A Busy Spring

I’m behind in my ambitious writing goal for the year, which is no huge surprise given that I set the bar very high at 240,000 words. I’m counting editing and revision at 750 words an hour, which is three-quarters of what the NaNoWriMo site recommends, but it jives with the amount of work I usually get done in an hour when I edit/revise my work.

It’s a busy spring for me so far. I have nine writing-related projects on my desk this quarter, including encyclopedia articles on the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Indian Howdah for ABC-Clio’s The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia; a biography and a cultural and historical context article on Ray Bradbury for Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury encyclopedia; my first draft for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology.

I’m also going to present a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies annual meeting, which is coming up the beginning of April, so I need to delve back into my research for that. Which brings me to another project, which is turning my master’s thesis (about 100 pages) into a full-length book. But for that, I need a lot more research, so it’s a time-intensive project.

And the last two items on my list (so far this year) are my novel, Seacombe Island, and a book on writer’s prompts. I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing my calendar and to-do list so I’m not having all the deadlines at once, but it means working ahead and I find that soft deadlines (ones I impose on myself) are easier to let slide by than hard deadlines (drop-dead dates, or dates imposed by the publisher). I pride myself on not missing hard deadlines, although I’ve had to ask for two- or three-day extensions in the past when an article has proven to be troublesome, or when holidays muck up my scheduling.

And so I’m avoiding working on articles right now by, well, writing about my writing. I guess that counts as words toward my yearly goal, so I’ll gloat on that for a moment and then clear my desk and get cracking on today’s list of things to work on.

Getting the Right Slant

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, shows great visual texture. The angle of the tree matches the angle of the rock formation across the river.

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, shows great visual texture. The angle of the tree matches the angle of the rock formation across the river.

I spent an hour or two today fussing with my new light setup, but I haven’t found a good place to put my photo tent yet and I still need to get the wrinkles out of the nylon background fabric. I’ve already ironed it once and frankly that sort of thing just isn’t my cup of tea: one nickname that I’ll never aspire to is “domestic goddess.”

I’m setting up some materials for a post on lighting but that’s for another day. Tonight I sorted through some older photos to see what would be a good inspiration for a blog post.

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, caught my interest when I visited there a few years back and I was trying to get the texture of the bark and the rocks in the foreground. What I didn’t notice until I was going through the photographs later was that the angle of the tree matches the rocks on the other side of the river.

If you look you can see cracks through the rocks where geological and weathering forces have worked on them. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the tree branch is nearly the exact same angle as the rocks, but it makes for an interesting composition.

This photo was taken while I was on a hike and I hand-held the camera, so the focus isn’t very sharp. The colors in the image are pretty bland, but that’s the way they were in real life, too. And that’s the problem with photos of subjects like this — they tend to be so monochromatic that they might as well be black and white photographs.

And actually this one might be better as a B&W image, so pardon me while I go off to Photoshop and try a few variations to see if I can make this image any more interesting.

So here we are. I’ve made two quick variations on the original image, both using the Topaz Black and White Effects filters, to see how they will change the image. The one on the left is a cyanotype version. It’s very moody but I would like to have more brilliance in the white caps on the water. There’s not enough variation in the tones to make the image really good, but this reminds me of some of the duotone images that I’ve seen in old textbooks and encyclopedias. The image on the right is called eggplant, and it does have a slight purplish overtone. Again, the water is muddy and there aren’t enough bright spots to make the water sparkle.

The original photo isn’t very appealing, despite the interesting lines in the composition, and the two images below could use more work to bring out some highlights. But it’s interesting to see how the color difference changes the feel of the images. The blue one is almost sinister, but the brown one shows off the texture of the wood much better.

Same tree and rocks, but with Topaz B&W Effects Teal Dynamic filter applied.

Same tree and rocks, but with Topaz B&W Effects Teal Dynamic filter applied.

And here it is with the Topaz B&W Effects Eggplant Dynamic filter applied.

And here it is with the Topaz B&W Effects Eggplant Dynamic filter applied and a black border added.

Weird, Wild Winter


This winter has been fairly mild, but if weather can be called bipolar, then that’s what we have. Last week we had temperatures of almost 70 degrees and within two days the temperatures were back down in the 30s, with tremendous wind gusts. Is it summer? Winter? Noooo …. it’s all-seasons-in-one. These meteorological mood swings are hard enough on people, but the spring flowering trees and bulbs don’t know whether to bloom or not, and this wreaks havoc on the cherry blossoms.

Nevertheless, it’s “crocus watch” season here. Sooner or later those cheerful little flowers are going to appear. I never see them coming. I look and look for their green leaves amongst the leaf litter, but I just don’t see it. And then, one day when the sun is out — Presto! It’s a crocus. I swear they pop out of the ground overnight! So, I’ve been keeping an eye out but it’s too early. This lovely purple and white crocus photo is from a few years ago and I’ve doctored it with Topaz Impressions filter and added some texture.

In other photography news, I’ve just bought a light tent and two LED tabletop lamps to do some still-life photography. The tent is much bigger than I thought it would be and frankly, the thing is big enough I could crawl into it. I’ve ironed the nylon backdrops but they’re still a bit creased, so I will deal with that when the time comes. This is where controlling aperture is a good thing — and that’s something phone cameras don’t allow you to do.

I’m assembling other things for the still-life photo shoots, too, such as art papers for backgrounds and an assortment of tools and clips for holding the papers in place. The lamps came with yellow and blue filters, but I’ve also ordered a swatch book of filter gels and hope they can be cut to fit the lamps. Stay tuned for more posts on photography in the near future.

My Paper Valentine

My crocheted heart on burlap and paper. Copyright 2017 Karen Garvin.

My crocheted heart on burlap and paper. Copyright 2017 Karen Garvin.

Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s a typical Tuesday for me, my coworkers in a dither over deadlines and a pile of non-work-related writing piled on my desk that make me wonder how I manage to get involved in so many projects at a time.

I made this little crocheted heart some time ago, and paired it with burlap and washi tape to create a Valentine design for the blog. The heart isn’t glued down because I plan to use the background with another crocheted piece that I made, which is a little brown seahorse made from crochet thread.

The photo is a bit on the brown side, but the actual heart is pale pink. These small art pieces are fun to make and give me something to do that I can finish and feel like I’ve accomplished something. The actual piece is about four inches square.

Enjoy the day, and don’t overindulge on those chocolates! I’m planning to make a special gin and tonic or strawberry martini tonight.