The Calm Before the Storm

Creativity comes and goes in cycles. There are busy times, when ideas come faster than you can write them down and the creative projects flow. Then there are quiet times, when not much is happening and you let things simmer. You need both.

  
I am in a creative quiet time. Since the beginning of August, since my vacation, something has shifted.

In my studio, all I want to do is curl up with a book. I’m ignoring my “to do” list as much as possible. I’m in dreamland on my morning hikes, thoughts scattered to the wind.

What I see and photograph is changing, too. I’m being drawn to different places and imagery. Photography on my vacation was a breath of fresh air. A chance to break from the usual. I find myself craving more of that feeling. 

Now that I’m back, instead of the forest abstracts, it’s the light on the grass catching my eye. I’m seeing things on my commute I want to stop and capture. I have ideas for created images floating in my head. That’s unusual.

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this yet. Whatever the direction, I’m not moving very fast. 

I’m enjoying the lull, the peace and quiet, the feeling of anticipation without hurry. I’ve been here before in the creative cycle.

It’s the calm before the storm. 

The Color of August

Ah, August. Such a bittersweet month.

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The fields and forests smell sweet as they turn to gold.

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The light arrives later, making the shadows on my morning paths longer.

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All reminding me that summer is nearing its end. I must take every opportunity to play!

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And be grateful for this time, these colors. August.

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All images processed with my Bald Hill formula for the Stackables app. Download it here.

A Tale of two Ports

Travel brings you into the moment. As you see and experience new things, you are fully present in a way you aren’t often in your everday life. You can have an even stronger experience that stays with you when you seek to notice and describe the differences of a place, putting your finger on its pulse and discovering its personality. But are your really learning more about a place or about yourself in that exercise? I think it’s the latter.

At the top of the Olympic Peninsula, there are two different port towns: Port Angeles and Port Townsend. They are similar in a lot of ways — they are influenced by similar weather and geography (Strait of San Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains) and they are both important transit connections (Port Townsend is a ferry port for the Washington State Ferries to Seattle and the San Juan islands, while Port Angeles’ ferry connects to Victoria). But they are different too… Port Townsend feels like an elegant, rich old lady, with a beautiful and vibrant restored downtown, while Port Angeles feels like her working class cousin, with tourism taking a second seat behind the real work that goes on in the area.

Washington State Ferry out of Port Townsend

Washington State Ferry out of Port Townsend

Whether that is true or not, I don’t fully know. Port Angeles is the biggest town in the area, so it is an important center of commerce. I would need to spend more time and learn more about both places to get a true feel for their personalities and how their histories and economies have shaped them. But the perception I shared above came out loud and clear in my photographs. Since we stayed near Port Angeles, we spent more time in and around there, but I have more photographs of Port Townsend. Looking at it objectively, that says more about me than the towns. My photographic sense preferred quaint and quirky to work on this trip. I guess wanted to feel like I was on vacation. :)

So enjoy a few photographs from these two port towns, but take them with a grain of salt. As with any photography, they are more about my interpretation and my mood at the time of my visit than reality. But they are fun and interesting anyway!

Port Townsend’s waterfront downtown was wonderfully restored, complete with some quirky art. Want to go for a ride, anyone?

Art  Installation in Port Townsend

Art Installation in Port Townsend

I don’t read much on paper anymore, but a good used bookstore should never be missed. I’m happy to report Brandon did purchase a book to help keep this wonderful little bookstore alive.

William James Bookseller in Port Townsend

William James Bookseller in Port Townsend

I like this shop owner’s priorities! The lettering on the door said “Open Nearly Everyday.” Just not the day we were there.

Closed Shop in Port Townsend

Closed Shop in Port Townsend

I think I will forever be a sucker for photographing potted plants on doorsteps, no matter where I travel.

Potted Plants in Port Townsend

Potted Plants in Port Townsend

The Port Angeles Downtown Associated had moved, but left behind a sad looking vacant storefront on a side street of the small downtown shopping area. Both towns had quite a bit of vacant property, even in high traffic tourist areas. It makes me wonder how hard the economic downturn has been on these little places. It’s such a beautiful and unique part of the country, I hope business picks up and these storefronts are filled in the near future.

Vacant Storefront in Port Angeles

Vacant Storefront in Port Angeles

One of our favorite parts of the area turned out to be the Discovery Trail, a long paved bike path along much of the northern part of the pensinsula. I ended up purchasing a new bike on this trip since I finally had time to test ride them, and going on family bike rides was a lot of fun! One day, we caught the trail near our campground and rode into Port Angeles and out to the Coast Guard Station on Ediz Hook, a sand spit which juts out into the Straight of Juan de Fuca and forms a natural harbor for Port Angeles.

