Friday, January 31, 2014

February. Are you ready?

February. You wouldn't think such a short month would have much impact. You go to bed January 31, all tucked in, warm and snug. You've made your Valentine's Day plans, got the card, you're feeling quite smug.

February 1 arrives the next morning. Quiet as a mouse. A mouse that rapidly morphs into a giant groundhog waving a calendar in your face and you realize that Valentine's Day is just the tip of the Titanic iceberg, and you, Captain Edward John Smith, are steaming straight for it!

We celebrate three different fruits this month. Throw in an entire week devoted to an all-American dessert, one day celebrating a particular candy, and you and your stomach thank god February lasts but 28 days.

With so few days available for all the festivities packed into February, I suggest bundling some festivals together.


We've got Jell-O Week from the 9th through the 15th. That's a long time to celebrate one dessert. But because February is also Grapefruit Month, Avocado Month, and Banana Month, multitaskers might want to make up a big bowl of cherry-flavored Jell-O packed with bananas, avocado bits, and grapefruit slices!

And since National Gumdrop Day pops up on the 15th, what better way to decorate your festive Jell-O mould than with a healthy sprinkling of colorful gumdrops on top?

You've packed four holidays into one, you clever thing.

Just don't take your Jell-O to the library (February is Library Lovers Month) and strum a little tune on your ukulele (World Play Your Ukulele Day is on the second). Eat in a library? Play music? Librarians worldwide frown on that sort of thing. But I hear groundhogs love it!

P.S. The picture? Well, I don't have any photos of gumdrops. And I didn't want to buy any because I'd just eat them. So here's a rudimentary drawing of gumdrops I did in Photoshop. Not too professional, but at least they're colorful!

©Carol Leigh

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Combining Two Photos . . . Three Results

A fun thing to do, just for the heck of it, just to see what you might get, is to simply bring two photos into one window and then run through the blending modes to see what happens.

I'm using Photoshop CS6. I opened a photo I took of an "S" on the side of a fishing boat. I then opened a photo I took of a boat hull reflected in the water. I put one layer on top of the other. Then I went to Photoshop's blending modes and clicked on each one, just to see what sort of image I would get.

In this case, there were three results that appealed to me, the three you see here. The last two photos are the two pictures I blended together.

Are these great photos? No. But they might be marketable, so I uploaded them to Fine Art America. You never know. I've got all sorts of other letter and number photos in my galleries there, so maybe someone's decorating a child's room and wants pictures other than the standard ABCs. If so, there I am! But that's not my point.

My point is that someone could give you a "recipe" for layering photos in Photoshop, and tell you that "soft light" is the best blending mode for your photos. So you might go to "soft light" and like it, but what did you miss by not experimenting?

I often know what a certain blending mode will do for whatever photos I'm blending together. But I would NEVER go straight to that blending mode and stop. Nope. I ALWAYS run through ALL the blending modes. All of them.

This way I see the blending modes that are useless, that are ridiculous, that are perfect, but maybe one of the ridiculous effects makes me think of something else, makes me wonder yeah, it doesn't work right now, but what if I did such and such?  Or what if I selected a different photo to blend in with the mix? And then I'm off on another photo exploration, using my imagination and my creativity and overall synchronicity to create something completely different.

The fun (for me) in making photomontages is experimenting. And by putting two seemingly unrelated photos together, one on top of the other, and then running through the blending modes, is one way to have fun and perhaps discover something completely new and different.

Now that's a good way to start a day!

©Carol Leigh, whose computer is back and seems to be working . . .

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life without the computer

My routine, if I have such a thing, is to get up very early in the morning and go downstairs to my office. Chris and the cat, saner beings than I, are still sound asleep. I turn on my computer and get to work.

This is my time, where I've given myself permission to experiment with my photos, no worries about what I should be doing. Just me, bending, folding, spindling and mutilating pictures. Sometimes something terrific is the result; more often, something mediocre happens. No matter. It's all part of the learning/experimenting process.

About three hours later, around 6, Chris and the cat are up and my "real" day begins.

So you can imagine how weird it is to not have the computer available for days. No way to poke around, to try this or that, to merge pictures, to create something. That was the case last week and has been the case yesterday and today.

There's no comforting hum from the computer, no rumbling from the Drobo as it moves images from drive to drive. The clock ticks and that is all.

