Friday, August 12, 2016

Dive in and Look at These Delightful Swimming Images

It's hot. Really, really hot. Not that I mind; winter is with us a long time after all.  However, summers like this one are few and far between, so when it hits you notice. The last  I recall was decades ago, when even the lake was so baked by the sun it didn't bring relief.

More typically, summers in this part of our world can get the heat, but it's broken by the crack and roar of a thunderstorm, which lifts the mugginess for a few days after.  Or there might be a dry season, but it comes with reasonable temperatures.

This year, humidity has carried us over 40°C many days and you don't have to be a farmer to be praying for rain. Cornstalks stand tall, straight, reedy reaching and begging for moisture to quench the thirst. Browning grass crackles beneath our feet, while flowers sag wearily by day's end.  We attempt to hydrate and refresh gardens with nightly soakings, but the relentless sun beating upon them has their perkiness fading by mid-day.

Yet, when we are watering, how tempting those sprinklers and hoses look.  This heat's enough to drive anyone to water.  Cool showers or soaks in hot tubs — now more aptly perhaps, cool tubs— help to bring down the body temperature. The favourite way of finding respite from the heat and humidity, though, is to head to the beaches and pools. Swimming isn't just a terrific way to exercise. For some, it can even be a passion.

Both of my daughters are water babies. From the time they could duck their heads they took to swimming like my sons did to dry land.  While the boys demonstrated their athleticism on diamonds and fields, the girls dove into waters. They were both strong swimmers,  who spent several summers as lifeguards at the local pool. Yet it was their grace that was most admirable.  With gliding, precise strokes they sliced through the water making the sport look easy.  There was such elegance to their movements that I would often just sit and watch them.

Needless to say, when they became moms, their youngsters were thrown in the deep end early. For that matter they've been thrown in to every body of water they've been near since. My oldest daughter's two preschoolers have cavorted in the Gulf of Mexico, waded in a man-made lake and puddled in a city pool. They are vacationing with Mom and Dad in northern Ontario at the moment and, if the pictures are any indication, taking every opportunity to chill out in the picturesque French River.

These are the images that kept coming to mind when I was thinking about clipart collections to highlight today. It dawned on me, too,  that not only are folks  hiding out at the lake or languishing poolside, but Olympic athletes have been bringing home medals for their prowess in the water. Actually, here in Canada, the majority of the total medal count has been for swimming, thanks to one 16-year-old female athlete.

Penny Oleksiak has made history. She is the first Canadian to win four medals, which includes gold, in one Games.  No question she has become our country's treasure in these Olympics.  So with the same pride as every other Canuck I'm celebrating her successes.

These days too, though, I'm smiling at pictures my daughters emailing, and remembering another time and another two 'fishes' who came before them. Also, like so many others,  moments of each and every day are spent thinking how nice it would be to throw myself into the refreshing waters off a sandy beach or in a backyard pool.

These cool illustrations then highlight the idea put us all in the swim. Swimming Illustrations Swimming Illustrations

Thursday, August 11, 2016

See Action and Fun in These Delightful Sports Animations

Everyone the world over has eyes on Rio at the moment, as the Brazilian city hosts the 2016 summer Olympics.  We're eager to get to our televisions and catch the next event. We love to watch the medal ceremonies, especially when our flag is proudly displayed while the national anthem is blared across the airwaves.

The games are undoubtedly a source of political pride, as we root for our nation's athletes to bring home gold, silver or bronze. We keep track of the medal count and express our elation over the tally, or mild disappointment because of the ones we missed. 

Not that any of that disappointment is placed on the broad shoulders of the competitors, of course. Just being at the Olympics is worthy of the highest admiration a person can get in the world of sports.  The late Pierre de Coubertin,  founder of the International Olympic Committee once said that the most important thing in the games is not winning but taking part. "The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."

This is an indisputable truth. Winning is nice, but just being part of the team is pretty awesome too. No matter what sport we are transfixed by the prowess of the incredible athletes performing feats of power, endurance and strength. We are humbled by the determination that brought them to this place. And we cheer for them as they fight on. It isn't about the battle; it's about maintaining the bar that's been set.  Each person is there because they've reach the marker.

My son, however, who can always find a skewed way to see things, came up with an interesting thought the other day, one he proudly proclaimed was actually paraphrased later by a famous comedian.  What would really demonstrate to us exactly how incredible Olympians are, is to let in some participants who didn't quite measure up. Telling us the time it takes to run a race is good.  But wouldn't it be even more impressive to see, by comparison,  how long we would wait for that average athlete to cross the finish line?

How much fun would it be to see what happens when college basketball meets the Olympic team? Or the country club's top tennis player coming up against Serena Williams?

Stuff and nonsense perhaps. But an interesting perspective nonetheless. These people are the best; we just don't really know what that means.