It was an interesting ride, taking us past some lumberyards and through a pulp mill complex before you get out to the spit. It is a different world out there!

(If you ever have trouble with keeping the horizon straight, know that you are not alone. I can’t believe how crooked this is! My intent was for it to be straight when I took the photo.)

The northern view from Ediz Hook

The northern view from Ediz Hook

Me and my new bike! I love it! It’s is fantastic to have a bike that is comfortable to ride again. It makes me realize what I was missing by having a bike I didn’t really like for the last four or more years. I decided my middle-aged body didn’t like my mountain bike geometry anymore when we were in Italy, so I bought a new bike there without a lot of test riding. My mistake. It was too big for me and hard to ride, but I’ve hung on to it since it was part of my Italy memories. Instead of making me happy, all it was doing was hanging in the garage, keeping me from riding.

Since we’ve got my new bike home I’ve kitted it out with basket and bell and mirror and all the other accoutrements that make it “mine.” I’ve ridden it around town a few times already. Happiness!

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And finally, the family selfie! Couldn’t have a vacation blog post about one of these. By the way, all of the images (except for me on my bike) are processed using the Klahhane Ridge formula I shared last week. I love that formula – it’s so versatile!

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That wraps up the blog posts about our Olympic Peninsula vacation. It was a ton of fun and the best kind of family vacation: Lots of interesting and varied activities we all enjoyed, time for relaxation and silliness, and some fun family stories created for the archives. We already want to go back, there was so much we didn’t get to do up there!

I think that’s the perfect feeling to have when you leave a place: Wanting just a little bit more. It gives you something to dream and plan for on your next trip.

A Visit to Victoria

You can get addicted to visiting other countries. After living abroad and traveling, when I have a chance to visit another country, I take it! I’ve missed the ability to just travel and our or two to visit another culture than mine. Since we were a 90 minute ferry ride from Victoria, BC on our trip to Port Angeles last week, we decided we’d pop on over and explore!

The day we chose was a chilly, grey, blustery day, but it was fun to walk around and get a feel for this city. It feels very European, both in the architecture and the mix of cultures and languages heard. One day was barely enough to scratch the surface. We definitely need to go back!

It was a good chance to practice my urban travel photography, which is a bit rusty since I’ve been photographing so much in nature. I’ve still got it in me, though! There’s nothing like an interesting bicycle scene to spark the creative juices.

Bicycle Victoria BC Canada Kat Sloma iPhone Photography

I think the bill postings you find always say a lot about a city, don’t you?

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I love Chinatown, in any city. There is something so interesting about the shops crammed with merchandise…

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Of course, there is a requisite stop at the Parliament building…

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And the silly family selfie! We call this the “Patrick face.” In a family selfie a while ago, my husband was making this weird face that made Brandon and I giggle, so it’s become a family joke.

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I stopped in to see some art at the Robert Bateman gallery. He is a very talented painter who does realistic wildlife scenes, although I preferred some of his early abstract work on display. Next time, I want to get to the art museum to see the work of Emily Carr.

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Chilled and tired of walking, we stopped into a coffee shop for a warm chai and some free WiFi. My son was going into smartphone withdrawal without connectivity all day!

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Unfortunately, we didn’t make plans early enough to include a tea at the Empress Hotel. Maybe next time!

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The images were all captured using ProCamera, had basic adjustments in Snapseed, and then edited with my new Klahhane Ridge formula in the Stackables App. You can download the Klahhane Ridge formula from my last blog post here.

That last image of the Empress Hotel, with the interesting angle and grey skies made me think “film noir.” Experimenting with it, the Tintype formula in the Stackables App gave the feel I was looking for. Not the usual view of the Empress, but I think it works well for the architecture and the dreary sky.

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It was a fun day of wandering a beautiful city. I can’t believe we had never gotten up there for a visit in our all of our years of living so close. Now we need to plan a trip specifically to Victoria, so we can see everything we missed!

A Vacation of Olympic Proportions

Have you ever had a family vacation that just clicked? You had adventures, you laughed, and new family stories were created. Fun stuff. Last week we had one of those family vacations, to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. This amazing place is just 5 or 6 hours drive from our house in Oregon, so we thought we would go explore. Wow! We stayed near Port Angeles and had a great week of hiking, biking, and family adventures, barely scratching the surface of what there is to do in the area. I’ll share images of our adventures over the next few blog posts, starting with Hurricane and Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

The view from Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center

The classic drive in the park is Hurricane Ridge, up to the visitor’s center at 5242 feet. That does not seem high to my Colorado-upbringing standards, but when you consider that they rise from sea level just a few miles away, you start to get an idea of how steep and rugged these mountains are. Mt. Olympus, the highest peak, is 7965 ft above sea level. The 3D map at the visitor’s center gives a great overview of the range.

