Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Dreams!

I do love snow at Christmas time.....pine trees laden with sparkling snow, snowflakes drifting softly into a winter wonderland scene, children with red noses building snowmen, etc.  But after Christmas all I can think of is.....slipping on icy sidewalks, chapped hands and faces from bitter cold winds, shoveling snow off the driveway, and dreary gray landscapes.

Here is how they spend winter in Moorea, a small island near Tahiti.  Moorea is one of the most beautiful tropical paradises I have ever seen.  I see two vacant beach chairs and one has my name on it......anyone want to join me?????

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


(located on Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah)

Christus (also known as Christus Consolator) is a 19th-century Carrara marble statue of the resurrected Jesus by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Since its completion in 1838, the statue has been located in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the 20th century, images and replicas of the statue were adopted by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) to emphasize the centrality of Jesus Christ in church teachings.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Away in a Manger.....

Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ, the Lord!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The True Meaning of Christmas!

If you are a Christian, I hope you will take time this Christmas season to remember the reason we celebrate at this special time of year.  In addition to the parties and presents and pastries, I hope you will gather your loved ones close, open the holy scriptures, and together read about the birth and mortal life of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and then take a few minutes to ponder upon the gift of salvation and eternal life He has made possible for us!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Decorations at Karen's House!

I've kind of had a bad attitude about decorating for Christmas this year.  I think it started when I realized that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than usual.  Just thinking of dragging all the Christmas decorations out of their hiding places, and the mess that follows as I shuffle through stuff I've accumulated for years, trying to locate the few really meaningful things I love, (like nativities), was discouraging at that moment.  I began to think it all takes so much time and effort, when in a blink of an eye, (or so it seems), it will be time to take it all down.  And like every other year, all the stuff never does fit back into the same boxes they came out of!  (That I don't get!)

But as I started opening boxes, and taking out treasured items that reminded me of wonderful Christmas memories throughout the years, my mood began to change:  a nativity from a special friend when we lived in Missouri, a hand made decoration from my mother-in-law for our first married year, a silly musical, bell ringing Santa that makes us laugh every year that my mom gave our children, ornaments from New Zealand, etc. etc.  My 'bad' mood was no match for these special memories.  So now, finally,  I'm in the mood for Christmas carols, decorations, presents, and yes, EVEN the snow that has been falling all day!  It is the beautiful dry kind of snow with huge delicate flakes that softly float down and cover the ground in a 'mantle of white.'  (A perfect winter scene, made even more perfect because I am sitting by a warm fireplace, enjoying my decorated house and watching my wonderful grandsons out the window as they shovel the snow off our sidewalks.)

This Christmas I want to remember the blessing of a warm, toasty home all decked out and ready to welcome family and friends.  I want to remember that despite all the decorating hassle, I really do love my home at this special time of year.  I especially want to remember that the extra effort to make my home a place of faith and peace that reflects the joy and happiness our family feels as we celebrate the birth of Jesus definitely, positively, worth it all!  I decided to take a few photos of my Christmas home to help remind me of my thoughts today:

 Welcome to our home.  (Front Entrance.)

 Entry and peak into the dining room. 
(Oops...I forgot to remove the small rug and towel my grandsons used to dry off after shoveling snow.)

 Great room.

A different view with a glimpse of the winter wonderland out our back windows.

 A picture of our special angel Grandson, sitting among my angel collection as a reminder that he is truly our beloved Heavenly Angel.  We miss him so much!  (Our other earthly angels are with their parents in the large photo, except we are missing our two newest angels, recently born.)

A closer look.  On the shelf are two nativities collected from our travels.  The dish shows a pohutukawa blossom.  They grow on large trees in New Zealand and Kiwis call this their Christmas tree because they are in full bloom at Christmas.

My happy little collection of snowmen in the kitchen.

 A favorite piece of artwork depicting Jesus Christ.  This is not a Christmas decoration, as it stays year round.

P.S.  Do you notice anything missing???  Where is the Christmas tree you ask!  We have a lovely family room / recreation room on the lower level where our Christmas tree usually resides.  It is decorated with children's toys and ornaments and includes the ornament we bought for our first Christmas 43 years ago, all the ornaments our children made while they were growing up, as well as special ornaments from the countries we have visited.  


