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Illustrations of New Year's Resolutions

"Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits."  –Anonymous

For more than three decades we have gathered together with good friends on Dec. 31 to ring in the new year. During a portion of those occasions some of the discussion has centred around our New Year's resolutions.   Of late, however,  this topic isn't even mentioned. Perhaps we've concluded there's enough disappointment in the world, we certainly don't need to set our selves up to fail.

But then I wonder. While we may have often fallen back into old habits within days of making our resolutions, we have obviously at some point realized success. We boast a 100% smoke-free room when we gather.  There is talk of going to gyms and of evening walks, of having lost weight, of eating better, of spending more quality time with people we love.

American author and journalist Hal Borland has said: "Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the …

The Best Photos of 2012

New Year's Eve is often a time of reflection and introspection. We look back on a year of memories and inside ourselves to contemplate what impact we may have had on those memories.

Personally, I'm not sure I remember a more exciting year for our family than 2012, with weddings, milestone birthdays and the long-awaited arrival of our second grandchild. It will be difficult this Dec. 31 to look back and feel anything but overwhelming gratitude.

The bigger picture, however, is comprised of indelible images, which, as always, are a combination of the beauty and ugliness in the world.  From the horror of Sandy Hook this month to the gold-medal finishes of Olympians in London this past summer, there are events and celebrations that will be remembered for decades to come.

So before we march ahead to 2013 with all the hope and promise we wish for in life, here's a retrospective look at some of 2012's best photos.  Note some people may find a portion of the content disturbing…

New Year's Illustrations to Help Ring in Your 2013

The tree is bereft of presents, the detritus of Christmas morning cleared away, the special time shared with family now added to the memory bank.  So much so that at the annual Boxing Day celebration with my husband's clan, most of the talk once the "What did Santa bring you?" question was well answered, centred around the new year and plans for ringing out the old. 

So, what are you up to New Year's Eve? The lyrics of a Michel Pagliaro song tend to come to mind when I consider that question: "Some sing, some dance, some like romance."  From big bashes, to fancy fetes to intimate interludes people have their favourite way of ushering in the new year, in very different ways.

Just for fun, here's an early welcome to 2013, with some illustrations that include a number of excellent celebration examples:

iCLIPART.com New Year's Illustrations

Pinterest.com iCLIPART New Year Collection

Clipart Guide New Year Collection

TOONClipart New Year Cartoons

Capture Christmas Memories on Video

Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas, when families come together on, what is to me, the most beautiful holiday of the year. It is a time of love, peace, goodwill, generosity and perhaps more significantly than any other holiday, tradition.

On a rare quiet evening recently, I found a few moments to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine, and decided to watch a video of a past Christmas.  It had been taken with a borrowed camera several years ago and started just as so many Christmas photographs before it, with my brood lined up down the staircase beside their stockings.  What began as an idea when our babies were small, became a tradition that lasted until our kids left to begin their own — families and traditions, that is. 

It is for this reason I am so very happy, that for one time at least, we captured it on video too.

It was difficult the first year my husband and I woke Christmas morning to an empty home.  Sure,  everyone was arriving later in the day, but it seemed very strange to…

How to Pose Your Perfect Family Pictures

Well,  the Christmas season is in full swing with gatherings galore.  Company parties, quiet dinners with special friends, and — best of all — the love and warmth of family home for the holidays,  bring us close to folks near and dear. Recording these times for posterity is an important part of the festive season.

Truth be told I probably drive my kids nuts at Christmas, snapping pictures of each and every moment of the day. The camera is always in hand as the spontaneous opening of that perfect gift, the interaction among siblings, the smiles of beautiful grandchildren, are flashes of time meant to be captured. 

But a tradition that began a few years ago has become a must for me too. Each year, my adult children and their 'new' families are posed before the tree for their annual portraits— like it or not. 

Generally, I've been pleased with the final results; after all, I  obviously can't imagine more photogenic subjects. However,  this year I've been wondering if…

Photos of Children With Grandparents

I always miss them, but never more so than at this time of year.

Memories of Christmases with my grandparents are among the most treasured for me.  The pictures in my mind's portfolio are as vivid all these many years since as they were then. 

With two sets of grandparents, the celebrations alternated each year, but were remarkably the same at each house. They were busy gatherings with cousins, aunts and uncles, tables laden with all the delicious home-cooked food my German grandmothers could prepare. Always the ones in charge of the kitchen, they tossed gentle commands to the adults and affectionate asides to their boisterous grandkids as we ran from room to room and just generally got in the way.

