The Kitchen Fix (A Mobile Tutorial)

Here they are! Photos of our new kitchen. We love, love, love it. I never dreamed of designing a kitchen from scratch, so this is the dream kitchen I never knew I wanted.


I’ve been meaning to get good pics to share on the blog since the remodel finished. I was disappointed this weekend when, after cleaning and polishing the kitchen, I pulled out my dSLR and discovered I don’t have a lens with wide enough angle to get the whole kitchen in. With my small house, I couldn’t move far enough back to get the views I wanted. So I tried the iPhone, which had a wider angle to fit more in the frame, and I went with it.

Now, let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate: An iPhone isn’t the right camera for serious architectural photography. A full frame dSLR with a wide angle lens, some additional lighting and a tripod would do the job nicely. If you would like to see photos of our kitchen like that, you can visit Kirk Design and Construction’s website, here.

I needed to pull out some tricks to eke out the best from the iPhone instead. I thought I’d share a couple of the apps I used along with the pics today. All of these pics are in full resolution, so you can click on them to see a larger image. I wanted you to be able to see the detail I’m talking about.

ProCamera HDR

With the arrival of iOS 8, ProCamera rolled out a new version with an HDR upgrade option. For $1.99, you can add this new camera option to the already-great app.


Use of the HDR camera is simple. Frame your photo, setting your focus and exposure as always you always do in ProCamera, and take your photo. (Instructions for using ProCamera are here, if you need them.) ProCamera quickly takes two photos, a light and dark exposure, and combines them. You are shown the preview, and you can toggle back and forth between the original and HDR versions. If you like the HDR version, you save, otherwise you can cancel.


You have the option to select the HDR processing effect in the menu, choosing between Natural, Vivid, Dramatic, Black n White, and Faded. I like Natural the best.


Having a quick HDR option within my favorite camera app is nice for those times when lighting conditions are especially challenging, like in the kitchen.


The main challenge with any HDR app is stability between the two exposures. Slight shifts of the camera will cause blur when the two images are combined. If you click on the image above to look at it larger, you can see the focus is soft, most obviously on the right side of the stove, the clock and decorations above the cabinets. For perfect HDR, a tripod is really needed, whether you are using an iPhone or a dSLR.

Perfectly Clear

Since I didn’t want to pull out my tripod for a perfect HDR photo, I decide to go with my usual solution for high contrast, expose for the highlights and then edit.

I started with an image captured in the standard ProCamera, exposing for the highlights in the window which leaves the kitchen underexposed.


I started with a basic edit in Snapseed, adjusting brightness, ambiance and contrast and cropping to remove the distracting lights.


The image was still a bit flat, so I pulled it into the app Perfectly Clear. This app makes automatic adjustments to improve exposure, tint, noise and sharpness. You can then fine tune individual adjustments, using the Tweak menu on the right. Perfectly Clear allows you to see the before and after at the same time, a nice feature.


The final image is definitely clearer. Perfectly Clear has a tendency to over sharpen, which adds noise, so keep an eye on that. Starting with an underexposed image, which has more noise, doesn’t help. This version ends up with more noise than I would like, but the overall exposure works. (Click on the image to see it larger.)


This is a nice app to bring some clarity and finely tuned adjustments to iPhone photographs. I don’t see using it much for my artistic work, because I’m more often going for a soft, ethereal effect rather than the “perfectly clear” look, but it’s a useful app to have in the processing arsenal for those times when I want my image crisp and clean.

So there’s my new kitchen, along with a couple of apps to help you get better photographs with your iPhone. I hope you enjoy the apps as much as I’m enjoying this new kitchen! If you’re in the neighborhood, you can see the kitchen in person during the Philomath Open Studios tour the next two weekends, when my studio will be open for visitors.

A New Crush

I am one of those who has no trouble imagining the sentient lives of trees, of their leaves in some fashion communicating or of the massy trunks and heavy branches knowing it is I who have come, as I always come, each morning, to walk beneath them, glad to be alive and glad to be there.
— Mary Oliver in Winter Hours


On a whim last week, I wanted to read some poetry. When I did a search of our online library, a few of Mary Oliver’s books popped up on the list. I like a lot of quotes I’ve read by her, I thought, so I checked out her book of essays and poetry, Winter Hours.

Oh my. Have I found a kindred spirit in Mary Oliver! Every other paragraph there is something I want to write down. She expresses in words what I feel about so many things, like the quote above. Did she reach into my head to extract that? No, no, of course not. It’s that she finds her inspiration in morning walks in the woods with her dog, creating beautiful and simple poetry and prose out of her experiences. She has followed her ritual long, long before I discovered a similar one for myself.

But the similarities mean that her words resonate deeply with me. She is someone I can learn from and look to for inspiration. Someone whose art speaks to mine. For aren’t poetry and photography similar? They are both made of fragments, a partial view of the whole, conveying an experience which must be expressed; can’t be suppressed.

