Wednesday, December 24, 2014

45 Lovely Christmas Eve Landscapes

Today is Christmas Eve, probably my favourite day of the year. The time for the busyness of pre-preparation is over, done or not done. The promise of tomorrow morning fills us with anticipation, while the feeling of love and peace is evident.

One of my favourite images when I think of Christmas Eve is a charming house, lights glowing, while the soft, snowy landscape lies peacefully around it. It is a scene of tranquillity.

Sure, inside the place might be different. It could be abuzz with relatives to the rafters, full of lively conversation and boisterous laughter.  It could be a story with different scenes in each room, children running and playing,  adults engaged in entertaining pursuits. In one spot the tree twinkles softly in a corner, in another people crowd around a table where discussions range from the comical to the occasional conflict.

When I am one of those acting out that tale inside, with all the comfort and complexity that means being part of a family, my mind will stray from time to time to how our version of a homey little world looks from outside, as calm and perfect as those in these lovely images from iCLIPART.com

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Photograph Your Christmas Tree

Decorating my home for Christmas involves a little bit of something in virtually every main floor room as well as a few touches upstairs.  But while replacing the everyday with snowmen and santas, garlands and twinkling lights can take time, the most demanding job is decking out the tree.

Once the children left home the responsibility of this fell squarely on my shoulders for several years. And for several years I moaned over the pesky lights. Strings that lit when tested then failed to light after painstakingly weaving them through the branches and plugging them in.

Of course this  always only happened after several strings had been added to the tree. Each time it did happen  I threatened to dump the tree  in favour of a pre-lit gem. Each time I threatened, my husband talked me out of it.

Until he helped me this year and began to sing my song. After a succession of strands with half of the bulbs out and even one that mysteriously decided to flash, shopping for a new tree that would have that chore done  became the stuff of serious discussion. The project  after all,  had taken two of us six valuable hours to finish, thanks to those lights.

Needless to say, when the work was finally done getting a picture of the stately display this year took on a whole new meaning. Rather than a memory of our 2014  tree, it was more about proof that we can achieve in the face of adversity.

Getting photos of the annual Christmas tree, for whatever the reason, is a popular practice in most homes. It's soft glow is a charming image on its own, and the perfect backdrop for family photos.

To capture it perfectly, though, can be tricky. Here are some helpful tips to get it right:

Picture Correct How to Take Photos of Your Christmas Tree

KelbyOneTake Christmas Tree Photos

GlobalPost Take Pictures of Kids in Front of the Christmas Tree

NYI of Photography How to Take Photos of Holiday Lights

Lightstalking How To Photograph Christmas Trees

Friday, December 19, 2014

Awesome New Year Illustrations for 2015

As said in song and verse, it's the most wonderful time of the year.

For weeks now Christmas has been on the hearts and minds of many. We are busy with the planning and preparations. Shopping is done, presents are wrapped. Menus are set, baking is done.  Events have been organized, parties are everywhere. Our lives are full of the spirit and goodwill of the season and thoughts centre around little else.

But, as we move closer to this beautiful holiday,  there's another event on the horizon which tends to be a bit of an afterthought. Until the celebration of Christmas is behind us New Year's can often be given short shrift. Amidst the holiday questions asked of family and friends, there may be a few regarding one's plans for Dec. 31, but most attention goes to the plans, the hopes, the fun of Christmas.

However, before we know it, we will have left this wonder of the season behind us and begin looking ahead to another year. In less than two weeks we will turn a calendar page to 2015. If you are already thinking of this milestone, creating projects for this occasion, here are some terrific 'new year' illustrations from  iCLIPART.com

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Over 3,000 Wonderful Santa Claus Illustrations

The guy featured in today's  illustrations can be a bit of an acquired taste. Portly and hirsute with a booming laugh, no one could deny he's an imposing character.  While adults easily see the charm and colour of his personality, little ones can often be intimidated.

I was with our grandchildren for their visit with Santa this year. It's a tradition that anyone with experience can tell you often doesn't go well. As the jolly elf made his way to his chair, our  wide-eyed toddler managed a "Hello, Santa", which was quickly followed by "No.  No. No. No. No." when the suggestion was made that she sit on his knee.

For little ones it does take some time to see past that larger-than-life persona.  Until they come to understand the magic in loving him.

Adults, who have come to accept what his presence represents, that of love and generosity, can be equally enamoured.  Personally, I've always had a crush on the guy, besotted I admit with his charmingly-appealing appearance and spirit. The fancy red duds, glistening white beard and round belly on any other guy might not be quite as endearing, but that twinkle in his eye and slight sprinkle of mischief in his demeanour make him irresistible.

And while you might suggest that it's the gifts that win us over when we're little, that's no explanation for people like me.  I can honestly say that my infatuation has only gotten greater since my name no longer makes his nice, or naughty, list.  Santa Claus might not be the 'reason for the season', but for me he is the personification of a lot of what's good about it, from his generosity to that jolly "HO, HO, HO!"

So, love him, like him, or simply need his likeness for a project I'm certain you'll enjoy these wonderful Santa Claus images:

iCLIPART.com

Clipart.com

Monday, December 8, 2014

6 Adorable 12 Days of Christmas Image Collections

"On the first day of Christmas... "

Digging deep into the memory bank, I recall looking once upon a time at a book full of illustrated Christmas music. Though my recollection is vague, I believe it was owned by one of my grandparents. What I do see in nostalgic reflection is a mini me with legs dangling down from the couch and a large book across my lap.

Knowing what kind of child I was then I'm sure hours were passed in this way, leafing through the pages, singing the tunes and looking at the beautiful pictures. Music and reading have always  been two of my favourite things. When I was too small to read lyrics, then I have to assume that  the pictures helped me know which song to sing.

