Kickstarter! Park Sweet Treats Enamel Pins

DISNEYLAND! DELICIOUS TREATS! ENAMEL PINS! These are a few of my favorite things! 🎵

My good pal (and phenomenal Dungeon Master) Nikki Ward has taken all of these wonderful things and wrapped them into a fun Kickstarter project! Nikki ADORES Disneyland and visits more than most people I know (she and her husband even got married there). While I have yet to visit, I can’t help but me enamored by these adorable characters she’s created based on her favorite Park treats.

Nikki is a professional illustrator located here in Austin, TX and draws some of the most adorable fanart I’ve ever seen. She travels a lot for shows that she exhibits at and her style is all her own. While she’s known for her Disney work, she also does fanart of Overwatch, Critical Role, and much more – you can find prints and other products on her Society6 page. Nikki is also the founder of Geek Fire Labs where she makes bath and body products that SMELL AMAZING. From where I’m currently sitting, I can see three of her products in my bedroom: a kodama forest wax melt, my Droid Please lip balm, and my favorite Cthulhu perfume. Seriously, her stuff is so great.

As you can see, Nikki is a very skilled and experienced artist and maker. She’s made enamel pins before (I have her gorgeous Sailor Moon magical girl pin) but this is the first time she’s using Kickstarter as a platform for them. I’d love to see these Disney treat pins become a reality because they’re not only a personal passion of hers, they’re also just dang cute.

So please head over and pledge to the Park Treat Sweeties Hard Enamel Pins project.

My Third Annual PAX South Trip!

I went to PAX South both in 2016 and in 2017. And this year was no different from those past experiences: it was wonderful!

Just like last year, the Enforcers were incredibly wonderful and helpful and went out of their way to look out for me and get me where I needed to be at any given time. Even if we were late to something (because sometimes it’s a struggle to get through crowds when you’re in a wheelchair), we were taken care of and I’m so so very thankful to every single person who helped us. This year I even got to meet and give a big hug to Kristin Lindsay, head of the Enforcers and now a good friend. She’s wonderful and her Enforcers are wonderful – they make PAX what it is.

Unlike last year, we were only able to go one day instead of the usual three day weekend. My health has gotten a little worst than what it was a year ago so one day is all I can do now for an event like this. Thankfully, our good friends Claire and Pete let us crash in their hotel room the night before so we drove down Friday night and then got to spend all of Saturday at the con. We have very good friends.

Onto some pictures of our fun time!

Furry Husband and I in our usual selfie pose.

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Samhain Blessings! The Wheel Keeps Turning.

Today I turn my thoughts to those who came before me and made the footsteps I follow in. I am grateful to my ancestors for the work they did to provide me with lessons that guide my moral compass on the path I now walk. Today the veil is thin between our worlds and I feel them closer than ever.

As the Sun God and Mother Earth fall asleep and the Dark Ones bring forth the longer nights, I am thankful for the things in my life that keep me moving forward, especially my friends. A new year approaches with new excitement, new obstacles, and new opportunities. Everything changes and this time of the year is a good reminder that nothing stays the same forever.

“To my ancestors
Who mark the path before me,
My breath is your breath.
My bones are your bones.
We are all relations.
I drink water for you.
I take in food for you.

Together we share the fire within.
Together we stand in the light.
The bright stars are what we are from
And the Dark of night is where we return.

Tonight I honor my ancestors
And celebrate the gift of remembrance.
Your blood runs in my veins,
Your spirit is in my heart,
Your memories are in my soul.
May your blessing be upon me.”

My soul speaks with the ones who have passed but my heart beats for the living who surround me. I spent last night with good friends to reflect with, good food to feast on, and the magic of bright fires in all of us. We had a Samhain fire before it rained and gave offerings to the flames, ate marshmallows, and feasted on good cold-weather food while playing a special Halloween DnD one-shot game (I was a werewolf barbarian who had a thing for black cats).

