Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bourbon Street Quilt

I'm still in the process of sewing my stash this year and this was a really fun one to make!


The pattern is Bourbon Street by Sassafras Lane Designs. I went for a soft vintagey color scheme of yellow, green, coral, pink, aqua and gray.


I rummaged through my scraps and small pieces to find favorite prints...


making it a fun album of favorites from the past few years. The aqua solid is a Cirrus solid from Cloud 9.


This is a big quilt for me, so I quilted it on the Bernina longarm at my local quilt shop. The back is one of my favorite Anna Maria Horner prints - it's a winner with all the colors and found on sale at Hawthorne Threads.


We took it on an outing at a local nursery while shopping for plants. Seems to fit nicely in the garden, don't you think?


I don't immediately wash all my quilts, but this one is going in to get all crinkled up. I think it will be a good snuggler!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Photographing Your Quilt...Depth of Field

In this last post today, I’m going to share a “cool trick” with you.



You’ve seen photos that have a nice blurry background and one object in focus, right?  Perhaps you want to know how that’s done.

Well, there are a few factors that play into the “blurry” background look.  One is called aperture, which simply refers to how wide the lens opens when you take a photo.  But, we're not going to get that technical today.  Instead, I'm going to share an easier way for you to get that blurry background.

Before we get into the “how”, let’s dig a little deeper into the “what.”  When we are talking about the blurry background look, we are referring to “depth of field.”  Depth of field tells us how much is in focus from the foreground to the background of our photos.  A photo with a large depth of field will show everything in focus from front to back.  A photo with a shallow depth of field will have only a slice of the photo in focus.  

See in the photo below how only Ariel (post-human Ariel) is in focus.  The rest of the photo is blurry (and in fact gets blurrier as we move further away from the focal point).  This photo has a shallow depth of field.

The next photo has a large depth of field.  We can see that everything from the foreground to the background is in focus. (Including my upside down kid.)  This photo has a large depth of field.

Our depth of field exists on a plane.  This means everything that is an equal distance from our camera as the focal point will be in focus.

Here is the cool trick....the closer you are to your subject, the shallower the depth of field.

In these next two photos, you can see the difference.  In the first, I was really close to my subject.  This resulted in a photo with a very shallow depth of field.  My focal point fell on that flower in the middle.  Notice that the branch and flowers right behind it are blurry.

 (Note here: if you get too close to your subject, your camera won't be able to focus at all and won't take a photo.  If this happens, just move back a bit.)




In the next photo, I moved further away from the subject.  You can see that more of the photo (again, from front to back) is in focus.  My focus was on the same flower, but you can see more of the branches and flowers behind it.


The depth of field extends a certain distance in front of the focal point and a certain distance behind the focal point.  As a result, another way to create that blurry look is to move the subject further away from the background.  You'll see in these next two photos, the background is blurrier in the first.  This is because I moved my subject further away from the background.  As a result, the background was out of the depth of field and blurry.



























Why do we care about depth of field and how can we use it?

There are several reasons we want to use depth of field purposefully in our photos.

1.  We minimize distractions.  Remember in my first post, I shared that we want to remove distractions in our photos.  We can get rid of those distractions with a shallow depth of field.  If there's something we don't want people to see in the background, we can make that distraction out of the depth of field and blurry.

2.  It can help us draw the viewer's attention to a certain spot.  This can be especially useful when photographing quilts or sewing projects.  Maybe you want to draw the viewer's attention to a certain fabric in the quilt or to a particular seam.  You can put that spot in your depth of field, making that spot clear and the rest blurry.  One of the benefits of taking your camera off of "auto" mode is being able to select your focal point.  I write more about selecting your focal point here.

3.  It just looks cool!  Often, we find a blurry background pretty, aesthetically pleasing. You can use depth of field to add artistic appeal to your photos!




This wraps up my series on photographing your quilts.  You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Instagram.  I teach a beginner's photography workshop and the next one starts April 18.  Registration ends April 11.  I'm offering $10 to quilters with the code "quilts" at checkout.  Get all the information you need here.

If you have any questions or want to get in touch, feel free to e-mail me at akatolin@gmail.com.  

And as a last fun little bit of information, as someone interested in both quilting and photography, you are keeping your brain strong!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Take Better Quilt Photos-Light!

Hello, quilters!



I’m back to talk about taking photos.  You can read my first post here.

Today I am going to talk about light!

Photography literally means “drawing with light.”  It is really important to know at least a little bit about light in order to use that light to make great photos.

Several years ago, I was with a photographer friend of mine.  She was taking photos of my husband and me before a date, and she said, “Meet me by the playground…there’s beautiful light over there.”  I remember thinking, “huh?”.  I had been over by the playground many times and never noticed the beautiful light she referenced.    However, she had a trained eye.  She was able to notice beautiful light and use it for her art. (Much like experienced quilters can throw a seemingly uncoordinated set of fabric together and make a beautiful quilt.)

