The Perfect Setup for Photographing Layouts

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This story begins with me sitting in a boring meeting at work. Not that we ever have exciting meetings at work, but this one was particularly bad because a) it went about three times as long as it should have and b) it was on my birthday.

Somewhere in the middle of the meeting I received an email from Darren (during such meetings my iPhone is often the only thing that keeps me from falling asleep) saying that he had a Bogen copy stand and wondering if I wanted it. I emailed him back and asked what the heck a copy stand was. I'm intrigued (as he knew I would be) by anything made by Bogen (I have one of their Manfrotto tripods and love it, and the Rotatrim paper cutter I'm eying is also a Bogen product).

It turns out that a copy stand is one of these:


As an aside, Darren purchased this particular copy stand at a surplus auction several years ago, and it's been sitting in our garage all this time. Once upon a long time ago (when we were both in college), he sort of accidentally started his own business selling used technical and test equipment (that in and of itself is a whole other story), and this was one of the pieces he still had left after closing the business down. And he'd paid a jaw-dropping $12 for it, including the light arms. I only had to add $10 worth of new light bulbs.

The camera mounts on the rear arm in much the same way that it mounts to a tripod, except instead of pointing out, the lens points straight down. And I mean straight down, perfectly perpendicular to the table. As soon as he explained to me what one was, I knew it was the perfect setup for photographing scrapbook pages (it's made specifically for photographing documents).

I've always struggled with taking decent pictures of my layouts to share here on the blog, but this setup is soooo easy. After a little trial and error, we were able to determine how the layout needed to be positioned to be perfectly straight in the photograph (it makes cropping much easier), and Darren marked off the table surface with electrical tape. Now all I have to do is turn on the lights and camera, line up the scrapbook page, grab the remote shutter release (it's one of the cable draped over the light arm in the photo above) and snap the picture. The other cable is the USB cable for transferring photos to my laptop.


Isn't it a sweet setup? And the lighting is perfect. The two arms each hold two bulbs (I use 100W equivalent CFs in the daylight spectrum) at an angle to the paper so there's no glare and no shadows.

I had to do a little creative rearranging to fit the new baby into the scrap room (the base is 20x27 inches, so it takes up some space), and I literally spent hours Saturday playing furniture Tetris in my head while painting and several more hours on Sunday while cleaning until I finally hit upon the two things that helped me fit it in. First, I moved the bookcase that used to stand next to the Expedit behind the door of my scrap room, where it fits perfectly (you can see where the bookcase used to live in this post). Second. I pulled the table that the copy stand sits on into my scrap room from the dining room. This is actually the table that used to sit in the entry way of our old house, and since we moved to the new/old house it hasn't really had a good home...until it came to live in my scrap room. :)


I'm surprised, but having the table next to the bed instead of the taller bookcase has actually made the room feel more open, as well as adding more storage space (this table has tons of cabinet space). I finished it up with some knobs from Anthropologie that match the ones I used on my dresser re-do last fall.

So, that's the extraordinarily long story of my new layout photography setup. Oh, and it's great for photographing my scrappy purchases, as well. :) Next week I'll try to write up a post or two on how I prep photos for posting once I've copied them off of the camera.

Got Sketch 105, Continued

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I've finally finished all the pages for Got Sketch 105- I think this is the fastest I've ever completed a set of layouts for one of Valerie's classes, and probably also the first time I've actually used all the sketches!

If you missed my first set of pages and want to check them out, they're posted here.

I really enjoyed working through some older photos and older page kits. It was a challenge to use photos that I'd already printed in 4x6, but I was able to crop and mix the photos into some pages that I'm actually pretty happy with.

The two pages above were from a trip to Pearlington, MS in October of 2006. It was only my second trip there- I think I ended up going 10 or 11 times!

And this page uses photos from one of Darren's mission trips to Tanzania (he's been there twice) in 2005. I actually hadn't kitted these photos and just happened to find them while flipping through some of my old prints. They worked out perfectly for this page!

This is another set of photos I'd printed and forgotten about (actually, these were taken on film with my Nikon N80, long before I had a digital SLR). They were taken when Darren bought his first tractor shortly after we bought the property that we own in Tennessee. My Dad helped him load it up. So many memories here- we don't have that tractor, trailer, or that truck any more!!

