Re-direction

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Hello blogosphere!

As some of you know (or have guessed), I’ve effectively abandoned Hobby Workshop to pursue photography.  I even started a new blog entitled “Alive Photography“.  However, it seems that I was so overwhelmed with excitement, that I forgot to change the website link in my gravatar…

Yes, a minor oversight.  It wasn’t until I got a notification that I had 32 followers that I realized that something was up.  How did my blog shoot up from 9 followers overnight??

Many a swear word was uttered this morning as I figured out the issue.  In my frustrations, I thought about completely deleting Hobby Workshop.  A blog that I hadn’t touched in months was generating more traffic than the one I was pouring my blood and sweat into!  But, as my courser hovered over the “delete permanently” button, I realized that I couldn’t do it.  How could I wipe out something that I had worked so hard on?

This is my formal resignation speech.  If I liked or commented on your blog, and you were re-directed here, I apologize for the confusion.

Please visit my new website, Alive Photography, at http://alivephotographyblog.wordpress.com/

Thanks, everyone! See you on the other site!

A General Apology and More Shameless Advertising

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Dear Blogging World,

I know that I’ve been gone for a solid two months AND I have a ton of pathetic completely viable explanations for abandoning you, so please, hear me out for a second.  I’ve even created a nice list that properly organizes said excuses in order of legitimacy:

  1. Work has been super busy (which is, actually, a great problem to have in the construction world).
  2. My friend Emily, who I’ve blogged about here, has been working like crazy to build up inventory for her Etsy shop (which you can find here).  So, I’ve been taking/editing lots of pictures of her new merchandise.
  3. I’ve been exercising.  So I can fit into my wedding dress.
  4. Oh, speaking of weddings, I’ve been to two in the past two months as well as a bridal shower, bachelorette party, and an engagement photoshoot.
  5. My dad and I spent one entire weekend building a custom cupcake stand for my upcoming wedding out of plastic laminate flooring and some PVC piping.  It’s pretty awesome – an engineering masterpiece. Look for it in an upcoming post!
  6. I’ve been lazy.

You see, Blogging World, it wasn’t you.  It was me.  Life got crazy and I neglected you.  For that, I apologize.  I only hope that you can take me back, because baby, I can change for you (cue this song).

Did it just get awkward?  I hope so, because creating uncomfortable situations is my specialty.

Anyhow, so now that I’ve accomplished the first half of this post’s title, it’s time to get down to business.  As I said, Emily has been busy making stunning jewelry pieces for her shop.  She’s like one of those leaf-cutter ants who harvests foliage for the colony, where foliage equals jewelry and colony equals business.  I know, it’s a metaphorical stretch, but I watched Antzilla last weekend and have been dying to incorporate this newly found knowledge into regular conversation.

So, since I love making slideshows, I’ve put together some of my favorite

Goldfield Station

pictures from our latest photo shoot.  We first went to Goldfield, which is a touristy, old western, ghost town out in Apache Junction.  The sun was ridiculously harsh that day (in both temperature and brightness) and I hadn’t brought any diffusers along.  Needless to say, some pictures didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped.  Lesson learned.  After a few hours of trying to fix all of the lighting issues in post-production, I admitted defeat and took a bunch of replacement shots in my light box and backyard. In the end though, I’m fairly please with how everything came out!

Be sure to check out and support Emily’s shop, Love and Be Joyful, on Etsy!

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The Hilarity of Ducks

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I seem to have some really strange fascination with ducks, since they’re almost always my main subjects when I go out on massive photography rampages. Perhaps it’s because our wildlife is so limited out here in the city or that they always seem to give me ridiculous poses, but I just can’t get enough of them.

I took a little stroll around one of our local parks a few weeks back (and yes, just got around to post-production today) and this guy made me laugh.  He’s got a look of “Well, hurry up, then! Haven’t got all day!”  When said in a posh British accent, the hilarity of this picture goes up tenfold.

Caught this mallard in mid-protest as I attempted to get up-close-and-personal.  Though it didn’t seem that he minded getting his picture taken, since he didn’t work up any enthusiasm to actually get up and waddle away.

Moral of the story: Ducks are awesome.

A Stab at Landscape Photography

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This post is going to be pretty quick-and-dirty, since Backstreet Boys’ “The Call” is stuck in my head, making it incredibly difficult to write a coherent sentence without breaking into song and dance.  Curse you, AJ McLean, with your bad-boy looks and raw, sexy voice!

Anyway, I took another trip up to Flagstaff last weekend to visit my fiance and decided to stop at a few rest areas to enjoy the nice weather and practice landscape photography.  I still need a lot of work, but a bunch of my pictures reminded me of Bob Ross paintings.  There were just so many happy little trees!

I have a super-zoom camera (Nikon CoolPix L120) right now, since a DSLR is a bit out of my price range.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this camera and it’s a perfect stepping stone between point-and-shoot and DSLR, but it still has its limitations.

If anyone has tips for me to improve my landscape photography with a super-zoom, I would love to hear them!  Tell me about your trials and terrors and what you’ve learned!