Training your eye to recognize beautiful light and use it to make beautiful photos takes time.  Today, we’re gong to keep it super practical and talk about the quantity of light.  I’ll help you find the best times/places to get the right amount of light to take a photo.

To take a photo, we need light, and to take a photo we like, we need a good amount of light.  Our cameras come with a light source…the flash.  But, I almost never use the flash.  It’s harsh light and only moves in one direction.  It makes for an unflattering photo.


 She's scared of the flash!


If we aren’t going to use the flash as the light source, we need to find the light.  I try my best to use natural light sources.  Natural light comes from the sun!

I avoid artificial light sources because they can result in some color issues.  Have you ever noticed a yellow or orangish color cast created by a typical light bulb?  This color cast results because a lightbulb has a warm color temperature.  This creates problems in the resulting color in the photos.  This is especially a problem with quilts as getting the correct color in your photos is of utmost importance!  (There are ways to deal with sources that have wonky color temperature and I dig deep into this topic in my workshop.)

The camera does its best to read color temperature on the scene and make adjustments.  However, I find that the camera doesn't do so well when we are under an artificial light source.

In the photo on the left below, I placed the quilt under a lamp.  Notice the orangish color cast.  The photo on the right was taken near a window.  I think the colors are much more accurate!


The lesson: use natural light whenever possible.

When thinking about natural light, we want to explore using that light both indoors and outside.

First, inside.

The biggest issue when taking photos inside is there just isn’t enough light.  Don’t try taking a photo of a quilt late at night and expect it to come out great…it just won’t happen.  Without enough light, our photos look grainy, dark (duh) and have low contrast.  After you’ve worked so hard to create a beautiful quilt, you just don’t want that!

Inside, you’ll need to use windows!

Before you actually start taking photos inside, do a “where” and “when” study in your own home.  On a sunny day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, I want you to do a light study.  Walk into each room of your home.  Open the blinds and the shades.  Let in as much light as possible.  You can even open doors if you want.  What room in your house has the most light shining in?  What time of day do you get the most light?  Write this down.  Then, whenever you plan to take photos, take your quilts to the right space at the right time.

You can see in this photo below that my mom used the windows in her (old) sewing room to illuminate the blocks on the board.  In the first photo, you can see there's a nice window with a lot of light coming in.


The photo of the blocks looks great because there is a good amount of natural light illuminating them.


In my own home, I plan any photos in the back playroom of my house in the afternoon.  I just get a good amount of light coming in the windows.  In the summer, I sometimes have to go upstairs to get the best light as my house is surrounded by trees.  I have to get above the trees to get enough light shining in my windows.

Once you have discovered your spot, be sure to get close to that light source.  You won’t have much luck if you stand on the other side of the room from your windows.  And shoot with the windows behind you.  You want the light to illuminate on your quilt, or whatever you are shooting. 

Early on in my photographic learning, I understood the concept of using windows and doors but didn’t quite get that the light had to be shining on the subject. (Don’t make fun of my hair.)




Put the light source (window) behind you.  Be careful not to block the light with your body, and allow it to illuminate your subject.

Inside….look for light coming from windows and let that light illuminate your subject.

We can also go outside!

It can be a great idea to take your quilt or other sewing projects outside to photograph.  Outside, there is often an abundance of light.  However, outside, we often have a different problem…TOO MUCH light.  On a sunny day, the light coming from the sun is hard light, meaning it creates harsh shadows.  We don’t want to see your quilt covered in harsh shadows!

Lots of photographers prefer to shoot on a day with a little cloud cover.  The cloud cover diffuses the light, making it softer and easier to shoot with.  However, with too much cloud cover, I find photos lack contrast and the “pop” that comes with a good amount of light.

On a sunny day, take your quilt into the shade.  Photographers look for something called “open shade.”  Open shade refers to the spot just inside of the sun/shade line.  In this spot, the light is diffused and softer, but there’s still plenty of light to illuminate our subject.

I took this series of pictures of my little guy to show you what I mean by open shade.  (This works well with people, too!).  Notice in the first photo, there are harsh shadows on his neck and the light is shining in his eyes?

In the second photo, I moved him into the shade, but close to the sun/shade line.  Now his face is nicely illuminated and the light is even across his face.


In the next couple of photos, my mom took the quilts outside but was sure to put them in the shade where the light was nice and even.





Be careful to avoid dappled light.  Dappled light occurs when light shines through something like a tree and there’s both shadows and light.  If you look at the ground, you can notice dappled light.

See the shadows from the tree below?  If you tried to photograph a quilt here, the shadows would show up on your quilt, too.



In summary, hunt for light.   Try and use natural light whenever possible, but make sure you have enough!