My grandfathers, quiet, gentle men,  had the best laps in the world and could often find space on them for more than one child. From there my cousins and I listened to stories and poems, wide-eyed and settled, at least for a moment or so.

I have been without my grandparents far longer…

Some Winter Sports Photos

I love my morning walk to work. The fresh air, and occasionally sunshine, help to clear the mind in preparation for the day. Even a damp drizzle or winter's bluster can't alter the fact that I find getting myself moving outdoors is invigorating.

Sadly, besides some uphill climbs on a treadmill during breaks, this is about the only exercise I get. While I've never been a sporty girl and would rather lift books than weights, I do know the benefits of regular exercise.  The real problem, however, seems to be time.  I'm not a morning person so rising any earlier to exert myself simply isn't happening. And by the time I get home, prepare supper, clean up and digest, I am done with the day. I want nothing more than to curl up in my jammies to read or watch a mind-numbing TV show.

Throw snow and cold into the equation and a brisk walk to work is about all the outdoor time I need.  It's a different story though for the hardy winter-sports enthusiasts in these phot…

How to Photograph Your Christmas Tree

It happens every year. My early prep work for the next day is complete and the quiet of Christmas Eve wraps itself around me. Snuggled in a comfy chair, soft seasonal music sighing through the speakers, I take in the atmosphere and enjoy that one last look at the tree in its full splendour, gifts piled high beneath, twinkling lights casting a warm glow throughout the room. I must, I say late into the hours, take a picture.

Grabbing my trusty camera I set up, keeping in mind the interesting photographic conditions in place. My mind's eye knows the type of picture I want, each and every year. And each and every year the results fail to live up to expectations. Lighting the room certainly doesn't give the effect I'm going for, but plunging the room into darkness, in the hopes of capturing the lovely luminescence,  often gives me a faintly outlined tree with blurry specks of yellow.

So this year, in the hope of finally capturing the same gentle ambience photographically that…

Let it Snow With These Clipart Collections

Where I live we generally expect to have a white Christmas. Though we may not appreciate a dumping of snow at other times of year, there's something about gently falling flakes blanketing our world in a crisp monochromatic palette that is a thing of beauty.  As evening falls, lights from decorations twinkle and dance off the sparkling landscape magically transforming the mundane into a Thomas Kincade painting.

Of course with Santa not the only one who needs to travel over the holidays,  I'm always a little cautious when I think of having a white Christmas. What's pretty lying on an urban landscape can be perilous on the road.

However, it's not unheard of for us to experience the green version of the holiday, and as I write this I am looking out the window at green grass. Having checked a long-term weather forecast this morning  there seems a probability exists that Santa will not have to worry about too much snow for making his rounds this year.  A light sprinkling …

Creating Vectors in Illustrator

Once upon a time artists, cartoonists and illustrators didn't have a lot of options for showing and selling their work.  Thanks to the world-wide web and the online graphics market they now have a chance, though admittedly it is a competitive industry, to make a living using their talent.

However, while the web-ready files still remain popular with people who have little or no experience with image editing, the demand for vector files (AI, EPS, SVG, WMF and PDF) is increasing. Anyone interested in starting out as a microstocker should know how to create them. And one of the most popular image editing softwares for doing so is Adobe Illustrator.  Below are some interesting tutorials and tips for creating vectors in AI:

gomediazine From Sketch to Vector Illustration

Snashing Magazine Sketch to Vector

ADOBE TV The Fastest Way to Create Vector Graphics With a Hand-Drawn Feel

Six Revisions Creating Vector Illustrations

noupe.com Illustrator Tutorial, Tips and Best Practices

eHow tech How to …

Collections That Say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings

I live in a small town, the kind of place where you meet the same people on your way to work,  where folks still gather to collect the gossip over morning coffee, where the barber arrives early and shovels the snow for his downtown neighbours.

And during this holiday season, it is still the kind of place where people customarily greet each other with the words, "Merry Christmas".  Well, why wouldn't they, you may ask. The thing is, I also live in a wonderful country comprised of many different cultures and religions,  Due to the 'melting pot' demographic outside my tiny community, one may as often hear "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays.

It's a fact that has become somewhat of a sensitive topic for some Christians, as the "Christ" part of "Christmas" is in their words, "The Reason for the Season."  So to them, I indeed wish a very Merry Christmas.

However,  while no, in its purest form, it may not be ever…

Tips on Framing or Composing Your Photos

I've always loved taking pictures. But it wasn't until I began working for a community newspaper that the fruits of my photographic labours actually mattered.

