Art, Photography, Self-Expression

Leveling up in processing

I have been re-editing photos after leveling up in Processing my RAW files. I’ve ‘known’ ‘how to’ edit images for years. But I sort of got into a routine after the first rush and plateaued badly. 

I also realized that when you learn a neat ‘trick’ or technique in Photoshop/Lightroom/Instagram/whatever it’s so easy to fall in love and totally use it all over the place and way too enthusiastically. Like all the time. To excess. I am now past my HDR EVERYTHING faze. I am through with ‘cheating’ with luminance reduction – to the extreme. Here is an example of how far I’ve come (although maybe no one but a critic can see the difference).

The first time I called this image ‘done’, I merged three exposures in an HDR processing image I ran EVERYTHING through – Photomatix. Looking at the resulting image now I’m astonished to have been so ridiculously pleased with the result. So I reprocessed a single image today – took my time, applied new ‘tricks’, without forgetting the old, and am once again pleased as punch with my work!!

Cold Reign


I finally feel I’ve started the way up from a plateau of skill level that I have struggled to improve from. Yay for learning! I left the first image in my photo stream on #Flickr – – in case anyone wants to stop by the Strumpet101 stream there to see it. The new one has pride of place in the ‘I’m almost not a noob anymore account’.

Art, Charity Auctions, Gaming, Personal Life, Star Craft 2, World of Warcraft

BlizzCon Charity Auction – Lessons for the Organizers?

MineI am beyond squeeing at this: I have won the BlizzCon Charity Auction for this gorgeous statue of The Queen of Blades. The Kerrigan statue has previously been a gift for employees, and is a limited edition. As soon as I saw it on the list of items when this year’s auction was announced and instantly knew I would be bidding. The husband and I agreed on a max we were willing to commit to. And the nervous wait started. I went to see it at BlizzCon and could barely look at it. I was afraid to fall even more in love and be disappointed.

You know me and Kerrigan. She’s my girl.

I got up at 3:00 AM this morning, because the eBay auction ended at 4:00 AM my time. I had not placed a bid before then. I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to auctions, and I definitely did not want to show my hand early. Nor did I officially confirm on Twitter or FaceBook what I was bidding on. No need to get some troll to ruin it all for me.

We also won an auction last year, for the Diablo Box art signed and framed. It’s spectacular, and I feel super fortunate to have it.

But the auction felt completely different this year. And we spent way more money last year. And the thing is, I would have spent the same amount this year, but didn’t have to do so. And I feel the new format is why we did not spend as much.

This year, the BlizzCon charity auction organizers chose to make the auction available not only to BlizzCon attendees but also to anyone who could access eBay. And the auction, as a result, was ‘on’ for much longer than 3 days. There are a few reasons why I think this was a mistake:

1. The excitement of bidding while there disappeared. We were trying to speculate WHO our competition was.  We continually came back to the art to check our bid, and we were fairly sure who our competitors were. This was a game in itself.

2. We bid in far higher increments. Because of the way eBay bidding works, we bid in $10 or $20 increments (I can’t remember what the exact increasing dollar amounts are). There was no need to strategically bid ‘just enough’ to let your competition know you were serious, yet not so much that you felt you couldn’t go higher. And my husband and I actually bid AGAINST each other last year, convinced that we would scare off the main other bidders if they thought there were three bidders seriously in the race. It did scare them off, but we probably spent more than we had to. Of course this was great for the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOOC), but we spent more.

So this year, when I started bidding, I bid as low as I had to. Of course thinking of my own pocket book. There was no one to ‘scare off’ – and I tried securing my bid by telling eBay how much I would in the end probably stop at. I was willing to pay more than double what I finally paid. I’m not saying they would have gotten quite that much if  the bidding had been ‘live’ at BlizzCon, but I probably would have made my opening bid higher in order to hopefully scare anyone else off.

3. The auction end time was ridiculous. 4 AM mountain???? Really??? More people might have watched the end if it had been at a reasonable time. I watched many of the auctions rather closely, and very few of them went for much more than they were going for at the end of last weekend – the end of BlizzCon.

