The paper cranes next door

Today’s photo: 13 Paper Cranes.

13 Paper Cranes

Today’s lesson: 3 is also a prime number.

My prompt today was “prime number.” Was my first thought 3? No, of course not. When I saw prime number, I thought 13. Was my first thought after 13 something simple like Cheerios or paperclips? Noooo. I saw prime number, and I thought 13 paper cranes. Not only did I think it, I dragged a step ladder into the yard and tied 13 actual paper cranes to a tree so that I could photograph them.

I am very disappointed in this photo. At first I didn’t know why I was so disappointed, but now I think I understand. I went to way too much effort for the result that I got. It’s an okay shot, but it’s not a great shot. It’s not a shot worth confirming to the neighbors that I really am the crazy lady next door.

I could have gotten just as nice a shot of 3 Cheerios. But then again, there’s at least some chance that more people will look at a shot of 13 paper cranes hanging in a tree and wonder what it means than would have stopped to wonder about 3 Cheerios in a bowl. Still, 3 is also a prime number. I could have gotten by with 3.

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more is more. And sometimes you are the crazy lady next door no matter which way you turn.

Today’s Alice photos:

Take time to smell the centerpiece.

Take time to smell the centerpiece.

Alice is on the job.

Alice is on the job.

Alice has her own Facebook page. She would love a visit.

There’s no Jack Cat shot for today, but Simba the Lionheart did make an appearance in front of the camera.

What's for lunch?

Please remember that not every cat I photograph lives in my house. I might not remember that 3 is a prime number before I remember that 13 is a prime number, but I do only have 3 cats in my house. I’m not quite that crazy yet.

It’s all good

Today’s photo: Everything is beautiful in the right light.

Everything is beautiful in the right light

Today’s lesson: Everything is beautiful in the right light.

I think this lesson is self-explanatory. What you see here is a dried up weed from my yard. It should have been pulled a long time ago, but I’m no one’s contender for lawn of the month. I prefer to let things go natural. One person’s weed is another person’s photo op.

Today’s Alice photo: Alice invites you to spend some time with Miss Welty.

Alice invites you to spend some time with Miss Welty.

The photo prop today was “literature,” and this is what I did for it.

It turns out Jack Cat had a lot more adventures today than Alice did. He is waging war against my idea that I have indoor-only cats, and I’m not doing very well in this war.

First, Jack got out this morning, and while I was trying to get him back in, Old Man Mowgli who has never even wanted to go outside before went out the door to see what was going on.

Jack Cat's Bad Influence on Old Man Mowgli

I though I was going to be chasing two cats around the yard, but Old Man Mowgli only took a few steps out the door, sniffed of some rosemary, yelled at Jack, and went back inside. I never did catch Jack. Eventually he ran back inside when he thought of something he wanted to do.

Later, he got out again. Patricia of Next Door gave me a leash so I could let him play outside without worrying about him running off. This worked out great until he pulled his collar off and disappeared under some scrubby bushes. He was only about five feet away from me, but I couldn’t get to him. He was having the time of his life.

Jack Cat goes out on a leash.

It was no accident that the collar came off. He worked pretty hard to make that happen.

His biggest adventure was meeting the dogs from next door.

Jack Cat meets the neighbor dog.

See how his tail went poof. He freaked out, but he didn’t try to run away. Jack Cat is a brave boy.

Alice wanted to go on more adventures today, but she was too tired after all of Jack Cat’s shenanigans. Maybe tomorrow.

Just roll with it

Today’s photo: An arrangement.

An Arrangement

Today’s lesson: Most good things come from just rolling with the weird or the unexpected.

Arrangement was my photo prompt for today. I thought I wasn’t going to do it because the only thing I could think of was a flower arrangement, and I didn’t want to spend any money on flowers. Long after I’d decided to let it go and just post a cat picture, I started wondering what I had around the house that I could make a non-floral arrangement out of. Thus, part of my afternoon was spent gluing origami cranes to chop sticks and poking them into a coffee mug. This just happened because it was what I found to work with in my house. Most days that’s how these photo prompts work out.

And now for the really weird…Alice’s photo of the day. Alice is contemplating getting into the postcard business.

Alice considers getting into the postcard business.

This one came about because I said to my friend in the office today that I needed to think of something funky I could do with Alice today. She said, “The cemetery across the street is pretty funky.” Once she said that, all I could think about was how some recently told me that she wanted Pink Floyd’s “Wish you were here” played at her funeral. Add that to the fact that I’ve been trying to learn how to make things that look like posters and postcards in Photoshop, and you have Alice being a little strange today. I hope you’re aren’t easily offended because this the Alice adventure that has made me laugh the hardest so far. She might not be done being weird yet.

