TYiP: This YEAR in Pictures!

Merry 31/31

I’ll bet you panicked a little when you saw that post title. Oh no! Is she going to put 365 images in this post??

Don’t worry. Even I wouldn’t put that many pictures in a single post. Not technically, anyway. No, I just thought I would share a little bit about 2014’s Project 365 and my thoughts on starting another one in 2015.

As you may know, if you read my weekly TWiP posts, I did something a little different with 365 this year. This was my sixth year-long photo project, and I decided to shake things up a bit by focusing on a different theme each month.

This was an interesting experience for me. Some months dragged on and on (August:soul). Some months were super easy and definitely in my comfort zone (May:mornings), while others really made me stretch (November:monochrome). There were months with specific prompts (January:winter, July:summer, August:soul) and months where the theme was so loose, it was practically not a theme at all.

I enjoyed digging deeper into particular techniques, styles, and themes for a month at a time. And still, I have to admit I am glad to be finished following a script, however loose a script it may have been at times.

For 2014, at the beginning of each month, I whipped up a little inspiration graphic, and then at month’s end, I made a little calendar of images from that month.

Would you like to see them?


January: winter ←(see all of the images from this month on Flickr)


February: love


March: square


April: spring


May: morning


June: details


July: summer


August: soul


September: mugs


October: fall


November: monochrome


December: merry

Whew! Looking back at the months like this is fun for me, and I am so glad I took the time to make these mosaics every 30 days or so!

For 2015 I am going back to doing a year-in-the-life kind of 365 Project. I’ll probably take most of my shots in the morning, since that’s my favorite time to do it. And I will try to incorporate as much of the slice-of-life, this-is-what-my-day-is-about-today kind of shots as humanly possible. That, actually, is one of the things I missed during the months with the more specific prompts. I like my 365 to be a snapshot of my day-to-day, and sometimes it’s hard to see where a prompt like “juicy fruit” has anything to do with my life, unless I happen to be eating a lot of fruit that particular day.

Anyway, I guess after a year of telling myself what to do, I am looking very much forward to a year of anything goes.

How about you? Are you thinking about doing a photo project this year? Are you a theme-follower, or a just-let-me-do-my-thing kind of photographer? Or are you a complete newbie who doesn’t yet know what kind of photographer she is?

One last thing – let me offer a word of encouragement. Like I said, 2015 will mark the seventh year that I am undertaking a daily photo project. When I started this, I was (let me be frank) not particularly good with the camera. I had an unassuming little point-and-shoot, and I wasn’t all that well-versed in how to make it sing. But the daily practice really helped. I was able to see a clear improvement between day 1 and day 366. (It was a leap year)

Not only did Project 365 improve my technical skills, but it improved my noticing skills. There is something to be said for being more in-tune with the little beauties present in your everyday life!

I wish you a Happy New Year! Thanks so much for hanging out with me here ♥

And if there is any advice I can give you on undertaking Project 365 for 2015, just ask!

Have a Cup of Cheer

Cup of Cheer

Cup of Cheer

Hey there. So, I’ve been wanting to branch out into cards for a while, and today I am happy to be dipping a toe in the water.

These particular folded note cards feature my “cup of cheer” photo on the front and are printed on heavy glossy stock. Each card comes with an envelope, too.

I am also offering a more “premium” version of this design and some others. They will be printed on really nice stock and will feature a satin finish on just the outside. These, too, will come with envelopes but they will be a little bit more pricey due to the fancy printing.

So you will have options :-)

Cup of Cheer

Cup of Cheer

Cup of Cheer

Both types of cards are blank inside and have my logo on the back. I will wrap them up nicely for you and ship them in a rigid envelope to keep them safe.

The fancy schmancy pen is not included, but I do know where you can get one ;-)

Cup of Cheer

You can buy a card individually, or you can get the glossy ones in a discounted set of five of the same image. The satin cards will also allow you to get a discount on five, and they can be five different images of your choosing.

For the moment, the glossy Cup of Cheer is the only design available, but you can pre-order the others and I should have them in stock soon.

And here’s a nice little perk: everyone who has placed a custom order in the last week is getting one glossy card for free! I’ll slip it in with your crochet hooks and such.

Speaking of crochet hooks, I know I said I would close the shop for custom orders yesterday, but I decided to keep it going until this weekend (assuming I don’t hit my max number of orders before then). Any new custom orders will also get a free glossy greeting card.

If these sell well, I plan to add many more styles to the shop: flowers in spring, beachy shots for the summer, Autumn leaves, and oh! crafty images, too – things of interest to knitters, crocheters, clayers, sewists, etc. I have a bunch of ideas, and I just hope that there are people out there who want this kind of thing. Maybe you?

Thanks, as always, for your support, and I’d love to know your thoughts on my new note card venture! Any special requests?

Thinking outside of the lawn

A few years ago, while ordering business cards and signage for his Clarkesworld booth before a science fiction convention, Neil had the idea to put one of his posters on a lawn sign.

He had no intention of displaying it on the front lawn. Rather, the rigid design made it perfect for propping up in his display, wherever he might like it.

31 clarkesworld 01

As it turns out, it was a fantastic idea. Between conventions the signs were not in use, so we started decorating with them. This led me to wonder how they’d look with a photograph printed on them.

20 magnets 06
I experimented with one of my favorite family photos from Ocean City, and it was really perfect.

After I while I forgot all about the lawn sign thing, but recently I’ve been struck by a desire to see how some of my photography transitions from the computer screen to a large print. I rarely print my images at all, let alone at 12″x18″.

C+N's Birthday

I was getting bored with my kitchen decor, so I decided to print a couple of kitchen lawn signs. They’re held up with masking tape. We’re high-tech over here.

And then for kicks, I ordered one of the larger sizes (18″x27″) for use in the family room. With these signs, I had the epiphany to try double-sided printing: twice the fun!

C+N's Birthday

The downside to using lawn signs to display art is that they have a corrugated texture to them. That, however, is not a deal-breaker for me. I love having large, rigid, double-sided prints of some of my favorite photos, and I love how I can do it without breaking the bank. A little bit of texture seems a small price to pay.

