Sunday, June 24

Things ahead

Late last night, while I was waiting for my rhubarb cobbler to bake, I was browsing Pinterest and came across this quote from C.S. Lewis, so I paired it with a photo in my files from almost two years ago.

This is the North Portal Road in north/northeast Fremont County. You wouldn't think it to look at the photo, but just as you top that far hill you can see spread out beneath you a lush, green irrigated valley, full of crops that include alfalfa, dry beans and corn. At the moment the name of the valley escapes me, but it's a neat area you'd never know was there unless you took the time to drive through this empty sagebrush country.

For more photography, visit C} Images on Facebook.

Saturday, June 23

I do still exist!

At least in real life, if I haven't existed online in this blog for quite some time. You see, having a little person to look after adds a lot of responsibilities that take a lot of time, and between that and looking after the paper, which was my other baby, something had to go - and it was this blog.

However, I am pleased to announce that the 'other' baby, the paper, no longer exists in my life. Therefore, perhaps this blog can have a space again. :-)

Currently it's 10:30 p.m., and Levi is asleep in his room downstairs. We got back in from the ranch, where we went to have dinner and visit, about an hour and a half ago. My husband Scott is still at the ranch because our branding will start first thing tomorrow morning. I have a rhubarb cobbler for tomorrow in the oven, and that is the only reason why I am not downstairs joining Levi in sound sleep.

It has been hot the last few days, and NOAA predicts it will be 100 tomorrow when all is said and done, so here's hoping we can get going with branding, and everything goes smoothly, so everything can be finished before the heat really hits.

Today I had our friend Jamie's kids with me here at the house, and we worked on staining the new porch that we built several weeks ago. The porch is a lot bigger, with room for furniture, and I love the color of the stain we picked out. It's perfect for the house, and ties in really nicely with the brick and terra cotta accents we already have going on. I will post photos as soon as the stain job is done - we had to quit at noon because it was just getting too hot outside to continue.

Oh, and for those of you who may not know yet, we are expecting another baby! I'm 18 weeks along, and feeling a lot of movement now. The due date is Nov. 14, with a scheduled c-section.

So, we continue to be very busy around here, and I look forward to what the rest of this year and the future hold for us as our little family begins to grow! Hopefully I will, indeed, have the time to keep the blog posted on the news.

Thursday, March 15

Horses + Sunshine = Springtime?

As winter turns to spring here in Wyoming - and it's happening unusually early this year, and it's making some nervous - we've kept busy here in the Martinez household, as usual.

It's bull season for Wyoming's cattle industry, which keeps the Roundup office hopping. We are consistently running 20 percent larger this year, in terms of advertising, so business is on the upswing! That means, in addition to being bull season, it's nose-to-the-grindstone season to get everything done. There are three major deadlines this week, with our regular weekly running twice as big as usual, plus a special feature edition. Two of those deadlines were met early, and one more to go!

So far this year we've consistently received very positive feedback on the articles Saige and I have been running lately, which means we've been working hard but it's paying off.

In addition to all that's happening with the Roundup, I've also been putting more time and effort into building the photography business, C} Images. For more photos, check out C) Images on Facebook, and become a fan to keep up with the news and cash in on the giveaways!

Because I've been so busy with the paper, I haven't got my logo, labels and packaging finished, but I have a good start and I've been able to ship and deliver my recent prints in a more professional manner. So far, this endeavor has also had positive feedback. My husband has declared himself my business manager, and because of that I have a few opportunities I will follow up on within the month, before tourist season hits the state.

Our cutest little pride and joy, baby Levi, is six-and-a-half months old now, and learning new things every day. And, I swear he really is cuter every week. We're very much looking forward to our trip to Iowa in April to see Granddad and Nana.

Oh, you know how I said spring is coming? My bulbs that I planted last year are coming up in my flower garden, so it really must be here, right? I'm looking forward to daffodils and tulips in several weeks.

So, in case it's another couple weeks before I make the time for another post, I hope your weather and life in general is treating you as well!

Thursday, March 1

The mysteries of new software

Yesterday a friend of mine innocently sent me a link to's deal of the day, which was Adobe Lightroom.

I have seen Lightroom used by many photographers, and been curious as to what it was, but hadn't yet seriously considered purchasing it. The software retails for $300 (a rich price tag, as is the case with all Adobe software) and Amazon had it for $90 yesterday.

So after thought and research, I went for it, and my new software should be here in a few days! In the meanwhile, when I was researching, I downloaded the 30-day trial version so I could take a look at it.

And I realized I'd have a lot of work to do to learn the program.

But, it will be worth it. While Photoshop's specialty is detailed manipulation of single files, as I understand it, Lightroom is an image handling and archiving system that makes your workflow a lot more efficient and seamless when you come back from a photo shoot. It can also do some basic editing, but I will probably still use Photoshop primarily, as I know enough about it now to have my favorite little tricks that I combine to produce the style of photo that I like.

