Friday, November 17, 2017

Improve Your Holiday Photos With These Helpful Photoshop Tutorials

Photo of a camera with a Santa hat on top
"Taking an image,  freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is." — Anonymous

There are many instances over a lifetime when the notion of 'freezing a moment' is yearned for. Often, unfortunately, after the fact. There are those precious times with loved ones that we wish we could hold onto forever. There are those vacations we took, those events we attended that were so enjoyed we wished they could go on forever. The best we can hope for typically is that we have a camera with us to at least preserve the memory for posterity.

Thanks to technology many of those memories are safeguarded these days. With digital cameras, tablets and smartphones, there are a lot of snap happy people out there running around here and there, grabbing pictures of this and that along the way. So much so that in the extreme they are often too busy capturing the moment to realize they aren't actually enjoying it.

Having long ago recognized the value of picture taking, I've been known to be one of those aforementioned people. At family events I always seem to be on the move, trying to ensure I've taken at least one picture of everybody, and that I've managed to catch at least some of those wonderful candid moments to cherish in later years.

It was after hearing someone mention at a concert one night, though, that all of those people frantically snapping pictures  were missing a good show,  when I realized I maybe needed to rethink how I'm using my camera. Photographing everything that's happening so I can cherish the moment isn't really so good if I'm not actually part of any of it.

Given the time of year that's upon us, the opportunities for picture taking are plentiful. From the laden Thanksgiving table to the chaos around the Christmas tree,  the photo ops we can look forward to over the next few weeks are endless. And while you too have maybe decided to not spend quite as much time trying to get a picture of every treasured moment,  you will want to be sure that the pictures you take are worthy to be called a keepsake.  The quality needs to be there.
Photo of a family portrait taken by the Christmas tree

At a recent family gathering at our home, in keeping with my decision to cut back on my shutterbug role,  the plan was to opt for a few organized group photos. It seemed a brilliant idea at the time. We all know, however, how much fun it is to organize a group of kids into a portrait picture. When half of them are under six and dozens of adults are offering advice and instruction, the resulting melee was not conducive to art.

The subjects were beyond adorable but the results not so much. Impatient, energetic kids in constant motion tend to make for some interesting pictures. For that matter, the reluctant, truculent adults weren't a whole lot better when it was there turn either. Adding more to the mix was the fact that on this day the required lens decided to have an issue.

Thanks to digital photography, with no film to process and having the ability to see the picture you've just taken, photographers have more chances to get it right. They can take dozens of pictures of a group, and make adjustments to improve what they're seeing. That said, there are still times when the end result disappoints.

Fortunately, with today's image editing software many problems can be corrected. In a perfect world we'd all get the lighting and exposure right every time, but seizing a moment often means we take what we get with little time for adapting. These links will offer novices solutions on a number of common problems:

Enhance Colours With Photoshop Filters

How to Adjust Exposure

Fixing Brightness and Contrast

How to Fix a Blurry Photo

Photoshopping People from One Photo to Another

Swapping Heads in Photoshop

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving and the Season Begin with Wonderful Holiday Clipart

Clipart image of a Thanksgiving background with pumpkins and falling leaves
Little remains of the kaleidoscopic canopy that autumn created. The foliage began its slow fall weeks ago, littering the ground with colour and crunch. The days have shortened, the air is crisp and in this corner of the world we are anticipating snow's  appearance.

Now we can turn our minds to the special celebrations that will dominate life for the remainder of 2017.  There was an early start for my extended family this past weekend as we gathered for our annual 'Christmas' dinner. Too early? Maybe. But we have our reasons.

As time aged us, as it moved us along different paths, as work schedules became more complicated, as more people were added to the clan, my siblings and I, along with our now-grown children, found ourselves distanced by hundreds of miles in various directions as well as conflicting work schedules. The busyness of the traditional festive season makes it challenging enough to co-ordinate a special holiday time, let alone when you have to drive a couple of hours to get there or have people working shifts. We knew long ago,  if we wanted some time together we had to figure out a plan that would work for the majority.