The thing with small-town journalists is that their strength generally lies in the writing, not the photography.  As a Libra, my mind tends to run to the artistic, rather than the intellectual. While I may have had a good eye, there was only a basic understanding of the mechanics of the camera, which certainly put a lot of pressure on the artistry part of the equation, as there was often little time to plan that perfect picture.

On-the-spot photography was obviously a big part of the business and if a photo stood out it, luck generally had played an important role.  However, there were those times when I actually had some time to set up a photo keeping in mind of course, that no one waits forever. One of the things my eye could see was that framing could make an ordinary picture a little closer to extraordinary.  Rat…

Saluting Small-Business Owners

Another work week begins.  For some, this means time spent  in the stressful environment of the corporate or cubicle world,  putting in your time for high-power executives.  Others, however, have found greater satisfaction in the independence of ownership.

Once upon a time,  small mom-and-pop businesses were abundant, dotting the commercial landscape and holding on like winter in the Snowbelt.  Now owning your own modest operation comes with many challenges that can make success difficult to attain.   While there's a certain freedom attached to building your own enterprise, making it work typically means logging long hours on your own.  With competition from the big-box stores,  a struggling economy,  small markets and the burden of shouldering the responsibility, it is sometimes easier, or sadly even necessary, to just give up.

There are many, though, who not only hang on, but thrive. They are good news for people who still like that old-time feeling of knowing the people they…

Photos of People Relaxing at Home

Ah, Friday.

It doesn't seem all that long ago when the opening night of the weekend for me was a gala event kicking off  a two-day funfest of friends, family and socializing.  I could barely get in the door before launching myself out again to party, usually at a pub where there was live music, but occasionally just hanging out at someone's home.  I remember then, the idea of spending a Friday night at home was nothing short of ludicrous.

Not so anymore. Weekends are still socially busy it seems, and  Friday night is still the highlight of my week. However, that has become for very different reasons. Now my weary body wanders home, thoughts of curling up on the sofa while enjoying a glass of wine and quiet conversation with my guy the enticements that keep one foot moving in front of the other.  Rather than kicking the weekend off, Friday night has become valued downtime. Some, I suppose, may say I've gotten older; I prefer to think of it as wiser. 

So as a homage to thos…

Beautiful Baby Photos

A few weeks ago I headed out to make a dent in the old Christmas list with two of my favourite girls — my daughter and her four-month-old daughter.

Hitting the malls with a baby, especially one as picture-perfect as my granddaughter (spoke the unbaised :) ) proved to be an interesting experience.  Perfect strangers stopped us to ooh and aah, exclaim and sigh,  and indulge in that peculiar language in which none of us are fluent until we see a sweet little tot.

Certainly we weren't accosted by everyone in sight; we did manage to stroke a few names off the list after all, so there was some shopping done.  But anyone who saw our sweet miss paid attention in some way, whether by forcing us to stop, at the most extreme, or at the very least by sending a gentle smile in her direction. There literally was some kind of spontaneous reaction from virtually all those who saw 'a baby'.  Just a glimpse of that cherubic countenance literally turned frowns upside down.  When I remarke…

Colouring Black and White Photos

We recently got some family photos taken.  Choosing the beautiful colours of autumn as the backdrop and coordinating our wardrobe appropriately should be a fairly logical and easy task, I assumed. 

Wrong again, Mom. While my closet might be a fall palette, such is not the case, I soon learned, with everyone. Those prone to fashion hues of  black, white and navy were hard pressed to come up with the crimsons, golds and browns that would blend with the hues in our backyard.

As a result, what I had hoped would be a beautiful melding of vibrant tones looked more like a box of melted crayons. Ultimately, many of the portraits are simply more aesthetically appealing in black and white.

Which, of course, is a fairly common practice in photography these days — perhaps in keeping with the adage "Everything old is new again.". 

But, the reverse is also true. Adding colour to  black and whites can produce some interesting results. I first saw this a few years ago, when a niece began pl…

Your Child's Picture With Santa Claus

He sees us when we're sleeping, he knows when we're awake. And this time of year he likes to hang out at malls, parties and parades,  for goodness sake.  Good thing the guy likes to be high profile right now, too, because there are millions of kids eager to spend just a few minutes sitting on his lap and whispering in his ear.

A child's annual visit with Santa Claus is an image that warms my heart time and time again.  That wary, wide-eyed stare of the tiny tot  just before he bursts into tears, the coy bowed head of the introvert, the excited glee of the extrovert are photo-worthy moments that just never get tired.  The barely contained enthusiasm of energetic youngsters waiting for the big guy's arrival at the end of the annual parade is a better photo op than anything else along the route.

