Thursday, December 31, 2020

PhotoShopping Jewels

There has been some progress on Akhal Teke set #3, which features sapphires and rubies.  This short post will be taking a look at two finished parts, the cape and the smaller neckpiece, and exploring what I've done with PhotoShop with them.

For instance, compare the original photo, below, with the one above:

The two might not look all that different.  But compare the red ruby centered on the throat.  Also look at the color of the sapphire closest to the mane on the neckpiece.  Lastly, try and pick out the teeny rubies on the tips of the cape (poll piece).  In each case, I've enhanced the colors for the upper photo.

Why bother?  In the first place, it's proving surprisingly difficult to light and photograph this tack in such a fashion as to bring out the colors.  In the second, I'm falling in love with the skill of PhotoShopping... (as if Laird Hamilton were not warning enough!) ... and it's always looking for a chance to practice.   The skill is self-taught, a perfect twin to my tackmaking.

Here's another view of cape and neckpiece.  The colors are really there, but you need to be holding it in your hand to see them at their best.

And here's its enhanced, or 'retouched' as I'm calling it, version:

This time, the increased light blue and red should be obvious.  The sapphires really are slightly different from each other.

I'm using PhotoShop's eyedropper to choose from both the existing colors and new ones from the Color Picker, then hitting basic Artist Brush and choosing 2 or 3 pixels at a time.  The trick is to deposit them near  existing light areas:  to enhance what's already there.  Then I use some Smear to finish with, but not much.

I'll end this little jaunt with another unretouched view.

One of my 'New Year's Resolutions' should be to try and maintain "Web-Free Wednesday."  I'm discovering that FB simply EATS time and attention, yet produces precious little -- certainly no tack.  Why are humans so hypnotize-able!?  (Could this be the root of all evil?!?)  Can I assert an hour at the bench before even turning on the computer?!  I've tried it before.  Only time will tell.

My 2019 Christmas letter appears to not have been saved digitally, a blow to my pride.  Thank you for your patience while I summon the energy to write, print and mail more than 55 copies of the 2020 one, without even an armature.  :)  I am amazed at the Christmas snail-mail I've received this year.  My heart is warmed and gladdened by the enormous outpouring.  Thank you all so very much!  May your next year go better than this last!!

Keep On Tacking.

Friday, December 25, 2020

My Kilbourn pair, plus Santa

 When I read about the Kilbourn Collector's Corner cover pic contest on FaceBook, I got inspired.  My ideas leapt from blankets to harness to Santa to a certain unfinished Criollo pony.  What a rabbit-hole of a chain!  Who knows where these things wind up?!  I only know I was spurred enough to get out the TSII Red Team Harness and refit it to my matched Kilbourn pair (which took all evening).  I also tried finding other pix of tacked-up Kilbourn horses.  In the process I found something that had been lost for more than 3 years,... and I hadn't even known it was missing!  This was fun.

This story begins in 2018.

There is a blog post on the 2018 acquisition of these matched bay geldings:  The Traditional Loot Shots.
Finnegan, also known as the Copperfox Irish Sport Horse, was first released in 2015.  Loughnatousa Fabio is the name of the solid red bay (also known as Superman, which I think is a stable nickname).  Breyer's Rangoli, the first bay on True North, came out in 2017.  As soon as I saw Rangoli I fell madly in love (and I do mean madly.  I still have plans to etch my own); I only had to wait until Breyer released a regular run bay.   I could hardly believe it when Icabad came out so soon.  Even their stars match!!  Twenty-eighteen was a very good year for me.

 My first thought for a pic of matched Kilbourns was this.   It features what they've got on now,  'wearing around the house,' as you would say.  Dry The Sea, my Icabad, was wearing tack.  I knew from the start I wanted to show off tack.  :)

The rage for digital photo-showing has inspired me to enter two shows so far; then it sank below the surface.  Why does it come bubbling back now?  I can tell the answer is complex; for now, let's just say the Kilbourn contest offered an escape from a probably ridiculous but still perceived expectation of perfection.  I have no photo backgrounds.  This is a driving pair, but I have no vehicle with a pole suitable for light horses (only the Hitch Wagon!).  With the weather the way it was, I couldn't even go outside.  It is too bad that sometimes the amazing artistry of other people's entries is, paradoxically, depressing.  I should know better.  (And, I should let this be an excuse to PhotoShop more...)

Perhaps recovery is merely a function of time... the dip and rise of a heartbeat graph line...

The solid-blue, white-lined blanket that says ""Timaru Star II" is a gift from my generous friend Lynn Martin Isenbarger.  The space-fabric blanket :)  is a beautiful commission from Nichelle Jones of Desktop Stables, specifically for this horse.  Loughnatousa  is correctly pronounced Lock-na-two-sa (it is the name of an Irish stud) , but I keep calling him Loff-na-toosa.  Somehow I haven't found a better name...  Here, the camera makes his head look big.

On the way to what I had in mind, I put them side by side.  It matters how you position them.  Loughnatousa is larger, though not by as much as this shows.

If you put Dry The Sea in front, suddenly they're perfect.  My camera exaggerates the front horse just enough.

The slight difference in color is lost under certain conditions:  See the first and second pix of this post.  If you do notice it, it just makes them more realistic.

Getting out the harness and fitting it was an exquisite pleasure.  I've had this set for 30 years and every needed part is long since made and put right (or so I would like to think!).  It was originally built on a research ship in the middle of the Pacific (I'm not making this up.  Meteorological field experiment TOGA-COARE 1992-3).  Later I replaced most of the hardware with gold filled, which I hadn't known about (or obtained) until about 1995.

I used a clothespin to hold the reins for this session.  Note the bell string around Dry The Sea.  I only have the one string so it goes on the horse closest to the camera.