And looking back in memory I see too that they were colourful, lively images.  Some are clearer than others to me now, some are completely forgotten, Yet, while the picturesque scene of a horse-drawn sleigh slicing through the sparkling white of winter snow that depicted Jingle Bells is  a remembered favourite, all of them I'm certain were fun when seen through the eyes of this child,

For sheer entertainment, though, I'd have to say it was the images representing The Twelve Days of Christmas that were the best. The leaping lords, milking maids et al could never fail to bring a smile. Not to mention they made it much easier to remember which words came next.

The result of this little sentimental journey I took was that I started wondering what I might find in the online clipart world if I went looking for that partridge in a pear tree. Here are a few adorable collections:

12 Days of Christmas Collection

12 Days of Christmas Collection

TOONclipart 12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas

A Collection for the 12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas Vintage Collection

Friday, December 5, 2014

3 Collections of Images for Your Christmas Greetings

One of the nice things about the various options for safely accessing illustrations and photos online is that they are no longer just a resource for those with big budgets but for small businesses and even moms and pops too.  This means that where once certain requirements, such as promotions, business cards or invitations, were handled commercially, now people can create their own quite simply.

With it being the time of year when all thoughts and deeds focus around Christmas, one of the holiday customs where this is appropriate would be the greeting card. While the option of sending electronic messages has some people moving away from the traditional physical mailing,  there are still people on the contact list who might not, though it's hard to believe, own a computer. Creating a few cards for them can be done lickety-split

There are many tutorials online to show you how it's done, but the starting point to achieve it with minimal effort is a great festive background from an online graphic service such as Clipart.comiCLIPART.com or Acclaim Images.  Though there is a slight fee attached, these sites supply you with an endlessly diverse collection of content which you can use without any concern of copyright infringement.

Here's a peek at some Christmas backgrounds available which,  with the addition of  text, will complete a holiday greeting card you'll be proud to send to friends:

Over 5,000 iCLIPART.com Christmas Backgrounds

164 Christmas Backgrounds from Acclaim

11,000 Christmas Card Starters and Elements from Clipart.com

Thursday, December 4, 2014

8 CorelDRAW Tutorials for Creating Christmas Greeting Cards

To paraphrase a popular idiom, one man's notion of junk is another man's idea of perfection. In our commercial world people have their brand favourites. When you believe profoundly in the merits of a particular product, it can be confounding to see people dedicated to the use of a rival. 

My husband, for example, has never, when it comes to cars, owned anything but a Mopar. Yet, while he can provide a litany of reasons why other brands don't measure up,  other  folks  do the same about the Chrysler family.

Our reasons for preferring one brand over another often has more to do with our specific needs and wants than about what the product can do. Let's face it, generally a car is a car is a car. For me, something reliable with the necessary bells and whistles to improve my driving experience is what I look for. Well, that and a Chrysler because after 35 years I'm a bit brainwashed.

How that romance began for my husband involved the same things I appreciate, but there were also  the style, the history and the company track record considered. Then too, there's the fact that's he's pretty brand loyal and not a fan of change for the sake of change. When he finds something he likes, he usually sticks with it. Good news for me.

The bottom line is that typically if we are happy with a particular company or product we tend to stick with it. That includes the type of image editing software we prefer. Some of the reasons for choosing one over the other could be affordability, familiarity or usability.

This week's blogs have focussed on making your own Christmas greeting cards with Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and a free online option, GIMP.  So in the spirit of fair play here are some tutorials for the same project using CorelDRAW:

Create a Holiday Greeting Card

Christmas Card Design

Creating Beautiful Holiday Greeting Cards

Create a Holiday Photo Greeting Card

Creating a Holiday Greeting Card in PainShop Por X5

Creative Christmas Card Design Using Corel X6

A Christmas Card Design

Creating a Pop-Up Christmas Card

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

9 Adobe Illustrator Tutorials for Creating Christmas Cards

When we think of image editing the first name to come to mind will quite likely be Photoshop.

It was introduced to me partway through my time as editor of a small community newspaper, and staff from editorial to advertising and production soon realized that it was transforming the way we had done business for the better. My dodge, burn and flash days in the darkroom were over; instead I sat at my computer and played.

Why 'played'  is because with deadlines and a publication date to meet, we received no more education than was necessary when meeting a new piece of equipment or program.  The basics, no more, no less. The rest we learned as we went. Which in the case of the editorial department amounted to not much more than we needed to get by. I could take an image or photo, crop it, tweak it a bit, erase a little something and take away the colour.

There were so, so many times, however, when I wished there was an easier way to do some changes. Working totally with JPGs I had no idea that another world existed, one in which I could significantly enlarge an illustration without losing quality, or effectively erase a portion of it with a simple click.

Taking on a new position several years ago, I was introduced to that world and my eyes were opened to the possibilities vectors provided. The first thing I learned was that to fully enjoy the benefits of these file formats Photoshop was not the best option as it's not a true vector program and would rasterize, or flatten the image, making it no different than a JPG or PNG. 


Enter then Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW and their ilk, which open vectors to show all of their paths or layers.  So while I've taken a look at creating Christmas cards in Photoshop, and the free program GIMP in this week's posts, I thought it might be only sensible to see what can be done with vector software. Here are some wonderful tutorials I found for making a festive card in Illustrator:

Create a Vintage-Style Christmas Card in Adobe Illustrator

Create a Christmas Greeting Card

Create a Snowman Greeting Card

How to Create a Christmas Greeting Card

Make a Cute Christmas Card With Illustrator

An Illustrator Christmas Card

Create a Festive Greeting Card With Illustrator

How to Create a Christmas Card in AI

How to Make Your Own Christmas Card Using Illustrator

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How To Create a Christmas Card in GIMP

For more than two decades I worked as editor of a community newspaper. During that time the way the publishing world did business evolved significantly. To begin, a few years after I took the position we transitioned from electric typewriters and typesetters to computers.  As we updated the latter we eventually moved from light tables to computers for layout.

The literal cut and paste practice of the advertising department disappeared too, and the big clipart books of old were replaced with a subscription  to an online service where content was accessed by the production department for the designs.

