“The Birds” Photobook

I just created a little gift book for a friend (and for myself) of some of my favorite bird pictures that I have taken over the past three years, including both of my bird pictures that have won ribbons at our fair.

“The Birds” Photobook

Thanks to Snapfish for the great technology to actually see and share the book online!  I suspect I will be doing more business with them in the near future, too, especially since they seem to run some great deals from time to time.

Hope you enjoy my little book!  Try making one of your own photos soon, too!

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My First Blue Ribbons!

It is a good day… really, really good.  I feel like a little kid again.  Two of my photos earned blue ribbons in our regional fair this year!  This is a first for me.

May I share them with you?

“Snow Dove”
Once again, my family and friends “pegged” this one for me early on at Flickr.  I actually took this one through our glass door to the backyard, too.  It was a beautiful scene that day, for sure, right after a nice snowfall.

“Snow Dove”
Snow Dove – Blue Ribbon in “Animals in Black and White”

“Big Poodle’s Day Out”
After a long and lovely day of visiting two of the most beautiful canyon areas in the state and taking hundreds of scenic pictures, I snapped a random picture of my big standard poodle hanging his head out the window of the car…
… and I won a blue ribbon for it!  (Still laughing at the irony on this one.)

“Big Poodle’s Day Out”
“Big Poodle’s Day Out” – Blue Ribbon in “Cute in Color”

And just how did I celebrate my new milestone???

Homemade Apricot Fried Pie Awesomeness!
Not a ribbon winner, but it makes my heart sing nonetheless.
I also did two laps around the midway to mitigate the damage a bit.

My “blue ribbon” celebration treat – a homemade apricot fried pie!

If I had not won, this would have been a post on how I drowned my sorrows with apricot fried pie instead.  That pie was a given regardless of the outcome of the judging. 😉

Happy Friday Fair Day!

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Let The Fair Begin!

Tomorrow is the big day… the day our regional fair begins this year!

What’s not to love about this great event anyway?  Food… rides… food… animals… food… photos… food… exhibits… food… shows… food… family… food…

Well, you get the “picture.”

But just in case you didn’t, here are a few of my favorite pictures from last year’s fair… emphasis on “cute.”

Pygmy Goat 2009; This little guy was literally begging to have his picture made.
Baby Duck 2009; I love this photo so much, the elderly hands, the baby duck.
Goat Competition 2009; These guys kept a very watchful eye on me before they hit the competition ring behind them.  Why do I love goats so much anyway?

I managed to take a few photos last year when I was not cramming various tasty food items in my mouth.  Life is short… priorities must rule at the fair.  Dieting immediately follows.  😉

I’ll try to do better this year.

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Honeycrisp Apple Heaven

They’re baaaaack!

Fall has officially returned as of today, and Honeycrisp apples are back in our market once again!  If you have never tried a Honeycrisp apple, by all means, run… don’t walk… to your market to see if you can find one!

Honeycrisp Apple!

We tried our first Honeycrisp apple about three years ago, and despite the price (about $2 each in our market for a large apple), I faithfully buy them each fall.  I have no idea if they are good for baking because we eat them up before I could ever hope to do anything else with them.  They are, by far, the best “eating” apples we have ever tasted.  We typically split an apple between us with our dinner each evening when we have them on hand.

Our first batch of Honeycrisp Apples this year!

Be sure to treat yourself soon and buy a Honeycrisp… or two… or three… or more.  I think you will be glad that you did!  😉

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Fair Fotos and Foto Printing

Fair week is once again upon us!  Yes, it is yet another “F” word that I love!

I just adore the fair each year, especially all the non-healthy food and the exhibits.  One local church makes homemade fried pies with a light, flaky crust that are absolutely to die for.  Yum!

Last year, I submitted four photos for the amateur competition for the first time ever, and it was great fun to actually win a second place ribbon (and $10) on one of them.  😉  Here is the photo… a tiny bird on a wire in our backyard.

Second place ribbon in 2009 at the fair, “Cute” category (color)

I felt like a little kid again winning that ribbon, and I’m afraid that feeling of accomplishment hooked me into participating again this year with even more photos.

