Before photography became a serious hobby for me, I kind of thought that editing photos was just for the pros and mostly meant “photoshopping”: removing birthmarks and making models look unrealistically slim and smooth, etc.

When I took photos, I got whatever came out of the camera.

At some point I started using Picasa to organize my photos. Picasa makes basic touch-ups very easy: adding some fill light, fixing wonky white balance issues (when people look yellow in the face, or the snow is purple). So I did that. I still had no idea how much editing can go into making a normal photo look good.

Learning more about photography pulls me in two directions at once. On the one hand, the more I learn about taking photos, the better results I get straight out of camera, so there is less need for editing. On the other hand, the more I learn about editing, the more editing I do, because I see more possibilities – and also because I now notice issues that I would not even have seen before.

For a photo that just goes into my archives, not to the blog or any other kind of public place, I just fix the basics to a “good enough” level. Often I do this in batch mode, fixing several photos at a time. This basic fixing generally includes:

  • White balance. I make sure that whites look white and skin look skin-coloured. This is one of the things that I can no longer unsee: when I look at a photo and the white balance is off, it really bothers me.
  • Exposure. Despite all my practice I often still underexpose a bit, meaning my photos are a bit too dark. But one good thing about having a “big camera” is that moderate underexposure is easy to fix.
  • Straighten. Another thing that my eyes just cannot ignore: tilted horizons and slanting lamp posts. It turns out that the human eye is amazingly sensitive to this: a line that is 1° off vertical is glaringly wrong; even as little as 0.2° is visible.

For the more important photos in the archive, or for a photo I intend to publish, I definitely add:

  • Cropping. After taking that composition workshop, this is another thing I just have to give some thought to. Sometimes I crop a lot; sometimes I am happy with what I have; sometimes I realize that I should have composed differently when taking the photo and there is no way to fix it now.

Finally there are the extras that I only do for photos I really care about, whether it’s for the blog or for a workshop assignment. These steps are fiddly and non-routine, and can easily take me 15 minutes or more per photo: I don’t do it often enough to have an efficient workflow. This might include any of the following:

  • Adjusting contrast or saturation
  • Selectively brightening or darkening parts of the photo
  • Fixing colour casts in specific parts of the photo
  • Editing out small stuff that bothers me – some small bright spot, or a speck of dust in the sky

All this might for example let me take this photo:

… and turn it into this:

And then there are the tools that I don’t yet have a good grip on and therefore mostly ignore… sharpening is one that I really want to learn about, and good black and white conversions is another.

For photos that end up here on the blog, I finish off the process by resizing the photo. Because I have a retina display on my MacBook Pro, I resize the photo to twice its intended final size and then scale it down using CSS.

How do people fit in their beds?

I am a woman of average length. 167 cm to be precise, which is the average in Sweden.

I have a standard-sized bed. Lengthwise, at least, it’s the standard 200 cm. The width is way beyond any standards since we have assembled a generous 250 cm family bed for ourselves.

But this standard-sized woman barely fits in this standard-sized bed. My pillow is pushed all the way to the top edge, and my feet reach the other end.

I like lying flat and straight in my bed when sleeping. When I’ve just gotten into bed I may curl up or cuddle up to Eric or shift around and turn from one side to the other. But when it’s time to fall asleep, I turn to my back and straighten out. There’s just enough space for this.

How do all the tall men fit into their beds? Do they lie diagonally? Do their feet stick out? Do they all sleep on their side?

A mystery.

I really enjoy these photography workshops but it means I spend all my evenings taking and editing photos and have almost no time for writing.

This week we are practising on flowers.

This week Adrian has been really ill. He got rotavirus again (like in 2012) and couldn’t even drink water for an entire day.

Dr. Internet suggested giving a teaspoonful of water every 5 minutes. Not even that worked. He got dehydrated, all grey in his face and limp and listless. He didn’t even have the energy to sit up in my lap, just sort of lay there… Had me really worried.

Both back in 2012 and now I told myself that if he gets no better by the morning, we’ll take him to the ER to get some fluids in him. But both times he got better at night, enough that he could start drinking again, and by morning he was looking and behaving like a normal child again.

