Tuesday Tidbit—#6: Double Shot

Reminder: I’ve decided that on Tuesdays, I’m going to give a tidbit of practical information. Homespun helps with an occasional dash of humor. This will leave readers with about 52 pieces of potentially useless information and me with 52 days not to have to think too hard each year.

Well, since I was talking about the frontier last week and skipped the Tuesday Tidbit, here’s a double shot this week (pun intended).

I love watching birds from our kitchen window. I admit it.

Just before dinner last night, one of my kids who shall remain unnamed for now, said, “Who in our family says,
‘Oh, look. There’s a Purple-Speckled Spotted Owl!’ ?” Everyone laughed except me.

I took a photograph of two bluebirds in the snow last winter. I’ve duplicated and altered it just a little bit. Can you tell the difference (very slight) between these two photographs? Which one looks better to you?
(If you’re on your mobile, you’ll have to turn your phone sideways to have a chance to see the difference.)

Photo #1
IMG_9037 - Version 2

Photo #2
IMG_9037 - Version 3

So. . . Here’s your Tuesday Tidbit Double Shot:

CATCHLIGHT. The first photograph is unaltered. If you look closely, you can see the “catchlight” in the left eye of each bluebird—particularly the bird on the left. The catchlight is a highlight in the subject’s eye that gives it a little more pop.

In the second photograph, I removed the catchlight, and you can see that these birds don’t have much spark to them.

So... the tidbit is this:
When your photographing people or animals, try to find a light source that will cause a catchlight in the eye. It’s not that hard (even in an overcast snowy day!), and it makes a HUGE difference in the photograph. If you don’t believe me, look around your house at the photographs you really like best. I’ll just about guarantee that the people have a catchlight in their eyes.

ELIMINATOR. Tidbit #2 for today: If you are having trouble with squirrels at your bird feeder, the feeder in the photograph is incredible. It’s called the “Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder” and works period. It’s expensive, but so is feeding squirrels. :)

Past Tuesday Tidbits:
5. Recycling Schedule
4. iPhone Fix for Dark Pics
3. Walnut Furniture Fix
2. Handy Measuring Tool
1. Problem Photography

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Jerry and New man.

We worked most of Saturday in our yard moving rocks, mulch, and dirt. On days like this I take comfort in some 2,600+ year-old words...

“I’ll refresh tired bodies;
I’ll restore tired souls.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Is your body tired and sore from something like yard work?
Get some rest today and get refreshed.

Is your soul tired and sore from something like life?
Take off the backpack* you’ve been carrying around and get restored today.

*(In my experience, the backpacks that weigh us down the most are guilt, shame, and anger.) Read More...

The end of the frontier?

During one of his lectures on the West, Dr. Smiley talked about Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis” paper he delivered at an 1893 meeting of the American Historical Association. Dr. Smiley told us that Turner had argued in that meeting that the American frontier was now closed, and that the American landscape was no longer one of seemingly endless boundaries. (He said that America would now (in 1893) have to go through a very painful transition to a land and people with limitations as yet unknown to the young nation of the 19th century. Read More...

Some things don't grow on trees

While looking for the monk photo (yesterday’s post), I also found this gem from 1993. I’m sitting on a dead limb after climbing up this dead tree overlooking Frontier Ranch. First, I started laughing at the thought of doing that now. Or better yet... what I would say if one of my kids started to climb that tree.

Kids, don’t try this at home. This was done by a trained professional. Even though he’d never done it before.

Back then I was building ropes courses and climbing up dead trees for a better view. Right now I’m typing on a keyboard on a laptop computer that didn’t even exist back in 1993. I look at this picture and think, “Who was that guy?” and “What would I like to tell that guy at his age?” and “What does that guy need to tell me at my age?” Read More...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Frontier, that is)

I think this ability to laugh at oneself became a lost art in our culture—particularly when the “political correctness” umbrella got opened up indoors, but it’s making a comeback. One of the things I love about social media is that we are learning to laugh at ourselves again. To be sure, there’s a fine line between laughing at someone (in the “making fun of” sense) and laughing with someone’s foibles as simply part of being human. But, I think we are learning to not take ourselves so seriously again. Read More...

Brush with greatness

While at Wake Forest, we’d occasionally hear a fraternity brother stand up at a Sigma Chi meeting and announce a “Brush with Greatness.” It was a sighting or encounter with a famous person. Well, I’ve had a lot of those in my life. But Tuesday was possibly the coolest one I’ve ever had. Read More...

The Frontier.2

In July of 1992, I sat on the deck of a friend’s house in Colorado and watched an amazing lightning storm. I thought about how we are often looking for a new adventure—usually “somewhere out there” where the lightning strikes—when the journey is, more than likely, a heart-and-head trail instead of a mountain hike (though I’ve lost count of the times that a hike brought clarity to my heart and head). A song started brewing, and here’s what came out. I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

For now, here are the lyrics (which I originally wrote on the back of a Frontier Ranch paper placemat that I still have)...

And Simon Cowell, you just leave that duct tape right where it is.

