Fall is right around the corner and change is in the air. This Sugar Maple Leaf is transitioning from green to red to start the change of colors from Fall Foliage.
Last year, we were fortunate to go back and visit Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada. This is a border town between Michigan and Ontario. My mother-in-law was born in this town. She did not grow up there, since she was sent to China at the age of 5.
During my first visit to the “Soo”, my wife’s cousins encouraged me to pursue my photography again. I was a professional photographer for a electronic corporate company until it went out of business. Even though my college degree is in Fine Art photography, I assumed it would be too difficult for me to go back to my first love. Interestingly, I fell in love with the fall scenery in this locale. So I wanted to return to not only see the changing colors, but to visit our relatives who encouraged me to do my first photo show and pursue my photography again.
Little did I know 2020 would be a year our family would not be traveling anywhere due to the pandemic. We reside with my senior mother-in-law, so we are extra careful to stay healthy.
I love this leaf with the transitioning colors. It reminds me how life is about transitions. Our world is transitioning with this pandemic, social injustices and issues and the fires which are abundant in the western United States.
This leaf shows me that transitions can produce beauty. This leaf will transition to a pure red color and will be vibrant in appearance.
I am hoping as our lives are in transition, we will also see beauty and a more vibrant era after we endure these difficult times.
On September 9, 2020, we arose in the morning to orange dark skies. My wife rolls out of bed before 7 am to work remotely at her job via her laptop. We have been dismayed how our PG&E bill has been rising since she has been working at home. So we are trying to be more energy minded about turning on lights. But this morning was very dark, and we needed to turn on lights. We were pinching ourselves in disbelief about how it was dark all day.
We kept looking out the window amazed at the orange haze in the sky. The stillness of the day was alarming. It was hard to believe how the atmosphere seemed to get darker in the morning instead of getting brighter.
I had to go out in the backyard on this strange morning to shoot photographs to remember this orange day. I used my Canon to shoot in the backyard. The picture was shot out of our front window with my Pixel 3XL.
These photographs remind me of “sepia tone” which a photographer uses to get a nostalgic or warm look. This effect can be done via Photoshop. These photos depict our natural “sepia tone”.
The eerie solitude in these images are perfect to reflect the emotions of 2020. The pandemic fears and anxiety are still ongoing as society is beginning to open for business. Social injustice and BLM protests prevail with recorded incidents repeated exhibited on social and news media. Lastly, the West Coast is plagued with an abundance of fires which gives us extremely bad air and our Orange Wednesday.
Fortunately our Orange Wednesday did not turn into Orange Thursday. Though the air quality was actually worse from Thursday to Saturday.
Our Orange Haze Wednesday made it hard for all of us to focus on anything else other than our alien scenery.
Our 2020 experiences are teaching us about endurance no matter what we see, hear or learn. Let’s hold on tight for the ride. The year is not over yet!
One of the lessons we learned during this Pandemic is how to celebrate together even though we are separated.
So we produced a video production with photographs and videos provided by our family, friends and relatives to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 100th birthday. It was totally worth the effort in learning how to do this with Photoshop Premiere Elements.
Gathering the digital files and sharing the video with everyone allowed us to connect with our people who resided physically close or across the continent. We communicated verbally via phone or video chats. We shared moments also thru our emails. People asked others to join in on our celebration and fun. We were amazed how connections grew.
We are sharing our lessons learned in this production.
As per our previous post, we ended up adding our digital files manually via the “Quick” Option in Photoshop Premiere Elements – selecting the “Video Editor”.
Go to the “Video Editor” in Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020. Then on the top with the choices – “Quick” “Guided” “Expert” — select Quick.
Then add either a video or a photo in each rectangular frame. Hit the down arrow to select the video or photo from a drive.
In the editor, there are a good choice of transitions to add between photographs and videos in a production.
You can add the same transition between your clips. Or you can use your imagination how you want to arrange your clips with which transitions or no transition. The time for the transition span can be adjusted too.
My wife wanted movement variety between the frames. So she wanted to randomly add different transitions between clips. Transitions make the video interesting.
Adding a transition is easy. The user just hits the option for transitions. Views the choices. Selects a transition and drag it between the 2 clips. Test and see if you like the transition. There were a couple we did not like. It is easy to replace the transition by just deleting and dragging another one to the spot between the frames.
