A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

Last week I waved goodbye to my son as he hopped onto the school bus. As I walked back toward our house I began ruminating on why I’d been feeling low and irritable. Usually the cause is because I’ve been working too hard or spending excess time taking care of the family’s needs. I knew the main reason was the “me time” tank was running on empty.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

As I neared our driveway I admired the sun streaming through the trees.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

Suddenly I knew I had to pull on my rain boots and go for a walk in the woods.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

The air was crisp and clear. Dew still clung to the bushes and flowers.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

For the morning I would just wander and admire. No projects, no writing, no updates on social media, and no Facebook perusing. Just me, Nature, and anything she put in my path.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A slight breeze whispered in the leaves and dropped a single dew drop on my nose.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

The birds were chirping their gossipy songs to one another. Underfoot, the crunch of acorns crackled as my feet slipped and rolled over the bumper crop of acorns. I maintained my balance and walked through our back gate into the woods.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

The scenery was truly inspiring as the sun shown through the trees and highlighted the changing leaves.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

I carefully stepped around wild ferns and pricker bushes.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

I meandered over the soft forest floor toward the creek beyond our property line.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

I noticed several animal tracks and knew they had been there earlier that morning for a cool drink and maybe a meal.

raccoon-track

Lichen and moss wrapped around trees and branches as if coating them with a warm sweater in anticipation of cold weather.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

As I walked back home, I noticed the sun had begun to rise in the sky and the dew had disappeared.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

Our beauty berry bush was bursting with color. Soon it will lose its leaves and the berries will shrivel.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

I said goodbye to my blue hydrangeas a few months ago. They have since turned a beautiful green and magenta color. Once again, I’ll fill a vase with clippings to enjoy through the winter. I’ll miss the colorful landscape in a few months, but know it will be back with new shoots and flowers come spring.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

From now on, every time I get in a funk I’m going to pull on my boots and go for a walk in the woods.

A Walk in the Woods | Pretty Handy Girl

How about you? What do you do to fill your tank?

PHGFancySign

Can I just tell you that I have a bone to pick with Mother Nature lately. She seems to sense when I’m just finishing up a DIY project that really needs to be photographed. Case in point, last week I wanted to photograph my “You Rule Valentines“, but we had 4 days of gloomy weather! 1,2,3,4! I shook my fist at the heavens and told that Mother that I wasn’t going to wait any longer. Then I took matters into my own hands…so there!

I built a little table top light studio, and now come rain or sleet or shine, I have control of my photography lighting!

Want to make your own? It’s super easy. Here’s how… Read more

I know y’all have your favorite blogs. If you think about one of them now, can you tell me what it is you love about the blog? Okay, maybe the subject matter or the writing. But, how does the site look? Is the design appealing? How about the photos? I know I am personally drawn to blogs that have beautiful images. One of my favorite blogs to read is Centsational Girl. Her photos are true candy for the eyes!

Sea Inspired Living Room by Centsational Girl

Tutorial for Anthropology Inspired Table Cloth – Centsational Girl

See what I mean? Kate’s photos are simply beautiful!

She had a post a while ago offering some tips for better photography and how she uses Picasa to edit her photos. After reading that post I really began to push myself to create more attractive photos.

In the spirit of paying it forward, I want to share with you a few secrets for taking better photographs for your blog or just for yourself.

A good picture starts with a good composition. Here are some examples of photos I took and how I made them better:

Two bottles on a pretty coffee table. {cue the crickets}

The above image is suffering from a busy background (the pillows, chairs, and railing) that is competing for attention with the bottles. Plus, there are multiple straight horizontal lines crossing the photo. Horizontal lines are not very interesting. Take a look:

Now, let me show you interesting:

Much better, wouldn’t you agree? Do you see all the angled visual lines?

Here is what I did:

  1. I staggered the bottles to give them more visual interest and to create a diagonal line between the bottles.
  2. Next, I moved my camera around so I was shooting diagonally across the table. See the back edge of the table, now that is an appealing visual line.
  3. Finally, I moved the bottles into a beam of light which gave them more drama, and darkened the background so it wasn’t competing for attention.

Okay, let’s try another one. Here is another example of a “ho-hum” photo. I can just hear Rodin sighing at this unexciting photo.

As a rule of thumb you should try to never let your horizon line be in the middle of the photo. Try to use the rule of thirds and have it be at 1/3 or 2/3 vertically on the photo. And you want to avoid putting your main object centered into the middle of the picture.

Mr. Rodin was a fabulous sculptor. I “think” his Thinker deserves better! How do you like this?

Look at all the triangle shapes that are created when I brought my subject in closer:

  1. To create more drama, I got up closer to the sculpture and filled the frame with the subject.
  2. I put Mr. Thinker off center in the frame, not smack dab in the middle. By doing this it broke up the symmetry in the photo.
  3. Once again, look at the nice diagonal line running up the man’s back and on his thigh. Diagonals force the viewers eye to move around the photo.

Let’s look at an indoor photo now. Here is a photo of a star light. Excuse me as I yawn. Bored to tears here.

The star is centered almost perfectly up and down and side to side. This make for a perfectly blah photo.

But, look what happens in the next photo.

Suddenly there is excitement. The diagonal lines and triangular negative spaces really make your eyes move around and draw attention to the details in the star.

You too can create drama in your photos.

  1. Change the perspective. (Climb up on a chair, get down low, or swing around to the side.)
  2. Fill the frame with the subject.
  3. Focus on creating diagonal lines when looking through your viewfinder.

Here is another photo I took on my porch. Okay, not too bad. The plant is off center. The railings form a slight diagonal.

But, look what happens when I tilt the camera to a vertical presentation.

