30 May 2011

Well, we DID turn 38 this year....

so maybe that's why my friend Dan's car now just says "Old."

28 May 2011

The rainbow ends in a field in North Dakota.

In fact, it both begins and ends in North Dakota. Who knew?

Last night's rainbows.

My very first day of teaching, in 1998, I was driving to Crookston, scared out of my gourd. I kept thinking, "What if I don't like it? What if I suck at teaching?" I had a Master's degree, but absolutely zero experience in front of the classroom.  I was starting to get more than a little panicky, but then, quite suddenly, I saw a large hawk on a fence, and behind him was a lovely little rainbow. I'm not much for superstition, but I felt comforted by what must've been a good sign.

I don't know what last night's rainbows indicate, but how can it help but be good?

26 May 2011

Our Little Zoo

I have an affinity for peacocks. You do what you will with that information: I just like them.
And the peacocks at our zoo are fairly tame, letting us take close ups before indignantly walking away, or glaring at us until we're shamed into leaving them be. 
 The photo above made me contemplate what peacock must taste like. Is that wrong?
 Two of the most interesting subjects at the zoo, above.
This is the meerkat sentinel. He was very, very observant. And a little twitchy.

The llama's dental issues concerned Shaun. I told him all llamas look like that, but I was totally bullshitting. I don't know anything about llamas.
The peahens hang out on the playground equipment. I'm sure they're irritated when excited 5 year olds want to go down the slide with them. I imagine that when the zoo closes, they  do carefully choreographed dances using the chain ladders.

Is it just zoos in North Dakota that have prairie dog exhibits? I hope not.
If not for their creepy eyes, I would totally want a baby goat to come and live with us. So cute! Of course they grow into bigger goats who can eat the laundry off the line, so it's probably for the best.

Our sunny days have been rare so far, but this was a good one.

18 May 2011

Languishing's Guide to Flower Photos of which to be Proud

Everyone's always saying to me, "Jen, your flower photos inspire me to take more pictures! And try more new and unusual foods! And donate more plasma!" (Okay, no one has actually said any of those things. Except in my head). And they also say "How do you do it? How do you make it look so easy?" So this post is a loving answer to the voices in my head. If you're not one of the voices, and/or don't care about taking kick-ass flower photos, feel free to stop reading right now.

Pre-tip #A: These tips don't just apply to flowers, but to many, many photography subjects. And also, I don't have any idea what I'm doing, so you should probably ignore me a find a real photographer's blog to learn anything worthwhile.

Tip #1: Take lots, and lots, and lots of pictures. Just keep clicking. Once you know your digital camera well enough to take a non-blurry photo about 75% of the time, you can just go to town. Take several shots of each subject, and consider trying photographs at different times during the day. High noon can be lovely, but so can eight in the evening. And morning sunshine in May is a whole nother thing than you recall, I bet. I will often take 100 pictures in an average day, and cut down to 60 just by reviewing in the camera (though if there's any doubt, wait and look at them on a larger screen!). Then I often end up with around 30 or 40 after viewng them on the laptop. If I'm recording an event, like a birthday party, I often don't cut that many, because I want to make sure I have some photos of everyone. But with flowers? You get one or two great shots of a flower, you're probably good. If you want more, go ahead. I won't mutter about your obsessive tendencies behind your back. Much.
Anyhoo, my point is, you can always delete the ones that don't work, but if you took only 6 photos and none of them are fantastic, well, you're pretty much screwed.  The joy of digital is deleting the stupid pictures.

Tip #2: Try different angles! This is true of all subjects. Many people just take photos from wherever their point of view is: this gives us nearly aerial views of kids and dogs and anything shorter than the photographer. And upsettingly nasal views of Uncle Roger, if the photographer is shorter than him.
 At the very least, get down to eye-level, and pretend you're a garden gnome. Remember those cheesy elementary school tulip drawings you used to do? With the petals and the v between them, and then when you got fancy you drew another petal between the v? Well, you were right. That's pretty much how a tulip looks from the side.
 From the top, though, up close (use that handy macro setting on your camera. It even shows a picture of a tulip to indicate the macro! This means you!), this looks like a whole new flower. The purpley-red goodness really shows here, and the lovely symmetry.
Same damn tulip, shot from below. I love shots from below. Yes, you have to get down on the ground. Sometimes you get twigs in your hair, or ants. Pay attention so you don't get anything worse than that. This is a bit dark (these photos in this post are all unretouched, save for occassional cropping), because this tulip is in the shade, but I love how totally transformed the same flower is, just by changing my perspective.

