Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Little Bit About Aperture

This weekend, among other homework, I worked on my photography assignment which is due on Wednesday. Completing the technical requirements was easy; finding something interesting to photograph was the hard part.

The assignment was to take three photos of the same subject, but changing the aperture. The goal was to show how changing the aperture brings the background into focus.

I discovered that I needed something in the foreground that was very close to the camera — just a few inches away — and also to have at least several feet of open space behind with something interesting going on, but that wasn’t TOO busy.

If today hadn’t been so cold and breezy out, I might have tried to find something out-of-doors. Instead, I set up something a little abstract. It’s a very large Wedding Ring quilt that I pieced several years ago and then began hand quilting. I set it aside for quite awhile, but then picked it up and am trying to do a little bit several evenings each week. I’m slowly working my way around the lozenge shapes on the outer edge.

I arranged it on the futon in the TV room so it filled the frame, set up the tripod, and snapped away.

f 5.6, 1/6 second, ISO 200

f 11, 5/8 second, ISO 200

f 22, 2.5 seconds, ISO 200

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Stars

I’ve made some more stars for this project.

Between going to class, doing homework, and keeping the dirty dishes from piling up in the sink, I don’t have as much time to work on them as I might like.

But that’s how it goes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun with Photoshop

As I mentioned before, one of the classes I am enrolled in is Photoshop I.

I knew how to do some basic stuff, but my knowledge was pretty limited. I’d never had a pressing need to learn more, but things have changed. Now, I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

One of the main points the instructor has stressed is the ability and importance of non-destructive editing.

I had no idea. But it is so cool.

Anyway, at our last class, the instructor urged us to go home and play around with the tools and techniques he had introduced so far, and bring the results to class for show-and-tell.

Here are a couple of things I’ve done.

On the left is a photo of an azalea that was in the backyard of my old house. Using the magic lasso and lasso tools, I outlined one of the flowers; inverted the selection; created a Curves layer; and changed the highlights and midpoint.

On the left is a photo of my charming husband Tim that I took when we were visiting some friends in Spokane last year. I selected his T-shirt with the magic wand; copy and pasted to create a new layer; and used the Color Replacement tool to change his shirt from blue to tan.

Still pretty basic stuff, I’m sure. But it’s a start.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Recommended Reading

A few days ago, I finished reading “In the Garden of Beasts.”

A while back, my husband Tim and I went to hear the author, Erik Larson, give a talk and read from the book at Third Place Books. We both found it very interesting. Consequently, I put in a book request at the library, and picked it up about two or three weeks ago.

As the author intended, it provides an unusual perspective on that period of 20th-century history. Obviously, now we know the evil that was Hitler and the Nazis. But in his book, Larson succeeds in imparting a sense of how the people and politicians of other nations viewed the situation at that time. A few people saw where things were heading, but many others thought that the political situation in Germany while Hitler was still only the chancellor, before President Hindenburg died, was too unstable to last. Also, the prevalent attitude was that what occurred in Germany was an internal matter to be dealt with by the Germans without outside interference.

The title of the book has both literal and metaphorical meanings. The U.S. embassy and the ambassador's home were both in the vicinity of the Tiergarten, a park in Berlin, which translates to "Animal Garden" in English. But tellingly, the political environment that the U.S. ambassador and his family, around whom the narrative revolves, found themselves could also be described as a garden of beasts.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ohio Star Blocks

A couple months ago, I posted this, which included a photo of some 8-1/2" x 10-1/2" precuts.

I like the Ohio Star block, but I needed more contrast than the precuts provided, so I cut an equal numbers of 8-1/2" x 10-1/2" rectangles from my stash.

I wanted to use as much of each rectangle as possible, so I tried out a number of different cutting diagrams before I finally settled on this.

I added the Nine Patch in the center to use up more of each rectangle than if there was just a plain center square, and also to make the block a little more interesting.

The pieces from each rectangle will be used in two different blocks, one with a dark star and one with a light star, but never with the same fabric pair.

Here are my first four blocks.

In addition to the positive/negative theme, the center Nine Patch will vary between an “O” and an “X” arrangement. I will try to have an equal number of each.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back to School

Today was the first day of school.

Some of my faithful readers may already know this, but I was “let go” from my job on November 30 after 18-1/2 years.

Much has changed since I last had to go job-hunting. Everybody wants web skills — HTML, Flash, Dreamweaver, etc. So through the auspices of the Washington State Employment Security Department, I am taking advantage of the Worker Retraining benefit, and today began studying toward an AAAS (Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences) degree in Visual Communications Technology: Multimedia Video track. If all goes well, I will graduate in June 2013 with new, more marketable skills.

The next eleven or so weeks will keep me hopping. I’m taking Principles of Marketing, Beginning Photography, and Photoshop I. All three classes have a lab component, even the Marketing class. I expect that I will be able to upload images from class assignments for the Photography and Photoshop classes.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hearts All Around

This is a quilt I made a fair number of years ago. It represents one of my few forays into traditional appliqué.

Hearts are a favorite motif of mine. Around the house are several pieces featuring hearts:

A wedding present from my sister

A small wall hanging I made several years ago, using a quilting pattern published in Quilter's Newsletter

A tole-painted heart by my aunt Marlys

An early heart-in-hand pillow I made for my parents, featuring my then-7-year-old daughter’s hands

Anyway, the hearts in the quilt pictured above were fussy-cut from the leftover fabric from a jumper I made for my daughter when she was around the age of 6. I may even have kept the dress. Somewhere there is a box with some of her clothes from back-in-the-day that are just too cute or precious to give to Goodwill. A knitted baby sweater. Knitted booties and a cap. A baby blanket.

Here are a couple close-ups of the quilt. You can still see the pencil lines marking the quilting pattern, because the quilt has never been washed.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hoppin’ John

Today I am making Hoppin' John.

Though I lived in Memphis for three-and-a-half years, I was not introduced to the tradition of making this dish on New Year’s Day until after I moved to Seattle. Some years ago, a woman I knew who had grown up in Florida told me about it.

I did not make it last year (maybe that’s why 2011 turned out to be a year best forgotten).

I’m not a superstitious person, but it’s a tasty dish, and making it can’t hurt.

I got this recipe from What's Cooking America, but I have tweaked it a little bit.

Hoppin’ John

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
Cold water
1 pound lean slab bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Overnight, soak the black-eyed peas in cold water. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

Place the black-eyed peas, bacon, onion, red pepper, and broth in a large soup at least 1 hour, or until peas are tender (do not boil as the beans will burst).

Remove bacon and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return bacon to pot. Stir in rice, cover, and cook 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 8 servings.