FO2013 :: Aztec Tank (McCall’s 6751)


So I decided to make this easy tank on the spur of the moment.  I was going to meet up with some of my sewing pals for our biweekly S.O.S (Sewing On Saturday/Sunday) gathering and I didn’t want to try to decipher Burda instructions from my cape while chit chatting, eating, drinking wine,  and oh yeah… sewing.  So about an 1.5 hours before our rendezvous time I decided to make this two piece tank top as my S.O.S. project.

The funny part is that this easy peasy top grew legs! First, I couldn’t decide on the size so I did a quick pin fitting which made me add 5/8″ to the length.  Next I picked my fabrics which was a rayon challis (love me some challis) and a chiffon remnant, both of which come from the $2.50 per lb at Michael Levine’s.  I haven’t worked with woven fabric in a long time and never with chiffon.  I took a little too much time deciding on the pattern placement and then discovered I also didn’t have the color thread nor any matching bias tape.

Peacockchic - Mccalls 6751

So with about 30 minutes to go I set about measuring and cutting the requisite bias tape using a method I saw on Pinterest for making bias tape using masking tape as a guide and googling how to piece the pieces together so as to save on fabric.

Photo Aug 11, 8 34 10 PM

Since I didn’t want to bring my serger along that meant french seams which I also have not done in years and had to do a quick recap using my singer sewing guide.  One quick stop at JoAnn’s along the way and I was finally set to sew.

Once I got started it was of course easy as can be but I just find it hilarious that this two piece, super easy pattern became more and more elaborate as I progressed.

CHANGES FOR NEXT TIME: I would maybe add a bust dart (once again complicating a simple pattern and maybe lengthen the strap area on the front piece by about a 1/4″ because if I just shift the tank back by about that much it doesn’t get caught on my shelf booty.

Peacockchic - Mccalls 6751

Pattern Description: MISSES’ TOPS: Loose-fitting, pullover tops have back neckline variations, narrow hem, and optional purchased bias tape to finish neckline and armholes. A: pocket. A and B: bias back. C and D: back longer than front. A, C and D: wrong side shows.Pattern Sizing: ZZ(Large-XLarge-XXLarge).  I cut view D in size Large
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Similar, except I used two different fabricsWere the instructions easy to follow? YesWhat did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Not really

Fabric Used: Rayon Challis and Poly Chiffon

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I used two different fabrics – Rayon Challis for the front and a chiffon for the back.  I also added 5/8″ to the bottom to lengthen the top slightly.  I ended up cut back the armhole by about a 1/4″ and made my own bias tape using the rayon challis

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will probably sew one of the other views but I can highly recommend view D.
Conclusion: Great pattern for the summer

Yup. I still knit

I got a comment from the lovely Veda a few weeks ago asking it I was still knitting. Luckily I had just started a pattern so I could proudly say “YUP!” Had she asked me a few months ago it might have been another story.

So here is some proof that knitting still has a place in my heart.


Nowadays I tend to keep knitting around for when I am blog surfing or watching TV. Lately I have been doing a lot of both so lots of progress is being made. I am loving the luscious cables. So squishy!

But when the weekend comes that is when sewing is king. I made a tank that I will share this weekend and have switched focus from the cape to a pretty dress. I have some serious crafting A.D.D.

It only took 6 years

First off, thank you for all the wonderful compliments on my sewing room! I have been gone so long I was genuinely surprised to see it was still on so many peoples blog roll and now swept away with the annual “I have too many blogs to read” cleanup. 

So after writing my last blog post I went on vacation to Oakland where it was foggy and chilly. It was actually good weather for the Bay but it got my fall sewing juices flowing. Given, when I got back to So Cal I was snapped back to reality as soon as I stepped off the plane but the desire to sew fall attire stuck with me.

Enter Burda 08-2007-111 Trench Cape


I have loved this cape for the past 6 years and it is finally coming to life. The tracing has been slow as I am trying some new techniques. I am doing my pattern alterations using the method I learned at ETAC and referencing Fitting and Pattern Alterations.  I am also shrinking seam allowances using Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry that has a great visual reference for what seam allowances should be.  I highly recommend Sewing Secrets if you are a visual learner.  It makes me excited every time I open the book.  