In this jaded society, there is probably no greater vision of innocence and wonder than the eyes of a child at this time of year. Sure, some may say it's all about materialis…

Photoshop Effects for Your Christmas Projects

I've spent a lot of time over the years, in columns and blogs, challenging people to try and personalize Christmas by creating projects of their own.

It's a great idea, I believe it firmly.  But there's a bit of irony here. I'm neither particularly creative, nor crafty.  Kind of been a handy excuse to not practise what I preach.

Technology, of course,  is making this a bit more difficult. Ideas and tutorials abound on websites, so being able to find a project to suit your style, your time and your level of expertise is quite likely.  From gift tags to enhancing your holiday decor there are a variety of DIYs you can work on, with step by step assistance online, that will put the personal touch on your Christmas.

Being hands-on these days needn't mean you have to be handy with a glue gun either. Creating unique and fun projects with Photoshop is  another great option.  Here are just a few sites I found to guide you step by step on your way to putting your personal t…

Marketing Tips for Photographers

No matter what your professional field, it's a super-competitive world we live in.  This would be especially true for people in the arts, where everyone's hungry and having the talent simply isn't enough. 

In a recent interview with pop megastar Justin Bieber,  TV personality Oprah Winfrey noted that he was unlike stars before him as he is a true product of marketing.  Some headlines that erupted after are proof of that very thing, having edited  Winfrey's remarks to a more succinct, but somewhat misleading statement. To paraphrase the examples: "Oprah says Bieber unlike any star before him."

Sort of puts a whole different spin on things doesn't it?

I haven't caught the "Bieber Fever" and at risk of upsetting the 'Beliebers' I just happen to have an opinion, shared I know by many, many others, that there plenty of equally talented, adorable people out there who simply haven't managed to hitch a ride on the PR machine.   It's …

Colouring Christmas Images

With heads full this time of year — of  Santa and sleigh, gifts and goodies, naughty and nice — it's little wonder youngsters can be a tad excited.  Taking their thoughts away from Christmas isn't an easy task, despite what other tasks need to be addressed.  Heck, with so much build-up (the hype begins practically on the heels of Halloween now) I even find it difficult to focus on anything else.

That's why gearing kids' activities to the holiday season is a bit of a help.  Creating a crafty Christmas present for Mom is sure to be more interesting right now than working on just any old project. Getting your child's hands into a batch of shortbread batter, rather than modelling clay, is always fun.  And colouring a picture of Santa is probably going to keep youngsters entertained much longer these days than colouring some less festive-themed image.

So, if you're looking for a resource for the latter, here are two great sites with lots of options to keep busy mi…

Winter Photography Tips

Winter fun was a topic in an earlier blog this week,  which included links to some wonderful photo collections of people enjoying the season outdoors. So, now that I've convinced everyone, and perhaps myself, how great it is to play in the snow, it seemed appropriate to discuss capturing those times for posterity.

My hubby has always loved snowmobiling. On the excursions years ago when, young and foolish, I was able to be tempted to hit the trails with him,  his request was always that I ride along with the camera too.  He could never get enough of winter photos,  especially on one of those perfect days— cold, crisp and clear,  the  dazzling sun surrounded by an azure sky,  the snaking groomed paths cutting through sparkling snow.

Unfortunately, our photographic remembrances of these times are a little hit and miss.  There are unique challenges in winter weather conditions — snowflakes on the lens, keeping the lens from fogging up and tricky lighting to name just a few — that sad…

Christmas Backgrounds and Elements to Make It Personal

Merry Christmas. Season's Greetings. Happy Holidays. These are the messages conveyed to family, friends, neighbours and acquaintances at this time of year in the proverbial Christmas card.

As a self-described Christmas junkie, I've never quite understood why I'm less enthused by this particular aspect of the holiday season. What I do know is the idea of sitting down to the task each and every year, seems more burdensome than hauling out and setting up decorations, putting up a tree, baking, buying and wrapping all rolled together. Even receiving cards, while it's certainly a nice change to get something other than bills in the post, isn't that important to me.

Suffice it to say, I don't approach the task with enthusiasm but rather perfunctorily. No sweet sentiments, no cute, family year in review are included.  Though there was a little effort put into it years ago when the kids were home and I organized each of us to sign our own names to the cards, now that …

Snow Much Fun

Well, it arrived this past weekend.  Sure, it was to be expected, but it still doesn't make me any more of a fan. As usual my initial response was to huddle inside and pretend it wasn't happening.

