caught me off-guard.  We agreed this was a great way to end his career - third in the state and having gone farther than any other team in Half Moon Bay Little League history.  As we drove through the darkness, we reminisced about some of his favorite little league teams over the last ten years and counted up his accomplishments (two league championships; two All Star District Championships; one All Star Section Championship).  We remembered some of the great trips we've taken together and the time he hit a game winning RBI and was carried off the field when he was seven or eight.  After five days on the road and four baseball games, I think my favorite memory will be this - the two of us in the car, hurtling down Highway 80 on the way home, talking about this important chapter in his life. And hearing the happiness in his voice.  Happy because his life has included all these moments. And knowing that I helped make that happen.  And I felt joy, rather that sadness, because I thought, "This is my kid, and I love him so much."  Isn't that what being a parent is all about?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And then there were three . . .

There are three teams left in the Northern California Juniors Little League State Tournament, and my son's team (Half Moon Bay Little League) is one of them!  They won their game last night, 10-2.  Tonight, they play Hollister (the team they lost to in their first game).  Loser goes home; winner goes to the Championship game against Rocklin (and we would actually need to beat Rocklin twice to win the championship and advance to the Western Regional). We have one of our best pitchers available for tonight's game, and our bats seem to have woken up.  We plan to give Hollister a better game than last time.  Thanks again for all your good luck wishes!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

But tonight was a different story . . .

My son's Juniors Little League baseball team won their game tonight, 15-1.  There are now only four teams left in the state tournament, and they are one of them.  They play tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m. Still loving the hipstamatic camera for night photos.  Thanks again for all your good-luck wishes!

To my art friends, I promise to return to real artwork after tournament play.  

In the meantime, let me add a little bit of the bigger picture to the baseball photos.  DS Henry and I are staying up in Sacramento about two and a half hours from home.  Many of his teammates are staying here, as well, and it's a lot of fun for them.  They spend time in the hotel pool, eating too much fast food, taking in a few movies and just hanging out.  I think he may remember that as much as anything else.  
One thing I'll remember is the last out of tonight's game.  We were very far ahead, and we just needed one more out to end the game.  Our coaches put in one the youngest players on the team to pitch the out.  He's a great kid and special to many of us in one very important way.  His dad was president of our local Little League for many years, and he passed away last year.  Far too early.  And when I saw Chet out there on the mound, I felt Dave's presence.  I could imagine him hanging out over by the outfield fence in right field, smoking a cigarette and watching the game.  And I knew he would have been so proud of his son.  And of all the boys.  Because he truly believed the game was for the kids.  But tonight, I felt like that out was for one very special man who we all miss.  That out was for you Dave.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not such a good night

Well, it was not such a good night at the ball park - from a baseball or photography standpoint.  Our boys lost and are now down in the loser's bracket - one more loss and we go home.  Also, after the sun went down, I really couldn't get very good pictures without too much blur.  It was good to experiment and research, though, and the real answer seems to be that I need a new lens. LOL!
On the up side, the hipstamatic iphone camera app took cool pix at night (like this one) and the loser bracket games are all at 5:00.  So, I should be able to use my regular bag of photo tricks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I need tips for shooting night photos under lights

My son will be playing in a baseball tournament this weekend, as many of you already know (LOL!).  All the games are in the evening (8:00 pm starts) under the lights at a local college.  He hasn't played under the lights very often, and I would love to get some tips for how to take effective photos under lights at night.  These were taken in sports mode.  Now that I know more about photography, I'm open to taking photos in program, aperture priority or shutter priority mode; but shooting in manual is still beyond me.  So, within those parameters, what advice do you have?

Edited to add:  I did a little searching, and I'm thinking I should shoot in aperture priority mode and
*put my aperture as low as I can (to open the lens as much as possible)
*set my ISO as high as I can stand (say 400 or 800)
*check the different white balance settings to get the one that works best
and let the camera choose the shutter speed.
Does that sound right?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We're going to State!

Not much to say tonight, except that this boy's team won the Section 3 Championship game tonight for Juniors Little League! They start playing the state tournament on Saturday night in Sacramento, California.  I am so happy for them! And excited!

A big thank-you to all of you who sent good-luck wishes.  They were definitely appreciated and obviously paid off.

I'll try to load up my blog with some non-sports photos and art before I take off on Saturday.

