Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Mother's Red Coat

Today was cold and cloudy with lots of errands to run. Really a drab day: gray weather, boring errands, cheerless mood. Opening the closet door to grab a jacket I found my mother's red suede coat. It has been hanging there for almost 5 years. When she died, I went through her things, alone most days (my brother lived 10 hours away), tossing some things, putting others in a pile for charity. Then I came to this coat. She loved this coat. I remember when she got it. She and my dad were out shopping for, I don't know what, when she spotted the coat. She tried it on for fun, the color and impractibility of it calling to her. It lit up her eyes and her complexion, and I imagine my dad could not resist getting it for her. She protested, she was after all a sensible woman, the Depression, a World War and growing up fatherless and poor had ingrained commonsense into her. A red suede coat was the height impracticality. Too expensive, it drew attention, it couldn't be worn everyday, she reasoned; she knew every excuse not to buy it. But my father had only one reason: it made her happy. And so the red suede coat was hers. So when I found it in her closet a few weeks after she died, I knew I had to keep it. All this time it's hung in my closet, unworn. It's too big. doesn't fit, I reasoned. But today it called to me. I put it on and ran my errands. Did it light up my eyes and complexion? I don't know, but it lit up my day.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Very Basic Guide to Critiquing Pictures

This is something I wrote for the Digital Photography School to help new photographers learn how to critique their own and other's work.

I know we have a lot of people here that might like to take a stab at commenting on shots posted on the forum, but feel they don't know enough or are unsure where to start. I, too, was nervous about doing this, but I've found that by studying the images of other people and analyzing what I see, I've been able to improve my own photography with self-critique. It's really a great learning process!
Here are some of the things I look for when I critique a shot. Of course, not all things apply to each image and there are always exceptions to "the rules".
1. Is it in focus? This is actually a more complex question than you might think. Sometimes an OOF shot is what the photographer is trying to do (such as showing movement), but generally the subject should be in focus even if the surrounding area is not. Notice the depth of field and see if it is working well for the image. Would it look better with a narrower or wider DOF?
2. What is the subject? Is it apparent when you look at the picture? Are your eyes drawn to it, or are you asking yourself why did they take this shot? If it has to be explained, it probably is lacking a purpose.
3. How is the composition? Are there extraneous areas that are not adding to the overall effect? Is the subject lost in a sea of background? Not getting close enough to your subject may be the problem. Maybe cropping will save the shot. Maybe changing from horizontal to vertical would make the difference. Is your eye moving easily around the image from subject to secondary subjects (visual rest spots) in a visual path or are there abrupt stops? Would following the "Rule of Thirds" improve it?
4. Does it have impact? Are there any interesting elements, such as perspective, dramatic angles, leading lines, colors, textures, shapes, etc? What makes this shot stand out from the usual? What grabs your attention? Anything in the shot that helps set the mood?
5. How is the lighting? Are there blown out highlights or areas so dark you can't make out details? Has poor lighting created shadows that distract? Can some post processing help? Has the direction of the light hitting the subject helped or hindered?
6. What is the mood it evokes? If you still feel uncomfortable commenting, particularly on a technical level, mention how the shot makes you feel. Discussing it on an emotional level is just as valid and important. Remember, technical or emotional, it's all opinion anyway.
7. Offer a solution to the problem if you can. Do you know some editing trick that could help? Can you give a suggestion that would fix the problem next time?
I usually start out by saying something positive, and there is always something positive, about the picture, and then pick out something that I think could be improved. If I can, I explain what they could do to fix it or what to do next time so the problem won't happen again.

And a few rules for people asking for a critique:
1. Include pertinent information: camera settings, time of day, perhaps what you were trying to achieve.
2. Asking a specific question, such as "How can I improve the lighting?" and explaining what lighting you used will get you the precise answers you need to improve.
3. Saying "I love this picture! What do you think?" will not get you the help you need to improve. Better to put those in the "Share Your Shots" thread.
4. No comments on your picture? As forums get busier (and remember both mods and members have lives outside of DPS!), your thread could get overlooked. Try giving it a title more interesting than "Critique My Shot". Ask a clear question in your post. Get involved critiquing other member's images and join in discussions (like polls) and games (such as Photo Focus/Topic or True or False). Before you know it, you will become an active member and people will go out of their way to look at your posts. Additionally, take a good hard look at your image. Is it lacking a lot of the things mentioned above? It could be passed by because it (and I know this sounds harsh) is just a snapshot. Posting your best efforts will get more comments as well as help you learn how to critique your own images.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blue Monday

These are some close-ups of a tall perennial blue flower in my backyard. Can't remember their name, but they sprout up everywhere given the chance.
Blue Monday

Flower and Buds

Garden Fairies' Dress Rack

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Kayt's 21st Birthday

Well my youngest turned 21 today. Made me feel a little old, but it was a lovely birthday. We took her and AJ to Grand Concourse at Station Square for dinner. She chose an "Appletini" for her first drink. The above picture was taken by my husband.

