Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finally, I Can See.

With time on my hands I have projects in the planning.  One such project is the photographic labeling of my shoes, because my love for footwear is equal to greater than my love for projects.

Countless years ago, I do not remember precisely, I must have seen a costume room on television where all the articles were packaged safely and neatly in bags and boxes each with a photograph and description of the contents.  What a grand idea, so I filed it away under "Someday When I Have a Wardrobe and Closet Worthy".  Well, the time and place may not be perfectly matched with the description but it's close enough to give it a try.

My office/studio was already set up (I love having that dedicated space!) so instead of moving my gear into the bedroom closer to the closet I carried the shoe boxes out three or four at a time to photograph.  I made this a fun and functional time by trying on some of my favorites and making sure the boxes and packing materials were adequate, such as taping box corners and adding tissue paper when needed. 

These photographs are not intended to be great artistic works, simply a visual document to accurately portray the shoes.  Therefore to expedite the project I simply had the prints made at Walgreens, where they conveniently had a "buy 25 get 25 free" sale on 4x6 prints.  I needed 47 so I added a few nicer photos of some shoes I had taken previously.  One hour and $5 later I was ready to complete the project.

Smaller boxes required some photo edge trimming and I even cut a few prints in half to affix part to the box top and the other to the box itself.  On the back I wrote the brand, style, color, when and where I purchased them and, when applicable, for what occasion.  This is easiest with the original box and receipt which I try to keep together. The following is an example of the type of photo I used.  These are my current favorite summer sandals, an adequate alternative to my favorite gold flats which I have worn out, hence rendering them unwearable (those who know me well know those shoes well too).  Born Concepts, Bryleigh:

For good measure, my favorite gold flats, Cole Haan Air Gabi (RIP):

I used clear tape (not the frosted Scotch tape that I hate) and attached the top of the photos to the front of the box so I can flip the photo up and see the label on the box and the information written on the back of the photo.  The shoe boxes are not organized on the shelves, eventually I would like to but I can't figure out a good system.  It would make sense to sort them by classification but that would result in having to struggle with boxes on the bottom of stacks.  An alternative is keeping the out of season shoes on the bottom with the in-season on top, but that naturally occurs anyway simply through use.  I have already over-thought the issue so I am leaving it as is for now.

My widest lens begins at 18mm and is not wide enough to capture the whole closet, but then again does a woman really want her entire closet open to the world?  Likely not.  Not pictured here are the four large boot boxes on the floor to the right, the out-of-box shoes on a shoe rack on the floor to the left and the other out-of-box shoes on an over-the-door shoe rack on the door to the right.  Yes, I have too many shoes.

Photo 1: Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM
Photos 2, 3, 4: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Pitcher...

While at the grocery store this morning I saw a fellow wearing a well-worn t-shirt bearing this sentiment.  Nothing good came up easily with a Google image search so I made one myself using clip art and Power Point.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flash Challenge Setup.

If you are reading this you are likely aware of my original blog, marlene b. photography where I simply share my current photographs.  Someday I will develop my .com in a gallery style for a comfortable viewing and searching experience.  But for now it is what it is and it suffices.  My "creative" blog is more relaxed, in part because I assume there is a tiny audience and with such little readership I have little to lose.  Sometimes I want to share a little more about my photographs without cluttering up the photo blog so this is a perfect medium. 

I belong (using the term loosely) to a local photographers group on Facebook consisting mostly of local portrait photographers who own their own business, which I do not.  As with other online photo groups, they are beginning a weekly photo challenge, beginning with "Flash photography.  Use your speed light on or off camera to capture a unique image."  Since I like experimenting with my speed light and currently have ample time on my hands I decided to participate.  

In my mind I have a stove top for thoughts and frequently use the term "back burner" to refer to ideas that I am subconsciously working on and don't want to forget.  The temperature on these "pots" can fluctuate and I'm always tinkering with the "recipes".  (I love analogies.) Yesterday I combined two pots into one recipe, the Flash challenge and some small glass bottles.