Clipart image of a family saying grace at the Thanksgiving tableSo, we removed the 'hectic season' from the equation and found our solution in partying before the rush.  Some might argue it's too soon. We've maintained, however, that if this is the best we can manage then it's better than nothing. The main event might still be weeks away, but we've never had any difficulty getting into the spirit of the celebration. Especially since the unofficial kickoff is only a short time away.

Even on this side of the border it seems that once the American Thanksgiving is on the horizon, everything just starts feeling a bit more festive. It really isn't long now before folks in the United States will be taking time from their regular workday routines for this significant holiday. They will gather with friends and family to give thanks for their many blessings. And to watch football.

The occasion is held in recognition of the feast that followed the Pilgrims first harvest in the New World in 1621. Attendee Edward Winslow recorded that in addition to the 53 settlers,  90 Native Americans were also on hand. The day became a federal holiday in 1863 when President Lincoln called for a national day of thanksgiving and praise.

Clipart image of a Thanksgiving turkey carrying a footballWhile the holiday was founded as a religious observance, events today aren't restricted to the spiritual. New York City hosts its annual Thanksgiving Day parade for example. And while families gather to enjoy a feast of roast turkey and all the trimmings, pulling them away from the weekend's NFL and college games to partake of that meal can be
tough. American football is as much of part of the holiday as sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

With the holiday always marked on the fourth Thursday of November, people take advantage of an opportunity for an extra long holiday weekend with Black Friday. The inspiration to get that holiday shopping started, the day offers bargains and discounts guaranteed to entice massive hordes of people to retail outlets with the promise of helping them stretch their holiday gift-buying budget.

Clipart image of a Black Friday background
Between now and then, promos and advertisements will be letting everyone know about deals and discounts, events and celebrations all geared towards the holidays. So really, how can you not start feeling a little festive these days?

If you're preparing for Thanksgiving by creating invitations, flyers or retail promotions, you'll be looking for som great clipart to enhance them. Here are two excellent resources: American Thanksgiving Clipart Thanksgiving Clipart

Friday, November 10, 2017

As Thanksgiving Nears These Photos Remind There's No Greater Blessing Than Family

Photo of a family around the Thanksgiving table
There would be no argument from anyone these days that these are tumultuous, interesting and unquestionably scary times in the world. From the threat of nuclear war, to the political maelstrom swirling around the right and the left, to mass shootings and turbulent weather, there is unquestionable uncertainty and concern felt by many.

At the end of the month, however, residents of the United States will be celebrating their Thanksgiving. There is probably no better time to be reminded that despite the chaos there is still so much for which people can be thankful.

Always first on my list is family.  As we celebrated our Thanksgiving here last month (Canadians count their blessings in October) I looked around our dining table at my kids and the six beautiful grandchildren they have given me. The first of the latter came into our lives 18 years ago and it was like the already brilliant sun began to shine a little brighter. Becoming a grandparent was better than I could have imagined and I was eager for more little ones to join our family.

Our offspring, however,  were in no particular hurry it seemed. We waited almost 13 years before we were able to smile down on our second little sweetheart. Since then though our kids have stepped up their game and we are blessed to have six grandchildren in total now.

It is to them I go when life's miseries seem to be winning, when disasters and tragedies strive to engulf us. Only in a wonderful world, I remind myself,  could I be in a place where these little darlings are with me.

Photo of grandparents and grandchildren in the forest
Not that I don't have many things for which I'm grateful. I very much do. I live in one of the greatest countries with all the benefits that accompany that. I have health, employment and enough money. I have terrific friends, as well as supportive extended family members. And last, but most definitely not least, I have the pleasure of being married to one of the best guys I've ever known.

But, for me, and many others, all of that good can get weighted down from time to time. When a day is dark and dreary, when we've spent too much time listening to the headlines, when something nasty has come our way, we might need a lifeline to grab onto and stay positive. Thinking of my family and focussing on the endearing faces of my little grandchildren is sure to lift me. Every time.