Last, but not necessarily least in my day, we have Jack Cat’s great escape documented. Jack Cat is my six-month-old indoor-only baby.

Jack Cat escapes

Jack Cat knows there are birds.

Jack Cat knows where the birds live.

Beauty is in the process

Today’s photo: You make me live.

You Make Me Live

The original version of today’s photo: Posted first with the title Alice Makes a Friend.

Alice makes a friend.

Today’s lesson: Imperfections are an opportunity to play.

I posted the original version of this earlier in the day, but I wasn’t happy with it. After work, I decided to play around with it a little bit in Photoshop, and the poster version above was the result. I figured out how to do a few small things in Photoshop, and I had fun doing it. That seems like lesson enough for one day.

“You make me live” is inspired by Queen.

Resistance is Futile

Today’s photo: The Temptation of Alice

The temptation of Alice.

Today’s lesson: Sometimes your subject can be your background.

I don’t have much to say today, but I do have at least one answer to my own question about how I can take a new picture every day of the same object without running of ideas too quickly. I don’t know the whole answer. I just know that the answer to getting through one more day is the simple little trick of shifting my subject to the background. Alice looks good in blur. I don’t think she minds.

Today’s cat: Jack Cat contemplates his next move.

Jack Cat contemplates his next move.

A little bit goes a long way

Today’s photo: A drop of inspiration is all you need.

A drop of inspiration is all you need.

Today’s lesson: A drop of inspiration is all you need.

It seems the rain just keeps pouring down, and the days just keep getting nastier and more depressing. They say there is a chance of a snowflake or two later in the week, and I can’t even work up any interest in that. I love snow, but I miss sunshine. I do not feel inspired by constant rain. Fortunately, I know because I’ve preached it to myself and no doubt been preached to about it by others that you don’t need much inspiration to get up and do what you need to do. I only found a raindrop today, but that was enough.

Alice’s photo of the day: Alice wonders if she needs a new pair of boots.

Alice wonders if she needs a new pair of boots.

This is the actual parking lot Alice had to walk through today to get to her car.

Jack Cat’s photo of the day:

Jack Cat in High ISO SOOTC

I’m proud of this one because it represents a small attempt to try something I hadn’t tried before.

Here’s my conversation with myself about this shot.

Me: I should take a picture of Jack, but there’s no way I can get a shot of a black cat sitting on a black jacket in low light with no flash.

Myself: Push the ISO up.

Me: I can’t push it that high. The shot will be too noisy.

Myself: Didn’t you buy the fancypants camera for precisely the ability to take pictures in low light without a flash? Why did you spend the money for that camera if you aren’t even going to see what it will do?

Me: Oh, okay. Let’s give this a shot.

Here we have it. Black cat sitting on a black jacket in low light shot with ISO at 20,000. Straight out of the camera. Not even a sharpening tool has touched this.

This didn’t take a lot of effort. I never left my couch. It only took a minute of my time. It’s only an accomplishment because I talked myself into trying something I wasn’t sure would work. This is my new goal. Just try things with the camera.

I don’t have a lot of time to devote to learning new camera skills. Someone has to earn a living to support Jack and Alice. I don’t have to learn much on any one day to continue making progress, though. Each tiny little fragment of learning adds up just like each little calorie of Hershey’s Kisses adds up in Alice’s skinny jeans.

So don’t let the dismals get you down, and don’t be afraid to just try something even if you think nothing you can do will work.

Some days you just have to free yourself

Today’s photo: A message from Alice — Bates was framed.

A message from Alice: Bates was framed.

Today’s lesson: If you can’t go outside, bring the outside to you.

If you aren’t a Downton Abbey fan, you might not get this shot, but that’s okay. In that case, I didn’t take it for you. Alice’s fellow fans will understand.

Today was all things yucky. It was cold and rainy and even the sidewalks where slushy. Alice was miserable, and I didn’t know what I was going to do about taking her picture today. I really just wanted to go back to bed. I didn’t think Alice would mind if we skipped a day. As happens so many times, though, I just couldn’t quit thinking about my photo prompt for the day, which was “framed.” I also couldn’t quit thinking about last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, so one thing just led to another. When I thought up what to do for a shot, I really wanted to do it outside, but that was impossible. Thus, I went for the next best thing: a giant classroom window.

The window gave me an outdoor background, plus a soft, diffused backlighting. I don’t hate the window. I think I will use it again at some point.

It’s easy to do a 365 in the spring and summer when everything is in bloom and the bugs and birds are buzzing around. It isn’t quite so easy in the winter when nature has gone dormant and the days are grey and wet. If I were going to give up on my 365 project this year, today would have been a good day to do it. But days like this are what improvising is for. Days like this are what those giant windows are for.

