A quick way to get rid of unwanted color casts in your photographs.

As you may know, I am a keen amateur photographer. But, one of the most annoying things is that I can never seem to get the color balance right in the field. Its a skill I am still learning but, of course, even the best professional photographers tend to do a bit of post processing these days. So, here is a quick and easy way to get rid of unwanted color
casts in your photographs. It is the method that I was shown by a good friend who runs Zoe Rae Photography,  and it works like a charm on almost any image. This tutorial is for Photoshop users so I am uncertain whether it would translate to other programs such as PaintShop Pro. I’m going to present it in a bare-bones fashion, no explanations of the theory behind it, just the steps involved in action. So without further ado, let’s get right to it!

Halfway there…

First open your photo in Photoshop and duplicate it. (Just so at the end you can toggle and see the difference between start and finish.) For this example I am using tampadan’s Mother and Daughter photo because of the strong yellow/green cast it has.

Once the image is opened and duplicated go to Image – Adjustments – Threshold and move the slider all the way to the left until you are left with just a little blob of black about 5 pixels across, no smaller. Move the cursor over it (you will have defaulted to the eyedropper tool) and hold Shift and then click on the blob. This will set a marker on your image.

Now go back to the Threshold slider and pull it all the way to the right until you are left with just a small blob of white 5 pixels across and Shift/click on it too. Again this will set a marker, and it will be numbered #2. When doing this pick make sure the white blob is not one made by a shiny highlight in your image. For example the glint off of glasses or any reflection off of metal is not good to use. (You can click on and off the Preview checkbox in the Threshold dialog to see what you are picking.)

Cancel out of the Threshold dialog box. Don’t worry about the markers disappearing, they’ll come back.

Page 3: Finishing up….

Go to Image – Adjustments – Curves. In the curves box you will see three eyedroppers. It is suggested that you preset the white point in the Curves dialog. Do this by double clicking on the white (right) eyedropper, then set the RGB values to 240. This prevents any real trashing of detail by over whitening. There is also a theory that you should change the RBG values for the black (left) eyedropper to 20, but I think that is really more of a personal preference on your part.

Now chose the left eyedropper (single click on it), the dark levels one, then go to your image and click on the marker, #1, you set when you had the threshold levels to the left. Then click on the right eyedropper and click on the marker you set with the light, or right threshold level, the one marked #2. Next is the middle eyedropper. This is the only real judgement call you are going to have to make. You need to click on an object you recognize that shouldn’t contain any color at all. A grey object preferably. Perhaps the tire of a car, a grey stripe in a shirt, the pavement of a road, etc. In this example I used the daughters shirt up near the collar. (If you are stuck then go to the Info palate and take the
eyedropper for a tour around your image. Look at the RGB numbers. Find a spot in your image where they are as close to being equal to each other as possible (because equal parts of red, green and blue equal grey) and click there.

If you are not entirely pleased you can try clicking the middle dropper in another grey area for a different result. Remember that you should only be using the eyedroppers that help. Sometimes a color cast is wanted, like in a sunset, or a fire. In that case just use the ones that help, probably the middle and black ones. Finally, toggle back and forth between the original and the adjusted images to make certain that you are satisfied with the results, then save.

If you follow these steps then you images should come out well color balanced in less than 5 minutes worth of easy work!

‘Garden Water Features’ Ideas to Spruce Up your Garden

One of the natural gifts that come in abundance with the sun of the summer is water. Be it just for decoration purposes or for the sake of cooling off after a long and interesting sun in the free outside, garden water features will come in quite handy in supplying the so much needed water to you and your family.

Upon mentioning of the word feature, what comes to the mind of many is a water fountain. Though this bias is not comprehensive, water fountains form one of the most commonly used and beautiful water features. Appropriately placing a water fountain without even thinking of the design it will take is in itself a great way to spice your garden.

Obligations that come with choosing on a water fountain one of your elect garden water features are many and demanding. Think your way through to all the things you will need to keep the water flowing to avoid the embarrassment of having something that does not work litter your garden.

If you are planning to still use water to decorate your garden but you are not into water fountains, you can decide to create a water pool. To bring out the beauty and uniqueness, try to make it look as natural as possible by either using natural material or imitations of something that one will expect to find at a pool in the wild.

In addition to the garden water features, you can introduce animals and plants into your pond to finish up the natural aura that you started on. Creating a pond is one of the most involving and rewarding way of decorating your garden especially if you have ample space and access to water.

