Tuesday, September 16, 2014

spinzilla blog tour: photo tips here

Welcome Spinzilla blog tourists! I'm here with a little pep talk and some tips for photographing yarn for the Spinzilla Photo Contest.
 Kirsten Kapur  assembled this lovely basket of yarn.
Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals challenge each other to see who can spin the most yarn during Spinning and Weaving Week October 6 - 12.  Team registration closes in six days. They still need 300 team spinners to reach full team status of 1,400 spinners! Click here to register today.
You have SIX DAYS to get on board and join in the monster week of spinning, to support the Needle Arts Mentoring Program.
At the end of the week spinners will submit their yardage along with a photo of their yarn to get credit for their yardage.  The photo is to document what you have spun, but Spinzilla has also announced a photo contest where you could win up to $100 in fiber.

I'm going to reference the photo above, with surefire tips to make your photos fabulous. You are photographing handspun yarn, a lovely subject, so you are already ahead of the game, right?  There are mountains of info about improving photography online*, these are just some quick and easy things you can try,  regardless of what kind of camera you own, and where you live.

1) Turn off that flash. Never. Never. Never use a direct flash on yarn. There is always a better way. If nothing else, in a low light situation, steady your camera on a tripod or  on a table , and hold your breath while you release that shutter. Make many exposures. You'll get some that are sharp. I promise.Pixels are free**, so keep trying.

2) Find some nice open shade-like the north side of a building, or on a covered patio or  an overcast day, or create some shade yourself using a white piece of cloth or umbrella or tent or even a white board to block the direct light. (Colored materials will cast the color onto your yarn. Don't want to do that!)
getting close also works for travel photos, like this porch in Maine
3) Get close! I know you are proud of your yarn and want to show it from ten paces away, but getting close will make us want to touch it.  Try shooting it from a few feet away and then keep shooting , getting closer and closer and closer (no worries, pixels are free, there's no such thing as wasting the shots).

4) Use some geometry to please us. We humans like circles--a complete circular shape is lovely as a graphic element in a photo. It is why looking down on that basket of yarn is making me happy. Try putting your yarn in a basket, or on a shallow plate (try to find one that's not shiny, reflections aren't an asset), or a tray, in a bowl...play around with using shapes to frame your yarn.
Not as Good as the top photo: dead center, handle not on diagonal, direct light on scrarf distracts
 5) Another compositional tip: try composing using assymmetry instead of plunking your yarn dead-center bulleye in the frame. There's the popular  Rule of Thirds you hear thrown around in online photo forums (it helps, try it), and I like to use diagonals to lead the eye around the image. Again, shoot your yarn how you might normally, and then keep moving around the subject, tilting you camera--those pixels are free, after all--and see if you don't come up with a nice dynamic photo.
Circles also effective at Kai Ranch and an angora kid.

Good luck! Get signed up and spin spin spin.
* I'd be  slacking off if I didn't mention my  Photography webinar for knitters/fiber artists, on the Interweave website (on sale right now, too)
 **No matter where I teach my mantra is Pixels are Free. Seriously, why skimp on the exposures when you are right there?

Monday, September 15, 2014

fiber college: amen!

Loved all the blogreading suggestions and feedback. Thanks!
how they mend the screens at Fiber College
While I haven't settled what will be my new blog routine I do know this: if there's something you want to blog about, don't wait too long. It  evaporates like so much steam from the dyepot.

Which means I'd better tell you about Fiber College 2014. It is always quirkily wonderful-- maybe it's the stunning location on Penobscot Bay, at a campground with award winning gardens, making for a magical setting. Many classes take place under tents, or outdoors, so there's a festival feel, and a groovy vibe, as Beverly said in her post today.
This year the special artists were Gees Bend Quilters, just the kind of mind bending cultural exchange you'd think.  I wandered into their sewing tent classroom when I wasn't teaching, to get a taste. How do you convey a form of quilting that's heritage, cultural tradition, intuition, oral history and faith in a higher power ? Not by making diagrams, setting down rules or talking about the principles of design. The Gees Bend Quilters are deeply religious and believe the spirit creates the art. Who can argue? Each class started with some serious praying and singing, like Prayer Meeting style, inviting Jesus to enter the quilters' hearts and minds and hands as they created, stitching by hand and by machine.
You'll want to google around to see more from people who quilted for real with the ladies. 
edited to add: here's Jan Cooper's wonderful Fiber College report. .Pretty amazing. I'll share with more of what I was teaching & making soon. If you posted about Fiber College, please leave a link in the comments !  And I'll  leave you with this:
 Fiber College blog here.
Tomorrow: I am on the Spinzilla Blog Tour. C'mon by.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

