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Friday, September 28, 2012

Welcome Stalker!

If you caught my post about the new coffee swap I am participating in, you know I am trying hard to give my "stalker" some good information about who I am and what I like... other then coffee and photography, so they can find the "right" mug for me!

So I thought a get to know you post would be fun!

Most people don't know that I was terrified to fly for years. I self medicated in the bar prior to flights and wouldn't talk to flight attendants prior for fear that I would be so drunk they would keep me off the plane! As part of my "conquer my fears" year. Where I spent time looking into why and what I was afraid of in my life, I took a fear of flying class online. Then had a friend take me up in a little Cessna - whew.... if you have never heard the "Eric the Pilot" spoken word by Henry Rollins (yes the guy from Black Flag, and Rollins Band) you should in order to understand when I say... this plane is a JOKE... like the little "wind gods" have to give it a push to get it off the ground! But I survived! Plus, I felt like if I could do that - I could finally do something I have always wanted to do .... SKYDIVE! So up I went... luckily in a larger plane. With a great instructor named Tom, and jump we did!

<flight image, will update with image when I scan it>

While I don't think of myself as "adventurous" but I did love skydiving and would do it again. I would also rock climb, surf, scuba dive, snorkle... in fact I plan on taking swim lessons to get over my fear of water on my face in order to accomplish those.

I do love photography. It has been my steady income, and family for all of my adult life. I was told once you have it in your blood you never get rid of it. Must be the chemicals.

While I take nature photos to document trips.. I don't consider myself a nature photographer. I am studio trained, and prior have done countless weddings, portraits and pets. Currently I am focused on product images because I see so many poor images in shops and I JUST WANT TO HELP! Plus, they are easy for me to do when my schedule allows not when its convenient for my clients family to get together - which is typically weekends or evenings. I can still have time for my family, and enjoy our weekend outings and nights together ourselves! While I offer custom backgrounds, as well as clean or "staged" shots... this is an example of my product work... clean, simple... and letting the product be showcased.
Cell Phone Charm - Compliments of CraftyGalCreations.etsy.com

Other things about me... I LOVE to cook... I have ALL the gadgets. I am a FOODtv-aholic there isn't a Rachael Ray book, magazine or tv show that I don't have, or have seen.  I have been getting into a lot more "ethnic" styles and flavors lately. Exploring more curry's, and different spices. However, let me clarify I am in no way a baker... I am not a perfectionist and how to correctly use measuring cups and spoons eludes me, apparently.

As for my personal style... I love funk. Here is the sample of what I was thinking of doing my office chair in... hopefully I can still find it in the store. It represents me fairly well. Not overstated, not too busy, but with  funk qualities. 

Oh and don't forget the obvious hint about Verte (green in french) I LOVE green both the color and the concept. Recycled, reclaimed, re-purposed... all great ideas!

While I wrote this for my fun mug project, I hope all of you enjoyed learning some personal things about me!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Comfort Food

You know that rule... don't grocery shop when your hungry... it should apply to violently angry as well.  Apparently there might be something to that "emotional eater" thing I have heard so much about. 

For the first time in years I found myself wondering the snack isle, desperately looking for something "comforting" that I didn't have to cook myself. It's been a rough month for us personally... so I just wanted a little something for me. 

While I picked up some horribly bad for you goodness, I also found myself reverting back to a popular comfort food that I learned about a few years ago.  Chilaquiles. If you have never had these... YOU MUST try them! There are a ton of ways you can prepare this... mine is a complete "fast fix" 
1. Tortilla Chips (make your own, or buy them... up to you)
2. 1 can of Green Enchilada sauce (personally I think brands count here, so I use the one with the green label in the ethnic section of the store)
3. Eggs (omit if you don't like, but this adds to the rich flavor, esp if you cook over easy)
4. Feta or a Salty Mexican Crumbly cheese ( I typically have feta on hand so I use that, but I am currently making it with different Mexican versions to find a flavorful yummy one!)

Really all you do is fry your egg(s)
I put them on a plate and use the same pan to warm my chips, then I pour the sauce over them and let it bubble up a bit (soaking the chips) put that on the plate and top with crumbled cheese..... 

There is a little vinegar taste from the sauce, creamy richness from the egg, salt from the cheese... and gooey love overall... I am telling you - hangover, or comfort... you will LOVE this... by the way... its going to be dinner tonight as well... because well.. thats the week I had! 

What's your go to comfort food?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A new coffee swap!

I must say... I might have a new addiction. After this last coffee mug swap, I was invited by the lovely Heather to participate an another one...

Yippee! Not only do I get a chance to tell you again how much I liked being her swap buddy for the last round... but I get to learn a little something about someone else, and hopefully make several new connections along the way! After personally being stalked (and not in the nice way) in the past... I find this a much better and positive experience!

