Posts filed in: Photography

Spring Busy

comments: 72


I forget: Photos look so cool when they are printed. Especially at big sizes, like 8" x 10". I've been going through my archives, especially since getting the Canon, and picking out lots of photos to turn into prints. They look good. I'm really pleased. That camera rocks. I ADORE the paper (Moab Lasal Photo Luster [now called Exhibition Luster]). It's kind of a matte/semi-gloss. It reminds me of honed Carrera marble. Technology. Awesome. Anyway, I have to admit that, content-wise, the photos look pretty cool together as a group. I think there's a story in them, somehow. The story of these days. Maybe pictures are more like a poem than a story. No linear plot. Little glimpses. Distilled (like a poem). I can't write it. I can print the colors of it on paper, and hold the pages in my hands. I look into them and see the details, sometimes the big picture. As if I could.

New Birthday Cake?

comments: 76


On Sunday, I baked cake and roasted chicken and made stock and made soup and it was delightful. I cleaned out the kitchen recently — gave away the baking pans and utensils and things I never use, reorganized what I had, cleaned out the pantry, oiled all of the wooden things, got pretty jars for the dry goods. As a result, I've been spending about 400% more time in the kitchen and enjoying every minute of it.

Over Christmas, Andy's mom sent us a lemon coffee cake in the mail. I honestly think it was one of the best cakes I have ever had in my life. I think it is a lot like a pound cake but it just seemed even better than any pound cake I've ever had. She explained that the recipe and the special cake pan she used to bake it was from one of her favorite little shops called Pipka's of Door County (Wisconsin) in Sister Bay. And for my birthday, she sent me the special pan (which comes with the recipe) and some gorgeous vanilla sugar, spiced sugar, and lemon extract. The pan is called a Rehrucken pan and it is long and skinny.


She makes the lemon version, which replaces the almond extract with lemon extract. She also told me that after the cake comes out of the oven and gets taken out of the pan (after six minutes of sitting in the pan, which I think is hilarious [the "six" part] ), she brushes the top with butter and then sprinkles it with the vanilla sugar. So I did that.


I also added a sprinkle of powdered sugar because it's pretty and looks like snow, of course.


Dang, this is GOOD CAKE. Hers was better than mine, so I'll just have to keep trying [wink]. There are many variations listed on the recipe page so that should be no hardship at all! And the pan is just so cool, too. She also sent me a beautiful little Carl Larsson tray (like these, but mine has a different image; can't find mine on the Pipka's site) that fits the cake just perfectly but I forgot to take a picture of it! Well, there will be more cake opportunities. I could see this with whipped cream and fresh raspberries or strawberries in the summer. (I mean, who couldn't see that, right?)

One thing about taking pictures with the phone/Hipstamatic (my big camera is still out there between home and the mountain somewhere): Its very limitations is seeeeeeriously liberating. Like, you can really only take the shot it shows you; you can't zoom in, you can't change the aperture, you can't change the focal length, you can't re-crop it in Photoshop (or you will lose the border thing). Right? You can't put it on a tripod (oh joy!). You just hold it up to something and press the "shutter." This is not how I ever take pictures. Normally I fuss with everything, and in the house I never take a picture without a tripod. Ever. And I re-crop and Photoshop everything, too. With the phone pictures I just whip out the phone and point it at something. Done (though I do still Filter/Sharpen everything after I upload them from the phone — I always do that). I LOVE THIS. Total point and shoot.

I will probably go back to taking regular pictures when my camera comes back, but until then I am psyched about the phone. Thank you again for all of the sweet comments lately. And thanks for the recommendations on different photo apps to try! I have barely scratched the surface yet, so I am looking forward to exploring all of that. You guys are awesome. xoxo

Update: For those who asked, the settings I think I am mostly using on the Hipstamatic app are the John S lens and the Ina's 1969 film. But for most of the first two days I took photos (mostly at Timberline, see yesterday's post) the camera was on shake mode, so it was changing the film and the lens unexpectedly and I didn't know how to turn them back. And then I figured out how to turn that shaking thing off, and now it's consistently back on John S and Ina's 1969 (which come with the app). I also got the Helga Viking lens, but I don't remember which photos I took with that one [sheepish smile]. But I hope that helps!

Photo from a Moving Car

comments: 27


Taken by Andy out the window on the way home from the fair (I was driving). I absolutely love this picture. I have looked at it about ten times. It looks exactly like it felt. Look closely to see Mt. Hood on the left. I am INCREDIBLY excited to be taking a photography seminar from Art Wolfe in a few weeks. I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait.


comments: 37

I was going to do a whole bunch of other stuff, like cook and make a potholder and clean the house, but then I just happened to stop by Blair's blog real quick and saw the Glitterizer post, and that's when all Alicia-hell broke loose, and all other activities came to a screeching halt, and I haven't really put down the paintbrush since.


