Night Sky Silhouette & Reflection

Adobe recently, and finally, released a new version of Fresco that I can now use on my laptop. Until now, it had only been available on iPad, which was hugely disappointing because it looked like an amazing hybrid tool that allows both pixel and vector based drawing.

Since I’ve gotten it, I’ve been playing around trying to understand all the various tools and brushes and familiarize myself with how it all works, what I can and can’t do. I do love it, though it has a few somewhat ugly limitations (no real blending/smudging tool). It had a lot of the features that I loved in the Adobe Sketch app I have on my tablet, so I played in there as well for comparison.

I was messing around and ended up with the start of something I really liked in Sketch, but I bumped into some of it’s limitations (or even more likely, my own lack of understanding and limitations). I really wanted to add a certain feature I couldn’t in there so, I decided to see how well I could move that piece to another program and do what I knew another program could.

By the time I was done, this had made it from Sketch into Fresco and finished out in Photoshop. It took a bit to figure out how to get it where I needed it, but now that I know, I’m so excited to play more.

For something that just started out as me messing around and attempting to learn, I’m extraordinarily pleased with how this turned out. Even more so when I uploaded it to my Redbubble shop to see if it would work on any of the products and realized that it looks amazing on pretty much everything.

I have a few tweaks I’ll need to make before I can get a couple of those products active, but it is available for most.

Night Sky Drawstring Bag
Night Sky Drawstring Bag

Graduation: Bittersweet End

Last night was MC’s graduation ceremony.

It occurred without this family, including MC himself, in attendance.

I am proud of his decision to not walk, because that decision was based on facts and looking to the future when he has to go off to college and he didn’t want anything to stand in the way of his being able to do that.

For MC, being able to be on campus as required, taking advantage of his scholarships in the process, was more important to him than that big moment, that event. He wasn’t willing to risk his ability to start college and for that I cannot be more proud of him.

At the same time, I’m so sad.

I thought I was fine with it all emotionally. I had no problems at all when he started getting texts from one of his friends that did attend with the latest updates on the event. Mostly updates that just confirmed for MC that he made the right choice (because yes, even though they said masks required, people didn’t wear them, even to hand out the diplomas).

Then I saw the pictures the school posted on their FB page and some of the quotes from the speakers.

It knocked the breath from my lungs seeing the evidence and having the realization that this incredibly important moment is now officially final. There were so many “He’s done! But… ” moments along the way. The last official day of school. The last AP test that happened after that last official day, getting those scores (he aced it, of course) and several other things that kept dragging the whole end of high school out just a little bit more.

He ran by the school the other day and picked up his diploma. It will be the last time he sets foot in that school unless he goes for something of BG’s. There are no more tests. No more grades to wait for.

No special recognition for graduating summa cum laude. No moment of cheering when his name is called or as he walks across the stage.

I’m incredibly sad that I don’t get that moment and that his incredible high school career ended without any kind of fanfare.

Instead, I have all these smaller, more personal moments with him. Our amazingly fun photo session of him in his cap and gown. The one and only time I will get to see him in it. His “last day of school” movie night that he wanted as his celebration. Just Hubby, BG, MC and me. And all of our smaller celebrations along the way of all those accomplishments he worked so hard to achieve.

Instead I get to hear him say that the only recognition he needs for those accomplishments, he’s already gotten in the form of his scholarships. I get to see my son making these incredibly tough, but thoughtful, grown up decisions. Decisions that show the incredible kind of man his is already well on his way to becoming.

As of last night, while we sat at home and listened to him relay the information being texted to him from his friend, my son quietly graduated from high school. I am sad and grieving a bit for those lost moments, but I am more proud than I am sad because I have a phenomenal son.

I’m going to have my sad moment before I suck it up and move on. At least for the next couple of weeks before I’m a mess again after move in day and he becomes a college student instead of just a high school graduate.