Other features may exist in your yard and you think of them as a liability rather than as an asset. For instance, that far side of your compound that is never used because it is swampy and has a river can be easily converted to a good place to relax in. Garden features ideas that can help you twist and turn this to your advantage are many and easily available in the internet.

For instance, you can decide to clear up the place a bit and introduce some more exotic natural plants so as to change the mood of such garden water features while still maintaining the niche balance. Whatever you do, remember that such places are natural habitats of some organisms and caution should be exercised when modifying them to see to it that you do not harm such.

Deciding on what amd in what way you are going to use water to spice up your garden this summer and afterwards should be done with a lot of deliberation. Because installing and managing water features might be very costly, it will be clever that you go for the option that will not force you to rob a bank.

Finding Great Rustic Furniture

I have always been a fan of rustic furniture since I was growing up. Back then, rustic wood furniture wasn’t a luxury – it was a necessity. You see, our house was filled with rustic pine furniture.

We lived in a very isolated part of Minnesota, USA. We made our own furniture and sold it for our livelihood. Nowadays, rustic furniture can fetch a pretty penny. Looking at current prices, it seems like my dad could have done better for himself. I don’t know if he just wasn’t well connected, or if the market has changed a lot since my childhood, but we were never very wealthy. As a matter of fact, we were rather poor. We had enough to get by, but just barely.

Still, I can’t deny that, even back then, I was attracted to the quality of rustic furniture, Duncans of Banchory is full of it. I had friends in town who were comparably wealthy. They could buy factory made furniture, but it wasn’t actually of the same quality. You see, the great thing about handmade furniture is that people take time to make sure that it is made right. With the factory manufactured furniture, no one bothers. The goal is to make and sell it as quickly as possible. Any special care that they take with the products simply gets in the way of profits.

This is why, no matter how industrialised and how mechanised society gets, there will always be a place for handmade crafts and rustic furniture. Don’t get me wrong – there are many interesting designs being manufactured nowadays, but there’s something so comforting about handmade woodwork. The smell of the wood, the feel of the individual pieces, and the sturdiness of the frame all contribute to a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

Still, I can’t help but think that people who buy rustic furniture are missing out on half the fun. There are rustic modern furniture designs that are not too hard to make with a few simple tools, but no one seems to bother anymore. Not that I am complaining – I love being able to make a living selling furniture wholesale to stores all over the country for folks to buy. Even so, it is nice to see people take some pride in doing things by hand now and then. It is good to have a hobby, and it is good to understand the work that goes into the things you use every day.

Scoring Discount Luxury Hotel Deals at the New By-Invitation-Only Websites

Anyone who tries to use widely-available real-time travel booking sites can’t help but come away with the feeling that there’s something going on that they don’t know about.

They always advertise specific “deals” that come and go in a flash, people come by spectacular deals in the strangest places, and worst of all, you never know what determines these rapid price changes. You never get to see prices go up and down anywhere else like this – except maybe in the stock market. And that’s another place you have suspicions about. You’re always aware that there’s something out there that if you only knew about it, could score you that deal of a lifetime. How else do you explain the people who claim to get discount luxury hotel rooms for £99 a night?

Well, as it would happen, your suspicions aren’t far off the mark. When it comes to that discount luxury hotel room, there are websites that cater only to insiders. They call them luxury lodging sites; they offer members huge discounts on rooms that luxury hotels try to offload because aren’t able to sell them (thanks to the recession, presumably).

That doesn’t sound very exclusive, you’re saying. If these are member-only sites, can’t anyone go and sign up? Some of these websites do let anyone in who has an e-mail address; others require that you come in with an invitation. Often, these services are run by the discount luxury clothing websites – places like Gilt.com and Ideeli.com – places that try to give regular people a chance at the high life at a reasonable price.

Membership to most of these sites is free – if the memberships are by invitation only. The invitations usually just arrive in your e-mail if you’re lucky. They then send you deals over e-mail from time to time. But you can usually just request an invitation and you should get one in a week or two. Signing up to follow their Twitter account can be a way to get past the bouncer too. You can also just Google for invitations and find websites that are giving them away.

When you actually have a membership, do you get great discount luxury hotel deals just like that? You certainly do. On average, you get 50% off lots of high-end hotels. Sometimes you can get 75% off –£110 for a great Caribbean resort, £99 for a great hotel in London and Paris, and so on, hotels like The Craighaar Hotel offer great discounts on beautiful rooms. Sometimes, they tell you what your hotel is, and at other times they just describe it without giving you a specific name. In general, there are usually two dozen hotel offers at any time.