Tip #3: Fill your frame!  If you're taking a photo of a tulip, make sure the tulip is CLEARLY the subject. If you take a photo of a tulip and twelve dandelions, you can't expect your viewers to know what you're getting at.  When photographing flowers, I like to get as close as my camera will let me without getting blurry, which is pretty close.

 Yes, you can see ferns and undergrowth behind the red tulip, but any closer and I would've been all Georgia O'Keefey. Which I'm totally for, by the way. But today I just wanted that classic yellow and black framed by red and green.
 One of the peony tulips, above, spreading fast. It will probably be gone by tomorrow.
I found the center of this peony tulip the most interesting part, so I got all up in its business. This is not as effective with people, as some of them might not like that. But flowers don't seem to mind atall.

Tip #4: Don't be afraid to crop! Since you've filled your frame, you have even more to work with. You can save the original as a separate file, if you're nervous like that, but especially if you have one of those newer type digital cameras, you've got enough megapixels for major croppage.
Even if you'd never seen a purple-black tulip in person, this photo lets you see the very texture of the petals! I'm impressed with myself, even. (This is a crop of the first photo in the post, under Tip #2)

 And you don't always have to crop to make things centered or to remove that glimpse of your camera strap. You can crop for effect, to show the fabulous pink stripes, above,
or to illustrate the feather-like translucency of flower petals. This was shot from below, on macro, and cropped down. Plus, I turned this one on its side, because I like that it's framed by mostly sky and a little tree, and looks like it just poked in from the right.

Be adventurous in your cropping. Maybe you wanted a photo of a tulip, but it turns out the sky is way prettier. Crop that pesky tulip out! Or leave in just a little. Or whatever. Cropping is fun for young and old!

Tip #5: Mind the riff-raff. We've all had great photos ruined by some weird Anderson kid who pops up in the background at the last minute and you don't realize it until you get your film developed. But he's not the riff-raff I'm talking about here. I mean the stuff in the background we tend to ignore: the neighbor's can collection, the wires in the backyard, the peeling paint on the northeast corner of the house. They may be ignorable in real life, but in photos, they are less so. Case in point:

Did I know those wires were there? Sure. Do I want them in my photo? Nope. The thing is, when I shoot from below, I sometimes do it blind (so as not to get ants and twigs in my hair) and just take a bunch and check them later. Had I just shot from the other side of these tulips, those wires would never have been in the background. But I didn't, and I was lazy, and now I have this lovely, translucent tulip shot full of ugly wires in the background. That'll teach me. (Well, not really. But maybe it'll teach you).

There you have it, folks. Languishing's first 5 tips to Flower Photos of which to be Proud.  "First five?" the voices are asking Yes, voices, there are more. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out.

17 May 2011

List #16: The best concerts I've attended

You know, I don't get out much. Having a child slows down the social life, of course, and I'm lazy, and we're kind of broke, and have you seen the price of gas? But I used to get out. And since I have no new exciting concert reviews to share, here are nine shows from nights out past that I recommend, if'n you get a chance.

9. Brian Setzer Orchestra: Brian Setzer of Stray Cats fame got himself an orchestra, and I liked it.

8. Indigo Girls: With my friend Nena when we were in college, we drove up to Duluth and ignored the lesbian jokes and sang along, loudly.

7.the Gear Daddies: Another college memory. Every spring we had a lovely outdoor party time thing at UMM: I can't remember what it was called, but this is the first one I went to. I bought myself a silver armadillo necklace that day. What's not to love?

6. Dwight Yoakum: Oh, I love him. He played the Red River Valley Fair, and Dan Lee and I stood up close and personal. Somebody should play Dwight Yoakum music at my funeral. Or better, somebody should make Dwight Yoakum come to my birthday party.

5.Tripp 40/Fat Daddies: Shaun's uncle's band, I've seen these guys much more often than any other band. They let Shaun sing "Jenny" (867-5309) whenever we're there, and nothing makes my heart pitterpat like Shaun singing, especially my name.

4. Cat Sank Trio: My friends Crystal and Terry are in a quartet called the Cat Sank Trio. It's lovely and harmonious and I like going out on the town to see them very, very much. And I keep trying to think of ways for them to let me play with them, but they don't seem interested in my tenor saxaphone ideas.

3. The Reverend Horton Heat: My favorite band of all time. I've seen them twice here, and at least 3  times in Minneapolis. I lurve them. The end.

