Friday, February 15, 2013

Family Photos for Family Day

For many Canadians this is a long weekend.  While British Columbians celebrated their very first Family Day, which is not a federally-established event, last week,  residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario mark the occasion on the third Monday in February.  Folks in Manitoba celebrate Louis Riel Day at the same time and Prince Edward Islanders will be recognizing Islander Day.

The only provinces not observing this holiday in February are Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

I recall when there were hints of a February holiday for  Ontario. Some suggested it was a political strategy with voters so grateful they'd remember the party that gave them another day off at the polls. There were mentions that we just simply needed something to look forward to in the middle of winter,  a possibility that makes complete sense to me.  But the official stand is that it has quite simply been set aside to observe exactly what it implies — the importance of family, regardless of what that word means.

The traditional understanding of the word family, mother, father, two children,  is only one representation today. Families in the 21st century are not all the same. According to Family Service Toronto, the definition of family today is "two or more people, whether living together or apart, related by blood, marriage, adoption or commitment to care for one another."

"All families are equal and should be celebrated," their website states. "Many families cross boundaries of race, culture, ethnicity, sexuality, (dis)ability and language to become families. In Ontario, we have the freedom to create families across all boundaries."

Family is indeed something to be celebrated. I know I will be doing just that with mine this Monday.  In the meantime I offer these photo collections:

Family Day Toronto Photo Gallery Family Pictures Family Photos

Acclaim Images Stock Photography Family Collection

Hypervocal Family Pictures 'Then and Now'

theAtlantic Photographs of Family Held Together by Love, Skype

Thursday, February 14, 2013

For Valentine's Day: Photos of Seniors in Love

Today,  while walking to work, I met a local senior leaving the grocery store with a bouquet of flowers. It quite simply warmed my heart to see that after 50 years of marriage he was still intent on showing his sweetheart that she still is his sweetheart. 

We often think of romance and passion being associated with youth, and I, being at that mid-point in life, recognize that younger people don't generally think of older people when they consider romantic couples. 

But, what I've come to see is that love often gets much sweeter, more enduring as we get older. By your senior years, assuming you're in a healthy relationship, you boast levels of trust, familiarity and friendship that can only be attained in time.  It has taken hard work,  understanding and a commitment to succeed.  All, of course, while keeping love and romance alive with your best friend. 

Many say it was never intended that people would live this long, thus be committed to a monogamous relationship for umpteen decades. Monogamy, they maintain, is not normal for human beings.  Yet  I know plenty of older couples who can't imagine a life with anyone else, and for whom that life remains as passionate and romantic as in the beginning.

So for this Valentine's Day, here are some photo collections honouring love that lasts. Loving Seniors Photo Collection Seniors in Love Photos

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Clipart Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

When it comes to celebrating a cultural holiday, my lineage leans more towards Oktoberfest than Cinco de Mayo.  But I do like a party and good music,  and there's little doubt that both of these play a large part in the annual celebration of Mexican heritage and culture.

Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for the fifth of May, the date when the event is commemorated. It honours freedom and democracy from the early part of the American Civil War and the Mexican Army's victory over the French on May 5, 1862 in the state of Puebla.

While it is not a national holiday in Mexico, it is an official holiday in Puebla.  In America, the Mexicans and Latinos living in California were the first to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in that country. Now, those celebrations centre around traditional Mexican symbols and prominent people of Mexican descent. Students are educated about the historical significance while music and regional dancing highlight many of the special events.

The festivities have reached beyond the borders of these two countries as well, with related celebrations held in cities in Canada and internationally. And if playing the complicated flamenco style of music isn't your forte you can fake it in the Caribbean where there is an annual Cinco de Mayo air guitar competition.

So, with the countdown underway, hare are some clipart collections that should have you hearing the mariachi bands warming up. Cino de Mayo Illustrations

Cinco de Mayo Clipart

ClickArt Online Cinco de Mayo Illustrations

Acclaim Images Mexican Collection

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tips and Techniques for Taking Better Pictures

Don't you love those photos that pop?  You're looking at an image of a lovely landscape,  a posed portrait, a famous face or spontaneous sports shot and it actually looks better than if you were seeing it in reality. It's vivid, breathtaking in its perfection.

Rarely manage anything close to this myself, at least not on purpose. There have been nice photos I've taken at a favourite vacation spot up north, which have a bit of this quality, but I credit Mother Nature far more than I do me.   Breathing life into a photograph is in part achieved because of talent. But technique is also a factor and on that score I'm still a work in progress.

Ansel Adams had talent in spades. His black and white landscapes had clarity and depth. But he put quite a bit of it down to technique, which he attempted to share with others through the Zone System he developed with fellow photographer Fred Archer.  A technique that determined the best film exposure and development, Adams said it was not his invention, but a "codification of sensitometry" he and Archer worked out.

The System gives photographers a method of precisely defining the relationship between how they see the subject and the end result.  A further explanation can be found on Wikipedia: Wikipedia Zone System

While talent may not be enough to turn your photos into works of art there are many online resources to help you improve technique, which will ultimately improve the end result. Here are a sampling:

photo tutsplus Understand and Using the Zone System

DPS 5 Simple Secrets to Sharper Photos

photo tutsplus Basic Recipe for Taking Great Pictures

DPS Beginner's Guide to Vivid Shots that Pop

Digital Trends Make Pictures Pop

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Country Collection of Illustrations

When it came to home decor, a friend of mine several years ago had the quaint country look down to an art form. Her century-old home was a homage to a more simple aesthetic, charmingly appealing, warm and cozy.  Cluttered with folk art and rustic knickknacks it always felt like the kind of place you could come in, put your feet up and enjoy an easy night of excellent hospitality.

Over time, of course, times and tastes change and never one to miss the trends she has gradually moved away from the folksy to a more French country design. Her home then was lovely and still is. But I rather miss that charming country cottage vibe.

While I never quite bought into the whole country theme for my home even when it was the bandwagon of choice; there is a knack to achieving it well and I wasn't sure I had it;  I was definitely attracted to the style. And my eye is still drawn to that rustic appeal.  There's something very welcoming about the look and the elements that go into creating it. 

So when I'm faced with a design choice of some kind other than home decor, whatever the project, given images that are vintage, Victorian, contemporary, traditional or folksy, it will be the latter I am attracted to. Though I often have to grudgingly accept that they may not be right choice for what I'm working on and move on.

So for those of like mind here's an adorable collection of folksy illustrations. They're sure to enchant anybody who still likes a little country in their life: Country Collection