My Five Faves: Summer of 2017

We’re halfway through 2017 and now halfway through the summer. Overall, I feel like 2017 has been a better year for me, personally. Well, so far — we do still have five and half months to go. And this summer… although it’s been a relatively lazy one, it’s been good. I’ve been able to visit with friends and family, take pictures of people I love, challenge myself with a huge project at work, love seeing what our Project 52 Flickr group captures and even find time to unwind at home. A good balance. But there are a few things that I keep coming back to that are my favorites of the summer!

My Five Faves: Summer of 2017

1. Wonder Woman  2. Claws TV series on TNT  3. Wayward Pines trilogy  4. Starbuck’s Peachy Iced Green Tea  5. TOMS Lexie Sandal

If you haven’t seen the new Wonder Woman movie yet, I don’t know if we can be friends. Mike and I enjoy comic book movies, but when it comes to the Justice League characters… they aren’t my favorite. Batman’s OK. I’ve never really understood Superman (even though he’s my brother’s favorite). The Flash seems like a cool guy. Aquaman… can’t say I know much. And then there’s Wonder Woman. I never liked the TV series from the 1970s and what I had learned about how she came to be… it made me pause. But — AND THIS IS A BIG BUT — what the writers and director Patty Jenkins did for the new 2017 movie changed my opinion of her. Is the storyline of the movie perfect? No. I actually disliked the love interest part of it. But the cinematic choices made and the fact that these Amazonian women are the fiercest beasts to ever protect a hidden island makes it fantastic! There were actual moments during fight scenes that I was on the verge of tears — it struck me on a deeper level than I expected. I will own this movie and watch it all the freaking time.

Sticking with motion film, another favorite of mine this summer is the new TNT drama, Claws. It’s about a group nail artists in Southern Florida who are also kind of sort of involved with a prescription drug clinic ran by mobsters… but it is GREAT! It’s a little dark (re: the parts involving drugs, mob guys and murder), but it’s also very funny. Niecy Nash does such a great job as Desna, a character that drifts between two different paths of life but knows what she wants in the end. Carrie Preston is so fun to watch because her character, Polly, is being revealed in layers like an onion. Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) is full of surprises and I’ve really enjoyed seeing Harold Perrineau act as Desna’s autistic brother, Dean. The episodes are wonderfully written, I’m engaged throughout (and love the limited commercials), laugh numerous times and the soundtrack is on point. The fact that One Way’s Cutie Pie was featured made me smile from ear to ear. Give it a chance — I think you’ll be delightfully surprised.

I’ve been reading a lot more this year (thanks to my great little book club) and actually set a goal for myself to read 30 books by the end of 2017. I’m on book 21 already, so I think meeting that goal is in the bag, but I a series I read this summer has me feeling like Alice trying to figure out which pill to eat next. I read Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter earlier this year and really enjoyed his writing style, so when his Wayward Pines triology went on sale on Amazon, I bought it for my Kindle. And then I proceeded to breeze right on through all three books. Not gonna lie, it’s a little weird… a mix of sci-fi and what-ifs… but a really good story. When I read that Twin Peaks had actually inspired Crouch to write the books, I had to look into that too — I’ve spent the last few weeks watching the early 1990s series much to Mike Murphy’s dismay. And once I can get my hands on the short-lived Wayward Pines TV show, I’ll watch that too. Like I said, I fell into a rabbit hole with this one.

It’s been hotter than the hinges on Hades door this summer. Even this past week we’ve been topping out in the upper 90s, closing in on triple digits, so finding solace with a peachy iced green tea from Starbuck’s has been a go-to-treat the last several weeks. I don’t really like Starbuck’s coffee (not that I’m drinking it all that much these days), but there’s a couple of things I do like, the peach tea being my favorite. It’s ice-cold, fruity and refreshing… it hits the spot on those once-a-week-treat-yo-self-to-coffee meetings we have at work. The bonus is the tea doesn’t rattle my stomach, which is why I keep going back to it.

I love sandals. I actually did a five faves sandals post a few years back — that’s how much I love them. I actually still wear the ones I blogged about, but have added more to my collection since then. A pair I recently bought though are my new favorites: TOMS Lexie Sandal. And because I signed up for Zappos Rewards, I only paid half price for them. Why do I love them? They’re casual but the woven tops take it up a notch, the neutral “greige” color matches a lot of my wardrobe (and my house!) and the ankle strap makes them even more secure on my foot. Like most flat sandals they don’t have arch supports, but they are on my feet all the time regardless.

Week 29: Nature | 2017 Project 52

I had big plans to go out this weekend. I’d convinced Mike Murphy to come along and we were thinking up cool places to visit to find inspiration for my nature photo. We could stay close to home in Oldham County or head over to The Parklands. Or we could have driven out to Jefferson Memorial Forest and hunted for Fairmount Falls, or gone further out to Bernheim Forest. Or drive north into Indiana to see the Falls of the Ohio, which is a place I’ve never really explored. Mike even remembered a lookout near Clark Memorial that he thought would be cool. We had big plans. But none of that happened. Nada.