With the advent of digital cameras, the darkroom became obsolete and the job of getting photos ready for each week's edition was also done in front of a computer with Photoshop. As a result, while I became not exactly proficient in the use of the image editing software, I am certainly familiar with it. Enough that I recognize its value. Being able to use it at work in my off hours for my own purposes was a nice perk.

That advantage extends to me with my new job as well, something for which I feel quite lucky. Call me thrifty but the idea of installing an expensive program on my home computer just seems a bit extravagant for my purposes. It's nice to know that if a project presents itself, then, I have another option.

This is, however, not the case for everyone. Fortunately, an internet search will bring up a number of more affordable image editors. And by that I mean free. One of the ones we have recommended to customers is GIMP. 

In keeping with the season, here are some tutorials on making a Christmas card using this particular software. As a cautionary note, it is best to use images and illustrations from a safe reliable source. While you might have to pay a nominal fee there is no danger of facing a copyright charge down the road.

Creating a Christmas Card With GIMP

Make Your Own GIMP Christmas Card

How To Make Your Own Greeting Card

Create a Holiday eCard in GIMP

Make Your Own Holiday Cards With GIMP

DIY Christmas Card Tutorial (Basic Design)

Create a Christmas Card in GIMP

Monday, December 1, 2014

8 Tutorials for Creating a Christmas Card in Photoshop

Normally at this time of year I start thinking about what image I will use for this year's Christmas e-greeting. However, it crossed my mind the other day that it might also be nice to create a Christmas card for a few special friends.

There's only one thing to stop me really.  I've never made a serious attempt at it before, and I don't easily jump into the unknown.

I guess some would say I'm a cautious person. And in all honesty I can't argue that assessment.  Where others will plunge fearlessly into new experiences, I sit back and consider the risks. While there are those for whom air travel is a common sense way to get around this world quickly, I  need a pretty darn good reason to get in a plane.

There are many for whom the daredevil curves and hair-raising plunges of a roller coaster are what amusement parks are all about.  Me?  I rather enjoy the carousel. I would never skydive, scale the side of a mountain or bungee jump. I don't mind staying close to home for my vacations and feel not the least bit regretful that I don't plan any trips to exotic, though occasionally volatile, destinations.

None of this troubles me or makes me feel inferior to people full of the spirit of adventure, though.  I am a homebody, content in the familiar, satisfied by what I have and  of my abilities. For this I make no apologies.

Yet, there is one aspect of this mild trepidation of mine that frustrates me — my reluctance to try new things, regardless of how mundane. I try to convince myself it's okay, because time is valuable,  I hate failure, so why subject myself to something I might not be able to do well and instead waste precious minutes that could be spent achieving other things.

The answer, I constantly remind myself is, because learning and experience are important. People never know what their capabilities and talents might be if they never try anything.  I'm too old and edgy to take up freestyle skiing, but there's no excuse for not opening up Photoshop and seeing what I can accomplish. Especially with the dozens of tutorials out there to guide me. Like these for example:

Make a Custom Holiday Photo Card With Photoshop Elements

Create a Christmas Tree Card

A Holiday Greeting Card Photo Border

Create a Custom Christmas Card in Photoshop

How to Create a Christmas Card in Photoshop

Design Your Own Christmas CardHow to Make Christmas Cards from Photos

Create Custom Greeting Cards in 6 Steps

Design a Dazzling Holiday Card in Photoshop

Friday, November 28, 2014

Adorable Christmas Images Perfect for eGreetings

When retail stores close their doors on yet another Black Friday today, no one can try to pretend any longer that the Christmas season isn't here. Carols play from street corners and in malls.  There is suddenly plenty of other things to do — planning, wrapping, decorating, baking and even more shopping.

Yet, people rush from place to place, task to task, with a surprising level of goodwill and cheer given all the busyness.

As it is for many, this is my favourite time of year. All of the extra activity amidst the crazy of life should be a little off putting.  But, from trying to fit it all in,  to actually getting it all done and being able to sit and enjoy it, I love every task, every minute.  At least I do now.

If there was one aspect of Christmases past that I could quite happily have ignored it was sending out the annual greeting cards. For some reason I can't define, it seemed not just a chore, but a waste of precious time. Not to mention the cost. With postal rates continuing to rise  it became clear that there had to be a better way to spend my money.

So, a couple of years ago, my husband and I decided that instead of our cash to Canada Post we would donate the same amount to a charity, then send an electronic greeting to our family and friends. And with a  subscription to an online graphics service, such as iCLIPART.com or  Clipart.com, we have found awesome seasonal illustrations to decorate our festive message.

When using these types of sites, do be sure to read their terms of use carefully before purchasing as there can be special restrictions on electronic distribution. For example you might need to send your greeting in HTML format rather than as a PDF.

Here is a sampling of images from various sources that would give your holidays e-greetings a festive flair:

iCLIPART.com

Clipart.com

Acclaim Images

ClickArt Online

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thousands of Retail Illustrations

We all have our weaknesses. And when it comes to one of my vices, I have to admit I'm a bit of an 'aholic'. The temptation is always there; the restraint, when  presented with the opportunity to indulge, is virtually non-existent.

Take me to a mall, any time, any day, anywhere and I will shop until you drop.  I buy what I want when I want, I'm a sucker for the 'spend this much and get a free gift' pitch and I have never seen a bargain I could ignore.

That said, even I have my limits. There's one time of year when I strenuously avoid retail centres. No enticement or inducement is strong enough to lure me into the pre-Christmas rush. Or perhaps I should say crush.  Instead, by now, I have usually checked everyone off the list and am sipping wine by the twinkling lights of my tree while others fight the bargain-hungry masses.

Tomorrow is Black Friday, the day after the American Thanksgiving, when retailers inspire shoppers to come out in droves with tempting deals on everything.  While you won't find me there, the craze  obviously holds huge appeal for many. Specials so incredible apparently make the challenge of spending time with the hordes of other people out to get the goods worth it. Friends and family of mine on this side of the border wouldn't miss making the trip to the States on the last Friday of November each year.