recommitted (and it feels so gooood): blogging

Fresh back from the revivifying and always inspiring Fiber College of Maine , where I taught Savvy Storytelling: Writing & Photography for blogs with Beverly Army Williams of PoMoGo Lightly
front lawn view of Penobscot Bay
Fiber College:  a weaving underway
It was 4 days of sharing a house with funny, artistic, smart women, the kind of room mates you can only wish for. I took away lots of things, but mostly I realized I wouldn't be in that place if not for blogging, and spiralling connections.   
I'm joining Beverly, and Kirsten Kapur, and Mary Lou Egan and Cal Patch  and others, in returning to my blog with regularity. Not to mention rebuilding my blogreading habits.  Who do you read these days? Leave a suggestion in my comments!

Kirsten also asked this question and listed many of my longtime faves, she's s receiving great suggestions in her comments.

I've been gravitating to those who post regularly, and includes lots of photos:  LoriTimesFive, Fringe Association, Getting Stitched on the Farm, ZenNeedleKnitorius, and the longtime reliable Carole Knits

FYI: All of the photos today were  made with my almost dead older cracked iPhone. Yes I know I am a professional photographer with a kickass camera and plenty of knowhow.  Busman's holiday!  It is creating some interesting colorshifts and odd blur, which I sorta kinda am correcting and sorta kinda am keeping. 

If these photos look familiar, you may be on of my Instagram feed.  It is so easy to post there,  I do so daily.  Although tempting,  rarely a shot looking down on a plate of food.  Been there! Seen that! I'm galezucker on Instagram, you can see what I mean. 

Looking forward to your  blogreading suggestions and to being back here with some regularity.

Monday, September 01, 2014

random inspiration roundup...with footnotes

oh, hi there! Here I am preparing the blog writing & photography workshop I'll be co-teaching with Beverly Army Williams next week at Fiber College, Savvy Storytelling * and it's hard to ignore the [lacky of] content here this summer. One of the things we'll be blabbing about is the importance of consistency. ** um,...yeah.
You know what's  hardest about long lapses? Trying to figure out where to start. I'm just going to skim along through some moments of inspiration this summer. Photo heavy post follows.
In June I returned to Nash Island to help out with the sheep shearing and roundup. It deserves and will get its own post about the activities and people and sheep--but I had the honor of going out to the island the day before with Jani and Ellen, to camp and  just be there. I can't even put it into words, it was so beautiful and elemental. I have very little stillness in my life. So this? ahhhhh.
I spent a while just wandering around, the colors and textures slay me. We aren't even yet talking about the sheep, which you surprisingly barely see on this tiny hilly island,. Until roundup, that is.  My new banner, on top, was a rare girl who showed herself on the highest island ridge.
 More inspiration in June: the bathroom chalked graffiti at A Gathering of Stitches . This was my summer of stitching, which will also get its own post. But obviously, the writing was....on the wall. . Can you spy my subtle contribution?
In July I spent a few days with two wonderful women, Susanne of Lucky Spool Media  aka CraftyEditor and the talented Liz Quan,  shooting a book on bedroom quilts, at a converted barn home in the Hudson Valley.
If you're guessing that it made me want to quilt, you'd be wrong. But, it did make me think a lot about printed textiles, room styling, the beauty of a well-dressed bed *** Susanne is ahhh-maaaazing, she transformed rooms with a steamy iron, an artillery of Command hooks, and jaw-dropping ease. I also thought about how gorgeous a wall of old blue bottles or Queen Anne's lace can be.
My knitting cosmically coordinated with the bedroom I was assigned to stay in at the barn house. After finishing my ode-to-Maine green shawl, I'm continuing this thing of having my knits imbued with meaning****. The golden yarn is Rumplestilskin, from Lost City Knits, paired with a hand dyed grey from the seconds room at Swans Island Yarn--both souvenir purchases from summer 2013. My friend and collaborator Kirsten Kapur helped me pair them a year ago. Shooting a book for her earlier in spring made me realize how I needed to knit her Cladonia, so that is underway here.******
Can I leave out my favorite girl in one of my favorite places? Nope. I squeezed in three trips to the beach in Delaware, two with her. The family's place we've been gathering at since 1985 is for sale******, and every visit reminds us of time passing, and summers past.  No matter how gruesome the ride there is, that moment when you walk across the dune in front of the house to the crashing surf...it never ceases to be breathtaking.
What inspired you this summer? 
and now for the footnotes
* there are still seats left in the class, which happen this Friday September 5th from 9-5 in Searsport Maine.  Braggy moment: I am telling you, we've got a kickass class planned. If you can't make it and happen to be organizing an event--we are thinking of taking this on the road. Give us a shout!