Sitting in the traditional present opening spot at home, she got a Sigma 17-70 lens and PSP stuff from us, PSP game from her brother and the PSP itself from her boyfriend AJ. All in all a nice day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First Rose of the Season

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing." H.L. Mencken

Maybe I'm an optimist because it is more nourishing for the spirit...

This is the first to show it's face this season. Many more to come, I hope!

This is called a "Gold Medal" rose. Pretty deep yellow.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Not far from my house, about a mile, there is a herd of dairy cows. Somedays they hang out near the fence. They are curious of passersby, and occasionally will come fairly near to get a closer look. I was getting a few shots off and decided to go down into the ditch right next to the fence to get some extreme close-ups. I guess they realized they weren't that comfortable with me and they took off up the hill.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Interesting, I have some of my images show up in flickr's explore and don't realize it. There was another one, a b&w close-up of a dandelion, that comes and goes there, too. I don't know how they get chosen and I shouldn't care, but I kind of do. It's some sort of strange validation, I guess. Someone has noticed you.
It really doesn't make any difference what camera you are using. Just because you drive a Ferrari it doesn't make you a better driver. You just drive a more expensive car.
The more I learn, the more I realize there is so much I don't know.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I'm running slow on this blog. Last Saturday on May 19th, exactly 1 week ago, our oldest son Christopher graduated from Widener Law School. It drizzled a bit during the outdoor ceremony, but otherwise was a pretty good day. I'm so proud of him for doing a this while holding a parttime job and being a husband and father. He is a great young man and I know he'll have a wonderful life and career in front of him.

Lena was not too happy with Chris after the ceremony. Maybe it was how he was dressed.

The happy family.

Love the shot of the two brothers. Just wish it was a little sharper.

Took pictures of Lena before the ceremony started. Here she is under her pink umbrella.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stone Abstracts

After seeing some abstract posts on flickr, I decided to try and look for some natural abstracts in my yard. I didn't have to look far; the stone slab sidewalk from the frontyard to the side had some great natural patterns. A little work in picasa (darkening, highlighting and maybe a little glow) brought out the design. Sometimes good things to shoot are right under your feet.

Taken with my Tamron 75mm, 1/1000, f/4, ISO 200

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Definitely miss my mom today. It's been 4 years since she died. Sometimes it seems so long ago, other times like yesterday. Makes me very aware that in the natural order of things, "I'm next."
Best Mother's Day present? To have your children with you! And not having to cook dinner ;-). But I did get a car wash and wax from Mark and a massage certificate from Kayt :-).

No new pictures today. Just a few from the beginning of the week when I went to Evans City Cemetary.

I went to sit down on the ground for this shot and noticed bit of fur floating around. Looking around I realized I came within an inch of plopping down on a dead skunk. Shot did not come out as I had visualized as I kind of lost my focus.

Semi-interesting side note: if you are a fan of George Romero's b&w cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead", this is where he shot the cemetary scenes at the beginning of the film.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Puffy Dandelions

Dandelions are a true element of Spring. Love and hate them at the same time. I might as well make them useful by featuring them in a few photographs. These were taken with the Canon 100mm macro at different apertures. I used a colored gel on the flash attachment (red, blue and green) and some of them I turned into b&w. Generally not too much post processing, just a little sharpening, cropping and tuning.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tulip Melting into Butter

This is an extreme closeup of a pale yellow tulip taken with a Canon 100mm macro. I'm probably alone in liking this one.

Kayt is home this weekend and she took some great self-portraits. She's really quite good with her camera. Two of my favorites:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Adventures of Flat Stanley

When he first arrived, I took Flat Stanley outside to see our spring daffodils. He was very happy to get outside after traveling so far.

I promised him a trip to see the spaceship in Mars on the first nice day. Mars is a small town close to where we live.

Here he is at the spaceship. It looks like it is just the right size for Stanley!
We also looked inside a railroad car.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

April Showers....

Our few sunny days are gone and now we're stuck with cold rain. Since I didn't sleep much last night it's just a bit more depressing then usual.
My niece, Lauren, sent me her "Flat Stanley" from Virginia. My husband took him to work to take a picture of him getting his teeth checked. If the weather clears, I'll take him to the nearby town of Mars and get him next to the "spaceship."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Since it's April,I thought I'd post a Spring flower. I took this at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. If it is dreary outside and you need a shot of Spring, this is the place to go.
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First Post

I've jumped into the world of blogging. Never thought I would do this! I thought this would be an interesting way to show some of my photographs.