Selection and Preparation of Photos

I have spent the past few days reviewing photos to submit from all of the photos that I have taken this past year, and with my husband’s help and input over the year from other family and friends, I selected nine photos, one in each of nine different categories… some in color and some in black/white.  I learned from my experience last year to give some credit to my family and friends and what they like because they all seemed to love the tiny bird picture from the minute I posted it on my Flickr.  It was a decent photo as far as some of the “rules” go, so I submitted it.  However, I also stick with my own gut at times, especially when I know that I “nailed” a particular photo well.

The next step, which is actually a part of the selection process itself, is performing “actual crops” on the pictures to the printed size desired.  This is a very important step that really needs to be done prior to printing any photos when quality counts!  As a part of the crop process, allowance must also be made for the edge to be covered up by the mat or frame as well… usually about 1/4″ on each edge.  The smaller the photo, the more the picture will be covered up proportionally by the mat.  So I am very careful on my 5×7’s to leave enough edge on the photo now, as I learned that lesson last year the hard way.  It goes without saying that the original picture must have room left for adequate cropping, too.  It is quite sad if the photo is taken in such a way that there is no room left to properly crop it  to size and allow for framing.  Even a small allowance by zooming out a bit helps tremendously.

Of course, part of the selection process for our fair is knowing how many photos can be entered and what categories are available.  The competition is much tougher in some categories, especially color photos of landscapes, people and animals.  Just knowing that the competition is pretty fierce in those categories can help with expectations and photo selection.  The black/white categories are less competitive, but producing a good quality black/white image is not simple either.  I am entering the black/white competition for the first time this year myself as a learning experience.

Selecting a Print Vendor and Printing Tips

As hard as it was to select the photos and crop them to size, the real trick was getting them printed properly.  As an amateur, I cannot use the pro lab in our city for printing, so I must use either our nearby Wal-Mart one hour lab or the lab at our local camera shop.

I have had some success with the photo lab at Wal-Mart if I diligently follow all five steps below.

  1. Take the actual full-size file to them directly.  Don’t submit it over the internet, which may cause the file to be compressed upon delivery to the lab.  (The clerk told me this herself after my first attempt that yielded less than desirable results, so this is not just my humble opinion. They do compress the files, although I’m not sure to what extent.)
  2. Request that they run the print process without their own editing.
  3. Inspect the photo closely when it is picked up it up, especially the color quality and the exposure.
  4. Ask them to redo it immediately if it is not done properly.  So far, they have been good to redo the photo without charging me, which is good because they seldom get it right the first time.  Usually, they forget to turn off their own “auto-correct” feature even when I remind them, resulting in an under-exposed print for me most of the time on the first try.
  5. Get to know the people in the photo lab, and take photos for printing at a time when you know who is working.  This may be the best single tip I have to share, too.  Our Wal-Mart lab employees seem to be more committed than some others to making sure the customer is satisfied with their prints, and I believe this is why I have been able to get some quality photos from them lately.

I usually follow these same steps if I submit my photos to the lab at the camera shop, too, although they do offer a full, uncompressed way to send photos over the internet now.  It costs a bit more to have them print my photos, but they can run all prints, even ones larger than 8×10.  They also use premium Kodak paper, a heavier paper than Wal-Mart uses.  If I am in a hurry, Wal-Mart can print the photos in an hour or less, while the camera shop usually takes 24-48 hours.  On a couple of occasions, the folks at the camera shop have also been able to help me edit a photo that I just could not figure out on my own because I’m still learning all the ins and outs of Lightroom.

I have learned my lesson as far as taking my photos to be printed anywhere else in town, especially the labs at the big  corporate pharmacy shops.  I’m sure this can vary from shop to shop, but I was just appalled at the results the last time I took my photos to a couple of them.  I won’t mention the specific names, but the lesson here is to check the photos immediately before leaving and see if the shop has the capability and willingness to correct their errors when found.  To date, I have not tried any online photo processors, primarily because I want to be able to inspect mine closely for accuracy, even if it costs me a bit more to do that.