Since I plan to make a muslin I am less fearful in branching out and hopefully improving my skills.  In fact, that is the reason I have gone back to making muslins.  Well that and the frustration of things not fitting.  This week I will have the pattern traced, the muslin cut, and start the trial sewing. At least that is the plan anyway.



Hello Again…Welcome to My New Happy Place

I have been away for a long time folks.  So long it took me a while to figure out how to navigate WordPress and take decent pictures.  My pseudo modelling skills have gone down the drain so dress form pictures may be the way to go until I get a rhythm going.

I have lots of excuses for being away.  Some have gone away with time and other required some realizations on my part.  One big “Ah ha” moment for me was the realization that I hated my craft room.  I know! Blasphemy! But somewhere along the lines I set up my room and just started to loathe the configuration and ultimately began avoiding it.

So about a month ago I decided to do a craft room makeover to get my fung shui/mojo back (sorry for no before pictures but I was a woman on a mission!).  It’s still not quite “done” but I truly feel like this has become my happy place.

Therefore, without further ado, I welcome you to the Peacockchic Craft Room!


This is the view from the entrance. Makes me happy just looking at it!


First issue: I had one table for both sewing and cutting that was too short.  Remedy: I bought a new sewing table with adjustable height and bought a new, larger folding table to act as my sewing/work table for sit down projects.  I covered it in chevron contact paper to give it some pizzazz!

Second issue: I needed more color and polish to the room.  Remedy: I made a pelmet box using a combination of a Goodwill curtain and the awesome diy tutorials on the internet. I also bought this cool indoor/outdoor rug from Urban Outfitters to break up the open space


Here you can see the view standing near the window.  I still feel the wall above my folding sewing table needs work, but for now I feel it will suffice


Here is my new cutting table.  It looks a lot like the JoAnn’s adjustable cutting table but it is actually one I bought through Nancy’s Notions.  It is more expensive but based on reviews I felt it would be a more sturdy table and the two level of shelves was really nice too.  I keep some of my rulers, my Conair fabric steampress ($15.00 at Goodwill. Score!) and my new table size pressing pad, also made using the numerous diy internet tutorials, underneath. Thanks Internet!

Photo Jul 28, 7 40 42 PM


Here is the alternate view of my setup with the cutting table in the middle and my pressing/cutting station at the ready.  I absolutely love folding furniture and it is even better when it is on wheels!!  Gives each room so much more flexibility!

Photo Jul 28, 7 42 10 PM


I really like my Orange Reliable steam iron.  It was one of Oprah’s favorite things and even though I doubt she does any ironing for herself this iron is pretty darn good

Photo Jul 28, 8 15 02 PM

One of the two bookshelves lined with sewing books and Burda/Patrones/Knipmode/Ottobre magazines and my inspiration board

Photo Jul 28, 8 38 14 PM


In the closet is my fabric stash. It occupies the WHOLE CLOSET safely tucked away in large plastic bins.  I would show you,but then I would have to kill you sew more from the shame and guilt.

Photo Jul 28, 9 04 48 PM


And finally is my collage of details.  My knickknack area, the photo ledge with my Tim Gunn bobblehead, washi tape and pretty thread, my sewing basket with more essentials and my hardware sorting bin with all my sewing feet, inspiration from by board, my other bookshelf full of Burda, my new beautiful Elna (saving that for another post), my photo frame that scrolls through all my fashion inspiration photos from Pinterest, and my beautiful thread rack.

After this fairly extensive craft room makeover I LOVE my space.  LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! It has inspired me to want to be in there everyday.  Lately I have been making muslins so no pretty pictures to share but to me sewing is sewing and I am happy to have a bit of mojo after all these years.

If you are inspired to make some craft room/ creative space changes I would highly recommend these two resources:

Thanks for stopping by! Talk to you soon!



2012 in review

From a blogging standpoint 2012 has been a giant bust but in my “unrecorded life” it was a pretty great year.  It had it’s ups and downs but what year doesn’t.  I am looking forward to 2013 as it has already begun on a great note.

WordPress was kind enough to record my blogging absence but also let me know that my writing has “staying power” and that is truly why I love blogging. This site will stay up forever if I have the choice because I always love looking back at blogs and enjoying all the memories I have shared with different bloggers.  Here’s to 2013!