** I am going to commit to blogging a couple of times a week, starting in midSeptember. If you are a crafter or small business person or social blogger, there is so much good about a consistent blog presence--not just for your soul and social life, but for the  growth you'll see in your following. For mine, one day  a week it'll be a photo heavy post about making/doing /life. The other will be something helpful. Or so I am thinking. Stay tuned! And, want to join me? We can link to each other.

***The quilting book will be out at the end of the year, and it'll be about bedroom styling with gorgeous quilt patterns, and ideas of choosing fabrics to match your personal style, the author is the talented April Rosenthal 

**** Up next a colorwork sweater, with Nash Island yarn from Starcroft, and Lori Versaci's Modern Tunic.  After shooting childrens' designs with her this summer I am a total fan of all her patterns for women too.

***** I know most Cladonias are striped. I'm opting for mostly grey stockinette section, a wide band of gold, then some stripes, then the lace...just  because. Go look at all the lovely Cladonias!

******If you happen to be looking for a fabulous place directly on the ocean in Dewey Beach Delaware, let me know, I'll point you to the realtor.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

the recent past/the near future

where'ya been hiding all summer?
I was thinking I'd finally start blogging about my fibery/stitchy adventures this summer - there have been many-- but then I realized, it is almost the end of August, I must talk about what's next: 

FIBER COLLEGE  in Searsport Maine Sept 3-7 

 I'll be co-teaching Savvy Storytelling: Writing & Photography for Your Blog with Beverly Army Williams. We loved teaching this together last year (and loved our students). After a planning lunch this week, I can tell you that this year's version is going to be amazing. You will leave the day with a glint in your eye and all fired up to blog. ( I kind of got that way just talking about it with Beverly).  

Also a new class fromr me: Photo Scavenger Hunt. It will be a fun hands-on photography class making use of the wonderful surroundings- not just the natural but the people, and art and activities and moments. It'll teach you a lot about technique and composition, while you shoot challenges. You can be any level of photographer-it's a very adaptable and personalized class. Plus, there's a critique at the end.  I am rather psyched about both these classes. Click on that link to the (admittedly, um, idiosynchratic) website and sign up before you find everything full. I was astounded to learn there's still a couple of seats in Cal Patch's classes, f'rinstance and I recommend you nab'em while you can, too.  Hello? Do you need to think twice about hanging out with Gees Bend Quilters? Cal Patch? Ellen Mason? Jackie Ottino DeGraf? Mary Lou Egan?

I've blogged about my love for this unique event  here and here and here. Or email me if you want a private earful! 

And now a bit about my last trip to Maine, to A Gathering of Stitches in Portland:
Meet Rhoda, the most self-possessed French Bulldog ever. In her fabulous porta-suitcase bed, thanks to her upholsterer-artist human,  who creates in a studio space at A Gathering of Stitches.

So much creativity at this dreamy makerspace, with Samantha Lindgren at the helm. (I am very annoyed that I can't find the excellent photo of the two of us that Keren Kurti made at the end of the classes) - upholstering, sewing, block printing, weaving..and in our case, 2 days of photo classes to explore shooting all of the above.
All three of the classes were new --or updated versions - and that was a joy. In the all day Photographing Your Handcrafts, we left time to upload images from earlier in the day,  and review/critique.We all felt like there was progress-I love this photo by Carolyn Noyes. A lot of talent in the room!

On Sunday the Photo Editing class and the iPhone Masterpiece classes flew by. I hope to be offering those again.  I think I heard some heads exploding when students saw the kind of controls you can have over your iPhone images with just a very few moves and a couple of cheap/free apps.

I can't end this wthout saying that if you can have a crush on a city, then Portland Maine is mine all mine. Obviously the vibrant arts and fiber arts community is there, the waterfront/beaches ( can.not.live. without a beach nearby), the hills and architecture and parks and size are right but ohmygoodness... the food!