Blessed Samhain, my friends, and have a safe and happy Halloween! 🎃

The Natural World: Interview with Lee Jaszlics

Lee JaszlicsWhen I was 14 years old, my family got our first computer and the internet. As a very antisocial kid who lived in the country away outside of any town limits, the internet caused my social life to bloom. More than 15 years later, some of those people I met in the beginning days of my online life are still with me. Including my best friend Lee Jaszlics, who has been stuck with me since that first giant desktop Dell computer. We met on an art forum – they were in Colorado and I was in Wisconsin – and we’ve been in each other’s lives ever since. We even ended up going to the same college for a short time, living in the same city, and they stood up for me at my wedding. That’s an internet friendship that’ll go down in the history books.

Over the years, Lee has grown more amazing and more talented than ever and I’m so proud to show off their incredible photography for everyone. If you follow me on twitter than you’ve probably seen me promote their photography a lot. It’s for a good reason. Lee is a constant source of inspiration to me which is why I asked them to do this interview with me.

So without further ado, I’ll let Lee do the talking.

01. Boring intro question! Tell us about yourself and how you got into photography in the first place?

I got into photography purely as an accident – I actually bought my first camera to collect research data as an undergraduate, and after I’d finished digitizing several hundred photos of crocodile skulls, I decided to keep the camera, and started shooting on class field trips and around my campus, and I discovered that I loved it.

My first attempts were very, very bad, of course, but I was able to connect with the insect photography community quite early on. I attended the very first BugShot workshop, and that really opened my eyes to a lot of the tools of the trade: how to work with light, think about composition, and even how to put yourself into the right mental frame to take photos of wild creatures.

I’ve sort-of been slinking away from macro and insects over the last few years, but the frame of mind that I took from that – thinking about environment, and light, and how to showcase things from unique and perspectives, has stayed with me through the years.

02. You take pictures of a lot of subjects – spiders, reptiles, birds, landscapes, etc. What are you favorite things to photograph, and, probably related, what are the hardest things to photograph?

I don’t know that I necessarily have a favorite species to photograph, but I do like to focus on capturing personality and mood. Jumping spiders are great subjects; they love to cock their heads and admire their reflections in my lens. I’m also very fond of shorebirds, who are often shy and reserved, so getting a good photo is always a challenge. And I love snakes and monitor lizards – it’s probably the forked tongue.

I actually find that the hardest things for me to photograph are landscapes. I have very strong emotional reactions to places, but, for me, at least, a lot of that is tied up in unphotographable things – temperatures, smells and textures (I have a horrible habit of touching every plant I pass) – and communicating those feelings through color and light is quite challenging for me. I also find landscape compositions much trickier than compositions that are centered on animals.

03. What do your photographic process look like, from start to finish?

I’ll usually start by location scouting. Sometimes I have a good idea of a particular species that I want to capture so I’ll try to find places where it’s been seen. eBird is a really good tool for this. For things that aren’t birds, I usually go through geotagged photos or talk to people who might have some ideas. If I’m not after a particular animal, I’ll aim for parks and wilderness areas, and try to get an idea of what they look like and what the local biodiversity is like so that I know how to prepare for the things I’m likely to find.

Once I have a good area in mind, I’ll usually hit it relatively early. Morning light is good for landscapes and birds, and as the day heats up, I’ll switch over to insects and invertebrates. I do occasionally photograph in the evening or at night, but only if I’m specifically looking for reptiles or want to take sunset photos. But I usually find that working in the morning lets me stretch out my day and get wrapped up in what I’m doing without worrying about running out of daylight, which is nice. I’ll usually have some ideas of the shots I want, so I’ll try to get those done, and while I’m working, I’ll take a lot of photos of things that strike me while I’m working. I hike at a snail’s pace, because I tend to stop every three feet to take a photo. Most of these never see the light of day, but they get me into the right frame of mind to appreciate and focus on everything around me.

After I’m done, I process my photos. Almost everything is done in Adobe Lightroom, but I will break out Photoshop for things that are particularly knotty. While I’ve worked hard to be able to take a good photo straight out of the camera, I think that the ability to process photos well is very important, and just another tool for photographers. I’m not aiming to show you what my camera sensor saw, but to capture the feeling of a place or an organism and what it was like for me in that moment. (At the same time, I do think it’s important for me to disclose when I’ve done anything really egregious in my photo process, like compositing images or photographs of captive animals instead of wild ones.)