I’ve been thinking about how easy these signs make seasonal decorating, and I just ordered a new sign: Autumn on one side, Christmas on the other. These are the images I used:

Fall 12/31

29 cup full of love

We order our lawn signs from Vistaprint. The large ones are currently $20 (or $23 for double-sided printing) but they are constantly running sales. If you like this idea, and think you might want to print some of your own lawn signs, I’d love it if you used my affiliate link: Click here.

I just noticed when you click that link they offer you $10 off your first order. I don’t know if that’s a forever deal, but it works as of this writing!

(This is not a sponsored post, BTW. I just happen to enjoy the lawn signs I have purchased over the years, and I thought you might like the idea, too. Feel free to order lawn signs elsewhere, if you prefer!)

I’m having a lot of fun with these. They are relatively inexpensive (ever priced canvas prints? Or framing? Yikes!) and I can switch them around on a whim. Plus, someday I probably will spring for a fancy print, and it’s nice to have a cheap-ish way to try out different images before committing.

And now for something a little different

New photo backdrops
You all know that I like to make things, right? And most of the things I make are small or wearable. I’m cool with things that require tiny precise work, like stitching or polymer clay millefiori. But start talking about Big stuff, like lumber, paint, wood stain, and power tools and you’ve lost me.

My mother, on the other hand, is right at home with that stuff. While my house has barely changed in the decade and a half I’ve lived here, my childhood home barely resembles its former self for all of my mother’s demolition and construction projects over 36 years.

I have a Dremel tool in the basement that I am afraid to touch. Mom asks for power tools for Christmas.

Have I painted a picture for you yet? We’re both creative, but our talents lie on opposite ends of the crafty spectrum.

This is handy, though, when Mom wants a crocheted table runner, or I have a sudden inspiration that requires distressing some lumber. I don’t have sudden inspirations like that very often, but I actually had one last week. And today Mom and I made it happen.

My favorite spot to take pictures in my house is on top of a built-in cabinet in the dining room. The light pouring in the window there is just perfect for my photography needs. But I’ve been disappointed over the years that the surface of the cabinet wasn’t more interesting (it’s painted white). I needed something I could put on top of the cabinet that would mimic a table top with interesting color and texture.

As it turns out, my parents’ garage is full of chunks of wood that came from various sources (a basement wall, a kitchen remodel, an old shelf…) and we were able to look through those and find three pieces that would do nicely.

New photo backdrops

The first was already painted that vintagey minty aqua color that I love so much. All we did to that one was run some sandpaper over it to strip off a small amount of the paint and let some of the white underneath show through.

New photo backdrops

New photo backdrops

New photo backdrops

29 crafty 33 for upload

29 crafty 31 for upload

The next one had some interesting wood grain, and when I sanded it (I used a power tool! go me!) the surface lightened considerably and the grain showed even better.

We mixed up some glaze and some acrylic paint in a light teal, painted it onto the wood, and then wiped it off with a rag. We finished it off with a coat of wax for a subtle shine.

It is actually two-sided. Both sides started the same, but the one that was more beat up also got a second coat of paint on top, a bit darker and blue-er.

New photo backdrops

New photo backdrops

New photo backdrops

Fall 29/31

The last one we painted white and then covered with that same teal wash, which, it turned out was too bright. So we added some dark green, and that was better. We finished up with some more sanding and this time the natural wood showed through.

Mom thinks it looks kind of beachy, and I agree.

I am LOVING these.

29 crafty 34 for upload

They’re small enough to be portable and I can set them up on my nice, bright cabinet and pretend that I have an interesting table.

I don’t collaborate on craft projects very often, but I’m always glad when I do. This is something that maybe I could have done on my own, but I would have been a lot more tentative about it, and I would have ended up spending a small fortune on supplies.

Everything we used today was pulled from the garage or the basement. That’s such a nice thing, to have enough supplies on-hand that experimenting is easy.

Nothing we used today was at all what I envisioned when I came up with this project, from the wood to the paint, and yet I’m super happy with the results.

New photo backdrops

Thanks, Mom!

And dear readers? Brace yourselves, because I think every picture I take for the next month and a half is going to be in front of that window, perched on a snazzy new background…

Black and White

B+W 1/5
B+W 2/5
B+W 3/5
B+W 4/5
B+W 5/5

Earlier this week a Facebook friend invited me to join a 5-day black and white photography challenge. Black and white is, indeed, a challenge for me because I am so in love with color!

I took her up on it, though, because I have been considering doing a month of b+w for November, despite it being outside of my comfort zone. I thought this would be a good trial run.

The verdict? I am happy with most of my photos, and I have to say I enjoyed looking for subjects where color took a back seat to texture, lines, and composition. I am always on the lookout for good composition, but with color photography I find that I don’t think as much about texture or other elements that provide visual interest. I usually let the colors lead me, and the rest is often a happy accident. Or, if I want to give myself a little credit, I could call it intuition.

By the way, you may have noticed that a few of the images are not truly black and white. They are monochrome, but they have a slightly warmer tone than true black and white. This was not intentional in the first two photos, and in fact, I didn’t even notice my mistake until I went to process the third image. I have to say, though, I kind of like it. I liked it enough to dial a bit of warmth back in to image 4, albeit with a lighter hand.

If you’re a photo-processing nerd (like me) and would like to know how I managed to accidentally get a warmer black and white look, I used the Black + White section of the Basic panel in Lightroom’s Develop module, and tweaked all of the settings to get a monochromatic image I liked. I had forgotten, though, that by default I have LR set up to add a small bit of yellow to the highlights in the Split Tone panel. Oops!

One thing about black and white photography: I feel like I should take pictures of old things. Because b+w has such a vintage vibe to me, I’m drawn to capturing images of things that are either truly old, or have an antique vibe to them. I’m rather surprised with myself that I didn’t photograph my old typewriter. Guess I can save that for November…

What do you think about black and white photography? Do you find yourself drawn to it, or is it all about color for you?



