April Fools, Lord Vader!

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I think Lord Vader was expecting the Death Star to be bigger.  It is unwise to play an April Fools joke on Lord Vader.

 

 

Gretchen Winkler ©2016

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Posted in Art, Star Wars, Uncategorized

Reminder of the value of the land

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This past weekend was the annual Eagles and Ag event held every February during the calving time of the year.  What is calving?  It’s when cows give birth to their young.  And what has that to do with Eagles?  Well, when an animal gives birth, there is stuff that comes out called afterbirth, and well, the birds clean up the mess.

Eagle Minden NV 12 Dangberg 1000hWe live in a society where we forget where our food comes from and how the circle of life is an important role in the ecology and survival of all of us who live on this round rock called Earth.  So attending this event will afford you the opportunity to understand a bit more about the ranching way of life and how the agriculture is an important part of preserving not only a way of life for people but for nature as well.  As the years have gone by many small farms and ranches have disappeared from the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  These large open spaces not only provide food for us, but they provide large protected open spaces for the wildlife as well.  Plants too.  This is not ranching or farming propaganda, but the truth.  My childhood neighborhood used to be surrounded by ranches and farms and now they are gone – and so are the animals and plants that I used to see so commonly as a child.

Eagle Minden NV 20 1000wI’m going to share with you some of the photos I took while attending this event and hopefully, it will inspire you to appreciate the natural beauty of the open land, the hard work people put into being ranchers and farmers, and how we can protect the environment by working with these people.  Perhaps in the future environmentalists can help keep the small rancher in business and he can help protect endangered species of wildlife and plant life.  It seems like a perfect partnership.

So with all that inspirational stuff said…  I can also simply say…the air smelled clean and fresh, it was nice to walk about, fun to explore and search for interesting things to photograph, and a nice way to meet other people.  The pictures contained within this blog are mine that I took during the event.  I didn’t get any good clear photos of the birds, but I was able to see them through the telescopes that the presenters had ready for their guests.  These people were volunteers and did a nice job.  There is a photo contest for those with luck and fancy cameras.  Here’s a link to their website, so that you can plan for this event next year.

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Dangberg Ranch – website

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A barn owl that was very difficult to photo!

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I have to admit that while standing here in the morning on this historic ground – I felt like someone else was with me that I just could not see.

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Two young Eagles hanging out with the calves.

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Settlemeyer Ranch property

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I think these are herrings.

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I think this is one of my best photos of the River Fork Ranch Preserve near Genoa, NV – website.

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And what kind of ranch doesn’t have a bunch of fuzzy buddies to hang out with.  Love this picture.  Only ten cats are in this photo, but I think there were about 30 present before I got my camera out. :)

I hope you enjoyed my photos.

 

G. Winkler ©2016

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Posted in Digital Photography, Travel

The Force has really awakened for me

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I am currently in a holding pattern again, but this time it is for better reasons than in the past.  I am waiting for contracts to be put together, gone over by lawyers, and then to be signed.  I am on the doorstep of my lifelong dream of publishing a novel.  And not just going and having it printed for myself, but people actually believing in me and going to bat for me at the publishers.  It’s not a certain thing, and there is still much work to be done.  There are no participant trophies in real life.  It’s the Yodi saying, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”  – The Empire Strikes Back.

So with this in mind I either fail or succeed and all my efforts will be towards success as the goal.  And if I fail, then I get up, dust myself off, and do it again.  And perhaps that next effort will be with new knowledge.  I have been down this path many times already, but this time I have an ally.  I have someone who believes in me that is knowledgeable about publishing and Star Wars.  And I am in the process of making this person my literary agent, which is the best friend that a writer could get in this profession.

It was a long held belief of mine that obtaining a literary agent was just as difficult as getting a publisher to read your manuscript, so how did I manage to get a literary agent interested in my work?

Well, first one has to have something for them to read that is worth their time, and my unfinished manuscript about a school for Templar Knights is what caught his attention.  I worked on this manuscript for three years during the NaNoWriMo event that is held every year in November.  I wrote different sections of the story and it is currently halfway completed.  I put a great deal of time and effort into this piece.  I researched the area around Toronto, Canada, and used other references from real life that I could call upon.  I edited and proofed the sections that I had completed many times over.  It was a labor of love and passion for the topic.  So what am I getting at?  I didn’t expect the novel to ever be published or seen by anyone, who would care in the literary world.  I wrote it for a certain group of people with love and dedication.  The work I put into it was not a waste of time.  Don’t let people crush your dreams because they don’t understand the value of your efforts.  If I had not written this piece of work, I would not be sitting here waiting for contracts to be completed.