  1. Suddenly the focus is on the plant and the light bouncing off the leaves.
  2. The treehouse is no longer competing for attention in the background .
  3. And, I’ve filled the frame with the plant.
  4. Can you see the different diagonals? Hint: basket handle and pedestal

Always think about how your photo will look in a horizontal or vertical presentation.

Let’s talk about lighting. Your goal is to use natural light as much as possible. Avoid photographing at night, indoors (away from windows) or using a flash. If you are a blogger, sometimes you finish a project at midnight and can’t wait to photograph it. Below, you can see my sad little puppy bookend. The colors are flat and the whole picture lacks any contrast or excitement.

If you have no choice and absolutely have to photograph is less than optimal conditions, read this post to learn how to deal with poor lighting situations.

Otherwise, wait and take that photo in the morning. You can thank me later.

Look at the natural light bathing the puppy and books. Suddenly the light plays on the still life and creates moody highlights and shadows. Now that puppy looks a lot happier.

Okay, this tip goes out to all you lucky ducks that own an SLR (single lens reflex) camera. Do you know how to set the light source in your camera? If you don’t, your photos may end up like this:

Hey, who smurfed my gift bag? Time to look in your manual and take that baby off the auto setting. In the Canon Rebel (and most SLR cameras), you can choose the lighting source like this:

With all these choices, I choose the one most appropriate to my light source. Sometimes I have to try one or another one to see which gives me the best color representation.

By programming the correct light source as shade in my camera menu, the photo suddenly loses its bluish cast and displays the correct colorful richness of the gift bag.

I hope some of these tips help you.

Here are some photography blogs that will help improve your photography skills:

My3Boybarians –  In addition to many tutorials and tips, Darcy has put together a months worth of lessons in: 31 days to better photographs. In addition, she occasionally hosts a Twitter photo chat. Follow her on Twitter for more information.

i heart photos – Amy & Angie may love faces, but they share the love by posting tutorials and tips to help improve portraiture photography (and more.)

And Susan from Between Naps on the Porch has a great list of free photo editing sites.

Now get snapping and send me some photos you are proud of! I’d love to see them.

If you liked this post, you will surely love some photography secrets for shooting indoor photos.

secrets to shooting photography indoors

My friend Kristi has dedicated June to “Spreading the Bloggy Love”.  She asked several (FABULOUS) bloggers to “give back” by writing a post sharing their best blogging tips. You aren’t going to want to miss a day, because she has some big names sharing their tips and secrets.

I decided to write a post about better composition in photographs. To me, good photos are one of the most important things that contribute to a great blog. If you don’t have good eye candy, your readers will look elsewhere.

So head on over to Creative Kristi’s blog today to learn how to turn your so-so photos into…

…{{BAM}} fantastic images!

What are you looking at? Head on over to Kristi’s NOW! And don’t forget to thank her for putting together such a fantastic series.

I’m not sure what I ever did to annoy Mother Nature, but it seems to me that every time I finish a project and need to photograph it, the weather turns ugly. Case in point: my cake stand was completed the day the tornadoes ripped through North Carolina.

3" of water flooding our front walk after the tornado.

But, rather than be deterred by some nasty weather, I decided to use a few tricks I learned from some professional photographers I’ve worked with over the years. And, from a few photography blogs like:

iHeartFaces.com and EverydayElementsOnline.com and My3Boybarians.

One trick I learned was how to bounce the light back onto the subject. To light the underside of the cake stand, I set a mirror next to the cake stand and angled it to reflect the light onto the bottom of the stand. I was careful not to let a strong highlight hit on the stand from the reflection.

Next I used a foam core board propped up against a chair. I positioned the board back and forth until I saw the light brightening the cake stand and dessert.

With just those two changes I was able to change my cake stand photo from this:

to this! Va va vooom!

Another trick I use while shooting some of my tutorials is to use two pieces of foam core to get a professional looking white background.

Sometimes if I’m feeling very perfectionist, I’ll use Photoshop to edit my photos. To erase the seam, I selected a color that is midway between the foreground and background foam core.

Then, I used the airbrush tool to paint out the seams that stand out.

Sometimes I really want to photograph a still life in an environment. Take my spray-painted bottles for example:

Whoa, that is one dark and dreary photo. Once again, I had finished the project and the clouds rolled in. So, here is how I dealt with fickle Mother Nature.

I put the bottles in the window to capture as much natural light as I could. Then, I backed away from my subjects and zoomed in with my lens. Next, I used a flash (egads, not a flash!) Yes, I used a flash, but I have the ability to change the flash exposure in my camera so it wouldn’t wash out the subject. And because I was far back from the vases, the flash wasn’t as harsh.

And here is the resulting photo!

I wouldn’t say it is perfect by any standards, but the photos look much more appealing. Don’t you think?

(At the time that I took the above photos, I didn’t have this great flash gadget. However, recently I ordered a Light Scoop and I love how it bounces the flash off the ceiling instead of the object. This is an inexpensive alternative to buying an external flash.)

To head off the inevitable camera question: I currently use a Canon T1i Rebel (SLR). However, I before I bought the Rebel I used a simple point and shoot camera and made some edits in Photoshop to compensate for the cheaper camera.

First I select Auto Tone and if I’m happy with the changes PS made, I move on to the Auto Contrast.

To make the colors more vivid, I play with the Vibrancy and Saturation Settings:

Finally, to give the details that crisp focus look, I add the Sharpen filter:

There are oodles of other fixes that Photoshop can perform on your photos, but these are the ones I use the most.

Do you have any photography tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them.

My friend Megan (Honey We’re Home) has a great post all about using your SLR! Check it out HERE.