So mystery stalker! In the next few weeks I will commit to at least one or two posts that focus on my passions and personality... this is a rather tough request, as I am a very private person! But it is my commitment to you anyways!

In the mean time... everyone else should sign up for this... who knows... you might be MY next stalking victim and subject to receive a mug that reflects the things I learn about you!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Something to cheer you!

So I don't often click blog links that I don't know from twitter... mostly due to time. Not that I have extra of that today... but I did on a whim click this link... and I am so glad I did!

Such a special way to cheer you!
So I am playing along... even if I am not selected to receive a gift, I'm super excited to do this for someone else! Here are the details!
The rules:

+The first three people to comment on this post will receive
a little gift - something personal from me to you.

+Within a year (I'll do it in two months) I'll create something
unique to share with the first three people to
comment on this post.

+But in order to receive your present you have to play along.
Spread the love on your own blog promising to send a
little special something to the first three people
who comment on your post.

+You get 72 hours to re-post, or I'll have to move on to
the next person.

+Please only comment if you're willing to pay it forward.

If you want to receive something unique and self-made from me in the mail and if you are willing to do the same for others, leave a comment below! Please leave your email address so that I can contact you directly! And blog URL so that I and others can visit your blog!

My Mug!

Coffee Mug Swap

I am super excited to show off my mug! It was a fantastic reveal!
First, I am going to say I let it sit on my product desk and stare at me for several days while I was not shooting... yes I showed some restraint as I WAS going to wait until today... so it would be a super big surprise... but knowing how busy I am Monday mornings... I went ahead and did the unveiling a day early so I could spend my time writing about it this morning!

I am also going to send a quick disclaimer with my photographs today... I have decided that setting up my studio, and watermarking every image every time I do a quick shot for this blog... will indeed be the death of me! To that end, I have made the executive decision to always use the same custom background, and natural / available light for these images instead. So... if you see a shadow, or no watermark... that's why... I'm just trying to get it done quickly so I can get back to sharing with you!

Here is the box.... as it stared at me for days....

Once I busted out the scissors I made short work of the tape and box... but WOW there was a LOT of tape!!!! I opened to find first thing the cutest little note inside... hand made... and ADORABLE!

Inside it said...
"So glad we could be partnered for the mug swap. I chose it because you seem to enjoy nature photography and animals. I also shose it because "verte" is french for green (but I'm sure you know that :) ) I hope you enjoy it! Nice to meet you, Jen

AWWW can I tell you I was busting to get this package unwrapped now! So sweet of Jen to dig around and learn a few things about me! and yes... I do know Verte is french for green! That is so the reason I choose the name! Exotic right! 
So... right up my alley I find it wrapped in re-cycled bags  LOVE THAT...

And Finally.... MY MUG!
A Green Elephant! Super adorable! and I LOVE the legs!!!

But not as much as a LOVE the....

So a big shout out and THANK YOU to my lovely mug sender!
Follow her on Pinterest
and Twitter

Also thanks to the hosts of this great swap!
and for the linkups!


I also wanted to send a big hug to the woman that I got to know and I hope she is enjoying her new mug, even though I took some liberty and a big chance with my idea of a mug for hers! I have very much enjoyed learning more about Heather and I really hope you take this time to do the same!

Blog: www.heatherlyloves.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherMKJ
Instagram: http://followgram.me/heatherkaluf/
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/HeatherKaluf/

When your drinking your coffee this morning... enjoy ladies!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Tip: A lesson on Balance, White Balance

So... someone asked "how do I take good product or stock images with out purchasing a full studio"
Well here is your Tuesday Tip!  Understand White Balance!

Taking quality photos is just as much about knowing your limitations, and working with what you have, as it is about having the right equipment. Will you get as good, or better results as sending them to a professional? It depends, unfortunately the answer is many times, no.   Unless your going to spend the money on all that photography gear, lighting equipment, professional grade backgrounds, and LENSES... that is the BIG difference. However, understanding WB, will help you work with what you have and get more out of the camera you do have! Which will greatly improve your chances at professional grade images from your home.

This post originally started out as a post about lighting.. and how you can work with house lighting in order to achieve quality images. I think this is a big issue for many people trying to take photos of kids, pets, or even for their own online shops or blogs. First, if you haven't read Lighting 101, you should do that now... as we will continue to build on those fundamental

We already know that light inside our house can produce anything from a yellow, or reddish hue to blue tones on our images, due to the Kelvin rating of our "house" lighting. Tungston lighting, as well as being a major part of what you would buy for your lamp produces a yellow hue, this temp of a bulb can also  be found in many of the "hot lights" or Continuous Lighting kits sold for at home product photography. Why or Why do they do that to armature photographers? It must be part of a bigger plan, I know! Often, you will see it listed as a "Tungsten light kit". If you can stay away from that one, and opt for one with a more "white" light option.