When I watch a baseball game,  I often think that a few less innings or a few more could have changed the outcome. It's a fact that applies to all professional sports since each and every person on that team is a contender. And competing against equals means it's anyone's game.

We know, then, that there aren't any certainties in sports. Which is part of the reason we watch. We might think we'd like it, but how boring it would be if you knew your team was going to win all the time.

Another reason we crowd stadiums and turn on sports channels is because of a certain vicarious pleasure in seeing a job well done that we wish we could do as well. We admire the talent and ability. And we  love the action.

As we are heading in to the end of the first week of the Olympics, finding clipart that conveys what we like about sports was my mission for today.  What could best demonstrate the challenges, the power, the determination, action as well as the fun  and love of the games would be best served, I decided,  by animations. Here then are the terrific sports images from Animation Factory

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Celebrating the World's Best With 2 Olympian Clipart Collections

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." — Robert F. Kennedy

Was there ever a diplomat and politician as inspiring?  Reminding us that to succeed we must first  risk failure has probably never been expounded more eloquently than in that simple sentence from the late RFK.

Settling in to mediocrity shouldn't be anyone's desired state. That we can do anything we set our mind to is a common adage. The right mental attitude can go a long way in ensuring success.

However, when considering greatness as the desired goal, there are limits to our aspirations. No matter how strong our  determination might be, regardless of how we get mentally into the zone, each of us will face certain challenges which can't be overcome. We might, quite simply not have what it takes — the physicality required, the finesse, the ability. For example,  I'm fairly certain that all of the determination in the world wouldn't have let my 5'2" self rise to the heights of women's basketball.

It's not that I'm completely incapable of athletics.  Just that being petite didn't lend itself well to many of the physical activities I was exposed to growing up. As a child it was less of a concern since most of the competitors were pint-sized too. I could hustle with the best of them in field hockey or soccer.

But by the time I got to high school things had changed considerably. New games, new players. Baseball was still a favourite. Though once I hit my teens there was greater enjoyment in watching boys play it.  And let me tell you, volleyball and basketball were the bane of my existence.

High school phys ed was a mixed bag since folk dancing and gymnastics were right up my alley, sports not so much. Track and field positively made me weep. My short legs were no match for the speed events. I was hopeless at the jumps and powerless under the weight of the shot put. 

Forced to participate, of course, I dared to fail greatly in most of the above without any delusions of success.

Watching those who rise to the highest level of achievement in an athletic event, therefore, fascinates me. Certainly, finding one's forte comes with exposure to many things, a reality that never existed for most in my generation growing up in small-town Ontario.

But, it's so much more than recognizing an ability that overshadows that of others around you. You must then set your sights on being the best at it you can be. The drive, training and determination it takes to be a champion far exceeds any work ethic I have for anything. It's beyond admirable in my opinion.

So with pleasure I sit back and enjoy the Summer Olympics now under way in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Being the quintessential armchair athlete, now, I can be satisfied watching those who have spent the better part of their lives, working and making personal sacrifices in the pursuit of one goal, striving to achieve it. A lifetime of work for a moment in time to prove they are among the world's best.

While the athletes might not agree, there is greatness in what they've done, regardless of how they place. From the repeat gold medallist to the chronic also ran, they have dared to fail and in doing so achieved what few others could hope to do. We celebrate these champions today with 2 Olympian clipart collections Olympics Illustrations Olympic Illustrations

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

10 Informative Photoshop Tutorials to Get You Started

Today being Tutorial Tuesday, it's a great opportunity to showcase one's image editing talents. Since I have none, I wondered what I could talk about that would help others with the same level of expertise.

Finally, it came to me — scope out advice on everything I'd like to know.  It would be my Top 10 list of 'please show me how', that others just might find beneficial too.

I'm not a total novice having been introduced to Photoshop years ago while  working at the newspaper. This was new software, which we were told would take us out of the darkroom and  transform images in ways we had only previously imagined. For example, the elderly woman who accused us of darkening her lips in a photo to make her look ridiculous, could actually have that happen now. 

The problem, however, was that while the means now existed, time to actually learn all its tricks was limited.  A few days of training gave us essentials; beyond that its possibilities remained, for the most part, a mystery.

Moving on to a new job I thought of buying the software for home, but couldn't justify the cost. So again I found myself using Photoshop in sporadic intervals at work. Occasionally, I would try a new technique, but never had the chance to use it again so would forget what had been learned.

My hope, then is that today's missive will benefit me down the road, since it will be a list of all of the things I would like to learn, in one handy place for the time when I can finally dedicate myself to becoming good friends with Photoshop.

