Can you take a better picture?

Do you remember when photos were printed on paper, from film that had to be developed by someone that was not you? Opening the package of prints was always a surprise — often not a happy one. On my best days, 1 print out of 10 might be good. The rest never did match my memory of the moment.

Fast forward to now. Digital photography has advanced to the point that we take pictures all day long. The results are immediately available and we can see if the picture is good, or not. But here’s a question: Do you apply a critical eye to your photos? Are you taking the best photo that you could?

Three years ago I signed up for Ricky Tims’ 52-Week Photo Challenge Class. I had no idea how much I didn’t know! The dials and buttons on the camera are no longer a mystery. I’ve quit relying on autofocus!

I’ve learned to pay more attention to the image before I actually take the photo. What needs to be in the photo, and what does not? Every photo gives you the chance to play with light, color, and scale — and the relationships between them. Happily, the same rules of design apply to quilting!

Much of the class is about image editing. Ricky teaches how to use both Lightroom and Photoshop, both of which are powerful editing tools. I had never used Lightroom and now can’t image working on photos without it.

After I finished the 52-week class, I signed up for the Critique class. Even when I’m busy, I do my best to take my weekly photo. Maybe that’s why it feels like a gift! Taking time to do something that makes you happy is the best gift you can give yourself.

Ricky is starting his 4th 52-Week Photo Class. If it sounds good to you, click here and sign up. You will be glad you did!

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Here are a few of my photos…

Taken near the Hudson River, NYC. This was a quick photo, lightly edited.

Taken near the Hudson River, NYC. This was a quick photo, lightly edited.

My granddaughter offerred to help out by posing which was very nice.

My granddaughter offerred to help out by posing for my Wonderland photo assignment which was very nice.

For the Mirror Mirror challenge.

For the Mirror Mirror challenge.

Stuck in place…

My photo assignment this week is ‘stuck in place’. This is an exercise where you pick one spot and stay in it for an hour taking photos. I went to the Austin College campus and planted myself here:


I took nearly 300 photos! I have to choose my top 3 images (excluding the image above) to turn in late Saturday. I’ve narrowed it down to 11 images. I think that this photo will make the cut:

cropped, minor edits

Click here if you’d like to see my other photos and leave a comment on the blog to tell me which ones you like the best!

Mirror, mirror…

That was the title of our photo challenge last week. We were supposed to incorporate a mirror or mirror-ish surface (like water) in the image. I admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time on this photo but, as it turns out, I like it a lot!


The round mirror is a small magnifying mirror that I use when I am putting on mascara. When you stand back a little ways from it, the image is turned upside-down. The trick was positioning myself just right which took many tries.

I’ve noticed that I love photos without color, and I love quilts with lots of color. I’m not even going to spend time thinking about why that is. Perhaps, if there were more hours in the day, I’d give it a good think!

Where does the time go?

It’s been 11 days since I posted although it feels like it was just yesterday. Steve says that time is time—always the same—but I think that time is moving faster these days. I’m feeling rushed even though I don’t have any looming, horrible deadlines. Why is there still so very much to do? I know I’m not alone. It’s the same for you. Let’s all take a deep breath and slow down for a moment… and perhaps have a glass of wine.

I am still spending time each week on taking the photo for my photo class. This week’s challenge is to Go Big. We are free to interpret that however we want so I decided to show big hands, or a hand as it turned out.

When you really look a hand in different positions, the proportions and shapes are odd, but because we know what a hand looks like, we know what it is.  In this photo, if you didn’t know what a hand looks like, you might think that it was mostly big fingers.  Side note: I have a new prime lens and there’s more of a learning curve to using it than I thought there would be. It’s interesting to not be able to zoom in or out. It’s going to take me a while to adjust to the distance I need to be from whatever I’m shooting.

Have you ever tried to draw a hand? It’s not easy because when you look a hand in different positions, the proportions and shapes can be odd. But because we know what a hand looks like, we know what it is. Our eye corrects for the distortions that are right in front of us. In the photo above, if you didn’t know what a hand looks like, you might think that it was mostly big fingers.

I used my new prime lens for that photo, and the next one. This lens has a fixed focal length. You don’t zoom in and out with the camera, you ‘zoom with your feet’. As near as I can tell the optimal distance from me to my subject needs to be about 3 feet. There’s more of a learning curve to using this lens than I thought there would be but I’m determined to master it.


That’s Bear. He’s hard to catch because he won’t stay still.

I travel to Georgia tomorrow to visit the Chattahoochee Evening Stars for a workshop on Sunday and a lecture Monday night. Maybe I’ll see you there! I’ll do my best to post some pictures on Instagram :-).

The 52 Week Photo Challenge…

I’ve written about Ricky Tims’ photography class in previous posts. I’ve been in the class since January 1 and it truly is the best present I’ve given myself in a long time. I have learned so much and have become a much more confident photographer. Even my iPhone photos are better!

Ricky has begun the registration for next year’s class and there is a significant savings if you sign up before December 10. Click here for more info. This is not a class for quilters only—it’s a class for anyone interested in photography.


If you want to get the most from the class, it does require an investment of time. And if you don’t have a good digital camera and Photoshop, you’ll need those as well. But if you are interested in becoming a better photographer this is an excellent opportunity.

Autumn photo challenge…

My friend, Catherine, and I are both taking Ricky’s 52 Week Photo Challenge. This week the challenge is ‘autumn’. What a great excuse to go to the Dallas Arboretum! Let me just say, they have the most amazing array of pumpkins, gourds, and autumn flowers on display. Every year, it gets better.

Catherine took this photo of me :-).

Catherine took this photo of me :-).

For me, the photography challenge was to choose the correct aperture and to manually focus. I had to cull many photos, but there were a surprising number of good ones in the group. We also learned some new editing tricks in Lightroom this week that I am very happy to know.

Of the 209 photos I took, I think these are my best choices. Of these, I have several favorites. I’d love it if you let me know which photo you think says ‘Autumn’ AND is also a good photo—in focus, framed well, overall just a nice composition. I thank you in advance the time you spend doing this :-).

FYI: Click on the photo galleries to see bigger photos. Look for the right and left arrows to scroll through the gallery.

I took a lot of street-scene-with-pumpkin photos. We went on mother and baby/little kid day. The children were decked out to be photographed with the pumpkins and adults were snapping away like crazy. There were also a lot of adults without children in tow (like us) who were there to soak up a beautiful day.

This is a yearly display at the Arboretum. Right now the pumpkins are firm and looking good. As they sit out in the sun, and later, after we begin to get overnight freezes, they get soft and tired. The display ends at Thanksgiving, but by then they are well past their prime. If you are nearby, now is definitely the time to go!