More photo experiments

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With my photo experiments so far, I have used natural light and flourescent daylight bulbs, colored paper and a black velvet bust. The photos taken in the natural light of my window were too dark. The photos taken on the black velvet bust were too flat looking. The photos taken on the colored paper looked too busy to me. The jewelry was getting lost in the color of the paper. Some props I used competed with the jewelry. Then I borrowed some gradient paper and did some experimenting. It is the best so far, I think. Clean and professional looking, it does not compete with the jewelry at all. In fact, it seems to make the colors of the jewelry stand out so it enhances the piece.

My “Woodland Fairy” bracelet was inspired by a stitch technique in the marvelous book, “Mastering Beadwork” by Carol Huber Cypher. Carol calls the technique “peyote-carry-one” and it is similar to a Dutch spiral in that you add an extra bead which is then not woven into on the next round. It gives more fluidity and drape than regular tubular peyote which can be pretty stiff. It also enables you to add a bead with small holes since you don’t stitch into it on the next round. I decided to use the drop beads I used in my “Woodland Fairy” necklace but I didn’t want to carry them through the whole bracelet. I think it gives the look of a textured bead in front.

What do you think?

Saturday Morning Tea

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A misty, rainy fall morning and I open with a quote from one of the oldest books on tea, the Ch’a-Ching (The Classic of Tea) by Lu Yu

“There are a thousand different appearances of tea leaves. Some have creases like the leathern boot of a Tartar horseman, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like the mist rising out a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like fine earth newly swept by rain.”

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This morning I am sipping a China black tea called Yunnan Rare Grade. As I talked about in my post on Pu-ehr teas, the tea plants in Yunnan province are actually trees with a bigger, broader leaf. This tea has a lot of golden tips as you can see in the dry leaf photo. Some of the leaf is starting to uncurl when wet but most are still curled up from the rolling process.

A dark, sweet aroma wafts from my cup. I take a sip and my mouth is filled with a spicy earthiness, reminding me of the rich smell of a newly fallen leaf. The Chinese call this a red tea and you can see why. If you enjoy red wine, dark chocolate or even a thick, dark beer, you will like the taste of a Yunnan black tea.

Go Sox!

White Balance

One of the disadvantages to having a camera with auto features is that you rely on the camera to just do all of the technical work for you. Point and shoot. Easy, right? Even auto focus which is a wonderful feature for my eyes pushing half a century old. Since I started using my Nikon D40 camera, I’ve been taking mainly outdoor shoots and indoor shots using the popup flash. Now that I am using my new light tent, I am taking photos with flourescent lighting. My first couple of shots (in my last post) came out so dark and flat looking even though I had my camera on a tripod and was able to slow down the shutter speed. I was getting quite frustrated and was beginning to doubt my new purchase. I always had better luck with natural lighting so why not just stick with that, I said to myself. Then my wonderful SO mentioned 2 little words that changed my focus (pun intended). White balance. White balance? Ooooohh, the camera has to be told that the lighting in the photos is from flourescent bulbs because, in essence, different kinds of lighting have an effect on the colors in your subject. Somehow I knew this but I never really thought about it in depth before. So, I pulled out the Nikon D40 bible that I had shoved in my camera bag, thinking I would never read all of that. I turned to the white balance section and sure enough, there is a setting for flourescent lighting. Now I was starting to feel pretty dumb about all of this. Those gremlin voices were screaming, “Geesh Karen, you’ve been taking photographs for how many years??” So, I let them have their say and just chalked it up to a learning experience. So, without further ado, here are my latest experiments.

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Woodland Fairy and Early Spring

Tonight I conducted some more photo experiments. I purchased background papers at A.C. Moore yesterday and arranged my “Woodland Fairy” necklace (on left) down on the paper. Because of the shape of the necklace, I decided that laying it on the paper didn’t display the necklace very well at all so I placed it on a black velvet bust I have from my show display. I thought this looked a lot better.

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With my “Early Spring” necklace (on right), I decided to lay it down on the background paper. It looked much better laying down than the other necklace did but now I’m wondering if I should place it on a natural prop like a stone or a piece of wood. What do you think?

I wanted to contrast 2 types of placement. Back to my experimenting!

