Monday, June 17, 2013

Essential Skills: Photography - The Rule of Thirds

I am super excited this morning! One of my favorite people is here today to talk to you about making your photographs better! Heather and I have been friends since 4th grade and I have gotten to watch her passion for photography develop and sit for a lot of photos for her projects. She is an amazing woman with mad skills and is here to share her wisdom and answer any photography questions you might have. With all of our Essential Skills posts, if you have questions or items you want addressed in the next post in the series, please post them in the comments, and I promise Heather or I will get back to you in a speedy manner. Before I pass things off to Heather, I should note that I love the photo of Heather and her Dad that she uses in this post. I love her dad too, such a great, funny guy.

Take it away, Heather!

Photography. There is a sea of conversations to be had just with that single word. My relationship to it has been as creator, hobbyist and dabbling enthusiast.

I love pictures. More so, sharing them with the world. Pictures are one way I have to share how I see things with someone else. I have a unique view. And so do you. Photography has become something that is so available to everyone that it has almost become a sort of unseen skill set, something we overlook as being special. It is incredible to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

One of my favorite photographers, Richard Avedon, has a line that I particularly like to describe how I feel about photography. “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” (If you are unfamiliar with his work, please look him up! His work is stunning). Photography is what you choose to reveal. And it is what you choose to leave out. The final shot isn’t the whole story, it is just one moment of one. How much it tells is up to you and that is what I feel is so fantastic about it!

This series is about getting down to the basics, answering questions or just general conversations about day to day dealings with photos. Because, whether you are attaching a photo to an email, taking a picture of some fancy dessert or posting your latest update, chances are that pictures are a part of your daily life. I believe everyone has the right to the title of “Photographer”.
The first time I held a camera, it was love. And not the instant kind, it was the kind you had to send off and wait with bated breath to get those 24 shots back and remember those particular moments. However, my allowance, and economy dictated that I refine my technique some and, maybe, I can pass along some of my early lessons or musings on to you...

One of the first things I learned was to consider what it was the camera was “seeing”, to know my frame. Think of your view screen as sort of sectioned off into thirds. A vertical section of top, middle and bottom and a horizontal section of left, middle and right. This sort of helps you to place your subjects. If this is a landscape, for example, you might place the land in the bottom two thirds and the sky in the top third. Or maybe the sky is particularly noteworthy and you reverse that (sky is top two thirds and land the bottom). The reasoning behind this is that the human eye is drawn to a sort of unevenness. The viewer will hardly spend any time on a picture where all the information is dead center. You want their eye to travel all around the frame and take it all in.

Photo Credit: Heather the Photographer

Please leave comments about what questions you have, thoughts you have, absolutely whatever crosses your mind! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Introducing The Essential Skills Series

We’ve all got a list of things we feel like we should do for ourselves, but we don’t know how to do them.  Maybe it’s editing your own photos? Hemming a pair of pants or a skirt? Perhaps the most basic of car maintenance has you stumped? Or maybe you really wish you could store some of your own fresh food for the winter, but don’t know how. I’m talking about skills that everyone needs, but we too easily outsource them to others and pay too much to have them done, or worse yet, we just don’t do them at all. 

One of the big things that pulls people into homesteading is a desire to “get back to the land” or to live simply as their grandparents or great-grandparents did. Our grandparents had some mad skills though.  How do you develop those skills if you don’t have them? You ask someone to teach you. Since finding someone close by with the skills you need is not always possible, we’re going to bring those people to you. Here.

The purpose of the Essential Skills Series is for us to pass on skills that will help you save time, save money, be more self reliant or find self-satisfaction in your own home. A variety of guest posters will be popping in to share their passions and a little how-to with all of us. 

We’ll get the ball rolling next week with one of my favorite people in the world, Heather, who will be stopping in a few times a month to talk about photography, editing and storing our own photos. 

 The Artist as a Young Woman 
(aka The World's Best Selfie)

We will be bringing you lots of great stuff, but this is a learning form for everyone. So, if you are looking for help with a specific skill or have questions about conquering a task at your home but don’t know where to start, leave us a comment and I’ll do my best to find an expert to post an answer to your question!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Favorite Things Friday (ish): Flavored Simple Syrups

Yesterday, I didn’t have to be up for anything in the morning, so I decided to not set my alarm and allow myself an extra hour of sleep or so. I’m naturally up by 7:30, but it’s better than the 6am alarm that has been greeting me all week. That extra hour and a half of sleep totally threw my day into a tailspin. It was too light when I got up and my coffee was not strong enough and the rest of the day continued that way. Everything was turn over. It wasn’t a bad day, just one where I couldn’t quite get my barrings.  

It came as no surprise that my photo editing software was on the blink (it’s free and web based, so I  really can’t complain).  This morning it still is not functioning in the way I need it to, so I’m still posting some late to the party Friday fun and you will just have to make some yourself to see what it looks like!