Those who share my aversion to crowded retail outlets need not miss out completely, though. The internet has given us the advantages of Black Friday from the comfort of our home.

So as we approach one of the most significant pre-holiday shopping extravaganzas  in western consumerism,  here are some illustrations for use in business and retail from iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Getting Great Thanksgiving Photos

Tomorrow is the American Thanksgiving.  Families will gather to celebrate this special time of gratitude enjoying the company of loved ones and acknowledging the remaining bounty of blessings that enrich their lives. 

The holiday is portrayed in film with people representing assorted relatives of diverse age and cultural differences as they prepare to, and ultimately descend upon,  the home of the family matriarch and patriarch. There is then the house full to the rafters of guests who congregate in the kitchen, around the laden dining table and in front of the television for football. The interactions are defined by teasing, laughter, love, and, because we're talking made in Hollywood, conflict.

Though the actual storyline might require  a leap of faith, the meaning  of holidays and family is not lost. Certainly there can be disagreements and disputes, but holidays to my way of thinking are amazing. The reason why, comes down to being with the people who know you best and love you anyway.

These special times also provide us with the opportunity to create enduring memories through photographs.  Tips on what pictures to take this Thanksgiving and how to take them can be found at these sites:

Get Great Thanksgiving Photos

Ideas for Family Thanksgiving Photos

Capture Thanksgiving With Your Camera

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5 Resources for Thanksgiving Clipart

No matter what side of a North American border you live,  you know that the day after tomorrow is one of the most significant holidays of the year for folks from the United States.  While their northern neighbours celebrated their Thanksgiving over a month ago, Americans are looking forward to their time to count their blessings, held traditionally the last Thursday of November.

The historic intent behind the occasion is, of course that of gratitude for the bounty of good things in one's life.  What comes to mind first are always images of family and food. Extended relatives gather together to enjoy a feast usually comprised of turkey with all the fixings, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

While the day is an opportunity to reflect on the bounty of riches that have come one's way, it is also the time when Americans indulge one of their most favourite pastimes — football. While waiting for, or recovering from that bountiful feast, families will fill living rooms and dens to enjoy the Thanksgiving Classic, an annual treat since the inception of the NFL in 1920.  The event is a series of football games played during the holiday.

What better kind of celebration, the intent of which is primarily to turn one's mind to all that is good in life, than one replete with family, food, fun and games.

So to my neighbours to the south I send my wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving.  And hope that if you are looking for illustrations for those special  projects — whether it's to promote an event, to decorate your holiday emails or to use in a scrapbook of  memories,  to name just a few possibilities — you will enjoy these wonderful clipart collections:

iCLIPART.com

Best-of-Web

Clipart.com

Acclaim Images

ClickArt Online

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hundreds of Illustrations for Tie One On Day

This week is a big one in the United States. As they prepare for their time of thanksgiving, they will celebrate the occasion with a number of traditions and events. And here, over the next few days,  I will share illustrations to highlight them all.

The last Thursday in November is a time for Americans to gather and think of the blessings that have been bestowed upon them. On Nov. 27, here will be family, food, fun and football.

But before that, there is a lesser known event to commemorate — National Tie One On Day.  Created by the author of The Apron Book, Ellyn Anne Geisel, the day is an unofficial holiday which contradictory to its name, is not about going out to partake in drunken revelry, but about giving back.

Geisel said, "Women clad in aprons have traditionally prepared the Thanksgiving meal, and it is within our historical linkage to share our bounty."

The concept then is to tuck a message of support or comfort into the pocket of an apron. Use this to then wrap a home-baked product you will present to someone in need. It's a lovely gesture and a reminder that society as a whole is still comprised of generous and kind people.

To turn heart and mind towards this ideal, here are some collections of baking illustrations to promote, with gratitude and generosity,  Tie One On Day to be celebrated this Wednesday:

iCLIPART.com

Clipart.com

Acclaim Images

Clipart_Guide

ClickArt Online

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thousands of Winter Landscape Photos

As Christmas decorating around my house takes a bit of time, I decided last night to get the process started. It was a nice way to pass the evening really. As I moved around the room, setting Santas and snowmen in place with greenery and lights, outside snow drifted past the window and blanketed the trees, roads and yards in a fluffy white cover. Couldn't have been more perfect to get me in the mood for the season.

However, this morning was a different story,  as I opened my door to discover that that cover Mother Nature left us with was more like a giant duvet. The snow was up to my calves and higher at the end of my driveway. Areas of town where I walked weren't much better as I ploughed through drifts on sidewalks and plodded across scraped slippery patches. It was most definitely a good cardio workout wending my way to work on this particular morning.

Once safely inside the office, however,  it was easier to find the positive again, to see the beauty of the landscape. The coating of fresh flakes on branches, the dreariness of late autumn bereft of its coat of many colours, now a dazzling white made everything absolutely picture perfect. Just like these gorgeous images from iPHOTOS.com,  Clipart.com and  Acclaim Images

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Create a Winter Wonderland in Photoshop

It might be a few weeks yet until we reach the solstice, but there's no doubt if you are living in some places that winter has arrived.  Buffalo, NY was buried under several feet of snow on Tuesday, while parts of Ontario  suffered through a sudden dump of fluffy, white stuff accompanied by high winds to help push it all around.

It's a scene than most of us could probably live without. Yet, there are those for whom nothing but a picture of winter will do. Perhaps it's  a winter wonderland photo they need for an annual Christmas greeting or for a calendar. Many businesses as well prefer images of ice and snow, whether to use for them for promotional material or to set a mood.  For example, ski resorts advertise often before snow arrives; chalets and lodges prefer winter landscapes to grace their walls as a reminder of what there is to enjoy there in the peak season.

