Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Photographing Macro [repost]

As many of my friends know, I have an addiction to photographing flowers, so when this email came into my inbox last week, I couldn't help but repost it!! It's got some great tips and it reminded me of what to think of when I'm shooting those small beauties.

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Photo Tip #137: Photographing Spring Flowers
Spring Flowers

Greetings Fellow Photographers!

The seasons are changing again! Springtime in North America presents some incredible opportunities for taking photos as the snow melts, flowers bloom, and the weather warms up. Whether you step into your backyard for a little fresh air, or arrange a hike with your friends and family, try to spend some time outside in the coming weeks, and don't forget your camera!

Close Ups
You've probably seen some gorgeous close up photos of flowers and plants. A lot of these photos are taken when the flowers are in full bloom, but you can still capture some amazing close up shots of flowers as they are beginning to sprout and bloom. Consider investing in a macro photography lens for your DSLR camera, or set your camera to Close Up mode. If you want to try something a little more advanced, set your camera to Aperture Priority mode, and play around with different aperture settings. The aperture affects how deep or shallow your depth of field is in the photo. The higher the f-stop number, the deeper your depth of field will be. Experiment and have fun looking at the different results. Close Ups
A close up shot of a gorgeous Spring flower as the primary subject is a lovely shot, but try spicing things up a bit with your angles and perspective. For example, move the flower from the center to the corner of the frame, or shoot only part of the flower rather than the whole thing. Try shooting up or down at the flower, rather than straight on. Changing your angle and perspective can lead to a much more unique and interesting image. Consider using a tripod if you have one, especially for high aperture settings, which result in longer shutter speeds and are more susceptible to blur. Angles


In many cases, your background will be blurry or out of focus in a flower shot, especially in a close up. However, you still need to be mindful of what's behind (and in some cases, in front of) your subject. A blue flower close up will stand out much better against a red or white background, as opposed to a background of similarly-colored blue flowers. Or, and early yellow rose might be more vibrant with a blue sky in the background than the side of your house.

Weather Tips
Even though you've waited all winter for a sunny, warm day, your best shooting times are morning or evening, when the sun is low on the horizon. Overcast days are great for spring photography as well. Also, a windy day may cause blur in your flower photos. It is not necessarily a bad thing; blurred flowers can make stunning photos, but it's something to keep in mind. Bring something to block the wind, if possible. Pack for weather changes as well. Winter may be over, but rain or even snow storms can still creep up quickly this time of year. Make sure you have the proper clothing and protective gear for your equipment. Lighting
Digi's Inspiring Photos!
Throughout this year, I will share some of my favorite photos with you to give you a bit of inspiration and background information on how a photo was captured and created. Some may be photos I shot, while others might be from other pro photographers.


This marco, or close up shot, was taken in some nice forest shade with just enough light coming into the scene to give it depth. The background, as in most close up work, is blurred out, but is a colorful counter to the subject, and shot at a very low angle, making the subject seem larger in the frame. This was shot with a DSLR and 60mm macro lens using all natural light.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Partying with a restrictive diet - yes, it can be done!

If there's one thing that people on restrictive diets complain about, it's attending public functions and being able to eat holistically.  And the reverse goes the same- when someone I know is hosting a party I'm attending, they're always worried about how they can feed me.  Here are some things to think about if you're either person, struggling with hosting or attending a public function.  Whether you're the dieter or the host, your tummy and your friends' tummies will thank you for taking a moment to include these few tips. 

For the Dieter:

Be honest:  Tell it like it is. 
Don't be ashamed of your special needs, but don't be a pest about it either.  If they ask, let them know what you can't eat, and if they don't ask, kindly suggest some of the options below. Whether your reason is weight, medical, or just a life choice, everyone is different, and it's ok to state your differences.

Be proactive:  Always travel with something.
If you aren't asked to bring food, or asked for your input on food provided, you probably already do this to protect yourself, but always travel with something to tide you over. Get in the habit of grabbing something from your fridge before you go out.

Ask the kitchen:  You always get more with (figurative) sugar.
Whether the party is catered or a friend is hosting, ask if they mind if you sneak into the kitchen to find something you can eat.  If you're a vegetarian, vegan, eating gluten free, grain free or paleo, avoiding sugar, alcohol, or something else, I guarantee the chef has heard it before, and I double-guarantee your friend will want you to eat rather than go hungry. 

For the Host:

Always think of variety: What color is your food?
I often attend functions where there are just finger snacks. And they consist usually of crackers, bread, bruchetta, breaded or flavored meats, pretzels, and other white or beige items.  Remember to add variety to your offerings - be it a veggie platter, a fruit platter, un-sauced versions of whatever veggies or meat you are providing, variety is always better, for you and for your guests.

Share the load: What can your guests bring?
Most family and friend gatherings involve the guests bringing some of the food.  You're in control here, so tell people to bring what you don't have- make a list and include fruit, cheese, local meats and produce, raw vegetables, and start marking things off when people ask.