They're both going at the same speed, a canter.  Think cantering isn't done in harness?  Haven't been to a Combined Driving Event, have you...?!  There are speed elements.  They run.

See the ring around the crossed inside lines?  Put the rein of the horse who carries his head highest on top.  It's not too hard to pick which horse that is.

This is my second-favorite shot.  I was using my left hand to elevate Dry and my right to hold the camera.  Action!!

But none could top this one.   Finally, this is what I was after.  I believe I was inspired by photos I'd seen in Driving Digest magazine.  True to life, the bridles are slightly different; Loughna's has the tandem-wheeler's rings, and somehow their cheek keepers don't match.

The flaw I see is that Loughnatousa's off foreleg appears too small for his size, and unfortunately placed stridewise in comparison to Dry's.  But that's the way it goes.  Without those forearms you'd have a harder time figuring out the molds.  ... Maybe I should just crop it.  OH and what a great opportunity to get rid of that scuffed ear...!


Later fixes I see (this must be the ever-critical judge) include moving Dry's neckpad to before his withers, and raising Loughna's mouthpiece a bit.  Both nosebands are a little lower than they should be.

I should stop here.  But I didn't.  I took Dry The Sea (because he's been Horse of the Day for some time now) and put him to the Red Sleigh, using my new doll (still working on a name, Anne!) and my old driver Steve the Cowboy.  Then I dug out my Santa.  Steve decided Chereene (?) should drive.  He also thought his magnificent fur cloak would cover them both, ... which was a bit farfetched.

I'm hoping you don't notice she's dropped a line (I didn't notice either).  Nor that Santa seems to be perched uncomfortably on the back seat, no doubt ready to tumble down the moment Dry hits a bump.  I won't tell you he's pinned in place.  Man I need a better Santa.  It's a good thing Dry's so strong.

What's PhotoShop for, if not to fix a lady's troubles?  Here, I raised that rein for her.  Above, I extended the snow, which started as a piece of white fleece.

 Merry Christmas everybody!!

I mentioned something lost at the beginning of this post.  It was the folder which held the pictures of my unfinished Maxixe wearing the 2016 Pony Hackamore.  I could remember shooting him wearing it, ... but could not find the folder,... which was exasperating, to say the least.  I remembered the blog post about that very Hackamore, which saved me in the end:  it proved I'd taken all those pix.   I finally went over EVERY picture I'd ever taken that fall, and there it was:  I'd somehow stowed the entire folder inside another folder!  "It happens."  But this was my first time with so basic a mistake.

A Pony Hackamore 

I have had real fun with this long shoot, and I am relieved that "photo showing fever" can come back.  I love Morgen Kilbourn sculpts and currently have 5:  True North, Finnegan, Maxixe, Bobby Jo/Sheila and the Baroque Horse Bust.  I am still hoping to get my Christmas letter out before Valentine's :)  and I am so thankful for all the blessings we have enjoyed this year.  Indeed we have been blessed,... 

... still I AM looking forward to 2021...!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Snow Event

 December 17, 2020.  Fourteen inches as home-measured on our deck (9 last night + 5 this morning).  We haven't had snow like this for several years.  Certainly this was the most of the season so far! -- there have been only a couple of quick dustings since fall began.  I started blazing away before I'd gotten dressed.

You can't see it but there are little stickers on this glass wall marking the record snowfall we got in 1994.  That was twenty-seven inches.  That was before we had so many plants on the deck, too, which kind of spoils the chances of marking that again.  Still, this is a very respectable snow event.

The twin-topped spruce of our neighbor behind was a thing of beauty.  And the light!  As the sun reaches up over Nittany Mountain [behind us, to the south] the light sweeps towards us like something out of Lion King.  I did a zoom on this shot and was very happy with it.

This shot shows how our rear neighbor, in the green house, dug out a Y-shaped space 'for the convenience of' their two dogs.  For some reason the most popular breed around here is the Lhasa Apso.
Reversing the viewpoint, this is the front street scene.  George had dug out the sidewalk last night, but it kept snowing -!

Speaking of digging, by now I had my clothes on and we plunged into the task.  It must have been after breakfast but I honestly don't remember.  

The whole rest of this post is a series of 'before and after' pictures.  Somewhere deep in the files I have a shot of our earlier neighbor's car (in this same location) completely buried.  That would tell me when we last had snow anything like this....

Oh.  I found it.  2014.

Here's the contemporary version, six years later.  The earlier neighbor is gone, having moved to Florida, how about that.

Our other car, the famous Moxie, daughter of Zippy.  Someday I must do a post on Zippy...

Now:  Magic!  Whirling corn shovels!  Flying powder!  Fresh air, exercise, camaraderie and speaking more with my neighbors than I have in ever so long...

It's good for the arm muscles.  I dug the snow out of her exhausts with a spoon (not making this up...)
My preferred weapon is an old plastic house broom.  I get the car roofs;  Geo does the heavy lifting.  This time I did a neighbor's car roof too.
It might look normal to you, all this shoveling.  It is normal.  But somehow I do not want to be taking too much for granted.

Thank you, sweetie.

Bonus story:  Did you know that piled-up snow and ice around her feet will cause the Toyota Hybrid RAV4’s Low Tire Pressure icon to light up?  I thought it was just the cold.  I was sort of right:  The snow interrupts the radio waves [between her brain and her tires].  I checked all her feet with the tire gauge:  Nothing was unusual.  I couldn't reach the spare (in truth, I didn't bother to turn it over [and get to the stem] once I dug down to it).  Only by digging deep in the manual did I discover the incriminating words, "accumulated snow and ice," and then, with even more digging, find the way of resetting the icon.  Oh these sensitive cars.