Moral of the story: head northeast to Maine.  Join me at Fiber College. Get on Samantha's list and take a class at A Gathering of Stitches. 
PS There's a nice interview with me on the Fiber College blog. In it, I awkwardly mention my thing with tomatoes. I have no idea why I couldn't stay on topic!

Monday, July 14, 2014

yo-ho-ho (cruise and a FO)

What better place than  the 2nd Non-Annual Thimble Islands Knitting Boat Trip to show my finished Wave on Wave Shawl?
* More about my shawl below.  Let's get right to the the knitting cruise, shall we?  Cap'n Bob can now say that his vessel not only flies the pirate flag (local tradition) but had yarn handspun on it, thanks to wonderful Dayna of MadWool, center column, 2nd from top. Also, in the colorful hair department, you can see Katy knitting a Pop Spots shawl that totally matches her black & fuschia/purple 'do, on the right..
Despite the dock sign, we were on the Volsunga. Not the Sea Mist. Stony Creek dock sharing.
I love my knitting community- and special shout out to Linda- (photo upper left), June  & Julia of Knit New Haven , whose open table policy sets the vibe for this kind of adventure.
It was lovely- cool sea breeze on a warm day, great company, lots of food & drink & spying into the island houses, some knitting. I love putting together things like this. Want a cruise in your neck of the woods? I'll do it . Now there's a niche-- knitting cruise events coordinator.  But, why not, you know my policy: " is it illegal? No? I'll try it!"

* So about that shawlette. The lighter green yarn was from Maine in 2012 when I visited Swan's Island "seconds" bins. I love the color, it's like spring in Maine. The darker green yarn was a putty colored beige when my son brought it to me from Peru. A very botched dying job on my part, at Ellen Mason's  mentored dye tent at Fiber College left it, as she generously put it, "sad", so she took it home and sent it to me in this mossy green shade-also like the Maine woods. I had to knit them into the same piece, right? 
Nice pattern, though not big on details. Still, it's a fun little project, written for a color changing yarn but easy enough to stripe it yourself. 
 The image of me modeling it in the upper right goes against everything I'd teach: don't wear a bright white summer shirt and straw hat to model a wooly neck accessory, don't shoot on a rolling ship.. but  thanks to Linda Young for doing an awesome job despite the challenges.I am not an easy subject.
Photo credit to Janet Hager for the view of the snack table and knitters, 2nd from the top on left.  I was too busy having fun and sipping Prosecco to get that view.

Next up: need to tell you about teaching at Gathering of Stitches in Portland Maine. More to come!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

countdown: get some class this weekend at Gathering of Stitches

Gathering of Stitches in Portland Maine--here I come!  Take one class or take 3.

Only 2 seats left for Saturday, but  room in each of the Photo editing and iphone Masterpiece classes on Sunday. Samantha offers a discount if you take any 2 or 3 offerings.

I have a special treat, too: discounts from PhotoJojo and BlogStomp for all participants! Thanks to both companies for their support.

A few words about the iPhone Masterpiece class: There are 2 remarkable things about this image, above. One is...OMG I posted a full body bathing suit view of myself online. If you follow me on Instagram ( I am galezucker there) you may have already seen this. Have I lost my mind??!!! Maybe. But I adore this photo, from Saturday. I was in one of my favorite places in the world, the beach in Delaware, with my most favorite people. I literally tossed my phone to Dave and said- get a photo of us, please.

He got the moment.  (Isn't Dave amazing? He takes maybe 10 photos a year and he nailed it). But as you can see, the shadows are in front of us, which means he was shooting into the sun, and the photo came out of my iPhone (a 4S-not even up to date) looking like this:
Which is typical, right? A few clicks with apps on my phone to convert it to better colors, with shadow details revealed, a color shift, and then cropped just the way I wanted it.  Knowing that Instagram is better squared, I edged it in off white to retain all the image info. Less than 5 minutes, you have to love that!

That's what we'll do in the iPhone masterpiece class. Keeping it all in our trusty little phones. The phonecam quality blows me away, and it's wonderful to have it always on hand, stuck into a pocket and no worries about thousands of dollars of optics getting wet or sandy (in my case). Works just as well if you're shooting knits or yarn or handcrafts, or whatever subjects float your boat. Join me for some phonecam fun. 
We can float our boats together. (iPhone image enroute to Nash Island earlier this month)

ps if you've been visiting my blog for a while, how do you like my new look? . This quick random update looks better than my old Blogger template, I am sure you agree.  More to come.