So if it's pictures of  Old Man Winter you need and you're sitting under a tropical sun, sipping pina coladas,  or living in one of those more temperate northern climes where you patiently wait for a skiff of snow to fall,  what are you going to do?  It's not as if you can step outside and grab a photo. Fortunately, though you can  create a winter landscape for your purposes with Photoshop. Here are some great tutorials:

Create a Winter Landscape

Change a Summer Picture to Winter

Apply Snow Effects to Your Photos

Turn Any Scene Into a Winter One

Add Falling Snow to a Photo

Create a Winter Wonderland in Photoshop

Transform a Desert into an Ice Castle Wonderland

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

80 Beautiful Winter Pattern Photos

Late fall has blessed us with its first substantial snowfall the past couple of days. Big fluffy flakes have blanketed the area, transforming the landscape into a clean, monochromatic palette. The construction zone the folks in our village have been living through since June has been obliterated for the time being — an aesthetic bonus, I suppose, but a challenge for walkers as plowing certain areas isn't happening.

Plunging through on my walk to work this morning, I did my best to follow in the footsteps of one who had gone before. The pattern created by my predecessor, who it seems was a rather big-footed, long striding gentleman,  was a bit of a meandering path cut through an otherwise plain carpet. 

Then, crossing the bridge and glancing down the slope that has become popular with local children for sledding,  I noticed the rolling design created by dips and drifts formed by yesterday's high winds. Walking up the road, past one of the grand old maples lining the street, I saw the pattern of snow on bark, the unwitting artistry of multiple tire tracks on the street, the snow angel formed by a child waiting for their bus.

When I finally settled down in front of my computer, the patterns of winter were first and foremost on my mind. So, here then are some beautiful images from iPHOTOS.com  of how Jack Frost and Mother Nature work their magic at this time of year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tips for Winter Macro Photography

I come from the land of ice and snow and for a person who likes seeing her world through the lens of a camera it can be a pretty amazing place to live.  With sparks of sunlight twinkling on fresh snow,  the landscapes here are a thing of beauty on their own, whether open and spacious farmers' fields or scenic woodlots.

But add in the patterns of winter — footprints cutting a path through an otherwise pristine white carpet, glistening frost on a windowpane, icicles hanging from frosty eaves — and subjects for shutterbugs ready to brave the elements for pretty pictures are many.

Another way to look at winter is close up. The opportunities for great macro shots are abundant. While that row of icicles gracing your home can be photogenic, zooming in on one can be visually interesting in itself.  Perhaps too, you might want to take a new look at those icy puddles in the driveway or at a single leaf frozen in time on a small branch.

For inspiration and guidance here are some wonderful resources for tips and ideas to expand your winter photography horizons:

Digital Camera World Tells How to Take Stunning Pictures of Ice

Macro Photography for All - Winter

Stunning Winter Photo Idea and How to Achieve It

Shooting High Resolution Macro Photos of Snowflakes

DPS How to Photograph Snowflakes With a DSLR

Monday, November 17, 2014

4 Sources for Beautiful Winter Landscapes

No matter what you feel about winter you have to admit that in its purest form it creates a powerfully beautiful landscape.  There is no lovelier Christmas card than an illustration of a cozy home beside a decorated tree with twinkling lights, stars shining above and a blanket of pristine  snow covering all.

One of my favourite times of year to be home is the prelude to Christmas,  when shopping has been done, baking is under control, and the decorations are in place. The house feels warmer somehow with smiling Santas and snowmen hanging out in rooms softly lit by candles nestled amid garlands.  Sitting snuggled in a chair looking out at the winter landscape increases the sense of hominess for me.

Even after the festive season and the accompanying accoutrements have been packed away for another year, when all that remains is that cold blanket of white outside the window,  there is something oddly comforting about peering out the window at a snowy landscape while cocooned indoors wrapped in a blanket,  sipping a hot chocolate. These collections of illustrations reflect those perfect views:

iCLIPART.com Winter Illustrations

Clipart.com Winter Landscapes

Acclaim Images Winter Landscape

ClickArt Online Winter Landscape

Friday, November 14, 2014

6 Clipart Collections Celebrating Hockey

Snow has fallen on our little corner of the world. Thick and heavy it arrived last night to make the morning interesting for commuters and school bus drivers.

Actually, even walking was a bit treacherous with a fresh blanket of fluffy white covering slick ice crystals beneath.  My steps therefore, though I was wearing my 'serious' winter boots, were slow and steady.

It gave me time to reflect a bit. On this particular day, on the first one of snowfall this season, I looked back to the delight I used to have in winter's arrival when I was younger. Though the plunge into cold and ice meant summer fun had ended, there was still plenty to get excited about. Most notably time spent at our local arena. As a little one, my Saturday and Sunday afternoons were dedicated to skating, a great way to pass a couple of hours with friends.

Saturday nights on the other hand were also spent enjoying a winter sport, albeit in front of the television, with Hockey Night in Canada and the Original Six. It was the heyday of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the rivalry between them and the Montreal Canadiens as they faced off against each other and teams from New York, Detroit, Chicago and Boston had most glued to the TV each week.

When I became a teenager, my love of hockey returned me to the arena and to our own local stars, the boys with whom I attended school, and their out-of-town counterparts.  It was a given that at least some portion of the weekend would be spent cheering on the home team from the stands, even if we had to miss the Leafs to do it.

In an area where warm weather fun only happens for a few months each year,  passion has to run for winter sports. And for most Canadians there really is only one.  Here are clipart collections to celebrate our national pastime:

iCLIPART.com Hockey Illustrations

Clipart.com Hockey illustrations

Acclaim Images Hockey Clipart

ClipartGuide Hockey Images

ClickArt Online Hockey Illustrations

TOONClipart Hockey Cartoons

Thursday, November 13, 2014

106 Christmas Shopping Photos

Huge plans for this weekend. Well, not what other people might consider huge, but the agenda does involve several of my favourite things. Staying overnight in the city with a good friend, there will be two days of visiting, eating, drinking, relaxing and, of course, Christmas shopping.