The Frontier.1

Frontier Ranch is one of my very favorite places on this earth. I grew up there. I don’t mean that it’s the place where I spent my childhood; I mean I grew up there. I learned about life, faith, God, and myself there. As I look at this picture of the Frontier Ranch sign, it occurs to me that, sometimes, reflections only happen in the rear view. The sign is backwards only because I’m looking back at where I came from to get there. Read More...

In the Zone

I think that perhaps one of life’s most underrated pleasures is driving west through a state like Tennessee and having to be somewhere at a certain time. . . and then realizing that you have an extra hour to chill the next morning. Read More...

Show the Way - Verse 1

Fear can be debilitating. Period. It can paralyze even the best of us.

Fear wakes us from dreams and washes us in doubts.

Fear has our culture by the throat, and therefore, has us also in its talons. It “seems to be cutting off our life,” as Willard says above. I see Facebook posts and emails every single day that are primarily fear-based—even if couched in political or religious language. Fear is often used as the motivator to get people to do something (or not do something).

Mortar Management

I mentioned mortar in yesterday’s post. I said that mortar holds things together by filling in the gaps left over by irregular shapes, and that we need mortar in our own lives because we are all irregular-shaped people with a need for something or someone to hold us together in community.

The Problem of Evil in 3 minutes

When I was pressure-washing last spring, I blew some mortar loose from the stonework at our house. I took a photo to remind me to ask my guy if he could fix it, and when I saw this picture on my phone today, it got me thinking about mortar—which holds things together by filling in the gaps left over by irregular shapes. We need mortar in our own lives because we are all irregular-shaped people with a need for something or someone to hold us together in community. That thought reminded me of a song lyric I heard decades ago (#gettingolder), “It is love who mixed the mortar...” which promptly propelled me into a time machine. . .

Tuesday Tidbit—#5: Recycling Schedule

CLT Recycling
My son and I were rolling out the trash cans tonight, and I paused to ponder whether or not it was the week to roll out the recycling bins as well. As we rolled the cans out I thought of a way to solve this problem. If you live in Charlotte, you can do this on your iPhone. . . Read More...

A Moleskine morning

At the end of last week, I spent some time at my painted-baton-passing friend’s house. We were shooting the breeze and talked again of watercolor painting, which he does pretty much every single day. He showed me a Moleskine journal that had his first watercolor painting in it, and I said, “Do you have a lot of those journals going way back?”

He chuckled and responded, “C’mon. Let me show you.” Read More...

Passing a painted baton

Earlier this week I was in a coffee shop with a friend, and I was telling him about an art project I am working on where I have to create something on a 12” x 12” canvas. I’d been thinking about doing it on my iPad in my favorite app, Paper 53, and then making a digital print for the canvas.

He said, “You ought to just paint it.” I told him that if I could actually paint I probably would! :)

He replied, “I can teach you to paint watercolors in 10 minutes.”

I said, “If you can teach me in 10 minutes, I’m in.” Read More...

ME Week—Friday

Mary Liz - Maggie
Our dog, Maggie, is mostly deaf. She doesn’t like a lot of sudden movements or loud noises. I think this is part of the reason that Maggie sits with Mary Liz, because she knows this and is careful to protect Maggie in this regard.

It strikes me that we all need people in our lives who know our weaknesses and are careful to protect us from what or who might harm us. I need people— like Maggie needs Mary Liz— to help me “hear” what I’ve tuned out, turned off, or just plain gone deaf towards. We all need people to feel safe with— even if safety comes from someone keeping us from doing what we think we want to do. I watch Mary Liz care for and protect Maggie, and I realize that there is a reason Maggie wants to sit close to my daughter. Read More...

ME Week—Thursday

MEC Windy Gap 0002
As a dad, I believe that one of the most important things I can do is to figure out what my kids are really passionate about and give them the ability to pursue that passion. However God has wired them to think and dream and do—part of my role is to give them a pasture to play and experiment in. Sometimes it involves leaps of joy and other times it involves skinned knees. Pastures can have fences to give structure and boundaries—and to keep out unwanted distractions. Sometimes the wide open spaces with room to go at a full gallup are the best places to learn about freedom and responsibility.

ME Week—Wednesday

A friend in Richmond once told me, “We don’t raise children; we raise adults. They are just children for a little while.”

This picture is of the first day of school for Mary Elizabeth. I remember how beautiful she looked in her cute dress, white sweater and red bow and how huge the backpack looked on her tiny frame. . . I remember the feeling of putting my little girl on a school bus at the end of our street and thinking, “This is a game changer.”

Tuesday Tidbits—#4: iPhone pics—dark subject fix

IMG_3775 - Version 2
Have you ever tried to take a picture with an iPhone but the people looked too dark even on a sunny day with a bright sky?. . . When I first tried to take this picture, the sky was fine, but they were way too dark. Then I fixed it using the steps below and voilà!

Without getting into “the why” about cameras and light exposure, here’s a quick tip for fixing this problem.

ME week—Monday

Well, I’ve been waiting on this week for a while now. It’s ME week! Not in the personal pronoun sense but in the Mary Elizabeth sense. I’ve waited till this week to do it because, for the first time in a very long time, she’s the only one of our kids home all week, and she’s leaving for college next month.