I think my husband and my kids are growing weary of hearing about my current quest. No. Scratch that. I know they are weary of hearing about it. They have reached the point of being unable to hide their weariness of it. I’ve seen the eyerolls and heard the “here we go again” sighs when I open my mouth to speak about it.

I get it. File management seems really, really boring.

But see, I don’t think they realize quite how interesting the whole thing is to me! And yes, maybe I did tell them about one little bit of the project here, and another little bit there, but each time I have something to say it is actually different than the time before.

No, it seems I’ve over-saturated the market for this kind of talk here at home. It all sounds like the incoherent babblings of a digital-organization super freak to them now. Blah blah blah.


So. Guess what. This means it is your lucky day. Oh, yes. You get to hear about my current quest. Maybe you’ll be fascinated. Maybe you’ll read along with rapt attention.

Or maybe you’ll join my family in the “how can this be of interest to anyone, anywhere?” camp. Although I hope not.

So here it is: I’m transitioning from managing my photo library with Picasa to managing it with Lightroom.

It sounds simple enough, assuming I understand the capabilities of both pieces of software. I thoroughly understand Picasa. And I’m learning about Lightroom.

When I started this whole thing, I really only intended to use Lightroom for its Develop module. I’ve been taking photographs in RAW mode since mid-August, which is great for a lot of reasons I won’t go into right now, and Lightroom is a good tool for post-processing RAW files.

I had intended to continue managing my photo library with Picasa, because it has been working well for me for many years. I like that I can easily upload my images to Google+ (which is where I back them up, and where I share them with family), and I love the facial recognition of Picasa. Love. it.


But the more I play with Lightroom, the more I see that it can do 90% of Picasa’s tasks along with most of the other non-Picasa uploading I do, and it can initiate these things with less effort. In fact, if Lightroom had facial recognition, I would probably be done with Picasa entirely.

So, I’ve made the decision to use Lightroom for almost every photo-library-related task I have, and just open up Picasa when I need to add some faces to the family photo album.

This is a cool decision and all, but I want to do it differently than I usually do things.

What I mean is, I don’t want to act first and think later. With something as big (over 40K images!) and as important to me as my photo library, I really want to work out the details before I do anything.

Right now I have an organizational system that is working, but is unbelievably complicated. This is something I discovered when I diagrammed it out. My folder structure took up an entire page in my legal pad. Honestly, that really surprised me, because I thought it was all so efficient. It turns out that while my workflow may be a well-oiled machine at this point, it is anything but efficient.

So, I totally need to simplify.

And I am sure Lightroom can do it for me.

And I’ve even written out a new, less-crowded-with-folders, organizational idea in my legal pad.

And I’m chomping at the bit to put it into place.

But I am waiting.

Yes, I know. Little old chronically-impatient me? Waiting? It’s absurd!

Mugs 16/30

I’ve bought a Lightroom 5 book, which is supposed to be the most extensive book out there for discussing the file-management aspect of the software. The other Lightroom modules (like Develop) are ones that I can play around with and learn by doing. But the Library module holds the key to keeping my photos organized and sane.

I want to learn everything I can about what the Library module of Lightroom is capable of, before I start moving things around my hard drives. I’ve already tweaked my plan a little bit in response to some things that I’ve learned while reading, and there may be more tweaks to come.

By not rushing into this, I think I will end up with a folder structure and a workflow that will be sustainable for many years.

And during those many sustainable years, nobody‘s eyes will have to glaze over while I yammer on about folders and files and photos and Lightroom and workflow and and and…

Won’t that be nice? :-)

Back to school – for YOU!

I’ve been seeing a lot of cool new online classes being offered in various places, and I thought I’d share a little roundup of the ones that are speaking to me. Maybe you’ll find something you’d like to take, as well!

First up are two classes I have signed up to take myself.

Let me start with Gatherings Through the Lens because this class actually starts TODAY!


Holly Clark is teaching this photography workshop at Big Picture Classes. It features four weeks of instruction aimed at helping you take more effective photos at all of life’s little events. This is a topic near and dear to my camera-carrying heart, so I’m very excited to be taking this class!

Workshops at Big Picture Classes all include a special gallery and classroom community that allows you to easily share with other members of the class if you want to. That’s been one of my favorite parts of previous BPC classes I have taken. The feedback of the instructor and your classmates is invaluable. Not to mention how inspiring it can be to see how others are interpreting the same set of instructions. It’s a very effective model, I think.

So, will I see you there? Click here for more information or to sign up.

Class number two is a crochet class: Professional Finishing for Perfect Crochet with Linda Permann.

(That graphic up there brings you to all of Craftsy’s crochet classes – so many great ones to choose from!)

I like Craftsy. It was through Linda’s Embellishments class there that I learned to crochet in the first place. This new class looks perfect for someone like me who is comfortable with the basic techniques and wants to take things a bit further. I signed up for this one as soon as it was announced, but I haven’t watched it yet. It seems like the perfect thing for a Fall afternoon, so I will probably dive in to it then.

My favorite thing about Craftsy classes? They are all self-paced by design, so I can watch whenever I have the time and the inclination.

Here are a few other workshops that have caught my eye (I haven’t taken any of these, but if I had unlimited funds, and unlimited time for taking classes, I totally would):

Like I said before, I love taking online classes. I am almost always in “learning mode” with any craft I undertake. In fact, when I stop being excited about trying new things, that is usually the point where I move on to some other creative pursuit for a while.

I hope one of these classes grabs you, but if not, both sites have plenty of others to choose from. Craftsy has a fairly large selection of free classes, actually, so you can get a little taste of the way they do things (and learn something new at the same time) with no financial commitment whatsoever. Here’s the full list of Craftsy free mini classes to choose from.

Happy Learning!

(Full disclosure: the Craftsy and Big Picture Classes links are affiliate links, so I do get a small commission if you sign up for one of them. That’s not my motivation for writing this roundup, but I do appreciate the support!)


Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

I love going to the beach in the late afternoon. The crowds are starting to disperse, the sun is no longer blazing hot, and it’s a great time of day for taking pictures.