Doing things that are difficult and doing the work involved is not a waste of time.  Don’t settle for a silly participant trophy.  You can do more than that.  And when you fail, that’s just experience and knowledge for the next effort that will build your ability to achieve your goals.  I know.  I have been writing novel sized works since I was in Middle School with no success until now.  Currently, I am on the doorstep now, but I will make it through that doorway and into the building.   Perseverance.  Dedication.  Practice.  It’s up to you to create the foundation and not someone else.  Make that opportunity happen by being prepared to show the quality of your efforts.

May the Force be with you in your dreams and goals no matter what universe they are in.

G. Winkler ©2016

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Posted in Art, Star Wars, Writing

NaNoWriMo Preparation

This event with the group supports helps to get writers to write and explore their potential. I fully recommend it. http://nanowrimo.org/

This event with the group support helps to get writers to write and explore their potential. I fully recommend it. http://nanowrimo.org/

It is two weeks before the NaNoWriMo writing event starts in November.  This will be my fourth time participating in this event.  I have never made the goal of 50K, but each year despite all the stupid stuff that happens to me, I do improve each time.  This time I will be working on a new story.  And I will be taking a completely different approach to this time’s story than the Knight School Journal.

The Knight School Journal is about a boy on a journey of finding out that there is more to life than what he had originally thought and that he has the potential to be more.  The story is about Templar Knights, which despite what some may think, they are not gone and were not murdered out of existence.  They survived.  The hero of my story despite the many small and a few major challenges set before him will also learn that he can survive too.  But what is different about this story and the one I plan to write is that I wrote the Knight School Journal without any planning.  The story just came to me, and now I am at a point about halfway through, that I need to make some decisions and I need time.  So I need to work on a new story for this year’s event.

With characters like these one needs to be able to tell a story that goes with it.

With characters like these one needs to be able to tell a story that goes with it.

My new story came out of curious origins.  It came out of a costume for Halloween.  Needless to say, I have not been shy about my love for Star Wars and for having fun designing and building costumes.  So after I made the costume, I discovered I needed an explanation to go with my gear.  Who was I?  Why do I look the way I do?  I was not a scripted Star Wars character.  I was a Jedi, but I looked different, which meant explaining things.  Well, one  starts to explain one aspect and then one starts thinking and imagining what were the events involved concerning such a character.  And before you know it, you have a story.

The ideas kept coming forth without any effort as if the story wanted to be told.  I came up with names and backgrounds for my husband’s Mando merc character and decided to use the Canon character Gungi for our best pal, who dresses as a Wookiee.  So this is what I have been outlining for the past couple of months and have decided to use for my novel this November 2015.  I will write my Star Wars story.  I will finish it.   As to whether I will finish the whole thing in November – I have my doubts about that, but I think I can get a big chunk of it written in November.  50K words would be an ideal amount to write and perhaps more.  To be truthful, I don’t think the writing part will be the biggest battle, it will be getting published.  Being published is my goal and dream for this work.  I want it to be published as a Star Wars Canon piece of work.  I have already done hours of research and reading to prepare the outline.  I have re-watched the Clone Wars and the movies to get answers and ideas.  And now I am closely watching the Star Wars Rebels series as well.  I want this to compliment the stories that have already been told and work well with the ones to come.

I would like to suggest to any NaNoWriMo participants who are having a hard time getting inspired about what to write – if you do Cosplay or like dressing up in Halloween costumes, then perhaps you can find your inspiration in the costumes you select.

Keep checking in, and I will keep writing about the projects that  inspire me.

Gretchen Winkler ©2015

 

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Posted in Star Wars, Writing

Clone Troopers and Sumac

Fall CT 01 1000wEvery Fall the sumac leaves turn amazing colors of reddish orange, and I really love looking at these colors each year.  They last for a very short time, so I often feel the urge to photo them just to preserve those colors for a bit longer just in case I wish to look upon them again.  And then I realized that I have been negligent in posting anything much lately.  So….. I decided to put two things I enjoy together in my photos.

Now mind you that not all these pictures are award winning shots, but they are fun and can be a source of inspiration.  Lot’s of “what ifs” come to my mind.  I am a fan of the Clone Wars series and some shots remind me of the amazing planets where the Clone Troopers fought alongside their Jedi Knight companions.

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This was a fun angle to shoot from.

This was a fun angle to shoot from.

 

I wonder what Commander Cody is looking at.

I wonder what Commander Cody is looking at.  Perhaps he saw me hovering above taking the previous shot.

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Anakin always looks so intense. This is reflected especially in the action figure made of him.

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Trying out different angles and careful cropping can make some pictures better.