What is the most important lesson we learned about transitions?
The most important lesson we learned – is to put in all the clips into the timeline editor in the correct order. Watch the production to confirm the order is correct. Make sure you included all the files into your production before adding any transitions.
Why? Well if you make changes in the order or your clips, add new clips, or move clips around, the original transitions will be deleted when you make changes in your clip order and movement. Then you will need to add again the transitions after they are deleted. You will need to check thru your footage to see what transitions were deleted.
One of our friends had a lot of photographs they wanted us to add. It was late in the game, when she was sending us the files. We were adding and moving clips around and noticing the transitions were disappearing. We knew we added them previously, and thought we were getting forgetful.
If you choose to add transitions, then add them only after the completion of putting in all your files to the timeline.
Our life in California has taught us about constant transitions due to COVID-19 such as changes in our shopping habits, vacations (or really for us – no traveling), working at home, staying at home and now the big fires contributing to our bad air.
To create a fun video, transitions will add variety to a production. They are easy to do when done towards the end of your editing.
Fun Pandemic videos with interesting transitions will help us to endure the physical life transitions in 2020.
Last year we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 99th birthday at a restaurant with a few tables of family, relatives and friends. We ate walnut shrimp, sticky rice chicken, fish and long life noodles. It was a great meal and celebration.
During our Pandemic Period at home, we cannot throw big parties. We could not throw a big party to celebrate my mother-in-law’s big 100 year old birthday! We wanted to do a celebration to commemorate such a happy and blessed event.
My wife decided we needed to do a video/slideshow with relatives and friends submitting short videos or a picture to express their birthday wishes.
We looked at the different apps which generate a combined video like VidHug. She noticed it did have editable components to trim clips, add music etc. See below is the link.
There is a charge with a maximum of 50 minutes. 50 minutes should be more than sufficient. Consider whether your audience will want to sit for 50 minutes to watch a home video.
Being a profession photographer, my pictures are not altered on my blog. I want to test my skills as a photographer and do not want to show an altered picture. I love genuine photographs.
I purchased Photoshop Elements 2020 and use this software to add my watermarks. I utilize Photoshop to help friends fix their pictures. Any professional photographer does need to use Photoshop on occasion.
Therefore since we already had this software, my wife decided why not use what we already have.
It took us time to learn how to use Photoshop Elements Premiere to create a combination of pictures and videos into a video.
I hope our “lessons learned” will help others to create great memories during our pandemic times at home
In the beginning, my wife sent an email to groups of relatives and friends. There were perhaps about 30-40 individuals notified. We could have sent out more emails but thought we should try to limit to people we meet with during our pandemic Zoom gatherings.
Our email requested either a short and sweet video or a picture with a greeting. If the person could not add the message to a picture, we volunteered to edit the picture to add the message. Of course, everyone has their own ideas how they would contribute to the production.
Adobe Premiere Elements has a few options to create a production –
We initially tried to use Video Story.
On the left of the Video Story screen, the user can add “Story Assets”. Load pictures and videos by hitting “+ Add Media”. Load a few pictures or videos just to try “Video Story”. Do a sample to see if this will work with your pictures and videos.
If you want to add text to a video or picture, do this separately in Photoshop or Premiere and save another file. Then add the edited file to the Video Story.
Hit “File” from the top menu and select “New Video Story” to start. Select the Video Story that fits your occasion.
The Video story will load with music and designated chapters.
Drag the “Story Assets” to the appropriate chapters on the right. You can play a chapter by hitting the “right” arrow on the left of the Chapter designation.
This is easy to do if you find a video story template you can use.
You can also further edit the video story if hit “Export to Timeline” on the bottom right of the screen. This will take you to an editor to do more intricate work.
When we tried “Video Story”, there were picture shots which were cropped incorrectly in the generated movie. Some face head shots were cut out by the software. The transitions in the generated video were not always correct in shots.
You probably can edit the clips which incorrectly crop in the timeline editor. But we did not attempt to edit the generated video.
Due to our time constraints, we decided not to continue using “Video Story”.
We decided to use the Timeline Editor and manually add our pictures and videos by selecting “Add Media” on the top left of the screen.
We also tried “Instant Movie”. It is another template which has frames and music for themes. We did not think the themes in “Instant Movie” fit our Birthday celebration.