Offer both kinds: With and without.
As stated above, many sauces and dressings have sugar or corn syrup, or milk, and other things many people on a restrictive diet can't have.  So as you're fixing, offer two versions - with, and without.  It sounds like twice the work, but it's actually half the work. 

This also goes for those many friends who are now alcohol-free.  And it saves you money to offer drinks without alcohol, and encourages those who are considering driving home, to keep drinking and enjoying the fun without.Virgin mojitoes, peppermint and lavender tea, real lemonade w honey, smoothies, the list goes on.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Internal Linking provides better Search Engine Optimization

WIKI: Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a Web site or a Web page in search engines via the "natural," or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic"), search results.

A beautiful Web site is nothing without SEO, and there are many ways to direct traffic to a Web site to move you up the search engine ladder and get you to the top of Google's first page when someone searches for you, your business, or your topic.

In addition to providing great content, one of the best ways is Internal Linking: an internal link is a link to
another page on your own website.  Like inbound links (your Web site's link on other sites), they help build up your ranking for search engine results pages (SERPs) and are 100% within your control.  Both are equally important, as inbound links offer credibility (from peers) that your site alone can't create. 

But linking to yourself throughout your site is just as important, as it magnifies your presence on the internet without doing anything other than repetition. To make sure the repetition is right however, take some tips from the pros at Hubspot:  

How a search engine understands an internal link: it’s looking at how many pages on your website link to that page, and how they link to it.  If every page on your website links to something, it must be important to you -- like your homepage, or your blog’s homepage. If the only links to your blog are from your ‘About Us’ section, and nothing from your homepage or your website’s main navigation, you have already sent a strong signal to search engines. Your blog is not very important. If your blog is in the main website navigation,  however, Google and Bing will treat it like one of your top pages.

The page being linked to should provide an in-depth explanation of the linked keyword or phrase. To get the most out of internal linking, select one page (the best you have!) for which you’re trying to rank in the SERPs, and always link to that page in your internal links.

If you continually link to different pages, you’re splitting any linking authority among two pages instead of one, making your link half as useful. So be consistent in your efforts to rank for a specific keyword or phrase by linking to the same page. place relevant content around the link 

Also, don't underestimate Anchor Text, is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. Think of it as a caption, and include keywords make it clear what the link is.  The copy around the linked text should also be optimized. Crawlers read the anchor text and the words around it. So seeing a relevant keyword near the linked copy helps in search engine optimization.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gratitude Monday: Why I love my online organizers

The online tools I teach to small business owners are the ones that are most inexpensive (or free!), stable, reliable and most importantly, always improving.  I look for applications that have the same priorities - making online marketing and communication easy for business owners.

Today's blast from MailChimp is a perfect example. The headline: Every 4 weeks we launch new features. 

An online tool can't get more up to date than that.  I have half a dozen clients using this program, and knowing they all got that email today too made me giggle.  What a proactive little monkey!

It takes me weeks, sometimes months, to share the plethora of online gifts that I love with my clients, but in brief, here are some of the wonderful tools (in order of  why I appreciate them) that I use for my own businesses, which to me, speaks volumes when I learn from the my own online gurus. In this fast and vast technological age, we are all students just keeping up with the pace-setters like Google and Facebook.

#1: Google. In 2010 I let go of Microsoft's late-blooming organizational assistance and moved all of my email accounts and calendars into Google. Now six Google and POP accounts coexist dynamically in my inbox.  It took a little while to get used to, as anything does, but I found that the reliable online storage, folders, bundled email threads and colored coding, shared calendars and documents, chat capability with video, and survey-to-spreadsheet stats systems far exceeded anything I could find from either MS or Mac, or other online hubs for that matter.  I do have two Yahoo accounts and an MSN/Hotmail account that I use for spam, signups I won't read, and online orders and when I go in there to check something, I am infinitely frustrated by the outdated platforms, lack of organizational tools, and overall ignorant format of the email system.  If you haven't switched to Google, you probably don't spend a lot of time on email. I am also on my second smartphone with the Android system and that's a whole other blog post in itself: Why I Heart My Droid. It's an addiction, and those of you with one surely understand.

#2: Hootsuite.  Once I started managing too many Facebook and Twitter accounts to handle them alone, I started paying for Hootsuite and the low $5 cost per month is worth it.  I can post from my phone, PC, laptop, or iPad, and my favorite trick is to gather a week or a months worth of posts and schedule them in advance.  If a client simply can't manage to post every day, and many can't, I can get done in 30 minutes per month what would take some an hour a day to research and post.  There were some predecessors to Hootsuite, Tweetlater and Tweetdeck for example, that many of us got sucked into when Twitter first launched, but none of them are as organizationally masterful as my Owl. Of course I've named her Hedwig.