Her creative philosophy resonates with me too. In an interview with her on NPR from a couple of years ago, she said, “I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.” And I thought, That’s exactly how I feel about photographs! In my imagery, I want to distill the greater world down to the essentials, keeping only what is necessary to convey something. Simpler is often better, I have found, for conveying emotion.
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What’s in a Masterpiece?


In a recent interview for the Philomath Open Studios blog, I was asked this question: What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?

That got me to thinking… What is a “masterpiece?” Have I ever created one?

I’m thinking a masterpiece is something that exemplifies the best of an artist’s work. A piece which reaches the height of communicating an artist’s vision. A piece that finds the perfect combination of subject, emotion and technique. Something that says, “This is who the artist is, or was, as an artist and as a person.”

If that’s the case, then can I really know if I’ve ever created a masterpiece? Or is that something for people to decide after I’m gone?

I don’t ever set out to create a masterpiece, that’s all I know right now. Can you imagine that kind of pressure? “Today, I’m going to create the best work of my career!” Let’s talk about a recipe for creative block.

I just try to keep creating. Sometimes what I finish is good. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I know right away if it’s my best work, but more often it’s hindsight that helps me see which pieces are better than others. I can’t predict, in the throes of creating.

Which is good, I suppose, because otherwise I would get to the point of “knowing” that a piece was destined for the trash bin and just stop. What’s the point of creating something, if you know it’s not going anywhere? It’s better to not know at all.

That’s why we can’t tell if we’ve created a masterpiece. That’s why others decide that. We have to keep creating, without the voice in our head telling us, what’s good or not.

Have I ever created a masterpiece? Will I ever create one? I’m not worrying about that. I’m just taking life as an artist one day, one piece at a time.

PS – Twelve days to Philomath Open Studios! Mark your calendars for Oct 25/26 and Nov 1/2.

Exhale Gratitude


“When Shadow Takes Flight” is my latest piece, created this morning. Yes, I have my comfy chair, my tea, my morning routine back. I have time and space to create again.

I am breathing deep and sinking in to a feeling of… What… Relief or peace or comfort, I’m not sure the exact word. But deep breaths are involved.

Our home is back. Our kitchen remodel is almost done. The last little bits are finishing up today. Last night we were able to cook dinner using both stove and oven, wash dishes in a kitchen sink and dishwasher. The first time for all of that in four, long months.

Such a wonderful, simple pleasure. One I’ve taken for granted in the past, considering it more chore than anything else.

And yet… I can’t help but think I’m a wimp, for finding the inconveniences we’ve borne the last few months as uncomfortable. The phrase “first world problem” comes to mind. I think of the people who deal with much, much less as a way of life. Hauling water and fuel just to subsist.

So my relief is also filled with thankfulness, understanding that what I am viewing as “normal” is really a blessing. That I have a house and a way of life which allows me time and space to create is something I don’t want to take for granted.

This morning, I am breathing contentment in deep, and exhaling gratitude.

P.S. There are still spaces available in Smartphone Art I at Sequoia Gallery in Hillsboro this Saturday! Get the details here.

Where are you?


I read an interesting blog post from David duChemin over the weekend. One that resonated and made me think about what makes our style, our creative work, ours. And what makes it connect with others. (You can take a quick read here.)

I think it especially resonated because I spent part of the weekend talking to people about my work at the Local 14 show. Explaining my process, how I create it from a technical standpoint, just falls so flat. What I want to talk about is not how I create the work, but why. What it means to me. And I want to talk about what it means to you. Why does it resonate or connect. Why does it draw you in.

I believe when people respond to my artwork, it’s not for the technical execution. It’s not because there is perfect focus, or exposure, or composition. It’s because, deep down, it connects on the human level. It’s the me reaching out to talk to you. I believe people can see and sense honesty and emotion in art. I believe people respond to artwork created with passion.

Why do I keep coming back to the same themes, the similar compositions? Because they are part of who I am. They are a little piece of me, made manifest in the world. Not everyone will like my art, just like everyone isn’t going to like me as a person. But those who do? It’s a relationship that runs deep. Kindred spirits.

How about you? Where are you, in what you create? Are you showing up with your whole heart; is that passion coming through?

As David says in his blog post, what people want to see is more of you.

Come Visit Local 14


I am in the Local 14 Art Show and Sale this weekend at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon. If you are out and about, stop by and see my work!


This show is comprised of some amazing women artists in all mediums from Oregon and the Pacific NW. Yesterday I was talking to a fiber artist who came all the way from Boise!


It’s a perfect way to start your holiday shopping. Remaining hours of the show are 10am to 5pm today (Saturday) and Sunday. If you want to meet me, I’ll be working at the show from 12-5pm on Sunday. I would love to connect with you!