Category Archives: Photography

For the Love of Photography: Composition Tips

time flies message

I have one tool that snaps me into the present moment like nothing else: my camera.  It my passport to living in the “now.”  As author and photographer Jan Phillips wrote so eloquently in God is at Eye Level: 

“We heal ourselves in the act of photographing by being fully present to the moment at hand. When we stand on the edge of that which is, we are released from the yoke of what has been, detached from the fear of what might be. There is only the moment, the light, the matter of our vision.  All is peace in eternal now.”

In case you are interested in exploring photography this year, this post might be for you!  I am sharing composition tips, my favorite books and including a list of teachers who inspire me.  Of course, I am not a professional photographer.  I am simply on a journey to find sacred in the ordinary.  I hope you find something that resonates – whether you use your phone’s camera, a point and shoot or a DSLR.

Five Composition Tips

1.) You don’t always have to include the entire subject to create a beautiful image. Experiment with capturing only a part of your subject.  Sometimes a shadow, or other simplistic elements, evoke the viewer’s imagination.
ordinary creative averi horse
adyson eyelashes
 2.) Play with creative positioning.  We tend to want to center our subject and make everything symmetrical, but altering the position of our subjects creates beautiful images.missy
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3.) Change up your perspective.  Shoot low or shoot high (I stand on tables or lay on the ground sometimes!).  I love the altered view from shooting low.



4.) Frame your shot.  Framing is the process of using objects within your photograph to frame your primary subject.  It brings depth to your picture drawing your eye to the photo’s main subject.  Photograph a face through a window frame. Or use tunnels, gates, natural elements or whatever you can find.

ordinary creative frame your shot chicago


5.) Use leading lines to guide your viewer to your subject.  In my photos below, the fence and the child’s arm gently guide your eye to the image’s primary subject.


ordinary creative tiny toes


Five Admired Photographers / Teachers

I was honored to participate in a Vision Quest Workshop led by Douglas Beasley last year. He teaches all over the world, offering a wide array of photography classes like Shooting as a Spiritual Practice.  He emphasizes the creative process over the mechanics of cameras.  To read more about Douglas, click here and explore his spectacular portfolio of images.  His work is featured in galleries throughout the world.

And then there is Ashley Anne… If a photo is worth a thousand words, an Ashley Anne photo is worth 10,000 words. I participated in her online DSLR class.  In the course, Ashley gently guides you off Auto to shooting in Manual.  She is gifted in helping you find the extraordinary in the mundane and documenting your everyday.

I hope to one day participate in a class led by Lynne Harty, an Asheville, NC based photographer.

If you haven’t been inspired by Elena Shumilova – promise me you will click here to get a glimpse of her artistic portfolio.   She captures light and natural elements like no other.

Finally, I love Instagram and discovered Jill Emmer’s whimsical photos via her account – creatively named @shineonyoucraydiamond!  She inspires me with every single post.

Five Favorites: Shooting with Soul


I highly recommend each book featured in the photo above.  Perched on top is my current favorite: The Unforgettable Photograph, by George Lange.  George believes that “to take truly beautiful photos you must be truly living in the present moment.” He is the Elkhart Tolle of photography.

If you prefer a technical read with details on suggested settings for various situations, dive into a Scott Kelby book.  I love how he talks technical but manages to weave humor into his pages.

The Jan Phillips book was a recommendation by Douglas Beasley.  It is a holy book on the power of connecting to the sacred.  In her book Jan says, “The real thing about photography, is that it brings you home to yourself. Every step in the process is a step toward the light, an encounter with the God who is at eye level, whose image I see wherever I look.”

Please note I am not an affiliate and if that ever changes, you will be the first to know. 
MoMA ordinary creative jump

Giveaway Update:

In my most recent post, I talked about jumping for joy and a giveaway!  I found five issues of the Bella Grace winter issue to gift to Kathleen, Sarah, Jasmine, Michon & Karen – those who commented through 1/27/16.  I will be in touch with you to confirm shipping details.  I am humbly honored to be featured on page 42 of the winter issue.

Shaken, Stirred or Blended?

you may say I'm a dreamer

James Bond* famously asked for his martinis “shaken, not stirred.”  To shake or stir? That is the question.  Or so I hear. When it comes to making hand-crafted cocktails I understand there are rules that apply to layering the liquids.  But I don’t know a thing about hand-crafted cocktails.  It seems Bond’s line omits another popular mixing option:  blending.

But this post isn’t about cocktails.