Thursday, December 19, 2013


Hello and Merry Christmas to my Dear Blogger Buddies!

This year has been good to me and our family.  Despite a few more pounds, a little less hair, and a lot more wrinkles, Jeff and I have been blessed with a wonderful family, two new adorable grandchildren, fabulous friends, the opportunity to continue with our missionary work and the energy and health to keep up with it all.

I have missed blogging on a regular basis this year and I especially miss keeping up with all of you who have enriched and inspired my life with your kindness, humor, goodness and amazing photography.  I have made a resolution to spend more time with my camera and with my
blogging buddies in 2014!

I hope this year has been kind to you and your families as well.  Our family, like everyone's families, has challenges and set backs.  But we try to focus on our many blessings and remember that our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is here to buoy us up during our struggles, mend our broken hearts when disappointments come, and give us hope for a glorious future.  We hope you join
with our family in celebrating His birth this Christmas!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet Crew Lavoy

We have been so blessed this month.  Here is our Number 12 grandchild, born about a week ago.  He was in the hospital over Halloween, so here his is in his Batman costume.  Isn't he adorable!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

 My Scariest Halloween Creatures

These photos were taken of bigger than life sized creatures created at the Weta Workshop in New Zealand.  This company is responsible for the design and production of the creatures in the movies Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Avatar, to name just a few.  Happy Halloween!! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

With Child

My daughter-in-law - beautiful and modest
(She is due this week!!!)

 With her husband who happens to be my handsome son.

 This will be their first child and our 12th grandchild.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Scrub Oak in Autumn

Here in northern Utah many of our hills and mountains are covered with what we call scrub oak bushes.  I'm sure that is not the 'official' name, but that name fits them well. The leaves are definitely oak shaped but other than that, these scrubby bushes do not much resemble their more beautiful relatives, the tall and majestic mighty oak trees.  Most of the year, scrub oak is not very impressive, although it does green up our desert mountains in the summer.  But come fall, these bushes are in their brilliant glory, arrayed in shades of gold, rust, yellow, red, orange, bronze, and every other color of fall.  

I read somewhere just recently that we should take a lesson from how leaves end their life cycle.  They don't fade away quietly, they end their lives with a colorful and brilliant blaze of glory.  I like that thought!!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arches Nat'l Park, UT

I took this photo in early summer on a trip to Moab and Arches National Park.    I should be posting photos of our annual Lake Powell trip, but we had to cancel because our planned vacation week was during the time the national parks were closed.  How disappointing, but not nearly the hardship many people are dealing with due to the shameful antics of our self serving elected government officials from BOTH parties!!  The 'children' in Washington don't understand concepts like 'reasonable compromise', 'playing fair', 'working together for the best interest of the American people',  'integrity', etc. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mt. Timpanogos, Utah

One afternoon last week I drove up a dirt road that I've been on many times, but drove farther (further?) than ever before.  I found this beautiful vista of Mt. Timpanogos.  I think the next time I have a request to take a family portrait with Timp in the background, I've found just the right location!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our Newest Angel - Evelyn May

 Sent From Heaven with His Love

".....Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, 
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar:
        Not in entire forgetfulness,
        And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
        From God, who is our home:...."
                                                                                                         --William Wordsworth
(Excerpt from 'Ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood')
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood - See more at:
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood - See more at:

Meet our newest grandchild, so sweet, so innocent.  Isn't she the most adorable little bundle of cuteness?  This makes number 11 for us.  Our children and grandchildren bring us such joy and are our greatest blessings! They give us hope and faith.  They remind us that God is in His heavens, we are not here by chance, we are His children, and He has a magnificent future planned for each of us in our heavenly home!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Shooting Into the Sun

What to do when the sun is still high enough to wash out colors and to cast harsh shadows and, when I'm not very patient at waiting until the sun sets so I can take some 'golden hour' shots at the beach?  Well, I found a composition I liked where the tidal waters had receded to form a leading 'S' curve line to the sea stacks that were silhouetted in front of the sun.  I had a polarizer on my lens and set my camera to -2 stops exposure to compensate for the harsh light.  In post processing I cropped half of the sun out to bring attention to the interesting rays and sun flare and then boosted the colors that were washed out in the original image.  (Another case of 'making do' and 'rethinking possibilities' as I talked about in the last post.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mt. Rainier Waterfall - Living with Disappointment