You can find some kits and bulbs that are rated for "natural light", I've even seen these in the regular stores for an everyday lamp, and if thats what your using... trying to create your own "kit" I would really recommend spending a few extra bucks to pick those up.

Regardless of what type of kit your using, if its not a strobe or flash, you will want to run some test shots. Adjust for any color balance in your camera to make White = White. That is how digital works... all your other colors will be on target if you can make white, white.

White Balance. Every digital camera has SOME way of adjusting WB. If you don't know where yours is, I highly recommend digging around the menu or looking over the buttons to find it. This is a great way to manipulate your lighting without changing it. It will typically be listed as WB in your menu or button. 

Here is a sample, shoot with my desk lamp, on Program Mode, no flash and no WB adjustments.

The easiest way to work around this blue hue, is not Photoshop! The easiest is to turn on YOUR flash! Every camera has some sort of built in or pop up flash, if your shooting in your "P" mode, then you can command your flash on. Your flash is strong enough to override direct light on a subject typically within 5 feet from you, sometimes more. This is a great solution for kid photos, pets etc. things "on the go" it is best to control your light on your camera, then trying to adjust for each situation. However, if your doing product images, it might not be the best solution, especially if your trying to do anything closer then 4-5 feet of a subject. A direct flash at that range can cause heavy shadows, and glare or reflection off your product.

Flash - Program Mode

You see the pop-up flash did great - my glass is white, my background is mostly cream - just like it should be... with no Photoshop. The flash does cause another issue, however; that shadow... ugh, nothing ruins a great shot like a distracting shadow, and since my background wasn't pressed and flat you see every shadow IT creates. This is why we work with off camera flash or strobes, and , light modifiers, or additional light sources to remove that shadow... since this isn't that post we will continue on with simply fixing the colors when we work with "house" style lighting. 

Adjusting your WB is the next great step! If you want to work with "natural" or "available" light... you better become ONE with your WB. Learn it well, and invest in WB cards or Expodisks (which we will look into later). For now, bust out your manual, find your WB options... and set your camera to override in my case for the blue lighting... in yours it may be yellow, or even reddish depending on the temperature of your lighting. Take your next test shot using one of the preset WB modes... (if you don't know which one, this image should help! It shows the symbols commonly used on camera's preset modes along with a rough guide of the color temp.

 Not, too bad...but that exposure is still off, and it is still very blue. If your still not satisfied, look if you can "bump" the amount of adjustment your camera adds, for me I can use negative numbers to take out more of the blue... here it is again at the -3

 And if you have Photoshop... you can make a simple correction or two and end up with...Of course if you just have one image, you can remove that in Photoshop with some skill... but I prefer not to Photoshop any of my (or my clients) product images, even shadows on the background. I guess I am old school about truth in advertising or something.

So while this is passable... do you still see the blue? It just doesn't look right still does it? What it is really missing is MORE light... the quality of light isn't just blue, but it isn't giving you enough over the whole image to keep the blue shadows from coming in even with the WB mode.  So, what do you do? You can...

Add more lights
Add higher wattage lights
Add reflectors
Adjust Aperture to allow more light to hit your camera sensor 
Or resolve to fixing your image in a Photoshop style program such as Elements or Lightroom, both of which are fairly affordable. (Although if your spending $100 of software, you could just buy a small light kit and be done!)

So after adding more light and adjusting my WB, and setting my aperture to allow more light in... what did I come up with?

None to shabby for using simple house lamps and a little bit of trail and error!

However, the question is, how does your cameras preset modes look, you need to set up a stage, with a white product and do some test shots. Figure out what setting of WB, placement of light, or what light works best, along with light modifiers, aperture settings, lens, and combination of all these things works best for YOUR image. You will be surprised... if you systematically change one thing at a time, you will learn what works. Once you get to a point that your happy... write it down! Next time you will be able to re-create your best image, super fast and confidently!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Coffee, Please!

I just wanted to post a quick update.

We have had quite the roller-coaster of weeks, and are looking forward to getting back to normal in our house! Hopefully that will mean more posts and some fun new features!

I also wanted to do a quick shout out to the wonderful ladies hosting the coffee mug swap:

Coffee Mug Swap

I really enjoyed getting to know my coffee mug pal: Heather
Blog: www.heatherlyloves.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherMKJ
Instagram: http://followgram.me/heatherkaluf/
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/HeatherKaluf/

Heather seems a lot like me, likes to cook.. busy mom... and works! I would really recommend if you haven't visited her - DO! Shes got some SUPER cute Pins, and great crafts!  Plus, she loves nutella... I mean come on!

I hope I picked out the perfect mug for her and I can't wait for the reveal! It's also been SUPER fun waiting to see what someone thought of me, and what they thought I would like! Stay tuned... I will be posting mug shots on the 17th to share!