Monday, May 25, 2009

There Were Roses

For the past two Sunday mornings I've gone over to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park overlooking Portland to the East. There weren't all that many roses blooming on May 17. Most were in the American Rose Society's garden for miniature roses. Still, I managed to get almost 100 pictures.

I went back yesterday and found more roses in bloom, although it's still only a small percentage of the roses in the garden. That may be a good thing in a way because I wasn't overwhelmed with choices. I think I made the most of what was there. I got just over 200 shots, not counting the ones that got snapped even when the camera decided not to focus. Digital photography with a good camera is great. Once the initial investment in equipment is made, the main expense is batteries, so although it's taken me quite a while, I think I've finally relaxed into shooting multiple shots and not getting too annoyed if one shot doesn't work out.

Next time, though, I'll take along either the tripod or the monopod. I've been shooting mostly closeups of the roses, so small movements make a big difference in composition.

During the week between trips to the garden, I experimented a bit with cutting out backgrounds. But that's a tedious process. I decided I've got some good shots that will work well without manipulation, so I uploaded a bunch to Zazzle and started turning them into products.

This past Saturday I went into town to look around the Portland Saturday Market. I didn't want to buy anything, but I did get some ideas for photos that I hope to use on Zazzle in addition to zoo photos and roses. One of the ideas was to make a side trip after getting shots at the rose garden. So after that yesterday, I drove over to St. John's Bridge, a suspension bridge over the Willamette River. There's a park under the bridge that's the site of the Portland Pirate Festival, so I already knew the bridge was a great photo subject. I'd seen one interesting photo taken through the bridge supports and I got a few of my versions of it, plus several more. I walked around quite a bit, including walking up onto the bridge for shots of the towers. It being Sunday morning, although mid-morning by then, there wasn't too much traffic, so I was even able to get a few shots of the towers from the middle of the road. It meant shooting fast so nobody in approaching vehicles would have any concerns about me.

Some of the pictures of roses have been uploaded to Zazzle and placed on products. I've done nine so far and have another seven already uploaded to work on. There are quite a few more good shots I haven't uploaded yet, so I expect the Roses line in my Zazzle store will have a lot of products in it. Each photo goes onto about two dozen products. The store is at* and it would be nice if you could wander over and take a look. Buying something would be even nicer!

Very near the Rose Test Garden is the Japanese Garden. Admission is charged for that and I've only been once, but it's a very beautiful place. Photography is regulated there, unlike the Rose Test Garden. If I wanted to take pictures to turn into Zazzle products or sell elsewhere, I would have to spend $150 for a one-year photographer's membership. Another visit to explore photo possibilities might be in order, although it would be good to see if I can make any money off the Zazzle store and perhaps by submitting photos to some sites that pay if people are interested in using submitted photos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Make That Three

I went on to make a third lens today (Tuesday), also inspired by Gunn's podcast is a new lens for the Portland, Oregon group Circled by Hounds. Like Rattle the Boards, they've got two CDs on CD Baby. Their first is Chasing Our Tales and their second is Howl No Demon Louder. Since they're local, I figured they'd be playing somewhere around here soon, and it turns out their next gig in the area is only five miles west of where I live at a pub called Biddy McGraw's on June 3. I hope I'll be able to make it. I've put it on my calendar. They've got a half-dozen full-length cuts on their MySpace page and I like what I hear. It's always good to find out about good local music. There's plenty of music in the area, but finding good Celtic music is rare.

When I returned to this blog to post about this third lens, I didn't see my earlier post. The one on top was the one about Mount St. Helens. I have a Firefox extension called Lazarus, so I opened up a new post and was able to paste in the text and images that I thought were lost. I figured I'd somehow forgotten to publish the post and then had closed the tab. So I incorporated the first paragraph of this post into the recovered stuff and published.

Then when I took a look, I saw the revised post and below it was the post I thought I'd lost, followed by the Mount St. Helens post. I have no idea what happened, but I just cut out the duplicated stuff from this post.

