Kristen Prelipp-Oguntoyinbo

The Rainbow Bridge

Back in May, I wrote a post called The Circle of Life. It was a reflection on birth and death and all the interesting bits in between. In that article, I spoke about taking care of my 13-year-old Siberian Husky dog, named Kika. She just passed away on Monday, so this is a tribute to honoring the death of a beloved pet. Kika with her buddy, Cleopatra, in the yard last week. She always seemed to be smiling.   I come from a large, close-knit family. Before my siblings and I had children, we all acquired a pet or two. So in the past few years, we have watched those animals pass away from old age, one by one. Kika was the last. There was my brother, Paul’s, wolf-malamute hybrid who scared nearly everyone with his massive size and wild appearance, but who was really a sweet soul who just wanted to have his belly rubbed. I particularly remember my parent’s dog, Mali, who was a very nervous, needy Dalmatian who surprisingly adopted their new kitten as her own, even allowing it to suckle her. That cat and dog slept curled up together for many years. We had many great pets and lots of wonderful memories.   During my pets’ twilight years, I have been in the habit of asking myself three questions. Is the animal still eating? Is...

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It's Not Easy Being a Baby

I love babies! Who doesn’t? But as a photographer, their skin gives me fits. By the time they have been out in this world for a week, the baby acne sets in as well as patches of dry, peeling skin. Nearly all have dark circles under their eyes and some are even blessed with a little cradle cap. No wonder they sleep all the time! I would, too. In the photograph above, we have an absolutely adorable 3-month old. She was enjoying some tummy time, lifting her head just so. Overall, I really like this photo, but to make it stunning, it needs some work. So here we have a close-up of our little drool monster. Adobe Photoshop has a cloning tool that can easily clean up her skin. The clone tool looks like an Atari handset. It allows you to “clone” one area of pixels over another area. So, for instance, to clean up an area, I will clone a desirable patch of skin and stamp it over the red skin, thus covering it up. I do this by setting my sampling point on it, pressing alt, and clicking on it. Then I release the alt key and can clone away. You may change the size of the brush as well as the opacity. For instance, when working around the eyes, I use opacity 30% so the changes...

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Tip Six – Choose Your Lens Wisely

This is tip six in a series about photography called, “Ten Things All Photo Geeks Must Know.” It is for the more serious amateur photographer who shoots with a digital camera. These ten tips are the basis for a solid foundation in photography. Once you have these skills in your proverbial camera bag, you will be able to advance quickly. Some of the posts will apply to film cameras as well, but I am writing this series with an aspiring digital photo geek in mind. For those interested in all the tips so far: Tip One: What is a Histogram? Tip Two: What is an Aperture? Tip Three: How to Compensate for Auto-Exposure Tip Four: The Colors of Light Tip Five: Aperture Priority Versus Shutter Priority And now: Tip Six: Choose Your Lens Wisely Anyone who loves photography knows that you can spend a lot of money on equipment. I decided early on that it is generally better to spend a bit more money to buy a higher quality product that will last, rather than buy a cheap piece of equipment that may break in a couple of years and delivers inferior quality images. In particular with lenses, if you spend a little more, you will end up with equipment that –if properly maintained– you can use and enjoy for a lifetime. What makes a good lens? A good...

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Gardening on the Cheap

I would like to reclaim the word cheap. To me it does not mean stingy, miserly or of poor quality. In this post-recession era I believe it now signifies resourceful, ingenious, grateful and green. I love to garden but don’t relish spending hundreds of dollars on it. I prefer splitting plants in the spring or fall, buying plants on sale that propagate well and taking really good care of the plants I have so they spread and thrive. So this blog post is dedicated to a cheap gardening trick that will yield a brilliant fall show. I have a lot of chrysanthemums, commonly referred to as “mums.” They are a popular perennial that blooms profusely in the fall. These plants, along with your asters, need to pinched back or they will be long and strangely leggy by the fall. The general rule is to be sure to cut them back before the 4th of July. So get on it! Then just let them grow until the fall. Basically, you just use a good clippers to cut them so a few inches of green leaves and growth is still left on the plants stem. In the case of mums, save those cuttings! This is what the mum cuttings look like. Once you are done trimming the plant prepare a pot for your cheap garden magic! Just put in standard potting...

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Holy Hydrangea!

I love hydrangeas! They have become synonymous with early summer for me. This blog post is an ode to this incredibly beautiful plant. There are several types of hydrangeas but my favorite is the mophead (hyrangea macrophylla) variety. Most have blooms of blue or pink. Part of what fascinates me about this plant is that, unlike most other plants, the bloom color can change dramatically from year to year. It is also common to have different colors of blooms on a single bush (as shown below), or even in a single bud. This hydrangea bush in my garden has blooms of blue, purple and pink. When I first planted it four years ago the blooms were all pink. The photo above shows a single bloom that contains all three colors of the mophead variety. Each bloom is truly a work of art! A recent  wedding client, Elena Cohen Chowdhury, was so inspired by the beauty of hydrangeas that she planned her wedding colors all around this incredible plant. She knew that they would be in bloom in time for her June 3, 2012 wedding to Simon Chowdhury at Fearrington Village. Some quick fun facts about hydrangeas. First it is easy to change pink blooms to blue by adding aluminum to the soil. The old wive’s tale is that you throw rusty nails in the hole before planting them if...

