Friday, January 18, 2013

Wax Nostalgic With These Vintage Valentines

It's been just a few years since I've worried about a mass mailing of Valentine's Day greetings.  Actually for decades now it seems I've happily been able to get away with just handing out one.

But I remember those elementary school days of preparation, secrecy and giggles. The excitement began weeks ahead with the creation of special containers in which classmates would furtively deposit their messages to each other. 

How elaborate these were depended less on the talent of the student it seemed,  than it did on the enthusiasm of the teacher. Sometimes it was as simple as a decorated box, but I do recall making a rather intricate mailbox once.

Then there was so much time that needed to be spent ensuring the message was right for each person.  The wise teachers stopped any hurt feelings, insisting that students not exclude any child from their list, which could put charity to the test when you considered that nasty boy who relentlessly teased you during recess.  Somehow asking him to "Be Mine" or even saying "Hi Valentine" was a little strange. Of course, in the interesting ways of children,  this same boy was usually the one whose Valentine to you read 'From Your Secret Admirer".

Then there were the actual greetings themselves, cute little messages with sweet plays on words and charming characters. For anyone interested in a touch of nostalgia this Feb. 14, here's a vintage collection of illustrations that is sure to take you back:

iCLIPART.com Vintage Valentines

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Valentine's Photo Collections for the Romantic in You

It's difficult to believe that in just over a week, Christmas 2012 will be a month in the past. What follows has always been a challenge for me. After celebrating one of the most exciting, blessed, happiest holiday seasons, comes nothing but... well, nothing.

You guessed it. Winter's not my favourite season. Bitter cold, mounds of snow, challenging travel and short days  may be alright for some, but I'm not a fan.  However, living in what is referred to as the Snowbelt, I've learned to make the best of it, finding my pleasures where I can.

So it is that at this time of year I'm all about Valentine's Day.  I mean really, unless you like to ski or snowmobile, what else is there? And if you think about it there is something about cold winter nights that goes hand in hand with the theme of romance. Cocooning at home by the comfort of a crackling fire, drinks in hand, your honey beside you, as winter rages outside, is about as good as it gets.  A bouquet of colourful flowers brightens a dreary day, while dinner à deux with flickering candlelight and soft music are guaranteed to make you forget how cold it is outside.

So, in an attempt to warm up winter just a bit, here are two photo collections all about love and romance:

iCLIPART.com Love and Romance Photo Collection

Acclaim Images Love and Romance

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taking Perfect Baby Pictures

Everybody's getting a lot of email these days, from messages from friends and family, to promotions you foolishly signed up for, to unwanted spam.  But, no matter how much checking my inbox may seem like a full-time job, there's always one that lightens the spirit as assuredly as a burst of sunshine on a rainy day.

My newest little granddaughter lives far enough way that seeing that precious face often, happens only because of the photos my daughter emails me.  Seeing her address ensures this will be a welcome message, but then clicking on it to discover a picture of our girl's latest adventure or expression is better than any tonic for lifting the spirits. From the first messy bowl of pablum to a tour of the yard in her new sled,  the photographic documentation of her life somewhat lessens the craving for cuddles until we can see her personally.

Babies rarely take a bad picture. Those  innocent faces are always winners and every move they make tends to be pretty darn precious. However, trying to get a good photograph of them isn't without its challenges. For example when it comes to smiles our Little Miss, far more interested than amused when she sees the camera, really makes you work for them.  Also, if you're looking for that perfect pose, babies aren't usually the most co-operative of models.

So, what can you do to get a perfect picture of the picture perfect?  Here are some tips and tricks from experts:

What To Expect Foolproof Tips for Photographing Your Baby

Digital Photography Tips for Capturing Perfect Baby Photos

NY Times Gadgetwise How to Take Better Baby Photos

Photography.com Capture the Best Baby Pictures

NY Institute of Photography How to Take Great Baby Pictures

DPS Tips for Photographing Babies

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Create Your Own Valentine Greeting Card

In less than a month now it will be Valentine's Day — to some a celebration of romance, to others just one more day to try and get people to part with their money.

I have to admit, I can be a little wishy-washy about this occasion. Sometimes it seems just plain silly that I must buy a card or gift to let my favourite guy know how special he is. And do I really need him to reciprocate so I know he feels the same way? Isn't this something we convey to each other every day, I ask myself in my cynical moments.

But then my inner Pollyanna speaks out, reminding me that while yes, we should appreciate our partner every day and make sure they feel appreciated at least that often, it doesn't always work that way.  Life can be crazy, chaotic and stressful. Sometimes the people we love most get shoved to the back of the line. So then, what's wrong with a little emphasis on romance? Having a day designed specifically to let someone know they're the most important thing to you sure can't hurt.

And as I've mentioned many times before, what can possibly mean more than a personal message, such as one in a handmade card? (This also eliminates the notion of the holiday being a money grab) How nice too that the web and technology have made this so much easier. With online graphics and tutorials you are able produce a professional looking product inspired by your personal feelings. 

There are many sites offering unique and diverse collections of love-inspired illustrations and others with step-by-step instructions on how to do it.  Here's a sampling I found to make the search easier:

YouTube Make Your Own Greeting Cards in Photoshop

About.com Create a Greeting Card With Photoshop

iCLIPART.com Valentine Collection

Acclaim Images Valentines

ClipartGuide Valentine Images

TOONClipart Valentine Cartoons

ClickArt Online Valentines Collection

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guides to Using Photoshop Filters

As mentioned in an earlier post, my experience with Photoshop has been limited to what I needed to know. The basic skills were all that was necessary for the work I was doing. As a result there are tools I can find quite easily — crop, clone stamp, lasso, and eraser, while the remainder and most effects remain mysterious.

Having attained a certain age — somewhere between youthful zeal and elderly apathy, I seem to have in equal measure, a desire to keep learning and a cautious approach to new things.  Fortunately,  I attach more importance to the former.  So, I have committed a portion of each week to my own "Playtime With Photoshop" class.

The most recent session was experimenting with filters, which a colleague had mentioned to me. While I may have prior to this been aware of their existence, they fell into the 'don't touch lest you mess something up' category. 

So, throwing caution to the wind recently, I clicked on filters and had some fun. It was a fascinating exercise and I will be spending a little more time discovering the endless possibilities. 

I share with you some of the sites that put me through the steps:

addictivetips Basic Guide to Photoshop Filters

echo enduring Photoshop Filter You Should Know

tutorial9 Photoshop's Filters

Adobe Photoshop Filter Basics