Along with reading a book, watching my kids play, and just closing my eyes for a little bit, photography is a favorite beach activity of mine. I love (LOVE!) adding more family snapshots to our album, but there’s more to it than that.

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

I find that the beach is a great place to get artistic and to practice new skills. The opportunity to get some unusual shots is one of the main attractions of the beach for me.

Yet lately I have found myself wondering if there’s anything left to try! We go to Ocean City for several days each May, and then there are usual 2-3 Ocean Grove and/or Point Pleasant day trips in the summer. I have literally hundreds (thousands?) of pictures from the Jersey Shore. What more could there possibly be to photograph on the beach?

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage

Ok, so I think I need to take this as a lesson. Opportunities for interesting photography are constantly presenting themselves.

As long as we continue to show up with an adventurous spirit, I will never run out of pictures to take on the beach.

Jump! in Ocean Grove, NJ at Polka Dot Cottage


This, of course, means we need to go back for more. And soon :-)

Book Review: Shooting With Soul

Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave, a book review at Polka Dot Cottage

I did a little dance when this book came in the mail a few weeks ago. It is so perfect for me right now. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the lack of crafty show-and-tells around here lately, but I just haven’t been cranking out the projects. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t want a pile of wool on my lap in the summer (so, no knitting or crocheting to speak of). Or maybe it’s that I don’t want to make a gigantic sewing or polymer clay mess in my workspace (aka the dining room table). It could be either of those things, but I think it’s just more likely that right now all of my creative urges are being filled quite nicely by photography.

It happens. You know how cyclical I am with my creative urges. It’s just photography’s turn.

So, you can imagine then, that a book called Shooting With Soul would be right up my current alley.

Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave, a book review at Polka Dot Cottage

Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave, a book review at Polka Dot Cottage

Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave, a book review at Polka Dot Cottage

The book starts off with some charming pictures of adorably vintage cameras. These photos illustrate the more technical topics of the book: Choosing a Camera, Types of Lenses, etc. The entire first chapter is a good place to start if you are still gathering up your photographic equipment or if you would like to better understand some of the technical aspects of photography, such as exposure.

This, however, is not a technical manual so much as a guide for feeling your way around with a camera. And that is perfect for me. I’m at a point in my photography where I am comfortable with the basics and I am comfortable with my camera. A manual wouldn’t interest me much at this stage except as a handy reference to tuck away on the book shelf. But a book like this? Oh this one is going to see some action in the coming weeks!

The author shares this “magic recipe”:

(See) + (Think) + (Feel/Connect) + (Shoot) = Great Image

That sounds a bit vague, I know, but you are not left alone to figure it all out. The rest of the book is spent in pursuit of Great Images through 44 exercises.

Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave, a book review at Polka Dot Cottage

The exercises are definitely my favorite part of this book. They remind me a lot of the prompt-based Picture series of classes that I’ve taken with Tracey Clark. Alessandra Cave (she’s the author – did I not mention her? oops!) recommends spending about a week with each prompt, to really dig deep and explore it. That’s a good approach, and one I may go back to sometime, but I have a different idea for now:

August Daily Photo Prompts!

You probably know by now that for 2014, my daily photo project for the year has had a different theme every month. I’ve decided that during August, the theme will be Shooting With Soul, and it will be based on the exercises in this book. I plan to choose a new prompt each day, doing the 31 exercises that grab me the most.

August daily photo project at Polka Dot Cottage, featuring the book Shooting With Soul

You’re invited to join me (as you have been every month this year). You will need to get a copy of the book, of course, and then you can just choose whichever prompts you would like, one-a-day in whatever order you would like to do them. Be sure to use the #pdcsoul hashtag wherever you share your images so that we can all follow along with each other.

Even if you have use for a daily photo project right now, if you are interested in exploring photography as a means of expressing yourself in an artful way, I think you’ll like this book. Each of the 44 exercises includes an explanation of the theme, two or three example photographs, and a sidebar of Instructions, Techniques, and Shot Ideas. Cave provides plenty of guidance through each exercise, while still leaving enough room for your own personal interpretation.

Intrigued? You can get Shooting With Soul at amazon.com or your favorite local book shop.

(The usual disclaimers apply re: books received, reviews given, and links provided.)

Picture Summer, anyone?

This month for my Project 365, I’ve chosen the theme of “Summer.” As part of that, I’ve decided to go back and re-follow the prompts from Picture Summer, the class I took with Tracey Clark four years ago.

If you would like to join me, there is now a self-paced version of the class available:


Picture Summer

That is an affiliate link, so if you do take the class, you’ll be having photo fun, and helping to support me and my blog at the same time. Everybody wins! XOXO

More fun with film

Do you remember when I told you about the old camera my sister gave me for my birthday last month?

Well, I said I would follow up and let you know how that second roll of film went…

More fun with film at Polka Dot Cottage

More fun with film at Polka Dot Cottage

More fun with film at Polka Dot Cottage

More fun with film at Polka Dot Cottage

More fun with film at Polka Dot Cottage

I took 36 shots, and these are the only pictures to come back from the developer.

I guess that pretty much confirms that the camera is a dud. It’s a pretty little prop, and I’ll probably take lots of pictures OF it, but it’s not worth trying to take more pictures WITH it.

On the bright side, the little bits that did come out were mostly well-exposed (which was a problem the last time) so there’s that little victory at least!

It’s a little disappointing that these weren’t messed-up in the cool triple-exposure way that the previous set was messed-up. These don’t have an “artsy” factor as much as a “this didn’t work” factor.

Oh well. It was a fun experiment.

Now to figure out what to do with the one roll of film I have left…

Rosey. Or, Photoshop’s hue blend mode.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

I posted this image on Facebook this morning and asked people if they could tell which was the original rose and which three were Photoshopped. As of right now, the majority of guesses are for peach (top right) with yellow, pink, and white tied for second place.

