Monday, August 19, 2013

The easiest season

A few weeks back I purchased a seasonal fruit & vegetable poster from Young America Creative.  The letter-pressed poster lists the seasonal fruits and vegetables for each month out of the year in the Bay Area.  I love the details and that it was created locally. The site boasts that a 200 year old Berkley letterpress machine created the print.  If you get close to mine, you can visibly see the impressions it has left on the paper.  The gold color used to illustrate each seasonal fruit and vegetable hits the light just so that each time I pass by it, I pause for a second to take a admiring look.  And to top it all off, it came framed using reclaimed wood.  I have actually referred to the poster now and again for ideas on meals and canning.

Today I stopped by my local farmers market and picked up about 6lbs of ripe roma tomatoes for about $5.  Tomatoes are easy to can in the fact that you need one other ingredient, lemon juice, to add to each can before processing.  Tomatoes are also easy to want to can since they can be added in so many ways to everyday cooking.  I like them because I'd rather put them in my homemade chili than store bought canned tomatoes from a metal can which have a weird tinny aftertaste.

A few hours later, I now have 6 pints of freshly canned tomatoes.  Working in smaller batches has taken the weariness out of the kind of canning I grew up knowing and hating.  (Think of a hot summer day in a narrow kitchen with too many hot and sticky people, bushels of tomatoes, multiple canning pots boiling at once, and no air conditioning.  Canning no es bueno.)  Living in the Bay Area has proven to have the best weather for canning since I can receive the season's finest produce without the hot Indian summer weather.  As I write this, I look out my window and see fog.  It is a nice and temperate 65 degrees.  My kitchen remains unsweltering.  I considering that winning.  And because of all these things packed down into a jar of tomatoes, this is truly the easiest season.

I used the can tomatoes recipe.  You can find that here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to make a cinemagraph

Cinemagraph:  A Cinemagraph is a short 3-10 second animated and looping .gif made from motion video to appear as a still image with subtle movement.  Brought back in an interesting way by these two, Cinemagraphs allow photographs to come alive in new and interesting ways.


·      Tripod

·      Digital camera with video capabilities

·      Photoshop Software

To begin:  The overall success of a Cinemagraph depends on the looping nature of the .gif file.  What is looping exactly?  Looping refers to the repeating and synchronized visual element in a video.  Cinemagraphs that appear to loop seamlessly give the overall impression of a still image with captured movement that looks natural and coordinated.  Scenes that show predictable elements that repeat naturally in real life will have a higher success of a working Cinemagraph.  (Think of a moving escalator or busy road.  Traffic and patterns of movement are created within these two scenes that appear assumed and natural.)

It’s also important to remember that a Cinemagraph is not a replication of motion video.  It does not try to recreate a visually intense scene but rather a subtle movement or effect that you would like to highlight.

Make sure your video files are compatable with CS6:

  • .264
  • 3GP, 3GPP
  • AVC
  • AVI
  • F4V
  • FLV
  • MOV (QuickTime)
  • MPE
  • MPEG‑1
  • MPEG‑4
  • MPEG‑2 if a decoder is installed (for example, with an Adobe video suite)
  • MTS
  • MXF
  • R3D
  • TS
  • VOB


1.  Shoot your video. 

·      Each camera is different and utilizes different controls for its video capabilities.  Refer to your owner’s manual for any specific hardware issues in regards to your camera’s video capabilities.

For our sake and purposes, set your video capabilities to the lowest size/quality settings. 

·      This keeps our files relatively small and utilizes less space on the memory card.

Locate your scene and set up your tripod and camera.  Shoot a 10-20 second clip of video.

·      When finished, Cinemagraphs are typically 3-10 seconds in total length of motion.  Keep this in mind for the motion you want to capture.  Anything longer moves into the realm of motion video.

2.  Upload your video and input it into Photoshop.

·      Open Photoshop and go to File_Import_Video Frames to Layers…

·      Locate your file on your computer

When you open your file into Photoshop, a dialog box will appear like this:

You have the choice to import the entire length of the video or trim it to specific ranges.  Make sure that the “Make Frame Animation” is always checked.  Click OK when finished.  All frames should appear as a single layer in the layers palette. 

·      In this example, I have filmed a leaky faucet with drips of water coming out at varying intervals of time.  I filmed about 15 seconds of the leaky faucet but only need one full segment of a drip of water coming out of the faucet, since I’ll loop it.  I ended up trimming the video from the 0 to 4 seconds.