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 2012, there were 4 new posts (YIKES only 4 😦 ), growing the total archive of this blog to 377 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 10th with 312views. The most popular post that day was Finished Object: Recycled Magazine Butterfly Collage.

Attractions in 2012

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2012. Your writing has staying power!

How did they find you?

The top referring sites in 2012 were:

  2. (interesting…I have not been to this site for a while.  I should go back to see what is going on in craftster land)
  4. (OMG OMG OMG…I wonder what they were reading.  I love apartment therapy! I was probably something random and inconsequential but I will take it!)

Some visitors came searching, mostly for lima bean soupmagazine collage,magazine collage ideaslisa simpson head (hella funny), and amy butler.

Click here to see the complete report.

2012 and New Beginnings

So guess what one of my goals for 2012 is…Yup…Blog more.  LOL!  That one definitely won’t be hard are I have been pretty non existent here in the blogging world.  Most people have moved on to other social networking platforms but I can’t even use that as an excuse since my Flickr account is locked for some reason that Yahoo nor Flickr can resolve and I am anti Facebook and Twitter so all I choose to have is this here blog so let’s make the most of it shall we.

Goals for 2012

I am making some of my goals for 2012 specifically broad.  I find that I tend to get down on myself for not accomplishing certain things and forgetting to acknowledge all the other things I did instead.  So here is goes:

1. Journal/Blog More – By journal I mean either this blog site or my personal one.  I miss telling someone about the mundane accomplishments throughout the year even if it is only my future self.   As far as blogging goes, sadly I only need to blog 8 more times to beat out 2011…LOL.

The Plan

        • blog once a week
        • track my accomplishments weekly
        • buy a new journal for 2012

2. Exercise more – This is a big one for me as I have become even more sedentary that my normal sloth of a self.  I have started a new “alternative” exercise which I enjoy a lot.  I also have Zumba and Yoga at work so between all that I should be able to improve in this area

The Plan

        • Exercise 4 times a week

3. Lose 35 LBS by June and Maintain throughout the year – That is a 1.5 LBS per week goal on average.  That is pretty aggressive in my mind but I might as well shoot for the stars.  June is that date because I have lots of family get togethers and a trip to Spain planned.

The Plan – Exercise 4 times a week

        • Participate in the Biggest Loser contest at my job and win the $200+ dollar cash prize
        • Track my weight each week to measure progress
        • Track my food intake

4. Cook More – Seems counter to goal number 3 but after brushing up on some weight loss reading it always comes back to modified eating to maintain weight loss.  I sometimes forget this when I am scarfing down chips late at night to get my salt fix.  I have done a great job with this so far (i.e. day one) as my freezer is filled with homemade weight watchers or healthy eating recipes.  Yay me!

The Plan

        • Grocery shop on Fridays only
        • Plan the menu for the upcoming week by Friday morning
        • Cook one new meal a week on the weekend.
        • Cook Freezer friendly meals

5. Find More Time – I am single without kids and I still find myself without enough time.  I have equated this lack of time to lack of planning.  Therefore, I plan to try and get a routine started that will help me optimize on my free time per day.

The Plan

        • Work the daily chores list for 1 hour per day
        • Relax on the weekend
        • Cut down on my internet time suck “inspiration” time

6. Craft More – Since work has been taking over my life I have not done much of anything in 2011 hence the lack of blogging.  But I do plan to step it up in 2011.  I don’t have any grandiose plans in this area but I do plan to do more than the one shirt and one skirt I accomplished in 2011.

The Plan

        • Make Pants dammit!!
        • Make 12 items in 2012
        • Take up a photography challenge

7. Finish Decorating my apartment by Spring – Oh yeah in 2011 I moved to the apartment of my dreams!!!  Now I just need to decorate it.

The Plan

        • Find a kitchen table
        • Buy a new bed and headboard
        • Buy new window treatments for bedroom,living room, and dining room
        • Hang art

8. Host a party in my new apartment – Because I need to celebrate number 7 and because I always say I am going to do this.

The Plan

        • Try recipes for the party
        • Just Do it.