Trying out different angles and careful cropping can make some pictures better.

 

I have often contemplated using these pictures for the basis of an actual painting. Some I have used for drawing exercises. Either way, it is good practice for composition and contrast.

I have often contemplated using these pictures for the basis of an actual painting. Some I have used for drawing exercises.  Either way, it is good practice for composition and contrast.  I hope your Fall days are filled with inspiring images.

G. Winkler ©2015

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Posted in Digital Photography, Star Wars

A Swedish Jedi Robe?

Jedi Robe with Clone Trooper Helmet - "Hey there, how yah doing?"

Jedi Robe with Clone Trooper Helmet – “Hey there, how yah doing?”

So it’s that time of the year again when the weather cools down and the leaves start to turn warm shades of Autumn and one starts thinking about the holiday season that starts with Halloween.  Ah the joy of putting together the perfect costume for a night of pretending to be something else, or perhaps something that is more like our true selves inside.  Either way, it means costuming.  So I thought I would give my two cents worth this year and try and make something using an alternative material.  And since I am still in a hardcore Star Wars mode, (I am working on a Star Wars novel that I hope to get published and okayed by the people at Lucasfilm and Disney), I choose to make a Jedi Robe.  You know that traditional iconic covering that Jedi wear that is necessary to pulling off a truly authentic looking character from the Star Wars Universe.  So often I see these robes done in what I call the bed sheet Jedi costumes.  Most of the store bought costumes are of such materials, but if you truly take a close look at the actors from the movie, the robes are not made of thin cotton weave.

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Take a look at the picture above.  We have three Jedi dressed in their traditional garments and neither of them look like their garments are made of thin cotton bed sheet like material.  The robes, vests, and undershirt garments all have a richness in texture and color.  Anakin’s is partially out of leather while Mace’s appears to have a  heavy linen quality.  And all three of them appear to have their robes made out of wool.  So why are there so many people making Jedi robes out of thin cotton?  Cost and availability.  Wool can be very expensive and depending upon where one lives, the variety of the types of wool available may be limited.  So what can one do about this?  Try and find other types of material that may work.  I actually made the vest piece for my own costume out of upholstery fabric, but it is heavy, somewhat cumbersome, and generally not washable.  It also doesn’t flow well so it would make a poor Jedi Robe.

Jedi Robe 02 1000hSo one day while in IKEA, I spotted these blankets.  There was a variety of choices of texture and color that were perfect for a Jedi’s Robe.  I started to wonder if it was even possible to make a Jedi Robe out of these blankets.  Would it be cost effective? Was there enough fabric?  Well, now I can answer those questions – it was about $50.00 to make this Jedi Robe.  It was also not enough material to make a tall or large person’s robe.  It would be more ideal for a child or small adult.  Three of these blanket rolls are required and this is a project not for the impatient sort of person.  The blankets like to fray or unravel since they are loosely woven.  And after this experience I have made a list of ideal things you may wish to have access to before trying this.

 

  1. Serger or Babylock machine to keep the edges from coming apart.
  2. A sewing machine is a must.
  3. Thread and sewing needle for hand sewing certain parts
  4. Pins with long needles and really big heads like the ones that quilters use.  Small pins will disappear into the blanket fabric and possibly slip out.
  5. Large clean flat space to lay the blanket out
  6. A measuring tape and long straight edge ruler or yard stick.  Meter sticks for those in country’s not still in the dark ages.
  7. Sharp Scissor for cutting fabric.
  8. A Vacuum to clean up the mess you will make.
  9. A simple pattern that does not require too many cuts into the blanket.  I used a pattern I found on the Internet and unfortunately I do not know the name of the designer of this very practical and useful pattern, but here it is for those who may wish to use it.  It links back to this page – http://www.forum.rebellegion.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=36267

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This is an awesome pattern that can be altered to any individual’s size if you do the math correctly.  Sorry no Common Core – this needs to be accurate if you want good results.  I have used this pattern to make two different sizes of wool Jedi Robes and I have been pleased with the results.  And I will make another one in the future.

Here are a series of photos taken during the making of the Jedi “IKEA” Robe that will hopefully make this process less stressful or perhaps you may simply rethink the idea of actually doing this.  I know I would want a serger to use and more space to lay out the blanket.  I also would not make it for a large person either as I had originally done.

Some basic tools needed for this project

Some basic tools needed for this project.  Ignore the dog that wanted to be in the photo.:)

 

I laid on piece on top of the other to make sure both sides would be symmetrical.

I laid one piece on top of the other to make sure both sides would be symmetrical.  Please note the second blanket was bigger than the first one, which does cause some engineering problems later.