I’ll be back on Friday to share a “cool trick” in relation to something called “depth of field.”  It will help you get that blurry background. 

In the mean time, you can find me on my website, Facebook, Instagram, or you can sign up for my newsletter. 

P.S.  The beginner's photography workshop I teach is all online and starts in just a few weeks.  If you want to know more about using your DSLR and making great photos of your family, you can sign up here.  I'm offering $10 off for all quilters.  Use the code "quilt" at checkout to receive this discount.  Registration ends April 11.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Taking Pictures of your Quilts! Part One

My daughter, Andrea, is a fantastic photographer and I've learned so much from her. I asked her to share some of the simple tips that she's taught me with all of you. This is Part One of a three part series. Come back Wednesday and Friday for Parts Two and Three!

Hello, quilters!  My name is Andrea and Cindy is my mom!

She asked me to come here and do a little series with tips about photographing quilts.  (The truth is, my mom takes AWESOME quilt photos and probably could have written these posts, but she asked me and I’m happy to do it!)  I love photography and teach a beginner's workshop.  You can find my website here.

First, I want to let you know a little bit about me.  I’m married, I have three amazing kiddos.  My girls are 8 and 6 and my little guy is about to be 3. 


When my oldest daughter was born, I decided to stay at home with her.  I was extremely lucky to have this option.  But, I struggled a bit with the loss of self that comes with full-time motherhood.  

As you know, I grew up with an amazingly creative mom and I saw how quilting enhanced her life.  She used both her brain and her creativity, she had a place to learn, and she connected with other women.  With that example, I knew I wanted a creative outlet of my own, but quilting was not for me.

In a moment of divine inspiration, I went to the local camera store and bought myself a fancy camera.  I dived right in, taking classes, practicing, and reading all I could.  Now, eight years later, I’m so thankful to have my own creative outlet.

About a year ago, in another moment of (perhaps) divine inspiration, I decided to start teaching a beginner’s photography workshop.  You can read more about my workshop here.

Today, and for the next 2 posts, I’m going to share some tips to help you take better photos of your own quilts and sewing projects. 

The Internet has created a virtual quilt show, where you can see and share the work of quilters all over the world!  It’s really fun to be able to share your creations with others.  However, if your photos are unclear, grainy, or yellow, the rest of us won’t be able to appreciate the full beauty of your hard work.

Before I dive in, I have to say, this was WAY harder than I expected.  I typically photograph my uncooperative kids.  So, when I knew quilts would be my subjects, I figured it would be easy.  (Quilts sit still and don’t fight with their sister.)  But photographing quilts was much more challenging than I expected!  I’ll share some of the photos I took, and I'll use some photos that were taken by my mom.

For this first post, I’m going to ask you to TAKE US TO THE QUILT SHOW!

As a kid, I went to my fair share of fabric shops and quilt shows.  

Today, with the Internet,  you don’t have to drag your kiddos to a quilt show…you can enjoy a world’s worth of projects from the comfort of your own home.

When you share your own projects on the web, you bring us all to your quilt show!

What do you want to see when you go to a quilt show?

First, you’ll probably notice the quilt in its entirety, hung up for all to see.  We want to see YOUR whole quilt too!

This can be a bit challenging!  It’s not easy to get a good shot of an entire quilt.  If you have someone around to help, head outside and have him or her hold up the quilt.  


Or, you can hang it over a fence, attach it to a wall, or if small enough, to your own work board in the sewing room.

This small quilt was duct taped to the siding!

     

So the first step is to show us the whole thing.  Do your best to square up in front of the quilt, giving us a view from right in front of the quilt.  

Once you see a quilt you like at the quilt show,  I bet you walk over to get a closer look.  We want to see your quilt up close too!  Take some shots of your quilt up close.  Start with a photo of one or two blocks together.  





Then, get even closer.  At a quilt show, you might grab some white gloves to inspect the quilting.

Quilting can be hard to capture.  It is really important to have enough light to capture the quilting. Try moving your quilt near an open window.  I'll write more about light in the next post.




Focus on some plainer fabric so we are able to see the detail of the quilting.

While thinking about all these different perspectives you also want to avoid distractions.  

How would you feel at the quilt show if your quilt hung next to the concession stand? The concession stand might have popcorn popping or coffee brewing.  These sounds and smells might draw your attention away from the quilt.

In our online quilt show, there won’t be olfactory or auditory distractions, but visual distractions can keep us from focusing on the subject of the photo…the quilt!

It's really about keeping the photo as simple as possible so we can focus on the subject.  Try not to have other elements competing for attention or drawing our eye away from the main focus of the photo.

Cameras aren't selective when we take a photo.  EVERYTHING we see through the viewfinder shows up in our photos.  That's why it is up to us to make sure to include elements we want and to exclude elements that might distract from the focus.

