Month: March 2009

Tech: Photo Editing

I’ve been a fan of all aspects of photography for a while.  I’m not a pro by any means, but I find it entertaining to take the perfect shot, then to edit the picture on your own and get it out to your friends and family to enjoy.  What little artistic ability I have, I got from my mom.  She is very artistic and loves to do everything by hand.  I wouldn’t even be able to name all of the stuff she’s worked on, but everything from drawing with pastels, oil paint, & charcoal to pottery, sculptures, and more recently a little tech related with editing photography on the computer.  That’s the area that gets me excited, because I can use my tech experience to help.

I recently got more excited about this with the purchase of an iMac.  I’ve been wanting to learn more and dig more into the photo & video editing with a little web design on the side, so I figured, what better way.  I haven’t gotten the chance to use iPhoto yet, but here’s a few tools I like to use and would recommend.  I use Google’s Picasa 3 to organize all my pictures.  It’s a basic and easy to understand program that can actually be pretty powerful if you want it to be.  I also use Picasa’s web galleries to display most of my pictures with my family and friends.  Picasa makes it easy to just make a few minor changes and easily upload them for free.  One of the advanced features are that it will let you make batch edits to multiple files.  This is nice when you took a lot of pictures inside in bad light, it will try to auto fix the whole folder to make them look nice in a hurry.  The web gallery has face recognition, which will organize all the pictures with similar looking faces to let you name who that person is.  This came in handy for me, when Amy and I went on a vaction and took probably a thousand pictures, but only wanted to send the ones of other people to them.  Then a few other good pictures that we marked with Picasa’s star feature.  If you’ve had problems finding pictures like I have, you’d like Picasa’s photo tagging.  It took a little work to get started, but I like to tag each picture with who’s in it and what was going on, whether it was an event or a holiday or something significant.  It’s necesary to take the people, location, or date if you use Picasa’s other features, but it doesn’t hurt.  Speaking of location Picasa will geotag your photos with the location they were taken, showing them on a simple google map, or even exporting them to Google Earth, espeically fun for people that travel a lot.  It also intergrates well with the other places you would like to use your photos, like uploading to blogs or even to a Facebook photo album.  I use this feature to upload a few of my favorites to Facebook to share with my friends.

As for editing pictures and giving them artistic effects, I usually turn to  It is an awesome free site with some amazing features.  You upload your picture, then it shows all these options on how to change the photo and make it unique.  It’s much easier than having the 500 page book & second job that Photoshop would require.  Just a few clicks and you’re ready to save the picture back to your computer or share it to a web gallery.  I shouldn’t knock Photoshop too much. They have a verynice site,, that also lets you edit pictures online.  I’ve used it a few times, but I like Picnik a lot more.  Picnik really lets you bring out that inner artist and you can be as dramatic as you’d like.  If you’ve seen those pictures around facebook that looks like a polaroid, then Picnik is probably what they used.  It’s one of their options for borders.  They also have a facebook app, that works pretty smooth.  Most of the features are free, but there is an option to pay a little bit to get more features.  I think it lets you save more of your past photos and a few other things.

I’ve also heard good things about GIMP & Paint.Net.  I haven’t actually used either, but both are free programs used to edit pictures.  And if you’re willing to pay a little, I’ve used Adobe Photoshop Elements and it’s not too bad either.  I’m looking to have iPhoto fill this area for me to see what it can do.

The most fun part of photography for me is sharing the pictures with people.  Flickr has a great web community, I just haven’t started using it as much as I’d like.  I used to use Yahoo photos and those albums got converted to Flickr, I just haven’t done anything with it yet.  As I mentioned above Facebook has become the most popular place to share pictures among other social networking sites.  I use PicasaWeb for most of my pictures, then I put my favorites out on Facebook, and I just have a few of the main ones in MySpace.  Another fun way to share photos is using TwitPic and sending them through  Twitter.  Like  tweets, most of these pictures are from cell phones, when you just want a quick easy way to share them, not always the best quality.  I’d use TwitPic when I’m on the go and I see something cool, or when I just don’t have a camera handy.

Next to the really fun part, bringing those still frames to life.  I used to use Windows Movie Maker or other slideshow tools, but one of the really cool web ones that I discovered is Animoto.  This site will upload about 10-15 pictures and put them to some of their music to make a 30 second music video.  I’ve shared my most recent one above.  I just threw some pictures in there to see what it could do, but this has some really cool posibilities.  Like Picnik, there is a paid premium version to make full length videos that cost something like $3 a video.  Which really isn’t much when you think about it.  Then you can download them to your computer to play on your ipod or other media devices.  Animoto will also let you upload the videos to your YouTube account or embed them into a webpage.  I’ve used the embed feature above, the YouTube upload is nice again because of the community they have.  You get a lot of views on their site.  Speaking of video sites, I like use YouTube and Vimeo to upload my slideshows that I’ve made on my computer, because I think the HD quality is a little better than YouTubes.  I’ll put one of those video’s below (note to see the HD version, you have to click on it to go to the site).  Vimeo and Viddler are both YouTube competitors if you’re looking for somewhere else to post videos.