Not that I have much of the latter left to do. Getting the list checked off early is a practice that began many years ago when I was a young mother. Picking up gifts starting in August meant spreading the cost over several months which seemed to hurt the bank account less. It also ensured that I wasn't one of those parents scrambling at the last minute to find that special toy all the stores had sold out of by the beginning of December.  I might not have waited for any seasonal specials, but I had that Cabbage Patch kid in the closet waiting to make a little girl happy on Christmas morning.

The only problem I discovered that first year was a result of the fact that I love to shop. With extra time,  I always purchased more for each person than I originally planned. Stocking stuffers were a challenge too as I picked up things randomly, then realizing I had far too many for, or spent too much on, one person, set out to balance it.

This year, however, my kids,  all grown up and with a lot more control of their mother than back in those days,  have said things will be different. They've reigned me in and though my initial reaction was disappointment, I've come to see the silver lining. With my typical headstart on the holiday shopping season, I managed to whittle down that list so that shopping with my bestie should be perfectly relaxing. All the fun, without the pressure — as satisfied and happy as the shoppers in these photos from iPHOTOS.com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Great Drawing Tutorials

Science, math, they bore me to tears. When they're not freaking me out that is. The terror that struck when I saw the teacher was planning for us to find a numerical answer to a series of letters and symbols was on a par with finding a rat under the bed. (I imagine anyway).  And dissecting a frog, while enough said on that.

History and geography are fine, interesting from time to time. But where my talents shine, where I find fascination is in the arts. Whether it's players on a theatrical or a concert stage, I love to watch and listen, appreciating how easy they make something seem that is most definitely not.  I feel the mood of a great photographer's work.  I adore the written word, losing myself between the pages of a great book at every opportunity I can find.

My pursuits, likewise, follow these passions.  I like to write, sing and take pictures and occasionally challenge myself still to try and improve my abilities in these fields. For entertainment,  I attend theatre and music productions often.

There is one area, however, where I admit to being a bit of an artistic washout. I have no understanding of what makes a great work of art, not do I have any ability of my own in this area. At least not to my knowledge. The closest I came was in high school when a friend of mine, who wanted to be a fashion designer, began drawing young girls adorned in her idea of modern attire.

The fact that I could copy her images so easily probably explains why the fashion industry never came calling for her. My work, for me, however, was surprisingly accurate to have made me wonder over the years if there might have been a bit more there than I think. Enough that as I look towards a nearing retirement I being to wonder if a new hobby might be discovered. I'm not saying I hold any notion that I'll some day be a Rembrandt but just for fun, drawing might be, well, fun.

Like anything else these days, of course, there are plenty of resources online to instruct you in the art of drawing and I've begun checking some out. Here are a few of my discoveries:

Easy Drawing Tutorials

Clever Tutorials and Techniques on Traditional Drawing

Drawing Tutorials Online

OnlyPencil Drawing Tutorials

How to Draw Step-by-Step

Comprehensive Drawing Tutorial Collection

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

4 Collections of Illustrations for the Coffee Lover

Let's meet for a coffee. Care to join me for a coffee? Can I get you a coffee?

It's the drink that kicks off our day, that revs our engines and snaps us out of our lethargy. It's perfect for a break, accompanied by a muffin or doughnut, and goes well with dessert to finish off a meal. 

But besides being a favoured beverage, coffee's also a social event. It's a reason for people to stop in the middle of a day and meet with a friend. Let's face it, no one ever says, let's get together and have a glass of water, or a pop.  When it comes to daytime socializing, coffee is the 'buzz'word.  And if the opportunity to share time with a friend isn't enough to entice you to the cup of java, the compelling fragrance has to be.

There is a store in a nearby urban centre that I love going in because it's aromatic. I have searched for the coffee-scented candles or fragrance diffuser to no avail. It was only after asking that I was learned the secret was the trendy coffee boutique next door.  The delicious smell was all because of them and the vents and cracks that allowed it to seep through the walls.

From the 1960s beatnik coffee house, to Tim Horton's, to the designer brews synonymous with Seattle chains such as Starbucks,  to the internet caf├ęs,  coffee has become a cultural trend.  A quick look at a clipart site will turn up thousands of related illustrations, perfect for all kinds of purposes, from menus and promotions to invitations.  Here, for example, are  collections from iCLIPART.comClipart.comAcclaim Images and TOONClipart.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Over 200 Poppy Illustrations for Remembrance Day

 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

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.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The first line in Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's familiar poem, In Flanders Fields speaks of the many poppies that sprang up between the graves of soldiers buried in an area of Europe near Belgium following World War I.  In 1921, inspired therefore by these words, a red flower became the symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers of World War I.

I never really understood as a child what it meant to wear a poppy. As it is with so many things when you're little, you do it because Mom and Dad said so, or the teachers tell you to. Sure the symbolism was explained,  but for tots growing up in an environment of peace and innocence it's pretty difficult to wrap your head around the notion that people must fight and sometimes die to protect the life we were enjoying.

With maturity, as they say, comes wisdom often sadly gained by accepting the realities of a harsh world. At my age, no one needs to tell me now why we should wear a poppy, nor of the importance of honouring our fallen men and women.

In recognition of Remembrance Day here then is a wonderful collection of poppy illustrations from iCLIPART.com.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Military Photos Lest We Forget

In five days we will remember.

In recent decades there has probably never been a Remembrance Day  that should be as deeply felt in the hearts and minds of Canadians as this one.  In the past month,  this peace-loving democracy has seen two of its soldiers murdered in cowardly acts of apparent terrorism — at home.

We can't help but turn our thoughts to the sacrifice one makes in volunteering for military service, not to mention that of the family members who proudly respect the dedication of their loved one, while knowing that the decision to serve could place that loved one in dangerous and volatile situations. Or, in the cases of Warrant Office Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, make them a target for crazed fanatics.