On Nov. 23, Americans will have their turn to break from the regular workday routines and gather with family, to set aside woes and worries and celebrate the bounty that this life has brought.  In film the holiday is typically portrayed with people representing assorted relatives of diverse age as they prepare and descend upon the home of the family home. There is then, the house filled to the rafters with guests who congregate in the kitchen, around a laden dining table or in front of the television for football. The interactions are defined by teasing, laughter, love and, because it's Hollywood, some type of conflict.

Though the actual storyline might require a leap of faith, the message of this holiday is clear — surround yourself on this special season with the people who know you best and love you anyway. From them the inspiration to find, and focus on,  all of the blessings that come your way will thrive.

Since most would agree that family is the most important thing any time of year,  but certainly during the festive season,  we offer this collection of wonderful photos depicting that subject in all of its amazing  configurations: Pictures of Family

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

You're Sure to Love These 5 Collections Featuring This Week's Top Downloads from

Clipart image of a yin yang symbol featuring day and night
"I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap." Ani DiFranco

My husband and I enjoy many of the same things in life and most certainly share the same values.  We have a rather far-left view and can both be a little impatient with those who even tilt right. Compromise generally comes easily in decision making since we both recognize when it might be wise to concede on a particular issue.  And for both of us, family is always first.

However,  we do differ a bit in our interests. While we both love classic Mopars,   his passion for vintage snowmobiles is a wonder to me. I read books voraciously; for him it's newspapers and magazines.

We share a mutual love of music. However, what we want to listen to at any given time can be at opposite ends of the genre spectrum.  Though I tend to select a playlist to suit a mood or time of day; jazz for a quiet dinner, for example; he plays to suit his mood. AC DC blaring out of speakers on a gentle Sunday morning, early enough that I'm still  sporting bed head, is not unheard of.

There are elements of our personalities that differ too. Many, truth be told. He is yin to my yang, north to my south.

Entering a room full of strangers, my guy will walk in with confidence, making his way through the mass, making new friends along the way. I will stick to him like glue, quiet in the extreme. Where he seeks out that person with whom he might find something in common, I hope they find me.

He's never been to a party he wanted to leave; I would generally prefer to stay home. He's a touch bull-headed (he admits this) and will strike with passionate defence of his  perspective. I am a true Libra who wishes everyone would just get along. It all works, of course, because the differences support us as a couple.  For example, he is my comfort zone in social settings: I'm the one who reminds him the next day will come early and it's time to go home.

It's an individual's tastes and traits that make them the special person they are. We might be puzzled by another's choices but they're not ours to understand.

In business, too, polarity is obvious. For instance, putting together promotions with a team can be an interesting endeavour as complete consensus on what looks good is unlikely.

Also, working in the online clipart industry it can often be an eye-opener when my colleagues and I take a peek at the most popular downloads. Though there is likely to be a commonality in a theme,  the styles can differ significantly from what one of us might choose.

I thought it might be fun, therefore, to take a look at the five top downloads for clipart for this week from one of our websites, then share the collections of which they're a part. Below are the results.  The strength is in their differences, though the upcoming holiday season seems to be high on everybody's list.
Clipart image of a cartoon turkey wearing a Pilgrim hat for Thanksgiving


Clipart image of gold Christmas bells with holly

Clipart image of green holly swirls

Clipart image of a Christmas wreath

Friday, November 3, 2017

From Baseball to Hockey There's a Sport for Everybody in These Clipart Collections

Clipart image of a baseball player swinging the bat
The World Series concluded a couple of nights ago a way that even the most die-hard Dodger fan had to feel okay with. It took seven great games of baseball for the Houston Astros to defeat the LA team and in so doing take home the coveted title for the first time in franchise history.

While that's noteworthy, perhaps the real reason that so many had their hearts behind the Astros is that this victory has given  a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey in August something to celebrate.