I can’t mention all the stuff I like without mentioning where I heard about some of it and some of my resources.  I enjoy listening to Scott Bourne on the MacBreak Weekly Podcast, then he also has his own blog/podcast called TWiPPhoto (This Week in Photography).  Another site of his I find interesting is Scottcritiques, basically you upload your pictures and he tells you how bad they are.  It’s not really that harsh, but I haven’t uploaded any of my own photos or it probably would be.  It’s definately intersting though.  Lifehacker is also a good source for finding cheap, efficient tools to help you out, especially when you’re wanting to find that free tool, that does a simple task.

Lastly, you can’t spend so much time on your pictures and videos without backing them up.  Some people don’t realize tell their hard drive crashes and it’s too late.  My backup system isn’t too extensive right now, anytime I work on stuff I run a manual backup to an external drive, then store the external drive in a firesafe box, but I’m really wanting to get a Drobo to replace my external drive, then I would have data redundancy similar to a RAID array and could backup more data than I do on my 300GB external drive.  Another service, I’d like to try out is to backup my important data to an Amazon S3 server.  You can use their storage in the cloud and pay for how much data you upload to them per month.  This way if you have a fire you can pull all your stuff back from the web.  This kinda takes backups to the next level, but I think it’s important.  You can read more about “Managing Your Digital Life” from another Scott Bourne site.  I know another shameless plug, but I’m working on getting me a drobo and saving some money.

These are just a few things that have made my photo editing more fun, if I missed any please let me know, I’m always looking forward to try new things or save some time & money here and there.  I’ve also linked to a few of my sites that I use, feel free to add me or look around.

Jamaica from Nolan Carson on Vimeo.

Newton Soccer 2009

It doesn't seem like it was 2 years ago, but I used to spend about 6 months getting ready for tomorrow.  The first day of practice for High school soccer in Iowa.  I coached the girls high school team in Newton for 5 years.  For some reason they always started the season the same day as spring break.  So we were always missing some of our key players and I got a chance to spend a week with about 30 new faces that I had to learn about and coach for about a week and a half before the first game.  That was always the toughest thing.  I had a decent idea of who my top 10-15 players were, but I never ruled anybody out.  So in that week and a half I had to meet new players, build there trust, at the same time try to get them into shape and not hate me.  Then also had to figure out how good they were and what kind of potential they had in all the different areas.  Then once I had a good idea of our better players, I had to prepare them for 1 of the top teams that we would play for the season.  I'm not sure why our schedule was set up that way, but we never made excuses.

 I miss soccer quite a bit, I wish I could've hung around for a few more years.  The junior and senior classes are the last 2 classes that I coached.  My last season they moved to the Little Hawkeye conference which is smaller schools than we used to play, then last year they moved down to being a 1A team instead of 2A like they had been since the Girls Soccer Program was started in 1997.  This year they are back with the big schools.  I think they are 1 of the 2 smallest schools, so they probably have a tough outlook to make it to state, but I'm sure they can do it.  The Little Hawkeye conference has smaller schools in it, but the competition is just as good as the larger one (CIML-Iowa) they used to play in.  2 of the top 1A teams in the state are both in the conference.  We were able to split with them in 2007 and get a share of the conference title.  This year will mark the 2nd new coach since I left.  I have a lot of faith in him and I'm sure he can lead them to state.  They may not be as sure, since they had a tough transition last year and are probably a little untrusting right now.  They are going to have to build that trust fast to get things going in the right direction.  I'm excited to see how they do it.

This is an intro to a series of posts I'm going to start making about my soccer coaching days.  I'm also planning on keeping up with the team and give you a few updates.  I've put together a list of things I'd like to cover, but if any one has any requests I'd be happy to hear them and see what I can do to help you out, especially my ex-players, I'd do whatever I can to help you out.  I'd also like to use this to get in touch with everyone that made my soccer coaching days so memorable, so please say hi.


P90X – Week 3 Already

Happy St Patty's Day everyone. It's hard to believe we're on week three already and with 2 workouts out of the way for this week, it seems like the rest can't be that bad. Week 2 flew by, we didn't have quite as good as results, but I can tell I'm getting stronger and the food changes we made are going a little easier (nothing too serious). We went to Kansas City to visit some friends last Friday & Saturday, the huge plate of BBQ ribs made it a little tough to stay on the diet, but I'll catch up for it. We also did a workout in the morning today so we could enjoy a green beer tonight. I'm not a huge fan of the morning workouts, especially plyo. I guess it doesn't matter when I do that workout, I still don't like it. It'll be the last time for a few weeks though.