Adrian is angry, just like last month. “Nu är jag arg på dig!” (“Now I am angry with you!”) and “Jag är inte söt, bara arg!” (“I am not sweet, I am angry!”)

But regardless of his protestations, he is sweet more than he is angry. And when he is angry, he manages it pretty well. He stalks away from us, maybe growls or roars at us. But he never hits or throws things, and he never bears a grudge.

The closest he gets to being violent is pointing a stick at something, one of all those sticks he picks up. “Nu pjåmmar jag dig!” he says, and looks fierce. I think “pjåmma” is supposed to be onomatopoeic, sort of like “to boom” maybe?

He notices immediately when I get angry, even when I haven’t said anything yet, and asks me why.

The stream of why’s is even more intense than last month. “Why did you make pancakes for dinner? Why did we buy milk? Why are you sitting here? Why is it Tuesday?”

He pays attention to the world around him and comments on interesting things. Things that move on their own: weighted doors that close themselves, or flapping louvres on a ventilation opening. New things in old places: Christmas decorations in Spånga. Familiar things in new places: Barbapapa and Bamse branded children’s products at the pharmacy.

He is very, very interested in letters and numbers now.

He points out house numbers and asks me what number it is when one and eight are next to each other, for example. He knows that our own house has two and two. (Flashback)

Just like Ingrid at this age, he cannot translate number words between Estonian and Swedish.

We had several advent calendars in December. Both he and Ingrid loved them a lot. So Ingrid made a calendar of her own, with tear-off flaps, to take us from Christmas to New Year’s Eve. And then, just because, another calendar for Adrian from one random day to another, with a different-coloured flower under each flap. And then a calendar for me, too, because she was bored and had nothing better to do. (I asked mine to end on January 31st, which is the day when the sun will finally be up by the time the kids leave for school and nursery.) So Adrian gets lots of practice with the idea of matching (one flap for every day) and numbers (because each flap has the day’s date on it).

He also likes reading out letters from all sorts of signs we pass. He knows to read them left to right, starting at the beginning and not skipping any. He knows them all but mixes up B and D sometimes.

He can pick out the first letter of a word. He likes the alphabet song, and he has really enjoyed our alphabet puzzle, with a picture for every letter.

Adrian talks a lot about his friends that he wants to play with. But our weekends and afternoons are already so busy that I don’t know how to fit in any play dates for him… When he found Eric’s labelmaker one day, the words he wanted to type were his friends’ names.

He talks most about Sigrid. Sigrid was here for his birthday and they have had two play dates. Now he is already telling me about how he will go to Sigrid’s party (“but an adult must come with me”) and wrapping presents for her. Too bad the birthday party isn’t until May.

Miscellaneous items:

He can play dominoes.

He is still hovering on the edge of needing/not needing naps. He really wants to nap, but then has difficulty falling asleep in the evening.

He is still totally and absolutely refusing to go on the potty.

Favourite clothes: dresses. Ingrid got new dresses, so Adrian wanted some, too. We sat down together and looked at what was available on Tradera, and he chose the ones he liked best. All three were pink, and two had Peppa Pig on them. I’m pleased to say that nobody at the nursery has batted an eyelid.

Also, clothes with monsters on them. He got some monster-themed t-shirts and socks for Christmas, and is really frustrated that there are no monster trousers to be had anywhere.

One day they did face painting at nursery. He came home in his Peppa Pig dress, with a skull and crossbones drawn on his cheek. A pink little pirate.

Favourite snacks: toasted pine nuts. Chocolate coated orange peel. He also quite likes carrots now.

Favourite YouTube clips: that Australian guy opening Kinder eggs, still. Those Scurvy Rascals. Peppa Pig.

Favourite books: any. Every time he wants us to read, he picks a different book.

Yesterday I said I didn’t buy or make things that are only beautiful but not useful. That requires some clarification, I think.

I do like buying and making things that make our home more cosy: curtains, rugs, potted plants, and plants for the garden. Those are beautiful but not very useful.

I also like necklaces, and wear them on most days. Those are definitely not useful. But they are more practical than rings and bracelets, which I hardly ever wear.

