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.

Project 52 | November #2016CMP52

If you missed Weeks 40-43 of Project 52, click back to see October’s #2016CMP52 Photos.

It’s hard to believe that November is over. Only four more weeks left in the year. LEFT IN THE YEAR! AH!!!

The last month was over in the blink of an eye. There was Halloween and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving. I am/was excited about the project winding down, looking forward to the last few themes… and then I was bored again. I know that not every week is going to sweep me off my feet, but I just wasn’t feeling it again. I tried though. That’s all that matters. And now there’s only four more weeks with #2016CMP52.

BUT, if you’ve liked following along with this weekly photo project and think you might like to try it yourself, I will be hosting a 2017 Project 52 group via Flickr on my own. I’ve really enjoyed the group of women I’ve chatted with each week, but I need to be challenged differently. I shared the details of #2017project52 last week on the blog and look forward to getting started December 28 – check it out even if you’re a little bit interested in photography, wanting to learn more or keep pushing yourself to try harder. It should be a fun time, people.

Week 44: Photographer’s Choice

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“Why are you posting so many sad pictures lately?” Because I feel like crap. That’s why.

On this specific day, I took the morning off work to do some tests at the hospital to figure out what exactly is going on with my stomach/gallbladder/gut and then spent the rest of the afternoon working from home. The tests wore me out more than I thought they would, so I wiggled into some sweat pants and propped myself up on the computer to put in some hours. And I, again, decided to document my feelings at the end of the day.

I know that people like seeing happy pictures, but getting in front of the camera has been a way for me to deal with it all. If you makes you uncomfortable, sorry – my camera, my feelings, my choice.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/200 sec, 35mm, ISO 2500
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 45: Before & After

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I didn’t like this prompt because it wasn’t a prompt at all. “Before & After” was to showcase editing. And since I’m fairly new to Lightroom and I don’t know everything that I’m doing, I rely presets for the most part. So… I wasn’t into it. And it was pretty much another “photographer’s choice.” So… yeah.

At least there’s doggin love.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/200 sec, 35mm, ISO 10000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 46: Beauty

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The week after the elections, the host of our group decided we needed to focus on finding beauty. I liked the idea of the concept, but of course I struggled. I had a new experience that week though and after some reflection, I decided to use an image that I originally decided to take for an Instagram post.

I had lunch with some girlfriends from work at a place called The Table – a small, pay-what-you-can restaurant that lives in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville. They were recently featured on Guy’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (later that same week actually) and it was not only exciting to see my hometown on TV, but learn more about who they were and hear Guy’s opinions. The food was delicious, but the amazing part of this place is their approach to it all – while other businesses are focused on making more money and growing, The Table focuses on nourishing, belonging and love.

Settings: auto –  f/2.2, 1/170 sec, 31mm, ISO 40
Camera and Lens: Samsung Galaxy s5 

Week 47: Food Photography

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Food. A prompt I can get behind. And lucky for me I had plans to meet up with some lady friends who happened to read the same book as I did and wanted to discuss it over brunch. And brunch is the favorite meal of the day.

My meal didn’t look very appetizing. With stomach issues, I’ve been staying away from really rich and fatty foods. So I borrowed a girlfriend’s plate. Bacon and Eggs Benedict. And it is beautiful. I want to put my face in it.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/200 sec, 35mm, ISO 6400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 48: Photographer’s Choice

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Another photographer’s choice. The last one of the year. Supposedly.

With shorter days it’s been hard to stay motivated and experiment after I get home from work. I’d tried taking a few different photos this week and none were speaking to me. Sometimes that’s how it is.

Once a month, the offices in our building are invited to a happy hour at the bar that resides on the second floor. (One of benefits in working at Fourth Street Live.) I didn’t have plans to go, but decided last minute to follow some teammates down – I did have my camera after all. So while my co-workers picked their poisons, I looking for inspiration, taking pictures as I went. And this is the last one I snapped before I left. I was there for less than 10 minutes, they had only been playing bocce ball for about three minutes, but this was the one.

The bright background with starbursts. The silhouettes of the people. The leading lines of the bocce “court.” Tim celebrating. It makes me pause and look longer. And it makes me happy to know that I work with people who not only work hard but play hard too.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/80 sec, 35mm, ISO 10000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

See more of Project 52 by clicking through to see December’s #2016CMP52 Photos.
If you’d like to follow me on social media, check out my #2016CMP52 photographs on Instagram and Flickr!