Thinking of Tumbleweeds

Friday, April 29, 2011  at 7:00 AM
The first time my car hit a tumbleweed, it exploded and I yelped.  I wasn't expecting it to fragment into a thousand splinters, pelting my windshield.  The following times I ran over tumbleweeds, I would flinch, but they always submitted to the weight of my car and died a quiet death. 

Looking up at a clearing in the trees on a dark winter day.

When I went to college, it was far from my rainy Seattle and the different, arid landscape there led to a proliferation of tumbleweeds.  Sometimes whole herds of them would cross the road, letting out a satisfying crunch when stomped on (or run over).  The first time I saw one, I was excited--these were things only before seen in old western movies!  The magic never really quite left for me, and now I think of them whenever I see a twiggy, scraggly mass, like this lichen or the empty tree branches in the winter. 

Lichen clinging to a small branch.
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Sketching at Mount Rainier

Wednesday, April 27, 2011  at 7:00 AM
 While Chris was skinning up the side of Mount Rainier this past weekend, I camped out in the Visitor's Center on the side of the mountain.  Not only was this center filled with gleaming hardwood, plush carpets and impressive windows, but it also had an array of exhibits on the history of the mountain.  This was actually my first time ever going to Mount Rainier, despite having lived close to it for my entire life!

Fun Facts: Mount Rainier is an active volcano but has not exploded in over 100 years.  All of the nearby towns have signs signalling "Volcano Evacuation--This Way!" on many of the streets.

A sketch of Mount Rainier from the Visitor's Center.

I intended to do some work while I was at the center, but the flashing lights and bright colors of the exhibits drew me in!  Before I knew it, I was positioned in front of one of the immense windows, staring up at the mountain and doodling some sketches.
It was busy going up Rainier for Chris: great weather + Saturday = tons of people on Rainier
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Latticework of Weeds

Monday, April 25, 2011  at 7:00 AM
Blackberry bushes are considered weeds in Seattle, so it always makes me laugh when I see blackberries for sale (usually for exorbitant prices) in grocery stores.

As I grow nearer to departure day, I find myself collecting memories of this beautiful place and stringing them together, like beads on a necklace.  Besides memories, I find that I am also collecting art supplies--I am not sure what I will be able to find abroad!  Even though this goes against all of my traveling knowledge (don't buy anything now, get it when you travel, etc etc etc), I am so particular about some of my art supplies that I don't mind stocking up before I leave (besides that, they're light!).  Plus, shopping for art supplies pretty much makes my day. 

Trailing ivy always reminds me of The Secret Garden and how a thick curtain of ivy had grown over  the long-lost door.

I love the lacy lattice of thin undergrowth branches. 
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Featured Artist: Maggy O'Reilly

Friday, April 22, 2011  at 7:00 AM
Lately, I am loving the art work of Maggy O'Reilly.  I love how her drawings have personality and are imperfect.


  I also adore her lively use of color and the vivid color blocks!



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Hiking in Spring Showers

Thursday, April 21, 2011  at 7:00 AM
The erratic Spring weather has been has been pulling us every which way recently.  Today alone I saw fluffy snow flakes, a light misting of rain and the bluest of blue sunny skies.  I grab any chance that comes my way to enjoy the sunshine, especially after such a dark and dismal winter!

Cherry blossoms after the rain.

I love the cotton candy trees full of cherry blossoms the most, although the thick carpet of moss always reminds me of fairy tale books from when I was a kid.

Moss and a pine tree seedling, sprinkled with dew.

It's fun seeing all the animals coming out for the Spring as well--I've missed the usual flock of sparrows, blue jays and too-bold squirrels.

Two Meerkat friends at the zoo--I don't have these in my backyard, but they're much cuter than my pictures of sparrows!