Framing

Framing of photos for competition does not have to be expensive, but it does need some thought and even some advance shopping prior to cropping and printing the photos.  If a frame needs to be ordered, it may take days or weeks to arrive.  Most competition photos are framed very simply with a mat that compliments the photo.  Our fair also lists minimum and maximum sizes for images and frames as well.  Many photographers use a black frame with a white or off-white mat next to the photo, which often shows off the image quite well.  However, I have found that a very light colored mat can actually detract from the image at times, too.  So, a little thought and planning on the framing can definitely help the final product.  Just remember, simple is good in most cases.

Back to the fair.

Tuesday is photo submission day, and I will be happily delivering my nine framed photos for competition.  If I win a ribbon, great.  If I don’t, great.  The joy of just working on my hobby, seeing some of my photos printed and framed well, and seeing others enjoy them at the fair is quite a treat for me, especially when I just hang around and don’t tell them that they are looking at *my* photo…  the one they are speaking so kindly of!  I have looked forward to this all year-long since last year’s fair.

Of course, winning another ribbon would be fun, too.  Who wouldn’t get a kick out of that?

Here’s to another year of fried pies, cheese on a stick, strawberry lemonade, cute cows and bunnies… and lots of amazing photos to see!

Update 9/24/10:
For this year’s competition results and my first blue ribbons ever, click here! 😀

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Beloved Star-Spangled Banner

“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light…”

196 years ago today…

On September 13, 1814, Attorney Frances Scott Key was aboard a British troopship at Fort McHenry to negotiate the release of an American civilian that had been taken prisoner.  When the bombardment of Fort McHenry began about four miles away, Key was detained on the troopship.  In the early dawn hours of September 14, 1814, Key saw the huge flag still flying over Fort McHenry, and he excitedly began to write the words to the song that is now our nation’s national anthem.  The poem’s original title was “In Defense of Fort McHenry,”  and the anthem we sing is only one of four verses to the entire song.  The last verse is so very special and inspiring, too.

It is also interesting to note that the song Key penned and put to music was not officially adopted as our national anthem until 1931.  My parents were ten years old at that time.  Kind of brings it all into perspective for me a little bit more.  We are still a young nation.

The anthem is not an easy song to sing or perform on a wind instrument.  My son is a trumpet player, and he has played the national anthem on several memorable occasions.  One of the most special occasions was at his own high school commencement ceremony, where he stood on stage in the huge arena and belted it out solo.  His classmates and everyone in the audience brought the house down as he finished.  I know they were proud of his performance, but I also know that it was once again a recognition of our fervent pride in our country, too.  He put his heart and soul into it, and it showed.  It was a magic moment.  His mother… well, she couldn’t hold the tears back… didn’t even try.

I am probably in a minority, but I still fight tears every time I sing the national anthem at a public gathering.  I watch the flag going up the pole, and I think about Frances Scott Key looking out over the water to see that fort and that huge flag getting bombarded… and all he could do was watch… and start penning the words to our future national anthem.

Please go see the Star Spangled Banner at it’s beautiful home at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D. C. sometime.  You can’t miss it because it sits just inside the main entrance of the building… totally appropriate.

Wash DC Apr 1-7089

Read up on the conservation (not restoration) project, too.  The painstaking detail work done is just incredible.  I was privileged to see the flag and some of the workers during the conservation project in the spring of 2001, and I finally saw the flag in it’s new home in the spring of 2009… memories that I will always treasure.

I think Frances Scott Key would be proud.

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The Rotator Cuff

I now know what a Rotator Cuff is.

I now know just how much it hurts to injure a Rotator Cuff.

I am sad that I now know just how much it hurts to injure a Rotator Cuff.

I am very sad that for the next 8 -12 weeks, I will know just how much it hurts to injure a Rotator Cuff.

I am grateful for ice packs, Advil, Extra-Strength Tylenol, 500 mg Naproxen, X-Rays and a $12 arm sling from Walgreens to treat my injured Rotator Cuff.

….

No, it was not a good day.  Just ask my poor Rotator Cuff… the right one… the one I fell on in the backyard.

Sigh…

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