Friday, August 16, 2013

5 Sites for Wonderful Beach Illustrations

Many years ago my husband and I noticed a shift occurring in our summer entertainment — away from the beach and towards music and classic cars.  A good deal  therefore,  is now spent travelling from show to show, venue to venue. 

It currently fits our lifestyle and interests perfectly, so I don't generally miss  lazy days spent beach side which we can no longer fit in.

Yet, every once in a while when I hear the b-word a subtle yearning takes hold and I think of the soothing lap of surf hitting shore, of soft sand squishing between my toes, of spectacular sunsets over crystal blue.  I see myself comfortably settled in a lounge chair, book in hand,  glass beside me with nothing to distract me but the symphony of water and birds.

I can't imagine anyone who doesn't have some fondness or affinity for a day at the beach.  It's quite probably the one thing that's as enjoyable in reality as in memory.  My happy childhood recollections of summer vacations at Sauble blend in to those of nights at Port Elgin casino/dance hall with teenage friends.  I cherish the years when, as a young parents my husband and I moved our kids to cottage country for the season. Likewise, I think fondly back just a decade or so ago, when we vacationed at a sibling's lakeshore cabin.

So yes, while at this place in time my interests have taken a different direction,  nostalgia and affection still tie me to the beach.  Until life and circumstances take me back or until winter takes me south,  I will let these wonderful illustrations be my escape to sun and surf:

iCLIPART.com Beach Illustrations

Acclaim Images Beach Clipart

ClickArt Online Beach Illustrations

ClipartGuide Beach Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Beach Illustrations

TOONClipart Beach Cartoon Clipart

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Free Vector Graphics Editors

Last summer was a busy one in our family, with a wedding for one daughter and the arrival of a new baby for another.  As a result there were parties and celebrations throughout the season.  Which meant invitations, thank you notes and other similar items were required.

Our bride has always been the artsy one in the family — and thrifty to boot. She decided to create her own wedding stationery needs, starting of course with the right graphics. Wanting to ensure she was not stealing someone else's work she went to iCLIPART.com ,  a site offering royalty-free images at great prices. She quickly found the perfect illustrations, ones that suited her black-and-white theme, her personal style and the level of taste expected.

Whether you're a graphic designer or a grandma working on a special family memento,  the right image is obviously a great place to start. For novices, however,  if using an image isn't going to be as straightforward as one hoped it can seem intimidating.  For instance, there are times when a transparent background is required, and while a png may have one, depending on how the artist created the image, a jpg will always have a background colour.

Only with vectors, a graphic that can be altered without any loss of quality, is transparency of background guaranteed.  The issue then, however,  is that in order to open these types of files one needs image editing software.  And while professional programs (like Adobe Creative Suite and CorelDRAW) are quality products providing tools to work one's own magic on an image, they can be rather expensive for hobbyists.

The good news is there are free options online for those for whom such an investment just wouldn't make sense.  Here's a great site with some examples:

I Love Free Software 5 Best Vector Graphics Editors

While it's possible to find an image that won't require editing, with a little work, creativity and imagination you can open the door to a number of other possibilities. Be fearless. Have some fun and create a new spin on your favourite.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Photograph Children Outdoors

Had a visit from my darling granddaughter the other day. If there's one occasion guaranteed to bring out my camera it's this.  Actually, the favourite joke around our household now is if you want your picture taken you better be holding Little Missy.

The newest addition came to our family with personality. From the beginning, she was clearly an independent.  Her serious observation of the world around her (giggles were hard earned and came at a premium)  convinced us she wasn't easily impressed.  Even the camera for the first seven months of her life was regarded with mild suspicion.

Fortunately — while we still think she's a keen observer —  that changed. Our little lady now adores the camera as much as it, and the people taking the pictures, love her.  On her most recent visit to Grammie's house we were enjoying our usual photo shoot, this time outdoors as she explored the garden.  Looking at the pictures later that day I was thrilled by how many great ones I'd managed to get. As I give little credit to technical ability on my part, I can only assume that the conditions for photography were as perfect as the subject.

While getting good pictures indoors has its own set of rules, the same can be said of outdoor photos. And when you throw the unpredictability, exuberance and mood swings of little ones into the mix, trying to get shots worthy of these adorable subjects can be humbling. Here are some sites to help you accept the challenge with confidence:

LightStalking Photograph Children Outdoors

LearnMyShot Photographing Children Outdoors

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Spectacular Sunflower

It's always seemed a bit of an anomaly to me.  A rural area, densely populated, the peppering of tiny settlements lining a seriously-busy,  four-lane highway.  The desire to race through is tempered by the plethora of police cruising along the road, or parking alongside it. Despite the similarity to the 400-series roads, this one has long been known as a speed trap.

My husband and I take this route frequently as it leads to our daughter's home.  The frustrating ebb and flow of drivers desperately eager to speed along, but cognizant of the ever-present officers,  can make what's essentially a short drive seem tediously long.  Any beauty in the countryside is lost in the congestion of traffic and houses.

Yet, recently, there was a bit of a surprise.  Approaching one rare open space we noticed a huge line of cars parked at the side of the road. Drivers and passengers were exiting their vehicles and working their way up the road. The reason? To photograph a field of sunflowers.

Such a profusion of these stately blooms definitely did create a photo op. The spectacle of bright yellow heads raised en masse to the sun against a backdrop of azure sky and verdant leaves was a picture waiting to happen.  But more importantly,  their cheerful appeal drew people away from the crazy toward the calm of nature. It was a great reminder that despite all the cars and buildings, I was definitely still out in the country.

Take time to smell the roses? Sure. Or better yet stop and enjoy the striking display created by the majestic sunflower as seen in these photos:

iCLIPART.com Sunflower Photos

iPHOTOS.com Sunflowers

Acclaim Images Sunflower Photos

Monday, August 12, 2013

Time for Back to School

The time is getting closer. How close depends on where you live.

For some kids, those living in California for example, the return to school is imminent, while there are others who still have a few weeks left to make the most of summer vacation.

In my youth, the months of July and August, when no school bell started my day, when there seemed so many long and lazy hours to idle away time with fun and sun,  were eagerly anticipated. There would be trips to my cousin's farm, to my big sister in the city, to the beach with Mom and Dad, all linked by childhood activities with friends at home.  We ran the neighbourhood from the time we could get organized in the morning, until the shouts of parents cut through the dusky light of evening.  There were ball games in empty fields,  hours of cooling off in the public pool and exciting games of tag and chase.

As carefree as it was, however, I oddly looked forward to back to school too.  You can get too much of a good thing and I think I somehow knew that a return to the structure of the school day was a positive move.

I would jump out of bed to don the new duds and gather new school supplies into my new bookbag on that first morning after Labour Day.   I gulped breakfast and dashed to catch up with my equally eager neighbourhood friends.  Even though we knew who our teacher would be, there was always the sense of new adventure, and our walk back to school was full of chatter.  This was the now the change of pace. We looked forward to seeing classmates again that we didn't get to see over the summer and to getting back in the routine.  At least for the first few days.

Here I revisit the return to the classroom with these exciting collections perfect for back to school projects:

iCLIPART.com Back to School Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Back to School Illustrations

ClipartGuide Back to School Illustrations

ClickArt Online Back to School Illustrations