2. KISS: The year Shaun and I were first dating (2000), KISS did their first farewell tour. If you have a chance to see KISS, let me say, it's worth the price of admission. Shaaun and I and his brother Steve (who came on an awful lot of our early dates, actually) had good seats, but they turned all dreamy-like when Paul Stanley sailed out to a small stage next to us and played "Love Gun" right in front of us. It just can't get better than that.

1. The Realtors/The Extension Chords: Shaun's high school boy band, they've performed a few times in the last ten years, and as I mentioned in #5, nothing makes my heart pitter-pat like Shaun singing.

These are my nine favorites. What are yours?

16 May 2011

Peony Tulips

I don't know when or where, or even why, but sometime in the last few years I ordered some peony tulips, and despite my utmost negligence, several of them have flourished. Every year I'm surprised to see them, and I like them so much.
These do last quite a bit longer than regular tulips, and open a little later. They'll be here almost until the actual peonies bloom.
I love this photo, above: so purely white.  (The tree in the background is a volunteer that I'm trying to decide if we should keep or not. It's only about seven feet from the house, but it's not under any wires. Unfortunately, it's in the middle of limited garden space. I just have a hard time cutting down things with such tenacity).
Meanwhile, back to the tulips: the bits of green on the outside petals are my favorite part!

13 May 2011

Crafty Goodness

Because it’s less than 50 degrees outside, V and I celebrated our indoor craftiness mojo yesterday. I bought this “silk-screening” kit sometime in July last year, during the 75%off toys Target sale (“silk screening” is in quotes because it’s really a fancy stenciling set-up. And I'd provide you with the name of the thing but I'm too lazy to get up to check). I bought all the additions, too, and spent less than $30 total (with an original retail price of $120…).  They came with unholy amounts of pink fabric paint,  but enough others to make it worth our while.  Because I'm essentially, as I mentioned earlier, lazy, we didn’t get around to using it until now.
 As a busty woman with an excess of gravity around me, I often have tops with annoying little stains on them. I thought stencils might be a good way to camouflage an otherwise perfectly good shirt. V occasionally gets persistent stains, too, but more often than not, I find her several thrift store t-shirts in boring solid colors. To encourage her artistic side, I let her pick her stencils, and the colors. She picked a turtle in green, a butterfly (“let’s make it a monarch!”), and most enthusiastically,  a boom box. Or, as she called it, a boom-boom-boom box.
 We had to mix the orange from the available red and yellow (hello, learning!) but it turned out orange-r than it looks here, I promise. Note to self: more yellow, less red next time.
I tried to get her to make a pink turtle, to use up some of that pink, but she would have none of it.
 Sadly, the monarch is already a touch small. New nightgown for cousin Emmy!
But the turtle and the boom box are pretty fantastic. The paint has a decent hand to it, not too stiff, and though sometimes it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped(those projects are not pictured, to protect everyone involved), I think this was a good first run.

Shedid, after all, wear the boom box to school today.

11 May 2011

New garden

We got a new, raised-bed garden today. V helped fill it with a variety of types of dirt, and talked excitedly about what we would plant. "I like squash!" I don't know who taught her that; it wasn't us, but we'll be planting squash. Obviously.
"It's like we're farmers" she said.
 While I moved on to photographing fancy tulips*, V kept working the soil. Myra's gonna be so proud.
 And if you've gotta work the soil, you might as well wear cute shoes**. Right?
Like we're farmers, indeed.

*Upcoming post: stay tuned.
**Born maryjanes, from two or three years ago.

09 May 2011

Mother's Day Loveliness

It rained. And rained.
But it wasn't terribly cold, and the kids were good, and the dogs weren't too crazy, and nobody got particularly pissed off. That's a good weekend at the lake, if you ask me.
When the sun did come out, the cousins were ready to soak it up.
After eight months away, it was good to come back to the lake, with so many people we love, and celebrate a brave, cancer-free mama/grandma/mama-in-law.

Beth and I found this very, very special carnation for her. And I think it really made her day complete.

Hope you're finding sunshine between the rainstorms this week. 

05 May 2011

For my friend Meg

...who, each day, gets a little closer to bursting into bloom.

01 May 2011

Quotes about Spring

Because the only words I can think of right now are swears.

"In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather
 inside of four and twenty hours." ~Mark Twain

"May is a pious fraud of the almanac." ~James R. Lowell

"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems"~Rainer Maria Rilke