Today’s topic is photo blending.  Or the art of two photographs being more powerful than one.

photo blend equation

When blending, there appears to be a fine line separating what is visually appealing and meaningful, versus… well, just weird.  I walk the line and teeter on both sides of it.

The teens in my house declared I am Made of Sky (the image below) officially off-the charts “weird.”

mountain 2

But they both gave Chasing MomentsWise Words enthusiastic nods of approval.  Maybe they saw the layers of love I applied.

childhood dreams

Let us spend our lives chasing the tiny moments of grace that hide in borrowed breaths, stolen glances, and the last instant before smiling lips come to rest.

-Tyler Knott Gregson

Emma Schaefer-books you read

There was a fierce fail signal after I revealed to them the image below (Rooted).  But just between you and me… I kinda love it.  Call me a weirdo.  It won’t be the first or last time.  A friend recently sent me this text greeting:  weirdmaste:  the weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you. Love!

elle blend trees

Now on with the blended recipe!

1.) Consider buying this song by The Daylights as your blending theme song: I Hope this Gets to You.

2.) Pop to PicMonkey and light a candle.  Sip sweet tea in your copper mug.  Or don’t.

3.) Select the edit icon on the top of the PicMonkey home page.  Next you will be prompted to choose the photo you will be editing.

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4.) Use the magic wand symbol to play with editing effects. I recommend you test all the “tried and true” and “basic” tools that PicMonkey offers.  Creating the best canvas or base layer using the editing tools.  I have a sweet spot for the dark edges option. “Apply” the effects that enhance your base layer. (This is an optional step).

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5.) Now the fun begins!  Select the butterfly icon on the left side of the screen and you will see a pulldown menu at the top offering the option of selecting your own image. Click “Your Own” and you will have the option of selecting your second image (the top layer in the blend).

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In my example the tree branches were my base layer and the typewriter was my “own” image via the butterfly click. (Of course, technically both the tree and the typewriter photos are from my own photo collection.)


6.) Grab one of the circles on the edge of your second layer (typewriter image in my example) and stretch it to cover the base image (the tree).

7.) Drumroll…  this is where the magic happens.  Select “overlay” under the blend mode and watch as the top image (typewriter) transforms to translucent, allowing the tree to shine through from underneath. Play with color or other PicMonkey features to achieve the significance and style that appeals to you!  I added a text layer (the dreamer lyrics).  Play and save your masterpiece when you love it.

For an official and in-depth tutorial, I found this one.  PicMonkey refers to this technique as double exposure instead of photo blending.


Is it weird that I name my blends?  Maybe the Moscow Mule is regaining popularity because of its clever name.

golden hour blend deb july 2015

Shine On


*If you want to hear about the time I met James Bond (Pierce Brosnan)…well, message me.

Rainy Days and Mondays

raindrop sunrise quote

It was a rainy Monday in my corner of Wisconsin.  During my morning commute I saw several drenched cows.  The rain fine-tuned their colors, painting the fields with shiny black and vivid chestnut.  It also transitioned the grassy fields from umber to green.

And, I swear I saw every branch transform to bud.

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IMG_8493Last week I was painting with a sweet 2-year-old.  He dipped his paintbrush carefully into a small cup of water and then magically transformed a coloring page from black & white to a colorful masterpiece.  A bit like today’s rain.

I hope you witnessed a form of nature’s magic today.  Many days elapse in the flurry of busy – too absorbed in what’s next or examining what just happened.  And the tiny wonders slip by.  But I hope that wasn’t the case for you on this Monday.

golden hour collage

In honor of sprinkles and storms, I assembled a quick rainy day compilation.

“Rain from Heaven,” Eric Paslay

“Let it Rain,” Keri Noble

“Raining All Year,” Allen, Mack & Myers & Moore

“Right as Rain,” Adele

“Let it Rain,” Zac Brown

“Come in With the Rain,” Taylor Swift

“Feels Like Rain,” John Hiatt

“I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” Norah Jones

“Rainy Days And Mondays,”  The Carpenters

And, my favorite song (brilliant lyrics):

“More Heart, Less Attack,” NEEDTOBREATHE

 A lyric sampler…

Be the wheels not the track
Be the wanderer that’s coming back
Leave the past right where it’s at
Be more heart and less attack.

I stuck my hat out, I caught the rain drops
I drank the water, I felt my veins pop
I’m nearly sanctified, I’m nearly broken
I’m down the river, I’m near the open.

“More Heart, Less Attack” was written by Bo Rinehart and Bear Rinehart.

Maybe it is possible to seize at least a few moments each day.  Even when it is raining.