As a child born in the middle half of the past century,  I heard often, from family and educators, about the brave people who had fought for freedom in two world and the Korean wars.  In my early years of elementary school,  there was political tension between the US and its allies, and Russia and its friends, that sat at the edge of  life,  threatening like a blaze controlled for now, but with the knowledge that one spark could ignite an inferno.

In the late 60s and early 70s, the horrors and tragedies of the Vietnam War were brought to us via our television screens. As were the stories of the broken soldiers who made it home alive. 

These days the conflicts in the Middle East have meant the sacrifice of human life. In Canada, as many other nations, too many men and women have been lost there, joining the roll of all of those who went before in other wars in other places. In five days in gratitude for their selfless service we will be sure to remember them.


For now, let's pay tribute here with collections of military photos from  Acclaim Images, Clipart.com and iPHOTOS.com.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Super Snowboarding Photos

When you live in a climate where you spend a good part of the year in snowboots and toques, it's best to find a way to embrace winter. For me, that means the excuse to cocoon, to get some interior jobs done that are ignored in the summer months, catch up on some reading and relax on snowy evenings with a nice cup of hot chocolate or glass of wine by the fire.

Others, however, interpret that embracing in a more vital way, by heading out to challenge nature and themselves. From snowmobilers to downhill skiers, there are folks who actually look forward to the cold and snow because it provides them with the opportunity to participate in their favourite sport.

A young girl we knew, who had lived in western Canada for several years, returned to her native Ontario home recently. That she came with a snowboard was a given. In a place where mountains are the playground and snow visits for a good part of the year, such activities are what people do out there.

While not for me, the tricks and techniques perfected in her extreme sport are, I'm certain, a real adrenaline rush. Or so it would seem if the people enjoying themselves in this collection of photos from iPHOTOS.com are any indication.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Terrific Whitewater Rafting Photos

Each year my husband and I spend a few days in a rustic, though luxurious, cabin on the picturesque French River in northern Ontario.  It's a new travel diversion, spent typically in the company of our daughter, her husband and children, and when it comes to cruising the waters, it's in their boat.

However, while paddling of any kind hasn't been a pastime of ours ever,  each summer that we spend time there we come a little closer to some kayak and canoe lessons so that we might enjoy the beauty of the area on our own.  Even then it's likely our excursions will remain tame,  gentle glides close to shore and in the quiet waters.  At this point in time, I'm fairly certain the rapids will be strenuously avoided.

Not that I don't think it would be fun to take them on. While an adventurous spirit is not part of my makeup, whitewater rafting rather intrigues me. When it comes to the adrenaline rush of extreme sports this is one that I believe I might actually enjoy. 

So who knows, maybe some day down the road, or river I guess would be more apt, I'll give it a shot. But baby steps first of course. I know that I must learn to paddle well before I can run rapids like the thrill seekers in these terrific photos from iPHOTOS.com and Clipart.com

Monday, November 3, 2014

700 Breathtaking Rock-Climbing Photos

The office was abuzz this morning with the success of  daredevil Nik Wallenda's death-defying walk across the
Chicago River from 500 feet up on a high wire on Sunday.  No safety net, no harness, and not once across, but twice.  Oh, yes, and perhaps it should be noted that in case the second one might have been a bit repetitive, he opted to do it blindfolded.

The big question for the group of us who sit day in and day out with our bottoms on an office chair and our eyes gazing at a computer screen is why.  The world to us is a treacherous enough place without willingly going out to find danger.

What compels those to seek these thrills is a bit of a mystery.  I understand a need to prove to one's self and others how far you can push yourself and what you can achieve. What I will never understand is putting yourself in jeopardy and taking such great risks.  Nope, I am so far from being an adrenaline junkie that I prefer to get my highs looking at breathtaking pictures taken of adventure seekers' exploits.

For example check out these terrific rock climbing photos from iPHOTOS.com.

Friday, October 31, 2014

600 Wonderful Food Animations

Being alive is about movement and vitality.  What excites us most in the people we are around are energy and personality.

But let's face it. While static can be boring in people, there are things in this world that we don't want to see moving.  Food for instance.  Unless you're on a reality show, living in some uncivilized country, or find yourself lost in the wilderness,  the food you choose will be as inanimate as Grandpa after Thanksgiving turkey.

There are times of course, when bringing a static image to life is all about entertainment. Just as a person full of energy attracts your attention, in web design and emails animations provide a unique level of visual interest.

Given that food has been the theme of this week's missives,  and that typically I reserve one day for finding animations to suit, I recognized that there were many businesses, from restaurants and bakeries, to groceries and gourmet speciality shops, looking for food on the move.

These wonderful images from AnimationFactory put food into action.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tips for Taking Great Food Photos

One of the things we often talked about at the newspaper where I worked up until a few years ago, was how nice it would be to have an on-site photography studio. It wasn't a frequent need, but on the occasions when it would have been useful, it was sorely missed. 

For example, candidates coming in for mug shots were guided to the nearest blank wall, which in our crowded office wasn't easy to find. It was generally in the middle of the action somewhere, which certainly didn't help the subject from feeling a little self-conscious as office staff went about their business.

Isolating a still life against a white background involved a great deal of prep work with blank papers propped against books and a step ladder for us to take our camera and rise above it all. Poor lighting challenged us to lose the shadows.

The ad department in particular felt the need most, as they often wanted a photo of merchandise from a particular business for the comp department to use in a promotion. It generally fell to editorial staff to take the shot, and one of the subjects that challenged our writers with cameras to do well was food.  Oh, we could deal with composition, and setup.  But it's not enough.