This week I'm working on Shimelle's Something from Almost Nothing class. I seem to always be running behind with these things. :)

My Project 365 Is Now Project 12!

Monday, March 29, 2010

About two weeks ago I finally admitted to myself that Project 365 is not happening for me this year. I love my album from last year and am so glad that I did it, but I'm just not feeling it this year. I even tried to dabble in digital scrapping a bit, thinking that would help spur me on in completing the album, but that didn't help, either (sorry, Jen- no dark side for me!). In the end I just couldn't find a layout that I liked, and I didn't want to just make the same type of album that I made last year. Plus, it was going to cost $70-$100 to have my digital book printed at the end of the year...and, dude, I can buy a lot of paper with $100!

It probably didn't help that at the beginning of the year I was completing my Journal Your Christmas album, I'm eyeballs deep in two online classes (and so far behind in one of them), and there's a daily card project that I wanted to start at the beginning of the year, but I was too busy and instead started on my birthday. Lots going on, right? Oh, and I want to participate in Ali's Week in the Life project in mid-April when she hosts it.

While I'm giving up on P365 for the year, though, I'm not giving up on some sort of yearly documentation project. That's where Project 12 comes in. It's a year-long documentation project hosted on the Scrapbook And Cards Today blog (the same people who bring you a fabulous free downloadable magazine every quarter), and each month they provide a sketch (by the fantabulous Becky Fleck) to use in documenting your month.

They've already posted the sketches for January, February, and March:




Aren't they totally awesome? I've already taken tons of photos so far this year (just not one every day), and am still committed to photographing more of the "little" and "everyday" things that happen. Having the backlog of photos that I'd intended to use for P365 means that choosing photos for P12 should be a breeze, and now I can quit beating myself up for not taking a photo of something every single day.

I'll be posting layouts here as I complete them...hopefully I'll get through January, February, and March in the next few weeks (once I dig myself out of my online classes...which I'm actually thoroughly enjoying). I think that between P12 and Ali's Week in the Life project next month (plus I plan to do Journal Your Christmas again this year...oh, and lots of regular scrapbook pages, too) I should have 2010's documentation well in hand. :)

Friday Favorites - It's Almost Easter!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I know, I know, no new post yesterday, right? Honestly, the week just caught up with me. I mentioned the other day that I had to take a sick kitty to the vet...what I didn't mention was that I found out the day before my birthday that he has an untreatable lymphoma. I've had Stormy for almost 8 years, and now I'm only going to have him for a few more months. :( And on top of that he's making messes around the living room (luckily we are able to keep him away from most of the rest of the house) and I'm spending a lot of extra time cleaning them up.

But, I'm off work today and spending some time with the kitty and getting caught up on house work, so I wanted to post a new round of Friday Favorites. There's some really great stuff this week!

From left to right:
  • The latest issue of Scrapbook and Cards Today magazine was released today. I love this magazine, and as an added bonus it's free, and you can download it in PDF!
  • Lisa Pace shows a great way to make your own custom colored flowers using inexpensive silk blooms and copic markers (and glitter, of course!).
  • A tutorial for these cute paper Easter mini-baskets can be found over on Urban Comfort.
  • It's finally happened- Pioneer Woman has released her awesome Photoshop actions for Photoshop Elements!! I don't have the full version of Photoshop, so I'm really excited to get my hands on these.
  • Amy Atlas shares a tutorial for making these darling Easter egg ornaments using balloons, yarn, and glue. I think I remember making these when I was in elementary school- it sounds like a fun project to try again!
  • Ella Publishing released their new eBook this week, and it's completely free!! The Super Sampler contains a project from each of their previously released eBooks (I love their books!).
  • Studio Calico posted a tutorial on using punched circles to make frames for photos on your layouts.
  • Pink Paislee posted a tour of Roree Rumph's scrap room. I love the Expedits!
  • You can download a template to make these cute standing bunnies from The Cheeky Magpie. Aren't the bright colors in these guys just too much fun!
Okay, I'm off to wash the sofa and ottoman slipcovers for the second time this week...good thing Pottery Barn makes quality stuff, eh?

