A little light indulgence

I had a holiday recently, and some parts of it really were actually a holiday. Each year I take a bit of time off-grid in the French countryside. No TV, no wi-fi. Right out in farming country where I have as much connectivity as I can get with a smartphone (normally a weak 3G signal from the driveway).

Most years I spend a good portion of my time knocking an acre of garden into shape, but thanks to some brutal measures I took last year, there was less that absolutely needed doing this year.

I decided that as well as some light gardening duties (and the hunt for the mystery septic tank – which is a whole *other* story) I would make a concerted effort to indulge myself in things I find myself having less time for than I’d like. I’d already loaded up on reading material via a visit to Lighthouse Books before I went, and I had my trusty notebook and pencil for writing (I am decidedly old school in my writing – this blogging thing is another concerted effort to try something different). However I thought my patchy connectivity was probably still good enough that that I’d also try complete the DS106 Daily Create each day I was away. I was interested in how far I could get working within the constraint of only using a smartphone (I have some pretty long-standing skills with Photoshop and the like on a full-fat computer). The first hurdle I hit was that I needed a couple of additional apps within the first few days and I didn’t have a good enough signal to download them. Cue a visit to the local village where there is a more reliable signal. Conveniently there is also a most excellent family boulangerie et patisserie. Oops.

Les religueses

(This is a “religieuse” – and I love these so much I taught myself to make them a few years ago)

During June there was a #30dayTDC challenge running and within the first few days of holiday I was having so much fun that I decided to backtrack and try complete the whole month. A few things contributed to the fun and because there is literally NOTHING more fun than a list, here is what they were:

  • Other people. The feedback, likes and tweets from others doing the challenges were lovely, particularly from those who are hardcore devotees. So welcoming. The infamous Talky Tina appeared too. She is lovely and not at all a word I am not supposed to use. Being lovely she also offered a special badge for everyone who completed the full 30 days of challenges. Challenge accepted!
  • The challenges. Not only were the challenges fun to do, but many of them asked us to explore online tools or sites that I hadn’t encountered before.
  • Different but related perspectives. Being on holiday my days were less structured. Having the challenge to do each day was strangely grounding. Also having made a concerted effort to indulge myself in creativity of many kinds (photo exhibitions, giant automata, gardening, crafting, cooking, writing) I found they fit well and I could use things I was already creating.

My staple apps for photo-editing (beyond the built in editing) have been Snapseed and PS Express, but through this challenge I’ve expanded my toolkit of apps. I’ve tried quite a few different things and whittled back down to the following list. Photoshop Mix and Pixlr are pretty much the core of what I have come to rely on, with others mixed in as required.

  • Photoshop Mix – cutout / blend / layout. Great support for layers.
  • Pixlr – effects and text overlay on images
  • Photo Lab – massive range of filter effects including the ones I used the ‘cartoon’ myself.
  • Comic Life – making comic strips. I’ve also found this useful for quick assembly of photo montages where I don’t want a template.
  • 5SGif – making / editing animated GIFs – often used in conjunction with Photoshop Mix.
  • Skitch – quick and simple drawing on photos
  • Brushes Redux – freehand drawing, plus ability to import photos and draw on. Good support for layers.
  • SketchBook – simple drawing tools. In time I suspect I might end up using Brushes Redux instead, but the simplicity of this works well for me now.

In the end I did manage to complete the #30dayTDC. Some are feeble, some are ropey and some I am quite pleased with. Since I returned home and to work it’s been harder to keep doing them, but I’m going to continue to try for a couple a week, just to keep my hand in.

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