Free Download - February 2013 Desktop Calendar

Can you believe it is the end of January already? A new month means a new calendar - February's calendar for your computer desktop.

Click on the link to download from Free February 2013 Calendar

I often get inquiries about a photo like the one featured in February's calendar - sometimes I am asked if I used a black backdrop or a special light set up. The answer is no. I shot the bouquet at night, at the kitchen table. The lights are all out except for those above the kitchen table. The lights create a spotlight for the flowers. Then I used the spot meter on my camera (DSLR's will have this option, many point and shoot cameras do too - even my iPhone 4S has the ability to spot meter somewhat) and metered the bright part of the bouquet. The result - a dramatic bouquet on a black background.

Hopefully you've found this month's calendar post useful. Be sure to check back at the end of February for next month's calendar link!


Random Photos

Just some photos I have taken over the last month that I never featured on the blog.

Taking Flight
Taking Flight
This was one of those point the camera at the flock of birds that just took flight and hope for the best. I was lucky that the auto-focus found a bird to grab on to. I was using a 105mm macro lens that doesn't always focus fast on moving objects.

It's still not perfect because as I cropped it tighter, I noticed the depth of field rendered the background windmill out of focus. My aperture was set to f3.5, and with a full frame camera, that was too low. Oh well - I'm still amazed how much detail I still got and I am always fascinated by how flocks of birds take to the sky together.
Ebb and Flow

Now for some fun photos - from a Dodgeball outing my friend Jill arranged during Christmas break. Picture 15 or so kids, ages 5 to 16 playing dodgeball. Add in Jill's husband, Buck, who is really serious about his dodgeball. This is what you get (Buck is in the blue).
The Little Guys Getting Pummeled
Jill has title the above "Proud Wife Moment".

Ensuing Chaos
And everyone playing had to sign a waiver before playing.... but really, no one was hurt....

Shared with Wordful Wednesday, as I guess I had a lot to say today....

Shared with Deb Duty and her last edition of This or That Thursday.


Best Friends

Horses are very much like people - with distinct personalities, moods, good and bad days. They also develop friendships with fellow horses.

These two, Caesar and Cody, are best friends. They've been boarded together for at least four years, but became a pair of best buds when we bought Caesar two years ago and our daughter's friend, Jordan, bought Cody. They now live in adjacent run ins, the girls have lessons together and take them on trail rides together.

It's no surprise when they are let into the pasture that they gravitate towards one another. That's what best friends do, right?

Best Friends With Texture

I added two texture layers to the above photo - Kim Klassen's Minus 43 texture in Soft Light (100%) and the same texture in Linear Burn (10%).

Here's the original photo:
Best Friends

I liked how the texture lightened the photo up and added a golden hue to the scene. It almost feels warmer, right?

Sharing with Texture Tuesday.


Hello Monday | 04

Good Morning Monday #sky #clouds
Good Morning Monday, January 21, 2013

hello roast chicken | trying a new recipe from Barbara Kafka, where you roast the bird at 500 degF. It looks simple and delish.

hello early jazz band practice | we have to leave the house at 6:45. Thankfully, we carpool with friends and the boys love playing, so it's worth the early morning departure.

hello weird weather | freezing rain, then turning to a balmy 60 degF, only to plummet back to a high of 19 degF. Crazy.

hello february | wow, the first month of the year - gone - just like that! A new month means I need to finish up all my safety and environmental reports at work - before the end of January!

hello superbowl sunday | good friend Lisa is hosting a little celebration this year. Since the New England Patriots aren't contenders, I really don't care, but I love hanging out with good friends and food.

hello monday | looking forward to what the week has in store for us.

Inspired by my friend, Lee at Embrace Life, Hello Monday provides a peek into the coming week - in all its glory. Join us and Lisa for the Hello Monday fun


Seize The Moment

As far as winters go, this one has been a mish mash. A little snow, a little rain, some cold temperatures (it got down to 0 DegF last week), some warm temperatures (two weeks ago I ran outside in shorts) and now we are getting some freezing rain.

The ground outside is devoid of snow, so there's plenty of dull green and brown to look at. Yeah, that's not too exciting. But the winter sun, especially at sunset, can illuminate the dull winter landscape.


The at sunset, the sunlight changes very quickly, so if you see something you want to take a photo of, you have to seize the moment, drop what you are doing and get the camera out. Looking outside from the family room, the sedum in the garden caught my eye - I liked how it was illuminated by the setting sun, so I grabbed the camera, put on my coat and crunched through the snow.

