Saturday, June 27, 2009

Snake Skin

While working in the pasture a couple of days ago, I found a recently-shed snake skin. It was entirely intact, a perfect specimen. I thought it was so beautiful I just had to photograph it. Moments later, the neighbor's daughter, who'd been working in the pasture with me, found the actual snake. We know it's the same garter snake, because the snake skin had a wound that corresponded with the wound on the snake.

This was a big dude, over 2 feet long. When Zoey held up the snake for me to admire, I discovered the wound on its belly. He was a very handsome fellow. As Zoey held him, he flickered his red tongue at me. We carefully returned him to the pasture and wished him godspeed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Make a Light Box

Simply put, it is a photographer’s aid, a plain box with the sides and top cut out and covered with a light-diffusing fabric or translucent paper. Objects (such as this chess piece) photographed inside the box will have a clean and professional appearance with virtually no shadows.


  • Sturdy cardboard box
  • Thin, white fabric (muslin, T-shirt, interfacing, old sheet, nylon) that allows light through
  • Heavy white opaque paper (poster board, butcher paper, interfacing)
  • Glue Stick
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors
  • Marking pen
  • Tape measure
  • Swing-arm lamps


Obtain a sturdy box, preferably with a lid. The box used for this demo was a Banker’s Box, but you can use any size box. Don’t go too small.

Cut out all 4 sides of the box with a utility knife, leaving 1½” rims. If you use a regular cardboard box, you’ll need to cut off the top flaps. If you use a Banker’s Box, it won’t have top flaps.

Line 3 sides of the box on the inside (or outside, if you’re lazy) by gluing white fabric or light-duty paper to the box. Leave 4th side open. That’s the opening where you’ll place the camera lens to shoot your pictures.

Carefully cut out the bottom lip at the FRONT of the box. You'll be inserting a long piece of paper next, and this will allow the paper to stick out the front of the box.
Cut heavy paper to fit into the bottom and back side of the box, starting at the front, and CURVING UP AND OVER the rim at the back. This will create a seamless backdrop, so be very careful not to crease or wrinkle the paper. Secure paper to the back of the box on the outside.

If using a Banker’s Box, cut out the center of the lid, leaving a 1½” rim. Cut fabric or paper to fit lid and glue to inside of lid. For regular cardboard box, just glue fabric or paper directly to top of box

Finished box. To take pictures, shine lamp through top of the box. If you need more light, shine additional lamps through the sides.

Sweet Puppies

This will be short and sweet, as I'm headed out to the pasture with my backpack sprayer of Roundup, on a mission to kill poisonous plants before my horses can get to them.

Last night my two dogs were sleeping together. As they always do when sleeping, they have to have a paw touching each other, or even better, their bodies touch. It is very endearing. So here's a cute picture of Nova and Asterisk sleeping on Nova's bed (which I made extra wide to accommodate both dogs). Isn't it just the sweetest picture?!!

Asterisk has her own crate to sleep in at nights, but during the day she is able to sleep anywhere she wants. And she almost always wants to sleep with Nova in her bed, one paw touching Nova. Or in the yard, one paw touching Nova. Or on the deck, one paw touching Nova. And so it goes.

OK, end of short post. Now I'm off to do battle with buttercups, tansy ragwort, bracken ferns, and dock.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dog Under the Steps

The most bizarre thing happened last night. My Doberman, Nova--who never ever gets into trouble--got herself into a predicament she couldn't get out of. And it was morbidly funny. She got stuck under the steps that lead from the deck to the side yard. Somehow, Nova managed to wriggle underneath them, and then she couldn't get out.

The thing about Nova is she's a very quiet dog. She never whimpers or complains, even when she should. If I accidentally forget to bring her in after letting her outside in the rain to do her business, she will simply stand patiently at the door in a miserable huddle, waiting for me to remember her. She never utters a peep, even though she can see me through the slider, 5 feet away, sitting at the computer.

So when she got stuck under the steps, she never said a word, even though the slider was open and my desk is right by the slider. She was only 15 feet away. I could tell she'd been stuck for a long time, because you can see where she tried to dig her way out. Unfortunately, she had to dig while on her belly. There isn't room enough to stand up. Judging by how filthy she was, she'd been digging for a while!

The above picture is deceiving, because Nova is a lot larger than she looks in that shot. She has dug herself quite a deep hole, and most of her body is in it. There's also a big hole directly in front of the bottom step. I have no idea if she dug it trying to get under the step, or if the pup dug it after Nova got stuck. You can also see she knocked wood loose from the woodpile, probably while trying to get out.

All I can figure out is that somehow Nova got stuck between the gaps in the steps while trying to retrieve a tennis ball. I'd seen the bright pink ball days earlier. Should have removed it then!

