Project 52 | December #2016CMP52

If you missed Weeks 44-48 of Project 52, click back to see November’s #2016CMP52 Photos.

And just like that, my 2016 Project 52 is done!

I’ve had some struggles and some wins throughout the year with my photography, but undoubtedly I am better for it all. And it feels good to have pushed myself to pick up my camera each week, try new techniques and walk away with 52 images that describe my year.

If you’ve followed me this past year and would like to join me in 2017 with a brand new Project 52, DO IT! I’m hosting a 2017 Project 52 and have a Flickr group set up. We start this Wednesday with the announcement of Week 1, so get yourself set up and get excited!

But until then, here’s my December wrap-up of #2016CMP52.

Week 49: Sunday Morning

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This week was about capturing the mundane, the things we do every Sunday. I kept my camera within arm’s reach throughout the morning, took a few different photos… but this was my favorite.

I mean, well, doggin love. And the BDD has her head resting on Mike’s shoes like a pillow. But the light is what sold me. I really like the light/shadow play and the tones that it produced. It’s a keeper.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/160 sec, 35mm, ISO 6400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 50: Christmas Bokeh

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I think Christmas bokeh is beautiful, but I hate creating it myself. I tried a couple different things and ultimately decided to do a little still life. So I grabbed my silver tray, poured up some [expired] milk, stacked my last two [and most delicious] Reese’s Cup Cookies… and then thought Santa deserved something to celebrate. Tiny bottle of vodka? Check. But since we shouldn’t drink and sleigh, a love note was left. ;)

It’s silly, but it provided a great subject so that I could capture the bokeh of our Christmas tree. But it’s too soft. The cookies are out of focus and could pass for lumps of coal. (Far from it though – my Secret Santa made those for me and SHE DID THE BEST JOB EVER!) So while the photo isn’t perfect, I’m OK with it. I struggled a bit creating the bokeh and the focus, but I still laugh when I look at the photo. So silly.

Settings: f/2.8, 1/200 sec, 50mm, ISO 6400
Camera and Lens:Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

Week 51: Intentional Camera Movement // Shutter Painting

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True story: I was not happy about this prompt. I understand that we had some techniques that work great for low light, which is perfect for the end of the year when it’s dark when you leave the office. But I felt like it was asking me to photograph Christmas decorations again and I just did not want to do that.

So I didn’t.

I practiced on the Christmas tree and realized I had to get the shutter slower than 1/8 second if I wanted to get anything good. I just had to think of WHAT to photograph. The day I took the photo above (December 20, almost the shortest day of the year), we had sunshine. Lots of it. We hadn’t had it for a while so it was a treat to drive home while the sun was setting, wearing sunglasses. When I got home, I grabbed the camera and started walking around… what to photograph, what to photograph… and I stepped out on the front porch. I found my settings so that I could the slowest shutter speed possible but still be correctly exposed. I started snapping, but I wasn’t loving it. I went back inside.

Maybe 10 minutes later, I stepped back out on the front porch. Holy sunset, Batman! I got to work adjusting my camera settings, focused on the top of the treeline across the way, clicked the shutter button and then dragged my camera lens up. Did it 20 more times. I was done.

This was my favorite out of the set. The sun had dipped just below the horizon giving that wonderful orange and pink color. My intentional camera movement was just moving the camera upwards while the shutter was open, which produced this spooky effect but you can still make out the tree branches. I LOVE this picture. Like, enough to print it large and hang it on my wall. And I wouldn’t have even captured if this wasn’t a prompt. THIS is why I like photography projects – you try new things, go new places and may end up with something that speaks to your heart.

Settings: f/22, 0.3 sec, 35mm, ISO 100
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 52: All Is Calm

It was a quiet weekend for us. We spread out our holiday family time over two weekends so we wouldn’t feel rushed and could enjoy company and conversation. On Christmas Day, we headed out early for our traditional Waffle House breakfast with Mike’s dad and step-mom. On the way home, Mike wanted to detour to check out the new Lewis and Clark Bridge. There were only a handful of cars on the highway, but driving down into the tunnel and then it opening short stretch of road before the gigantic cable bridge started… it was amazing to see. It’s just so cool that people are able to do this. It blows my mind.

I know that the theme is perfect for Christmas. To depict either the calm before the storm or the aftermath of opening gifts, but this drive with my honey and watching all of these big lines come into view made me feel like I was right where I was supposed to be.

Settings: auto –  f/2.2, 1/280 sec, 31mm, ISO 40
Camera and Lens: Samsung Galaxy s5 

If you’d like to follow me on social media, check out my #2016CMP52 photographs on Instagram and Flickr!
The new 2017 Project 52 starts in just a couple of days! If you’re looking for a personal photography project, this could be the one for you!
Find us on Flickr and start with Week 1’s prompt!

