still life

Pear Abstract

Another photo of yesterday’s pear- a little more abstract this time.


Keys . . . and Twigs

The theme for my AAUW photo group today is Locks and Keys. I selected several past images of padlocks to bring, but then I decided that, since I wanted to play with my Lensbaby Edge 80, I would take a couple photos of keys to bring as well.

After taking a few shots of keys spread out in different configurations, a small branch I have on my shelf of props caught my eye. I ended up hanging keys on twigs, and came up with these two images:


When I was all finished shooting, I combined two other images in camera, which I then converted to a split toned black and white in Lightroom. What looks like an added texture is actually the garage floor!


More Decaying Sunflowers

I may have to actually throw these away soon. . .

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Stopped Me in My Tracks

These beautiful flowers stopped me dead in my tracks as my friend, Carol and I entered the restaurant where we had lunch in San Francisco. We both ended up taking a few photos- the flowers were so gorgeous! We ended up photographing them from different angles- and edited them in ways that were opposite from each other, as well as opposite of our usual styles.  Carol’s photo is an impressionistic rendering- and mine is more of a standard photo, edited for clarity.  It’s as if we switched styles!


At the Window

It is feeling so good to get back to doing a little still life photography! Now that the house is no longer torn up, I have some space and time to set up some stills.  I’ve been especially eager to try out a birthday present I got from my friend, Debbie- a vintage window! It’s been piled in the garage with everything else, but now I can get to it, along with some of my other still life props that were covered up.

I propped up the window on a table outside in the 95 degree heat and had a great time composing this image. I edited it using Kim Klassen’s darkday preset (desaturation, a matte tone curve, and split toning, among other adjustments).


As usual, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I took it into Photoshop and Topaz Impression for a painterly look.


Here’s another Topaz Impression version- a new one called Wispy Sketch. Love this!


It was too hot to create any more still life vignettes- but look for this window in the future! Thanks, Debbie!

A hat, some flowers, and the chair

You may remember my series of chair photos from last year- some including this hat.  Well, the bunch of chamomile I picked up at Trader Joe’s put me in the mood again- so here’s another in the series, this time in black and white.



This week, my little photo group is meeting to discuss photography and share photos. We took photos this time that have some aspect(s) of the principles of wabi-sabi. Here are three of my photos that celebrate imperfection and the passage of time.

Just ordinary stuff- some frayed dishtowels, a basket detail, and my childhood cereal bowl and creamer:


Points of View


My little AAUW photo group had the assignment last week of photographing a subject in different ways, from different angles, and/or edited different ways. I had a busy week so allowed about a half hour for shooting and a half hour for editing- I almost made it. I used my 35 mm for 3 shots and switched to my 85mm macro for the other 2. I quickly edited all in Lightroom and then added textures to two in Photoshop- all on schedule.  But I was in such a hurry and so out of patience that I kept messing up the collage in the Lightroom Print Module. I threw up my hands and sent them all to my phone where I made a quick layout in Pic Collage, which added only about 5 minutes to my allotted time.  When I picked up my print at Costco, I realized that I had sent the wrong photo to my phone for the middle one on the left- it was unedited! And so it was. . .

I added a bit of contrast, clarity, and sharpening to that unedited part of the collage before uploading to my blog- so it looks a little better (no, I did not re-make the whole collage!).


This is what can happen as you arrange flowers for still life photography. . .

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Flower and Sticks Times Two

I was somehow compelled to stick a sunflower in with my branches and kind of liked the contrast between the shapes (and of course the lensbaby blur). So here is the result- two ways.




Just a book and a rose. . .


Playing with Sticks

More branches in a jar. This was shot with the Lensbaby Edge 80 again, but then I used an oil painting filter in Topaz Impression and a Flypaper texture after that.  Yup- just playing with sticks. . .



