Striving for So Much Less

New Year’s resolutions don’t often work for me, but I go through the exercise of setting them anyway. I think the arbitrary reboot that New Years can symbolize is an important chance to reassess things. In that spirit, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I want to strive for in 2018. Most are big and ambiguous things that are hard to measure. Be more happy or, at a minimum, less angry. Be more comfortable in silence. Stop devoting so much attention to things that don’t matter to you. Attention spent with something to which you don’t assign great value inherently gives that person/thing/event value.

That last one is the resolution I’ve been working towards the most so far. The main culprit is my phone.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Wonder Boy would advise people to always call him instead of me. “If you are in an emergency and call Kate,” he would say, “you’re probably going to die because she won’t know about your call until a few days later.” It was not an unfair statement.

But anymore, I do answer my phone. It’s always on me or nearby. I’ll still have family comment when I answer, “Oh! You picked up your phone!” It’s my new normal. And it’s such a switch from my initial attitude towards cell phones. My oft-stated belief was that phones aren’t pagers and I’m not on call so why would I always have to be available on my phone? I still stand by that. And yet.

It is through my phone that I consume so much media. I listen to audio books, podcasts and music. It’s the device through which I watch all TV and movies, casting from my phone to the television. I track diet and exercise data there. And, much to my dismay, I waste countless hours screwing around on social media or playing dumb games.

While I still see value in my audio books and in tracking my exercising, most of the rest doesn’t align with my value system, or at least not to the extent that the way I spend my time would imply.

Moment is an iOS app for your phone that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day.

I installed an app on my phone called Moment and it’s been horrifying. Moment tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, tells you what apps you use for how long and, and this is the scariest part for me, how many times you pick up your phone throughout the day.

Does the measurement itself do anything? No. But if you are motivated by shame, and I am, it’s a good way to change habits.

  • I’ve deleted a lot of social media from my phone and good riddance. I work on social media professionally so I get my fill during the workday. Why do I need it during my downtime?
  • The games on my phone are gone. All but Words with Friends, because I actually use my brain when I play that one (my mom is a fierce competitor!), and it did not prove to be my biggest time suck. Deleting games has been a little harder for me than some of my other changes because games were how I passed time while waiting for people, or buses or whatever.
  • A little related to decreasing my phone use, I’ve also been trying to decrease my television watch-time. Since I watch TV and movies via my phone, one has helped the other.
  • Leaving my phone behind, which is what I unintentionally used to do all the time, is the biggest change. At work, I leave my phone at my desk and then go to all of my meetings. At home the phone is sometimes nearby, but not always. Right now, for instance, I have no idea where it is.

This is still a work in progress for me. Today is January 7 so I’ve still got 51 weeks to continue with and perfect this resolution. In the meantime, I am doubling down on making sure there is always a book in my purse or bag for downtimes. I am trying to be okay with sitting in silence. And I’m finding myself doing crafts again – putting my fingers to much better use than typing on a 375 x 258 pixel keyboard.

A Lesson In Stepping Out

While we were in Nepal, Wonder Boy, Frankenstein, Outside and I all took a chartered plane ride past Mount Everest. We had figured that this trip would be the closest we would ever get to the Himalayas and that none of use was likely to ever hike to Mount Everest. But a plane ride? Well within all of our skill sets.We woke up early so we could be flying at first light. I had seen photos from a friend’s trip and she had gone on a similar flight. Based on her photos, I was excited for the photography opportunities. I had my camera ready to go!

When we got on the plane, I was disappointed to see that my window’s view was partially blocked by the plane’s wing. But with careful careening of my neck, I could still get a wing-free picture. In between snapping shots, I tried to take in the view. To absorb everything I was seeing. But just like the window was blocked, my mental state was partially blocked by my singular focus on getting some pictures.

I’ve been going through my pictures from the trip and have learned a valuable lesson. While I was busy trying to take good photographs, I should have been more focused on the great view. Because you know what? My raw photos aren’t good. They are streaked and blurred by whatever was on my plane window. The plane’s wing makes many appearances.

Heavily edited in Photoshop, I have some that look okay. But I’m not sure any of my handful of photos match in beauty, even close, what I know I saw.

A view of the Himalayas, as seen from a flight by Mount Everest.

That leads me wondering if I got my money’s worth. Or at least everything I could have from the experience. I’m not sure. If I didn’t, though, it’s my fault. The flight wasn’t about what I could see through my viewfinder. It was what I could take in and embrace. That flight was about seeing individual homes in remote areas of the Himalayas. It was about getting as close to Mount Everest as I’ll ever be. It was about being in awe, and a little incredulous, of anyone willing to climb those mountaintops. It was about seeing Mother Nature in one of her finest acts.

That flight was about a singular experience. I regret that I wasn’t able to step out from behind my camera for a while longer and enjoy it more.

That’s a relatively inexpensive lesson for me to learn, in the grand scheme of things. The same thing applies to me hiding behind my phone screen being “social” or sitting behind a computer screen “interacting” with people. Not everything has to be captured and documented. Not everything needs proof. The experience might be so much better than any of that and all the proof I need is stored in my head.