North of the border we folks in Canada, with our Toronto Blue Jays trading bats for golf clubs weeks ago,  had the luxury of enjoying the games without the passion and occasional heartache that can accompany rooting for your own team. We could pick a side without really caring.

The majority of people I knew wanted this win for the Texas team for the aforementioned reasons.  The Dodgers, after all, have been World Series champs six times already and it's always nice to see an honour bestowed on someone for the first time, particularly when the playing field, so to speak, was pretty level. The teams were evenly matched and treated their fans to some excellent baseball. Then there was the more sentimental view that the Houston fans needed this victory.

Clipart image of a hockey player
However, while Canadians were interested in the outcome, many had most certainly given over their couch potato time to rinks rather than diamonds.  As I watched game seven of the World Series  I couldn't help noticing an 'alert' at the bottom of the screen reminding Canucks the channels on which we could find National Hockey League games. Most people in the true north strong and free are delighted to make their way to a cold arena any time of year. Now that fall is here, with the Jays over and out for another season, baseball, even championship, was bound to take second place.

Sports, whether you play or are content to just watch, is a broad subject comprised of diverse and plentiful sub-categories. It's certain that most everyone could pick a favourite.

My two sons loved sports of every kind. They'd watch them all and participate in many of them. The older was a standout in track's horizontal jumps while his younger brother could take on any position in baseball and do the job very well.

Clipart image of a swimmer in deep waterOur girls rarely watched sports, but played baseball and soccer. It was in the water, however, where they shone. Both parlayed a hobby into summer employment at the local pool throughout their teens. While the younger was an avid competitor on the swim team, her older sister still lives and breathes for a chance to do some laps or dive into the lake.  No body of water has ever been too cold, no sky too cloudy.

Though I enjoyed playing baseball as a kid, I am more of a sport appreciator. I used to love nights out with my guy watching him knock out some homers for his baseball team. Such pleasure I took in seeing my eldest soar in a triple jump or my youngest fire a rocket from behind home plate to take down a runner. Such pride I felt watching my girls gracefully slicing through the water, such admiration for the stamina and finesse.

Whether it's watching our kids or professional athletes, whether it's playing because we're good at it or just to have fun,  a love of sports is a big part of life.  These clipart collections include them all from football, baseball and hockey to track, snowmobiling and auto racing: Sports Clipart Sport Images

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Getting into the Holiday Spirit With Christmas Gift Clipart for Your Projects

Clipart image of a Christmas gift on a blue background
The insistent beep pierces the air, slicing through the gentle stillness, until a hand sweeps forward to silence it. The alarm has called, yet eyelids struggle from slumber to see nothing as grey still cloaks the sky. Dark, dreary dawn does little to inspire any energy for the day ahead.

It's a day shy of November as I write this. Following a glorious autumn, the weather now reflects what is expected of this time of year. Temperatures have taken a nose dive. Skies are often dull and thick, heavy rains fall with a driving persistence.  The S-word has been dropped from meteorologists on radio and television, and while we've avoided it to this point, it's just a matter of time before a good dumping of fluffy flakes buries our landscape in pristine white.

For a sun-loving, summer-savouring woman, who finds her little bit of heaven in long walks in the sand or lazy afternoons on the patio, the winds of seasonal change are tolerated not anticipated. It's the time of year when I look for ways to take my mind far away from talks of blizzards and whiteouts. Setting up dates to do things I enjoy with people I love goes a long way to making these next few months much shorter.

Clipart image of a woman shopping for Christmas
With that in mind, I'm looking forward excitedly to this upcoming weekend. A friend and I are getting a jump on our Christmas shopping with a two-day getaway in a nearby city. She and I met in elementary school and now, living two hours away from each other, times together are rare but always met with enthusiasm.  That we both are big fans of the holiday season and never passed a store we didn't enter makes this particular date perfect for us.

It was a few decades ago when,  expecting my second child, I found out how much I enjoyed being an early Christmas shopper.  Spreading out the purchasing over a few months put less stress on the limited budget and made attacking the long list less daunting.  It didn't take long to see the other benefits too — no crowds, no big lines and no last-minute panic to find that popular soldout toy.