I wasn't always like this. When I was a child the first snowfall of the year was cause for celebration. I was eager to bundle up and run outside to enjoy different kinds of outdoor activities than those popular in warm weather — building snowmen, making snow angels and constructing snow forts. My friends and I waged battle from behind the walls of icy fortresses, lobbing snowballs back and forth with surprisingly superb marksmanship.  (This, of course, was back in the day when it was considered fun, not violent).

In those days, actually, when it came to snow, the more, the better. It was necessary for skating, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding. Cold, what cold.  Being outdoors was fresh and fun.

Then I grew up, and nights of driving home from work through a haze of blowing and drif…

How to Take Great Silhouettes

Sometimes it's better not to know. Who's in the picture that is.

A reporter at our publication many years ago was looking for a way to add some graphic interest to a story on drug abuse. Keep in mind this was back in the cut-and-paste days, well before online images were available for editorial content. There were some terrific portfolios of clipart,  but if you needed something with a little more impact, more personal, you wanted a photograph.

And if you wanted a photograph, you took it.

This was a small community; the idea of finding someone willing to have their picture taken to accompany this type of story was unlikely.  So well acquainted was everyone with everyone else, that the potential was even good for someone to be recognized in disguise or shot from behind.

It's not as if willing volunteers were going to line up either.  People indulging in this particular social issue definitely preferred anonymity.  Those not into that type of thing certainly didn't want…

Entertaining Clipart

They have the ability to move us, transform us, to take us away from reality into places of magic and beauty. They make us laugh, cry, listen, learn and tap our toes. They are the folks who entertain us.

My house has always been an 'entertaining' place.  Music played a big part of my life and the tradition continued with my children.  Piano lessons were de rigueur for all of our kids, until they found their preferred choices in school ensembles — clarinet, flute, trumpet and of course their own wonderful instrument — their voice. 

Our younger daughter channelled her inner — and outer — drama queen in secondary school musical productions, as well as taking a variety of dance and vocal classes as a child. Our youngest studied jazz guitar at college and not surprisingly has become one of our favourite performers to go hear.

Entertainment is an integral part of life, giving us culture and amusement, though genres and forms vary greatly. Some may choose slapstick over sophisticate…

Images of Family

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow. ~Edward Sandford Martin

I love that quote. While Thanksgiving is set aside as a day to offer gratitude for our good fortune, acknowledgement, particularly for those of us lucky enough to live in freedom and bounty, should come each and every day. It's a practice to which I've tried to adhere, willing my mind to heed my grateful heart and daily take stock of the blessings of my life. Always the first to top my list is family. Except ironically during our annual Thanksgiving dinner announcement of what we're grateful for, as my kids have told me I can't keep saying the same one all the time.

Decades ago, family generally followed the nuclear format of mother, father, and children. The 21st-century family, however, comes in many shapes and forms. Today's can have same-sex parents or single parents. They may have one child, two children or op…

Black and White Photography

Once upon a time it was the only option. The images people captured on film were colourless copies of the real world and the folks in it.

The sepia-toned portraits of early ancestors in tune with the romance of history perhaps held a certain attraction. But, the  black- and-white photo stories of my parents' coming of age surely seemed stark after everyone began shooting with colour film.  Imagine the excitement of being able to take a picture that actually showed the roses in a child's cheek. The idea that people would ever want to go back would have seemed ludicrous then.

However, as we all discover in this life, things do like to come full circle. Today there is a shift back to the old as people are  taking those realistic colour images with digital cameras, then with the help of technology transforming them to dramatic black and whites.  How to get shots with the kind of striking elements needed for beautiful black-and-white photography is explained very well in this arti…

We Love Santa Claus

I have a crush on this fellow.  His appeal is unique, he's not typically the kind of guy who inspires infatuation. But there's something in his spirit, in the twinkle of his eye, his generosity, the mystery that surrounds him,  the way he is with children, that I find irresistible.  I flat out love Santa Claus.

Let's face it,  he's held my attention longer than any other man. For me, like most children, the initial introduction didn't go particularly well, but in time I grew to see the kindness shining through that hirsute visage.  And while cynics might believe he won me over with gifts,  I can only say that when I no longer made his list my feelings for him didn't change.  As a parent, now a grandparent, I could never imagine a Christmas without him.