I was hoping that the above could be a blog post, but no, it's a whiny self-absorbed piece about how cranky I am without the computer . . .

People are out of work and homeless and here I am moaning about how I can't blend a photo of a boat hull with a photo of the letter "S." Do I have NO sense of perspective?

So yes, this is a blog post after all, reminding you, reminding me, that we're pretty darned lucky beings and to think twice before whining that our coffee's not hot enough, that traffic isn't moving fast enough, or that you have to live 48 hours without a computer. ©Carol Leigh

P.S. Yes, I know I'm using a computer to do this, and the photo above is from 2009, but it's an old photo, and this is a laptop, not what I consider a real computer. And I have to use a mouse, not my Wacom tablet. Oh, poor, poor, pitiful me!  :-)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Heebie Jeebies

Curiosity takes you places if you let it.

Chris said this morning that something gave him the willies.

"What? Not the heebie jeebies?" said I.

Heebie jeebies. Now there's an interesting word pairing. Wonder where it came from?

It came about in the 1920s, apparently, along with other rhyming pairings such as mumbo-jumbo, bee's knees, hocus-pocus, etc.

From there, I found Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five doing a 1926 ragtime-ish song called "Heebie Jeebies."

It's a fun song and the story behind it, that Armstrong dropped the lyric sheet and "scatted" while fumbling to pick it up, became legendary — Armstrong, the pioneer of scatting. Jelly Roll Morton apparently disputed this, but that's as far as I went with my ten minutes of research.

What does this have to do with photography? With art? Maybe nothing.

But it shows how a flicker of curiosity led me to hocus-pocus, mumbo-jumbo, Louis Armstrong, scatting, and Jelly Roll Morton.

My life is enriched. I had 30 minutes of fun listening to music, I learned about scatting, and felt refreshed and enthusiastic to begin my day. Gotta be some good art in there somewhere!

And that brings me to this photomontage. I'm not feeling quietly confident about it. It's rather contrived. It feels "less than" a lot of other things I've made. But you know what? It was inspired by the piano music I heard in the "Heebie Jeebies" song. If I'd not heard that song, I wouldn't have made this. (And perhaps you're thinking that might have been a good thing!)

So there you go. Curious about something? Take a few minutes and check it out. You just might discover something that will add to the magnificence that is you!

©Carol Leigh

Friday, January 24, 2014

A tale of two teas . . .

I am attempting to become a tea drinker. More specifically, a green tea drinker.

I used to drink coffee every morning. Freshly ground beans, a teaspoon or two of real whipping cream, cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, and chocolate powder — ahh! But I became addicted and didn't like the awful headaches that resulted from not drinking coffee. And it stained my teeth. And the cream added unnecessary calories and fat. Hence the shift to green tea.

I began with Yogi Pure Green Tea. And it tastes like grass.

Not that grass is necessarily a bad thing. But for me, a non-tea drinker, and when I did drink tea, it was Lipton or Lemon Zinger, this tea, this green tea that smells and tastes like grass, doesn't make me all excited to have a cuppa.

So this morning I switched over to Stash Premium Green Tea.

It tastes less like grass than the Yogi Pure Green Tea, but more like hay. In fact, it tastes sort of like the way horse stalls smell. I hasten to add, however, that that might not necessarily be a bad thing, either.

Which do I prefer? Yogi or Stash? I'm not really sure, since both are scoring rather high on the ick-ometer, which was calibrated just yesterday.

Gotta say, however, that drinking tea the past ten days or so has changed my brain. So much so that the thought of drinking cream-laden coffee, no matter how flavorful and rich, sort of creeps me out right now.

So. I'm looking for a wonderfully decadent green tea. A tea that tastes like a flowery dream rather than a horse stall full of hay. Any suggestions? Anyone?

©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Computer in the shop ...

As a result, no photos are being bent, folded, spindled or mutilated these days... Oh, sure, I could use the laptop, but I'm taking this time to bend, fold, paint, tear, and mutilate papers to use in collages and photomontages, so all is well.

It's fun being in the craft "studio," with music cranking, paint flying, glue sticking, and lots of experimenting going on.

Wishing you all a little rest and recreation this week, especially those of you on the east coast right now with snow and frigid temps.

Carol Leigh

Friday, January 17, 2014


When I prep my photos, I often put some of them in my blog "pending file" to be posted here later, usually when I see a theme developing. Well, this first barn has been in the pending file for a couple of years.

