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Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs

This week has been flying, as I try and make the most of the time I have left with the Macro lens, and trying to plan another trip up to the Mallee.  I am planning more workshops, and trying to plan some things down here as well.  Trying to get a business off the ground is never easy.

Macro Lens and Cokin Z-series Filters

When I was sent the macro lens from Maxwell International Australia I was also sent the Cokin Z-series filter bracket, adaptor and some graduated neutral density filters.  I did try them out, but unfortunately the photos I took didn’t work out.  Not at all because of the filter system, but more because of something stupid I did.  I was trying to stack them with the ND filter I had, and I forgot to close the eye piece on my camera, so too much light got in from the back. I should make myself a little checklist for doing things like this, so I don’t forget little steps like that.

Kinglake-national-park-macro-lens-104The real thing I wanted to know was whether I would get any vignetting in my images from the bracket, which is what I get with the P-series on my wide angle.  I am happy to say the Z-series is bigger and it wasn’t a problem at all.  There always seems to be a solution.  The other thing they sent me were some graduated neutral density filters.  I liked those, as the part with the filter or the colour was big enough that you could choose to use it as a ND filter over the whole lens, or if you just wanted to use it as part of an image, then you could do that as well.  It had a lot more options than the ones I have seen for the P-series.

Kinglake-national-park-macro-lens-109I do have to admit that part of the reason I haven’t used them much is because I am unsure of when and where to use them.  I think it is something I should consider getting, and just have it with me at all times, and experimenting a lot more.  I think because these didn’t belong to me, I didn’t want to take out the individual pieces I needed and just throw them into my camera bag, and the case they came in was rather large, so it was hard to carry around and then I would forget to take it.  I also think I may have got too carried away with the macro.

Speaking of the macro, the Tamron 90mm macro, the images in this post were taken with it.  However, for most of the images I also attached an extension tube to the lens as well.  I wanted to see if I could get closer, which I could.  Hand holding was a lot harder, and I got a lot more out of Kinglake-national-park-macro-lens-110focus images, but I got enough in focus to make it okay.  It was good to try it.  The images were taken on another trip the Kinglake National Park.  The weather had improved, but it seems much of the fungi that was there previously was gone, which is what we were looking for.  We just had to look for other things.

Workshops in the Mallee

I have another trip planned for the Mallee.  I am going up in early November and will be doing two workshops, I hope.  The first will be in Swan Hill, it will be on Saturday the 8th of November at 1 pm. I am going to run one in Hopetoun on the Sunday, the 9th of November.  These workshops are going to be a lot more basic and will be more about getting your camera off auto.  I have done similar classes down here and my One on One Photography Lessons are more like that as well. I realised that when I did the workshop up there last time that people don’t seem to know some of the things they need to know about taking photos.  It is quite an intensive class, but it does go through a lot of Kinglake-national-park-macro-lens-105information.  Hopefully at the end of it people will have a better understanding of how to use their cameras.

The workshops will go for about 5 to 6 hours and after the intensive part, we head out to take photos, so I am there to help clarify things. Also, if you have any problems, I can help.

Mentoring Businesses

There is a company down here, Digital Enterprise Program that has been set up by our state and federal government to help small businesses get started.  If you go to one of their sessions then you can be eligible for a 4 hour mentoring session.  I went to a session, something about your business online, and last Friday I had my first half of the mentoring session. I am undecided about it, I have to say.  The girl who was helping me or “mentoring” me seemed distracted, and couldn’t wait for it to be over.  While she showed me some things to help with my website, some plugins and getting the best SEO I could for it, she seemed reluctant to help me work out a marketing strategy, which is really why I went there.

Kinglake-national-park-macro-lens-111The session was meant to be for 2 hours, but I was back in the car after an hour and twenty minutes.  She seemed to decide that I was getting enough people to my website, that what I had written was fine, so why aren’t I getting customers or clients.  She decided that they should audit my website.  I am supposed to have another session soon, but I don’t know, will it be worth it?  She is being paid by the state to do this, so why didn’t I get my two hours, that is what she is being paid to do.  I could understand it if she was working for a company that was giving up their time to help, but she isn’t.  Then she gave me a feedback sheet to fill in in front of her.  I didn’t realise until after I had left that I she really didn’t help me work out what I need to do.  Except for the SEO stuff, it really was a waste of time.

I have decided to go to the next session, but I will take the feedback form home with me, and I will make sure that I contact the company if I am still unhappy.  I know it is for free, but we are paying for it through our taxes, so we are paying for it in other ways.