The answer is (drumroll please)…


I’m actually kind of glad it wasn’t obvious which color was the original. It means I’m doing something right in Photoshop. Would you like to see what it is that I did? It’s simpler than you might think.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

This is the image straight out of the camera.  It needs a boost for sure.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

Here is is after running my “Better” action. I run Better on all of my photos. Essentially, it brightens the photo, boosts the saturation a bit, adds a touch of crispness, and allows me to optionally bump up the warmth or coolness. In this case (as in most), I adjusted the warmth. I go into much more detail about the Better action here, if you would like to dig deeper.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

Usually Better is enough for me, but in this case I thought it could use a little something more. I added a Levels layer and dragged the black slider a bit to the right to enhance the darks. Then I dragged the white slider a bit to the left to enhance the lights.

I was satisfied at this point, so this is where I stopped for the yellow rose. Until, that is, I wondered how hard it would be to change the color of the rose.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

It turns out, you can apply a color change quite easily by adding a color fill layer and changing the blend mode to “hue.”

Hue mode preserves the lightness and darkness values of the layer below, but replaces all of the color (or hue) with that of the current layer. See how the flower is just as bright as it ever was, and the leaves are just as dark? But the entire image is a single hue. It’s like converting to black-and-white, but instead of grayscale, you have peachscale.

Of course, in this case, we actually don’t want to change the hue of the leaves. We only want to change the flower itself. To accomplish this, we need a layer mask.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

I added a layer mask to the Color Fill layer, and I painted on it with a soft brush.

Here is how a mask works: it’s an excellent, non-destructive way to selectively add effects to a layer. An entirely white mask lets the whole layer show. An entirely black mask hides the whole layer. If you paint some parts of the mask black and some parts of it white, then the white parts will show and the black parts will be hidden.

The beauty of this is that you can easily fix mistakes. Color something black accidentally? Color over it with white. You can go back-and-forth like this for hours until you get it right, if you are a perfectionist.

On the image above, the area in red is the part that is masked-off, or black on the mask. To put it another way, that is the area where the Color Fill layer will not be showing through (aka, the leaves will remain their original green).

Don’t be confused by the red. That is just Photoshop’s way of showing you what is masked and what is not. Once you get the mask to your liking, you can turn off the red highlight and see what your image really looks like.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

And there you have it. Not bad, right?

The hue blend mode is so powerful, because it preserves all of the highlights and shadows, changing nothing but the color.  I don’t have any proof, but I strongly suspect this is what fashion catalogs use when they show a model wearing the same shirt in six different colors…

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

You can have a lot of fun playing with colors not necessarily found in nature.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

Or, why stop at single colors?

Instead of a Color Fill layer, I used a plain old raster layer, and then filled the top right corner with a radial rainbow gradient, and now I have a rainbow rose.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

Really, though, my favorite is still the yellow. Yellow roses, for some reason I don’t really know, remind me of my grandmother. That’s why I bought this plant in the first place. I love to see it bloom every spring.

I hope this little tutorial made sense! Please feel free to ask, if anything is not clear.

Also, I’ve made this photo available in my Deviant Art Shop. I haven’t mentioned my photography shop for ages, and, in fact, I kind of let it languish for a while. But I think it’s worth keeping up. To that end, I added several of my favorite Spring images a few weeks ago, and today I added the Yellow Rose.

How to change the color of an object in Photoshop

You can buy it as shown, in a 12×18 Jet Black Box Frame, or you can try any number of interesting formats and sizes from an unframed 5×7 to a 24×36 gallery-wrapped stretch canvas! If that’s too rich for your blood, there are greeting cards, post cards, mouse pads and mugs, too.

See the options for the Yellow Rose print here.

I have lots of other photos available for purchase, too, and you can see them in my storefront. Personally, I have my eye on the Ferris Wheel. I just haven’t decided what format to spring for.

Have fun playing with the hue blend mode! And please, if you make any cool images, let me know. I’d love to see!


Windows Down Volume Up

Windows Down Volume Up, a new Summer playlist from Polka Dot Cottage

I’ve been working on a new CD for the car in dribs and drabs over the past month. I finally stopped fretting over the track list yesterday, made the final playlist once and for all, and burned a copy to CD. Within an hour both of my kids had seen the new “Summer Road Trip” CD and told me it had a terrible title. Eamonn went so far as to tell me that all of my playlist titles are terrible. “You ruin your CDs with those awful titles,” were, I believe, his actual words.

While normally I would take their opinions with a grain of salt, I kind of agreed with them in this case. Summer Road Trip was awfully generic.

So, I threw a few other options at them. Exit 142? Get in the Van? Where are we Going?

I finally settled on Windows Down Volume Up, the boys agreed it was an improvement, and then I re-made my cover image to reflect the new title.

This cover image was a lot of fun to do. I started with this picture I took on our way home from Ocean City last month, and then I Photoshopped the daylights out of it ;-)

Windows Down Volume Up, a new Summer playlist from Polka Dot Cottage


First, I gave it a Violet-Yellow Split-Tone treatment at half strength to make it look a little vintagey.

Then, I used the clone brush tool to get rid of the building and the cars, and replace them with trees. I wasn’t particularly careful with this, but most people aren’t going to be scrutinizing this photo enough to notice. That’s the beauty of cloning trees. You can pretty much plop them down on top of anything, and it looks perfectly natural to the casual observer.

After that, things really got fun.

Windows Down Volume Up, a new Summer playlist from Polka Dot Cottage

I decided I wanted to add the CD title to the Garden State Parkway sign, and I wanted it to look like it belonged there. Did you know that there is a font out there that was designed specifically for signage like this, and that most states and many foreign countries use it? If you’re ever looking to Photoshop your own road signs, Highway Gothic should do the trick.

So I made a rounded rectangle for the new sign, pulling colors from the NORTH sign. To make it a bit more realistic, I tilted it a bit, added a subtle texture similar to that of the other signs on the pole, and copy/pasted the screws from the NORTH sign onto my rectangle. I would have liked to make the sign look a tiny bit more beat up, but I didn’t have enough time to teach myself a new technique before I had to stop to make dinner.

The other thing I did was to use a graffiti font to add my name and date to the arrow right above the fake sign.

I know I kind of glossed over all of this. If you are interested in me going in-depth with any of these techniques, just say the word!