The thing is, while good old Saint Nick may not be the 'reason for the season', there is no doubt in my mind that he too exemplifies a lot of what's right about it.  He gives without getting back (we…

Images of and Tidbits on Thanksgiving

Canada's celebration is a memory, but the Americans are looking forward to their Thanksgiving in just a week.  Here on offer is a cornucopia of things in keeping with this American tradition.

While expressing gratitude for the harvest and  counting one's blessings are the historic messages behind the occasion, there are many other practices associated with the holiday today.  First of course, are the ones most significantly tied to the origins of the event — food and family.  Extended relatives gather together to enjoy a feast usually comprised of turkey with all the fixings, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Then there is the Thanksgiving Classic, in existence since the inception of the NFL in 1920. This is a series of football games played during the holiday.  And of course, we couldn't mention Thanksgiving traditions without touching on Black Friday,  where bargain hunters fight off others of like mind to get a start on the Christmas list at some of the best pre-season s…

What About Tilt-Shift Photography?

When I was first interviewed for a journalism position more than two decades ago, one of the questions the publisher asked me was if I considered myself to be a curious person.  To him, the need to know because you must know, was a necessary desire in a good news reporter. 

Well, while my mother would have probably described the attribute as the less attractive "being nosy",  I felt confident in my affirmative answer.  It was a trait that did serve me in good stead, as first a reporter, then editor, when I became the one asking the questions and making sure they were asked.

That need to know and understand remains with me. So when I recently stumbled upon a photography technique that I'd never heard of,  I was compelled to find out more.  With a little help from Wikipedia, I learned that tilt-shift photography is often used to simulate a miniature scene. It involves movement with small and medium format cameras and the use of tilt for selective focus. Also the term may b…

Landscape Photography Tips

Landscapes and skylines may be beautiful,  but when I'm the one with a camera, a picture isn't a picture without a person in it. 

Going way back to one of the first trips my husband and I took together,  I remember having a rather negative view of his photographic subjects.  He was forever pointing the camera at nature and vistas, which I argued at the time would have little meaning down the road if we didn't have a familiar face in the shots as well.  For the record I assume it was this attitude that has led to me now being the one always behind the camera when we travel. It would seem that finding fault isn't a great idea unless you want the job yourself.

But I digress. When we go back in our albums now,  it would at first seem that I was right, that it's the shots of friends and family giving us the most enjoyment, while the ones of places are flipped through with little interest paid to them.  However, experience has since prompted a more honest look. The reas…

Cleaning Up Outside for Winter

This past Sunday was one of those rare gifts from Mother Nature, a balmy November day,  designed I suppose to give you one last chance to get all of that necessary outdoor work completed before winter drops its blanket.

Having taken a page from an article I read recently, which suggested not clipping and cutting to benefit birds and aesthetic appeal  (we'll see how that went this spring I guess) we were facing a little less to do than in previous years. However, even with that in mind and the fact that plenty had already been done, it was amazing how many tasks remained to finally put our outdoor living spaces to bed.  Not taking advantage of the perfect day just couldn't happen. 

So, I set my fearless warrior to the necessary tasks — gutters were cleaned,  the last leaves were raked and the flowerbeds got a makeover as plants were transplanted. 

As misery loves company here are some inspiring photos and entertaining images of others attacking the autumn 'honey-do' l…

Connecting With Far-Away Grandchildren

I am a lucky girl this weekend.  I will be spending the next two days with the loveliest young lady I know — my three-month-old granddaughter.

I'm not one of these fortunate people who live close to their grandchildren. While they aren't huge distances away,  they aren't close either.  Visits, therefore, are generally planned and extended, which is both good and bad. Sure, I'd love to experience the pop-ins that many folks in my community enjoy — surprise arrivals from grandkids enroute to various others places in town, or simply coming in to touch base because they can.  But, there is compensation in knowing that when I do get the visit,  it's usually for a sleepover.

Growing up, I loved that my grandparents lived close by.  They were an integral part of my life and decades later I still miss them.   Looking back,  I can't help thinking how difficult it would have been to stay in touch on a regular basis had the physical distance between my grandparents an…

Finding Models for Photography

Many years ago, while working on a magazine, I was charged with organizing and overseeing a photo shoot.  A fairly long-legged step away from the usual editorial work I was doing, I eagerly embraced the task.  Change is always fun.

It didn't come without its unique challenges, however. The location was small-town rural, a place where young people in search of glamour left for various cosmopolitan areas, and studio spaces equipped to handle such a large project, were sparse.  Besides facing a limited hiring pool, this was a small publication with a budget as lean as catwalk models. I lucked out when a well-known local portrait photographer agreed to come on board,  primarily for the free publicity, and she worked with me scouting out affordable  locations, fashions and photogenic people.