TJ Fox On Redbubble: Photo/Art Prints And Fun Products

One of my most recent and ongoing projects has been setting up a Redbubble store. The goal was to have a place to offer prints of many of the photos I post here, but there are so many other cool things you can get from them as well.

This is ongoing because I still have a ton of photos to get modified and uploaded, but I’ve gotten a small start. You can now find prints and more in the TJ Fox Redbubble Store. I plan to get some art and design style pieces mixed in along with the photos as well (only a couple at the moment), but those are going to take just a bit longer.

So yes, you can get photo prints in all the typical shapes, sizes and formats: art prints, framed prints, canvas, cards, etc. But you can also get other fun stuff as well.

And these are just a tiny sampling. There are SO many more items.

Oh and masks! Did you see the fun masks?!

Funky Flowers On Green Mask
Funky Flowers On Green Mask

Even though I ended up with all the trials and mistakes on the masks I made for everyone else and I already have a good size stash, I know I’m going to still have to get a couple of these. I love the fact that I can wear my personality and my art in such a way.

I think that was part of my issue with Fine Art America when I tried them. While they offered a lot of fun stuff, there weren’t a lot of things I’d actually want myself. I’m not finding that an issue on Redbubble, which is probably unfortunate.

There are even puzzles!! And yes, I’m evil enough to make that repeating pattern from the mask above into a puzzle.

End of an Iris Puzzle
End of an Iris Puzzle

And if there is ever something I’ve posted here on my blog that you’d like to see in the store and isn’t, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll do what I can to get it out there for you. I do currently have a long list of images I intend to upload, but I’ll bump any requests to the top of my to do list.

I’d also be willing to discuss any custom art or art for a specific product if you like the idea of something but aren’t finding a design or image you love.

Please take a few minutes to go browse all the other awesomeness that’s in the shop. Feel free to brag about that awesomeness to others and share the link until someone yells at you for spamming (or not, don’t want you to get into trouble).

All the love that is spread is greatly appreciated!

NEOWISE And The Big Dipper

I honestly have no clue how well this image will show. If possible, click on it to make it bigger (or whatever to get it to fit in your screen as you need to see it all at once).

I created this image from a photo I took while I was doing comet watch. The night BG went out with me, she asked if it was possible to get the big dipper and the comet in the same shot because she wanted it for the background on her phone. While it was easy enough to frame them together, getting everything else right to get her what she was looking for really wasn’t easy at all.

Along with most of the typical difficulties I had in trying to get a clean shot of the comet, fuzziness and streaky stars and correct exposure with the urban light pollution,  I had to try and get ALL of the elements she wanted working together at the same time.

She really wanted to be able to clearly see both the comet and the big dipper, but she also wanted enough other stars to be seen, but not so many that you lost the big dipper.

It seemed like no matter how I processed it in photoshop, there was always at least one aspect that didn’t work. Too many stars. Not enough stars. A loss of the comet tail. A brightness fade from a corner of the shot because of ambient lighting on the horizon. I would get one aspect the way I really liked it and another one would be way off. I got her a version that worked okay, but she didn’t absolutely love. Still, it was close enough so I called it good.

Then I spent umpteen hours playing with learning how to photo stack, working on edits for MC’s senior pictures and learning how to fix a couple of issues (glare on glasses lenses is an absolute bear if it is bad enough or in the wrong spot). In the process, I figured a few things out that I thought might make a difference on BG’s photo.

So I dug in and played.

Multiple layers, hours and various techniques later, I have pretty much exactly what she asked for. It isn’t perfect by a long shot and is pretty much only really good for what BG wanted to use it as, but I’m exceptionally pleased with it.

The image is very much still a photo. All I really did was play with the kinds of techniques you might see in a darkroom for film/print processing. Mostly.

Now if I could just figure out how to make the stars and comet just a bit bigger and noticeable, It’d be near perfect for what I really wanted out of this one. As it is, I still managed to get damn close.