Easter: Not Just About Chocolate

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Easter definitely snuck up on me this year – where has the time gone?  One minute, I’m exercising my pancreas with copious amounts of Christmas candy and the next thing I know, I’m eying those giant chocolate bunnies that will go on sale Monday morning.  You’ll probably be seeing me comatose on the couch at the gym everyday this week.

Anyway, it’s no surprise that I’m working on my Easter post an hour before the clock runs over.  Now, don’t think that I didn’t sit at my computer and stare at a blank word document before tonight, because I definitely did for five maybe ten minutes before deciding I was too tired/hungry/lazy to be productive.  That flow chart I made of my writing process wasn’t just for laughs.  It’s real life, man.

So during one of those tired/hungry/lazy moments, I saw this on the nightly news.  That’s right – an Easter egg hunt was canceled because parents have been getting violent over candy.  Really, people? Candy?  I will give you two bucks to go to the store and buy a bag if you’re that desperate for Little Jimmy to be king of the sugar mound.

While I watched that story with a sort of “that’s-funny-because-people-are- insane” attitude, I couldn’t help but wonder what this holiday has become. Easter is supposed to be about Jesus giving his life for us on the cross and celebrating his ascension into heaven.  Of course, I’m all for the idea that people worship God in their own ways, but does fighting over cream-filled eggs really have to be one of them?  We all have eternal life because of his sacrifice! Why are we preaching messages of hate instead of shouting “Hosanna!” from our rooftops?

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I don’t fall into Easter’s commercial hype.  It’s true that my mouth waters for the mountainous piles of mashed potatoes, biscuits, ham, vegetables, and pies (What? I’m, a girl who likes to eat!) that go hand-in-hand with this holiday.  But when we gather around the table tonight, let’s reflect on what it is we’re celebrating.  I’ll give you a hint: it’s not about the food or how large of a haul our kids brought home from the egg hunt.

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In honor of Easter, I took my cross necklace on a little photo shoot.  The flowers in our front yard are still in bloom and the contrast between gold and red made for some really beautiful pictures, if I do say so myself.  I took a bunch of other shots throughout the afternoon, but alas,  procrastination took over and I didn’t get them all edited in time.  Be on the lookout for a follow-up post with the rest of them!

Happy Easter!  He has risen!

Black & White & Cats

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As I mentioned in my post, A Spring Short-Lived, I’ve been playing around with the different editing tools in my brand-spanking new copy of Corel PaintShop Prox4.  Needless to say, much of my free time has been consumed by photography and post-production practice in hopes that I may one day open a shop on Etsy that’s jam-packed full of prints that might actually pass as satisfactory.  Since I’m such a perfectionist, it’s been a slow process, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with black and white photos.  It’s amazing how they show off a completely different perspective of texture and contrast that you otherwise would have never experienced in color.  Ironically, though, I don’t like to shoot in black and white. Not being able to see a swirl of vibrant colors on my camera’s display is sort of a buzz kill, not to mention that shooting in color clears the way for awesome pictures like this one:

Not only do I get a high from seeing those bright green eyes, but the texture of the fur is really brought to the forefront with a black and white film.  And I love cats way more than is socially acceptable.  This picture is like a serotonin overload for me.

Just for fun, let’s pull up the original color version:

It’s still a great picture, but the mood is different and I’m focusing more on the overall color rather than being immediately drawn to his eyes.

On a related note, this cat has finally started to warm up to me after about a year of skittishness and glaring.  I knew he would come around eventually.  Ah, the sweet taste of triumph.  :-)

 

The Cruelness of Pity Parties

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I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a cynic.  It’s not that I don’t see the good in things or that I don’t appreciate a solid, whole-hearty lesson or two, but when failure rears its ugly head, my vision clouds with pessimism.

Last January, I submitted a short story to a well-known literary magazine and was turned down.  My hopes weren’t high, as I had been rejected by them before, but I thought “hey, let’s try again – nothing good ever happens without risk!”  Of course, I’m not the first to quote that.  Most writing forums recite the same mantra, occasionally throwing in a “so-and-so was rejected five gazillion times before making it big”, but none of that takes away the initial sting of rejection.  It doesn’t make better the fact that someone thought you weren’t good enough, and that what you poured your soul into wasn’t memorable.

And that hurts.

So, when I found the word “Complete” (a supposedly humane way of saying “thanks, but no thanks”) next to my online submission, I found myself burrowing into the well-known pit of doubt, accompanied by my friends “Ben & Jerry”.  Were my ideas really that bad? Was I not philosophical enough?  What is it about my writing style that leaves reader’s wanting?

The outcome of these pity parties is always that same: I would never amount to anything as writer and it was time to accept that.

Dark, right? But I can’t accept that this kind of negative self-talk only affects me. It’s a vain and vicious cycle of which I’m sure many struggling writers can relate.  Since I’m a very visual person, I pieced together this beautifully drawn flow chart of my writing process using MS Excel a very technical program (college education at work right here).

So, what’s the point of writing if my work is never published?  At these low moments, I try to remind myself why I labored, night after night, over something that an editor would later toss in the trash without a second thought.  Why had I given birth to these characters with whom I laugh, cry, hate, and pity?