This week’s favorite thing:

Flavored Simple Syrup

We’ve all heard of simple syrup right? That basic mixture of sugar dissolved in water with a little heat, slightly reduced, to add to cocktails to give them a sweet finish.  Well, this is BETTER!
I know I’m not the first person in the world to add flavoring to simple syrup, and I won’t take credit for it. I am going to share a few of our favorites and what to do with them though.
Future Hubby and I first made a flavored syrup one evening last fall when we were having a crazy hankering for a Dark and Stormy with some Jamaican rum we were gifted but the grocery store was sold out of Vernors (If you are from Michigan you know Vernors, if not, once you have had Vernors ginger ale, you will never accept anything else again). We came home empty handed, but still wanted those cocktails! I rough grated a finger of ginger into some near boiling simple syrup and the results yielded the BEST Dark and Stormy ever. Move aside Vernors, there is a new mixer in town!  

Our three current favorites:

Ginger Syrup  - Our favorite. Make a Dark and Stormy, or add seltzer for homemade  ginger ale.

1 c water
1 c sugar (white or natural)
1 2inch chunk of fresh ginger
Roughly grate or finely chop ginger. Add ginger, water and sugar to pan and heat until simmering. Allow to simmer until slightly reduced and syrup lightly coats the back of a spoon, but still quickly drips from the end. Remove from heat and strain into a pint canning jar. Refrigerate.

Lavender Syrup – Beautiful and floral, lovely with seltzer,  in a cup of black or green tea, mixed into lemon-aid or in a cocktail.

1 c water
1 c white sugar
3-4 tbl dried lavender (MUST be food grade)
Rough chop lavender. Add lavender, water and sugar to pan and heat until simmering. Allow to simmer until slightly reduced and syrup lightly coats the back of a spoon, but still quickly drips from the end. Remove from heat and strain into a pint canning jar. Refrigerate. (This syrup gives a much clearer floral flavor when white sugar is used. Natural sugar has a subtle flavor that will compete with the lavender)

Basil Syrup – This is surprisingly satisfying with seltzer on a hot day, would also be great in lemon-aid or in a variety of cocktails.

1 c water
1 c sugar (white or natural)
18-20 large basil leaves
Rough chop basil. Add basil, water and sugar to pan and heat until simmering. Allow to simmer until slightly reduced and syrup lightly coats the back of a spoon, but still quickly drips from the end. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature before straining into a pint canning jar. Refrigerate. (I find that letting this one come to room temp with the basil still in the syrup gives a much bolder flavor. If you want a mild flavored syrup, strain the basil out when the syrup is still hot).

We are having fun thinking of ways to use these syrups and more flavors, outside of the expected. If you try these and find a great use for one or come up with another great flavor, please share it with us in the comments!

Happy weekend!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Things that make your neighbors go "hmmm......"

I had an awesome post planned for today about making your own flavored syrups for drinks and cocktails. However, this trumped it today. So, you can look forward to a post on summery drinks on Friday instead.

A few background notes that will help you understand the following photos. 

1. Future Hubby and I are getting married in October. 

2. I’m making my wedding dress. 

3. We live in a 900 sq ft townhouse, that has two floors and two bedrooms (read: our living room, the biggest room in our house, is SMALL). 

4. “My backyard” is shared with 15 other town houses with approximately 50 other residents, at least a few of whom were watching this even unfold, shaking their heads and going “the girl ain’t right, I tell ya.”

Working on the muslin rough draft of my wedding dress today while Future Hubby was at work, I dragged the dress dummy (a lovely gift from my Maid of Honor for my birthday a few years back. Love you, Heather!!) downstairs and got to work. I finished the skirt, slipped it on the dress dummy and immediately realized I did not have the room to continue.

 Found a quick fix for that! I can’t be the only woman in America to have worked on her wedding dress in the middle of her backyard. Right?

As you can see, it was pretty windy this morning. Naturally, I used silver wear to hold everything down to the ground while I pinned all the pleats into the back of the dress. Resourcefulness at it's best.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

May Reading Rundown

May has been full of travel, meetings and nights of beautiful weather spent walking Lake Michigan instead of reading a book…. and I’m okay with that! The books I have read this month have all been excellent  and another huge pile of books I’ve had on hold from the library arrived this week, so I’m looking forward to June reading even more.  Better yet, my local library is doing a summer reading program for adults!! The grand prize (from a drawing - one entry per book read): An hour long massage at a posh local salon. Yesss!! I’m in!

In May I Read:

Death of a Hussy  By M.C. Beaton

Does this church make me look fat? By Rhoda Janzen

Dearie By Bob Splitz

Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

And a professional  development Book no one other than me cares about, but totally counts toward my goal of 50 books in 2013!

My Favorite:

Jane Eyre  is aclassic I was never required to read in school, was glad I waited to read it of my own free will so I could appreciate it. Although, I always loved the books we read for school… with the exception of Huck Finn.
And there’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. Wow. Another one of those books that makes you wonder how people come up  with these story lines! Amazing to think about how their brain must work. An absolute bibliophile’s dream!!

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