A month or so ago my sister-in-law sent me some beautiful photographs she had taken on a trip to Mt. Rainier National Park.  The sky was a lovely shade of blue, the wildflowers were gorgeous, the shades of green in the forests were vivid.  So when Jeff & I were in Washington a few weeks ago and had one day for sightseeing, we headed there, hoping I could also find some beautiful scenes to photograph.

But by the time we arrived at the park entrance, the sky became overcast, and within a few minutes of driving, the weather turned drizzly, windy, foggy and cold.  So much for my anticipated beautiful photo ops!  Below is a photo taken out the car window showing how most of our drive looked:

Lessons Learned in Disappointment, Acceptance and Making Do!

I've learned that in order to be a 'serious' hobbyist photographer, one must accept and deal with a certain amount of disappointment, acceptance and making do.  Professional photographers working on assignment for a client, may have the financial means and time to be able to wait for ideal conditions, but most hobbyists have only limited amounts of time and money, and are usually reduced to a weekend here or there, or a set number of vacation days a year to feed their landscape and travel photography passion.  And often the weather or other factors pop up to thwart photography efforts during the time of the trip, that has probably been planned for months in advance.  Maybe it's not even the weather.  I just thought of the Chevy Chase movie, National Lampoon's 'Vacation' where the Griswold family struggles through all sorts of hilarious (and sometimes irreverent) situations to drive across the country to Walley World, only to find out it's closed!  Another lesson, make sure to do your homework in advance.  (And a little closer to home, this Friday starts our annual family vacation on our houseboat timeshare at Lake Powell.  I always look forward to photographing that beautiful area.  Who would have thought the government would shut down and all the national parks would close!  Major disappointment!  Sigh!)  But back to our day at Mt. Rainier:

 Unknown Waterfall in Mt. Rainier National Park

This is a 'making do' photo.  For a brief period, the fog lifted long enough for me to get out of the car along side the road to take the above shot.  It was cold and windy and I had to put my telephoto lens on a tripod and hold it from being blown over.  The original photo was dull and soft because of the moving trees and moving camera.  In post editing, I decided to boost the saturation, sharpen and add a bit more 'magic'.  This shot doesn't look anything like the original, but in my mind, it looks like the photo I could have taken if I'd have had the time to come back on a day when the weather conditions were perfect.  

And who knows, I may be able to salvage one of my foggy, rainy shots and create something dark and moody, just right for Halloween.

When considering outdoor, travel, and landscape photography, if we learn to accept and make do with disappointments and changes we didn't anticipate, and force ourselves to rethink the possibilities, we may actually be increasing our photography skills and our ability to be more creative!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Phun Phriday!

Recycled Iron Yard Art

I haven't posted a 'Phun Phriday' photo in quite some time!  On our travels in Washington last week, we stopped at this yard and enjoyed looking at a ton, (probably was literally a ton!), of iron artwork on display.  I had 'phun' doing some pretty heavy editing on this one!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cannon Beach Sunset

This little guy walked right into my photo and posed for the perfect foreground subject.  I had my camera on a tripod for a slow shutter speed which made the water soft and dreamy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Starfish on Cannon Beach, Oregon

We took a quick trip to Washington to visit our dentist (Jeff's bro).  They live in such a beautiful place, surrounded by many beautiful places, so we took several extra days before heading home.  Unfortunately it was raining most of the week.  We had one beautiful day, and that happened to be the day we headed over to the coast and spent the day at Canon Beach, Oregon.  The tide was out and I've never seen such HUGE and COLORFUL starfish!   They were everywhere.

Yes, they were really this big.  I was not using a macro lens and didn't do any editing to make them look bigger or more amazing.  To see some perspective on their size, check out the next photo.

I included my own shadow in this shot to show you the size of these beauties!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Enjoying the Unexpected!

 After taking the shot in my last post, I walked a bit to get another view, and the sky cleared up even more.