Thanks again, and congratulations boys!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In and Out of my photography comfort zone

Shimelle's last two prompts in "Love your pictures, love your pages" have been about finding your personal comfort zone in taking photographs  and then in stepping outside it.  I have thought (and blogged) a lot about photography and my style, so I won't bore you with all that again! But I did try to apply her lessons when I went to DS' sectional semifinal baseball game the other night and thought I'd share some of the results.  The picture above is safely within my comfort zone:  sports action photography.  I love this picture of DS Henry applying a tag.
I also tried to move around and take pictures from a few different angles.  I don't think this one worked very well:
But I did like this one, taken from the back, of the coach and baserunners watching a new pitcher warm up.  I turned it to sepia and liked that effect:
It may surprise you (or not) to learn that I have very limited computer knowledge about working with my photographs.  I don't have photoshop or photoshop elements or even any photo editing software, other than the free disk which came with my camera.  I think a goal for next year will be to start learning about that side of photography.  In the meantime, here's  one more "out of my zone" picture that I liked.  I turned it to black and white:
This is the huddle taking place when our starting pitcher left the game with one and a half innings left to play.  He had thrown a brilliant game (allowing just two hits), but the rules only allow the boys to throw a certain number of pitches, in order to protect them from injury.  In this picture, I imagine that the coach is telling Henry that, as short stop, it will be his responsibility to lead the defense and support the relief pitcher.  And Henry did.  Brilliantly as a matter of fact.  The boys won 8-2 and play in the championship game on Thursday night.  If they can win at least one of their next two games, they will qualify for the state tournament starting on Saturday in Sacramento.  They've never gotten that far before, and it would be a dream come true for many of them.  Keep sending those good luck vibes, and I'll let you know how it works out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scrapbooking with Tim Holtz

This week's Compendium of Curiosities Challenge over at the Studio L3 blog is Multi-Medium Collage. Since I'm on a scrapbooking binge, I used the technique to make these embellishments for a snow play layout (you can click on the layout to see it larger):
I used the snowman and snowflakes from Tim's seasonal grungeboard package.  All the paper for the layout and the embellishments is from Club Scrap's Gratitude collection.  I had a bit of difficulty with the little pointy parts of the snowflakes, but I think they turned out okay.  Inking the edges was also key!  I also think patience is important to this technique and using thinner paper would have been easier.  All good lessons learned, and I'll definitely return to this technique again.
Thanks for the challenge Linda!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Scrapbook Tuesday

I got a lot of scrapbooking done on Saturday.  Most of the layouts are pretty routine, but I thought you might like to see this one, which used Shimelle's idea of a panoramic photo with embellished borders.  It's from the photo shoot I was asked to do for the local Little League program for kids with special needs.  You can read more about that photo shoot and see more pictures from it in this post.  And here's what the two page spread looks like:
All paper from Club Scrap's "Expressions" collection.
ETA:  Thanks for all the good luck wishes yesterday - they worked! The boys won 8-2, and they advance to the championship game (scheduled for Thursday night, I think).  If they win, then they go to the state tournament in Sacramento!  Even if they lose, they get to play again for the championship because it's a double-elimination tournament, and they don't have any losses yet. We'd love to keep getting those good luck vibes!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cat-ching Up

So, Shimelle had this wacky idea that we should put our cameras on the ground and use the earth or floor as a tripod.  While I was considering that idea, my cat JJ started rolling around begging to be photographed! I was really pleased with this portrait of her.  When I went downstairs to take some other ground-level photography, she followed and I took a few more nice portraits while I was laying on the ground, actually looking up at her:
I think the purpose of the assignment was to capture something interesting in the foreground (like the carpet in the picture above), but I also found it a good reminder to change levels and perspective when shooting pictures.  I hope to repeat this assignment outside - I'm thinking a baseball game would be an interesting place to do so.  I'll add those photos after I take them.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some questions posed recently:
1.  What type of camera do you use?  I have a DSLR - Nikon D50. It's a fairly rare camera that Nikon only made for about a year.  The rumor is that someone had a brain fart at Nikon and actually let a camera design (the D50) into production that would accept other types of lenses, not just Nikon lenses. Nikon stopped making the D50 and replaced it with the ubiquitous D40.  I love my camera, but it is probably over half way through it lifespan, so I'm thinking about moving up to a D90 at Christmas.  Other suggestions welcome!  How do I know it's halfway through its lifetime?  Check out this database for more information.
2.  How can you make a bookmark out of plaster?  Well, the plaster I use are cloth strips infused with plaster. They're sold as Rigid Wrap by Activa here in the states.  They're used in paper mache and mask making, but they're similar to the wraps used to make medical casts.  I reconstitute the plaster by adding water, and I can make it more or less pliable depending upon the number of sheets I use together and how much water I use.  I first learned about plaster in a class I took with Judy Wise, and you can read more about my various plaster creations by clicking on the plaster tag on the left.