04. If you could photograph anything or anyone from history that’s not around anymore, what/who would it be?

New Zealand pre-human colonization, definitely. I love New Zealand, and it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, but I think it’d be even better with moas and giant eagles. I mean, everything’s better with giant eagles, right?

05. You travel A LOT – where is your favorite place to take photos and what is your favorite photography memory?

Well, if I have the choice to go anywhere in the world, I’ll always go to Australia. Far North Queensland is probably my favorite region of the country – but ask me again if I ever have the chance to visit Western Australia – the bird life in the rainforest there is incredible, and there are these wonderful giant stick insects that smell like peppermint when you pick them up!

My favorite photographic memory is from there, actually – I was on the road to Cape Trib from Port Douglas when I saw a young cassowary crossing the road. Obviously, I had to pull out and get a photo, and while I was doing this, the young bird got curious, watching me, and coming closer to investigate. I don’t know if you know anything about cassowaries, but they’re huge and they’ve got this massive, dinosaurian claw on one toe! I was a little nervous, especially because cassowaries are raised by their dads, and I though this one might be young enough to still have a full grown, overly protective parent nearby. So, there I was, pressed up against my rental car, trying to give this bird the space and respect he deserved, and trying to get pictures at the same time!

I got the photo, and wasn’t disemboweled by an angry cassowary, so it was a pretty good day.

06. You are, by trade, a digital photographer. What are your thoughts on traditional film photography?

Well, for what I do, let me just say that I am so, so glad that the digital camera exists! I take a lot of shots, especially when I’m trying to catch an insect that’s scuttling around, or a bird in flight, and if I had to pay for film, I’d be really, really broke. I don’t actually understand how people took wildlife photos before the advent of digital cameras, but I admire them immensely – clearly they were far more patient people than me. Plus, the immediate feedback of digital is really nice – taking a photo and then immediately being able to check to make sue your exposure is good and your composition looks nice is hugely helpful.

But film photography is an important art form, and the skillset that goes into it is vast and impressive, and there are a lot of things to recommend film as a medium – you can often get better noise performance and better colors! Plus you have a full-frame sensor for relatively cheap! Sometimes, I’m a little jealous. At the end of the day, as long as you get the photos that you want, the tool that you used is unimportant. (But knowing how to use the tools that you have? That’s critical.)

07. AND FINALLY! You take tons of SUPER colorful photos – but what’s your FAVORITE color and does it photograph well?

I love oranges and greens, and they’re both awful colors to photograph. Oranges tend to the gaudy and artificial, while greens tend to turn weird and yellowy. I fight a constant battle with my camera calibration and color balance. One of these days, I might even win.

You can find Lee & their photography elsewhere on the web:
SnakePhotographer.com
SmugMug Print Shop
Timelapse Gallery
Flickr Gallery
Twitter

PAX South Tickets are on Sale!

PAX South tickets are on sale and I realized I haven’t written about my last experience. So here’s my belated thoughts on my second annual January San Antonio vacation.

I was at PAX South for the first time in 2016. This last January, Jake and I returned. PAX South 2017 was everything I needed it to be and I’m so thankful I didn’t chicken out and not go. I was so nervous because not only was it my first vacation/outing out of the city in a year (I’ve been dealing with a lot of medical issues), it was my first outing in a wheelchair. Like I had mentioned in an earlier post, I can’t walk well anymore and I use a wheelchair to get around. I was nervous because I had no idea how accessible everything at the conference center would be, I didn’t know I’d handle the inability to be in control of my own motion (I don’t have a lot of strength in my arms either so Jake pushed me everywhere), and I was worried about how friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile would react to seeing me immobile.

Thankfully my worries were for nothing; the actual trip was above and beyond my highest expectations. The two main reasons for that were: the incredible PAX enforcers who helped me get my medical badge and made sure EVERYTHING was accessible to me; and my beautiful amazing welcoming wonderful friends who greeted me with open flying tackle hugs. It was a long and exhausting weekend and I paid for it in the following week (I slept a lot), but it was worth it. So worth it. Which is why we are going back for Pax South 2018!! To get myself even more excited about 2018, check out my PAX 2017 photos (and friends) from earlier this year:

My handsome husband & I

PAX SOUTH!

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