In conclusion, we manually added our photos and videos in the “Timeline Editor”. This allowed us control of how the frames would appear.
Stay tune to the other features we added to our video production and the lessons we learned.
Our goal was to produce a fun production to celebrate. So far the reviews by our viewers were good.
Most importantly, my mother-in-law was extremely happy watching the video. She was very engaged and interacted with the videos and pictures as she watched.
The video provided a way we could celebrate a wonderful occasion remotely with the people in our life. Our senior neighbors, who are mostly confined at home, were so excited to watch this video. They felt as if they were able to participate in a party, as they watched the video give birthday wishes.
We’ve been sheltering in place since mid March. We only go out to buy food. So what do we do for fun?
I have been learning about what grows in the foggy part of San Francisco. I tried to choose plants that did not need a lot of sun. I wanted flowers to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Lately, when I can find a slot of time, I sit in the garden with my big zoom lens waiting for the creatures to visit the flowers in my garden.
As i have been tending the garden, I noticed a particular hummingbird coming around me. The bird seems to be checking me out. Perhaps it is trying to see who I am and if I am friendly. It seems the same bird visits the yard.
When I go out with my camera gear, I try to be quiet and still to not scare away the creatures. I’ve sat for a few hours to observe the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds as they come and go.
Currently, the Bay Area is getting a heat wave. I went to the yard hoping to take advantage of the better lighting. Our typical summer in San Francisco is a lot of grey skies and fog. Not the best lighting to capture good pictures.
So I was waiting and hoping to see my flying friends. Unfortunately, the weather was even too hot for them to exert much energy to visit my flowers.
This hummingbird came by about 2 weeks ago.
His pointed wings are just perfectly spread out as he drinks the flower nectar. I can identify with his joy in drinking the sweet nectar. He is perfectly posing for this photograph.
So how did I manage to get the hummingbird to pose?
I am hoping this bird is feeling comfortable and safe with me. He’s visiting and watching me. He sees me just hanging out quietly in the yard. He can sense I like him.
The secret to get the hummingbird or any subject to pose is to make him feel secure and comfortable. Spending time together seems to make the bird accustomed to seeing me in the yard.
Do you remember being at AT&T Park back in 2016? Here’s a picture I shot behind home plate when Oracle Park was AT&T Park.
It’s interesting to remember all the different names of the same baseball stadium where the SF Giants have been playing since the leaving Candlestick Park in 1999.
Looking down at the baseball field is always a surreal experience. I never get tired of shooting photographs of baseball stadiums.
I do love looking out at the San Francisco Bay behind AT&T Park.
Now we are at home watching the SF Giants and are unable to watch live games, it is interesting how there are a few hard core fans who want to be close to the team when they are at home. Even though they cannot see anything, they enjoy sailing outside the stadium just to be close to the team they love. Fans are seeking stability.
Even though the AT&T Park name no longer exists, it’s good to know the stadium and the SF Giants are stable during our pandemic times. We need stability when the virus events are in constant flux.
Uncertainty seeks certainty.
Keeping reminders to help us find security are important.
What makes us feel better during our uncertain times?
Since we are still sheltering in place, I spend lots more time in our garden. I position myself in our yard waiting and watching the bees, hummingbirds or butterflies enjoy the flowers. I take my big Canon camera and lens to see what interesting sights I can shoot.
I photographed this Bumble Bee in our backyard garden landing on our Lavender plant. I love the flurry of its wings in action. It’s amazing how fast the wings can go to keep the bee up in the air. It is also interesting to examine the long thin legs of the bee approaching the lavender flower to collect the pollen and nectar.
This pandemic has allowed me to spend time to tend to my garden. Before the pandemic, I did start planning out what to grow in the garden to attract birds, butterflies and bees. But the pandemic provided me a reason to go to the garden since I am not venturing out of the house except for groceries.
Even though the pandemic is a terrible occurrence in the world, it is teaching us valuable lessons.
The pandemic is teaching me about solitude in fellowship with nature. It is showing me how bees can dance on lavender and other flowers. I am learning patience as I wait and watch to capture images of the natural occurrence in nature.
Lastly, blessings are possible in all circumstances of life even in a pandemic. It is a blessing to the beauty of a bee encroaching on the pretty petals of lavender.