9. Work Smarter, not harder in 2012 – I have a lot on my plate for 2012 and it doesn’t look like it is going to ease up anytime soon so I need to figure out how to balance things better and get more done faster.  Easier said than done and I don’t really have a clear plan for this one.

The Plan

        • Figure out how to work an 8 hour day
        • The rest is TBD

10. Improve Myself –  This one is very broad but something I feel I need to do.  One major portion of this is health wise.  My top five goals already address a portion of this but there is so much more to self improvement.

The Plan

        • Make major health appointments for the year by Feb 2012
        • Learn how to handle my emotions better

11. Spend more time with people – I am a loner at heart.  Content to stay inside my house all weekend in dead silence.  However, I also enjoy the company of people and need to spend more time engaging with others as it is mentally healthy if you choose the right people.

The Plan

        • Date…this is self explanatory
        • Spend more quality time with my family, especially my mother and stepdad

12.  Manage my money better – This one is always on the list and will remain for 2012.  I am not horrible at it but I do go through periods of blind spending that need to be reigned in a little bit more.

The Plan

        • Track spending for 2012

PHEW!!! Those are some BIG plans for 2012 but I think I am up to it.  Guess we will know come 2013 🙂


2011 in Review

Well accidental posting is one way to re-enter the blogging world…LOL!

I think fate just got tired of me penning the perfect post or neglecting to actually publish already written posts so it finally intervened and just published something to get me started.  Good plan on Fate’s part.

One of my resolutions for 2012, is to blog more with an intention to blog at least once a week.  Honestly it isn’t a high priority resolution like eating better or exercising so if it is blog versus getting off my rump I hope you will forgive my absence.

Anyhoo,  I thought I would start out my first official blog post with a retrospective on 2011, especially since this is all new to everyone except maybe my bestie who reads this blog too.

January  – Took a photography class for flash.

I can’t say that I have used the studio light setups as much as I wanted to but I do feel better about my flash and bring it along more often.  I have also made some significant additions to my camera equipment catalog that I may share with you later.

Feb/March – Went to Japan and survived the earthquake

Yup, I was there with my bestie and her brother.  I didn’t want to share this at the time as my experience was nothing in comparison to the people who had to live there during and after this disaster but suffice it to say it was an experience of a life time.  My bestie’s brother videoed the entire trip and caught the tail end and aftershocks of the earthquake if you want to see it.  Believe me…laughing is very therapeutic during these moments because I was pretty darn freaked out when this was going on.  I will recount this whole experience in a blog post later as it wasn’t just about the quake but about a great trip.

April – Proms galore

This year has definitely made me feel my age as my niece and nephew graduated high school this year.  I remember when they were babies.  Just saying that means age is catching up to me.

May – Got a ringflash

I have been obsessed with wanted one of these and I ended up getting a RayFlash.  I love the look.

June – Graduations and Births Galore

my niece and my nephew graduated and my great nephew was born

July – Car rolling to 100K miles, Apartment hunting, getting, and losing 

My car was a significant moment because this is my first and only car.  I hope it will be my 200K+ mile car.

My apartment hunting started in July because I was just tired of my cave and couldn’t take it anymore.  After viewing some pretty dismal places I found a GREAT place but it has very small bedrooms and was on a super busy street with a traffic light that made me hesitate.  Well, when I finally made the leap the company had given it away despite the fact that I said I was coming with the deposit.  I was devastated and decided to hold off on my hunt until later in the year.

August – Dropping my niece off at college and the first day of kindergarten

Such significant moments in life.

September –  My bestie came to visit, I received a promotion, and I found my PERFECT apartment

My bestie came in September and I planned a whole weekend of fun.  I am normally not that prepared when people come to visit so I stepped up my game this time and I think I did a pretty damn good job.  We went to the Los Angeles Times Taste Event: Street Eats on the Paramount lot and it was super fun.

The weekend of September 23 was the PERFECT weekend.  On Friday I was officially notified that I received the promotion, and accompanying raise, to SENIOR Project Manager that I asked for.   At the time I breached the subject a few months earlier I was a little disappointed that I had to ask at all.  However, this type of mentality is very similar to the “I WANT you to WANT to wash the dishes”.  This works for NO ONE.  Everyone loses.  This experience has taught me some valuable lessons in not being afraid to ask ASSERTIVELY for what you want, not expecting life to do for you but doing for yourself,  that life truly is not fair so keep yourself on top as much as possible, and don’t hate the playa but learn to play the game the way you want to play it and WIN.