The Berries- again

I found a couple other shots I took when I was taking my berry still life for my class. These were taken before or after- without a tripod, because I couldn’t get high enough with the tripod. I used a shallow depth of field for fun- and I guess I wasn’t very steady on the stepstool, because these would definitely not pass the sharpness test! I like them anyway.

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BTW, my hummingbird passed muster yesterday in my new photo class. I wondered how people (especially the instructor) would respond to the background, which had been edited using Topaz Impression- but they were fine with it. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll recognize this photo from last summer. The only critiques were some thought the little twig under the hummingbird could be cloned out, and one person would have liked a closed beak. One thing I’m learning is that people have differing opinions of each other’s work- and it’s all ok.  It’s a very nice group of people, which makes it all easier.


Critiqued- yikes!

About three weeks ago I was invited to join an advanced photography group here in town.  The group is made up of people who have gone through all the photography and photo-editing classes offered at our local college. After their instructor retired, they formed a private group which contracts with the retired instructor to lead the group in their weekly 2 1/2 hour sessions. I got to know a few of the members of this group through AAUW and my photo club, but had no idea that the class they were in was something that would one day be available to me.  These people have been studying photography together for years! I have never taken a photography class that wasn’t online. My experiences with being critiqued have been in the photo club- and I’ve never felt quite up to snuff there.  But. . . it will be good for me!

Before my first class, I was given an external drive to copy; it was full of videos, mostly on photo-editing.  Most (all?) of the students use the Nik Collection to enhance their photoshop editing, so I bought it (I had an old version) and Tony Kuyper’s TKA actions (luminosity masks and more- I had an old version of that as well).  I haven’t made a dent in watching the videos; there is only so much my brain can absorb.

I didn’t have much time to prepare for my first class, so I matted and brought a golden hour photo of Willow Lake I took last year. I’m never confident about landscape photography, but I really liked the clouds in that one.

Right off the bat, the instructor said it was “soft”- there wasn’t anything sharp in the photo (and he was right. . .). I’m not sure why I didn’t check it for sharpness, before I printed it. I KNOW that in photography, especially traditional photography, sharpness is the first requirement.

And the work of the other students was sharp, of course, and also very professional and creative. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for me!

For my second week, I took a new photo- a still life, somewhat of a comfort zone for me. It is not my usual style- I attempted to get EVERYTHING in focus- no dreamy, shallow depth of field! I needed to establish some credibility after my disastrous first attempt.20160128-MMA_8041_melinda_anderson-Edit-2This simple still life has AT LEAST 20 layers of work done in photoshop! Massive amounts of cloning and dodging and burning- and special work in Nik Color Efex Pro and Viveza. It was generally very well-received- it is sharp (but the instructor did say it needed extra sharpening for print. . .). The criticisms (from the teacher and class members) were that the reflection was confusing and the bottom of the photo too dark and also confusing. Some said I should have extended the reflection through cloning. I think the consensus was I should have cropped off the part where the black top meets the wood on the bottom (I had considered that). Also, the silver cups behind the glass are confusing- or maybe the etching on the glass is. I should have mentioned that my Photoshop file was projected on a big screen, and then they went through it layer by layer, evaluating what I did. I am learning to look at my photos very closely- zoomed in.

I am definitely out of my comfort zone in this group- but I am really enjoying it! It is fascinating to see what others choose to shoot and how- and how they edit their work. I used split toning in my first effort- and no one else had EVER used it- including the teacher! Someone else commented on my use of blend modes- like it was unusual. Very few spend much time in Lightroom- a few steps and on to Photoshop! So I am going to definitely be learning a whole new way of approaching things. My intention is to learn all these techniques and see how I can incorporate them into my own style. I have learned that I really like the Nik products and am using them frequently now in my regular Photoshop editing.

I did find the need to get away from SHARPNESS to go off into the land of blur with my Lensbaby this week (see yesterday’s photo)- so my blog may look a bit schizophrenic over the next few months. This week I’m bringing an old (sharp, I hope) photo of a hummingbird that I have re-edited. We’ll see what happens. . .