Also, since my daughter arrived just days before Christmas it turned out to be a really good thing that the shopping was done and all the presents were wrapped and under the tree before she made her entrance.

Clipart image of a Christmas tree with presents beneath
While the latter reason was not the norm (though it did happen one other time before our family was complete) it was all enough to show me the wisdom in getting presents bought and wrapped ahead of the rush. Now, as others run hither and yon in the busy weeks preceding Dec. 25, I am nestled by the fireplace,  warmed by the twinkling lights on the tree, glass of wine in hand while letting the ambiance soothe me.

Of course, I'm not the only person who feels this way about the holiday shopping. There are increasingly more people in the malls and on the streets when I set out than there used to be. And to meet the demand merchants are on top of things already with areas of their businesses looking a lot like Christmas. Following the commemoration of Remembrance Day, every nook and cranny will be looking festive.  Decorations put us in the spirit and suggestions for everybody's wish list will be front and centre.

To get the inspiration going even more, including for those folks like my hubby who won't  think of shopping before mid-December, Christmas promotions will follow fast on the heels of Halloween. I can't wait. This season is the bright spot in what could otherwise be a dreary few months.

I can do my part also to get people in the mood,  with these collections of holiday gift images to guide your thoughts toward the task ahead and inspire your festive projects: Christmas Present Images Christmas Gift Images

Friday, October 27, 2017

Honouring Our Selfless Heroes With 2 Photo Collections for Remembrance Day

Photo of the unknown soldier
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

In 1914, as war had broken out in Europe, Laurence Binyon penned his For the Fallen while sitting atop a cliff on the north Cornish coastline. It is the stanza above, the fourth in the completed work, that was his starting point and that has become familiar from its use at Remembrance/Veterans Day services around the world.
Just a few months after Binyon's homage to fallen soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae composed his poem, In Flanders Fields on a Belgium battleground following the death of a close friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, killed by a German artillery shell. It is said that McCrae was asked to conduct a burial service as there was no chaplain and that evening he began writing what has become the most famous war memorial poem.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Each Nov. 11 we are called upon to honour the selfless men and women who fought for our democracy, who gave their lives so that we could enjoy the best of lives. Their sacrifices gifted us freedom and comfort. It is, therefore, not just an obvious, but a moral obligation to my mind, that our thoughts are given to them in return, that our silence is offered to memorialize them. 
This knowledge pushed its way into my consciousness when I was quite small. Attendance at annual Remembrance Day services was as much a part of school life as the Christmas pageant. Somehow, whether a result of the solemnity of the occasion, or the parade of dignified grownups in uniform or the weary sadness of the bugle's lament, my classmates and I, if we didn't exactly fully understand, appreciated that this day marked something significant.

Regardless of what affected us, we responded appropriately. The occasion was celebrated with as much dignity as childhood allows. The images of the students' orderly march to the cenotaph, of a large group of veterans with heads bowed, of the crowd standing in silent stillness in recognition of sacrifice and valour, are easily recalled in mind. Youngsters, even before fully comprehending the importance, took it all in as veterans placed their poppies on a wreath and saluted, their memories clearly visible in their expressions. And I along with many of my peers was moved, despite, especially in the earliest grades, not fully knowing why.

Photo of a senior United States veteran saluting
There have been changes to Remembrance Day services from my childhood. Most notably, the number of veterans on hand with each passing year. Also, no longer is my attendance mandatory, nor do I lack any understanding of why we are there. There is no question for us that this commemorative day is to recognize those who fought and and those who gave their lives for our freedom. What this means and how important that is means as much now as it ever did.  

Perhaps more these days.

The time for reflection will soon be upon us once again. As the final days of October fade away and we move forwards into November, enjoying with thankfulness the pleasures and freedoms of democracy, we offer this collection of photos to honour the fallen and acknowledge the sacrifices of so many brave men and women ... Lest We Forget.