The reason is always simple, yet it takes me weeks – sometimes months – to realize it.  I do it not to earn the approval of a complete stranger, but because it’s enjoyable.  Every time I sit in front of a blank screen, I have the opportunity to escape into a completely different world where I am the all-powerful overlord.  Who wouldn’t want that?

So until the process loses all pleasure, I’ll keep writing.  Maybe I’ll see my name on the cover of a book and maybe I won’t.  Either way, the stories will have fulfilled their purpose as an outlet for my rampant and never-to-be-shortchanged imagination.

A Spring Short-Lived

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Even though the first official day of spring rolled around four days ago, the mercury down here in the desert has been steadily rising over the past month.  As today was pushing 87°, I felt myself die a little on the inside as I flipped on the air conditioning, knowing that I would soon be scalding my hands on steering wheels and sporting obnoxiously large pit stains on all of my shirts.

*Sigh*

But don’t get me wrong; we did sort of get a spring this year.  I think it may have happened during the last week of February/first week of March, since that was when I took most the floral pictures below.

On a more cheerful note, I bought my very first photo editing software!  I felt so empowered, high-tailing it over to Best Buy’s photography section whilst giving innocent passersby a look that screamed “why yes, I am a photographer”.  I’m pretty sure they were all impressed, even if they didn’t know it yet.

After much research, I decided that my drug of choice would be Corel PaintShop Prox4.  Not only did it get fairly good reviews regarding user-friendliness and editing features, but it was a lot cheaper than Photoshop (about $50 on sale at Best Buy).  Since I’m not a professional, I couldn’t justify spending upwards of $200 for super high-end programming.

Without further ado, take a scroll through our short-lived spring that I edited with Corel!  Keep in mind that I’m still learning the ins and outs of post-production work (i.e. please don’t point and laugh).

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How My Mediocre Pictures Became Awesome

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After taking Em’s jewelry pictures, I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t achieved the pearly white background I had lusted over during my crammed half hour research session before the shoot.

The lights will just understand what I want, I thought.  I’ll just slip a piece of paper under her jewelry and it’ll be magical!  (Spoiler alert: the only remotely magical part of that method was how I restrained myself from reciting an entire sentence that only consisted of swear words).

So, where else would I turn for pure, unadulterated guidance but Google?  After several searches–including, but not limited to, “How to Take Pictures of Jewelry”, “Why Don’t My Pictures Look Like Everyone Else’s on Etsy?”, and “Is Lighting Really That Complicated?”–I stumbled upon the concept of light boxes.

Now, you have to understand that I am just barely starting to pursue this whole photography spiel and the idea of gaining results by tossing objects into a box was beyond strange.  But hey, if it’s good enough for the pros, I guess it’s good enough for me.

Of course, after I had come to the conclusion that this was all going to require some effort on my part, I was faced with another predicament.  Sure, I wanted nice quality pictures, but did I really have to buy things?  I mean, we have piles of empty boxes in our shed – why couldn’t I just use one of those?

That’s when I stumbled upon this fantastic tutorial: How To Make a Low Budget Light Box.  Clicked it.  Built it.  No money spent.

Inside Scoop: When I pulled this box out of the shed, it was covered in cricket waste. Honey badger don't care.

This was so easy to make.  You just cut three holes, cover them with tissue paper, shove in a piece of poster board, and voila!  Perfect for a novice like me!

I even cut out a black  insert for dramatic, emo pictures and secured it in place with two high-tech clipping devices.

The black didn’t work as well as I had hoped – I would probably need something a little less granular as my black and white photos tended to have this weird “starry night” look.  Eh, it was worth a shot.

Feel free to scroll through the below slideshow of my recent light box endeavors – what a difference! I’m now on a seashell kick (with that one necklace randomly thrown in there).

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Happy Photographing!

Foto Friday!

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Or, at least it was Friday when I started typing this up.  I guess that you’ll just have to strap on your handy time-travelers hat and imagine yourself reading this post in the exact setting you were in last night.  If you were sitting in front of the television without pants and drinking a beer, you better replicate it this morning.  I promise not to judge. 

Over the past couple days, I’ve been sifting through files upon files of pictures that I took last month while eating copious amounts of leftover Christmas candy.  I was pleasantly surprised by how some of them turned out, specifically the ones I took at the lake down by our local library.  Initially, I had gone there with the mentality to sit under a nice big tree and work on my novel (you know, the pesky half-done one that won’t seem to finish itself no matter how much I ignore it).  However, my laptop was so inspired by the fresh air that it decided to try to download a whole slew of updates.  Notice that I used the word try.  Basically, my so-called productive writing adventure consisted of a series of failed attempts to guess passwords for neighboring wi-fi networks.

So, it was a good thing that I brought my camera with me that day.  It’s always nice to have a back up plan!

This duck almost looks like he's smiling. Creepy.

All alone. At least the lake looks pretty psychedelic.

Obviously, I have a thing for photographing ducks.  Though, they weren’t that interested in me after realizing that I was only pretending to throw bread crumbs into the water.  Such divas.

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