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Well I still haven’t heard back from them, I can’t believe they can ignore people like this.  I will have to keep trying.  Maybe I should just do what I want and then maybe I will get a response.

I have spoken enough, here is a gallery with more images from Kinglake.

 

Introductions Robin Kent

Today I would like to introduce to you Robin Kent and his blog, photographybykent. I’ve known Robin for a while and is always helpful with advice, and I remember back in the discussion I had here about PC or Mac, he was probably the one person whose comment I remember the most, it solidified my decision to stay with a PC. His photography is also quite amazing and I find I get a lot of inspiration from it.

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His photography is stunning and I know he travels a bit.  I find myself drawn to his work also because I think it is similar to the type of shots I’d like to do.

My first question was about where in the world he was?

First, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk a little about my photography.  I only recently started  my blog, and was lucky enough to find yours early on.  I have been following you ever since.  But, to answer your question, I am based in the United States, just outside the city of Washington, DC in northern Virginia. Washington is a fascinating place for photography.  We have great architecture, the Potomac River, all of it tied into the country’s history.   But I also travel a good bit, so my subjects can be pretty varied.

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There are scenes and things that I see in images like this and I want to be able to take these images myself, but we don’t have any beaches like this here, not that I have been able to find.  I suppose it means I will just have to make the most of what is around me, which is what I’ve been trying to do more.

I asked Robin he takes photos?

When I am outdoors with my camera there are occasional times when the basic elements—light, air, water, and the earth—combine to create a special moment.  I look at it this way: we are standing on this platform, a globe that is spinning at 1,000 mph; a silver orb—the moon—rotates around us at 2,300 mph; the earth, the moon, and planets, everything around us, is illuminated by a ball of fire that we are circling at 65,000 mph.  That’s pretty magical stuff.  But with the enormous scale and speeds of all these moving parts, one is likely to only get a glimpse.  And that’s what I’m trying to do within the limits of my location, equipment, and abilities, to capture a glimpse of the magic.

Then I asked him how long  he had been taking photos?

I guess I’ve had a camera in my hands as long as I can remember.  But I didn’t get really serious about it until about 15 years ago when I stopped working for a living and decided to concentrate on photography.

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His work also reminds me that I need to get back into architecture and taking photos of it.  The plan for me this summer.  So I have enjoyed looking at his architectural shots and what he has gotten, though I know that where he lives means there are some great examples of architecture there.  I know I shouldn’t complain, Melbourne has a lot too.

I asked him about his inspiration, and he was the second person in a couple of weeks to have mentioned this person.

I would say Galen Rowell, who introduced me to the concept of “magic hour” at one of his workshops I attended back in 2001.  Until his tragic death in 2002, he was known for his concept of the dynamic landscape, capturing images that feature unexpected convergence of light and form, moments that are seemingly unrepeatable.   I’ll never approach his deep understanding of outdoor optical phenomena nor his athletic ability, but the week I spent at his workshop continues to have a great influence on me.

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Sometimes you just want to follow a photographer because you just really enjoy their photos, I find that with Robin. I can’t always explain what it is about their work, you know you just love it.  I am always looking for things like this to take, and I think he also reminds that maybe I should stop being lazy.

I asked Robin if there was anything special about the way he worked.

I usually go out at dawn or dusk; that is the time when the sun is near the edge of the horizon, when the cool colors of the night merge with the warm tones of the day.  But a fair amount of planning is usually involved.  It usually begins with the solar and lunar cycles.  It’s not well known, but the layout of Washington, DC takes the annual solar cycle into consideration.  The perfect east-west axis of the National Mall with the US Capitol Building as the eastern anchor and the Lincoln Memorial at the western end is one example.  So if you are looking for a certain convergence of the solar cycle with an architectural element you have to know what day and time it will happen.  It’s a lot easier today than five years ago before smartphones with apps were available.  But you still have to know where to look.

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Most of you know that I have been trying to do star trails, though I won’t be trying again until next winter now, but Robin has given me some advice on how to go about doing them on my other blog.  I just love his, and would really like to do some and get similar results.  When daylight savings finishes and I don’t have to stay up all night to do them, then I think I will try this again, and try it a lot.

I asked Robin about his hear, which sounds very similar to my own.