Chris and I are continuing on our slow trek towards nomadic life.  Chris leaves in about three weeks, while I still have about two months left.  We just sold one of our cars today and only have one left, but that one won't be sold until the very end because I need it for work (no buses and not bike-able).  Chris is collecting a variety of nomadic gear, such as a Steri-Pen, while I am still trying to plan the logistics.  It's hard to believe that this is an indefinite trip, an actual lifestyle change, and not just a short jaunt as our most recent travels have been.

A new spring leaf.
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Mystery Plant Drawing

Tuesday, April 19, 2011  at 7:00 AM

We are finally getting into proper Spring weather and I love it!  This sketch is of a common plant in my area, but I can not figure out what the name of it is.  It is lovely though, a low-lying plant with rich magenta leaves and small pink flowers.  As the days get longer, all I can think about is how plane tickets for both Chris and me are already purchased and every day is one step closer to our leaving day!
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Review of UFRaw for Windows

Sunday, April 17, 2011  at 12:55 PM
I have started to play around with photographing in Raw on my digital camera.  The photography books I have been reading all recommend taking photos in Raw, so I figured I should give it a shot.

I took this photo in RAW and edited it with UFRaw, increasing the temperature and tweaking the white balance.

My camera lets me take photos either in JPG (in a variety of qualities) or in Raw.  As best as I can tell, JPG photos can be readily previewed and opened on any computer, but they compress information from the camera and you have less control at the editing stage.  On the other hand, RAW photos can not be readily previewed or opened on any computer and require an additional editing step with a specialized program to be ready to view, but they record much more information and give you more control at the editing stage.  In my experiments, I did not notice a difference in photo quality between the two.  However, keep in mind that I have a Canon s90, which is a point-and-shoot with manual controls, and I do not have a DSLR. 

Of course, I immediately found out that after I shot many photos in RAW, I could not even preview them without downloading an additional program.  This is where UFRaw came in.  UFRaw is a free program that is a plug-in for GIMP (a free photo-editing program), which gives you editing control over a variety of areas including photo temperature, white balance, and color matrix.


I am still learning how to use it, but I already love the temperature controls and the white balance control.

This is the basic RAW file with minimal processing, only conversion to JPG.

This is the same photo, only with the temperature increased and the green color enhanced.

This is the photo with the temperature and green tones decreased.

I highly recommend UFRaw as a great, easy-to-get-started with program to open, edit and convert RAW files.  I do not plan to shoot all of my photos in RAW, as most of my common editing can be done to JPG files in GIMP, but it is definitely a great control feature to start using.

Shot in RAW with temperature and green tones amped up, fantastic!
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Sketch From the Zoo

  at 12:10 PM

I have been alternating between drawing realistically and drawing from my imagination.  This was a fun combination of the two!  I was able to get so close to the giraffes at the zoo--only a few feet and two chain link fences separated me from them!
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Going to the Zoo

Sunday, April 3, 2011  at 11:35 PM
Looking into the meerkat exhibit--they are so fast!

I am going to admit, right away, that I am a huge fan of going to the zoo.  What's not to like about going to see awesome wild animals that you normally only see through your computer screen? 


The first animal that we see is this fantastic Gorilla.  While the other Gorillas were sleeping, or frantically hoarding carrots and broccoli, this Gorilla just sat calmly with his cane stick and watched.


The Komodo dragons were also unusually alert.  Usually, lizards are missing that spark of awareness, but it felt like these ones were sharper than the other reptiles in the reptile house.


I also discovered my new favorite animal--the Northern Tree Shrew.  There were two of them in the zoo and not only do they have fantastic, bulging eyes, but they also have fluffy tails that are longer than their bodies and the ones in the zoo were spinning around in circles. 


The zoo has several peacocks that have the run of the entire place.  We saw them everywhere from the Savannah, to the Penguin Exhibit, to the Farm Animal Exhibit (yes, the zoo had an entire section for farm animals)!

While out and about, I was carrying a small daypack filled with food, water and my sketching supplies.  It was quite light and easy to carry, which reaffirmed my resolution to have my pack be as light as possible.  Sketches from the zoo to come soon!
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