I am too practically-minded and frugal to buy necklaces for myself nowadays. Although now that I think about it, maybe I should.

However I do like getting necklaces as gifts. In fact I think the majority of my necklaces have been given to me. Mostly by Eric, but also some by my mother, and some by other friends.

I like unusual, non-traditional, interesting necklaces: no strands of pearls for me! I have necklaces made of wood, of mother-of-pearl, of stainless steel. I have one that is made out of a silver fork, bent into a curious shape. I have a gilded lettuce leaf, and a 3d-printed geometrical structure.

Some of my favourites did not photograph well in lamplight; here are the ones that turned out well.

This was the first necklace I bought for myself. It is a silver pendant, designed to look like a Viking coin (but not a real one). The size of my thumbnail and paper-thin, and on an almost-invisible chain: an economical purchase for a teenager. But I still like it after all these years.

These wooden ones Eric made for me:

Ingrid made this bracelet:

Mother-of-pearl and steel:

3D printed tangle:

And here’s a more traditional one:

One of my challenges for the macro course is to find subjects that are somehow meaningful to me. It’s a self-imposed challenge, not part of the course in any way. It’s simply that I find it difficult to really be interested in subjects that are only pretty. I can look at a sunset and find it beautiful, but I don’t feel any need to photograph it. I am much more interested in documenting our everyday.

My aim with photography is to document rather than to make art. Ten years from now I’d love to look at a photo and remember – “Oh yes, that’s exactly the face Ingrid used to have while reading! There’s Adrian with that favourite hat of his!” Much better than “Oh yes, look at how beautiful this is!”

Likewise I almost never buy or make things that are only beautiful but not useful.

I like that quote of William Morris:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

But to me the ideal is to achieve both. Beauty should be there to make a useful thing worth loving.

Back to the macro course…

First out were toys. Today, a selection of scarves – as a reminder of the wintery weather we’ve been having recently, and also as a sampling of our different tastes. Ingrid is very warm-blooded and almost never wears a scarf, so for her I photographed her favourite woolly hat instead.

Lots of things are happening in Ingrid’s head right now.

And lots of things are wanting to come out of Ingrid’s head. She talks SO MUCH. At times I would even say she prattles incessantly.

Mostly her talk is centered around herself, especially things she has done and (even more) things she will do. She spends a lot of time living in the future, anticipating fun things to come. Sometimes annoyingly so: while we are doing something fun in the now, her attention is already elsewhere, thinking ahead to the next activity – and talking about it, and distracting everyone else.

The world around her doesn’t seem to interest her much. She’s never really wondered much about how the world is, why things are the way they are, how things work.

The other day she mentioned they were learning about the US at school. That to her seemed to mean memorizing some random, mostly meaningless facts about it that she read in a book or fact sheet of some sort. She knows that the US is the third largest country in the world, that it has 50 states (“like New York and such”), and that they have a president named Obama – and that it is one of the permanent members of the UN security council. It doesn’t bother her that she doesn’t understand what this means.

When she does wonder about something, she makes up some answer in her head. It doesn’t seem to be important to her to find out what reality is like. She just seems to need some sort of image in her head. For example, she’s about to start riding lessons, so she’s been wondering recently about how big the horses and ponies will be. Instead of wanting to find out for real, she just makes it up: “I think that the foals may be about as tall as I am, and the smaller horses might be as tall as you, and the larger ones might be as tall as pappa.” And she’s satisfied with that.

When she talks about her day, she rarely mentions things that happened at school. She doesn’t seem to find them particularly noteworthy. I don’t really know what they do all day.

I do know that her homework is trivial. Maths homework this week was addition in the 0 to 5 range. And that’s after half a year at school!

Meanwhile she keeps learning maths naturally as part of life. She adds up pocket money; multiplies the number of meatballs by 5 seconds each so she can heat them up in the microwave oven; tries to divide 20 things by 7 days of the week and realizes that there will be one less for one of the days.

She is also learning Swedish spelling (and has a pretty good memory for it) and working on her handwriting. Less than a month ago I was pointing out to her that a t is taller than an i. Now her writing is very tidy and legible. For special projects such Christmas cards she likes to draw the letters “double”, i.e. draws their outlines.

