Friday, January 25, 2013

Amazing Photography

American writer, filmmaker, academic and activist Susan Sontag described photographs as "memonto mori".

"To take a photograph is to participate in another person (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt."

Photography is an influential medium. In a moment it can capture a memory for a lifetime. A lovely young woman I knew passed away at a very young age. A camera fanatic in her too short life she thankfully  photographed a lifetime of memories. Her work sustained those who loved her in the difficult days that followed her departure from our lives.

At her funeral, I made a conscious decision to earnestly photograph the details of family life and the world that surrounds us. It's one promise I've kept since. And I'd have to say the thousands of images I have captured for posterity are the first things I would save if my house was on fire. Since my babies no longer live at home, and my husband can take care of himself, they are the most treasured items I have.

I doubt, however, that they mean much to anyone else. However, there are photographs that would be a tragedy to lose on a much broader scale.  We've all seen those "WOW" pictures, none of which you will find in my albums. These are the images that  affect us emotionally and appeal to us aesthetically. With one glimpse they give us a story that would take hundreds of words to tell.  They can take something simple and give it power. They can provide visual beauty that impacts almost as intensely as their message.   

There are the 1945 Life photos of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square and of a weeping Graham W. Jackson Jr. playing the accordion the day after FDR's death. Or the one from 1961 of Freedom Riders on an interstate bus escorted by armed Mississippi National Guardsman. Or a tiny Kim Phuc running naked down the road near Trang Bang after a napalm attack in Vietnam in 1982. These have imprinted themselves in our minds.

Not all great photos tell a news story, of course. Amazing photos fall into many categories. Here are just a few examples that cover all the bases:

The Atlantic in Focus: The Great Wall of China

Smashing Magazine (Really) Stunning Pictures and Photos

HuffPost 2012 Amazing Photography From Around the World

All That Is Interesting 10 Most Iconic Photos of LIFE

The Best of Life: 37 Years in Pictures

Chasejarvis The Best Photos of 2012

Time Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2012

DPS 21 Great Shots (And How They Were Taken)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Valentine's Day Photoshop Tutorials

I like holidays. Not just the ones that give you an extended break, but any of those annual days we celebrate for various reasons. The meaning behind them can range from the historically significant to frivolous;  the importance placed on them can mean a day off work or simple acknowledgement.

The first special day following the New Year is an example of the aforementioned frivolous as we wait with baited breath on Feb. 2 to see if Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania and Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario, along with their colleagues across North America see their shadows or predict an early spring.  It's the only time we pray for a cloudy day.

Shortly after this we enjoy Family Day in parts of Canada, which provides us with an extended weekend to be with those we love. Then a few days later we come to Valentine's Day.  No vacation for this one, but surely one of the most touted occasions. 

Legend has it that during Saint Valentine's imprisonment for ministering to Christians and conducting illegal marriage ceremonies in 270 AD, he healed a jailer's daughter. It was to her, that prior to his execution he wrote in a farewell, "From your Valentine".

By the early 15 Century the day had evolved into a romantic holiday where lovers expressed their devotion through various methods. Today our messages of love are traditionally delivered via romantic dinners, greeting cards, candies and flowers.

People often find unique ways to show their romantic side, too. Photoshop offers a number of Valentine-themed tutorials perfect for creating everything from greeting cards to romantic text and wallpaper.  Here's a sampling of what you can find through a Google search:

DZINEBLOG Love Photoshop With Valentine Design Tutorials

HONGKIAT.COM Valentine's Day Design

Noupe Valentine's Day Photoshop Tutorials

Digital Photo Guide Valentine's Day Photo Card 15 Valentine's Day Photoshop Tutorials 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Illustrations to Get You Thinking Spring

Well, it seems that Old Man Winter feels he has a bit to make up for around here. After hiding away for the early part of the season, he has been busily dumping truckloads of snow on us for days. 

Living in what's known as the Snowbelt  it's not like we don't expect it.  When it decides to snow here it can be quite serious about it, virtually anytime between October and May.  Yet, trudging home through calf-high powder last night on my way home from work, I was struck by the acceptance and adaptability of the people who live here.