This same weekend I stumble on my PERFECT apartment.  It was pure happenstance that I saw an ad for the place.  It was a rare spurt of energy that got me off my booty to call and make an appointment.  It was a nice treat that the property manager was a girl from my old knitting group and that I determined that to be a good sign.  Finally it was cosmic that this apartment had EVERYTHING on my checklist for the perfect apartment.  I applied for the place the same day.

Don’t get me wrong, it has its quirkiness but I LOVE it so much. I will introduce you all soon.

October  – Moving, Jill visits, and Mom and Papa visit

Moving was a pretty big trial for me as I have a lot to move and hadn’t really started packing early like I had on other moves.  I did hire movers which was both a good and bad thing as I didn’t have to physically move the boxes but the packing and the organizing and the fact that they were slow kinda stressed me out during the moving.  I also bought quite some new furniture.  My new grownup couch is from Macy’s hence the red carpet treatment 🙂

I have the best bestie in the world.  Who FLIES to help someone move?!  Yup, my bestie.  We have both acknowledged that she has a moving addiction and lives vicariously through the moving excitement of others but really….visit to help someone move? Yeah…the best bestie I tell you.

My momma and papa came to visit which made me sooo happy.  They don’t visit often so it is always significant when they come by.  They loved my place except for the stairs…LOL!! It was classic that my mom was the first one to cook in my kitchen.  She brought the card table, chairs, plates, wine and a smorgasbord of food.  She ended up leaving me with 4 nights worth of dinner. I love her so much.

November – Visiting Jill, making waffles for the first time, working from home

This month was pretty stressful because work and moving were starting to converge in the perfect storm of too much to do.

However, in the midst of it all I visited Jill.  Sadly I didn’t take pictures AT ALL during that weekend.  We went to Chez Panisse and I ate downstairs for the first time and we had some great Korean food.  I miss my extended family up there. They are always fun.

Invited my niece over and I made waffles for the first time with my new waffle iron. We made a few different variants but the best was the pumpkin waffle with the addition of white chocolate chips inside.  Yum!  She was surprised that I wanted to make it from scratch.  We were starving by the time we ate because it took us so long to make…LOL.

I also worked from home for the first time because I just could not concentrate at work.  I stationed myself in the dining room with the great sunlight and view. Now I am hooked on the thought of working from home.  Too bad that won’t fly at my job.

December – Christmas Tree Upgrade

Despite the holiday season, this month was pretty uneventful.  Pretty much consisted of me avoiding Christmas shopping like the plague and counting the day until the long vacation of which was job was awesome and gave use the entire week and January 2nd off!!!  I did get a new Christmas tree though.  I was a major upgrade and I love it!

So that is 2011 in review.

More Spanish Love


Spain is one of my favorite places. I love everything about it. So it is no surprise that I fell in love with Tempranillos during a wine tasting with a friend. I love it when I discover new things. I highly recommend this wine it you like fruity, not too sweet, reds.

Enabler Alert – Groupon for Mood Fabrics in Los Angeles

This is a case of pay it forward.

One of my good friends sent me a notification of a GROUPON for Mood Fabrics LA – $15 dollars for $30 worth of fabric.  I bought mine and thought I would pass on the word.  As of this e-mail there are 3 days left to get in on the deal.


  • I do not work for Groupon or anything.  I just love a good deal.
  • This is my first time using Groupon so I know as much as will by reading the offer and disclaimers and FAQ such as “Can’t use until day after purchase, In-store only, Limit 1 per person, Limit 1 per visit,  Not valid with other offers and  Expires Mar 28, 2012
  • I hate sales pitches so please don’t feel obligated but if you want, you can click on the link  ( ) and I will get $10 in Groupon Bucks when someone I invite gets their first Groupon .  Like I said I HATE sales pitches but as my sister says “a closed mouth don’t get fed” (yes, with poor grammar and all) 🙂