3.  Next, locate your layers palette.  Create a new folder.  Place all the layers except for Layer 1 into the folder.  Layer 1 will act at your still frame.

4.  Next we will need to mask the specific areas where movement will be seen in the still image.  Click to highlight the Group 1 folder and add a layer mask to it.

Making sure that the white chip is on top of the black chip, press Ctrl_Delete (Command_Delete for Mac) on your keyboard to fill the layer mask with black.


5.  Now that we’ve filled the layer mask with black, all layers placed within the folder are not visible.  This means that no motion will be seen if we were to hit play on the Cinemagraph.  We need to mask back or reveal in the areas where motion will occur.  Go to your tools palette and select the Brush tool.  Begin brushing over the areas where motion will be seen in your Cinemagraph.  It will be hard guess where to mask back in the motion since no changes will occur to the image, only to the layer mask icon.  Keep in mind the original trajectory of motion in your video.

·      In this example, I knew that the drips of water would fall directly underneath the opening of the faucet and so I brushed in this particular area of the image.

 6.  After masking back in the motion of the video, go to Window­_Timeline.  This will open the animation palette and you will see your establishing Layer 1 and sequential masked layers of motion.  Conversely, if you were to hit the Play button in the animation palette, your .gif would begin with the establishing Layer 1 and then follow with masked areas of motion.

We need to match the visibility of the layers to represent Layer 1.  Go back to your layers palette and click on Layer 1.  You will find a new set of options in regards to the Frame 1.  You need to click on the middle icon located as a Unify option in the layers palette.  Click on the eye symbol.  This is the Unify layer visibility option. It is highlighted below:

 Once you click on the Unify layer visibility option, your frames in the animation palette will fill in to look like the Layer 1.

From this (Before clicking on the Unify Layers Visibility):

To this (After clicking on the Unify Layers Visibility):

 Now when you click play on your animation palette, you should see the beginnings of your Cinemagraph.  The looping is always set to Forever by default.

7.  Now we can begin tweaking the options with the animation. 

To begin with, you can change the overall time of each segment of the animation.  Click and select all the frames in the animation.  At the bottom of each frame, you will find a drop down arrow to select a different length of time.  (All frames are defaulted to 0.03 sec.)  You can choose to slow down or speed up the frames.  In this example, I choose to slow down the motion to 0.06 sec per frame by selecting Other… and choosing a specific time per frame.

8.  Some Cinemagraphs have a linear set of motion that needs to be reversed in order to loop successfully.  In the example below, I have filmed a short segment of my pet cat, Connor.  The clip begins with him looking to our right, then up to the camera, and finally to the left side.  If I were to loop this set of motion as is, there would be a complete jump from the end where he looks to the left and back to the beginning where he is looking to the right.  This jarring set of motion would break the illusion of the Cinemagraph.  I needed to create a reverse set of motion so that he seamlessly looks from the right, up to the camera, then back to the left and in that reverse order.

 In this case, I have worked like before: I clipped and layered my segments of motion so that Connor begins looking to the right, looks up to the camera, and then back down to the left.  I have already masked the set of motion and placed these pieces in a folder.  Now I need to create a set of motion in a reverse order.

To do this I need to highlight the set of motion that I would like to appear in reverse.  In this case, I selected the segment of motion of Connor looking to the right, up at the camera and back down to the left, leaving out some of the beginning and ending frames of motion. 

Go to the top right corner of your animation palette and click on the drop down menu.  Copy the frames selected.

 Paste the frames selected.  A dialog box will appear and ask you where you would like to place these new frames.  Make sure that the “Paste after selection” option is checked.  Click OK.

Go back to the drop down button on the top right corner of the animation palette and selected Reverse Frames.  This will reorder the frames that you just pasted in reverse order.

 Hit play on your animation palette and check the looping of your file. 

·      You can move individual frames around, delete or continue to copy different frames in order to fine-tune the loop.  Again, you can choose to change the timing per frame as well.  Select individual frames to pause movement so that it appears more natural or varied.

9.  After creating and editing the motion, you can go back to your layers palette and make color selections and edits to the image in order to create a visual impact, style, or mood.  Make sure the image adjustments are placed on top of the layers.

·      .gif files have a limited amount of color information, so creating a color tone or cast can work in the overall favor of image quality.

10.  Image size, file size, and saving options.
 Depending on where you host your Cinemagraph, image size is important in controlling the overall file size of your .gif.  To reduce the image, just go to Image_Image Size…
From the dialog box, you can change the size of the file by reducing the size of pixels.  Originally, this file was 640 pixels x 480 pixels.  I can reduce the size down to 500x375px to optimize the file size.  Click OK.