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See that ridge heading off to the bottom left corner from the “You Are Here” sign? That’s Klahhane Ridge, and we hiked that. The trail snaked along the ridge, with some amazing views in all directions.

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As we got out on the ridge, we were very quickly reminded that my son is afraid of heights. There were a couple of times where he just did not want to go on. We talked him through, helping him move through his fear and complete the hike. It’s always a dilemma with your kids… Do you listen to them and let them choose whether or not to try something, or do you push them through their fears so they can see what they can do? I guess with every child it is different. I’m glad we helped him through on this hike, and he was too. It was an opportunity for a life lesson, at any rate. I’ve spent so much of my adult life learning to proceed even when I feel fear, I want him to learn how to work through the fear too. Maybe developing the skill starts with something as simple as completing a hike on a ridge.

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After all of the stress of the steep trails, we did get some comic relief. Brandon was hiking in front of me, and as he came around the corner to this dense patch of white flowers on the side of the hill, he startled a bunch of butterflies into the air. The sudden movement of the butterflies startled him in return, and I’ve never seen him move so fast! He turned and ran right back to me. It took several moments for him to realize that the threat had been nothing more than a few butterflies. He had heard the buzzing of bees and when he saw movement, he just ran.

We all had a good laugh! This story is one for the family story book, to be trotted out and enjoyed periodically. I will never forget the visual image of my son, running from butterflies.

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It was a tough but beautiful hike! Well worth the time and effort to see these views. The trail information said there was an elevation gain of 250ft, but with all of the up and down it was much more. My Fitbit told me I had gone up 131 stories, or 1310ft overall.

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Great weather, beautiful views, and some family stories added to the archives. Does it get any better than this?

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A bonus for you! You can download the Stackables formula I used for most of these photos, called “Klahhane Ridge”. It’s loosely based, but simplified, from the “Bald Hill” formula I shared last week.

Follow these instructions:
1. Make sure the Stackables app is installed on your iOS device.
2. On your iOS device, download the formula file from this link. (This is a Dropbox link, and you may be prompted to save the file to your Dropbox account, if you have one. Go ahead and save it to your Dropbox and then download from there.)
3. When you go to download or open the file, use “Open in…” and choose the “Open in Stackables” option.
4. Stackables will open and ask if you want to import the formula, click “Import.”
5. To use the formula, load a photo and then go to Favorite Formulas (the ones with a heart!). You will see the imported formula there.

Leave a comment and let me know if download it! I would love to hear from you.

Q&A: Editing Images from Canon Camera on an iOS Device

In my last newsletter, I opened the floor for questions on any topic I might be able to answer. It could be about photography, iPhones, art fairs, writing, life balance, creative process… Whatever is on your mind. This is the first of the Q&A. If you have a question, send it to me, and I’ll answer it in a future post.

Helen from Boston asks:

I have a Canon point and shoot and an iPad. I use picasa for photo organization and editing. I’ve used snapseed for a few years, but the iPad just isn’t part of my photography work flow. Any tips for accessing my photo library from my apps?

Morning Summer Oak Tree Kat Sloma iPhone Photography

This is a great question, Helen! Not everyone has an iPhone or wants it to be their primary camera, but if you have an iPad you can still download the apps and try out all of the editing techniques I share in the Mobile Tutorials.

The first item of business is getting the files onto your iPad Camera Roll. There are a couple of ways to do this:

1. Get them into the cloud, and then transfer them to your iPad. You can use my Dropbox transfer method to get your photos into the cloud and onto your iPad, or, if you already have your photos stored in the cloud, look for an app that has easy download access. A quick search on apps for Picasa revealed an app called Web Albums HD, which works with Picasa Web Albums. If you have Lightroom with the Adobe Creative Cloud, you can get the Lightroom for iPad app which says it enables seamless syncing between your device and desktop. (Great to know — I might just have to try that!)

2. Manually transfer the images to the iPad, through creating permanent albums which sync through iTunes or emailing yourself the images you want to edit. (Ugh!)

Creating a system which automatically syncs your images through the cloud and makes them available to download on the iPad would be much preferred if you want the iPad to be a regular part of your workflow. I’ve found if something is a lot of work, I might try it out once or twice, but I’m not going to make it a regular part of my process.

Once you have the image files on the iPad, be aware that some apps limit the types and sizes of files they allow you to import. If you are having trouble with loading a file into an app, it may be because it’s not a supported file type or the file size is too large. If it’s a file type problem, open and re-save the file using Snapseed, which opens most file types. If the file size is too big, use the Reduce app to make it smaller.

I hope this helps! Thanks for your question Helen. I’m sure there are others who have a similar challenge.

Do you have a question for a Q&A post? Drop me a note! It can be about anything.