Windows Down Volume Up, a new Summer playlist from Polka Dot Cottage

As far as music goes, I hemmed and hawed over this one. Usually, when I make a general car mix like this, I like to fill it with 2/3 brand new stuff, and 1/3 older songs from the 60’s to the 90’s, often choosing titles that relate to a theme. You can see this in action especially well on my Snow Day mix.

This time, I had trouble getting into the oldies I had picked, and eventually I just decided to scrap them all. Now I have a mix that is almost entirely new, with a handful from the earlier 2000’s.

Would you like to listen? You can go to the mix on 8tracks, or you can play it right here if you see a player below.

Windows Down Volume Up from lclarke522 on 8tracks Radio.

Happy listening! I’d love to know what you think :-)


Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

My sister gave me a cool birthday present last week: an SLR camera from 1974-ish. The guy who was selling it on eBay had bought it to use it as a prop and didn’t even know if it worked.

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

So, we played with it at a family party, not knowing much about what we were doing. We had 24 exposures, and we spent the first half of them not realizing the camera was in “bulb” mode. That means the shutter stays open for as long as you hold down the button. The result is motion blur, and plenty of it.

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

Once we noticed what we were doing, we started paying more attention to the other settings (all of which were 100% manual). We used my DSLR as a light meter to give us some idea what aperture and shutter speed to set, and at that point, we started doing things right in terms of focus and exposure. (Go us!)

When I got home that night, I looked for the manual online, found a copy, and realized that the camera does have an internal light meter. It just needed a battery. I’ve since ordered one, and I am working on another roll of film. It’s nice not flying blind!

Anyway, we shot through the whole roll that first day, and I picked up my prints today.

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

It looks like we were having an issue of film advancement. Most of the later images on this roll are double- and triple-exposed.

It’s actually kind of a cool effect.

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

Film. at Polka Dot Cottage

It will be interesting to see if the advancement issue was user error or camera error. If it’s the latter, I guess I can expect to have several more multi-exposed prints when I get the roll developed.

If that happens, at least they should be artsy :-)

Shared Family Summertime Delusion

Shared Family Summer Delusion, at Polka Dot Cottage

Back in the Good Ol’ Days of my blogging career, my kids and I did a lot of stuff that I photographed and shared several times a week. You may have noticed those days are pretty much over.

Kids get bigger and expect more privacy. And, let’s be completely honest here, teens and preteens are not nearly as photogenic as preschoolers. Heck, even if they were, they’re still a lot less likely to jump in front of the camera for something that they know is going to be plastered all over the internet on Mom’s blog.

Shared Family Summer Delusion, at Polka Dot Cottage

Add to a general lack of offspring cooperation, a general lack of time for posting Everyday Life Stuff every day, and you find me where I am now: on a blog that is mostly filled with my own solo creative exploits, which (again, being completely honest) are not overly revolutionary lately or even as frequent as they used to be. *sigh*

Still, once in a while, my family gives me something really fun to write about, and they give me permission to plaster it all over the internet.

I love it when that happens.

Let me tell you about this past weekend.

Shared Family Summer Delusion, at Polka Dot Cottage

You probably know this has been a terrible winter, in terms of really cold temperatures, and really frequent snow storms, right? (If you don’t, you haven’t been paying attention to my numerous complaints on the subject…)

Well, Saturday was sunny and 52 degrees. Oh, yeah! While 52F is not exactly summer, in comparison to what we have been dealing with it was truly amazeballs. Seriously. I stood on the front steps without a jacket on, and felt the warm sun on my skin… That’s when an idea began to take shape.

Shared Family Summer Delusion, at Polka Dot Cottage

I have these silly photo-shoot ideas all of the time, but I mostly do them alone. Sometimes I ask my family to get involved, and sometimes they even say Yes, but usually it’s just me, my camera and a handful of props.

“Hey, Neil,” I said, “want to put on a pair of shorts, sit in the front yard on our beach chairs, and take silly pictures?”

After a few strange looks and a couple of mild protests, he eventually replied, “I’m lucky to be alive. I should probably learn to enjoy the stupid stuff.”

And with that, we both put on our Summer finery and set up our tableau in the front yard.

Before long, the boys joined in.

`Shared Family Summer Delusion, at Polka Dot Cottage

I sipped ice water, while Neil built sand snow castles. Eamonn brought out a book and a deck of UNO cards, while Aidan fetched a rain umbrella (which is the closest thing we have to a beach umbrella). It was surprisingly warm out there! The sun was shining right on us, and as long as the wind didn’t blow, it felt really nice.

Eventually, though, the wind did blow one too many times for us, and one-by-one we packed it in.

Later, safely inside and toasty warm once again, I put all of our pictures together into this little video. I hope you enjoy it, and it makes you feel warm and happy wherever you are!

Technical details:

I set up the camera on a tripod, and used my tablet connected to a Triggertrap to take a picture every 5 seconds.

I used Picasa to create a movie from all of the images and set them to music.

I pulled the resulting movie into Corel Video Studio Pro, separated the soundtrack from the video, added some title and credit screens, and shrunk the movie ever so slightly so that the music started and ended exactly where I wanted it to.

By the way, if you’re thinking of trying something similar (time-lapse set to music), Picasa is capable of handling the whole video-making process, and it’s free. The reason I used the other software was so that I could add title screens. Picasa can do that as well, but I have been having bad luck getting the captions to save properly with it and I didn’t want the headache of trying to get it to work.

Some cameras have a built-in time-lapse function, too.


Wintry mix

Let’s talk winter. Specifically, let’s talk about how surprisingly un-bad the last few days have been. I make my opinion of this season no secret, but I have to say, I have found a few things to love about it lately.

Great Swamp snow

Great Swamp snow

Great Swamp snowz

Great Swamp snow

Great Swamp snow

Great Swamp snow

Like, how about those shots? I’ve never been compelled to photograph the Great Swamp in the winter, but today it seemed a shame not to. With yesterday’s snowfall still clinging to all of the branches, it was beautiful.