I shoot with a Nikon D800E.  The powerful sensor enables me to get highly detailed images that make it possible to produce very large prints.  Some of my work finds its way into corporate spaces and typically they want something big.  I have three lenses and about 70% of my shooting is done with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom.  A Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto accounts for about 20% and the 14-24mm f/2.8 wide angle picks up the rest.  A sturdy tripod is a must, and my analog compass has been replaced by an iPad with “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” app on it.  As for filters, I use a circular polarizer and a variable neutral density filter.  An intervalometer and flashlight are also key items in my backpack.  I always shoot RAW and my post-capture workflow starts with Adobe Camera RAW and goes from there into Photoshop.  I don’t use any plugins. I do most of my own printing with a 24” wide Epson7980.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Robin for letting me feature his work here on my blog.  It has been fantastic going through his blog and see what work he has done.  He also sent me some images that haven’t been on his blog, so we get to see them.  Thank you Robin.

Robin has his blog, photographybykent, but he also has a website where you can view his work, Photography by Kent. I hope you will go and take a look at both and see for yourself his work.  I have more photos for you now that I will put into a gallery for you.

 

 

Weekend Wanderings – Royal Botanical Gardens Through a Macro Lens

On Thursday was another Social Snappers Photography Excursion, this time to the Royal Botanical Gardens here in Melbourne.  We had a gorgeous day for it, again, spring has certainly come to Melbourne.  I took the Macro lens with me again and had already decided before I go there that I would probably shoot with it the whole time I was there.  I did.

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I was there just over twelve months ago and while I think there weren’t many flowers out at that time, on Thursday it was an absolute delight and we were greeted by new flowers in every direction we went.  I took so many photos, and it was so wonderful to have the macro lens to take photos with.  Again, I used auto focus with all of these and I was hand holding the camera. The weather being great meant I could get fast shutter speeds.

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The bees were also out in force.  I was surprised to get two bees on the one flower and I stayed there for a while to get them.  The Tamron 90mm macro lens has been fantastic.  I have really enjoyed using it, I have to say if I was looking for an alternative to Nikon or Canon, I would definitely consider it.  It has been great having it, but with only having it for a short time, it also means that I don’t really get time to explore with it or experiment more.  Though, I have used it far more than I thought I would.  I have been finding ways of using it constantly, I think I will miss it a lot when it goes back.

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One thing I think we forget when we use macro lenses is that you can use them as normal lenses as well.  I tried to take shots that weren’t just close ups as well.  I thought it would be good to take some photos of the overall things we saw, and the details.

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There were so many wonderful flowers there, which is hardly surprising when you consider it is the main garden for Melbourne.  It has lots of exotic and indigenous plants.  I probably should have taken photos of the names as well, but I really didn’t think of it.  So you will all just have to enjoy the flowers.

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There were even eels in the water, and they were easy to take photos of.  I hope they were eels.

It was a great first outing for the Thursday Social Snappers Photography Excursion, and we had a great time there.  If you love photographing flowers then the Royal Botanical Gardens are fantastic right now.  You won’t get bored.

Over all, the macro lens has been fantastic, it is fairly light and easy to use. I think it is a great alternative, as I said, to other more expensive macros.  If you really can’t afford a Nikon or Canon macro, then I think the Tamron would do really well. I still don’t have any money for any right now, so I will have to wait.

My weekend is half over, and we are still getting the wonderful weather.  I have a gallery for you, it was very hard to pick which photos to use, so you might see some more in another post. Enjoy your day.

Weekend Wanderings – Snapping Around Heide and Banksia Park

Last weekend was another Social Snappers Photography Excursion, hard to believe they have started for Term 4 already.  We were off to Heide and Banksia Park.  The weather was gorgeous, and people were out everywhere.  It was great to see how much our parks are being used.  Heide is a great gallery, with a coffee shop and beautiful gardens around it.  In stark contrast is Banksia Park, it isn’t sculptured and has been left pretty much to itself.

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The gardens of Heide are full of sculptures and some are really interesting.  I love this one, it was great to photograph, you could get some amazing effects.  Every time I go there are new sculptures to see.  It is nice that you don’t have to pay to go into the gardens, but you do have to pay if you want to see the art inside.

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Some of the sculptures are very famous, My children used to love going here when they were little, they always had to visit the cows.

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I took the macro lens with me and had to put it on when we were going through the kitchen gardens and then the gardens around the original house that the Reeds lived in.

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Banksia Park was gorgeous and we wandered around on the paths to look at the bushland around it.  The late afternoon sun was gorgeous, and I was trying to capture it as it was coming through the trees.

