observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

  • Welcome to my photo journal

    Living on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada Diane loves the scent of forests and rain, the rhythms of the sea, and holds discoveries and stories in high regard.

    Where mornings begin with a drum roll! --Diane M Schuller

    Updated each Monday ... simply an online journal of an ordinary life. Come on in to enjoy a breath of West Coast air.

    What’s New can be Old Again

    Huh? You’re probably thinking I have that old cliche turned around. You’re right, I do.

    peaches behind the scenes

    For those using film and not digital, the darkroom is where the final processing occurs for photographic prints. Ansel Adams is known to have worked magic in the darkroom ‘finishing’ his masterpieces. Now that so many of us are using digital, a darkroom still exists — it’s the digital darkroom. I’m no master in the digital darkroom though I’ve been spending time in that digital darkroom practicing, experimenting, and even stretching the limits now and again. Today’s image is a result of some of that practice.

    The image above, as it came straight out of the camera (SOOC), was nice enough but I thought it had potential for altering it somewhat to give it a more vintage feel. Using my Lightroom 2 software, I created a negative applying specific levels of processing. I’ve found it so much fun to experiment and play around in this way. Recently I also created my very first high-key image which can be done either in the camera or in the processing. I took an already somewhat overexposed image of a horse, increasing the exposure in the digital darkroom, made a few other minor adjustments, and ended up with a more artistic version that you can view at my photoblog. I was really pleased with the results.

    dsc_9736This image of a bloom on my Easter cactus has been through the digital darkroom. Using Lightroom I was able to make it appear like it was created with Velvia film. Velvia film is known for having brighter colours and deeper saturation, among its other attributes. While in that darkroom I could have just as easily made this black and white, sepia, or many other options for final processing. Remember the beautiful close up of that clematis and the pink peony I offered for desktop wallpaper? The colours were more brilliant and crisp but I reduced that brilliance, purposely desaturating both images to give them more of a faded old-time feel. All done in my digital darkroom.

    Then again, I could run a photo through that digital darkroom, leaving it as it came straight out of the camera, but add one small touch: a bit of vignetting (that darkening of the edges) like with this box of cupcakes. The only difference between the film version of processing and the digital version is that one is done with chemicals and one is done with the computer. I hope you’ve enjoyed walking through my digital darkroom.

    In what ways do you like to experiment or play around with any of your creative pursuits (gardening, photography, painting, crafting, sewing, woodworking, or …)?


    “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward De Bono

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    Good Morning Star shine …


    The weekend was great, mostly because spring truly is showing its face around here. The snow is melting (though it snowed all day Sunday) faster than you can say “zippity-doo-dah” flawlessly fifteen times; the Canada Geese have returned and some of the Trumpeter Swans flew overhead as well; Easter Sunday was a day filled with great conversation with family; the chickadees are seeking out safe nesting spots; saw a Snowy Owl perched on one of our spruce trees this weekend; the air is filled with the smell of snow melt; hubby drove all the way to the city & back Easter Monday so we could have a sushi treat (took lots of photos of it too); and I no longer have to wear 3 or 4 layers of clothes when I go outside!

    As you can see, I couldn’t help but put out two posts today.

    I hope you enjoy this sunshine-y store-bought chrysanthemum. What makes your star shine today?


    Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie, Alberta & northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    Grab the Reins to Learn Camera Exposure

    I can credit one book for helping me move from a rank amateur with lots of interest in photography, yet lacking in technical skills, to an amateur who finally understands how to get the most out of her camera. This one book slapped the reins in my hands enabling me to turn my little DSLR into a real workhorse.


    I’ve loved photography since I was a little girl, mesmerized by the little Brownie box camera with the leather handle my parents used. Life moved forward and I focused my creative side on writing. Photography, though still a creative outlet I loved, got left behind. That changed a few years ago.

    When I finally made the decision to get serious about improving my photography skills, there were roadblocks. Where I live I don’t have the benefit of access to professional photography workshops or classes though I did take an intermediate course that helped me more with post processing than anything else. I felt a void because my goal had been to become adept at maximizing my use (and understanding) of my camera’s controls.

    I tried a few online forums but got absolutely nowhere because of attitude (I should KNOW those things, don’t you know). That was the whole point: I asked those questions because I was trying to learn and decipher how to fully understand the specific details about correct exposure. Someone with less attitude recommended a book that was sure to answer my questions, so I ordered it, and voila! That book made everything perfectly clear to me.

    Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Cameraby Bryan Peterson was the single most significant tool that helped me better understand exposure and how to get the most out of my camera. By the time I finished the first chapter, the questions I had been asking not only were answered but he taught it in such a way that I had no more confusion about f-stops and lens opening (and determining the best exposure without it being guesswork). As I progressed through the chapters, I learned how to achieve certain effects with my camera and experimented more (while understanding what I was doing). Peterson also had suggested exercises in each chapter to encourage the reader/photographer to try out the different lessons and to expand your capabilities. With the positive reinforcement that came as a result of trying his exercises, there really was no place to go but forward! I highly recommend this book (now available as an updated version) if you wish to better understand exposure, to get the most out of your camera (whether it’s film or digital), and to improve your technical skills with any camera.