On the window ledge above the kitchen sink we have a few small, glass bottles that catch sunlight beautifully.  I have photographed them before though I have a different concept I want to try.  I decided to use those bottles as the subject for the Flash challenge without forgetting that I still want to play around with the new concept as well in the future, so it's still on the back burner.  This is the resulting flash image:

Now why didn't I share this on my photoblog?  Because I posted two other images from the same shoot, a couple fragrance bottles that I've been wanting to photograph as well.  Also because I wanted to share my setup shot, something I've been doing frequently since following a particular "Setup" thread in a photo forum.

This poor quality cell phone photo shows how I set up the shot.  Canon 450D with 50mm f/1.4 lens on a Manfrotto tripod (on loan from my incredibly generous brother) outfitted with a wireless remote trigger release and a wireless flash receiver.  On the cheap-o tripod is a Yongnuo 468 speed light with equally inexpensive softbox (secured to the flash with a stretchy, elastic thing because otherwise it slides off) and set atop the other part of the wireless flash receiver.  On the stool is a foam core, bi-fold presentation board to bounce and reflect the light from the flash.  The softbox on the flash is to soften and spread the light and to prevent glare on the glass.  I had to cover the window behind the camera because it's reflection was evident in the purple, round-bottom bottle.

EXIF for those interested:
ISO: 100

Exposure: 1/5 sec.
Aperture: 6.3
I forget what the flash was set at, 1/8 maybe.

Monday, May 21, 2012


 Artist's Disclaimer: Due to location limitations and financial tightwaddery I have been photographically frustrated and spending more time at home on projects, collages and Facebook.

Recently, I picked up the May editions of Elle Decor and Harper's Bazaar, a splurge at $5.99 and $4.99 respectively.  They are two of my favorite magazines to collage with because I actually enjoy the content before I cut them up, the print and paper quality are good, and they are 9 inches wide as opposed to the typical 8 inches.

I like to attend open studio hours at the art guild but find working on photographs is not very portable.  So this past week I took my newest magazines with the intention of flipping through them while enjoying being part of a group, like a brain-storming session.  I ended up with a few stacks of color stories, my favorite being a soft pink and ivory tonal group.  Since the colors are calming I knew the design should be simple and any added elements needed to blend together yet hold their own compositionally. 

The resulting collage consists of only seven pieces and is approximately 8 1/2" x 8 1/2" including the protruding fingers, a new feature I've never used before.

Looking back, I rarely work within only one hue.  The reason I enjoy collage is experimenting and playing with color combinations, especially contrasting colors.  There are two I found that mostly follow a single color theme, both older and sized at 8 1/2" x 11".

Friday, May 18, 2012

Floor-Planning on Paper.

In the coming months I will be rearranging my home office/studio space to make room for the custom-built desktop computer my husband is putting together for my photography work.  I've never had my own office space and it's been years since I've needed to house a desktop computer so this warrants the redesign.

Whenever I begin planning furniture arrangement in a space I make a floor plan.  This isn't a simple sketch on paper.  I am talking about a two-dimensional,  meticulously crafted, scaled-down room plan and I love doing it.

I begin by measuring the room, taking note of doors, windows, electrical outlets and other details that may affect furniture placement.  Then I measure width and depth on every piece of furniture that may possibly work in the space.  In the past I have written the measurements on masking tape and placed it on the the furniture for future reference but I haven't done that recently.  After all the measuring is done, which after a move takes a great deal of time due to hunting down pieces and maneuvering between boxes, I then find the graph paper and a clear work space.

The ratio to which you scale down is personal preference, mine varies depending on the graph paper's grid.  Currently I am using 1:4", or one square equals 4 inches, which means that one foot equals three squares.  When I am working with measurements that fall between those parameters I generally round up to stick with the grid, but not always.  Once that is figured I graph out my floorspace and start making little furniture pieces.  After I'm finished cutting out all the pieces I use them to arrange and rearrange possible furniture placement.

