Monday, July 25, 2016

What a Weekend

"Okay," DW said to me, as we were preparing for dinner last night, "name three things about this weekend that made you happy."

"Our friends," I said, without skipping a beat. We had just visited some friends that we had known since high school. For DW, she had known one of these friends even longer, since elementary school. We had visited two families at their respective cottages, just outside of Perth, with part of a third family that joined us. On Saturday evening, we went to the 200th anniversary celebration at the Perth Fairgrounds, where we listened to Blue Rodeo perform to some 3,000 fans.

I hesitated for the second thing. Really, the weekend was all about spending time with great friends. I could have mentioned the band, who I first saw in 1986, but my relationship with them is off and on. I recognize their talent and there are a few songs that I really like, but they're largely a country band. Their twangy numbers put me off.

So I came up with something else. "I liked how all the kids got along." Four families. Eight kids (a ninth was missed). Playing on the lakes, playing games in the cottages. It was nice to see.

The third thing was hard to come up with. We were visiting friends and their kids: what else was there to be happy about?

And then I remembered late on Saturday evening, when the moon rose above Black Lake.

That was it.

What three things made you happy this weekend?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Photo Friday: Hanging Out

They needed to get away from it all, to find a secluded spot, where few would disturb them.

They snacked on take-out dinner and enjoyed some casual, relaxed conversation.

Friends, for sure.

Sitting, outside, above the Ottawa River on the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Just hanging out.

Happy Friday!

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Only Hair

It'll grow back. Eventually.

Last month, my youngest, after more than a year of begging and protest, was finally allowed to have her hair cut to a style of her choosing. It's a radical, edgy cut for a 13-year-old, where more than half of her hair is cut close to her scalp. It's not shaved; merely, buzzed close.

The top of her hair is still long and she can tie it back into a short ponytail or pigtails.

Her hair still has an amber glow from a henna dye of more than six months ago.

I still remember and miss her long, slightly wavy blonde locks. That's the little girl that I remember. But she isn't a little girl anymore: she's a young teen and I have to respect how she wants to look.

I hold the line at any strange piercings or any tattoos (henna ones are okay).

So last month she cut her hair, and I have to admit that it looked much better than I imagined. It suited her, showed the confidence that she has exuded for years.

But after a month, the short areas began to grow and she wanted a trim. We knew that it was something that would begin to cost as time went on, so we decided to shop at Costco to see if we could find an economical solution. We succeeded, and picked up a good set of trimmers.

At home, we watched some YouTube videos that were produced by the manufacturer on the care and use of the clippers. We saw how to style hair just like hers, and we quickly went to work.

It was really easy, and before long, our daughter's hair looked just as it had when she went to the stylists.

"I should use those to trim my hair," I said. I had cancelled last week's appointment with my usual stylist because other plans came up and hadn't rescheduled. At the very least, I needed to shave the fuzz at the back of my neck and my sideburns, but DD13 became excited.

"Can I cut your hair?"

"Sure," the answer came, easier than I had intended. I thought I would let her clean up the back of my neck, where my hairline had become scraggly. I could trim my own sideburns. But no, she wanted to shorten my hair at the back, clean up around and above the ears. And again, my answer came easily. "Yeah, why not?"

We set up on the front porch, where the hair could be easily swept away, or would blow in the wind. I wrapped an old towel around my neck and shoulders, though it really didn't do any good at keeping the short clippings from finding their way down my shirt.

It's only hair, right?

What do you think? Not bad for her very first attempt, right?

With both of our haircuts, the clippers have now paid for themselves, but I'm sure they'll get more use as she continues to keep her hairstyle.

And she continues to improve on cutting mine.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Photo Friday: Painted Tuscany

I can be called a lot of things: creative, kind, funny, pinhead, goofball. But one thing that I can never be called is an artist.

Give me a piece of paper and a pencil, and I can write prose. Put a camera in my hands and I can capture an image. But give me a canvas and put a paint brush in my hands, and I'm totally useless.

I can look at a scene and see how the light plays on it, how that light and shadow contrast, how the colours play with each other. With a camera, I can take advantage of that light and shadow, and create an impression.

But to paint that impression is utterly beyond my grasp.

Or it used to be, before digital photography and photo-editing software became possible.

I use two photo-processing tools to manipulate what I capture in megapixels: Aftershot and PaintShop Pro, both from Corel. (I'm not against Photoshop—I'm just in a fortunate position where I don't have to pay for these apps, and they work incredibly well together.) Ninety percent of the time, I use the exposure controls, enhance the black, control the contrast, saturation, and luminescence, add fill flash, and sharpen my images. Perhaps four percent of the time, I render my photos in black and white, and will play with the exposure and contrast, and may throw in a filter, to boot.

The remainder of my photos will have a special effect applied, such as selective focus, vignetting, special colouring (taking away some, adding more to selected areas), and rendering the photo as a painting.

I don't have the skills to paint, but my software does.

Is that cheating?

When I apply this feature to an otherwise simple, or uninteresting photo, I can sometimes create a much-improved image. In 2009, after my family vacation to Italy, I looked over the thousands of photos that I shot. Many, I deleted because they were duplicates, or were badly exposed, composed, or unfocused. Others were fine but they just didn't stand out. And so, I put them in a Reject folder, where they were mostly ignored.

I hate to delete a photo unless I know that there is no way that I am going to use it. That's also why I have binders full of negatives, many of which no longer have a printed photo.

The other day, as I was reminiscing about that trip to Italy, I took a peek into the Reject folder and saw images that I hadn't paid any mind to since 2009. One photo caught my eye: I liked the composition, but the image itself didn't say anything. It was part of a garden that ran along the western edge of our rented villa and led down into one of the vineyards. In the late afternoon, the lighting was calming. Green bushes were interspersed between olive trees that lined the edge, that marked the end of the garden and the beginning of Sangiovese vines. The occasional Cyprus tree pointed upward. A stone stairway kept visitors of the garden on the right path.

As a photo, it was okay. But when I applied the PaintShop Pro art media effects to it, playing with the softness control, with the brush width and the angles, I saw a result that reminded me that a gentle breeze flowed through the valley, that the sun was warm but starting to cool as it dropped toward San Gimignano. I could see movement where my camera had frozen time.

Staring at this painting, I was back in Tuscany.

Pour me a glass of wine, will you?

I still don't call myself an artist, but this is as close as I get.

Happy Friday!