4. The whole idea that you ‘bought it at BlizzCon’ is completely gone.

These are just my personal feelings. I’m happy I won at a price I feel is a bargain, but Children’s Hospital of Orange County could have gotten more from me.

Anyway, I’m super happy – and feel fortunate, and can’t wait to get her home on or before December 15th!



Art, Painting, Photography, Self-Expression

The joy of color

The red project

When my DSLR broke back in March, my heart was broken. Seriously, I felt like a limb or a sense was cut off for me. It’s amazing how dependent on my camera I’ve become. It’s a form of expression.

And the creativity of photography has become a real source of joy.

With all the expenses of this year, I quickly decide that a new camera body would have to take a bit of a back seat.  And that gave me the ‘excuse’ of waiting for a new release Nikon later this year/early next year.

In the meantime, I thought, I’ll try out painting.  My fine-motor skills have never been the best. But I love color. And I love creating. And I’ve done some decent painting with watercolors in the past. So I thought, “well, it can’t hurt to try to learn.”  I ordered up some paints, an easel, and some medium. I watched a ton of YouTube videos. And finally I decided that I had to actually put brush to canvas to understand what people were trying to tell me in the videos.  There are way way way too many videos out there. And so many of them are ‘definitive’. But what I think the most important thing I have learned is  that there is no ‘right’ way to paint. There is no ‘right’ technique. There is no ‘wrong’ way. They have different results. And different elements, but you have to figure out what works for you.

I started with just a blue project. I didn’t mix any colors in. I used one type/dilution of medium (I’ve decided that Liquin looks like a good way for me to go), and just started seeing what happened when I put paint on the brush and put it on the canvas. You can see this Blue project here.  It was cool. But also terrifying, because I realized that I really had VERY little understanding of what would happen when I applied the brush. Brush shape matters tons. Your slightest touch on the canvas matters TONS. And if you really like the way something looks, don’t touch it, because you’ll change it and never get it back to the way it was!  Well, at least I can’t yet.

And I decided that I knew NOTHING about what medium would do to the paint and what thinner would do. Well, I knew in theory, of course, but not in practice. So I watched a bunch of YouTube people tell me how to mix medium, paint, and thinner. I bought mason jars, and I mixed up a bunch of different concoctions in green. And I made my Green Frond Project.   My husband really likes this one. But he loves green. I’d like to do it again, properly, since he likes the color so much. I don’t like it so much, because I see a major flaw. The major flaw made me decide I needed to add another step to my creative process. I needed to learn to sketch, at least, roughly what I was going for, on the canvas. So I went and got myself charcoal pencils. And more thinner.

Then I started thinking about what I wanted to do for my next project. My red project (I call it red – my husband insists it’s pink. It’s probably somewhere close to both.) I prepped the canvas with background this time – still not thinned out enough – thinner next time. I slept next to it in the afternoons. I sketched my circles. I slept next to it some more. Finally, when I was dreaming about it, I went in there and squeezed some paint onto my palette. I mixed up some paint, mixed in some whites, some black. And I went for it.

A few hours later, I emerged. I let it dry a little. I slept again. Then I used some more brushes. Fiddled some more. And while I am frustrated by my severe lack of skill … the hand does not always move like I want it to … the color does not quite match the imagined image … I am SO pleased. I feel like it turned out way more like what I imagined than the two previous projects.

The act of planning the painting, and the actual painting is giving me real joy. Especially when it expresses what I see or feel. I’m certainly no genius artist, but I can see progress.

I need a better studio. As always, I need more time. And I have SO much to learn. But I’ve already started dreaming about what to do next. I’d like to actually paint ‘something’ this time. To see what that is like. Something simple to start with. Suggestions? I’m thinking a bowl. A box. Maybe a flower. Though none of those sound simple when I start thinking about what’s involved in the shading, light, etc. But I feel like I need to paint something other than what is purely in my head in order to learn more. Knowing something about light from photography helps, but is not enough.

Thanks to all of you who have offered encouragement. The joy is in the creating, but there is also a certain glow that comes from the praise of others.