Calling All Photographers | Project 52

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We only have ONE MORE WEEK until 2017 Project 52 begins! And I’m starting the countdown today!

Seven days to resolve that it’s finally time to learn how to use your camera.

Seven days to choose to shoot for yourself more often.

Seven days to decide you want to do a personal challenge.

Seven days to conclude that meeting new people is a good thing.

Seven days to join our 2017 Project 52 Flickr Group and do this thing!

This will be my fourth Project 52 since I got my dSLR 10 years ago. Believe me when I say that it’s a challenge, but it is also rewarding. We all walk into this project with different goals, but we all finish feeling accomplished. Whether you have 52 images at the end or not, there will be a sense of success for trying, for learning, for pushing yourself… I know you won’t regret it no matter what skill level your at. If you’re new to photography, you’ll be encouraged and able to ask questions along the way. If you’re an experienced photographer, wow us!

So to remind you again, here’s the details:

  • Project 52 is a weekly challenge where a new prompt is announced each week. These will be randomly selected each week to keep us on our toes!
  • We have a Flickr Group to post our images; I thought this would be the best way to house all of our images in one place and encourage each other through comments. You can find it here.
  • You can also share your images anywhere else you’d like to. On your personal blog, on your Instagram account, Facebook… I think the hashtag #2017project52 will be a great way to search and share our “likes.”
  • I like Hump Days. There’s less pressure with our “deadline” falling in the middle of the week. I’ll share my own submission on Wednesdays and announce next week’s prompt.
  • The first prompt will be announced on December 28 – Week One’s images is due Wednesday, January 4, 2017. And prompts will be announced on all channels (our Flickr Group, this blog and on Instagram).
  • There’s nothing fancy about this challenge, so remember ANY CAMERA WORKS – your phone, a point-and-shoot or a dSLR.
  • Have fun – push yourself to take a new photo every week. Try not use photos from your archive; it defeats the purpose of challenging yourself as a photographer.
  • This shouldn’t have to be said, but please make all images SFW – we have a “safe” rating in our Flickr Group and I will remove any images that don’t fit within that rating.
  • I encourage comments from all participants as we’re a community of photographers with a common goal. That said, please keep comments positive and encouraging; only offer critiques when explicitly asked for one.

Sign up for Flickr if you haven’t already, join the group, invite your friends and be ready for next week! Our first prompt will announced on Wednesday, December 28!

Doggin Love No. 29 | It’s Been Awhile

I was trying to remember when my last doggin post was… October. Two months without doggin love. I’m sorry, friends.

So I present to you some photos of seriously sleepy puppies to help us get our fix.

I really just want to get in there with them and cuddle. Furry cuddlebugs are the best.

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Mentionable Finds: Free Photo Editing Tools

After announcing the 2017 Project 52 and hearing from friends that are interested in playing along, there are some that are new to photography. Photography can become an expensive hobby if you fall in love quickly and aren’t sure how to try new things without buying. And while the point of the weekly challenge is to learn more about cameras, what we can do with them and push ourselves creatively, with digital photography you also have the option to edit images afterwards. So I wanted to share with you some mentionable finds also known as free photo editing tools.

I’m partial to Lightroom now. I had used Photoshop for years to edit my photos and it just wasn’t smart at all. It has too much power. And after learning more about Lightroom, I wonder why I waited so long. And even though as an Adobe product it is much more affordable than their other tools, sometimes we just don’t want to or can’t spend the money right now. But there are some free, web-based photo editors that are fairly easy to use, offer different types of tools and filters and let you download to your computer or even share from the editor. I even have some example photos. :)Free Photo Editor ToolsAviary

Aviary is my favorite. Not only is it by Adobe, but it’s also available within Flickr; if you upload your image to Flickr, you can edit it there and just save it back to your photostream. But I also like it because it’s relatively simple. Aviary offers a robust toolbar so that you can tweak and change your image as you please, from sharpening to saturation to removing blemishes, but you have complete control. There some enhancement, effect and fun frame/sticker/meme options available too, but the Adjustments Tool is the one I think is best. You can elevate your image without overdoing it.

The drawback is the editor resizes your image. I uploaded an image that was 5760 x 3840 pixels at 240 ppi and when I saved my edited image from Aviary it was 1024 x 683 pixels at 72 ppi. Keep in mind that 72 ppi is for web-use, so while it’s not the end of the world, you’d want to be careful if you were to ever print it. Also, this was the smallest size conversion of the tools I tested.

PicMonkey

PicMonkey does have a paid option, and a free trial if you wanted to try all of the bells and whistles, but you can also edit single images for free. You don’t have access to all of the effect filters, but there are still some available as well as access to all of the Basic Edits. The basic toolbar offers, well, the most basic edits (thus the name), but there are beautifying effects that do not cost extra. PicMonkey offers many of the same “fun” edits like frames, text and graphics, but the Textures are different – you can jazz up the background with starbursts and space… it’s quite cool. Not something I’d use often, but it was a good find!