This is not the painting — this is the "glitterized" photo that I used as the base for the painting. Blair's post contains a link to a function at Martha Stewart that turns your uploaded photo into sort of a paint-by-numbers-looking PDF (stop by Blair's to get the link because then you can see GRACIE). You're then supposed to sprinkle it with glitter (there's an article in the November issue of the magazine I happened to run into last night, too). But as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to paint on top of it, instead. So I chose several of my photos of kids and pets and "glitterized" them then resized the files to about 10" wide or tall, and put the files on a CD. Then I went to Art Media and had some 140# smooth watercolor paper cut to 11" x 17" (and bought some new brushes and artist paints, too, since I just had craft paint). Then I took everything over to Kinko's and had them print the PDFs on the watercolor paper on the color copier. (The prints came out a little dark, but otherwise beautiful, so I'm trying to compensate for that a little bit with the paint.) And now I'm just painting right on top of the printed, "glitterized" images, following the gradations created and mixing colors as I go.


(Phone on work table so I can call all of my friends and tell them about my painting.)

I have painted everything except for the very bright magenta patches, which I can't seem to mix out of the seven colors I have, and her face and t-shirt. I am afraid to do her face and completely mess the whole thing up. Otherwise, I just painted directly onto the paper over each area of color, and there are a million colors in this thing. Weensy brush, steady hand. But I'm sorry people it is so cool. If you've been wanting to paint (and I have, for a long time) and expecially if you've really been wanting to paint by numbers, this is for you. SO. FUN. Seriously. I can't stop. It's difficult for me to stop and write this post, but I had to tell you. I SWEAR I am going to answer the last four days of emails later today, too. I really am. First I hafta run out and get the magenta, though. Should probably eat something, too. No time. Back soon.


comments: 31

Oaks Park, Portland, Oregon; July 5, 2009

I was talking to Andy yesterday as we were eating lunch in the park about how oddly lost I'd felt the day before, at the Fourth of July parade in Lake Oswego, without my camera. It was one of the few times I could remember feeling that way without the camera — but then again, I frequently have a camera with me, so I don't have to feel that way very often — and I was trying to find a metaphor. Not having the camera was almost like not being able to write. Actually, it was like not being able to explain. I don't like it when I can't show you what I see. This was the picnic table and the tree, with one glowing lightbulb in its branches, on Sunday. I don't have a picture of the tiny little girl in the wagon with the red, white, and blue star painted on her face, glaring at me (I have no idea why), on Sat.

How grateful I am for that freedom, the freedom to try to explain.

Almost there.

comments: 37


Yesterday was one of the big photo shoots I had planned for the book. This was the last big one, the one with my model, Beauty Nicole. That's what I call her. She's also the most patient and the nicest girl in the world. Even though a porch swing she was sitting on fell out of the porch ceiling and she got hit in the head with a two-by-four (from the ceiling) six days ago (I didn't really know this until we were fussing with her hair and had to be careful about where she'd just gotten two stitches removed), she modeled five projects perfectly. I really, really hope she has the weekend off, poor darling. I wish I had baked her some cupcakes to take home, at least.

I get a little anxious about these photo shoots. The "vision" we're trying to translate is such a wily, capricious thing. When I am designing something, I almost always have a vision for it, a specific environment. It's a setting. I can hardly think of anything that doesn't inhabit a very specific setting in my imagination as it's coming to life. Since I was very young I have always designed things this way, whether I'm making embroidery projects or short stories: There's always a place. It often comes first. My friend Andy Greer once said to me after a fiction workshop when we were in grad school together, "Well, I'm not sure what's going on in your story, but I know what all the characters are wearing and what the wallpaper in everbody's room looks like." And I was like, "Oh good! So you got it, then!"

I'm getting more relaxed about photo shoots in general, I think, which is good, in general, for the almighty blood presure, but good aesthetically, too. I've been involved in enough of them now to know that holding on too tight just squashes the sponteneity and naturalness right out of anything. I "know" this, of course, but it still takes a conscious effort for me to remember that letting go is Good, not Bad. But you gotta let go at just the right amount, and that's the tricky part. It sort of feels like doing a triple axel (as if I could even stand up on ice skates, but we'll just say) — you let go enough so that you can lift off and spin, but not so much that you can't land it. And maybe even attempt a teensy wrist flourish: Ta da! [There. Skate on.]