These deals come and go quickly – most of them stay for a couple of days only. And you have to be willing to travel on specific dates. If you can live with traveling on their schedule and not yours, you could end up saving hundreds on a vacation.

The Temperature Rating is What You Look for When You Buy Camping Sleeping Bags

They make sleeping bags for different purposes. Units that are manufactured for the backpacker market need to be lightweight, as far as possible. These designs will compromise on everything – comfort and insulation included – to achieve the lightness that the backpacker market needs. Camping sleeping bags are intended for an entirely different market. They are for people who take their cars when they go camping. They are able to carry a good deal of weight in the car, and they demand comfort. For this reason, camping sleeping bags tend to be soft, cushy, bulky and surprisingly – less expensive.

Most people look at sleeping bags as if they were made to the same general expectations. They aren’t. Sleeping bags are always manufactured and marked for the kind of warmth and protection from the elements that they will provide. They call it a bag’s temperature rating. For instance, if you find a bag that says it is rated for 20°F, this is to be taken to mean that you can stay warm and comfortable inside if you sleep in there with a pair of long underwear, and the temperature outside is no lower than 20°F. But there are other things that can affect how warm a camping sleeping bag is as well.

To begin with, a lot depends on the kind of sleeping environment that you expect your sleeping bag to perform in. Placed inside the tent, sleeping bag will doubtless be warmer – the dead air around you in the tent warms up and gives you additional comfort. If you’re outside, putting a sleeping pad under the sleeping bag will make a good deal of difference as well. Some camping sleeping bags come provided with a hood (although as those are generally only mostly found on backpacking sleeping bags). In general, women campers usually seem to prefer warmer sleeping bags. When shopping for camping sleeping bags for women, you could take this into account and buy a model that is a little warmer than you would need for men. Children tend to need warmer sleeping bags too, because their smaller bodies lose heat more quickly.

In general, this would be a wise choice to make for anyone. It’s always a good idea to choose a warmer bag than you actually need. It’s always easy to open the zipper up a little bit and cool a sleeping bag down. In general, -10°F is the highest kind of protection rating for camping sleeping bags.

Why I Love Gardening

Growing up as a little boy, I can remember a vivid experience when an older lady moved into an old dilapidated house just down the street from our family. I remember feeling sad for her because her house looked so broken down. It always seemed like she was completely broke and couldn’t afford anything than just the bare necessities  but, little did I know that this woman’s house would end up being one of the most beautiful ones in town.

You see, every year the garden around her humble house would blossom! And not just blossom but positively explode in a riot of color. In fact, she had flowers and plants of all kinds popping up ALL YEAR LONG! It turns out that her love of gardening is what brought that little ladies house to life every single year. In fact, she proved to be a gardening genius! She certainly left a lasting impression on me, because ever since I have grown up and got married and then moved into my own home I’ve thought a lot about her.

Most gardening enthusiasts out there will agree with me when I say that it is one of the greatest forms of artistic expression out there. Besides the fact that it is beautiful, it offers so many benefits to you and your home. Some of which include-

Through personal experience I have found that it is extremely hard to be unhappy when you are surrounded by blossoms, greenery, and vegetables! Professors at the University of Texas can back be up when I say that it can cure depression. After asking a wide range of 300 people how they would rate their happiness in life, they found that gardeners gave significantly higher scores than everyone else. With this information alone I would even dare to say that gardening can be as helpful as Prozac when it comes to depression.

Another benefit of planting is that it can be incredible for your health. We already know that happiness is a side effect—which is a major health plus. Another plus is that you can experience optimal health while planting your own veggies and fruits. Home grown veggies provide all of the nutrients and suppliments that your body could ever want.

One of the genius benefits that comes to planting is that if you plant the right things you can ward off all kinds of predators to your home. Grass alone will keep all kinds of bugs away from your house. However there are many other plants that will keep dangerous pests out of your home and yard! Here is a sort list of things that you can plant to keep certain bugs away-

• Basil- to get rid of flies and mosquitoes.
• Chamomile- to fight of aphids.
• Marigold- to rid of tomato worms.
• Mint- white cabbage moths and aphids.
• Sage- for flea beetles and slugs.
• Tansy- flying insects, squash bugs, ants, and flies.

The list is endless and super easy to find if you do your research right. There are so many online websites that offer lists of plants that will ward off pesky insects from your home. That aspect alone offers a major benefit to me living out in the desert.

As you can see, gardening offers some major rewards and benefits your happiness. Not only that but it is super easy to get started. So, why not do like I do and go online today and start researching some ideas. A great place to start getting inspiration is www.barmekin.co.uk