This editor also resizes images when you save. Again, I had my original size mentioned above and when I saved my edited image to my computer PicMonkey resized it to 3318 x 2217 pixels at 72 ppi. So not really good for editing images you want to print, but it saves at bigger dimensions than Aviary. You can also share your edited image directly to social media, Flickr, Tumblr or in an email.

Befunky

I hadn’t heard of Befunky before, but it has a photo editor, a collage maker and even a designing tool. Like PicMonkey it has the option to upgrade to gain access to all of the different effect filters, but the basics are free. The “edit” toolbar features many of the essential edits you’d want like resizing, exposure and sharpening, but it also includes some blurring and other tools to experiment with. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the sharpening and contrast adjustments worked without overdoing it, so this is one definitely try – and with easy access to tutorials so you can learn about the adjustment tools before you use them is a very nice touch.

And no surprise, this editor also resized my original image but not as much as Aviary or PicMonkey. My original width was 5760 pixels and Befunky took it down to 4000; the final specs were 4000 x 2666 at 72 ppi when I downloaded the image. Saving is made easy with options to download to your computer or to a dropbox, and social sharing capabilities too.

Pixlr

I had heard of Pixlr but never used it before. And I don’t think I’ll use it again. The tool itself is fine and edits I was able to make were great, but I found the user experience to be a bit more difficult. The toolbar is laid out much like Photoshop’s and even has cloning tool and spot healer, but it proved to be too much for me. (Which is ironic considering I used Photoshop for years.) So if there’s a lot of editing to do on an image, Pixlr may be the right tool for you. It does have simple adjustments available in a menu so you can easily tweak exposure, contrast and even curves, but this one took me a bit longer to find my way around.

Like Befunky, Pixlr resized my image down to 4000 x 2667 pixels at 72 ppi. It appears to only have the option to save to your computer (or print), but that’s really all I’d want.

Free Photo Editor Examples

I actually used the four tools mentioned above. I uploaded the same image for all of them and without having an idea of what I wanted the final image to look like, I used the most basic toolbars. I did not use effects or filters, that’s not a look that I really care for any more (although in 2009 when I was first starting out, I loved it) – I kept it simple and clean.

Now you may ask why I have a picture of a pineapple. Well the truth is that my Kroger sometimes has them on sale for 99 cents and when they do, I buy one. I had never bought a fresh pineapple until this year, but I love it. And this is one that I bought just a few weeks ago. I was so excited about it I decided to use it as a subject and play with some directional lighting. So that is why I have a picture of a pineapple.

This is the original, straight out of camera (SOOC) image:

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And here are the four different edits I made with Aviary, PicMonkey, Befunky and Pixlr:

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The Aviary edit is my favorite, but I’ve been drawn more to images that aren’t as vibrant lately – I used the fading tool. My next favorite is the photo with Befunky. It’s super sharp, has great contrast and saturation. My PicMonkey image is fine. I don’t really like my edited image with Pixlr, but it also took me a bit longer to find my away around the tool… I may have gotten frustrated.

And honestly, if you’re looking for a free photo editing tool, try them all out to see which one you like best. Each offers a different platform and user experience – that might impact you more than the actual editing tools they feature.

I did take my original image and edit it in Lightroom too. I’m still learning my way around Lightroom and have found some presets that I really liked (some are free, some I paid for), but 90% of the time I end up teasing the presets until I get the look I’m wanting. But this is my Lightroom edit:

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So experiment. Try different tools – I bet there are more out there than these four. Upgrade if you love them. Talk to other photographers to see what types of editing software they prefer. Get a free trial of Lightroom even. But I encourage you to try things yourself and talk to people before you invest – because it adds up quickly. After doing this for 10 years, I know. ;)

And a final plug: If you’re looking for a photography project for 2017, please join our 2017 Project 52! A new prompt each week to keep us learning and experimenting while we get to know new people.

Pull-Apart Pumpkin Spice Bread | On The Menu

Pull-Apart Pumpkin Bread

Sometimes, before the holidays, I try to bring a treat into work. We usually have a skeleton crew so it’s nice to start the morning out with something sweet to keep our spirits high as we count the hours down. And I did just that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year. Only instead of a trusted standby, like Monkey Bread, I found a new recipe to try.

Pull-Apart Pumpkin Spice Bread is AMAZING.

For the first time in a long time, I actually made something I found on Pinterest. And it was a good idea! It was easy to pull together with canned biscuits and canned pumpkin. I made it the night before and popped it into the oven first thing that morning, and then made the icing to drizzle over. When I got to work, it was still warm – and was consumed by very happy co-workers.

Pull-Apart Pumpkin Spice Bread is a big hit for sure. And if you’re wanting something different or sweet to add to your holiday breakfast menu, do this! You can thank Pillsbury for it. ;) Find the recipe here.