*In case you can’t click the first image…

NEOWISE & The Big Dipper
NEOWISE & The Big Dipper

Elongation

I spent the majority of my day yesterday going through the 150+ photos I took of MC and making necessary edits. I’m still not quite ready to send them off for prints as I still have to go through them and decide which ones I’m getting for his final “package” of senior photos. I’m hoping to get that done today and crossed off my project list so I can start on getting a few others marked off as well.

I had played around with another project before I did his photo shoot. It’s started, but I still have a whole lot I want to get done, sooner rather than later, so that’s next up on my list.

Sadly, or maybe not, that project list is ever evolving and growing as it is my creative project list more than anything. I think I’ve taken it a bit to the extreme as I’ve set up an MS Excel workbook to keep track of it all. I have a sheet in there for my list and then additional sheets for the bigger, more detailed projects and all the ideas and pieces that go along with it.

It is kind of a hilarious example of how incredibly organized I can get and how utterly contradictory I can be at the exact same time because so many other things in my life are the antithesis of organized. Organized chaos is really the theme for my life.

Reconciling Choices

It is nearly impossible to be a parent of school age children, even those in college, and not be dealing with all the tough choices and situations facing us right now with back to school looming.

I thought that everything was made easier for me when BG’s school district allowed for an online only option for students. I was relieved. I wasn’t being forced into a position where the only option was to send her to an in person classroom environment or to try and figure out an alternative on my own.

Sadly, it really isn’t that easy.

There is a chance, potentially a big chance, that by going the online only route, some of BG’s higher level classes won’t be available to her and she will be forced to take other classes. I seriously doubt there are going to be many options to work her classes in a way that would meet her high school goals if those aren’t available. It was hard enough to make her schedule work in normal years and this is so far from normal.

Then add in the fact that she was supposed to be a part of the mentoring program this year, something that I don’t know if she can still be a part of if she is going the online route. We still haven’t heard anything on that front yet.

Another stressor, at least for me, is dance. It was such a relief to get past recital and feel like we were finally done with it, but we aren’t. Enrollment starts soon and dance isn’t being offered online at this point. It is in person only. This is not a required activity, but it is BG’s only real social interaction and where her group of friends exist rather than at school.

This is problematic on many levels. I’ve already seen the lax attitude towards some safety guidelines, especially surrounding masks. That gets amplified because the studio isn’t just attended by students from a single school or even district. If I had to count the districts and schools I’m already aware of (and I know I don’t know them all), there are at least 4 different districts and possibly upwards of at least 6 individual schools represented just in BG’s main class alone. That doesn’t even begin to account for all the lower level grade schools for the classes she assists.

Deciding how she is going to move forward with both school and dance is such a struggle for me as a parent. There are so many factors involved and things to consider. Seeing experts saying that the virus is airborne but not seeing practices and policies that fit that reality makes it even harder to make those decisions.

I say all of this as a parent, but I cannot imagine being in the position of a teacher at this point. As a parent, I’m only trying to make decisions that protect my children and in turn the rest of our family to the best of my ability. Teachers are being asked to make so many, even more complex decisions.

Go to work and potentially bring home the virus to your own children and family or even take it to work and spread it to your students. Or just as awful an option, do what you may feel is right to protect your own family from the virus and not work, but then not have the money to protect them in other ways.

I saw something written by a teacher (sorry, I don’t have the link for that one) where they said they were not only expected to take a bullet for their students, but were now being asked to bring that bullet home and aim it at their families.

Our teachers are already tasked with so many roles outside of just being an educator, but we continually ask them to take on more and more roles. It seems that each one is just more difficult, even more dangerous, than the last. This situation just shines a neon spotlight on that fact.

As a parent, you have to think about all of those aspects and filter them down into something you can work with to make the right choices for you children, but there isn’t a lot of consistent information to help you filter it down.

And in the middle of trying to filter all of that, I hear how a friend of MC went to a graduation party where someone had later tested positive. Said friend had also had a test done, but only because their boss required it (they work in a restaurant) and even then this person was still going about their day as if nothing had happened, interacting with people all before they even got the results back from their test.