Chris and I were returning home from the airport and took a few side roads along the way. The weather was edgy and the clouds dramatic. We pulled over so I could shoot this barn, but the sound of shotguns in the distance (hunting season) made me edgy, so we moved on. I do like the photo, however.

The next two photos were taken in the Palouse in eastern Washington about nine years ago and I'm just now getting around to processing them. What a difference weather makes!

It's good to finally get these barn pictures out of the pending file and into the light of day. Or night. Hope you enjoyed taking a look.

©Carol Leigh

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Latest work: "Winter Moon"

Did you happen to see the full moon set this morning? Initially high in the sky, gleaming like a beacon, and then, as it lowered, seemingly growing larger and more orange and then gone, as the sea turned silver and the sky and mist turned a pale blue and pink. Too gorgeous to do anything but stare and wonder and admire.

Well, this moon, that I created last week using metal and scratches and a bunch of other things that I can't remember right now, isn't orange. It's stationary. And it's moody. And it's dark. But I like its mystery, the way the scratches imply movement, the way a tide moves out, and waves move toward shore. And could those be birds flying here and there? Some spray? Some bubbles?

This month celebrates the "Wolf Moon." Awhooooooooooooooooooooooooo! ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Link: The Order of the Red Raven

New postcard in my "Faux Poste" blog here:

Having way too much fun with these postcards!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Latest work: "Soft Indigo"

For this piece I combined my various photos of torn, painted, and inked papers, including old wallpaper. I like the subtle texture, the overall monochromatic look, and the feeling of age and wear. (Click to enlarge.)

©Carol Leigh

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Latest work: "Counting Circles"

Dreary days here on the Oregon coast have me thinking of bright, lively colors. So early this morning, when a 57mph gust of wind woke me up, I came down to the office and combined photos of my own hand-painted papers, an aged paper from a scrapbook, and began playing.

These two images delight me and I like them. But I like them in a different way from other images I create. When these were finished, I felt energized by the colors, by all those cool circles, and, of course, the numbers.

I consider this "fluff." The art is colorful, fun, bright, eye-catching. And it's appealing (to me) on a lot of levels.

My other images, the darker, more abstract, Japanese-inspired pictures, please me in a different way. When I finish those, I often have a solid, quiet, satisfied feeling, a more serious response, a "yeah, this is good" sort of reaction. A definite "knowing."

So yes, I consider this fluff. But it's fun fluff! And just what I need this blustery day. While I watch the Seattle Seahawks annihilate the New Orleans Saints. (Sorry, Brenda!)

©Carol Leigh

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It kind of hurts . . .

Remember this photograph? I first published it here July 29, 2012. Here's the link:

I was surprised to see it (chopped in half) as the feature photograph in a blog post here:

Because I didn't have a contract with the owner of the blog (who seems like a nice guy), I contacted him asking that he remove my photograph. Here's the e-mail I sent to him this morning:

I was surprised to see that you featured my photograph as a header on your April 21, 2013 blog post about life being messy. Since we made no agreement that you could use it, I am kindly requesting that you take it down.

I worked hard to create that unique image and I made it available for sale at Fine Art America on September 25, 2012.

Photography is how I make my living and I'm pleased that you liked the image enough to use it. I just wish you had asked me beforehand -- I probably would have granted you permission. You didn't, however, and so I respectfully request that you remove the photograph (both halves of it) immediately.

Thank you very much.

As you know, we work hard to create our pictures, and so it hurts when someone blithely uses our work without permission and without even crediting the photographer. Here's hoping he takes the photo down right away. I'll let you know.  —Carol Leigh

Latest work: "Windowpane Coral"

This piece began with a photograph I took of a piece of coral I've had for about 30 years. I added, removed, tore, shredded, and combined other photographs to create this unusual, painterly look. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Latest work: "Inked, Painted, and Torn"

Vintage papers, hand-painted papers, ripped and torn, combine to create this piece.

I don't know where all these Japanese-inspired images are coming from.

I did live in Japan for a year (part of it in a Japanese house on a hill in Kamakura), but I was thirteen and clueless. (Not that I am clued-in now, I hasten to add.)

But there's just something about old papers, ink, rips and tears, simplicity of design that draws me in.

Sayonara for now . . .

©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

International Programmers' Day!