Winter Plantings

Five minutes later, the sun was gone. I don't recall what I stopped doing when my attention was diverted (probably folding laundry), but certainly, I'm glad I did.

Sedum Diptych

Sharing with Simple Things Sunday, Mosaic Monday


Textured Bouquet

The very last of the tulip photos, as they have faded after filling the house with beauty for over a week.

Cure for The Winter Blues

I adorned the original with two textures - a linen one and two layers of Kim Klassen's Reentry texture. I used two layers of the same texture to enhance the soft light blending mode I was using. I also removed the linen texture from the middle flowers using a layer mask.

Here's the original:
The textures, especially the Reentry layers brighten it all up.

Here's to brightening things up this Tuesday. It's cold here, but the sun is shining, so we're all good.

Sharing with Texture Tuesday.


Hello Monday | 03

My Computer Buddy
Louie Keeps Me Company at the Computer

hello louie | Each evening, as I sit at the Dining room table to upload and edit photos, Louie jumps on the table and watches me at my computer. He started to lying down (or is it laying down?), so we set up his little basket so he could be more comfortable. He's my PC buddy!

hello tea, pseudo-ephedrine and antihistamines | yeah, I've got a head cold. Hoping to get this fog cleared up soon!

hello bible study | This actually started last week, but I forgot about it! I'm participating in an online study, headed up by my friend, Sherry. We are studying the book of Luke.

hello book club | This month's session is at my house. I am expected to serve my Rum Cake (or else there will be an uprising!). Can't wait to see everyone - and I am determined to be rid of my head cold by Friday.

hello song pop | I am not a "gamer" - I don't even play Angry Birds anymore. But I love this Song Pop game where you guess the song or artist of the song snippet. I "compete" against my friends on Facebook. It's fun and doesn't take a lot of time.

hello monday | looking forward to what the week has in store for us.

Inspired by my friend, Lee at Embrace Life, Hello Monday provides a peek into the coming week - in all its glory. Join us and Lisa for the Hello Monday fun


I Said Moo

These two cows normally hang out in what I'll refer to as the North Forty - the farthest pasture area at the stables where we board Caesar. For some reason, they were brought out to one of the inner feeding areas today, so I was able to get closer.

They are seriously mellow animals - they just stand there and chew their cud.
I'm Too Sexy For this Pen

But with those big horns, I'm not going to cause any sort of a ruckus. Or get in the fenced area with them.

Yup, still chewin'
I Said Hi There

Linked to Simple Things Sunday


Last Week's iPhone Photos

For whatever reason, I haven't been shooting as much with my iPhone recently. Maybe because I want to use my DSLR now because it's new and we're still in that Honeymoon phase? Or maybe because I don't want to use Instagram much anymore...

I'm really torn on the Instagram thing. The TOS uproar back in December resulted in me scaling back what I post there. I know the reality of a "free" service is that nothing is free. I was an early adopter of Facebook, love that it reconnected me with old friends but now find it pretty annoying. I fear that IG is headed that way. I still post, but not as often and have considered deleting my account.

I am using the Flickr mobile app more now, but still prefer the IG filters (seriously, the Flickr filters are terrible) and how fast it is. Oh well, I guess the important thing is to make sure I download my mobile photos to my computer on a regular basis (I'm up to date there).

So, here are the iPhone photos I took this past week.

Happy Trails #sky #sunset
Like a Shooting Star

A mere 20 minutes later, this is what the sky had transformed to:
Evening Drama
Evening Drama

At dinner on the local college campus Thursday evening - the kids were waiting in line.
Slice of Life on Campus
Slice of College Life

That's it for this week - I hope you've had a nice Saturday.


Indulgences | Tulips

Please pardon me as I indulge with more tulip photos. The wonderful winter sun shone bright all day long and I found myself at home earlier than normal. I moved the bouquet into the dining room where the afternoon light streams in.


Pop of Red

Louie wandered in, curious as always.
On the Table

Checking Out the Flowers

Sniffing the Tulips?
I couldn't shoo him off - he was so interested in the flowers. No, he didn't try to eat them... just a sniff here and there.