 Next, go to File_Save for web…
 From the top of the dialog box, locate the correct .gif file format. 

 Keep all the options as is.  You can also continue to change the size of the file utilizing the Image Size options located at the bottom of the dialog box.  Changing the size of the file through this option will greatly affect the color output, so it is best to try and change the file size mentioned previous to this options.

As always, you can check the differences in file size based from the information of the original file versus the resized file.

Once you’re satisfied, click Save… and save the .gif file on your computer.  That’s it!  You’re done and now you can upload it onto the web.

Utilize free hosting sites such as:


Monday, August 12, 2013


I'm gearing up for my class this week and having fun making cinemagraphs.  They're surprisingly easy to create and kinda addicting.  I've been also been on Vine lately now that I have an iPhone.  (If you're on, add me!)  I really like the idea of combining subtle movement to still imagery.  It's not exactly video/film but rather gives the images another sense of space and dimension.

I got the tutorial here for the cinemagraph.  It was a bit vague in some of the steps but I managed to create these few by playing around.  I'll have to put up a new DIY soon based from this post.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summertime (200th post!)

So this happens to be my 200th blog post!  My 100th post was a reflection post as well, so it seems fitting that I do so again....especially since I've been completely silent in blogging over the past couple of months!

Summers in the Bay Area are odd to say in the very least in the Sunset District.  Temperatures have been steadily overcast, foggy and near the low 60s for the entire months of June, July, and now going into August.  Often enough, I find myself reaching for an extra sweater and blanket instead of the typical set of sandals and sunscreen.  So it does seem surprising to me that two months did indeed fly by with a blink of an eye and that we are now heading into late summer/early fall.  Wait!  Late summer?  EARLY FALL?!  I feel robbed!

But that is how the summers are here and I'm slowly adjusting. (Even after the two years that I have lived here already.)  Thankfully, San Francisco usually sees it's warm and sunny "summertime" weather during the late August, September and October months, so I am looking forward to that.

I suppose this post is more of a recap of what elapsed during this cold summertime.  And so much has happened!  With the start of my last semester, I quickly got caught up in the double-paced speed of summer classes.  I learned to write code in HTML and CSS.  (I can make a website!)  You can view proof of that work here.  For my final assignment, I had to make a survival kit of sorts, creating it using only HTML and CSS.  Rough, hack-jobbed, and barely viewable in IE, it's up and working.  I'm proud of it, at least as much as I can be for my very first website.

Along with the web design class, I also took a business for fine artists class.  I cringed when the predictable advice for film slides and slide carrousel came up (Yeek!) but other than that, I feel that I met a lot of great artists outside the realm of photography.  (Many of the other students were painters and sculptors from the fine art department.)

With the two classes I was taking, I also began my second semester teaching three classes at the Art Institute.  I will just be honest and say this:  Lesson plans, curriculum, syllabi might have been finalized an hour or two before the classes typically began each week.  Needless to say, I survived those weeks by the skin of my teeth!  NEVER again.  Ever.  On the plus side, my students seemed very receptive and pleased to find my efforts forthcoming and responsive, even with all the madness encompassing me each week.  I couldn't ask for better students.

And if that couldn't be enough (because honestly, is there ever such thing as enough?) I had presented my final thesis at the end of July.  I am beyond happy and enthralled to say that I passed with soaring marks.  I believe that it was the stress of deadlines and printing that made this task so hard.  If I wasn't doing homework or creating lesson plans, I could only be found doing several things that surrounded one main thing: printing, pre-printing, post-printing, and re-printing.

And now that I have passed, I am proud to say that I have obtained a Masters degree is Fine Arts and I will be having my first solo show this September in San Francisco.  I will make a post specifically to the details, dates and times soon!

Even with everything going on, Thom and I managed to find time for ourselves. Thom learned to brew his own beer and we both began canning.  I'm pretty much hooked now and love the idea of preserving my own food.  Have you seen that skit from Portlandia on pickling?  Yeah that's me in a nutshell these days.  (View video below) I've made jams, dilly beans, and bread & butter pickles.  I got this book out from my local library at the beginning of summer and I'm pretty sure I'll have to buy the book since I keep renewing it.  There are so many wonderful recipes and all fairly successful too. (At least the ones I've tried.)  It does seem that you can can pretty much anything but I'll definitely leave the band-aids, jewel cases, and dead pets out!