There and Back Again – A Hair Journey

What Drove Me To It

So back in October  I took my hair out of braids.  Not a big deal at all as I wear braid quite a bit, but this time I wanted something different.  I had seen some cute styles and wanted to try them out, one of which was two strand twist.  My inspiration was the hair of this gorgeous blogger.  I sent some pictures to my sister who does hair and she said she could do it no problem.  She easily performed the task but not at all to my satisfaction.  See, my sister mainly works with artificial hair – weaves, braids, wigs – but also does pressing and the like.  The problem is none of these styles use natural hair which mine “kinda” was at the time. I use “kinda” because the ends still had the texturizer/mild relaxer in it.  Different hair textures coupled with my sister using beeswax as the setting agent instead of twist gel left me with an icky stick mess that nearly had me in tears.

Days later, after trying to make do with my do, I had to get rid of that style and Wash.My.Hair!!!Leaving me without a hair style or stylist 😦

The Dreaded Journey

Knowing that I was fairly deficient uninterested in doing my own hair in any high maintenance style, my other sister helped to refer me to a local stylist to try my hand again at two stranded twists.  When I got there I saw that he had long cultivated locs that looked GORGEOUS.  I got in his chair, chatted with him about his hair, flipped the script, and told him I wanted to start my own locs.  A head full of comb twists later and I was on my way to my new look.

Started September 2010

Now I knew nothing about dreads except they looked EASY and EASY is what I was looking for.  I even found new inspiration via this lovely woman’s loc styles on Youtube. But then reality set in for me.  I was going to a fairly high priced salon, I had to go every two weeks for washing and styling, styling took about 2.5 hours, he only worked on Saturdays, by week two – not so lovingly known as hat week – the coils had started to frizz and look bad, in addition to the hat week two was pretty much itchy scalp week, my edges were just not taking to the process and neither was my self esteem.  For all these reasons EASY became a chore and in a fit of desperation, and a glass of wine later, I started taking out my starter locs after 4 months.

Let us, us FREE!!!

So with a lightened heart I began untwisting and untangling the locs.  Many of them were surprisingly more loc’d than I had thought.  However, there was no regret in the decision.  As soon as they started coming out I felt much relieved and free as a bird.  Did I know where I was flying to?  Nope.  I just wanted to wash my hair…LOL!  But then I started searching YouTube, my new teacher of all things, and was once again rewarded with inspiration and renewed hope.  So I am now back to fully O’ Natural.

This pic was right after I had finished combing out my hair

for the first time in months 😀

I am NOT my Hair

Or maybe this portion should have been termed “Hate on me Haters”…LOL!!  Because I know that going this natural is going to freak out some folks in my life.  I work and commune a lot in OC so the presence of black people, let alone those sporting large natural hair dos is pretty small.  I also work with a large number of men who never fail to point out the fact that my hair has changed with a quizzical look.  Then I have my family where I was raised on perms and pressing combs who understand that those styles are not for me but still see the world through a very “good hair” point of view.  I showed my mom the picture of my combed out do and she said it looked like that time she was away and my dad got me ready for school picture day.

Please note, my dad did NOT do hair…LOL!! So I was sent to school in a dirty blue turtleneck, crazy crocked and disheveled pony tails, and at the time I was on a pretty aggressive asthma medication that was causing my baby teeth to rot (thank goodness my mom took me off before the adult teeth came in…go mom!!).  My mom would always tell me, “you can smile but don’t show your teeth”.  The funny part is, despite looking pretty jacked up, it is amazing how happy and self assured I looked in that picture.You would have thought I was a super model…LOL!!  That said, you can understand that her comments stung a little, then I thought about that picture and how I felt and then said “Thanks!”

So What Next?

Since reverting back to O’Natural I have been feeling pretty good.  I am learning how to do my own hair via YouTube, which by the way is teaching me how to do makeup too 😀

I have sported my combed out fro, twist outs and faux hawks,  which my coworkers lovingly call my Toad head, lisa simpson hair,  and mr. T hair.

I pity the fool who can’t guess which one is me 😀

I have received compliments on all these styles and they have taken minimal work to achieve.  I also discovered an amazing world of ethnic hair care products at my local Target!