This is followed shortly after by finding out that a coworker of Hubby’s (they are all still on a work from home mandate, thankfully!!) has been in quarantine for almost 2 weeks because his kids’ daycare was shutdown after an outbreak. Let me repeat that. A place specifically for young children was shut down because of an outbreak.

But we are STILL trying to force in person classes. What are parents and teachers supposed to do with all that information when none of it fits together in any kind of rational manner?!

One of the most driving forces in being a parent is to protect our children to the best of our ability. Right now, it feels like we are being forced to do the exact opposite.

I am grateful that BG will be able to do her classes online, at least for her first semester. I hate that she may not be able to get the classes she really wants because of that, but in the balance of things, I’ll take that little loss. I have a lot of thinking to do about dance because that is a very different beast, one that falls squarely in the mental wellness category for her.

I am also being forced to consider asking MC to not come home from college as he wants in an effort to keep everyone safe. How do you tell your child who is leaving to go to college for the first time to not come home when you live 20 minutes away? All because The Powers That BE demanded he live on campus and attend some in person classes.

To say that there is a whole lot of frustration and anger tied up in this is the understatement of the century.

 

 

Overboard?

What started out as a plan to get some good shots of MC in his cap and gown, especially now that he isn’t going to participate in the actual ceremony, turned into a multi-hour, full blown senior portrait session.

Oops!

Or not.

I now have dozens of some of the best photos of MC ever taken. I’m just absolutely blown away at how stunning these turned out.

It was also the first time I’d ever attempted a full on portrait session like this with lighting and backdrop and everything. I caved and got the set up because I found I could get these pieces for relatively cheap in comparison to the cost of a session with a professional photographer. I also figured I’d find ways to make use of it all over the years.

It was worth every single dime I spent on it.

Unfortunately, that means I now have to go through all those amazing photos and narrow it down to the few I want to get printed to put in an album for MC. Talk about trying to accomplish the impossible.

*ETA… While I won’t share a photo of MC, I can share this cropped image of him holding our cat Cleo who decided to investigate what was going on.

Our Cleo Kitty
Our Cleo Kitty

Rainy Day

It’s a rainy, dreary day today making it difficult to get motivated to work on much. At least I’m moving mostly pain free today, so that is definitely a win.

I might just have to take advantage of the overcast day and work on getting the only cap and gown photos I’m going to get from MC. I only have a couple of weeks left to get them before he moves into his dorm.

Yesterday he spent the day cleaning the hell out of his spaces, including the bathroom. I think he is in a college version of nesting mode. Is that even a thing?

With so many things feeling so unreal, the concept that he is actually going to be moving out of the house really hasn’t felt that real. It is starting to hit now, though. Between his impromptu cleaning session and the lists and purchases we’ve been doing to get him ready, there is no way to not have it feel real.

I guess I was still mostly expecting the school to not force him to live in a dorm. At least for this first semester.

It is all so very weird. Having a kid going off to college for the first time is bad enough. To have it happening with everything else, it is incredibly difficult to get my brain to work it all out.

What’s even more odd is knowing that he will only be doing this for one year. He fully intends to move back home after his required year on campus so he can save money. My brain knows this is temporary, so it keeps putting it into a category similar to an overnight stay at a friend’s or something.

Granted, that is still a year away and there is so much that could change his thoughts on that, especially if MCG’s plans for college drift this direction. What she decides to do will have a big impact on what he decides to do and when.

None of that helps my brain to put any of this into any kind of definite, reality based plan.

See, I’ve always had this thing. It’s kind of a little quirk I guess. I tend to visualize how things will potentially play out in future situations. Almost always, if I haven’t been able to visualize something, it never ends up happening. I struggled for the last couple of years being able to visualize MC walking at graduation, but have never had an issue visualizing BG doing the same (and yes, that kind of terrified me) and MC isn’t walking at graduation by choice.