    Copyright © Diane M. Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © Diane M. Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    I still use the same entry level DSLR but I know I’m getting the most out of it. I’m still hoping to get a professional level camera like so many others have, but I’m comfortable that my little camera is like a little draught horse working his haunches off for me. The only reason I’m getting so much out of my little camera is due solely to what I’ve learned in an earlier version of Understanding Exposure.

    That said, photography – like any creative art form – is a lifelong learning process. I still make mistakes but at least I know what I should be doing. 🙂 We never stop learning and growing with the art.

    Have you found a book that helped move you forward in any particular task or other part of your life? Or, if you are also an amateur photographer, what have you found to be the most helpful in moving your skills forward?

    Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    What we hear


    Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    This week I heard:

    • the return of the crows, “caw, caw”;
    • the dark-eyed juncos (I haven’t seen them yet but I hear them);
    • coyotes howling and yodeling each day and night;
    • an owl hooting outside our bedroom window in the middle of the night;
    • “Green onions” by Booker T and the MG’s … man I love that tune!
    • News, both good and bad, on the radio and TV;
    • Canada Geese returning north (but there’s no open land or water yet for them);
    • “Stranger on the Shore” … to me that melody sounds like what it would feel like to be floating on a calm sea in twilight;
    • heard that owl again, though he was further away from the farm this time;
    • My mother’s voice within mine when I chuckled to myself.

    What did you hear this week?

    PS: Last week I promised to do a brief post about one of the books that helped me the most in moving forward with my photography. Time has slipped away like a snail on wet glass so I hope you won’t mind waiting until after the Easter weekend. I promise to have the post ready to roll out after this long weekend.

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    The Bright Side

    An optimist is the human personification of spring.  ~Susan J. Bissonette

    Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and a wide range of ducks on frozen ice here in Alberta. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and a wide range of ducks on frozen ice here in Alberta. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    ... notice the Northern Pintails in flight. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    ... notice the Northern Pintails in flight. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

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    Taking Pictures of Your Dog / Pet

    Taking pictures of your dog, cat, or other pets are often similar to taking photos of your children. As promised here are a few simple, yet basic, aspects to keep in mind when taking pictures of your family dog(s). If there is interest, in future I can provide information to address more advanced approaches. These six tips will form a good base to get you started taking better snapshots of your family pet.

    1. Have an assistant, whenever possible. If you have a friend or family member you can put them to work in playing with the dog or pup or by acting as a distraction with a toy, for instance. Squeaky toys are good for getting dogs to perk their ears at attention and for directing which direction the dog faces.
    2. Turn off the flash and turn the beep feature off on your camera. Take your photos in a brightly lit room or outdoors so the flash is not necessary. Many animals become leary of cameras when the beep goes off every time the shutter is released. You don’t want your pet worried about the camera — you want him/her relaxed.
    3. Forget about posing! Attempting to pose a dog, especially with the dog looking straight at the camera, most times is so lifeless and lacks personality. The best photos are those where you capture your dog (or your kids) at play, concentrating or showing curiosity over something, or even relaxing after a long run or playtime. As mentioned, if you have some toys or treats with you, you can toss it out to get the dog moving or playing. When you forget about posing and simply allow your pet to be itself, not only will you capture personality but you’ll also find you enjoy these the  most because the real essence of your dog/pet is captured.
    4. Turn your camera’s setting to continuous mode. Whether you have a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or a 35mm film camera, you will have that capability. This allows the camera to take a continuous stream of photos while keeping the shutter pressed, hopefully so you don’t miss some unexpected shots especially if your pet is moving.
    5. Take lots and lots of pictures! Don’t worry so much about perfection. Be more concerned about capturing special moments. If you have a digital camera, you have the luxury of taking all kinds of shots without having to pay for developing/processing. Simply delete the rejects after downloading them to your computer and hang on to the good ones (be sure to get them printed).
    6. Get down! This one is key. When you get down to the pet’s level (again, this is important for photos of children too) and preferably the closer the better, your images will immediately improve. If you have a DSLR, you can get even better results by attaching your zoom lens. This will allow you to be further away (out of their face), less intimidating, and to still capture those close up shots. Ideally, you want to nearly (or fully) fill the frame with your subject. You don’t want your subject to be a blob or dot in the frame.


    The dog’s face fills the frame, concentrating on his eyes. He’s not looking directly at the camera (distracted) and the camera is not in his face because a zoom lens was used. The only thing done to this was to sharpen it slightly after downloading to the computer.

    it doesn

    It doesn’t matter that this dog is not facing the camera — the image tells a story: she is hanging back while the other two are off hunting (typical of this dog). Taken down at the dog’s level and she nearly fills the frame.

    Here the dog is captured playing in the snow (with snow flying). It doesnHere the dog is captured playing in the snow (with snow flying). It doesn’t matter that the other dog’s head snuck in — it shows curiosity. Again, the dog mostly fills the frame.

    HereHere’s a shot taken after the dog had sufficient time to play and wear off energy. He’s keeping still yet his attention is elsewhere (a distraction) and has that ‘posed’ look.

    PhoDOGraphy: How to Get Great Pictures of Your Dog

    51mwkb8b9kl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-bigtopright35-73_ou01_How to Take Great Pet Pictures: Recipes for Outstanding Results with Any Camera

    Copyright © 2009 Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved. It is illegal to copy any part of this post or the photos without the written permission of the author. You may link to this page from your blog or website.

    Diane is an on-location dog, pet & livestock photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta/BC. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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