I can hardly wait until next season to photograph the new configuration of the Oracle Park outfield. Hopefully, we will be able to attend live SF Giants games next season. Unfortunately, it is hard to anticipate how things will be for the next baseball season.
I shot these photos of Oracle Park last season. I climbed up to the top of the stadium and captured the view from up on high. I never dreamed that none of us would be prevented from going to watch baseball this 2020 baseball season. We all miss actually sitting at Oracle Park.
We all assumed baseball would start as normal.
Instead, we learned normal can be static. I keep listening to the news everyday hoping to hear good news about this virus. Instead, we keep hearing how our incidents are increasing.
We visited for about 20 minutes with relatives (social distancing and wearing our masks) who had traveled from afar. This couple moved to Scotland just before the pandemic started. They reported how businesses are open again and incidents are quite small. We spoke to relatives in Canada. Their numbers are small compared to what we are seeing in California.
It is disappointing why we cannot keep away from each other to reduce the incidents of this virus.
I do love looking at my old photographs of Oracle Park to remember our old normal. I’ve learned we need to take photos to remember whatever is our circumstances – happy or sad. We’ve assumed we could return to Oracle Park to watch our choice of baseball game. But we’ll be fortunate if we can return to the stadium for next season.
Enjoy the view where ever you are. Take time to appreciate where you are today. Be grateful for our current circumstances.
Here’s one of my Dwarf Sungold Sunflowers with a bumblebee gathering pollen on its legs as it dances around the circumference of the flower.
I shot this video with my macro lens. Notice the detail of the bee’s wings as well as his bright yellow stripes.
I tried to use my tripod initially. But it was hard to be mobile to quickly catch the bumblebee move from flower to flower.
I am just starting to learn how to enjoy my garden environment which I have been designing, so I can shoot photos and videos safely at home.
It’s amazing to watch how the bumblebee jumps around the flower and naturally collects the pollen on its legs as it is also getting nectar.
I have been observing the bees come to the flowers under certain conditions. We need bees to pollinate the flowers to create the pretty blooms. The bees are wonderful to use the nectar to make honey for their hives. They are so productive in the creation of beauty and sweetness.
Stay tuned as I continue to share my shots from my garden and more bumblebee dances.
We can be inspired by this bee that we need to create beauty and sweetness to help others during this pandemic period of staying at home.
I started growing these Dwarf Sungold Sunflowers from seeds back in March 21 of this year. I received the seeds from the Sierra Club in the mail. Thank you Sierra Club! They started growing fairly fast, and they love water and sunlight. I planted the seeds in the sunny part of the yard, and these plants have taken off in growth.
The flowers are about 5 inches in diameter, and the plants are about 3 feet. These flowers are quite striking with the many facets of petals. The leaves are about 10 inches long and possess a little bit of a wrinkle. The flowers which have not bloomed do resemble the sun in shape. The flowers that bloomed resemble the sun in color.
These plants are considered dwarf since they will not get much taller than 2 to 3 feet.
In the third picture, there is a small ladybug crawling on one of the spikes of the sunflower. I bought lots of ladybugs from SummerWinds Nursery in Palo Alto to fight the pests eating my plants. My niece works at the nursery. Thank you Tori for showing me around the nursery! It was interesting to release the ladybugs in the garden and watch them enjoy my different flowers and plants.
Once upon a time, I took a career aptitude test to find out what career I would be interested in. One of the careers I scored high in was a farmer!
I never thought much about these tests. But actually, the results are accurate.
As I have been researching what kind of plants, flowers and trees to grow in our garden, I discovered how much I enjoy maintaining and creating my garden.
My hope is to create my environment to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to photograph.
It is never too late to explore and discover new interests and abilities.
The bees are enjoying the different flowers in my garden, and I hope to video and shoot photos of the bees moving around the flowers. A hummingbird is coming around, and is slowly getting to know me.
This garden has been a blessing to retreat to during this pandemic. We do not go out much other than to buy food. So we are mostly sheltering in place.
When the stress of our world’s pandemic and racial strife seem overwhelming, I now can retreat to my garden and focus on God’s creation to get a better perspective.
My hope is to capture the beauty of these flowers and creatures and maybe assist others to get a better perspective about life.