The thing is, Nova is terrified of confined spaces and narrow gaps. She's lived in this house since a puppy, yet she still gets freaky about the hallway sometimes. Then she'll be stuck in the laundry room or bathroom or one of the bedrooms, because she's too afraid to come out into the hall. I have to snap the leash to her collar and lead her out. So it's a complete mystery to me how she ended up in such a wickedly confining space under the steps.

How did I get her out? I had to move the whisky tub on the left of the picture, so she could crawl out that way. Not an easy task, as the tub was full of dirt. I'll say one thing, though. That dog was mighty glad to be free of the steps! I'm still laughing over my first sight of her--me standing on the deck above the steps, and her forlorn head sticking out between the steps and looking up at me, with a pleading (and mortified) look on her face!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Leaves as Art

Yesterday at the monthly meeting of the South Sound Adobe Users Group I demonstrated how to make a light box, and then we raffled off three light boxes I'd made as give-aways. We had lots of fun, and several members had brought items to place inside the light boxes to practice photographing.

One of them, Larry Weakly, brought a most unique item: a skeletonized holly leaf that was utterly gorgeous. Being able to photograph it in a light box allowed for a nonintrusive background which highlighted the beauty of the leaf. In fact, I'm going to tromp down to the pasture later today to see if I can find any alder leaves that have been skeletonized over the past winter.

For those of you who aren't into photography, a light box is simply a box that has had the sides and top cut out, then covered with white, translucent fabric or paper (so as to allow light through). The inside is lined with white paper. Objects placed inside the box can be photographed without shadows and have a seamless background. Commercial photographers use this method to photograph jewelry, toys, etc., for advertisements.

I may be weird, but I think the skeletonized holly leaf is beautiful.

Friday, June 5, 2009

More Puppy Antics

Yesterday I spent the day with my friends, Jacquie Rogers and Judith Laik. Jacquie has an in-home theater, and we lay in recliners all day watching movies (something we do several times a year).

It was the first time I left the puppy in the fenced yard all day long without supervision. Those of you who read this blog regularly, or who follow me on Twitter will have a good idea what happened while I was gone all day. That's Asterisk above with a sock in her mouth. I was taking pictures today of the socks she'd pulled off the clothesline the day before. She grabbed one and I snapped the picture. The massacred foam pad is something else she had taken off the line. By the time I arrived home, she'd gotten into a lot more things! Notice the picture of her looking so innocent in the foreground, while in the background lie the remains of a hanging wooden planter she had destroyed, along with plastic pots for seedlings, and ivy leaves she'd yanked off the ivy vine.

Here's a partial list of what she did:

  • pulled a hanging planter off the deck table (where it was sitting, prior to being hung) and dismantled the planter and spread dirt and plants all over)
  • chewed on the deck, the steps, the gate, the porch railing, the ivy covering the railing, and probably lots of other stuff I haven't found yet

  • pulled an old rubber sink mat from the garbage and chewed it up

  • ripped a pair of my socks off the clotheline

  • shredded a blanket.
  • knocked over a water bucket. Knowing her propensity for this, I'd put out two water buckets, since it was a hot day. The other bucket was fine

  • climbed INTO a whiskey barrel planter and flung dirt at least 50 yards away. Dead plant bodies lie all over the yard

  • got into my empty pots and planters that were neatly stacked on the deck table. She scattered them all over the yard

The bottom two pictures show the steps she chewed on, and the rubber sink mat she demolished. You know what, though? I'm just laughing. I see the humor in what she does. It's not malicious. It's just pure puppy fun. And if you can't have a little fun in life, then what's the use of living?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pretty, Fluffy, Green

The picture to the left is a vase of branch tips from a Douglas fir tree. I love this time of year when all the evergreens are sporting new, lime green growth. I especially love how the tips of the fir trees are this lush green and the new growth is very soft to the touch.

Don't they look pretty in the vase? See how the tips curl inward. The smell is divine. When I pick them, I strip off the needles from the stem before placing them in water. By the time I'm finished stripping off the lower part of the stems, my hands are sticky with pitch and the house is filled with the Christmas scent of evergreens.

I often put Doug fir branches in tall vases and scatter them about the house. They will last a long time as long as you don't let them run out of water. (They're thirsty and will drink half a vase of water in 24 hours)

I used to pick huge armloads of salal and stick them in a bucket of water, and then stick the bucket in a decorative basket on the floor. It looked like I had an expensive house plant, albeit a large one. I did that when I was too poor to afford house plants. Salal will last a very long time this way. I've had some last as long as 6 months in a bucket or vase of water. Every once in awhile I'd change the water completely when it got gunky, but aside from keeping the vase filled with water, that's all I did. I used to receive numerous compliments on my salal "house plant."

And because I'm in a green mode, I've tossed in a few more pictures of things green. The upper picture is a close-up of a dock leaf. The lower picture is an ivy close-up.

That's all. Just a short post because I wanted to share my pretty picture of the Doug fir tips with you. As I type this, the fir tips are on my desk, wonderful smells emanating from the vase.