I'm using this bag (that luckily for me stayed at my house after my mom's last trip) to demonstrate.

If we look at this first photo, we can see there are some distracting elements.  The dead flowers, gate latch, and bird poop all draw our attention away from the focal point of the photo...the bag!


Aware of these distractions, I can make a few changes and create a more focused image.

When thinking of distractions, think MCC..."move", "cover", and "crop."

Let me explain:

Move: The first thing we can think about in relation to distractions is moving.  We can both move our bodies and move items within the frame.  Here, I started by taking off some of the yucky dead flowers.  I just pulled them right off the plant so they were no longer near the bag.  Then, I actually moved myself.  I got closer, so I could cut out a good amount of the extra space in the frame.  Also, I changed my angle a bit.  I don't love seeing the whole plant or the space between the gate.  By moving my body to the left, I changed the angle I used to approach the bag and was able to remove distractions.

Cover: The second trick we can use to remove distractions is to cover.  In the photo above, the bag is actually covering a handle on the gate.  I didn't want to see that handle so I used the bag to cover it.  Sometimes we can change our angle so that one item blocks another.  For example, one time at the beach with my family, I noticed a big ugly trash can.  I moved my body so that when I photographed my girls, their bodies blocked the trash can.

Crop: It's often so much easier to notice distractions after the fact.  Every photo editing program allows you to crop your photos.  Often, I'll crop to remove distracting elements from the frame.

Applying the MCC method, I was able to produce this photo.  Its simplicity draws our attention right to the bag (and these were taken within just minutes of each other!)






I recommend you scan the viewfinder, do a circle with your eyes, and find ways to remove any distracting elements.  Or, study your photo on the back of your camera right after taking it.  Is there something that might distract from the focus of the photo?  How could you remove that distraction?

Does this mean we can ONLY include the quilt or sewing project in your photos?  Absolutely not!  Think about the “story” of the quilt and include elements that would add to the story.  If it is a baby quilt, you might want to set up a stylized shot with baby items.  Flowers and other pretty items can add interest and beauty to your photos.  Include the person or people who will enjoy your hard work!  Just keep out the things that might draw our attention away from your beautiful work!

In the next post, I’ll be back to tell you about light and how you can use light to improve your photos.

Until then, find me on Facebook or my website.   I'm actually giving away TWO seats in my next photography workshop.  You can enter once on my Facebook page and once from my Instagram account.  The giveaway ends tonight (Monday) at 11:59 pm so be sure to hop over if you are interested!

P.S.  I'm offering a discount for anyone here who wants to sign up for my workshop.  Get $10 off with the discount code "quilts" up until April 11.





Monday, March 28, 2016

Flower Girl Quilt

I started this quilt a few months ago - another in the effort to sew my stash 2016.

The pattern is called Flower Girl, another by Camille from Thimbleblossoms. It's a big block and I decided to scale it down to 12" finished. It's fairly easy to do by drafting the block onto graph paper. Determine the finished size block that you'd like and you should be able to figure what the finished size of each piece in the block is. Then just add back your seam allowance.

We brought the quilt for a walk at the gardens of Clemsen University here in SC. It was beautiful sunny day, but it turned out too sunny at noon to get any good photos. Even though the quilt is covered in light and shadows, I thought this was a pretty one in the Spring woods.


The sun was bright and the sky was blue...


Really washing out some of the colors...




Back at home for a full shot of the quilt...


My background is a gray Moda Crossweave. I really love the texture of it and the gray keeps the quilt from being a bit too sweet. I had yards of this gorgeous floral print for the backing and used it as the color scheme for the quilt.


I quilted three rows using my machine's serpentine stitch in the sashing and then custom quilted each block.


It's a perfect Spring quilt! Don't you think?

The winner of the Appliqué Book has been notified! Thank you for all your comments on the book. It's a winner!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Appliqué Book and a giveaway!

I'm so excited today to share a new book by my St Louis friend Casey York. It's all about appliqué - a technique that seems to be popping up as the Modern Quilting Movement is evolving.

Casey asked me to write a forward for the book because of my love for appliqué and my earlier start with traditional appliqué. As I mentioned in my writing - I am beyond excited to see these two words together - Modern Appliqué. Just as modern quilters have taken traditional piecing to new levels, modern appliquérs are doing the same!

What I love most about the book is the number of techniques that are featured. In addition to duplicating all of the wonderful projects, you can learn from and use the techniques provided to run with your own designs. It's one of the things that I love about appliqué. There are so many different methods of achieving the same result (or similar results), you can find what works best for you!

After reading through the book, I had to try one of the featured appliqué methods. I tried Rossie Hutchinson's reverse appliqué technique to make this little pincushion...


Rossie has a couple of projects in the book and I combined the idea of circles from this quilt with improv piecing from her second project.



And this one by Latifah Saafir...