For these next two shots, I placed the bouquet on the floor, with the white flowers in the sun. I spot metered the white of the blooms, resulting in the dark background. In the past, I've placed a black shirt on the floor when trying to get this sort of effect, but I've learned with brightly lit subjects, this isn't needed as long as I spot meter.
Take a Peek


I leave you with two final images from today's tulip shoot. Have a great Friday!

Bright Bouquet



We let Hannah out of the house occasionally because
1. She doesn't go far - she stays in the yard
2. She always comes home when we call her - or more specifically, shake her food bowl
3. She manages to catch a rodent every now and then

We won't let Louie outside because he's young and we are afraid he might run off. There are coyotes still in the area and it's best to keep him inside.

But Hannah, she enjoys the comforts of home too much now to wander off.

Hannah watched as I was taking picture of the icy branches Monday afternoon and started to meow so loudly that one of the kids let her out to join me. She didn't know she would become my next subject.

Green Eyed


Here she is in "stalking mode":
On the Hunt
But maybe she's just slinking around because the ground is so cold!

She didn't catch anything today. Maybe next time, Hannah-girl.

Sharing with This or That Thursday


Ice Haiku

ice barely noticed
until the golden sun shone
transformed to glitter

ice abounds, hanging
shimmering in the sunlight
delicate beauty

Twinkle Ice

lucky to see you
luckier to capture you
twinkle ice shining

Gentle Bend

P52 with Tamar and Gina


Hello Monday | 02

Red and White
What to Buy When Under a Winter Storm Watch? Tulips, of Course!

hello mary | you only come once a month, but I love coming home to a clean house!

hello tulips
| you brighten my day with your grace and beauty and remind me that it won't be long until Spring

hello 2013 calendars | I've finished and ordered you just in time. Lucky for me, they can start with February 2013

hello again orthodontist
| the week delay worked out for us - the boy had a great weekend with friends without the pain of new braces.

hello violin lessons | it's been a long four weeks and I may not have practiced as much as I planned to, but I've made it to the last movement of Beethoven's violin sonata number 5.

hello summer plans | I know, it seems too soon to be planning camps, but they fill up and we have to make sure they fit with our other summer plans.

hello imagine dragons | your song, it's time sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill to me, but I like how catchy it is, and the lyrics, "I'm Never Changing Who I Am" resonate with me.

hello monday | looking forward to what the week has in store for us.

Inspired by my friend, Lee at Embrace Life, Hello Monday provides a peek into the coming week - in all its glory. Join us and Lisa for the Hello Monday fun


The Weekend

Where did it go?

It started so beautifully:
Start of the Weekend
With my daughter driving to the stable, I am free to take photos while on the road. Hence the photo above. It was a beautiful Friday evening.

Saturday - can you say a high of 60 degF? It was amazing - running in a shorts and a t-shirt in early January - I'll take it!

Sunday - can you say sleet, ice and winter advisory? What a change from Saturday...

As the temperatures started to drop Saturday night, I made a run to the grocery store just to pick up a few things. The place was packed - undoubtedly because of the impending sleet / ice storm coming our way. What did I pick up? Cake mix, toilet paper (it was on sale), frozen pizza (again, on sale) and these absolute necessities:
Grocery Stores are Packed Due to Winter Advisory & This is What I Bought #tulips #beatthewinterblues
I think I had my priorities straight....

The boy spent the weekend with friends in the country where they went 4 wheeling, trapping and generally tromped around in the wilderness. I think they had a great time.

With that, another weekend is in the books.

Linked to Simple Things Sunday


Macro | Shine Bright Like A Diamond

Yes, the song is overplayed, a bit repetitive and not even written by Rihanna, but like most of her songs, is catchy and thus, a veritable hit to remember the winter of 2012 by.

And that's what came to mind when I was shooting this macro - "shine bright like a diamond"...

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

Some tricks I've learned while shooting macros - use the AF on your camera to lock in the focus, but then adjust the position of the camera ever so slightly until you get the element you want into focus. Hold your breath and release that shutter.

In my example, I was fixated on the larger crystal towards the middle right. I know when I focused, that crystal wasn't sharp, so I moved until it was, and did my best to keep still while depressing the shutter. I think I got a little lucky - the two other shots I took weren't as sharp. I also admit to cropping away about half the original image, but I was able to do that because the crystal is in focus.

I've had the macro lens on my camera for over a month because I know I should use it more. It's not just for close ups - it is good for all purpose use, although it may be a little slower focusing. I've really enjoyed using it.