Bone Structure

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape.
Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.”
– Andrew Wyeth


Full of Beans

20160206-MMA_8605_melinda_andersonWhen I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the antique gold pencil that was kept in the chest that held the good silver. My mother said it belonged to a great-great grandmother, but that I was not named after her- which was obvious to me, because Melinda was SPELLED WRONG!  My mother was not particularly interested in family history, but I was, even at a young age. I wondered who that Malinda could be (and why her named was spelled wrong).

Of course, I didn’t realize at that time that variations in spelling are the norm rather than the exception in genealogy- as are inaccurate family stories. When I started doing genealogical research, I discovered that Malinda Tucker was actually the second wife of my great-great grandfather, Luther Bean, whom he married after my great-great grandmother died.  My mother’s mother would turn out to be Luther’s only heir after her aunt died, so we have quite a few of his things.


As you can see by examining the photo, he was in the Civil War as a surgeon. He grew up in New Hampshire, and he and my great-great grandmother, came from a long line of New Englanders- going all the way back to the early colonists (right AFTER the Mayflower). Later in life he moved to Waukegan, Illinois, where he continued to practice medicine.

Another inaccurate (I think) family story was that I had a great-grandfather who was in the battle of the Monitor vs the Merrimack, which I learned about in school.  I remember being proud to tell my sixth grade class all about it- minus the name of this mysterious great-grandfather.  I have searched and have yet to find him, the most likely candidate being Luther- but there is no record of this in his service record that I can find.  This story may be as false as the story that my husband’s grandfather was “half Indian”- and his mother grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma. Wrong!

Oh- about the spelling of Malinda/Melinda– on her gravestone, her name is spelled with an E, like mine!

Photography note: the gold lines under the pencil in the top photo are reflections.


Berries in a Jar

I noticed that one of our ground covers has berries, so I stuck some in a mason jar for a quick still life.  They are pretty shrubby for an arrangement- but good enough for a still, I think.



Hot chocolate and a book by the fire- my kind of evening!



Made by Hand

I couldn’t post this until after Christmas, because I was knitting this scarf for my daughter.  I used to knit all the time until about five years ago, when I realized that my hand and wrist issues were being exacerbated by the repetitive motion. I have a real love of yarn and handknits, and, although I was never an expert knitter, it was a relaxing and creative outlet for me. So, I dug out some of my yarn and found a scarf that I had started to knit in 2010- and, knitting only a little at a time, I finished it up for my daughter for Christmas.  I made so many mistakes, but finally the muscle memory kicked in. I know my hands aren’t up to more than a half hour or so a day of knitting, but I plan on digging into my yarn again and finishing up a few projects- a little at a time- baby steps!







It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It’s actually looked a lot like Christmas since Thanksgiving! I love my house at Christmas- all the traditional little knicky-knacky things brought out- and then there’s the tree.  It’s fake, which was never our tradition, but it’s decorated with ornaments from our kids’ childhood and some newer ones picked up over the years.  I started acquiring snowmen in the last ten years or so; here’s one that sits in our entryway.


Yes, it’s taken with a Lensbaby!

Still Life with DOG

My daughter, Caitlin had all sorts of wonderful gourds on the Thanksgiving table. In a brief moment of downtime, I thought to try a bit of still life photography.

This is what I got.



This is Callie the 8 year old golden, who wants nothing more than to sit with her head in your lap (although she is also a fan of swimming and chasing bunnies).  I ended up putting down the camera and giving her some attention.

White and whiter

I confess to having a photography love affair with my white pumpkins.

I like the orange ones, but there is just something about the white ones that I can’t resist!


Not to be redundant. . .

These are ALMOST the end of the white pumpkin photos, but, since Halloween is over a week away, there just might be more!


20151013-MMA_3892_melinda_andersonHappy Hump Day!