I got sick. I picked up a sore throat on Thursday, started some OTC medicine into Friday and by Saturday I was a hot mess. HOT MESS. My sore throat, which thankfully disappeared by the weekend, turned into a full-on head cold and knocked me on my ass. For the most part I felt fine — I never lost my appetite and my stomach only felt cruddy when I took pills without food. But I was congested. Sneezing, coughing, blowing, wheezing, slipping in and out of sleep for three days mess.

The thing is that the weather over the weekend was actually nice. It was hot (I mean, it is summer here), but not unbearable. But come Monday it’s like Hades slept with his mouth open — so much humidity you could where the air outside like a blanket. I knew that by the time I was up and at ’em on Tuesday that an outside adventure was out of the question. I confirmed it with my two block walk into work when breathing became impossible: congestion plus hot, heavy air is not a winning combo.

But I did manage to pick my camera up last Wednesday after work.


Settings: f/4.0, 1/200 sec, 57mm, ISO 400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

I know they’re a weed, but I have a thing for Queen Anne’s lace. Or some call it wild carrots. There’s always pesky little bugs around them. But I love how simple they are. Flat, white lacy flowers that grow wild here in Kentucky. So when I drove home last week and saw the field across the street had a slew of them growing, I walked up the hill with my camera.

I wasn’t really happy with any of the pictures I took, telling myself that I’d get something so much better when Mike and I went exploring… but then life just had to remind me that plans change.

I chose this frame because of how the flowers line the bottom 1/3 of the image, white tops popping out against the dark background. But you can still see the tree line in the back, with light breaking through, creating a soft bokeh that contrast with the sharp flowers below. Is it a good photo? Meh, not really. But one of my goals with this project is to have a new photo each week that aligns with the prompt. And if I hadn’t had visited the Queen Anne’s lace last Wednesday, I would have been putzing around my backyard yesterday with my camera in one hand and my inhaler in the other.

This week I went with the flow and took the easy route.

Week 30: Red
due 07.26.17

How about we focus on photographing only one hue this week… the color of passion, of energy, of power — let’s focusing on the color red.

Being a warm color, we’ve learned that it’s an advancing color that comes forward in an image. And red is one that carries a lot of meaning and feeling without trying very hard. But like our other color challenges, know that anything goes. Isolate the color taking advantage of the advancing color to make it pop on a background. Or choose to have the color dominate your frame, in all the shades in between. It’s your project, you choose how far you want to push yourself, how much you want to explore.

Bonus Challenge: Red always seems like a hard color for me to photograph. It’s like the details of my subject get lost in the vibrance of the color. So I challenge you to approach this prompt as if you couldn’t see in color. Look for light and contrast so that if you converted it to black and white, the image won’t lose detail and still tell the story you intended. If you want to push yourself even more, take your your photo using the monochrome setting on your camera and then share the color version with us in our Flickr group.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Week 28: Abstract | 2017 Project 52

Abstract was another prompt I’ve been looking forward to! I haven’t really experimented with it much, but after playing around with macro photography and light painting for the first time last year, it was definitely something I wanted to explore more. The thing is I never think to do this on my own. I have to be prompted to experiment in these ways.

Boo Brooke, boo.

I had a plan: I would not carry my camera this week and instead I would find inspiration around my house. I was actually pumped with how my curves photo turned out a few weeks ago and that was such a random afternoon of picking things up, turning and twisting them in my hands… I knew I could recreate that feeling of just photographing different subjects on different backgrounds. An hour of “anything goes” with no disappointments.

I had about a dozen ideas and was dragging them all back to my favorite place to take stills of small objects: the closet in the office. It has a window in it, the walls are light, my small drawers in there are white and reflect light — it’s perfect. But there was one subject I kept coming back to.

abstract flower

Settings: f/7.1, 0.4 sec, 70mm, ISO 400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

A friend of mine showed up at my house on Saturday with a bouquet of sunflowers and I knew that I’d be photographing them in some way. I figured I’d practice some macro photography again… but I was tempted to play around with intentional camera movement instead. So I stopped down my aperture and slowed that shutter down enough that waiting for the click was excruciating… but it brought about some really cool stuff.

You would not believe the number of images I have of this one flower. I tried all kinds of things. Light background vs dark background. I moved my camera up, down, to the side — I even turned my camera clockwise and counter-clockwise to see what looked like. I got really close, I zoomed in, I stepped back. I tried so many things. And this one is my favorite.

It isn’t perfect; I kind of wish the flower was more centered on the image. But I still really like it. The vibrance of the yellow against the white background. The implied movement with streaks of white and “ghost” petals appearing above the color. There’s something eerie about it. Yet cheerful. This photo spoke to me this week.

Week 29: Nature
due 07.19.17

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” —Albert Einstein

From what I’ve seen, many of us love shooting outside. Maybe it’s the natural light that attracts us or maybe the things we discover when we’re enjoying a walk, so this week let’s get outside in nature. You can stay close to home, visit your favorite spot or go on an adventure somewhere new. Find the perfect scenic landscape or the details Mother Nature creates that make you pause.