This was the best shot I could get with a zoom lens.  I didn't dare get too close because I was sure he could run faster than I could!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Expect the Unexpected!

Landscape Layers at Sunset

This has been a busy week, as most weeks are.  Yesterday evening, around 5:00pm I decided I had to take a break from my chores of the day, and for me, a really good break usually means trying to find something to photograph.

It had been one of those days where the weather couldn't decide what to do.  Dark, heavy, moisture filled clouds moving across the sky, often opened for a brief, isolated downpour.  Then, the sun would peak through to dry up the wet ground.  Next, beautiful, 3D white, puffy clouds would sail past, surrounded by brilliant blue sky, and colored by a beautiful late afternoon sun.  It was warm and windless and the sky was ever changing.  A perfect evening for landscape photography!  

So I grabbed my gear, and because I only had a short time before sunset, I quickly headed up the canyon behind my house.  (As you know, this is my usual go to place when I have very little time, and need to be surrounded by mountains.)  I was sure the aspen trees would be putting on their autumn show of bright yellows, deep goldens and rich rusts, but I was disappointed.  I drove to some of my favorite locations desperate to find something worth shooting.  But the trees were a faded, end of summer drab green and the sky had turned a dull, overcast gray.  After roaming around for a couple of hours, the sky turned into a solid blanket of clouds, I could here thunder in the near distance, and it was getting dark very quickly.  I was way up on the mountain top, traveling on a little used dirt road, and the thought of getting stranded up there alone, in the dark and rain, was not appealing.  I was disappointed because I had nothing to show for my time and efforts, so I turned around and started heading down the mountain.

Just as I rounded a bend and passed an opening in the trees on the driver's side of the car, the storm clouds cleared enough to let a few sun rays shine through.  I glanced over and saw this reflection on a small mountain lake.  Beautiful!  I stopped and took this shot out of my car window.   After taking my photo, I sat admiring this peaceful, lovely scene, when something else caught my eye, spotlighted in the last few rays of the setting sun.

I parked the car, and started walking toward the lake to get a better view!  I got as close as I could, quickly got my shot, then stood and watched him take his last drink of the evening, as the setting sun transformed the faded end of summer colors to beautiful golden hues.  And then in a blink of an eye, the sun was gone, the mood was gone, and so was he.  

A moment in time can change everything!  I continued down the mountain reminding myself to always anticipate, expect, and be ready to enjoy the unexpected!  (My next post will be unexpected photos from that moment in time.)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Magical Scenery

Sometimes I think that standing at this spot and seeing this beautiful place was just a dream!  We felt doubly blessed on the day we were here because the tops of these rugged peaks were visible.  Much of the time they are shrouded in misty clouds and rain.  We returned a second time to Milford Sound, and that was the case; but even then, the scenery was magnificent with the landscape transformed by thousands of waterfalls. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Desert Color

Sometimes one has to look closely to find tiny treasures in the desert.  Often flowering plants are small and tucked away behind rocks, or in cracks, or hidden and protected from the elements.  This was taken in Zion National Park, at a place where many other photographers were looking upward, trying to find a composition that would show the drama and grandeur of the huge, craggy, red cliffs.  Usually I'd be looking that way too, but this day I found beauty in this ordinary little desert bloom right where I was standing.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Corn On the Cob

Here in the USA it is Labor Day weekend, the last holiday of summer.  We will be down at our vacation house in southern Utah, RZR riding, swimming, and picnicing with some of our family who will be joining us.  There is nothing better this time of year than fresh corn on the cob smothered in butter.  Yum!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beautiful Bokeh - Part 4

 Light Dance
(My camera settings were:  100 mm, 1/640 sec, f/2.8, -2/3 exposure)

In my last post I talked about how to look at your composition, the background, the quality of light,  and your camera and lens settings to capture and enhance bokeh in your images.  Today, I'm going to talk about using technology to really get your artistic juices flowing. Specifically, I'm going to talk about using layers, textures, and brushes to create interesting backgrounds.  I can't show you HOW to actually do this in a short blog post, but I hope to get you excited about adding a new dimension to your photography.

Here is the SOOTC shot.  As you can see, it has some soft bokeh, movement and interest in the background.  It is ok, but seemed a bit underexposed and lifeless.