Got Sketch 105

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I've written before about how much I enjoy Valerie Salmon's Got Sketch blog and her online Got Sketch classes. I've taken all of them that she's offered so far, but when Got Sketch 105 was announced I was sure I was too busy to keep up with it "live" and decided to wait until it was offered as a download (when it's also usually a few dollars cheaper).

Pink Paislee had other ideas. :) They gave away two passes to the class on their Facebook page, and without really thinking I entered (I mean, come on, I never win those things anyway). Imagine my surprise when I looked down at my iPhone a few days later (after getting back from the vet with a sick kitty) and saw that I had won one of the spots!! So I guess I was meant to be in the class after all.

I surprised myself and for the most part kept up with it all! I still have one layout left to finish, but all the photos are cropped and supplies picked, I just need to sit down and do it.

The layout above is from my brother's wedding. I've been scrapping these photos for a while now, and I think that I've actually finished what I'm going to scrap of them with this layout!

I decided to focus on working through some old photos and page kits that I've had printed and ready for a while. These are all from when I used to just print stacks of 4x6 photos, or go back even before that to my ::gasp:: film days!

This 2-page layout is from a trip to Florida I took I *think* in 2001, judging by the models of the cameras (film, anyone?) that we're using in the photos. That's one of the great things about digital- the date is embedded in your photo so there's no question when it was taken! I'd had all these photos printed in 3.5 x 5 (remember that size?), so when I saw that the sketch called for rows of 3.5 inch photos, I knew it was a perfect match.

I finished up my 2003 Caribbean cruise album with this layout (hmmmm, sensing a theme here and loving it!). These snorkeling photos were taken with disposable waterproof film cameras and didn't turn out very well, but when I photographed the layout and post-processed it in Photoshop, the software corrected the bad exposures in the photos, too! How cool is that?!?!? (It did the same thing for my Florida photos).

I didn't finish my Colorado pictures, but got one page closer with this layout. :) I don't think I'll ever be done with Colorado photos- I took so many there!!

There were a total of 8 sketches in the class, so I'll come back and post the remaining four pages after I've finished the last one. Oh, and I'm taking Shimelle's newest class (thought I'm terribly behind and haven't even started it yet) and am really enjoying reading through the prompts as they come in. More on that later, too!

My Most Used Scrapbooking Tools

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I thought it might be fun to detail the contents of this little tool tote that sits on the floor right next to my desk.

I put this tote together when I was living in a studio apartment in Colorado Springs as a way to have my must-have scrapbooking tools together in one place and still easily moved around. When I arrived back home after that work assignment, the tote stayed together and is now my staple for scrapping both at home and on the go. I can just pick up this tote and a box of page kits and be ready to go! Oh, and the tote came from Target- it was $16 when I bought it, though I don't think they carry it any more.

First up are my cutting tools. I have dreams of replacing my trusty Cutterpede with a Rotatrim 18-Inch Cutter one of these days, but the Rotatrim is definitely NOT portable, nor will it fit in my tote. I bought the massive set of craft knives at Harbor Freight for $3.99 during a sale- if you keep an eye out, they put them on sale quite often. I'm also quite fond of both my Cutter Bee and Honey Bee (Teflon coated) scissors. They have such tiny, precise little points!

And how in the world could I possibly get anything scrapbooked without adhesives?!?!? I wrote at length about my favorite adhesives in a post earlier this month, so I won't cover that ground again. The Tape 'n Roller plus was my favorite for mini albums before the refills were discontinued- I actually won the dispenser in a door prize drawing at an LSS in Colorado! And I can hardly bring myself to use foam dots now that I've discovered Glue Dots pop-up dots, but I'll keep these in the tote until I've used them up. I have no idea why I'm still carrying the Xyron 150 around- I never use it!

Some miscellaneous punching and shaping tools...the big set of craft files was another cheap score ($3, I think) from Harbor Freight. And of course I love my Crop-A-Dile and Corner Chomper. I have a little EK Success Corner Rounder, as well. The hammer is for setting the occasional eyelet that the Crop-A-Dile can't reach, and the wire cutters are in there just because they were my great-grandmother's and I love them. :)

An assortment of measuring tools including rulers (of the straight, flexible, and tearing variety), french curves, and various items that used to be instruments of torture back in my high-school geometry days. I hate math. Funny, since I have a minor in it.