Polka Dot Cottage photo project for February

Or this? I’ve been meaning to tell you about the February photo project, and I’m sorry it took me until we were four days in to bring it up, but better late than never right? Just take pictures of things you love – one per day – and post them in your favorite photo-sharing place. Tag them #pdclove (and make them public) if you want me to see them!

Snow Day, a new playlist from Polka Dot Cottage

Or, finally, this. My new CD mix. Or, as I call it, a “wintry mix.” Heh. I amuse myself.

I realize I may be the last person in the world still making CDs, but I drive an old car. It’s mp3-impaired. Besides, I kind of enjoy some things about the CD format, not the least of which is making a cover. It’s a fun challenge, too, to come up with a suitable list of songs that all flow nicely and fit within the allotted time constraint of a CD.

This mix involves a selection of older and newer songs. Some of the songs (but not all of them) have a Winter theme. I re-burned this CD 3 times, and changed the cover twice – my perfectionistic cd-making tendencies at work!

The Snow Day playlist can be found at last.fm, if you would like to have a listen. Here’s the track list:

1. The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (2:38)
2. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound (3:12)
3. Iron & Wine – Tree By The River (3:56)
4. Crash Test Dummies – Winter Song (4:00)
5. Collective Soul – 10 Years Later (3:47)
6. Storyman – Coming Home (3:19)
7. Glen Phillips – Duck And Cover (3:18)
8. Jars Of Clay – Inland (4:12)
9. The Melodic – On My Way (3:12)
10. Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade Of Winter (2:17)
11. Better Than Ezra – Wintercoats (5:25)
12. The Shins – Simple Song (4:15)
13. Indigo Girls – Damo (4:07)
14. Sara Bareilles – Brave (3:40)
15. Toad the Wet Sprocket – Rare Bird (4:22)
16. Moon Taxi – Young Journey (3:09)
17. Duran Duran – Mediterranea (5:40)
18. Vance Joy – Riptide (3:24)
19. Dala – Alive (4:02)
20. The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! ( To Everything There is A Season ) (3:54)
21. Fountains Of Wayne – Valley Winter Song (3:34)

Someday, I will find a better way to share these playlists with you. [As of April 2014, that day is now – have a listen below!]

Snow Day from lclarke522 on 8tracks Radio.

As I write, there is a new Winter storm on the way, and it may be a doozy. Like, with lots of icy conditions that could lead to downed tree branches and power outages, kind of doozy. It looks like my very brief and unexpected love affair with Winter is already coming to an abrupt end.

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted!

Picture this

[note: there’s knit-along information at the end of this post, in case you are wondering about that…]

Picture this: it’s after supper. You’ve changed into your cozy pajama bottoms, and made yourself a nice hot cup of decaf. You’re listening to music on your laptop, using a set of ear buds so as not to disturb the rest of the family, and getting set up to wind a hank of yarn into a ball.

If you’re at all like me, when you find yourself the center of a scene like this, you get an impulse to snap a picture and share it with your social network.  (C’mon… you do that, don’t you??)

23 laptop 01

I happened to have the tripod nearby, so I figured I could make the shot even better if I set the camera up on it, and maybe use a slower shutter speed to capture the motion of the yarn winding. It was going to be really, really cool.

That was the plan anyway.

But remember those ear buds I mentioned? The cord on those things was kind of short, and I kept forgetting I was wearing them. And while I was futzing around with the tripod, seeking out the ideal spot for it, I leaned over in such a way as to pull the cord taut. The cord met with the resistance of my coffee cup, and instead of pulling out of my ears, it knocked the cup over and dumped the entire contents right into my laptop.

Oh no!

23 laptop 02

I hurriedly turned the computer upside down to help drain the coffee out of it, but there was a good chance it wouldn’t matter. The machine turned itself off as soon as the liquid hit it, and I was suddenly without a computer.

Yikes. My entire business (and a startlingly good-sized portion of my personal life) relies on having a functioning computer. And I blew it all in pursuit of a photograph.

Well, as you can see, I did get my picture that night (several of them, in fact), only the scene wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

23 laptop 03

Neil took my computer apart and spent a few hours making sure the pieces were dry.

Over the next few days, he put it back together and slowly it came back to life. The first day, it turned on but the keyboard didn’t work. Later, the keyboard did work, except the CTRL key remained stuck (which makes the keyboard useless pretty much, and breaks other stuff, too).

Today, everything is working as it should, with one exception: the right click on my mousepad. I’m finding ways to get around that inconvenience for now, and hoping maybe that, too, will fix itself in time.

It’s such a relief that this laptop could be saved. I’m fairly sure it will never be the same, and I may end up replacing it sooner than I had planned, but at least I can do it on my own time, in a non-desperate manner.

So, where does this leave us on the knit-along?

24 vest 02

Being without a computer all weekend meant that I couldn’t complete the full version of the pattern, nor could I write the first knit-along post. (I did, however, do a ton of actual knitting – I’m making two new variations on the Everyday Cardigan – at once!! me=crazy. More on that another time.)

So, the knit-along will begin NEXT Monday, and sometime between now and then, I will have the eBook available. The eBook will include the pattern, as well as some extra guidance to help you through the process of knitting a sweater.

24 vest 01

There’s some good news, though, for those of you who are experienced knitters and don’t need the extra hand-holding. I had already finished the pattern itself before my computer went kablooie, so I was able to get that piece ready for you pretty easily. Right now Ravelry is the only place you can get it, and you can do so with this button:

Or you can get more information (and see lots of pictures, including Jane‘s lovely pale yellow version) on the Ravelry pattern page.

If you’d prefer to wait until the full version is available (with lots of in-progress photos and extra information) you will be able to get that here at Polka Dot Cottage within the week. I’ll post again when it’s ready.

Thanks for waiting :-)

The first half of January, and following me on Facebook

I hope those of you who are here for the handcrafts can bear with me a while longer while I work my way through this current photography kick of mine… My camera is always there with me, snapping away, but I don’t always make a point to talk about it here.

BUT, since I am on kind of a kick now, and I did invite you to do the Winter theme along with me (has anyone taken me up on that?) I thought I’d show you what I captured for the first half of the month.