It ultimately came together and it is one of my professional pride and joys from that time that I managed it on my own with relatively little experience in that milieu.

Now, as mentioned, there …

For Love of Dogs

Two years ago this month, my husband and I had to say goodbye to a faithful friend. 

Ani,  a Siberian husky mix, was a high-maintenance gal – high-strung, high energy,  high needs – and we loved her to pieces.  Hearing that her cancer was so aggressive we were left with only one option, was more difficult than I would have imagined.  After all, so many people noted, she was "just a dog".

Anyone who has a beloved pet, however,  knows that they are much more than that. They win your heart, become part of the family and like their human counterparts in that family,  have unique personalities. They are devoted and loyal companions. They play with us and work for us. They love unconditionally and labour without complaint.  Trained properly they come when called, sit when told and fetch when asked.  They don't even get offended when you look them in the eye and say, "Heel". 

So with thoughts of my Ani girl and for all the dog lovers out there, here's a look at …

Images of Remembrance Day

There has been a change to Remembrance Day services from my childhood.  Most notably,  the diminishing numbers of veterans in attendance.  But there is no question that for most of us the meaning of this tribute to those who fought and to those who gave their lives for our freedom is as important now as it ever was.

I vividly recall the Remembrance Days of my childhood. The occasion was celebrated with as much solemnity as was appropriate.  While it admittedly has been a few years,  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 still vivid.  I recall, even before fully understanding the significance, feeling moved as people in uniform placed their poppies on a wreath and saluted, their expressions clearly conveying their memories. 

So it is, as we prepare to honour the fallen and acknowledge the sacrifices of so many brave men and w…

Collections of Friends

In a rich life, there us one collection you have that will be diverse,  each part uniquely interesting, the value dependent upon the need. These parts will come in different shapes, sizes and colours, their talents as varied as their appearance. When it comes to playtime, to needing comfort, to enjoying shared interests,  it is your circle of friends you can call and count on.

When you take a look at the people you proudly call friends, it is likely that they do each mean something different to you.  There is the friend you can call when you just need someone to listen, but if you're looking for a fun night on the town, you would look to someone else.  There are the girls you shop with, the guys you drink with, the pal who loves to fish, the one who loves the opera.  There are friends who open your mind, and others whose silliness keeps you in stitches.  What is consistent is, that while friends come and go,  their absence in your life is usually missed.

Friendship is undoubtedly…

Seeing Weather at Its Worst

Having thankfully experienced just the fringe benefits of the catastrophic Hurricane Sandy earlier this week, Mother Nature and her omnipotent power have never been far from my thoughts.  Also, like so many others, I am thinking of, and praying for, the people of the eastern American States and further south, who were her victims.

Seeing the devastation left  in the wake of this formidable tempest, in various forms  –  flood, power outages, fires, sand – was both awesome and terrifying.  When our world is calm it's a wondrous place. But angry too, it has undeniable beauty. 

The darkening sky and swirling clouds of an impending tornado, or an electrifying light show against an evening backdrop,  are just some of the formidably mesmerizing images that can really get our attention. 

And often, have us running for cover.  Mother Nature behaving badly, after all,  is only beautiful from a distance.  For the best way to see weather at its worst check out the impressive photos on thes…

Finding the Right Lenses

A young musician from the Czech Republic was a special guest at our home for a day this past summer.  A member of the punk group Criminal Colection he was in Canada having finished a special performance in Montreal, after which the boys decided to extend the trip and visit their Ontario friend, our son. 

While the band has attained relative success, Tomas is wise enough not to put all his eggs in one basket, and is studying film at university.  To prove that his passions are diversified, in addition to his drum kit, he sported some fairly impressive photographic equipment with him on this trip.   What really caught my attention was the fish eye lens. I loved the effect and thought of the many scenic shots I've taken that would have been so much more interesting with this little gem. 

Sadly,  I shall remain covetous as the price is not something this amateur picture snapper can justify.

It does remind, however, that beyond the talent to capture the shot and the ability to alter the …

Becoming a Microstocker

So you have a creative side.  Possessing a talent in the arts is a wonderful gift,  being able to share the beauty you create with others.

However,  the reality for the majority of artistic people is that regardless of how talented they may be,  making a living can actually be more about marketing.  Whether you are a musician,  artist or photographer,  getting your name out there, understanding your work, and effectively pushing your 'product' is not just a top priority,  but an ongoing process.