Lighting a Secret Garden

My new Tabletop Studio has arrived and I set it up today. Other than an odd plastic smell emanating from them, the pieces were packed very well and easy to put together. The tents themselves look like square white laundry bags, the kind I bought for my daughter when she went off to college. My setup came with a 12″ and a 20″ cube. They both fold up flat and fit into a nifty carry bag. I’ll probably use both cubes since I’m photographing jewelry.

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I didn’t get any of their graduated backgrounds yet so I used some brightly colored fabric I had. Even though the fabric matches the necklace, it’s probably too brightly colored for this purpose. I do love that green though! The light is nice and even and shows off the beads pretty well. I closed my aperture way down (f16) to get maximum depth of field and used a manual focus.

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For comparison, I took a shot in full sun. It’s way too harsh with many shadows and the colors in the necklace are all bleached out. It does show the texture in the raku flower pendant that the Tabletop Studio shot did not. So, even though the sun shot has more dimensionality, it’s not good for the purpose intended here.

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This is the same shot but I put a piece of printer paper between the sunshine and the necklace. Oh yes, I also turned the fabric over to see what the other side would look like. Actually, I like this shot a lot because it shows off the colors in the necklace and the texture in the pendant. Since I didn’t have the camera on the tripod, I couldn’t close down the aperture like I did with the Tabletop shot so it doesn’t have the same depth of field. I also used the auto focus mode for the 2 sun shots.

Open stock paper is on sale at A.C. Moore this week so I’ll go choose some different backgrounds and continue to experiment.

I’ve named my necklace “Secret Garden” because the pendant and the colors remind me of one of my most favorite childhood stories. I acquired the raku pendant during a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii 3 years ago. The braided necklace strands are peridot, pearl and square bronze-lined aqua glass beads. I created the clasp from 16-gauge copper wire. I also made a matching bracelet and earrings. Stay tuned for their photo shoots!

Saturday Morning Tea

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I quietly sit with my Saturday morning cuppa and gaze out my window at the gorgeous colors bursting across the New England landscape. The rich autumn palette has inspired me to reach for a tea with a deeply colored leaf, a Japanese green called Gyokuro Kamakura, a precious gift from a colleague.

The Japanese word Gyokuro translates in English to “pearl dew” or “jewel dew” which in my mind conjures up images of a delicate sunrise over misty fields of tea bushes. Approximately 3 weeks before the leaves are ready for plucking, the bushes are covered with a dark cloth or straw. This covering results in the harvest of a darker green, silky leaf with a slightly higher caffeine content.

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The aroma reminds me of freshly cut grass and the spring green liquor is richly vegetal with a tang which wakes up my tongue. The tea packet is created with beautifully textured and colored Japanese paper. I believe that the bottom symbol is the Japanese character for tea. If the spirit ever moved me to get a tattoo, this is what I would choose. I love Japanese kanji characters for their artful quality but especially for how they tell a story about a word or phrase.

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What is your experience with Japanese tea?

Saturday Morning Tea

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This morning there is a very cool breeze coming in my windows. As I gaze out over the treetops, I see a variety of reds, oranges, maroons and golds blooming amongst the greenery. October is one of my favorite months because I love so much about this autumn time of year – the aroma of dry leaf as it dances across my path, the explosion of color across the landscape, the crisp, tart taste of a just picked apple, the bright orange pumpkins displayed in wooden carts along the side of the road. This morning, however, I am feeling wistful as the memory of summer slips away. So, in light of my mood, I have brewed up a green Formosa Oolong called Spring Dragon.

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After plucking the new growth (2 leaves and a bud), the leaves are spread out to dry and oxidize. They are shaken periodically during this drying period to bruise the leaf and release its volatile oils for flavor. This also helps in the oxidation process, the turning brown process of the leaf. This Oolong is only lightly oxidized so it is carefully monitored during this time. Once the tea master judges the oxidation to be sufficient, the leaves are pan roasted to halt oxidation. Then they are rolled and dryed some more.

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It is amazing that you can see the serration on the edges of the intact leaf that I have spread out after I steeped the tea. I left a portion of one leaf still rolled up a little so you can see how it has opened up. The aroma is sweet and delicately flowery. The light honey colored liquor is also sweet with lilac flavor notes. Mmmmmmm….