Standing at the corner of hope and regret

Today’s photo: Alice’s favorite buildings are past their prime.

Alice's favorite buildings are past their prime.

Note: I chose this photo as my photo-of-the-day because I was so pleased to have manipulated the depth of field enough so that Alice was in focus in the foreground but a good bit of the background was also in focus. I’ve struggled with that, and this shot is the best I’ve done so far. Camera info: Canon 5d Mk iii, 50mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 2500, Shutter 1/125, Aperture f/22, no flash.

Today’s photo extras.

Alice stands on the street corner hoping no one thinks she looks like a prostitute.

Alice among the ruins

Alice among the ruins

Alice on the infamous rail bound for nowhere.

Today’s lesson: Try not to eat your own seed corn.

If you plant a crop and you want to be able to keep planting from year to year so that you have food to eat indefinitely and not just for right now, you have to save some seed. If you eat your seed, you’ve eaten up your future.

This is the kind of thing that happens all the time in any sort of creative endeavor. You get all excited, you work very hard, and you burn yourself out. Or, you get all excited about your work, and you flood people with samples of it so that you burn your potential audience out, and they all lose interest before you’ve really gotten started.

Try not to do that. You need to save some seed for the next planting.

Today, for example, I have diluted the amount of feedback I will get on any one photograph by posting multiple shots on the same day. On Facebook and Flickr, where I have posted these shots, some people will look at one, and some will look at another, but very few people will look at all of them. I shouldn’t ask anyone to choose my best shot of the day for me. I should make the call myself, and share only one at a time with my friends. That’s a rule I try to keep in mind, but it’s also a rule I often break.

Some days I don’t want to pick just one shot, and that’s okay as long I know that I’m nibbling at the seed corn if my goal in sharing them is to get as many people as possible to look at one of my photographs. It’s also okay as long I understand that I’m going to gobble that seed corn up in a hurry if I don’t pace myself with my own projects. Right now photographing Alice is my project. I’m enthused about this project. Alice makes me laugh. Alice makes other people laugh, and that makes me happy. It would be so easy to put more time than I have into photographing Alice. Once that happened, though, I would start to feel overwhelmed by my life and my job and all of the other things going on around me. I would start second guessing my Alice project. I would start second guessing my own skills and my own purpose in doing any project at all. I would burn out and abandon poor Alice before her time. I’d have nothing left in me to kick start the project all over again when I recovered from my plummeting self-confidence. I’d be staring at an empty field at the start of planting season with no seed corn to be found.

Try not to do that to yourself. It’s the best advice I have for you today.

Feeling artful has its price

Today’s photo: Alice appreciates an artful installation.

Alice appreciates an artful installation, 1 of 3.

Today’s Alice extras:

Alice appreciates an artful installation, 3 of 3.

Alice appreciates an artful installation, 2 of 3.

Today’s lesson: The camera is not what makes the photo, but then again it is.

If you get into photography at all, you’ll be barraged with advice from people who tell you on the one hand that you really need a whole bunch of expensive gear and on the other hand that the expensive cameras and lenses don’t really matter because it’s the skill of the photographer that makes the photo and not the quality of the camera. This is all true. The camera doesn’t matter nearly as much as the photographer, but then again the camera does matter. If it didn’t, National Geographic would sent photographers out with only phone cameras instead of with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

The point we can take from this I think is that you don’t need expensive gear to learn the skills for taking great pictures. If you own a camera of any sort, you can learn techniques that will make you a better photographer. Also, if you don’t have the skills, the better camera will do you no good.

Here’s my example for the “camera doesn’t matter” argument.

Cat about town

This orange tabby was shot with a cheap point-and-shoot camera and uploaded through my phone. The other shots I took today were taken with a Canon 5D Mark iii, which costs more than the price of ten of those point-and-shoots. Yet the point-and-shoot cat is my favorite photo of the day.

I have taken shots with the 5D Mark iii that I could not have taken with a point-and-shoot, and it will certainly do things that no other camera I’ve ever owned will, but it won’t do those things on its own. I’m still better off investing in better skills than in more expensive gear.

Photography is one of those hobbies that comes with a never-ending price tag. There is always another lens or another gadget or another camera that you think you need to move up to the next level. I won’t be doing any moving up any time soon, so I’m just going to have to implore myself and others to consider the orange tabby. The shot is mine for the taking regardless of the camera in my hand as long as I make the most of my opportunities.

The camera does and doesn’t matter, but the photo is always dependent on composition and lighting. Get those two things right, and maybe you’ll be worth the price of the next great camera you think you have to have. Get those two things right, and you won’t even need the next great camera.