Part of what contributes to the intensity is just the weirdness of working alone for so long, only getting to talk to editors and art directors on the phone, usually in abstractions and generalities, and then trying, when there's only that one day to get it right (since, trust me, rescheduling a photo shoot is not something anyone anywhere ever wants to have to do), to get something that pleases all of us equally, not to mention pleases our future audience. It's ultimately a collective vision and I feel a great responsibility for that, since a lot of people and a lot of time and a lot of effort (and money) is involved. Part of it is just simple performance anxiety, which has always plagued me. And part of it — maybe even the biggest part of it — is just something that comes with experience, I guess. Is that right? Because all of it, not just the phototography but everything about making a book, has been so much easier and so much better the second time around. I think I'm surprised I had the capacity to enjoy myself this much.

Anyway. These are just the things I think about, now that I am almost there, and almost done. Just two more project photos to go now. But I'll be far away from needle and thread, camera and computer this weekend: I'm digging in the dirt. If the weather holds out.

An Experiment

comments: 64

We are learning so many new things in my digital photography course! As I mentioned last week, it is a little bit overwhelming. It all makes sense in class, when my teacher is explaining it, but then when I get back to my computer at home, I blank out and can't remember what seemed so cool in class, and can't really make sense of my notes. Possibly because the annotated version of my notes look like this:


Or like this (even better):


Yes. Brilliant. But we have gotten so much good information to start practicing with, and I have remembered some of it, so I thought I'd do a little experiment.


This one's called "Untopped, and unPhotoshopped." It is what comes straight out of the camera, before doing any color correction.


This one's called "Once Topped, and Alicia-Photoshopped." On this image I performed my typical process of color correction in Photoshop, tweaking white balance, curves, and levels, and then sharpening.


This one's called "Double Topped, and Class-Inspired Photoshopped." I worked on this image in Adobe Camera RAW and then Photoshop, tweaking white balance, exposure, color, burning in the curves on certain parts, adding an unsharp mask, and I think that's it.

It's seriously fun. I am having some color issues with my new iMac — the color in Photoshop and Adobe Camera RAW does not look the same as it does in Bridge, or when viewing the same photos on-line (on the same computer). I have wracked my brain trying to fuss with this in Color Settings and been on the phone three times with the techs (who told me three different things, none of which worked) and still, something's off. I even used my Mad Skillz in Creative Profanity and still, nothing! Can you believe that??? First the global financial crisis and now computers are not responding to crazed and desperate swearing! What is the world coming to!!!

Photography Class

comments: 60


I spent yesterday at my photography class. It's the second of four five-and-a-half hour classes I've been taking at PNCA. It's the first time in, WOW, fifteen years since I've taken a class in anything. My ability to sit in my seat for several hours at a time seems to have greatly diminished, if nothing else. By the end of the class I am freaking-out anxious to get up.


The past couple of weeks have been so overwhelming! I won't really complain about or bore you with the details, aside from the fact that I haven't really left the house at all during that time, have been on a steady diet of CNN and other financial- and election-related news pretty much all day long (can't seem to turn it off), misread the book deadline I thought was coming up as the 15th of October when actually it's the 1st of October (double-take, whiplash, scramble), and my internet connection is still not working and we will now, after two weeks, need to switch companies completely, and start over. My new iMac is sort-of hooked up, though not really, since I have to wait until our internet service is restored before I finish all the registration and stuff, and the color on it seems to be in dire need of calibration. I think.

So I guess I am actually going to complain AND bore you with the details. Yawn.


But back to the digital photography class. We are learning SO MUCH. It's incredible how much I don't know, and how far I feel I have to go. Our teacher wants us to shoot everything in manual-mode, and, although I understand the concepts of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance in theory, it's kind of like starting over, since I usually always shoot in aperture-priorty mode, and let the camera control most everything else. But I know I must learn how to understand and be responsible for all of these aspects if I ever want to get better. We are also learning how to shoot in RAW, and using software like Bridge and Photoshop CS3 which are both new for me. I am so behind that I think I have been using Photoshop 7, which doesn't even allow you to look at RAW images. So I feel insecure and quite far behind the curve, and that's never been more clear to me than it has these past two weeks.

Sorry. It's still boring. This really is how boring I am anymore. It's awful. We're all sad about it.


Yesterday in our class, we were supposed to go out during our lunch-break and take photos of familiar things and try to make them look unfamiliar. I was so focused on trying to get my settings correct that I wouldn't say these images are particularly inspired, or as abstract as I think our teacher was wanting us to shoot. But I love assignments like this, where you are really very consciously trying to change your perspective, and perhaps even photograph things you wouldn't otherwise think were worthy of being subjects. So I tried to do both: practice seeing something in a conceptually interesting way while really focusing closely on my technical settings. Or maybe I'm being too ambitious and I need to stick with the settings only until they become automatic, and I can see interestingly again. I did manage to shoot all of these in manual mode so that was one thing, at least.