Thank a geek today! A vintage typewriter and a sweep of binary code grace this faux postcard/stamp. January 7 is the unofficial date. September 13 (or the 12th in Leap Years) is the official date. Bonus! A holiday we can celebrate twice a year! ©Carol Leigh

Monday, January 6, 2014

Latest work: "Crossing Indigo"

I created this piece using vintage Japanese papers, silk, paint, and ink. I love the long, thin, pointy element as well as the worn and aged feel the indigo colors create.

Special thanks to Kathleen A., who sent me the very cool inked paper that you see in the background. Most appreciated!

©Carol Leigh

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It's National Bird Day . . .

. . . how will you celebrate? ©Carol Leigh

Friday, January 3, 2014

Latest work: "Same River Three Times"

I made this photomontage using a variety of torn papers, rust-stained paper, linen fabric, and rusty muslin. The wide black circles are coffee cup rings I created (which is why they're so thick — I'm not THAT sloppy a drinker!) and then photographed. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. — Edgar Degas

Car taillight. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Day one . . .

I wrote at least a thousand words a day every day from the age of twelve on.
—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

This is the book I'm reading right now and I'm attempting to apply his words to my world of photography. Photography and creativity. And here's what I think: If Ray Bradbury can write at least a thousand words a day, can we all not take at least ONE decent photo per day?

Let's face it. It's never been easier to photograph than it is today. We've got cameras in our iPads, our cellphones, in the little point-and-shoots we carry around, up to full-frame digital SLRs. We all have cameras of some sort.

And it's never been easier to acquire how-to information. When I first began in photography back in the late 1970s (sound of rocking chair creaking), my options were to teach myself, join a photo club, and/or take classes/workshops. I opted to teach myself, finding and reading books and magazines, looking at photos I thought were good and trying to figure out why they were good.

Fast-forward to today, and yes, we've still got classes/workshops to take, books and magazines, but we've also got huge amounts of information online in the form of online classes, eBooks, video tutorials, camera clubs, photography forums, and so much more. It's almost overwhelming, at least it is to me.

So why aren't we all taking the most incredible photos all the time? Why do some of us still not know how to work our cameras or use our software? Why don't our photos look like some of the extraordinary work we see online or in galleries?

The quote above, from Ray Bradbury, is applicable to us as photographers in two ways. First, he wrote every day since he was twelve? Yet it wasn't until he was 24 (or so) that he wrote a story that he knew was really good, was unique to him, which reflected his true voice. It took him twelve years of writing to get to the point where he felt he was becoming a pretty decent writer.

But what really struck home was that he practiced his "art" every day from the age of twelve. If our art is photography, how much time have we really put into it? Are we shooting every day?

Well, today's the day to ask ourselves, why aren't we? We've got cameras, magazines, books, and the power of the Internet to make us excellent photographers. What we need to do is photograph every day.

Shortly after I got my first digital SLR, I challenged myself to take one decent photo every day. Yes, it was a pain in the butt, but nothing I've ever done has pushed me so much toward becoming a good photographer.

This daily challenge required that I think photography all the time. Could that be my daily photo? Or that over there? Panic, too, was a good motivator: Oh, no! I've not shot my photo today and it's 8:00 in the evening! I began looking through kitchen cupboards, chasing the cat around the house, rolling towels oh-so-artfully, anything to fill my frame so I could complete my daily assignment. Panic leads to creativity, big time.

I shot daily for more than a year, and I posted my daily pictures online. Why? Posting my photos kept me sort of accountable to whoever might be following what I was doing. I didn't want to disappoint all seven of those people! And my photography is much, much better as a result.

Why didn't I continue? Why not continue on, year after year, shooting and posting daily photos? Because photography and I are sort of wrapped around one another anyway; I don't need the daily pressure to think about photography, to experiment with photography -- I do it all the time anyway, no worries.

But if you haven't given yourself the daily burden/opportunity of shooting a decent photograph every day, your photography runs the risk of stalling out, of your not paying attention to the things you see in your daily life, and you'll get out of practice, you'll get rusty, and your photography will suffer.

It's a very old joke, the one "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice, practice, practice." The same holds true with photographers, with writers, with musicians, with painters. To improve your art, DO IT. Do it daily. Do it in public. And maybe, twelve years from now, like Ray Bradbury, you'll be looking at your work and quietly nodding to yourself thinking yes, these photos are good. Damn good!

Happy New Year, everybody. Wishing you a happy and creative 2014.

©Carol Leigh