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In some places flowers were growing all over the ground as the trees were getting their leaves back after the winter.  As we were standing here, we heard something rustling in the bushes right in front of where I was standing.  I saw a thin thing, with strips and thought it was a snake, so we quickly stepped back away, only to realise it was a blue tongue lizard.  We were very relieved.

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This was the last shot that I took for the day, just before we left.  I couldn’t resist the long shadow with the sun hidden behind the trees.

We stopped at the coffee shop at Heide, the Cafe Vue, and had some afternoon tea. It was very busy, but the service was very disappointing, we couldn’t get anyone to take our order, and while others enjoyed what they got, I wasn’t so happy.  I had the strangest chocolate milk shake I have ever had in my life.  Sometimes I think they go over board with the fancy.  It was also late in the afternoon and there weren’t many snacks left.

It was a great afternoon, and I am really happy with the images that I got.  It is going to be very sad when I have to give the macro back. Here is a gallery for you now of more of the images I took there.  I hope your weekend starts well.

 

Up for Discussion – Composition

Today’s guest blog is from Stacey who has a blog called Lensaddiction.  Stacey has offered to write a post on composition and some of the basic aspects of it that help make a good image.  

Composition Basics

I get frustrated by the fancy books and websites with amazing shots from Iceland and Patagonia, waterfalls in Norway, amazing scenery in places I can never expect to go. Usually shot by professionals with several days or even weeks to spend on site so that they get lots of opportunities to get the perfect sunrise or shot.

This post is bought to you by just another photographer, with limited time and budget for gear and equipment, who is still learning every time she gets her camera out. Someone who goes to exotic locations hardly ever and if she does, has pretty much one opportunity to get the shot and has to deal with whatever the conditions are on the day.

When you boil photography down to the very key elements, composition is ultimately what makes or breaks an image. You can have the most expensive gear, know absolutely everything about all the functions and features on your camera, travel to the most exotic locations, but if your image is not well composed then its not really happening.

Back when I was getting serious about photography I researched composition, and blogged about it

What are the Rules of Composition – what I discovered

What are the Rules of Composition – what other people shared

For this post here are what I think are the four most important basic fundamentals for composition. Helpfully there are plenty of “this is the wrong way to do it” shots to share with you!

1. Everybody’s Favourite – The Rule of Thirds

To me this is the “not putting the subject in the centre” rule, which offers more latitude and for me that is the essence of this rule. A subject smack bang in the center of your image (unless it’s a symmetrical reflection shot) is static and uninteresting.

This little fellow below is to the right of center with space to his left – that is to give him space to “look’ into or ‘move forward into”This shot also shows the “fill the frame with the subject” and “keep the background neutral” compositional elements

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This is a wedgetail eagle in Australia which is a good rule of thirds example, the line of the feathers along the body is on one 1/3 line and the eye is at an intersection of two 1/3 lines.

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But here is another duckling more centered and he kinda feels a bit … stuck… or lacking in energy and potential.

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Another stuck in the middle shot of an Australian bush wallaby.

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2. Focus on the eyes (and get a catchlight)

When taking photos of anything living, always focus on the eyes. You can see from the image below the front of the bill is out of focus, and the eyes are as well. The bit that is in focus is the front of the head, and so you feel like she is actually looking over your shoulder at something more interesting LOL.

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Now this handsome Willy Wagtail has all the eye action and also the very important catchlight (that’s the bright white spot from the sun on his dark eye) which helps highlight the eye and shows the critter is engaged with you.

We don’t have the catchlight on the duck above, hence the feeling she is looking elsewhere.

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A Black NZ Robin where the eye has been directly focussed on, and I waited til I had the right angle for the catchlight. The lower part of the body is out of focus, but it’s the connection with the eye that we look for.

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3. BACKGROUNDS (and Foregrounds)

Oooh this is one that I am really bad at, getting so involved in the action and completely forgetting to check and see what the background is doing.

The Robin shot above is a classic example of a terribly messy distracting background but when shooting wild creatures you just get whatever their environment it and have to make the best of it.

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This is a blue Burmese kitten that a friend wanted shots of – I have used black sheets on the bed to provide a neutral background (and focussed on the eyes) also shows filling the frame with your subject.

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Clear blue skies make a great background.

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But what about if you can’t control your background and its crowded action scene?

Indoor social dance shots often have messy and distracting backgrounds, using a shallow DOF helps isolate the subjects from the background. Also if it is dark, using a flash to isolate the subjects can help too.