I carry only a few pens in black, brown, blue, and white (Signo Uniball, anyone?) and two Krylon leafing pens (in gold and silver) for adding shiny edges. The brushes are for sweeping away stray bits of glitter and embossing powder, and the date stamps have become staples for many of my projects (one of them is current and one is for the last decade or so, since I'm still scrapping those photos). A Making Memories Bone Folder and a Basic Grey Rub-On Roller (if you don't have one of these, RUN and get one!) round out this set.

I apologize for the wonky colors in the previous picture- I was losing daylight fast and hate using a flash!

Just for fun, here's what the pile of tools looks like when it's outside the tote. It's hard to believe that it all fit back in there!

More Goodies from Big Lots and Tuesday Morning

Monday, March 22, 2010

Site Note: I got really tired of Blogger's comment system and not being able to respond to comments via email, so I've installed a Disqus comment system. All the old comments are still Blogger, but for new posts they will go through Disqus. You can use a variety of ID's to sign in, including I believe the same Google login you would have used for Blogger.

I found a few goodies at Big Lots and Tuesday morning last week and thought I'd share them know, since I went to the trouble of taking pictures of them and all. :)

First up is this really cool (and HUGE) Cosmo Cricket kit from Tuesday morning. I'd seen the Coral and Dusty Blue versions of these about a month ago, but neither of them really interested me. Then Erika (the little enabler) just had to go and post on her blog that there was a Christmas version, too. The selection at my Tuesday Morning store has been a bit thin lately, but I was able to find one of them!

It came in this big box...

and was stuffed full of all kinds of goodies. There are two 8x8 mini albums in a slip case, tons of ribbons, brads, and embellishments, chipboard albums, stickers, and those two things in the back that look like sheets of paper? They're actually shrink wrapped blocks of paper and embellishments, each nearly an inch thick! and the price? $14.99. Yeah, I can handle that. :)

Big Lots had a surprising amount of new stuff after a long dry spell (I think my expectations were raised quite a bit by the mass of $2 Thickers they had last year).

They had lots of Heidi Grace chipboard alphas. The blue/brown set on the right is my favorite.

I think I may have let out a little sqeeee of excitement right there in the middle of the aisle when I found these black glitter Halloween Thickers.

And these little felt shapes were just too cute- love the dragonflies, and the $1.50 price is just right.

They had tons of Martha Stewart seals for $1.00 a pack, so I picked up a few of those, as well.

So, there you have it- my latest bargains. :) Have you guys found any great deals lately that you'd like to share?

Anatomy of a Weekend

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I wish I could start this post by saying this was an atypical weekend, but in reality it just isn't. We're always going somewhere, doing something, working on projects (having a house on the market, living in another house, and renting out a third will do that to you), and just generally busy.

Take two weekends ago, for example. My living room had looked like this for about a week because we were moving out of our storage unit (I detest having a storage unit and am so glad to be done with it!), and it was driving me crazy. See all those boxes? A lot of them were books, and I decided I needed a bookcase.

Oh, and do you like my little ghetto remote and home theater PC keyboard tray? Classy, I know.

I hopped on Craigslist and found a 2x4 IKEA Expedit about an hour and a half away, so I emailed Darren's parents and arranged to borrow their van for a morning. Darren's Mom tagged along with me.

We arrived back at the house after more than three hours of travel time and got the bookshelf unloaded.

But it didn't stop there. Darren was working at our house that we have on the market, so I went to go get groceries and lunch to have ready when he arrived home later in the afternoon. $5 pizzas from Little Caesars are almost a staple at our house.

But that wasn't quite it, either. You see, that particular Saturday was UAH's last home game of the season, and my friend Richard generously gave us his box seat tickets (right on the ice) since he was going out of town. So as soon as Darren got home, we left and spent a good three hours at a hockey game with a couple of my coworkers. And don't even ask about the crazy was nuts.


After the game (when I was all hoarse from screaming...we tied, BTW), I went to the gym and ran for about half an hour. And then I came home and did this.


Ahhhhh, little bits of organization starting to creep into the room. And isn't that turtle lamp cute? My Dad gave that to me. :)

While unpacking boxes I found these binders, including three brand new American Crafts albums. I hadn't realized that I had so many...ooops!! And I was out of shelf space on my 5x5 Expedit in the scrap room.