Winter 1/31 - New beginnings

1. New Beginnings

Winter 2/31: Resolutions

2. Resolutions

Winter 3/31: Evening

3. Evening

Winter 4/31: Morning

4. Morning

Winter 5/31: Weekend

5. Weekend

Winter 6/31 - Remnants of December

6. Remnants of December

Winter 7/31 - Home

7. Home

Winter 8/31 - Away from home

8. Away from home

Winter 9/31 - Routine

9. Routine

Winter 10/31- Work

10. Work

Winter 11/31 - Relax

11. Relax

Winter 12/31 - The sun

12. The sun

Winter 13/31 - Winter selfie

13. Winter selfie

Winter 14/31 - Comfort food (or drink?)

14. Comfort food

Winter 15/31 - Darkness

15. Darkness

If you’d like to play along, just see this post for all of the details.

Also, I’ve been meaning to mention, if you follow Polka Dot Cottage on Facebook, I have made a few changes. FB pages have become increasingly useless recently. Polka Dot Cottage has about 1500 fans, and yet most of my posts are only seen by about 30 people! It’s crazy. If you “like” a page, you should be seeing that page’s updates in your news feed, don’t you think? I hate to complain about a free service, but I have to wonder what the point is of maintaining a page that only 2% of my followers will even see!

Anyway, I will continue to maintain the Polka Dot Cottage FB page, of course, and you are welcome to keep reading there if it’s working for you. But if you feel like you are often missing my updates, I’d like to point out two ways to make things better:

1. Get notifications from Polka Dot Cottage. I explain this in some detail in a FB post (that, ironically, not enough people saw to make a difference)

2. Start following my personal FB profile.

About that second option: I have made it my policy not to accept friend requests from people I don’t know, but I recently enabled “following” on my account. This means, you don’t have to be my “friend” to get my updates on your news feed. You can sign up to follow me (the Follow button is right next to the Add Friend button), and you will start seeing my public posts.  (Notice I said “public” posts. There are still things that will be friends-only, but items like links to my blog posts and many of my photos are all public.)

I hope one of those suggestions helps you, if you want to be following me on Facebook but seem to be missing everything lately!

Beach planets

I was flipping through a library book tonight, 52 Weekend Digital Photo Projects, and I found something that made me leave my comfy spot on the couch, grab my computer, and start looking for panoramic landscapes among my photos.

I chose these four images, all from last year. The top two are from Ocean City, the next is Asbury Park, and the last is Ocean Grove:

Beach Planets, at Polka Dot Cottage

And then, I used the directions in the book to turn them into Beach Planets!  I’ve been seeing images like these for ages, but I had no idea they were so (relatively) simple to make. Check them out:

Beach Planets, at Polka Dot Cottage

Beach Planets, at Polka Dot Cottage

Beach Planets, at Polka Dot Cottage

Beach Planets, at Polka Dot Cottage


I especially love the last two – interesting architecture combined with a dramatic sky really enhance the effect. The key to this look is Photoshop’s polar coordinates distortion. I found a tutorial on Photojojo, for those of you who might want to give this a try.

This is making me think that the next time we go out of town, I am going to be on the lookout for some good panoramic scenes to shoot. I noticed, while looking for suitable images, that the majority of my vacation pictures are taken at an angle – I take very few head-on shots, apparently.

A row of Victorian homes in Ocean Grove, the boardwalk shops in Ocean City… what else? Oh! Maybe the Catskill mountains on the way to Rhinebeck in the fall? I should see if I have one of those already…

I’m excited by this technique! And now I have one more reason to look forward our annual Ocean City trip. (As if I need another excuse to daydream about the beach in the middle of January!)

New year, new photo project!

Polka Dot Cottage photo-a-day project for JANUARY: Winter

I’ve been doing some version of Project 365 or another since 2008. I’m about to embark on my sixth year-long photo project, and I still find it as enjoyable as ever.

The daily practice of taking pictures has definitely been instrumental in improving my photography. The first few 365s I did were fairly structured, in that they had some rules surrounding what I shot. In 2008, I did “One Object 365 Days” and chose my feet as that object. My rationale was that I would always have them with me no matter where I went, and so there would not be the possibility of screwing up. True as that might have been, in retrospect “feet” were not a wise choice. While I did get some valuable experience in creative photography from that project, the biggest thing I learned was this: people on the internet are creepy. Six years later, and I’m still blocking weirdos on flickr who are attracted to my foot pictures. *shudder*

The next 365 I did was “A Year of Mornings” and I really, really loved that one. There’s something awfully photogenic about mornings.

After that, it was “Up Close and Personal” where I worked on capturing small details. It wasn’t usually detailed enough to be considered truly macro photography, but it was a great challenge nonetheless. I still enjoy getting in close.

My most recent two 365s have had no theme at all. That has brought with it a certain amount of freedom which I have enjoyed, but I’ve decided I’d like to do something more structured again this year, and to keep it fresh, I’m going to do a new theme every month!

January’s theme will be “winter.” Appropriate, no?

My sister and my sister-in-law are joining me this month 9and maybe beyond, if I can convince them…), and they suggested following daily prompts rather than it being all loosely-themed. So I came up with 31 words and phrases that we can use as January guides.

I’m telling you all this, because I thought you might also like to play along. The prompts are listed below, as well as on this Google calendar that you can subscribe to, if you want to be nerdy about it (like I am).

Polka Dot Cottage photo-a-day project for JANUARY: Winter

To join in, post your images wherever you like: Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whathaveyou… and use the hashtag #pdcwinter

I’ll be posting my own images publicly on Flickr in this album, although you may see them pop up in other places that you follow me. I tend to share the love all over social media, in case you haven’t noticed

Just remember, the prompts are intentionally vague-ish and completely open to interpretation! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated if you’re new to this. The idea is to have fun with it, and maybe stretch your photography skills a bit, too!

Join us – it’ll be fun!

Winter 1/31 - New beginnings

Today’s prompt is “New beginnings.” Go see what you can do with that ;-)

Happy 2014, everybody!