This is a texture I added as a second layer to the original image and then blended the two layers.  The result is the top photo.  I also tried just boosting the saturation and exposure on the original which improved the image, but I like this effect better.  Maybe you are wondering where I got the above picture.  That same morning I walked by a pool of water and noticed the pretty pattern made by the reflections on the water, so I took a picture of it! Yes, you can make your own textures and add them to your photos to create interesting effects.

I am always looking for scenes that would make for interesting backgrounds or textures.  In the same garden I saw this mass of flowers and knew it would be a beautiful background.  I put my camera lens on manual focus, and purposely blurred the image by taking several different shots in various stages of focus.  I'll keep these for future use.

Just to show you how it is possible to totally change the look of a photo to match your vision, here is that same flower photo with a new background.  But what if you are too lazy to make your own backgrounds, or you can't find the type of background you want?  You can download tons of texture backgrounds for free.  Just Google, 'Free textures for Photoshop', then browse, download and have fun. 

This is another SOOTC shot.  It was taken in broad daylight and is obviously back lit.  I loved the rim light on the sunflower and the soft streaks of light on the stems and leaves, but I wanted to give it a bit more interest.

 Light My Fire

(My camera settings were: 100mm, 1/640 sec, f/2.8, -2/3 exposure)

Here is a bit of tweaking.  I brought out a little of the detail in the sunflower center, then added some bokeh.  Yes, I added all of the bokeh, one light globe at a time, with a bokeh brush.  This way you can put the size, shape, color, intensity where ever you want. You can download bokeh brushes for Photoshop for free.  Just Google, 'free bokeh brushes for Photoshop' then browse, download and have fun.

But what if you want a bokeh texture all over.  Well, you can create your own, as shown above, or you can download free bokeh textures.   Google, "Free bokeh textures for Photoshop". 

Call it what you will:  photo fakery, magic, photo art, editing, photography, artistic impression, post processing enhancement, the digital darkroom, or just plain amazing..... photography has made revolutionary changes since the invention of digital cameras, the computer and photo editing programs.  And whether you love it or hate it, we photographers have to adapt one way or the other.  IMHO, (however), photographers who do not take advantage of what technology has to offer will become increasingly dissatisfied and discouraged with their own photography.  Why you ask?  Because photographers who only shoot SOOTC images, will not produce nearly the number of 'keepers' or great quality images,  as the photographers who take advantage of current technology to enhance good images, compensate for the limitations of what our cameras cannot do, or to edit photos as part of artistic or creative interpretation.  I can't help but think that if Ansel were alive today, (a master of photography and darkroom editing), he would embrace all the creative tools available to help him produce his imagery.

So, the first step is to learn about the amazing photo editing programs available, decide which ones are right for you, then take to time to learn how to use them.  The ones I use regularly are: Lightroom; Photoshop; OnOne Perfect Photo Suite; Nik Color Efex; Photomatix.  Don't get discouraged, you don't need all these programs.  I've just added them gradually over many years.  And I might add, I've never taken a class on how to use them.  They come with tutorials, and there are dozens of online classes, (many free), and books.  I only know a small part of what these programs are capable of doing and yet, I've managed to learn what I need to know.

You must, however, choose a program that allows you to work on 'layers' such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, and learn and understand how to use this 'magical' feature.  After that, the sky is the limit!

I love taking photos.  And I equally love taking those photos and seeing how they can be improved.  Almost always, I tweak the exposure, and maybe add a bit of vibrancy for nature shots.  Many times, I'll crop, remove sensor spots,  remove distracting objects.  Once in a while, I'll add an interesting texture, change to sepia, B&W, or add a color tone.  Rarely but sometimes, I'll change an entire background, swap a head, or do something 'other worldly'.  The point is, one can choose to edit a little or a lot.  There is no right or wrong despite what some diehards may say.  You as the artist get to decide.

Oh, and in case you are interested,  the original photo in Part I of this tutorial had a soft, blurred, boring pink background.  I blended in a pink bokeh texture.  The backgrounds in the photos in Part 2 and 3 are all natural with bokeh created from my camera settings and composition.