For this specific project I began with the measurements and pieces I had made after we moved to our current residence, but because I am adding a new work surface I decided to get more detailed.  IKEA has two work space series I am researching, Vika and Galant.  I am leaning towards Galant because ergonomics will play a large roll in my desk set-up and the options it offers caters to that, such as adjustable legs; Vika is also versatile and is worth considering as well.

I downloaded the buying guides for both series which includes all the pieces and accessories with measurements and prices.  With this information I made measured pieces for the various tabletop sizes and a couple of the add-ons such drawers on casters.  In order to differentiate between my existing furniture and the two series I affixed the cut-out pieces to colored construction paper.  Each piece has the description written on the front, colored side with the measurements on the back, graph paper side.  Since I was beginning to get fancy I decided to put the floor plan on construction paper as well and even hinged it to the base paper so it can be flipped up to see details or laid flat to the clean surface.  I thought that was pretty creative and something I had never thought of before.

The photo shows the floor plan flipped up to show details.  The yellow pieces are my existing furniture (shown as the room is currently), the blue is Galant and the red is Vika.  Granted I will likely only end up using one of the nine IKEA pieces, I wanted them all so I could play with each in different locations and in combination with existing furniture.  In fact, I may be able to incorporate the large IKEA shelves already in there with a new desktop.  Most of my small shelving is highly versatile and can be used almost anywhere in the house so some may be repurposed elsewhere to make the room more functional.

(The above scan is really not in two pieces and there is about an inch missing there at the division, the scanner decided to split it and I didn't know how to override it, nor have the patience to figure it out; I may try to fix it and edit the post later.)  This shows the "clean" version where pieces can be arranged without distraction.

I just finished making everything this morning and now have almost everything I need to begin planning my new workspace.  It is a fun and exciting process that I plan on sharing as it progresses.  If there is any trick you use to plan your work spaces I would love to hear them!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Very Hollywood.

Last autumn I fell in love with the soft, subtly sweet, gardenia fragrance of Micheal Kors' Very Hollywood.  Being a frivolous purchase I post-poned it until the right combination of sales and discounts allowed me to get it for an incredible price.  Only after flattening the box and dropping it into my paper recycling did I think that maybe I could use it for something, an example of the hoarding tendency I am terrified of.  I pulled it out of the recycling bag, a bit upset of the crease it had caused on the cardboard, and set it on my dresser where I would be sure to see it regularly until inspiration hit.

For some reason today became the day I did something with it.  With a concept in mind I sat down to flip through magazines and sift through pieces.  While doing so my color combination changed and once I found the right background it all came together.

It is a few tenths of an inch smaller than 8'x11' so I could utilize the entirety of the blue background.  I wanted to keep it simple and clean but with some fun elements, like the scent itself I suppose, and I wanted to use as much of the box as possible.

The following collage is an older one that shares similar colors of pinks, blues and greens and has fish instead of birds.  The white smudge in the center is not damage, it is actually an element on the photograph used in the magazine.  I'm guessing the grafitti wall was the staring point for this, though I honestly don't remember.  Original size is 8 1/2" x 11".

When I first began doing this style of collage I actually titled them.  This one, Postcard, is landscape oriented which is not common for me probably because magazines are generally of portrait orientation.  Original is 8 1/2" x 11".


Monday, May 7, 2012

Set as Wallpaper.

Attesting to my age, I am regularly amazed how technology is changing our everyday life, though that is true for every generation.  Smart phones are incredible; Having a tiny computer with you brings many conveniences, including sharing ideas, inspiration and art.  Is that a computer in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

I use many Google products in addition to Blogger, one being Picasa Web Albums which allows me to easily organize photos online for sharing with family, forums and blogs.  One home screen on my phone is dedicated to bookmark links, including my web albums.  With a swipe and a press I can bring up my library of photographs as well as my collage scans, as long as there is adequate signal strength.  