#3: MailchimpI have three words for Mailchimp: Free, easy, and fun.  There are dozens of options for mailing systems out there, and for years, we used Aweber with only very little complaint, because it was pretty inexpensive.  Also worth mention, several of the businesses I work with have used Constant Contact, and it's got a great thing going, so I won't dog it too much. But my biggest beef with them is that the nickle-and-diming they do can be frustrating if you have a small list and very little budget for online marketing.  With the rise of giants like Facebook who store thousands of images for free, storage for pictures is one thing that I just can't justify $5 a month for with Constant Contact. So Mailchimp's free-for-2500-names plan is a no brainer for most of my clients, and for the largest one, the $50 they pay a month to manage a list of nearly 5000 names is well worth it as well.  In addition, the ease of its overall system (for some it may take a few times through it, because it is, thankfully, quite thorough), the plethora of campaign styles, and the segmentation of your list and overall list management are three more A+ marks for the monkey.  Plus, he gives you daily tips, sends you weekly reports, and as stated above, adds new features each month.  Come on!

#4: Weebly and WordPressTied for fourth are the two platforms for Web development that I teach. These two systems are so incredibly easy and cheap - if not free depending on the simplicity of your site - that while I've thought about adding other guns to my arsenal (tempted by new ads on TV and posts from my peers), I just haven't bothered to go there yet.  Even if I have a client who wants her site to look entirely unique, we troll the vast catalogs for a design-specific template.  I have used Weebly for 2 of my own personal businesses and WordPress for our largest one with an online store, and have never been dissatisfied in three years.  Many people get confused with WordPress, thinking it's a blogging system, but its backend is a vast landscape of geekdom that will manage and allow growth for any size of Web site, online store, and yes, blog.

Of course it goes without saying that the free marketing and even super-inexpensive budget-specific advertising on Facebook is a must. If you have a Web site and don't have a Facebook page, you're missing a huge marketing tool.  Twitter and LinkedIn are very specific, and I only refer businesses to those tools for reasons I won't get into here, but Facebook is THE giant of them all, it's unquestionable. 

This is just a start, but a good place to, when developing your online presence in our ever-changing world of technology and the World Wide Web.

May all your businesses be successful and abundant, and in the words of one of my favorite companies, Life is Good:  Do what you like, like what you do!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stricter and stricter with SCD - research is a must

As you know, I do my research.  I have three amazing women helping me clear out my food allergies, gut issues, and body in general (liver, lungs, emotional trauma) but there's a reason we know our bodies best and should listen to them - no two patients are the same.  And no two practitioners are the same.  Because mine are from three completely different schools of teaching (India, China, US), I am certainly getting some mixed messages while I'm clearing.  So that leads me to doing my favorite - research.

Take vinegar at night to clear out the liver? Well supposedly not a good idea if I'm a Pitta.
Take supplements to build good enzymes? Not if several of their ingredients are on no list.
Take acidophilus instead of making my own yogurt? Nope, contains inulin.
Take aloe juice to cool and clear out? (All three said this one!) SCD says no, plain and clear: ~ A great resource list at the Kids & SCD blog.  I was even unsure about Xanthum Gum, and found my answer there.

And I've had plenty of people tell me that they know what's best for me because they're on the GAPS diet - I found out early on that I can't confuse SCD with GAPS - while both are good for autism and other psychological disorders, SCD is stricter - no corn, for instance - and to me seems better for clearing out the gut entirely.

I was already well trained to read the labels on everything from being off gluten for 3 years, but SCD has made me take that to the extreme.  EG: Low and behold individually packaged Celestial Seasonings tea (the kind they serve at restaurants) has Soy Lecithin.  The only flavor that doesn't is Peppermint, and ironically, that's on two of the doc's lists to drink regularly.  But if you buy the box of Celestial, where all loose bags are in one compartment, there's no soy.  There's logic in there somewhere, but it sure is counter-intuitive.

I've also found that I'm not very good at making my own liver stimulating tea blends taste very good, even if I add a boat load of honey.  But Yogi Tea's Detox Tea blend contains all the key ingredients to help clear out and rebuild strength in my liver, and it actually tastes good without a bit of honey.

Other ingredients you're not sure about are easily found on the list at the link above - sorbitol, sucralose, "flavoring"... all of it is a no no.

Which brings me back to the overall mantra of SCD:  If you don't know what it is, if you can't harvest it or hunt it, if it comes in a can or from a big-business factory, if it's GMO, processed, or ____-ized, etc etc, don't ingest it.

Not only is this good practice for those like me who are clearing out their bodies and starting new, it's good practice for anyone who wants to protect themselves against future disease, align themselves with the creative source and manifest, and support local farming for sustainability.  Three stellar reasons to say no to ingredients you can't pronounce, spell, or define.

Whichever you choose, SCD, GAPS, paleo, or raw, a natural diet requires discipline but it's truly sustaining for you and your world, and well worth it.