Linked to This or That Thursday.


Hello Monday | 01 New Beginnings

Inspired by my friend, Lee at Embrace Life, I've decided to participate in Hello Monday - an anticipation of the coming week - in all its glory.

And yes, I realize today is Tuesday - I'm just behind a little bit - just for this week!

Hanging Out with Lou
Louie and his Doppelganger - the pom-pom animal I made with friends on New Year's Eve (yup, we're real party animals).

hello back to school. The kids may complain, but they've had more than 2 weeks off and they need to get back to some semblance of routine again. Plus I think the cats have grown weary of their daily presence.

hello orthodontist. The boy returns to get braces again. I'm sure the results will be worth the time and cost.

hello morning yoga. Who knew Monday morning yoga at 5:30 would be such a great start to my week? Even better - the instructor understands if you have to leave at 6:15 to get to work - it fits perfectly into my schedule.

hello neon yellow running jacket
. Wind and water resistant, fits me perfectly and it was on sale. I've become a live advertisement for Brooks running. Now I don't have to be as concerned about being seen on the road.

hello warmer temperatures
. Up to 50 degrees F by Friday? Love it!

hello monday .... looking forward to what the week has in store for us


Topaz and Textures On Ice

This morning started out routine as routine as a Monday morning can be.... it was the last day of Christmas Break for the kids, so I relished one last stress-free morning by going to the YMCA for a yoga class, taking my time to get ready for work.

And taking some photos of the frost covered plants in the back yard. Yup neighbors, that was me this morning, in the freezing cold, hunched over the rosemary plant.


Taking photos of stuff that is obviously dead.
Sunburst Zero

I thought the above looked like a sunburst, and I decided to have some fun with it in Topaz Adjust, applying the HDR Sketch preset. It doesn't look dead anymore, right?

For these Coneflower seed pods, I applied three textures:

Hope you had a great start to your week!


Cold Winter

Ice, that once was snow:

Remnants of the salt used to melt that snow and ice, now crystallized on the garage floor:

And the winter sky as I was running Saturday morning - does it look chilly? Believe me, it was!
Mile 3 On this Morning's #Run #clouds #sky

Sharing with Simple Things Sunday and Sunday Snapshot


For Today - January, 2013

Outside my window... it’s sunny but really COLD with the temperatures hovering in the teens. It is winter after all!

I am thankful… that I’m not sick like a lot of people here at work.

From the kitchen… maybe some potato soup tonight and chicken paninis

I am wearing… Skinny jeans, the crimson argyle sweater I bought five years ago in Scotland, cozy warm boots. And since my office is freezing, my wool coat is draped across my lap. I even have a space heater going, but even that’s not enough to warm up my office today.

I am creating… nothing right now, but I need to get started on 2013’s photo wall calendar. I guess that will be this weekend’s project.

I am going… to take the kids to Bed, Bath and Beyond because they want some special slippers that squeak or talk back at you when you take a step. And I thought that having teenagers meant no more silly toys or stuffed animals.

I am reading… Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It is a sobering nonfiction account of life in a slum of India. I’m not sure I really like it yet because it is pretty depressing.

I am hoping… the snow they are forecasting for tomorrow holds off until the afternoon so I can get the first run of 2013 completed.

I am listening to… the second movement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata no. 5. That’s the piece I am currently working on.

Around the house…the Christmas decorations have been packed away, except for my son’s tree which still twinkles on in his room. When he’s ready, he’ll take it down himself.

One of my favorite things…the towel warmer I bought for the kids for Christmas. Yeah, I get to use it in the mornings since they haven’t been getting up until noon. Stepping into a hot robe after getting out of the shower is seriously, such a luxurious feeling.

A few plans for the rest of the week… back to the usual weekend drill – running, horse riding lessons, grocery shopping and house cleaning. Maybe I’ll get to catch a movie (thinking about going to see Les Miz).

Some pictures to share - from the first days of 2013, taken with my iPhone:
New Year's Eve crafts - pom pom animals - my son making a cow. I made a sheep and a Siamese cat.
NYE Craftiness #latergram

A great start to 2013 - Louie snuggled on my lap as I try to work on the laptop:
A Great Way to Start 2013 #catsofinstagram #selfie #louielooster #siamese

January 2nd sunset - I love sunsets this time of year.
Winter Delight #prairie #sunset #fieldaliens

Have a great Friday!



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