This post originally appeared on Kate’s Point of View. © Kate. All rights reserved.

What I’ve Been Checking Out This Week

Here are some of the things I’ve been checking out this week.

This post originally appeared on Kate’s Point of View. © Kate. All rights reserved.

What I’ve been Checking Out This Week

Here are some of the things I’ve been checking out this week.

  • The Huffington Post featured this collection of old wedding photos and I love the, especially this one.
  • Rachel Devine takes some beautiful photographs of kids. I like this picture in particular because the kids aren’t even in focus and their spirit is captured perfectly.
  • Have you seen ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS? It’s hysterical.
  • A lot of cake and cookie decorations just look … hard. These brain cupcakes seem totally doable.
  • I know so many nerds. So many. But do I know the King of the Nerds? If only I could be so lucky… 
  • Although I hope I don’t have to redo a kitchen for a long time, I really love this kitchen makeover included a little place for the household dog.
  • Wonder Boy turned by on to Lana Del Rey and … WOW. I definitely recommend checking her out – especially the song Video Games.

  • I think we’ve all seen that crazy cat girl’s eHarmony video. It’s entertaining, but this remixed one is even better!

This post originally appeared on Kate’s Point of View. © Kate. All rights reserved.

Answering Photoshop Questions

When I introduced the idea of walking through Photoshop I asked for questions. I got some good ones. Some hard ones! Don’t worry people, I didn’t forget about you all! But my first goal was to walk through what I view as the basic of Photoshop:

Here are the questions you asked me:

  1. How do you crop a file?
    I answered this one in my post about cropping and resizing images.
  2. How do you save a file for the web (don’t make it too big TWSS) or for print (don’t make it too small and how do you know if you original file is going to look like a pixilated Lichtenstein if you choose to blow it up)?
    I answered this one in my post about pictures for the print versus the web.
  3. How do you change the color balance?
    I addressed this point in my post about balancing color. This is one of my favorite thing to play with.
  4. When do you save a file in PSD vs. JPG?
    This is a very good question and makes a big difference when you’re working. I answered this in my post about images for the print and web.
  5. How do you remove blemishes, zits and red eye?
    I go over this in my post about the clone stamp tool. Have fun making everyone’s skin clearer in your images!

The other questions take a little more work to answer.

How do you configure a file for printing? Hope that makes sense. Example: You know you want to print 4X6 pictures. How do you know your image size matches?

I thought I answered this pretty will in the post about images for print versus web, but turns out, I did not. Ooops!

If you have an image and you want to get it ready for print, there are a few steps to follow. First, open the image in Photoshop and check the image size by going to Image … Image Size. In the window that appears, check the resolution (dpi), which should be 300, the height and the width.

If your image is smaller than the size at which you want to print it, use this rule of thumb: You can make an image slightly bigger and probably get away with it (maybe up to an inch in any direction). You cannot make it significantly bigger without it looking terrible. You can always make an image smaller in Photoshop and it will stay looking just as good … maybe even better! Resize the image either using the open Image Size window or crop it to your desired size. Save it as a .jpeg and print away!

The other point on getting images ready for the print is to trust your computer and trust your eyes. If an image looks pixilated on screen, you can guarantee it will look the same, maybe worse, in print.

I’d like to know how to do the bokeh) effect and the macro lens effect. You can fake those with Photoshop right?

So the bokeh effect is sort of like having bubbles of light all over the image. To create this effect, I just downloaded a set of bokeh brushes. Using the brushes, I modified this image of my sister’s dog, Bruce, as in Springsteen, which was taken by my sister

and I created this image.

It looks terrible but if you look online you can see images that will actually inspire you to use this effect. Honest.

After installing the bushes, I just kept changing the color and clicking around my image. Seriously – it was that easy!

I also found a tutorial on creating this effect that gets a lot of great feedback online. It makes sense, but using the brushes sure was easy!

For that macro effect? I was intrigued by the question but admit I thought the answer was “Impossible!” There are ways to achieve it, though. There are some tutorials on achieving the look by merging several photos into one. I found a tutorial on creating a 50 cent macro lens, though I haven’t tried it out myself. Lifehacker led me to a much more difficult method of creating your own macro lens. The best method I found for recreating a Macro lens using only Photoshop came from Digiretus.

Read the tutorial that they have to help you get from a before and after like this one.

Before picture of a Cannonball Flower in Cambodia:

Doesn’t the picture have a nice bokeh effect going on? That’s a natural one though. Apparently mine look better if I don’t try!

After Picture of the Cannonball Flower:

I am so glad Chaos and Loving It asked that! I’ll definitely use that technique again!

There is one more question from Fever Thrift:

I really want to make silhouettes of the husband and me to frame, but I don’t really want to have to trace or cut out anything. I would prefer to just take profile pics and somehow edit them in Photoshop to be silhouettes…can you offer me any advice on how to do this?

I love this question because it inspires me to try this out. So, answer is coming soon and hopefully accompanied by a great silhouette of Wonder Boy and I!

This post originally appeared on Kate’s Point of View. © Kate. All rights reserved.