I have NEVER seen this many hair care products in one area of a main stream store but then again I was in Lakewood/Long Beach 😀  I have also never seen or at least not comprehended hair cream for $58.00 a container!

My future plans for my hair are always unknown, which is one of the benefits of a culture not afraid to don a long straight wig right after cutting off all their hair…LOL! But for now I plan to enjoy my “new to me” hair and see how long/big it can get and rocking the puff 🙂

Peace Out!


Learning How To Flash

The Background

One of my 101 in 1001 goals was to take a photography workshop.  Well, actually my goal was to TRAVEL and take a photography workshop but after summing up the cost of taking either a photography travel vacation or a class at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop it was already $3,000+ and for my photographic skill level that was a bit much.  However, I took the plunge last year when the Julia Dean Workshops had a 10% off deal going.

After perusing the options and evaluating return on investment I decided to sign up for the Crash Flash I and Crash Flash II classes which were held this past weekend.  The reason these rose to the top is because I have had my Canon 580EX flash since 2004 and it has barely seen daylight.  This was partially because I thought it heavy and cumbersome but mainly because I had no idea what to do with it outside of stick it on my camera and hope the camera knew what it was doing. I have also been inspired by the amazing strobist works on Flickr but wanted to figure out how to do it with something smaller than studio size lights.  This workshop would not only teach me how to use my preexisting equipment but was also a pretty reasonably priced way of stepping my toe into the photo workshop world without breaking the bank.

The Lead up

So like a student on the first day of school.  I woke up multiple times in the night and WAY too early to make sure I was on time to class.  Both excitement and worry had my adrenaline pumping.  Did I have everything – battery, SD card, flash? should I eat breakfast? Do I have cash for parking? Would I suck at this? Would everyone else be a professional? Would the teacher be a task master?  All of these things kept my teeth on edge.

Needless to say these were all mute points.  I of course arrived on time to find that the classes was nicely sized between 10-15 people I think. The class was also divided between Nikon and Canon to make sure each brand was addressed. The teacher – Julia Dean – was present with two assistance and the class room was amply sized.

Now before we get too far into this, I just want you to know that this post is to share with you my experience as a participant of the class. I don’t plan to reveal any critical tidbits from the class as I believe that would be unfair to the workshop. Think of this as my typical Good, Bad, and Ugly but photography style.

Crash Flash I: On-Camera Flash with Julia Dean

The course outline stated that we would learn the following:

  • discussions on why and how to use a flash as the main source of light (meaning a low-light situation requiring use of a flash)
  • how to use a flash as a fill light (balancing ambient light with the light of a flash unit).
  • how to determine exposure, how to control the light output of a flash, ways to diffuse a flash, and how and why to include or exclude ambient light.

We started by learning our flash, mine was the Canon 58oEX. Some cool things I learned are:

  • That my flash has a wide angle diffuser for use on lens 24mm and above. This is now ingrained into my psyche as I found out the hard way during our day two photo shoot that yes, this is important since I own a 10-22m
  • A starting point for using flash indoors to balance the ambient light.  It is so nice to at least know where to begin and then work from there.  This is what was referred to as the golden rule so I can’t tell you but here are some shots to show you the rule in use.

The Golden Rule

Non Golden Rule options at each extreme

  • Compensation on camera versus on the flash – I just fiddled with the dials in the past to get them to work but now I know that there is a difference and which controls the background and which controls the lighting of the subject.
  • One should use a diffuser to get better light rather than bare flash. I own an Omnibouce which is pretty small and easy to carry
  • Distance from subject based on aperture. This one was hard for me to remember but because I was never super close or super far from subject it was not that big a deal, but I did make myself a cheat sheet for my flash 🙂

Lots more was learned technically speaking but those were some of my major take aways.

Now here are some other picture from the class that show the use and balancing of the fill light.  Please note all these are Straight out of Camera (SOOC in photography geek speak 😀 )

Before and After

Before and After

I have to say I feel like I not only learned a major Houdini trick but now understand the physics principles behind it.

So Cool!