• Changing Colours: Here is an example of a forgotten technique.  I learned it shortly after starting my new job and the knowledge is long gone. This helpful tutorial should help bring it back:

Photoshop Help/ Match, Replace and Mix Colours

• Switching Heads: This was an experiment one of my colleagues at the newspaper performed once. A friend of my diminutive daughter  had joked that putting her face on her sister's long, lean form would make the perfect woman. We decided to put it to the test. Strangers would never have guessed the photo wasn't original. For Mom, however, the results were surreal. Here's a quick how-to from Digital Photography School

DPS Offers 2 Easy Photoshop Head Swapping Techniques

• Combining Images:  Here was another project I undertook some time ago, transposing a bridal couple over a macro shot of a rose. Since I don't recall one step, I might as well reference the blog I wrote at the time: I Little Bit About Photoshop's Layer Masks

 • Removing Objects: This is a technique I attempted in my newspaper days. But the infrequency made it challenging so I usually passed it off to an experienced colleague. Adding it to my list will hopefully ensure that practice makes perfect.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial on Removing Objects

• Using Selection Tools: Any time I've tried I've failed. Miserably.  The work is tedious and I apparently lack the patience. Since it's basically a beginning technique I'm clearly doing something wrong. Learning a little more about them and how to use them won't go amiss:

Master Photoshop's Selection Tools in Under 30 Minutes

• Improve Your Photo: Having come through the dodge and burn darkroom days, I'm really interested in how to make my photos better using Photoshop. This tutorial promises awesome results:

How to Make Your Photos Look Awesome With Photoshop

• Colour Shifts: My husband has a classic car.  We love taking pictures of it, but often are disappointed with the colour. This technique promises a way to get back that candy apple red.

Correcting Colour Shifts

• Saturate and De-Saturate: Bringing out the best in your image can be achieved with the hue and saturation sliders. I've played with them, but really don't know how to get it right. Help comes my way in this tutorial:

Adjust Hue and Saturation in Photoshop

• Portrait Retouching: When it comes to portraiture everyone wants their best face forward. With Photoshop everyone can be picture perfect.

Complete Guide to Retouching Portraits

• Instagram Your Images: The photo sharing social media network is becoming quite popular. It provides various filters to add a personal touch. It's fun. Got me wondering if there was a way to get the same effect in Photoshop. Turns out there is. And it's quick and easy too:

Instagram Your Images Using Photoshop

Monday, August 8, 2016

You'll Have Such a Crush on These Amazing Love Illustrations


For those who've been hiding in a Himalayan cabin over the past several years, what I'm doing here is bringing attention to a word by 'tagging' it. The symbol once commonly called pound or the number sign, is now a social media darling, known as a hasthtag. It's a label to make finding messages with a specific theme easier. 

Given that finding love is always a good thing and that messages about it kept popping up this past weekend, I therefore decided to make it the theme for this blog today and as the focus of some image collections I will highlight.

But first, if you will indulge me, I have to tell you how many times love was in the air around me over the last two days.  The romance began on Saturday afternoon, as I attended a Stratford Festival production of Shakespeare in Love. It was absolutely brilliant and despite being a bit of a rom-com, the story of true love shines through. When the love interest, disguised as a young man, asks of her paramour, Shakespeare, how he loves her his response couldn't better describe the passion and angst of romance. "Like a sickness and its cure together." Ah, my.

Interwoven with this fictional tale of the playwright and his Viola, is one of the greatest love stories of all time,  Romeo and Juliet. The ardour between the two star-crossed lovers is conveyed in line after line.

"If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This wholy shrine, the gentle fine is this;
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss."

So that was how I spent a 'love-ly' Saturday afternoon.

Then Sunday my husband and I attended a large music festival in a nearby urban centre. Several venues hosted different performers so there was a great deal of walking and watching. Passing a shop window as we were making our way from one show to another,  I noticed a plaque bearing the words, "Love is everything."

Now, scuttling along behind my dashing hubby gives me occasion to reflect on things. So, as I pondered those three simple words it occurred to that they had conveyed what is probably one of the greatest truths of life. If we all only loved, if there was no hate, no malice, no envy, there would be no trouble. Love has far more value, therefore, than anything else. Thus it truly is everything.

Arriving at our destination a few minutes later we entered the fully-packed pub where one of the bands was playing. The only available space was at a bar behind the sound system. The engineer was wearing a muscle shirt with just enough skin revealed so I could make out the words of the tattoo emblazoned across the top of his back. "Music is my love."

Often the love we feel, the love that is everything to us, isn't for a living being.  We can find bliss any number of places, in any number of ways.  Clearly this guy had no question what his was.

Later that afternoon, I noticed a man, who appeared to be homeless. Scruffily dressed, shambling along in a large circle on the sidewalk, he suddenly dropped to his hands and knees. Transfixed, I watched him inscribing words on the cement with a pink piece of chalk. "Love," he wrote, "makes everything equal." Then he stood and walked away.

You can well imagine how that got thoughts stirring. Besides contemplating if there was truth in his message, it was at this point that I realized love had been everywhere for me.  Thus, when it came to thinking about what images to highlight starting off a new week here, the key word had to be love. Love Illustrations Love Illustrations