P.S. Anyone want to come and wash my windows? There's some pretty obvious nose prints on them!

Meanwhile, I spent Saturday and Sunday watching DS Henry's Juniors All Star team compete in the Sectional Tournament.  They're currently 2-0 and play Monday night in the semi-final game.  The competition has been pretty tough; they've won both of their games by just one run, but they're hanging in there.  Even though Henry's not having his best tournament, it's a good team and they're moving forward.  Here's Henry on the mound:
Thoughts of good luck gratefully accepted!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Let's Talk Markers (Motherhood Art Journal Page)

I made this art journal page to capture some of the feelings about motherhood I mentioned in my post yesterday.  The journaling includes the quote from yesterday, as well as two others:
* “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” – Sophia Loren and
*“She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn't take them along.” Margaret Culkin Banning.  I found these and other great motherhood quotes at this website.

The Gingersnap Supply Challenge for this month is "markers."  When I first started scrapbooking, I bought about a dozen pigma thin point markers to use for journaling and doodling.  As I got into stamping, I bought another couple dozen brush markers (mostly zig and close to my heart) to make multi-colored stamped images and to color-in images.  Over time, I realized that I don't really like coloring things in.  It's just really not for me. So, I don't do it very often.  When I do, I tend to use a water brush and either twinkling H2O's or radiant pearls.  I love the look that people like Jacky achieve with markers on their cards, but I just don't have the patience for it.  So, I have steadfastly refused to invest in more markers or enter the world of "copic" markers, which seem to be the latest and greatest marker on the market. 
I did want to make a marker creation, though, so I thought I would try using markers for a background technique called "not-quite-white" that I love but find a bit tedious to do with paint.  The markers worked great!  The background technique is one favored by the impressionists and which I used in an art journal page I posted here.  You basically add small dashes of pastel paint onto a white background to make it not-quite-white.  I will definitely use markers instead of paints for this background in the future.  I also used markers to color my stamped images and to doodle around the edge.  All-in-all, I ended up really happy with this page and glad I broke out my markers.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on markers!

Friday, July 16, 2010

What the kids are up to . . .

Blossoming - that's what they're doing.
DS Clara is in the middle of a two week visit to Southern California, staying with her aunts and uncles.  By all accounts, she's having a great time, but I do miss her. A lot.  More than I ever thought I would.  I know it's all part of her blossoming, but it's kindof hard on old mom.  Sigh.
In other news, DS Henry's Juniors Little League team won their district tournament (baseball) last week, so this week they play in the sectional tournament.  Last year, they came in second place at sectionals (missing going to the state tournament by one run!).  I'll be at the ball park Saturday and Sunday cheering them on.  Did I mention that last weekend, he traveled up to Lake Tahoe with a friend's family to play in a wood bat tournament?  By himself, as in without us. I guess he's growing up, too. Double sigh.
Really feeling this quote from Elizabeth Stone today:
“Making the decision to have a child - It's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
What are your plans for the weekend?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sizzling Summer Songs & Challenge Thoughts

It seems to me that every summer there's a certain song that encapsulates that summer.  It's played nonstop on the radio but somehow I don't mind because it's fun and catchy and I always sing along.  Last summer, it was "I gotta feelin' that tonight's gonna be a good night" by the Black Eyed Peas.  Two summers ago, it was Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie."  This summer, for me at least, it's "California Gurls" by Katy Perry.  I know that chronologically I'm way too old to be one of those girls in the song, but inside I still feel fine, fresh and fierce enough to represent the west coast! With apologies to Amy and my other friends in the Southern Hemisphere, do you have a signature song for this summer?

In other thoughts, I've been thinking a lot about challenges lately.  I really love them because they often give me the inspiration I need to get moving on a project. But I sometimes find that they can drive me crazy because I start making a list of the challenges out there and feel almost compelled to do them all.  Yikes! That's no fun and not compatible with my artistic vision. So, like Mel who is "blogging without obligation," I decided I'm "doing challenges without obligation."  Once I made that promise to myself, my artistic mojo started flowing again, and I made this tag in response to the "heat" challenge at the Gingersnap Creations blog.  I'll still be doing challenges at Gingersnap, Studio L3, Something Completely Different,Sunday Creative and all the other wonderful challenge blogs out there.  But I'm not going to drive myself crazy doing it!  Do you do challenges?  Do you ever go overboard?  Or have you found a happy balance?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Using Shutter Speed to Dance with the Light (photography lesson)

