Never Prepared

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There are things in this life that you can simply never be prepared for.  One of them is a phone call from your child that starts with “Mom, are you sitting down?”  Instinctively your stomach knots as you wait for the next words.  “I’m in a hospital in ICU.  I’ve had two strokes.”  My daughter said my response was “No.  That can’t happen.  That can’t happen.”  I don’t remember saying those words, or even all of the conversation that followed, but I do remember shaking uncontrollably for the better part of the next hour.  I had to rouse my husband from sleep and tell him what had just happened, and quickly prepare to fly out of town.  You see, I am in Texas and my daughter (my only child), is 1,000 miles away in Minnesota.  And yes, it’s just too far from home!

The last several weeks have been a blur of hospitals, doctors, nurses, insurance paperwork and appointments, and trying to assist my daughter after she was released from the hospital.  And I was dealing with extreme temperature changes (below zero most days), and learning to drive in the snow and ice.  The very GOOD NEWS is that my daughter doesn’t seem to have any lasting effects from her two mild strokes.  Still, as she is only 29 years of age without other risk factors, the neurologist is puzzled as to exactly what caused them.  The determination is arterial dissection with stroke. and she will be on blood thinner medication, which requires close monitoring,  for at lest the next 3-6 months. These medications also require dietary changes.

I have been home now for one week.  My daughter will be going back to work next week, which is also good news since she had just graduated from the University of Minnesota and started a new job.  I have a deep faith and believe in the power of prayer, and can honestly say that we have found many blessings in this trial.  For one, I have to say that all the staff at the Fairview Southdale Hospital where my daughter was treated, and all the other medical and insurance personnel we worked with were simply amazing!  I can honestly say that I think she received the very highest level of care possible.  To the folks of Minneapolis and Edina, you have a piece of my heart.

“Though they are grown and flown
Never does a day pass
without the same worry
how are they, where are they
though they may be grown
In your eyes the child never ends nor should it”

Bill Mitton

 

Photography for Etsy

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I have been asked before about how I take photos for my Etsy product listings, so I thought I would take you through my process step-by-step.  One of the things that makes Etsy such a great community is the willingness of sellers there to help each other out!  Hopefully you will find some useful information within this post/video, even if you are not on Etsy.  Also be sure to do a search in the Etsy Seller Handbook for some super photography tips, and if you are into photography via your smart phone, my friend at “We Live in a Flat” has some fantastic phone app tutorials!

To start, I use my Sony Nex C-3 digital camera, along with Photoshop (older vs CS2) for my product listing photos.  Although I definitely love my iPhone with it’s apps, I find I get the best detail work from my Sony camera.  One of the best things I did after getting my digital camera/Photoshop was buy a couple of good photography books.  My favorite is “Photoshop CS4 Workflow” by Tim Grey.  Although it was for a newer version of Photoshop, it taught me the basics about keeping my photos organized and saved for later use.  After reading this book a couple of times, I developed a quick “cheat sheet” for editing/saving my photos.  Although I no longer need that list, it was indispensable when I first set up my Etsy shop!

Here are the steps I use when creating my Etsy product listings, with a video of the full process.  With photographing pets I will say that I always take photos with good daylight (windows at my back) and never, ever use flash.  I take most photos on my bedspread because it is an off-white matelasse fabric which gives a nice white background to start.  Taking photos when pets are most cooperative (i.e. not too close to dinner time) is also a good idea!  And be sure to take LOTS of photos; you can always discard the ones you don’t want to keep.

1.  Make a copy of chosen original photo and move to my desktop (this way my true original is always intact).

2. Open File>Save As, and rename photo “Master [Photo Name].”, then save to Photoshop (psd) format.  Notice that photo is renamed in top left-hand corner.

3.  Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels.  Click ok to leave layer settings as is.  Using the little triangles on the graph adjust by dragging triangles to “match” graph, and click ok.  In this case I needed to pull the small right-hand triangle in toward center of the graph, which made the photo much lighter.  This small step will do WONDERS for most photographs, which are usually too dark.

4.  Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Brightness/Contrast, click ok for layer settings, and adjust to your liking.  I usually increase the contrast and brighten the photo slightly more.  Just be sure the photo doesn’t get washed out.

5.  Repeat Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer with Hue/Saturation and Color Balance to your liking.  Increasing the yellow slightly in the Color Balance section will warm up your photos if you think they are too “blue”.  In more recent versions of Photoshop I believe you can do all these adjustments via bar sliders on your screen, but this is how I have to do it with my older Photoshop version.

6.  Now within my Layers Panel I click the icon to ‘Create a New Layer’.  Rename this layer “Dodge”.  From the left hand Tool box select “Brush Tool”.  Leave the brush settings as is, with Normal mode and 100% Opacity.  From the color picker change the color to White.  You will use your computer keyboard bracket symbols to increase and decrease the size of the brush tool.  What you are going to do now is white out any unnecessary background in your photo, which will give a very polished, professional look to your listings.

7.  I complete a quick overview of the photo for any small corrections needed.  With the Background layer highlighted, select the clone stamp tool from the tools menu, then hit ‘Alt’ on your keyboard and click your mouse once in the area you want to copy the pixels from, then click once with the mouse to the area you want to paste pixels into.  Repeat as needed.

8.  Do a final save on your fully edited Photoshop master, then go to Image>Duplicate to duplicate the image.

9.  Crop the image to 850 px wide by 550 px tall (160 resolution) for Etsy (cropping as you choose), then go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask and sharpen about 100%.  Leave “Preview” checked to see your changes.

10.  Save for Web, noting the image size in bottom left-hand corner of your screen (try to keep at 100 K or smaller).  Change name of file to “Final [Photo Name]”.  Image will be saved as a JPEG.  It is this cropped/sharpened image that will be used on your Etsy listing.  Your original Master photo will remain intact with Photoshop edits in case you want to crop to a different size/resolution later, for example if you want to produce your photo as a print.

Hope this helps and if you have questions, please ask in comments!

Mr. Tyler

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While I’m normally not one for a self-portrait, I captured this photo of Tyler and myself on my i-Phone while relaxing in bed on Sunday morning.  Application of a dry brush filter in Photoshop, some selective cropping, and this was the final result.  The block of white was the sunlight streaming through the skylight and onto my t-shirt.  I do love the artistic effect.  And oh how I do LOVE my Mr. Tyler!

UT Campus

 

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UT Tower

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Live Oak Trees

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Looking Towards the State Capital

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Red Bird of Paradise Flowers

Just thought I would share part of my world with you today.  Like many who sell on Etsy, I still have a day job.  In my case, I work mornings for the University of Texas in Austin.  Here are some quick photos I snapped while on a stroll about the grounds last Thursday morning.  I don’t think I’ve ever been on a college campus that wasn’t beautiful, as is certainly the case here!  And yeah, you bet I watch UT Longhorns football (often while sewing).  Hook ’em!

Cat Art

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Faux Lichtenstein Effect

Inspired by the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), this technique is called faux lichtenstein.  While not carefully painted on to the canvas by hand, these thousands of tiny dots give the same effect as the artist’s original paintings.  Roy taught art and drawing most of his life, and was particularly well-known for his comic strips, advertising, and graphic arts – mixing his fine art studies with commercial art.

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Original Photograph

This piece started with an original photograph of my kitty Tyler, and was refined in Photoshop to give the faux lichtenstein effect.  Modern and compelling, the effect gives a very unique look.  It won’t be for everyone, but does demonstrate the range of possibilities with Photoshop.

What do you think?