I could go tone down the exposure of the background in post pro a bit as well.

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And sometimes the action is so fast and the lighting so poor that you get it completely wrong too.

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And sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

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Other options, change the angle of shooting, I had a busy background for this shot but changing the angle and using the sky and filling the frame solved that issue.

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This was the other shot.

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Foregrounds are just as important especially in nature photography – look how untiy and distracting the foreground is below with lots of blurry bright shots and leaves in the way – BAD!

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This shot is better, it uses an isolated clump as the foreground interest (though that clump in the bottom right hand corner is a bit of a distraction).

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4. CHANGE YOUR SHOOTING POSITION AND HEIGHT

I read somewhere that around 80% of all images are taken at an average height of 5’ 6”, which is fine if that’s where your subject is, but not so good if it’s a small mushroom or flower in the ground…..

Be prepared to get down in the dirt, in the water or climb a tree or a ladder to get the best vantage. This also applies for framing up your shot, don’t just rock up to a viewing platform, take the shot and then go. If its safe to do so and you have time, wander around, see if you can get a better or more interesting angle. Take into consideration what the light is doing for the image you want to create.

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These two shots were taken lying flat out on my stomach in wet sheep shit in a cemetery – took three washes to get my jeans clean!

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Compare this kitten shot taken from above and these ones where I have got down to eye level with the kittens – such a different feel.

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So there you go, Composition Basics according to Lensaddiction. I hope this may have been of some help with you on your path to photographic nirvana.

(Stacey from Lensaddiction invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. Since then she has spent far too much time outside with her camera having adventures and luckily not getting her car stuck in a bog or a stream, both of which are common in New Zealand.

To make sure that some sanity remained she took to blogging about experiences with trying to use the new camera and sharing what learnings came her way.

Remember, its supposed to be fun!)

I hope you will all thank Stacey for her post and I hope it will help you all with, or those that are unsure about composition.  Thank you Stacey.  I also hope that you will go and visit her blog, Lensaddiction.

Quiet Thursday’s

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It has been a very busy week, and well, I’m trying to catch my breath, so today I just have one image for you.  One that I took in Woomelang the night before I left. I used my neutral density filter and the image was a 10 minute exposure.  I love the way the sky went.

I am going to leave it there today.  I hope you are having a good day.

 

MM32 – Monochrome Madness 32

Wow, how quickly does it each week come around?  It is amazing that we are here again, and it is week 32 of our Monochrome Madness.  Another big week, so shall we start?

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My image for this week, it is one I took up at Lake Albacutya on my last visit to the Mallee.  I just loved the textured wood, the way the dry country brought the grain out.

Laura has decided to not participate this week, she hasn’t had a chance to get out, but judging from the email I just received, she will back into the swing of taking photos all the time in no time.

Don’t forget all the instructions on how to enter your own images are at the bottom of the post.  If you have entered an image then please remember to check your image in the gallery, scroll down and see if anyone has left you any comments.  

Now, if you wish to participate and submit an image here is how you do it:-

  • You must email me the image you want to include and if you have a blog or website, or somewhere else, please include the link. My email address is leanne@leannecole.com.au
  • The image size should be low res, so the largest side should be 1000 pixels or less.
  • Please insert either your name or your blogs name in the file name.
  • Remember I am on Australian time, so with GMT I am +11 hours at the moment, I publish my post on Wednesday morning.
  • If you need more help with sending images, and get confused about time zones, etc, well, there is a great website called The World Clock, if you go to that and look at Melbourne time, if it’s before 6pm on Tuesday evening, then you can still send me images.  If it’s after that time, you can send me an image, but it will be set aside for the following week.
  • Remember to include a link to your blog or website.
  • Please remember to resize your images, it is fairly simply, you just need to go into any editing software and usually under Image you will find, resize, scale, or image size, something like that and you can resize your image there. Change the dimensions to pixels and make the longest side 1000 pixels or smaller, hit return, and for most types of software that should change the other side automatically as well. Just remember to save it with a different name so you know it is the smaller version.  If you have any problems, please contact me, I don’t mind helping out.

Please note you don’t have to be a WordPress blogger to be in this challenge, you can have a link to a Facebook page, a Flickr page, anywhere really, or no link.  We just want to encourage people to do monochrome images, just for the madness of it. Just to let you know also, that as soon as the challenge is published, all emails and images you have sent me are deleted from my computer.  I respect your copyright and would never keep any of the images.

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