This week in Shimelle's class, "Love your pictures, love your pages," the assignments are geared to using more of your camera's settings.  Yesterday's assignment was on playing with different apertures, but I skipped that lesson because I had done a lot of that already (you can see my post here). Today's class was about using shutter speed to let in more or less light.  What a revelation!  I had played with shutter speed before to affect the amount of movement or blur in a photo (see this post) but had never thought about using it to affect the amount of light.  Shimelle brilliantly set out to show us how to affect light by having us focus on the sky.  Although it's a flat, dreary grey day here, by shooting up through my bougainvillea branches, I was able to really see the difference between shooting at 1/400 (the camera's automatic setting) and 1/15 (in the picture above).  Do you get to see these differences?  Unfortunately not! When I was fiddling with my camera settings, I set something so that most pictures were shot in RAW (not JPEG and not JPEG+RAW), so when I tried to add them here I got a message saying (NEF - unsupported file type).  So, all I can post are these two which I shot at the very end of my photo session, back in JPEG.  Oh well, live and learn!
I love how the bougainvillea seems to dance in the light in this picture taken at 1/10.  I know the sky is totally overexposed, but I still like the effect.  When the sky was properly exposed (at 1/400), the branches were completely dark.  The pictures are "straight out of the camera" with the only correction being for sharpening.
. . . 
And then, just as I finished typing this all up, the sun came out! I decided to continue my lesson, this time playing with my apple tree out back.  Here's the sky properly exposed at 1/500:
I took three photographs from underneath - at 1/800,1/80 and 1/15.  You'll see that I couldn't set a shutter speed to get both a pretty blue sky and colorful apples.  If there was enough light for the apples, there was too much light for the sky!!!  Again, this may be old hat to other folks, but it was a real learning experience for me!
The last thing I did was to take a couple of shots looking across the horizon, instead of directly into the sky.  I was able to get better color on both the apples and skies when doing this.  Here's two shots - one at 1/800 and one at 1/500:

Again, these are straight out of the camera, with only sharpening applied. I think of all the apple shots, the last one is my favorite, although I do kindof like the dreamy quality of the one taken at 1/15 (and don't mind the color distortion too much).  I took all these in shutter priority mode; Shimelle had other things to suggest about  shooting completely in manual, but I'm not quite ready to go there yet.  It seems the more I learn about my camera (and photography in general), the more there is to learn!  On the upside, I'm thinking that if I continue to learn at this rate, I can convince myself that I've "outgrown" my current camera and can justify an upgrade at Christmas time!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Let's Talk Heat Embossing

Studio L3's Compendium of Curiosities Challenge this week features distress embossing powders.  Linda suggested that people either love 'em or hate 'em.  I'd say I'm in a love/hate relationship with them - like I am with most embossing (LOL!).  I love it when it works but get frustrated when it doesn't.  I've done enough embossing to know that its success is affected by humdity, ink type, paper type, and all kinds of other things.  I decided to try embossing on plaster, and I love the effect, but find it sort of fragile.  Most of the distress powders wiped offed, even after being heat set and cooling.  I was able to get this part of the image to stay intact, but I'm not sure how well it will hold up.  Oh well, in the meantime, I love it.  I guess I'll think of it like a sandsculpture, something you can only enjoy until the elements wash it away.  How do you feel about embossing in general?  How about distress embossing?  Got any great embossing tips to pass along?

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Quick Layout

I really want to get back to scrapbooking, so I joined Club Scrap's Summer Camp in the hopes of getting organized and caught-up.  It's a month-long "competition" with incentives for creating layouts.  I try hard not to get too caught up in the competition and focus on enjoying myself.  I spent some time this afternoon finding and organizing my completed layouts and my photos "to be scrapped."  I'm pretty caught-up through 2009 and have completed a few layouts for 2010, so it shouldn't be too hard to get back up to speed.  After doing all the prep work, I wanted to actually complete a layout, so I used Shimelle's idea of arranging still life photos around portraits to complete this two page layout about the nature hike my DH and I took earlier this spring.  I really like how it turned out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Butterfly Bookmark

Took a little break from Shimelle's class to work on a few challenges.   I really wanted to complete the Studio L3 Compendium of Curiosities challenge for this week (before it changed)- shabby chic.  So, I used that technique to make the background for this bookmark and also on the grungeboard butterflies. The background is plaster, and, as usual, the plaster worked beautifully with Tim's techniques.  For my theme, I used "connect," the prompt from the Sunday Creative. I like how the butterflies have their own connection to each other and how they are also connected (by the flight line) to the rest of the world.  I'm using this bookmark to keep my place in my Compendium of Curiosities!  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scrapbook Sunday

Finally finding a little scrapbooking mojo through Shimelle's class.  Two more layouts for my "favorite photos" minialbum, using prompts 4 and 5 from the class.  

