Thursday, October 30, 2014

(Not) Finding Halloween

This week I tried to find Halloween - as in Halloween decorations in the neighborhood. I went to our historic district that is famous for its over-the-top Halloween. However, this year I found almost nothing.

It struck me as odd since I, who usually loves to decorate for this funky holiday, haven't decorated much myself either. What is some kind of universal feeling?

So I just have a few Halloween decorations that I found and want to show here. Most of them are in my own neighborhood, just down the street. However, those that I did find are really cool - at least I think so.

These glowing ghosts are right across the street from our house and we can see them every night. And this lovely trio I already discovered in September in a nursery in Berkeley.

But - there are two mixed media paintings. After I hadn't painted for several months I finally started again at the end of summer and I enjoyed creating these two Halloween paintings, the cat and the little ladybug girl. They came to life after the wonderful mermaid painting class I joined in August.

I am linking up to Paint Party Friday for the first time in several months again, and to Friday Finds.

Farm Fences

Of course there were many fences at the pumpkin patch we went to last Sunday. After all, it's a fully working dairy farm, and there have to be fences.

This was the part of the pumpkin patch reserved for school classes only - it's where the  pumpkins are "not bigger than your head". I remember when I was chaperoning with Kaefer's preschool and first two years or so at elementary school that I had to silently giggle what some students thought how big their heads were... funny.

Many fences here if you look closely. This was actually already the farm right across the road. As I mentioned in my last post, this is the area of Sonoma County that is mainly farm land and you don't find any vineyards. You can also see how dry the land is in our fourth year of severe drought.

I always have a weakness for barbed wire, I don't really know why.

And since you liked the calves so much, here are two more photos - behind a fence, of course. The calves had just been bottle fed and there was still some milk on the fence, and some of the calves thought they better lick it!

I'm linking to Theresa's Good Fences because these are definitely good fences!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October Means Pumpkin Patch

Processed with Kim's texture "golden" in soft light at 75%; texture removed from pumpkin

This year it first looked like we were skipping the pumpkin patch - the first time since we moved to the States. But on Sunday, when after some much needed rain the sun was shining brightly and it promised to be a gorgeous day, we spontaneously decided to visit a pumpkin patch.

We went to the same pumpkin patch as last year. This is a very low key pumpkin patch - no corn maze, no jumpy houses - but also no fields where the pumpkins are trucked in every week. This is a working dairy farm that grows two large pumpkin fields with a wonderful variety of pumpkins (be prepared for lots of photos):

I absolutely love the many different pumpkins you can pick here - yes, all of them are on the vine, they're prickly to twist off, but they're wonderfully real. These are by far not all of them!

The farm is located along Bodega Avenue between Petaluma and Bodega Bay where Sonoma County is still mainly agricultural and not so much wine country. I love this area!

Processed with "golden" - my go-to texture - in soft light at 100%; texture removed from pumpkin

Kaefer is sixteen now (and two weeks ago she passed her driver's test and is the proud owner of a brand new drivers license - and perfectly able to drive a stick!), but she still loved running around the pumpkins searching for the perfect one. Her quirky sense of humor is always present!

As I mentioned, this is a working dairy farm where you can also buy eggs, milk and European style butter. They have goats, geese - and these cute calves that visitors were allowed to feed from milk bottles. I offered my fingers to one calf and it enthusiastically sucked on them (I have loved doing this since I was a child and accompanied my Dad, who was a veterinarian, on his tours to the farms around my hometown in Germany).

I am linking up to Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday - there is some wonderful texture work to admire!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Global Cultural Icon Made of Iron

You can't talk about Paris without mentioning the Eiffel Tour, or as the French would say, la Tour Eiffel. Like it or not, it's impossible to ignore it since it is smack in the middle of the city right at the river Seine and visible from so many places.

It was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the World's Fair and first was criticized by many and loved by not so many. This, however, has changed over the years as the Eiffel Tower has become a global cultural icon of Paris, if not even the entire country of France. It is named after its engineer, Gustave Eiffel (1832 - 1923), whose company designed and built the tower. Of course you know the other famous landmark designed by Gustave Eiffel that is located on Liberty Island!