Really consider your composition this week. Should you step in and get closer, or back up for a wider shot? Can you use leading lines or framing to make the photo stronger? Are there other things in your environment that will add awe to your image, like reflections or shadows? Would slowing your shutter speed change your image in any way?

There are millions of stunning photographs of nature out there on the web, but I’ve found some inspiration for us and linked it below.

5 Tips for Better Nature Photography
7 Tips for Photographing Smaller Scenes
Ultimate Landscapes: 5 Insights to Enhance Your Scenic Photographs
Getting Close Up With Nature Photography
Breathtaking Examples of Nature Photography
50 Mind-Blowing Examples of Landscape Photography

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Red, White & Blue BBQ | Independence Day Celebration

We always look forward to July because friends from all walks of life come over to our house for a red, white and blue BBQ. Friends from high school, from college, from work, from living near each other… all in one space. I always love seeing our friends who’ve known each other far too long, laughing and hugging. And seeing new people meet, hitting it off and leaving asking “How do you know them? They are great!” We know. That’s why we keep them.

We begin to lay out the spread: Mike’s recently acquired smoking skills pay off big time and gets everyone’s bellies overflowing with pulled pork, brined chicken, smash burgers and a brisket that made a late appearance. I always make loaded potato salad because it’s my favorite (and everyone else’s). And those birthday cake rice crispy treats just fly off the plate. All of our guests fill in the blanks with fancy baked beans, Asian salad, taco dip, watermelon, fruit tarts, pasta salad, buffalo chicken dip, cupcakes, cookies and the coveted push popsicles… it’s a smorgasbord and we pig out because we need to sustain our energy to keep up with the children.

I counted, like I do every year, just to have an idea of how many Jell-O ladened hands left prints on the glass and this year we topped our chart with 30 kids. 30 KIDS! Bunch of breeders. But we love them anyway. ;)

It takes a lot of work, but we always get excited for it. We stay busy planning and cleaning. Mike sweated his ass of cooking this year because he *had* to have smash burgers. (They are no joke delicious. I should write a blog about them.) I remind myself to carry around my camera before the daylight disappears. And lose my beer at least 10 times. But it’s all worth it. To see the kids have fun. To see the people we admire all in one place. The whole evening makes my heart swell three times larger than it was that morning.

I say it often, because I believe it: Friends are the family you choose.

Week 27: Half & Half | 2017 Project 52

The half  & half prompt had been on the list since #2017project52 started in January. I thought it would be a fun way to “celebrate” making it halfway through the year. And seeing the photos in the Flickr group so far, I think I was on to something.

This week was a weird one for me because I was off work for most of it. Mike and I host an Independence Day party almost every year to bring together all the friends we’ve had over the years, so I’ve taken to having a couple of days off beforehand so that party prep doesn’t wear me out before the actual party begins. I can run errands and go to Kroger as much as I need to without worry of rushing out the door at 5pm, dealing with traffic, and the grocery store being sold out of red potatoes once again.

One thing I learned about this week: I am a morning person when I can wake up on my own at 7am versus an alarm at 6am and can putz around the kitchen with a hot drink while frying eggs. Who knew?

But with all this time off, most of which would be spent at home, I carried my camera with me on most of my errands. You never know when inspiration will strike.

half & half

Settings: f/4.0, 1/125 sec, 35mm, ISO 2000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

For most of my life I haven’t been adventurous with my hair. I wasn’t allowed to dye in when I was growing up and when I was out of the house, I couldn’t afford to get it done (or trust myself to do from a box). But lately, I’ve been experimenting. It helps that my hair lady is also a very good friend, Martha — or “Navi” to those who know her at the salon. I trust her completely because 1) she’s known me long enough that she’s aware of what I can and can’t do with my hair and 2) we have dinner almost every Friday night, so she sees her handy work on the regular after the appointments.

I think this was my fourth time letting her play with color and we changed it up a bit, but it was the first time I had my camera with me while in the salon. And while she and her coworkers were exploring the newly gutted area in the back of Splitting Hairs Salon, which Martha is the new owner of, I saw my hair in the mirror… half up in foil, the other half limp, all of it looking like crazy. I had to take a picture, if for no other reason than I looked ridiculous, but it fit the theme well. So there you go – having that camera through trips to Kroger, Target, a local hardware store, the post office and a salon paid off.

Week 28: Abstract
due 07.12.17

Sometimes called non-objective, experimental, conceptual or concrete photography, abstract is a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world and that has been created through the use of photographic equipment, processes or materials.

This type of photography is new to me, so I’ll be exploring with you! I’ve included some links below to help introduce the ideas of how to create an abstract image, starting with a great article from PetaPixel. Let’s see how we can learn, experiment and test ourselves!

An Introduction to Abstract Photography
Tips on How to Create Abstract Photos
70+ Stunning Abstract Photos
40 Astounding Examples of Abstract Photography

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!