We actually pretty pretty much have to; cocooning at home is fine, but you can't do it for six months. The unpredictability of the winter only means it must be business as usual. We take to the roads through whiteouts with the same alacrity and purpose as we would on a clear summer day. We dig out drives and clear off cars without complaint.

But on the bad days, we'd all be fibbers if we didn't admit to daydreams of springtime. We look wistfully ahead  to the time when we can bound out of doors unfettered by layers of heavy clothing.  We think of having extra time each day without the sweeping, shovelling and bundling, of coming home to drinks on the deck, of not wondering when we set out in the morning if the roads will be closed before we come home.

So for all of those thinking spring,  to those thinking of birth and new beginnings, here are some delightful illustrations to get you through: Spring Illustrations

Acclaim Images Images of Spring

Clipart Guide Spring Images

TOONClipart Spring Cartoons

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Photographic Homage to Cats

As a dog lover, I've never quite understood a preference for feline pets.  It's not that I harbour any real dislike for cats; I'm just more captivated by the dog,  an animal known for being loyal and loving.

Now before the cat people get their whiskers in a knot,  please note that having had both cats and dogs I do have some experience.  The last dog I owned, while a dominant, high-strung animal, would, I say with certainty, have laid down her life for me. With illness forcing us to say goodbye to her two years ago, the thought of replacing her is still abhorrent to me. Never owned a cat that gave me that feeling.

In fairness to felines though,  I should add that  I also had a beautiful tabby named Remington who was dreadfully loving. His untimely and unfortunate demise, however, was followed by the arrival of the cool, detached KC, who concluded early that she was far superior to her human family.  She was the last cat to enter my home, though I do boast three grand-cats. All of these are entertaining souls with unique personalities, but not what I'd call loyal and loving.

However, Albert Schweitzer, a far wiser person than I'll ever be, once said that "there are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." I know my two daughters would agree and I've always had nothing but respect for their opinions.  They would tell me about the cat's soul and spirit, of its amusing antics and peppy playfulness, of it's acrobatic skill and agility.  They would tell me about the cuddles on cold winter evenings, the soothing soft purring. They would tell me that their cats are as much a part of their life as my dogs have been mine.

So to all those who love their felines here's a photographic homage to their best friend: Cats

Acclaim Images Feline Photos

FunnyCatPix Funny Cat Pictures

BuzzFeed Cat Photos Taken at Just the Right Moment

Monday, January 21, 2013

So Nice to See Winter — in Pictures

"It's so nice to see winter."

This was the greeting I received from an acquaintance as I trudged my way through a carpet of fresh snow enroute to work this morning.  This person would be a peer, my age and interested in the same type of quiet pastimes I enjoy.  Also, to my knowledge she wasn't eagerly awaiting winter so she could strap on skis or climb on a snowmobile. 

So I was stupefied. So much so, the only comeback I could offer was a rather lame, "You think so?"  Had I not been running a tad late I would have taken some time to stop and learn more about why and how she could possibly have responded in the affirmative.

Sure, we had experienced a sluggish start to the season, little snow and mild temperatures. As that seemed perfect to me, I assumed it was for most others too.  So what, I pondered as I continued by, could possibly make anyone feel this was better? Despite gloves and a long, cozy coat, my fingers and legs were feeling the bite of this frosty morning. Winter dries my skin and hair, puts a perpetual ache in my bones and gloom in my mood.  The lack of sun can make climbing under heavy blankets at night the highlight of the day.

The only conclusion I could make is that some people just really love how winter transforms the landscape around us. And even I have to admit it can be downright pretty. Sunlight sparkling on frosted trees against the backdrop of a clear azure sky, or footprints cutting though a pristine blanket of white are indeed beautiful images.

So, if the world of winter is something you like to see, or if you need an image for your special project here are some great links: Winter Landscape Photos

Acclaim Images Winter Photos

National Geographic Patterns in Nature: Snow and Ice

National Geographic Winter in the U.S.