Ingrid talks fast, and she mumbles when she talks. Often I have to ask her to repeat herself, not to make a point but because I really can’t understand what she’s saying.

But she is paying more attention to the people around her. When her blather cuts me off and I go quiet, she notices, and asks me what I was going to say.

She has begun to offer her help to others. It began with routine situations that she effectively learned one by one, e.g. helping Adrian get out of his snowsuit, or helping me carry our bags from the garage to the house. But now she actually also notices when others might need help in novel situations. She grabs a piece of paper towel during dinner, and asks if Eric needs one.

She is often most helpful towards Adrian. Really she is often very sweet and kind towards him. But naturally, sometimes she gets frustrated with him as well, especially when Adrian bothers her when she wants some time on her own, or when Adrian intrudes on some activity that she really wanted to do with me, without him.

The first time it happened was when we went to town one day for shopping. Ingrid was just upset for a long time and refused to tell me why. Maybe she thought she wasn’t allowed to want to have me for herself. Finally I got her to explain, and now she knows to tell me in advance when she wants it to be just me and her. Depending on the activity, sometimes she gets that, but other times I insist that everybody in the family is allowed to join. I think she accepts that.

Favourite expressions:

  • jag är superdålig på det här
  • a men gud
  • så vadå…, as in “Jag kunde ju inte veta att han ville ha den just nu, så vadå…”

Favourite movies:

  • The smurfs
  • LasseMajas detektivbyrå
  • This year’s Barnen Hedenhös Christmas calendar on TV

Favourite books:

  • LasseMaja
  • Daisy Meadows’ fairy books

Favourite things:

  • An atrociously annoying Tinkerbell-themed wand-like thing that flashes, whirls and makes noise. She bought it at a Disney on Ice show for 160 kr of her own money and actually seems to think that it was money well spent.
  • A photo album. I bought the album over a month ago. Then she picked 40 photos on my computer, and last week the prints arrived. It’s an eclectic collection, containing photos of her and Adrian as babies, of important moments in her life, of her friends, but also photos that she simply thinks are pretty (such as my current desktop wallpaper with a snowy winter scene that I downloaded from the Internet).

Favourite activities:

  • Baking and making Christmas candy
  • Photography. When I bring out the tripod, she often wants to join me. Either she borrows my DSLR, or my or Eric’s compact camera. She also likes recording video, especially of Adrian doing something silly, or of herself singing or dancing. One afternoon during the holidays she and I went out for a photo walk together and were out for an hour and a half.
  • Briefly but intensely: Eric’s labelmaker. She labelled our toy boxes and printed important messages like “Adrian my little brother is sometimes annoying”.

I was going to take a break from photography courses. I really, truly was.

That resolution survived for all of two weeks. Here I am, signed up for another course. (This time I’m practising macro photography.)

But I have promised myself to take this course less seriously and to keep it fun, to not work too hard at it.

Here’s Ingrid’s slinky and Adrian’s mini dinosaur.

We went skating today. Which may not sound like a big deal, because we’ve been doing a lot of skating recently. But today we went skating even though it was dark, seven o’clock in the evening, the temperature was -8°C (which isn’t shockingly cold but is about 10 degrees colder than what we’ve had thus far this winter) and windy to boot. Ingrid even chose skating ahead of watching a movie. I’m amazed.

The reason? Yesterday Ingrid got two bandy sticks and a bandy ball as a late Christmas gift. She was over the moon about them and really wanted to try them out today.

And despite the circumstances, she (and I) really enjoyed it – even though the bandy field felt like it had not been resurfaced for at least a week and was covered with snow, so the ball kept getting stuck. By the end (close to 9 o’clock) it was just us two on one side of the field, and twenty men playing bandy for real on the other side. A weird but fun experience.

The snow on the ice and the snow in the air made new games possible. We skated so as to make pretty patterns in the snow, and by the time we’d skated to the other end of the field (against the wind) and come back again, twice, our previous tracks were already almost obliterated by the snow so we could make new ones.