When viewing an image on my phone one long press gives me an option to "Set as Wallpaper," a function I love.  Not every image works well as wallpaper, as anyone who has ever lost icons in a sea of busy graphic elements knows.  Which brings me to my excuse to share some images I have used as pleasing and functional wallpaper.

My current wallpaper is a scanned collage of mine.  I tried a few until one worked well and this one is great.  The original is a full 8 1/2" x 11", a difficult size to collage when using average format-sized magazines.  It was inspired by the color blue (as so many of them are, it's long been my favorite) and began with the silver frame.  Any sort of frame is a great starting point, especially larger ones like this, and I always keep my eyes open for them when flipping through magazines.

This next one I tried to use but it was too busy and my icons got lost, probably because of the contrast between the black, blue and white.  I love leather jackets and that was the initiating piece of this collage; it was a two page spread so in order to use the whole jacket I split it on opposite sides of the paper, an effect I really like.  The original size is 8 1/2" x 10 3/4".

There are two photographs of mine that have made beautiful wallpaper as well.  I shared them on my photo blog when they were new but you'd have to dig a couple years back to find them.  This first black and white image was taken at the incredible Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon.  If you are in the Portland area do not let the admission cost deter you from visiting the gardens, they are beautiful and worth the price.  It's a great addition to a trip there for the Oregon Brewers Festival , "Always the last full weekend in July!"

The second is one of the first fragment photographs I took that I really, really liked.  The color and texture are divine (in my biased opinion) and the history behind it is fascinating;  they are small skylights above Seattle's old underground.  Ignore the black frame, it was a phase and I haven't gone back and fixed them all yet.  Fun fact: this was the 481st click on my camera.

I would love to see what others use as their wallpaper.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I confess.

Two sources inspired this piece: The illustrations found at someecards (some of which are funnier than others) and a physical, paper note card I found some years ago.

I began with a self-portrait taken with direct, afternoon sunlight filtered through ecru mini blinds on my office window.  I envisioned a line drawing as the final image so I chose a dress with a non-time-specific print and a classic neckline and since my current favorite drink is a Gin-Gin Martini* the classic martini glass was appropriate.  Once I had a centered, focused and well-exposed photo it was time to figure out a processing technique.

My photo processing skills are adequate for minor adjustments and the occasional extra flair but when pushing towards the graphic design vein I am inexperienced.  I knew that between Corel's Paint Shop Pro X3 (my usual software) and Adobe's Photoshop CS2 (rarely used due to impatience with the learning curve) I could find an effect to generate the results I was hoping for. 

First I tried PSP, going through all the effects and making adjustments, but could not find or figure out how to change the photo into an outline image resembling a drawing.  I gave up set it aside for the evening and returned to it today with PS.  Being unfamiliar with the software it took quite a bit of time to navigate the menus and settings but eventually I stumbled on a list of possible effects and began clicking one by one hoping for success.  The closest I found was the "Stamp" effect and had to make numerous adjustments but am pleased overall with the image, though it is not exactly what I envisioned.  After that it was fairly simple to crop the photo and add text.

Adding the color was a separate challenge, however.  I couldn't figure out layers in either software, even using tutorials found online -- a bit sad, yes.  In PSP I ended up using the dropper tool and adding fill color over the white background, not an ideal method but it worked.  Then the image was complete.

Is it perfect?  No.  Does it grab your attention?  Yes.  Can you tell it's me?  Yes.
Therefore, I am satisfied with the result and proud that my inspiration persevered though my frustration. 
And I learned something.

* Gin-Gin Martini
1 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 oz. ginger vodka (I prefer home-infused)
shake vigorously over ice,
strain into stemmed glass,
garnish with cucumber slice on rim.