So now I have Lightroom tutorials open in tabs on my browser, but it's too bad that we're 28 pages in the paper this week, and will be so busy with the paper for the next month, because I won't have a lot of spare time for my new program. It will have to be my early-morning-hours project.

In the meanwhile, here's to lots of income from lots of ads in the Roundup! It makes for a lot more work on the editorial side, but we've got to make hay while the sun shines.

Wednesday, February 22

Have you ever been to that website? Well, you should go. :-) It's my photo page on Facebook, and where I post what I think is the best of my work, as well as previews from portrait sessions.

But wait, there's more!

I ordered the aforementioned photo packaging this morning, and I'm pretty excited about it. I still need to find the ribbon I want to pair with it, and I need to get started on designing my logo labels, but in the meanwhile there's a giveaway on the Facebook page!

Isn't that what all good bloggers do? Give away free things?

So here's how it works - visit the page, 'like' it, and post a note letting me know you're a new fan. That will qualify you for a random drawing for a free 8x10 print of your choice, all packaged pretty and delivered to your doorstep.

Easy, right? Just make sure you do it before midnight on Feb. 29. And guess what? If you also refer a friend who likes the page, you'll both be entered for the drawing, and yourself for the second time. So those of you who already 'like' the page can also get in on the fun.

Clear as mud? Can it get much easier? I'll see you over there!

Tuesday, February 21

The perfect snow

Sunday was one of those perfect days where the snow fell straight down all day long, light and fluffy without a breath of wind.

Fortunately for me, Sunday was also the day I'd scheduled to take some more photos of Edith and her two Bassets - Royal and Court. We met at 2 p.m. at a place just outside town, and spent an hour wrangling dogs for what we hoped would end up to be some great portrait shots.

I don't have final edits of any of the outdoor photos ready yet, but I was working on some of these from the barn loft earlier this morning. Because there was no wind we were able to open the south door of the loft to let in a flood of natural light, and it was perfect.

Whenever I get back from a shoot and review my photos, I'm very hard on them, and there are always things I would do better or differently, and I always learn something new to try next time. In this case, I was fortunate to have a second chance at the same location with almost the same subjects - the old dog Hank stayed home this time. I put my previous experience to work, and as a result I do love this second round much more than the first.

If I had a third chance, I would do more shots like the ones above, with Edith interacting with her dogs, rather than everybody smiling for the camera. The whole point of these photos is that these are dogs she's had for years, and she has a special relationship with them, so I like the more casual shots.

I've used my new actions a little bit on these photos, but I'm still becoming familiar with them, and most of them are a little much for the style I'm going for with this setting.

I also used my new 50 mm lens a little bit with this shoot, and I really liked how it did. The one thing I learned, though, was that I needed to set my aperture a little higher, because the area of focus was a little narrow for three subjects - it would focus perfectly on Edith's face, but the dogs would be blurry, for example.

Just when I start to figure out how to make aperture work for me, I got on a rabbit trail of photo blogs this morning, with very technical tutorials, and realized how much more I have to learn....

In addition to learning the new lens and actions, I will also add packaging to my photography in the near future. I'd like to have an extra touch when I deliver prints or CDs of my photos, and simple but classy packaging is just what I need. I am also going to look into designing logo stickers and either printing them myself, if I can find the labels I want, or having a printing website do them for me.

A brown paper package tied up with rustic ribbon and sealed with a C} Images label would be just the ticket, don't you think?

Friday, February 17

New photo actions!

It was quite some time ago that I downloaded my first Photoshop actions - the two free sets that Pioneer Woman has available on her website.

Since then I've used them heavily, and gradually learned that actions are best applied like makeup - you want them to subtly enhance a photo, without being too gaudy and overdone. Also, they're best used in combination at varying levels.

After gaining a thorough understanding of PW's actions, I got the itch to add a few more to my collection. I tried downloading some free ones from random sites, but they just didn't cut it and I ended up deleting almost all of them.

So when I saw that My Four Hens Photography was offering a sale on her action collections, I decided to go for it - after all, I have some money in the bank from recent portrait sessions, so I decided to reinvest.

The photo at the top of this post is straight out of the camera, one of many from our Valentine's Day shoot. The photos below are just a few with actions applied - the set came with about 24 different ones.

Although the original photo is technically correct, and would have been good to go with a little lightening and a few tweaks, I like that added drama that actions add to a portrait.

I suppose the next step will be to learn to make my own actions, but for now I'm delighted to have a whole new set to work with, and to use in conjunction with PW's.