The pillars in the middle are erected in preparation for the celebration of Bastille Day, July 14th

The Eiffel Tower is 324 meters (1,063 feet) tall and has three levels. You can get up the tower by escalators to all three levels, but you can also take the stairs and climb up to the second level. If you want to get further up to the third level you need to take the lift since the stairs at this height are not open to the public.

I love the intricate work of the wrought iron in the arches - it is so beautiful to look at. I am pretty much in awe of this magnificent work.

When we visited the Eiffel Tower we decided to take the stairs to the second level. This means climbing more than 300 steps, but that sounds worse than it actually was. It's much better than standing in line for the lifts for a long time - it's not even half as crowded on the stairs since most people opt to take the lifts.

Can you see the stairs? You climb up between all the beautiful iron work and can really appreciate this extraordinary engineering. The views in between are pretty cool as well.

On the second level you have to take the lift if you want to get to the top of the tower. We did go up there, however, the views over Paris are much better from the second level.

Place de l'Etoile (or Place Charles de Gaulle) with Arc de Triomphe

There has to be a heart on this landmark of the City of love! Hôtel National des Invalides and Notre Dame to the very left

The Seine with Pont Alexandre III, Jardin des Tuileries and Rue de Rivoli

Montmartre with Sacré-Cœur

At night the tower is beautifully lit up and clearly visible against the dark sky. Simply unforgettable.

Every full hour at night (until midnight I think) it sparkles for about five minutes - quite spectacular!

You want a souvenir of the Eiffel Tour? Look no further... in the colors of your national flag or filled with cognac, you can have it all.

A votre santé!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Still Life with Poppy Seed Pods

Using "hazyhazy" preset and "kk_teatime" texture in multiply at 65%

I am currently taking Kim Klassen's Start to Finish class - on the one hand I learn more about Lightroom which I am getting quite addicted to, and on the other hand this class is about still life. I hadn't done any still life photography before, not really, and I've found that I like it.

One of the assignments was to create and photograph a still life with a paper bag. Many thoughts wandered through my head - filling a paper bag with grapes or tomatoes or any kind of fruit. But that didn't cut it for me. One day I remembered all the poppy seed pods I saved from my garden - and with that I suddenly knew what I wanted to do.

The "moody" one; preset "gentle", texture "kk_wednesday" in soft light at 68%

To my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed creating this still life. I easily spent a couple of hours with setting up, changing and photographing it. I tried different moods by using not only white but also blue and black backgrounds. I also changed my angle, got close ups and some shots of the entire setting with the intention to crop it later. It was fun, and I felt very contend and excited after I was finished.

When I processed the photos in Lightroom, I used some of Kim's presets and transferred some of the photos to Photoshop to layer them with a texture and add some texts, both of which are not possible in LR. Seriously, I felt like a kid in a candy store with all these new possibilities.

The black one; texture "kk_monday" in soft light at 100%

There is a ton I still have to learn, but it is a lot of fun at the same time. I already see some progress in my work.

Here's a shot from above:

preset "touchofvintage"

I am linking up to Kim's Friday Finds - this has quickly become one of my favorites.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Different Kind of Fence

For this week's "Good Fences" I'm taking you to Paris again - and trust me, this won't be the last time.

I love to take pictures of windows (and doors), and I noticed something about the windows in Paris: many of them have a little "fence" at the bottom of their windows. I don't even know how to call these! So I call them "mini fences". I'm not quite sure why they are there. For windows on the second floor and higher they might prevent you from falling out if you're stupid enough to lean that far out. Some practical people use them to put their window boxes on.

But what is the reason of this one? It doesn't prevent anyone from falling out (on the first floor?) or climbing in, even if they're jumping out of the wall.

These ones I get - and please notice how people park here! We saw that way of tight parking all over Paris, not only in Montmartre where most of these pictures were taken. I'm quite glad that we didn't have a car in Paris!

These mini fences seem to be everywhere - and these actually really seem to have a preventive reason since they are higher than the others (we had something like that in our apartment in Germany).

This one certainly is here just for decorative reason - and isn't it beautiful?

Perfume company Guerlain on the Champs-Élysées, however, has the most beautiful one - as it should be for a house of beauty.

That's my little "mini fence on window" tour through Paris. I hope you enjoyed it!