This is no less true in the field of microstock.  In a 2011 interview, well-known Danish microstocker Yuri Arcurs shared his view that the industry has become exceptionally competitive and is tough to break into.  He did, however, have some advice for those eager to give it a try,  including the type of work that sells well,  and how to find models.

You can read his interview with Michael Zhang here:  PetaPixel Interview  and follow this link to read one from July, 2012 with Alex Crof…

Spooky Photography

Only one day remains until Halloween.  For the young it's a time of cute costumes and bags of goodies.  As children get older, the more sinister aspects of the night start to come into play with ghoulish get-ups and minds full of mischief.  The young-at-heart get in on the action too, in outfits ranging from the nostalgic to the terrifying.

And so, we have in recent posts here, tried to play to each of those aspects.  First we looked at sites that showed how to take picture-perfect photos of your little trick-or-treaters. Then, with the mischievous attitude of youth in mind,  there were suggestions on how to transform the normal into creepy manifestations perfect for the season.

The sheer number of these sites dedicated to Halloween photography is testament to the popularity of the holiday and the hobby.  So, before this spooky evening is history,  we look now at a more mature approach to pictures - taking photos full of haunting images with shades of chilling menace.  And just …

Spooky Photo Effects for Halloween

Walking around the neighbourhood this time of year can be an entertaining experience.  Ghostly apparitions and spooky skeletons haunt porches and windows. Cobwebs cling to railings and rafters, while tombstones rise up in front yards. 

It's all smoke and mirrors, of course, typically normal homes transformed from dreary to eerie with just a little effort and imagination.  The sole purpose, of course, is to get into the spirit of Halloween,  creating an entertaining backdrop for costumed trick-or-treaters,  as they make their way along the goodies trail.

Turning the normal into something spooktacular isn't restricted to homes and people, however.  With help from image editing software you can even dress up  photographs for Halloween.  There are various tutorials to be found on the web that will help you turn the normal into the unearthly and sinister.  Check out these sites for starters:

Garmahis Photoshop Halloween Tutorials

Create a Realistic Blood Effect Using Photoshop

world…

How Not to Take Bad Photographs

As someone who knows what a Brownie is, trust me.  I also know bad photography. Grainy, often slightly out of focus images, with distant people smack dab in the centre of too much landscape, are generally the visual memories of the boomer generation.

Even if the average person then,  knew about composition,  gave a thought to lighting or understood that even a bit of a twitch would result in a blurry photo, there was the reality of working with film.  You never really knew what you had until the pictures came back.

Fast forwarding a decade or so, we saw the Polaroid craze.  Sure, we did get the finished product within seconds,  but the results filled albums of photos with faded faces and washed out colours.

Enter the digital camera and suddenly everyone became a photographer.  There's no wasted film, no question about whether or not you got that perfect picture of great-grandpa or one where it looks like he's choking on his teeth.  And even if you somehow still messed up,  t…

Beautiful Landscape Photos of Every Season

There's nothing like a little sunshine to make our already beautiful world even better.

Folks in this part of the country are getting themselves prepped to weather another Snowbelt winter, as the signs of its impending arrival appear at every turn.  The chill and dampness shroud  day and night. There is a barrenness to the landscape that didn't exist even a week ago. Trees bereft of their colourful foliage are stark skeletons cast against an often grey sky.  The oranges, crimsons and yellows of autumn leaves have been raked into moldering mounds,  providing protection for gardens and beds where once glorious blooms have withered away. 

But today was one of those mid- autumn blessings,  balmy temperatures to cheer us and sunshine bringing the landscape back to life.  Its brightness sparkled on the morning dew lying fresh and clean on grass and sodden leaves.

So, as we think ahead to what's to come, this was a wonderful reminder that each season has it splendour.  We offer…

Capture Perfect Halloween Memories

The little ghouls, goblins, witches and wizards are getting very excited. Halloween is only a week away.  Costumes ranging from the outlandish to the downright terrifying,  jack-o-lanterns and spooky decorations,  make for some amazing photo opportunities.  But conditions, such as lighting,  can be tricky. 

To create memories you will treasure, you want to be sure to get the best out of the environment you have to work with.  The following sites will offer some tips to help you capture your trick-or-treaters, big and small,  as well as the decorations and fun for posterity on this eeriest of evenings:

Digital Picture Zone Lighting Tips for Wonderful Halloween Photos

ezinearticles.com Spooktacular Halloween Photos

New York Institute of Photography Great Halloween Pictures

PhotoArgus Simple Tips for Better Halloween Photography