Now, I’m really struggling to visualize this set of future events. I think that is part of why my brain refuses to make this all feel more real. I keep expecting to turn into an emotional mess, but so far I’m good. I can only hope it stays that way. I’m certain it will all hit eventually and I’ll be a sobbing, blubbery disaster when it does.

Pale Pink Rose Of Sharon

This one is not one of the best of the bunch, but still pretty. There may be a few of those for the next several days thanks to my seemingly epic talent of managing to hurt myself while essentially sitting still.

I still don’t know what exactly is off, but I’ve done something that makes pretty much all movement and non-movement painful. Even breathing. Breathing is painful. How did I pull off this miraculous feat?

By sitting at my sewing machine.

That’s it. No weird movement. No falling out of my chair. Just sitting. Bent over my machine working on more masks. It takes some serious skills to pull that off, ya know!

I had a slightly sore back after sitting and making those nearly 60 dance masks over a couple day period, a longer time period than I’ve done the last several days, but that is all it was. Just a little sore and achy. I do 12 for MC, pretty much the exact same thing I did before, and I manage to mess something up so bad that any movement and even just sitting still if I’m not in the exact right position makes me want to cry.

I honestly cannot figure out why or what I did so I’m just going with the fact that I have discovered an amazing new talent. The kind of amazing no one wants any part of, but… hey! It’s AMAZING!

I’d offer to spread that amazing by sharing it with you so you could experience being amazing too, but I’m not that mean. Or would that be selfish if I don’t want to share?

See what happens when I’m running on no sleep? All the stupid starts to just slip out.

But, hey! MC has masks to take to campus when he moves!

Another Stack Attempt

This one came out infinitely better than my original attempt. It still isn’t perfect, but it is a whole lot cleaner than the first one.

There are so many pieces to doing one of these well, as I’m learning. If you have all those pieces done correctly, then it is a somewhat simple process. If you don’t, you can end up with some odd gaps in your finished image that don’t fit or blend into the rest.

One of the most critical that I’ve run across so far is having a solidly stable tripod and a really still day. Any movement can really mess this up.

Unfortunately, I’ve also discovered that I don’t have a very stable tripod. It has this slight play and wiggle range that any bump at all shifts my camera just enough to throw things out of alignment.

I was still able to work with it, but guess what just went on my “camera goodies” wish list near the top of the priority order?

 

First Focus Stack Attempt

Something that I’ve seen and have been wanting to try lately is focus stacking. This is essentially when you have multiple photos taken with each having a different focal point and then blending those images into one to give you a photo that allows a viewer to see a photo much like they would experience looking at the actual object or scene because our eyes automatically focus on multiple points.

Focus stacking is something that is often done in macro photography because there is such a small focal range. It is used in a lot of different areas as well, but it is the application in macro photography that caught my attention.

Peach Daylily
Peach Daylily

The image above is straight out of the camera and you can see that a very small portion of the image is crisply in focus while the rest is either soft or really blurry. It has long be a frustration of mine that I struggle to get the pieces of a subject in focus the way I expect them to.

While I’m still very much a purist when it comes to photography and normally prefer my images to stand on their own right out of the camera, there are times when a little manipulation (or a lot depending on what you are wanting) can still be exciting. Especially if your goal is to showcase a lot of detail or an artistic twist.

This attempt was mostly just to see if I could even pull it off and to find out how difficult it is. It is quick and dirty and not completely clean as there are areas that stick out as not really fitting with the rest of the image. I’m still really impressed with how it all works and that I managed to get it to turn out even that good.

It is a fun concept that I’d like to try and play with again in the future. Especially for the macro aspects, but also because that process and concept is what the majority of astrophotographers use to get those stunning star and comet images. And yes, I have a batch of comet photos I fully intend to test this out on.

Even with all the imperfections, I’m pleased with how it came out. It was fun to play with and I learned quite a bit. Enough to build on anyway.