By the way, the Mount St. Helens lens is #5 overall on Squidoo today (Tuesday). That's the highest rank I've ever achieved for any lens. Previously it had gotten up to #7 then went down to #8, then #9 again. I added a Zazzle module Sunday after creating a few new items with images of the mountain, which I'm sure helped the lens to go up again. It's getting a lot of visits and it accounts for more than one third of the visits to all my lenses.

Two Lenses in One Day

My new Squidoo lens Celtic Music: Rattle the Boards came about as a result of checking out Marc Gunn's latest Celtic Music podcast. When I checked out the site, I noticed quite a few of the artists on the podcast have CDs at CD Baby. Since I'm a CD Baby affiliate, it seemed only natural to create a lens for Rattle the Boards. Marc, by the way, was one half of the Brobdingnagian Bards. He's been doing the podcast for a while now - the latest one is the 67th in the series. The lens is short since they've only got two CDs, but Rattle the Boards is a group well worth listening to.

Earlier in the day I checked out how to create a Squidoo lens for my Zazzle store. I started the store late in 2008, but never gave it a whole lot of promotion. I should've made a promotional lens then, but went on to other stuff instead. When I added new stuff to the store a few days ago I knew I had to make the lens if I ever expected to get any action from it. Squidoo's got a whole template set up for doing a Zazzle showcase lens, so it was pretty easy to make. While I do have more than items with photos of Oregon Zoo animals, I decided to make them the feature of the lens.

This post started as something automatically posted through, which I signed up for yesterday. It turned out I got the formatting for a link totally wrong, so I had to correct it on my Facebook page and post a followup tweet on Twitter, then come here. I did look up how to keep links from messing up by putting an asterisk at the beginning of the code. That means I'll just be entering the basic link with an asterisk to keep from shortening it. I'd prefer links that look like the others in this post, but I'm not sure that's possible with

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Number 9: Mount St. Helens

IMG_0815My Squidoo lens about Mount St. Helens is ranked number 9 overall in Squidoo. That's out of close to a million lenses. At the bottom of each Squidoo member's Dashboard page, which shows statistics about the lenses that member has created, there's a list of the top 10 lenses on Squidoo. Today marks the first time the Mount St. Helens lens has made it into the top 10 and it shows up on the list.

My Celtic Music: Lenses lens was ranked number 8 for a couple of consecutive days in late March, but for some reason it never showed up on that list at the bottom on the dashboard, so getting on that list is a first-time thing for one of my lenses.

When I noticed I had the number 9 spot, I scrolled all the way down my dashboard — at 124 lenses it takes a few rolls of the mouse wheel — and confirmed its presence on the top 10 (Top 10 is at the bottom. Go figure.) I noticed something about the title of Jaguar Julie's in the number 1 spot. It had a star beside it: Stuffed Cabbage☆. It looked neat. I knew it was a Purple Star lens, one of those lenses that has been deemed one of the best on Squidoo. The Purple Star is only a few weeks old, and I was happy to get one in the first round. I'm pretty sure Julie got her star in the first round as well. I hadn't noticed the star in her title before, so I opened up the lens to see about it. It looked like it had just been put in as part of the title, not as some special award for having the number one lens on Squidoo.

Mount St. Helens and treeI decided to put a star in my title. First I had to find out the code for it. I had to search a bit because it wasn't listed on a web page I have bookmarked for its symbols and accent marks. I Googled "star symbol in html" and found a page that showed the open star like Julie's and a solid star: & #9734; and & #9733; (without the space between & and #). I edited the lens title with the code for the solid star just to be different and published the lens. The star shows up on the published lens and now in the list at the bottom of the dashboard like so: Mount St. Helens★.

Not long after publishing, I saw my email notification popup in the lower right of my computer screen. It doesn't stay long enough to really read much, but I did see "Jaguar Julie has sent you a private message." My first thought was I'd violated some protocol and the star was reserved for the number one lens. It took me a while to find the email because the popup went away before I could determine where it was from. It wasn't in any of my Squidoo folders. I was puzzled for a while, but then spotted it in my Tagfoot folder.

Whew! No protocol had been violated. Julie was happy to see my star. Turns out she'd communicated with some other Purple Star lensmasters about putting stars in lens titles, so she liked seeing the star in mine. She even thought her star looked feminine and mine masculine. I hadn't thought of it that way; I just wanted a different star.