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Bigger Picture: My friend Molly (and a blog award)

This is a picture of my friend Molly and my niece playing with sparklers on the Fourth of July.    While the rest of her family is in South Africa for the World Cup (yes, seriously), she came to spend the day with us.  I've known Molly for about twenty years, and she's my son's Godmother.   She's an amazing person, but I'm afraid to admit that sometimes I forget that.  Then,  while we were watching the local parade she did something to remind me of how remarkable she is . . .  something so simple and so Molly.  There was a little boy riding in the rumble seat of a vintage car in the parade.  And he was not happy. He was pouting and on the verge of tears.  Molly saw him, walked up to his car and gave him a flag.  He started waving the flag and a smile erupted on his face.  The next thing you know, he was waving it for all he was worth, and you could tell he thought he was the Grand Marshall!  This is the sort of moment my friend Molly can create:
At the same time, she created this tender moment between a mother and son:

Because that's the kind of person she is.  She knows when a simple act of kindness can transform a person's day.  I'm really glad she's a part of our life.

This post was inspired by a wonderful website called "the bigger picture blogs" which encourages you to stop and notice the important things in life.  Tammy Lee of the wonderful blog, the Blogging Bradleys, brought it to my attention.  Tammy Lee also awarded me a blog award: Cherry on Top .  To fulfill the award, I needed to post a picture I love (and the one above definitely qualifies); add the blog award picture:
List three things I love about myself:
I'm smart;
I volunteer to help in my community; and
I'm open to trying new things in my art.
Pass the award on to other bloggers - here's a few of my newest favorite blogs:
Myths of Melissamyths;
Gingerstamp Creations;
Paper Crows and Dragonflies.
Check out the blogs if you're looking for some new fun!
And thank the person who gave you he award:
Thanks Tammy Lee!!!
I almost forgot - the photograph yesterday was take at Lombard Street in San Francisco, known as the crookedest street in the world.  You can read more about it here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Mysterious Trio

In the Shimelle class, "Love Your Pictures, Love Your Pages," the prompt was to compose a still life where the composition focused on a trio of objects.  I was out and about today so had no time to create  a still life.  But, I did find this image with a nice trio (two flowers and an address plaque).  
Any guesses where it is?  Want a hint?  Take a look after the jump!

Pick a flower, any flower

When I took a walk near Pillar Point the other day, I came across this field of flowers.  I was thinking these were Queen Anne's Lace, but I'm not 100% sure.  Anyway, I took several photos from different angles and using different fstops.  Didn't end up loving any of them, but I'm really not sure why - probably because I'm not sure what look I was trying for.  Anyway, these fit the prompt for Shimelle's class on experimenting with different shooting options for flowers.  I might repeat this prompt on our bougainvillea out front, but in the meantime, I'd love feedback on which flower you like best and would love to know what the real name of this flower is!  Remember you can always click on a photo to enlarge it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

4 people 12 times (July 4 edition) and 5 minute photos

My sister-in-law Annie is a fabulous photographer, and she snapped this picture of us at the Surfer's Beach jetty last night, during a post-BBQ, pre-fireworks walk.  I loved it so much I decided to make it my July "4 people, 12 times" entry.  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out this post for an explanation or click here for my second photo in the series.
In other news, Shimelle's class "Love Your Photos, Love Your Pages" just started.  One of the first challenges was to grab your camera and take a photo within five minutes.  Egad! I was in my pajamas, cruising the internet with my first cup of coffee. But I dutifully grabbed my camera and went upstairs.  I found my brother and his daughter enjoying breakfast (they're visiting from Southern California) :
I also managed to get a picture of DD Clara all dressed and ready to go to Jr. Guards:
I know her backpack is stuffed with her wetsuit, lunch and towels (all of which she packed herself).  She's wearing her Jr. Guard sweatshirt and t-shirt and holding her go-to breakfast on the run - a Luna Bar.  I love how this photo captures so much of her summer!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Summer Prints

My little brother came to visit, and we went for a nice walk in the harbor with his family.  Here's DD Clara leaving a few footprints in the sand.

And a nice pix of Clara with her cousin.

Love these carvings on a log near the entrance.
And the very cute dog that my brother's family recently adopted:
All-in-all, a wonderful day!