So I selected some more magazines (mostly special issues) to scan in so I could make room for the found albums. I'm finding that unless it's in PDF on my MacBook, I'm really not using it, so scanning them is for the best.

I also had a little mishap when I tried to extract an issue of Cards magazine from the middle of the stack on my Expedit. The whole stack came crashing down and bent my thumbnail backwards. I've resisted cutting those apart and scanning them in, but now I'm wondering if I need to do so for my own safety! That, and I've really enjoyed my digital subscription since I switched over. And I'm not really using the issues that are on the yeah, it's probably time.

By Sunday evening (I took this pic Monday morning when I had good light), the room looked like this, and I could breathe again. There are still boxes left to unpack (even fewer now since I've been chipping away at them the last couple of weeks), but they're contained behind the weird bar/planter thingy (I really don't know what they were thinking when they put that thing in, but I'm so getting rid of it as soon as I have time to do the floors) and mostly out of sight.


And I was a very, very tired Melissa on Sunday night, but so happy to be making lots of progress!

Epic Movie Scores

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wait, whaaaaaat? This blog is usually about scrapping, right? And when it's not about scrapping it's usually about Star Wars or photography. But sometimes it's just about my ramblings, and this is definitely one of those posts!

You see, I've been stuck on this song lately- Requiem For A Tower.

I get that way a lot- I get stuck on one song and play it over and over for days, it's just that mostly it happens with Lifehouse. And Requiem isn't even a song from a movie- it's from a movie trailer! You see, there's this movie called Requiem for a Dream (which I've never seen) that has a very haunting score by Clint Mansell- definitely not "epic," but very pretty. A production house took part of that score, amped it up, added lots of bass and chorals and percussion, and Requiem for a Tower was born. The thing is, it was produced just for the trailer of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and wasn't released to the public until some time last summer. Before that I had to satisfy myself with hearing bits and pieces of it at hockey games (no seriously, Darren and I would quit talking and just listen when they started playing it!).

My love of epic (sweeping, patriotic, music that MOVES) movie scores dates back to when I was 16 (maybe before, but this is the first I clearly remember) and bought the score to Independence Day (you remember that movie, right?). I listened to this thing over and over and over again, especially the End Titles. And I may or may not have been able to recite all of the president's speech... ::blush::

This brings me to the main rule of epic scores- they generally come from epic movies. When I was a teenager that also meant that at some point Todd Eldredge would probably use the music in one of his figure skating programs (I nearly fell off the couch when he started skating to ID4).

Since then there have been a lot of good scores. The movie King Arthur definitely has an epic score- especially the track Budget Meeting.

I simply cannot list my favorite epic movie scores without mentioning Transformers. I really, really expected to hate this movie, but Darren convinced me to watch it by emailing me snippets from the score while I was working a 6 month TDY in Colorado Springs. I heard the music and I was totally hooked. I now refer to it as my "audio crack" and put it on my iPod at work when I need to write code with some serious speed. Oh, and the movie is pretty good, too. :)

The score to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is also quite good, though not as cohesive as the first score. I think that's because they recycled a lot of the themes from the first movie into the second, so Revenge of the Fallen's score bounces from battle scene to battle scene (kind of like the movie itself, actually) without the little bits in between to tie it all together. Still, it's a great listen. Steve Jablonsky is an awesome talent.

And of course I need to mention the The Lord of the Rings. Especially The Two Towers, which gave me my current Requiem addiction. I have all of these scores and like them, but I don't listen to them as often as the others. To me they "almost" reach epic proportions, but they have a lot of soft spots that make them a little sleepy in places. Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely beautiful music, it just doesn't quite live up to being epic in my opinion. :)

I can't mention epic scores without mentioning Star Wars. As much as it pains me to show a picture of Jar-Jar on this blog, the score to Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is probably my favorite of the six movies. These scores fall just short of epic for many of the same reasons as The Lord of the Rings scores do, but they're still a good listen.

Bloody Pirates!!! The score to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ranks right up there for me with Independence Day and Transformers. My favorite track is the end credit roll- He's A Pirate. I wouldn't even bother with the scores from the other two movies, though- I've listened to the second one, and it's a total snooze-fest.

And, finally, click here to see how a good score can make anything epic. Go ahead...and I dare you to watch for a minute and not start giggling hysterically like I did. :)
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