Competition for the top spots on Squidoo is pretty fierce, so while the lens is in the top 10 today, it may not be tomorrow. It has done pretty well, though, spending the previous five days between 14 and 11 and it's been in the top 100 (58 and higher) for the past 17 days. Squidoo also has top 100 lists for about 32 categories. The Mount St. Helens lens is currently number 1 in Travel.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Best Sellers and Kindle DX

Amazon Kindle DXIt's usually a toss-up about staying up late on Friday night to do the Best Seller lens update or get up and do it early on Saturday morning. Often the folks who update the website at The New York Times make the decision for me by not releasing the new list until the wee hours of Saturday morning even by Left Coast standards. That was the case this week as I left the computer on and didn't see the new list until 4 a.m. That's when I decided to update.

This week's list, like the past two, has five new books on it. A few weeks ago there were six. That means more rearranging of the list and writing a new blurb for each new book, plus keeping a text file of all current and past entries because sometimes a book will leave the list one week and come back the next. That happened to one book, The Help, twice recently.

The newest version of Amazon's Kindle electronic reader, the Kindle DX was announced this week. I was tempted to do a full-scale lens on it, but an awful lot of Squidoo lensmasters also rushed in, so I've added it to the Best Seller lens along with a promotional video. The DX is available for pre-order now and will be released this Summer. It costs more, but the screen is 2 1/2 times the size of the older Kindle, it has an auto-rotate feature, the battery is more efficient, and it can hold up to 3,500 books. It's about the size of a magazine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Lenses - Relativity, Corel Painter 11

My two latest Squidoo lenses are completely unrelated to one another. A few days ago I decided to reorganize my Celtic Music: Lenses lens. Previously I'd organized the blurbs about each lens simply by listing the newest lenses first except for the Celtic Music: What Is It? lens and the two Christmas lenses. Since I didn't create them in any sort of order, it seemed a good idea to organize them by categories. So I came up with the following categories:

RelativityIt works pretty well, except the only entry under Irish/Scottish Performers was Boys of the Lough. They needed company, and Relativity fit the category. That short-lived group, which recorded in the mid-1980s, consisted of Scottish brothers Johnny and Phil Cunningham along with Irish sister and brother Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Micheál Ó Domhnaill. (The spelling difference in the Irish surnames is related to gender). They recorded two albums, Relativity in 1985 and Gathering Pace in 1987, both on the Green Linnet label.

Silly_wizardThe Cunningham brothers had performed during the '70s and '80s in the Scottish group Silly Wizard. Younger brother Phil had joined the group while he was still in high school. Johnny was a master fiddler, while Phil became a whiz on the piano accordion and whistle.

Tríona and Micheál, meanwhile, had performed and recorded in the groups Skara Brae and The Bothy Band. Both later moved to the United States at different times, where Micheál formed the group Nightnoise in Portland, Oregon with Billy Oskay. (The CD Pure Nightnoise is a good retrospective look at that group.) When Tríona came to the States later, she first settled in North Carolina where she was part of the group Touchstone which recorded two albums in the early 1980s on Green Linnet, The New Land
and Jealousy.

The second lens, completed yesterday, is about Corel's latest version of its high-end graphics program Painter. The new version, Corel Painter 11 was released at the end of February 2009 and represents an evolutionary change from its predecessor.

Painter in any version has never been for the dabbler. It has always aimed at graphics professionals and serious amateurs. No dabbler would want to pay so much for a program used occasionally, but for the serious, it's a good investment.

The new version offers brushes for dry media like pencils and chalk. It offers greater support for files imported from and exported to Adobe Photoshop.

Corel offers a 30-day trial version, so I downloaded it to take a look. Painter 11 has features for photographers that even an amateur like me can appreciate, so I played around with those a little bit. The photo at right (Pacific Northwest fiddler and singer/songwriter Alexander James Adams) is a before-and-after comparison. The right half shows how it looks after applying a paper texture, the Classical underpainting palette and an edge effect. The underpainting palette really brought out the colors with greater intensity. This photo only hints at the powerful things that can be done with photos in Painter 11. I've got 29 days left on the trial, so perhaps I'll play around with it a bit more.