Crash Flash II: Multiple Flash with Julia Dean

So Day Two was a separate second workshop called Crash Flash II.  The class promised:

  • Review information from Crash Flash I: On-Camera Flash, such as using flash as the main source of light and as fill-flash.
  • How to use wireless flash technology
  • How to use multiple flash — with light stands, umbrellas, and gels — in the studio and on location, with both wireless TTL and with radio slaves.
  • A four-hour shoot in the afternoon to put all of the techniques to use with agency-represented models as subjects.
  • At the end of the day, a critique will take place to view students’ work.

Suffice it to say we did touch on all these items but the cool parts were:

  • Using the light stands and umbrellas – I really liked using the umbrellas for light diffusion.  I felt that it cast such a wonderful and natural light on the subject.  Given it is more equipment to lug around, but if you are planning a fashion or portrait shoot I definitely love to have this on hand.  Not too bad in cost either so this will go on my wish list for short term satisfaction 😀

The setup: 580EX into Umbrella on stand to model right

One of the resulting pics from that setup.  The point was to create a 1:1 match with the lighting so she didn’t look flashed but to take away some of the shadows produced by the bushes

  • Learning the wireless flash technology! That was pretty damn cool.  Given most of the wireless options range from $200 to $250 EACH PIECE, most needing at least two pieces to be useful.  Ouch!  But it was really fun and addictive to use. I now whan the new PocketWizard FlexTT5 for canon . Le Sigh
  • Working with the models is what made the day so cool, but it also made it VERY nerve racking for me as I was trying to get my camera setting right, find interesting areas to shoot, direct the model, and try to produce a passable picture so as not to disappoint the subject.  For me it was a little like walking and crewing gum for the first time.  One of these factors always went a little wonky.  The majority of the time it was the picture quality…LOL!  But man it really kept you on your toes and I probably absorbed more in this sink or swim atmosphere than the controlled atmosphere from the day before.

Here are some some pictures from the day.  Click on the pic if you want to see it bigger:

The Female Model:

Without Flash

With Flash

Below are a few of my favorite shots from the female model shoot.  I was going for a fashion shoot type look so I bumped up the flash compensation by +1 to give her a greater punch of light. These were also shot with my 10-22mm hence the slightly stretched look in the second and third photo.  These are all SOOC except for cropping

20mm :: f 8.0 :: 1/200

10mm :: f 8.0 :: 1/200

10mm :: f 8.0 :: 1/200

Here is what it would have looked like without flash using the same exposure

10mm :: f 8.0 :: 1/200

The Male Model:

Our male model was AMAZING, both in looks and character 😀  I really hope he makes it big because it would be deserved.  He really worked hard for the camera and was so nice but sadly my photography and flash skills, both pretty mediocre in comparison to my classmates, were just not coming together. Plus we were working with the setting sun which changes your exposure as time passes.  This was coupled with 3 other student photographers also shooting the model and a time constraint of getting them back at the appointed time led to some frantic picture taking and not much thinking about technique.  But I definitely learned some lessons, the biggest being…


Use your Wide Angle Diffuser when working a lens under 24mm!!

The two pictures below show a very concentrated beam of light.  This is because I did not have my wide angle diffuser down on my flash, but was shooting with the 10mm side of my zoom lens

10mm :: f 8.0 :: 1/125

10mm :: f 4.5 :: 1/80

The ones below were shot with the diffuser down.  You can tell the difference in the dispersion of light in the foreground grass

10mm :: f 4.5 :: 1/80

10mm :: f 6.3 :: 1/80

Conclusion(Yes, finally…as this has been one of my longest posts ever…LOL!)

My overall review of the workshops is that they were everything I hoped to accomplish in the two days.  Julia was amazingly fun, very laid back, and made you really want to learn and have fun.  On our last day she even added an impromptu photo shoot and brought us a bottle of wine to sip on while reviewing the pictures from the day.  The only down side was that until end of January 2011 the studio is still in Venice which made for some expensive parking at $15 dollars a day,$30 total. I hope their Hollywood location will have better, less expensive parking options.  I also wish they had filtered our pics a little better as it took quite a while to review them all.  But all in all a great opportunity.

BTW, sorry if you all were looking for a flash tutorial or “how to” post.  Being I have not used the info outside of a class setting yet I don’t really feel that it would be mine to give.  Instead as I use the techniques and learn more, I will share with you how it goes and we can do some learning together 😀