I've had some good food due to the food plan we're doing along with the workouts. Amy and I used to got to Jimmy Johns for lunch once a week, well that has turned into salad at Jason's Deli. They have a pretty good salad bar for lunch. I hadn't eaten there before, but I like it. Still a little expensive, but not too bad. I also had a greek salad from Katie's that was pretty good. I tried an unwich from Jimmy John's, but I could see why they called it an unwich, it's nothing like their sandwiches. I could've ordered about 2 or 3 of them.

I've been trying to get Amy to blog on here once in a while, but she'd rather read what people are saying then complain because there aren't any more posts. I told her, she was the main problem. As Tony would say, "you can do anything for 30 seconds". So I'll keep trying to get her on here to atleast say hi and prove she's actually doing stuff.

Until next time, the word of the day is "Don't smash your face!"

New Blog/web design

I recently made some major changes to my blog.  To start with I changed the address.  I was using a Blogger blog that posted to and decided to import it into a blog to go with my website a little better, so the new address is as I'm sure you figured out if you're reading this.  Along with this change I decided to combine the 3 or 4 blogs I had with blogger into one.  I used to have a blog for my sports activities, the soccer team I used to coach, but still love to follow, then my personal one that talked about everything else.  Since I'm the only one that wrote anyways, and they are all about my life I just combined them.  I have so many interests that I was afraid people would get lost, but then I decided that's just me, people will want to know the real me and all the different things I like to do.  So here's the composite blog.  To confuse things even more, we started a P90X blog with some friends at and I'm also working on a site for Amy and I's wedding at

There are going to be a flurry of changes made to my wedding site as August 8th gets closer, then as time frees up, I'm planning on overhauling my main site, so I hope you enjoy!

P90X – 2 down, 88 To Go

Amy and recently got introduced to the P90X videos and decided that it would be a good time for us to get started working out consistantly.  We were thinking, we'd both like to be in a little better shape for the wedding.  And we have about 5 months now to get there.  We also ran in a 5 mile run at Boys Town last year and I just assumed we were going to do it again, so what better time.  Additionaly, I decided that I would like to do RAGBRAI.  The whole 12 miles I did last year got me excited enough to get a bike and actually train this year, so I can get the full experience this year.  So P90X is the first step, 10K training will overlay nicely to add some cardio on week 4, then the 10K training will mesh into the RAGBRAI training which will all peak in mid July, giving me roughly 2-3 weeks to get back out of shape for the wedding and honeymoon.  I think that's a good senario though.

So once we got interested in P90X a friend of mine said he, his wife, and a bunch of friends from church had done the workout and loved it.  So he decided to get a blog started that we could all check-in on to motivate each other and share stories.  This was a great idea to me, since I need a little motivation once in a while.  I usually rely on Amy, don't get me wrong, she does a great job, but this was good for both of us.  So here's the blog we set up…   I'm going to try to share my posts between both blogs, I hope it doesn't get confusing.

So the idea of the blog isnt' really a bet or competition, although I'm sure there is a little of that going on.  The main goal is to use the sharing of others to motivate ourselves to stick with the workout, because as Tony says, "The X is for Extreme".  It is definately that sometimes.  We're going to share some of our workout habits, favorite quotes, funny stories, & then gripe about how sore we are.  Then at the end, I'm sure there will be success stories on how great we feel and proud of each other, atleast I hope so.


Here's my post from today after day 2:

So we've finished day 2 and I'm pretty sore already. It's weird my arms are sore from day 1, but I won't notice it until weird times. I've never felt sore turning off the hot & cold water at the same time on the sink before. 🙂 My legs are a little sore, but I'm sure tomorrow, I wont' be able to walk.

I love Tony's quotes. Sometimes its hard for me to remember them, I tell myself I should write them down as soon as I hear them, but I usually forget. "Her name's Pam, they call her BLAM!" It makes me just yell "BLAM!" when they show her. There's another good one about not getting bored, but I forget it.

I was proud of myself for getting a pull-up bar installed in time for day 1. It's kinda makeshift, but it works. I'll have to get some pictures up to show our workout area. I'm interested to hear/see where everybody else is doing their workouts.

Anybody doing the official P90X diet? "What's your soup?" Amy and I are trying to eat healthy and referred to the diet, but I think you'd have to have a full time dietician to figure out all the portions if you were going to follow it strictly. I had my first bad temptation yesterday, somebody at work brought in this luscious looking pink sprinkle cake with fluffy frosting, it was so hard. I had to walk by it everywhere I went, I'm glad it's not there today.

I keep thinking of random stuff that I haven't mentioned on here, we did all of our before measurments the other day, it'll be fun to see the differences at the end.