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Transit of Venus

Next week something rare and special will be happening in the cosmos. The planet Venus will pass directly between Earth and the sun. This last happened in 2004 and will not happen again for another 105.5 years. Observers in North America will see the transit during the evening of June 5, 2012 from 6 p.m. until sunset for those of us on the East Coast. It is NOT safe to look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses or through your telescope or telephoto lens. But you can watch a transit webcast, get eclipse glasses or make a pinhole projector.     Photo Geek Footnote: ISO 160, 1/13 second at f/13 with a 300mm lens.   But all this talk about the sky made me think about how to best photograph the sky and the many wondrous things we can see in it.  When photographing a sunset or the moon it would be great if you had a tripod and a long lens. The image above is the waxing moon last night. I used a 300mm lens on a tripod. I set my ISO as low as possible because the higher the ISO the grainier the image. I pre-focused the image and then set the timer. Often you will need to use shutter speeds of 1/15 second or lower which necessitates a tripod. I always use the timer as...

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The Rite of Spring at 100

The Carolina Performing Arts presented a sneak peek of their 2012-2013 schedule to a gathering of their most ardent supporters last Wednesday evening May 16, 2012 at Memorial Hall on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Executive Director, Emil Kang, took us all on a historical journey to 100 years ago. Here in the United States the Girl Scouts had just been founded by Juliette Gordon Low and the famous cherry trees were being planted by the hundreds in Washington, DC. Meanwhile across the Atlantic in Paris, France a shocking and revolutionary artistic performance would be about to radically change music, ballet and art forever. Kang animatedly explained to us all about the night of May 29, 1912 at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The piece is about ancient rituals that mankind traditionally used to supplant the land and spirits to produce abundance as they emerged from winter to spring. The work displayed outrageous costumes, unusual choreography and a disconcerting story line about the pagan sacrifice of a young girl to appease the Gods. Everything about it was different– Stravinsky’s score featured a bassoon solo played in a higher range than anyone else had ever done; the ballet choreography was the reverse of the basic position with feet turned in rather than out; and it is said that the dissonant harmonies and jarring, irregular rhythms invoked an...

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Tip Five- Aperture Priority versus Shutter Priority

This is tip five in the series about photography called, “Ten Things All Photo Geeks Must Know.” It is for the more serious amateur photographer who shoots with a digital camera. These ten tips are the basis for a solid foundation in photography. Once you have these skills in your proverbial camera bag you will be able to advance quickly. Some of the posts will apply to film cameras as well but I am writing this series with an aspiring digital photo geek in mind. AV versus TV I am a Canon camera user. No matter which brand of camera you are using, the manufacturers have developed some different drive modes for various photographic situations. In a Canon camera I am referring to Av (aperture value) and TV (time value). For a Nikon camera A is aperture priority and S is shutter priority. Photo geek footnote: Using aperture priority my exposure was ISO 1250, 1/160 at f/2.8. I also used exposure compensation (see Tip 3) + 1/2 stop.   Aperture Priority: In this mode you set the desired aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed automatically to obtain the correct exposure. I use this mode usually when I am photographing a portrait and want shallow depth of field (f/2 to f/5.6) or a landscape in which want deep depth of field (f/8 to f/22). In the image above...

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How to Photomerge

When I first started photographing seriously in the late 1980’s I was shooting film. I had a 35mm camera and also had a medium format, twin lens reflex Yashicamat camera. The medium format film was very attractive to me because the print quality from such a large negative was amazing, when compared to little, old 35mm. Also, the larger cameras were so clunky and difficult to use that it forced me to slow down and really contemplate what I wanted to shoot. This is a good change from my normal Speedy Gonzalez pace. In 2003 I switched to digital photography, happily tearing out my darkroom and selling off my Bronica camera gear for a fraction of what it originally cost me. I love digital photography, but I have missed that impeccably sharp print quality.   Now, I shoot with a Canon 7D using the RAW format. So each resulting image file is 51 MB or 17.28” by 11.493” at 300 dpi. You can make really nice, large prints from these. But I have found a way to cheat and get a HUGE file in certain situations. I call them panos, or panoramas.     Let me give you an example. I recently spent a week on Fripp Island in South Carolina. On our street there is a marsh that was host to a large gathering of egrets. I normally...

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The Circle of Life

Recently I took a long bus ride for a two-day, whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. with my daughter’s 5th grade class. To keep the children entertained the teachers played all three Lion King movies so I have had “The Circle of Life” song in my head ever since then. It got me to thinking about my own circle of life. I am blessed to have healthy parents, three wonderful children, three siblings and many friends that feel as close as family. But I know we are all at the mercy of the circle of life and death.   We visited Arlington Cemetery as well as many war memorials while in Washington, D.C. It was very sobering to think of all the young Americans who have died fighting for our freedom. My daughter was asked to help lay a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier. The whole ceremony was very quiet and awe-inspiring. I wonder how their fifth grade brains process all of this?   Currently in my life I see this cycle most acutely in my pets. Unfortunately pets tend to live shorter lives than us. Last year my 15-year-old cat, Eve, passed away and I am now going through the same cycle of aging and death with my beloved Siberian Husky, Kika, who is almost 14. These pets are such amazing companions! To think that I...

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