Right now a popular style of portraits is to be a little 'vintagey,' and that's what most of these actions do, and I'm ok with going along with the fad. I like it. :-)

I made this pillow for Levi from scrap fabric in my sewing room, and stuffed it with old t-shirts. Now that I made one for him, I might have to make one for each kid on their first Valentine's, and repeat the portrait sessions each year with individuals as well as the whole group of them. I think that would make for pretty cute Valentine's. :-)

I tell you what though, Levi is a willing model, at least so far. At this point he's not quite crawling yet, so I better get my portrait practice in before he starts moving, because we all have the feeling that once he starts moving he won't stop.

All the actions are just applied at 100 percent across the board on these photos, which I normally wouldn't do, but I ran them all at full strength just so I could see what they could do.

I'm excited to keep using them - I have another portrait session scheduled this Sunday, so it'll be a prime opportunity to use both my new camera lens and my new Photoshop actions.

Monday, February 13

Keeping track...

If I were Foxy, all I'd have to worry about is bounding through the grass on a sunny winter's day.

But I'm not. :-)

As usual, we're keeping busy with the many details of life. My birthday was over the weekend, and Scott and friend Jamie planned a very nice surprise party for me at Jamie's house. I also finished a sewing project, did some cleaning around the house and took a nap on the couch with Levi on Saturday morning.

It's obvious I don't take much time to relax when Scott asks me if I'm feeling ok when I lay on the couch. :-)

Aside from that, the paper continues to be a full workload, as we're into the weeks of more pages because of increased advertising for the customary spring bull sales.

And, Scott and I have a meeting set up with FSA today to put things in motion for financing for the purchase of either land or livestock. In addition to FSA, we're putting ourselves in position for further education on ranch financing and management, so there are several courses throughout 2012 that will keep us busy with continuing education.

I figure that I bought the house and got married in 2010, had Levi in 2011, so we had to do something red-letter for 2012, right?

I also bought a new 'Nifty Fifty' 50 mm camera lens with my birthday money, so I'm excited to get to know it and get some photos with the new addition. :-)

So that's the quick update. Hope your year is going well so far!

Friday, January 27

At the Roundup office

We're already finished with the last January 2012 issue... soon we'll be knee-deep in bull sale season, which means a bigger paper with the increased advertising, which means more work for Saige and I to keep it full, so for right now I'm enjoying a few 'normal' weeks, even though we have been running four pages bigger than usual.

Before we know it, Saige will have worked with me on the Roundup's editorial team for a year, and she's accomplished so much already, including an overhaul of our website, and much time devoted to brainstorming new ideas and implementing new sections. Check it out at

She passed her crash course taking care of the paper while I was out on maternity leave with flying colors. So much so that I was compelled to give her a fifth of whiskey and a set of whiskey glasses for her trouble, because in this profession that sort of thing comes in handy every once in a while. :-)

With the new year, she and I sat down and made a list of goals for 2012 for the paper. Most of them are small, and most people probably won't notice them, but they have to do with having a more polished, engaging newspaper. Between the two of us and Tracy, our designer, we tweaked the front page a little, and we've also added article breaks to all of our longer articles, to break up the text and hopefully draw in the 'skimmers,' and we're also doing more of what we call 'pull quotes' and more 'sidebars.' All of this in effort to break up the text and get more people's attention.

Part of what I decide to do with the paper comes from watching Scott look through it. A lot can be learned by watching one of our targeted demographic look through the finished product!

Another goal for 2012 is to renew the partnership with the Northern Ag Network, recording and sharing our Wyoming news for their daily ag broadcasts, which originate in Montana. The first event we'll send them is from tomorrow's Women's Ag Summit, so wish me luck!

Just two days shy

We're just two days shy of Levi's five-month birthday! Five months already? On the other hand, it seems like a whole lot longer than a month ago that we were celebrating Christmas and New Year's.

I fully realize that the focus of my blog has shifted from decorating/house projects/livestock and horses to being extremely Levi-centered, but what can I say? I write about whatever I'm doing at the time, and lately that's been a whole lot of Levi.

But with a face like this to look at almost 24/7 now, I can't say that I can complain. :-)

As each month passes, it's fun to see all the new things he's learning to do. Lately it's been eating cereal, pulling his socks off and watching the dogs and Link. It seems like it will be any day now that he sits up on his own - he's almost there. He can roll from front to back, and has almost figured out how to go from back to front - he prefers to sleep on his left side in his crib.

So that's the latest Levi update! He continues to pack on the pounds, and just yesterday I packed even more clothes away to wait for a little brother or sister to come along. Tomorrow he will spend with Grandma Shirley at our house, since Scott and I are headed to Buffalo and Sheridan - myself for work, and Scott for play. Scott has his Uncle Lee and brother Bob joining us for the trip, and they're going to go to King Saddles in Sheridan while I'm at a Women's Ag Summit all day in Buffalo.

Notice I'm trying to do better with consistency in posting? :-)