If being a food photographer is something that interests you, you'll have to keep in mind that the end result has to entice. It should be as appetizing, perhaps even more so, than the real thing.  To get started check out these great resources for helpful tips:

Digital Photography School's Introduction to Food Photography

8 Tips for Taking Picture Perfect Food Photos

Take a Perfect Food Photo

Digital Photography School Tips to Take Mouth-Watering Images

How to Photograph Food

Nikon's Tips for Taking Tempting Food Photos

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hundreds of Delectable Dessert Photos

I can't help myself.  The Halloween treats are sitting on the counter ready for Friday's action. The countdown to Christmas will begin soon afterward, and with it the planning to get all of the baking done between regular working hours.

Food is therefore on my mind, and while I know at this point in my life all thoughts should be on eating well – less sugar, fewer carbs, and more and more fruits, vegetables and proteins, I do love junk.

I am cognizant of the power of leafy greens, of the anti-oxidant value in certain berries.  I know that a Mediterranean diet is good for my heart, that fewer desserts are better for, well, just about everything.

But I am my father's daughter, the man with the sweetest tooth in history and a cast-iron stomach for all things bad for you. Through 90 years he enjoyed pretty much any food you put in front of him and savoured every bit of it — especially desserts.  A plate of Christmas cookies didn't stand a chance in his presence.

Granted, he was one of the lucky ones, able to indulge his cravings with little effect to his health. And I, who inherited that sweet tooth of his,  can only hope that I got a few of the other genes as well.

So, not that I mean to lead anyone into temptation or anything,  but with yummy treats on my mind these days,  it seemed appropriate to share some of those images with you. Enjoy these delectable photo collections from iPHOTOS.comClipart.com and Acclaim Images

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dozens of Awesome Photoshop Food Tutorials

Have you ever chosen a restaurant because of the images in a promotion or advertisement? Have you ever ordered a dessert you really didn't need because it was so enticingly scrumptious looking in the photo on the menu?  Have you ever needed an illustration for a food event and couldn't find anything appealing so decided to create your own?

We are all interested in food, whether it's for personal consumption or for business. And there's probably nothing else that needs to look so completely appealing for it to achieve the end result you are looking for.  As the owner of a restaurant, grocery, bakery, etc. the image you use to promote your product must be tempting.  From contrast to colour,  presentation is everything.

The same is true of the artist or photographer creating that temptation. There was video a brief while back showing how a popular fast food chain made the photos of their products more appetizing than the real things. It is that that must be achieved whether the medium is photography or illustrations.

While a talented photographer can get the results without tweaking,  technology has ensured that even a less than stellar effort can be enhanced. Here then are some links to tutorials for improving your food photos with Photoshop:

Photoshop for Food Photography and the Perfect Pumpkin Pie

The Two Most Important Tools for Food Photographers

Edit Food Photos in Photoshop

Or if  beautiful illustrations are your thing there is no shortage of step-by-step instructions for creating everything from soup to nuts with Photoshop. Take a look at these terrific tutorials:

50 Tremendous Photoshop Food Tutorials

35 Best Photoshop Food Tutorials

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hundreds of Healthy Food Illustrations

This time of year it seems I have food on the brain. First there was Thanksgiving, with all of its fixings, held annually as a celebration of all of life's blessings, among them the bounty of a rich and abundant harvest.

As well, there are several family birthdays in this season, which, are, of course, accompanied by munchies, dinners out and cake to honour the special celebrants. 

Halloween rounds out October with accumulations of decadent chocolate and sugary sweet treats. When they were young, our  kids' haul was eagerly anticipated by my husband, who saw it as the perfect opportunity to teach them the importance of sharing.  Now, with babies long grown, the best he can do is hope that we bought enough to outlast the trick-or-treating, leaving him with plenty of leftovers.

Finally, over the course of the next few weeks I will start putting my mind to the baking required for our family Christmas and the social activities in the days leading up to it.

So yes, these days I think a lot about food. Sadly, most of it isn't anything all that good for me. As someone who could be happy eating nothing but snack food,  I have to make a concious effort to  eat healthily. 

Which shows exactly how pathetic my eating habits are. After all, it's certainly not as if there aren't plenty of things out there these days encouraging us to choose the right foods. It's not just about a well-balanced diet, plentiful in fruits and vegetables. Today we are educated in what foods help fight disease and contribute to overall health.  And they are all featured in these collections of illustrations:

iCLIPART.com Healthy Foods

Clipart.com Health Foods

Acclaim Images Healthy Foods

ClickArt Online Healthy Foods

ClipartGuide Healthy Foods

Friday, October 24, 2014

Creepy Photos for Halloween

A week from today is Halloween. That day, and in the days leading up to it, it's time for all things creepy, when people  innocently entertain the macabre, in  thought and deed.

Typically protective parents take their kids to haunted events, where organizers have designed tableaux meant to terrify. These are the places where monsters lurk, all in the name of fun.

After all, who doesn't like to be scared? The horror genre is becoming increasingly popular in movies and television, many shows based on characters first introduced in literature, such as the enigmatic Dracula and his later counterpart Edward from Twilight. The youth culture in particular today seems to find a great deal of attraction in heroes with fangs. Dark gloomy gothic fashion has also been adopted by many angst-ridden teens.

Though I'm more likely to pick a tear-jerker over a spine-tingler when choosing a movie, I am a big fan of the horror genre in literatrue. Perhaps it's because the terror is less in your face, but don't suggest for a moment that a scary story can't have the same kind of power. I recall sitting on the couch for half an hour one night after reading a Dean Koontz classic, before being able to put my foot on the floor and make my way upstairs to bed. Funny in retrospect, but real fear at the time.

Who knows what attracts us to things that leave us quaking. I suspect it's adrenaline, and our fight or flight response. But, whatever the reason, it's obvious seeing the many people who get into the Halloween spirit wholeheartedly that there's something there.  Dressing up in ghoulish attire,  setting the stage in home decorating or scary haunted house events, there's no doubt that may feel the grisly and unexpected can be lots of fun.

Here then are some spooky photographs to get you in the mood for the bigger thrills on the way next Friday:

iPHOTOS.com Spooky Pictures

iCLIPART.com Spooky Photos

Clipart.com Scary Photos