I will say that it is so incredibly exciting to finally have the time and wherewithal to take a real photography class. I feel excited and nervous and overwhelmed and just happy to be learning all of these new things. Isn't the technology astounding? It kind of blows my mind. And we are constantly having to stretch out of comfort zones (and buy a bunch of new crap) to move along with it. This is so hard, but frequently so rewarding. But hard. And expensive. I try to remember how shaky I felt last year when I first got Big Black, and now that camera, or at least what I do with that camera, is as familiar to me as Small Silver once was, and it's funny how that just happens automatically, with time, even though you just don't think it will. You get there. One day at a time.


But then again, I never, ever thought that photography would be something that I would grow to love, or even care about. I never thought that it would become another language for me . . . another way to say it . . . another way to speak. I hope I get more confident. I hope I have the patience to deal with the computer, too.

Pretty Pictures

comments: 51

My friend California-girl Leslie Lindell takes such pretty pictures.


"Through the Curtain"


"Patchwork Love"


"The Pink Tutus"

She recently opened an Etsy shop, where you can buy prints, printed with archival ink on photo rag fine art paper — I swear the print she sent me of "Patchwork Love" looks 3-D.

She has a professional photography portfolio as well. I seriously love this one. I wish I had formatted my blog to show photos off at larger dimensions, 'cause this one is beautiful larger. I keep toying with changing the format but then it seems like all the old posts would wrap text really weirdly and I don't even want to deal with it. But photos like this make me almost change my mind. She says it's the beach house where she spent her birthday.


She shot some photos of kids for me for me last summer so I could use the images in one of the projects in my book. She has a way of quietly capturing people. How lovely is this little feather-eyebrowed beauty:


Miss Leslie, you are so very good at this.


First Flowery

comments: 97

Camellia2_2 These frothy delights are the first flowers I am seeing in my yard. They are Camellia japonica 'Ave Maria,' planted haphazardly by me maybe five years ago now, too close to the house but as such bursting forth with these prom-night poufs immediately outside the dining room window. February 25th — wow. That's a nice winter treat.

To take this photo, I used natural light in my kitchen, which is fairly dim in the morning and gives me this lovely, moody luminescence. I put the camera on my tripod (I always use a tripod for anything that's not moving), and set the 2-second timer. I almost always have my camera set to the "A" setting for Aperture-control. I open my aperture as wide as possible (this one allowed me to go down to f/4.9) and zoomed in on my flowers with the lens (meaning, the lens was pushed out all the way out to 300mm). Using a wide-open aperture and a zoomed-in lens will give you the shallowest depth of field possible — so the flowers will be in focus, but the chair in the backround, which is actually about eight feet away, will be blurry. To zoom in on the flowers, you actually want to pull the camera and the tripod back — I think I was probably four or five feet away.

To focus, you first want to make sure that your auto-focus is set to allow you to choose what the camera focuses on. If, when you hold your shutter halfway down, you see one little rectangle in the middle of the frame which beeps of turns solid when it has finally found its focus, you're in good shape. Use this little rectangle to focus on the spot in your composition where you'd like the focus to settle, but remember — this does not have the be the center of your final photo. To focus on that most forward-facing flower, I hold my shutter down halfway (mine beeps when its ready) with a small part of the petals of that flower within the boundary of the rectangle. Continuing to hold the shutter halfway, I recompose the shot, shifting the flowers a bit to the right. When you've got things where you want them, then you push the shutter down all the way. The timer takes over, and two seconds later snaps your photo, using a shutter speed of its choosing.

If, when you hold your shutter down halfway, you see several rectangles (gathering exposure and focus information from lots of places in your composition), you need to consult your camera manual to figure out how to turn that off. I prefer to control where my camera focuses, and from which places it reads the light. Once you get used to it, you'll find that this is a lot more fun. Don't be scared.

I try to explain camera stuff in a non-technical way because the technical jargon tends to make me start panicking. And again, this is just how I do things (or rather how I get the camera to do things), and what works well for me — and that's typically always changing as I learn more stuff, or as my habits and interests change. Mostly, I've found taking photos to be something that's best learned by doing. If you're unsure, pick one thing and learn a little bit about it — concentrate on that one thing for a while, playing around until you think you get it. A professional photographer told me recently that he shoots every still life at every aperture setting — then picks the one that works the best from the contact sheet. I love that idea. I also Photoshop all of my photos, and I can tell you about that too. But not today 'cause I gotta finish about four half-finished smocked things.

Also meant to say that if you know of any other photography tutorials that have helped you, please leave them in the comments, definitely.

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.