 

My Mom has a special ruler that is good for the neck shape part of the pattern, but other patterns or t-shirt might aid in getting the right shape.

My Mom has a special ruler that is good for the neck shape part of the pattern, but other patterns or a t-shirt might help in getting the right shape figured out.  Remember that this is half of the neck area.

 

I used a Sharpie pen to mark the area to cut and then pinned it so that the fabric would not shift.

I used a Sharpie pen to mark the area to cut and then pinned it so that the fabric would not shift.

 

Sew along the cut edges of the blanket so that it will not fray so quickly and fall apart.

Sew along the cut edges of the blanket so that it will not fray so quickly and fall apart.

 

Start sewing together the pieces carefully. As you can see from the photo that the edges are starting to really fray. Dog is trying to supervise the project without much luck.

Start sewing together the pieces carefully.   As you can see from the photo that the edges are starting to really fray.   Dog is trying to supervise the project without much luck.

 

Cut out the hood part. Try and make good use of any already hemmed or selvage edges that will not require any extra work.

Cut out the hood part.  Try and make good use of any already hemmed or selvage edges that will not require any extra work.  I used the hemmed part of the blanket for the front opening of the hood.

 

Hand sewing will be necessary to make the garment look nice. Don't be afraid to put a little extra work into making it look good. It will pay off.

Hand sewing will be necessary to make the garment look nice.   Don’t be afraid to put a little extra work into making it look good.   It will pay off.  There were some places where hand sewing was necessary and not possible with a sewing machine.  Make sure you make the knots secure or else the thread make slip loose.

 

I had to add length to the robe to make it big enough for an adult male. This required me to do some odd stuff. It is not a perfect looking garment, but it has a rustic and almost used quality about it that is very much like the Star Wars Universe of characters.

I had to add length to the robe to make it big enough for an adult male.  This required me to do some odd stuff.  It is not a perfect looking garment, but it has a rustic and almost used quality about it that is very much like the Star Wars Universe of characters.

 

Some sections along the hemline looked awful and I had to do things to make it work.

Some sections along the hemline looked awful, and I had to do things to make it work.

 

Here's how it looks from the front.

Here’s how it looks from the front.  Note this Jedi likes to wear Hawaiian prints for his under garments. 😉

 

Back view

Back view

This really has the potential to be a nice textured looking Jedi Robe.  The IKEA blanket would lend itself to making a more rustic care worn looking garment.  This could be done by leaving the exposed fraying edges to look as if damage had happened due to age or combat.  One could also leave the robe shorter if they were to take this approach as if something had happened to lose the original length of the garment.

In the end I am glad that I tried this project.  It had interesting results and I learned to be patient and cautious with the loose weave fabric.  Hope you have good results on your Star Wars Halloween or Cosplay projects.

Gretchen Winkler ©2015

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Posted in Costume, Halloween, Star Wars

Clones Wars meets the Beach

Beach banner 2015 1000wI finally decided to take some time away from the stress of waiting for something to happen and go to one of my favorite places – the beach up at Lake Tahoe.  This was the one place I missed when we moved away from Reno, Nevada.  I love Lake Tahoe.  It was a place where my grandparents lived and my Mom grew up during her teen years.  And then as a teenager, I spent many pleasant hours with friends hanging out at the beach.  So for me Lake Tahoe is spiritually inspiring and revitalizing.  It will be the one place that I will sorely miss when the day comes when we move away again.  And we will leave here as soon as a viable opportunity arises.  But I digress from the intended topic of my blog…..

This scene has the Clones and and Anakin wondering if they made it to the right location.

This scene has the Clones and and Anakin wondering if they made it to the right location.

The topic is the beach, digital photography, and our amazing collection of Star Wars actions figures that are just waiting to be the subject of amusing situational photos.  And what better way to pull oneself away from depression than having fun with Star Wars actions figures.  These Hasbro Black Series 6 inch figures have proven themselves to be very inspirational for creative fun and just plain digging oneself out of the dregs of gloom and doom.  They have proven themselves before and are doing it again.  I hope that sharing my joy with these figures will brighten someone else’s day as well.  They have already proven to be approved by my Twitter followers.

Here Commander Cody explains to General Skywalker that the Clone is simply blending in with the natives.

Here Commander Cody explains to General Skywalker that the Clone is simply blending in with the natives.

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In the upper right corner – I should crop those people out because they are too big to maintain the illusion that the action figures fit into the scene.

Here is where Commander Cody and Anakin Skywalker join the other Clone and hope that Master Obi-Wan Kenobi will not be too mad when he shows up.

Here is where Commander Cody and Anakin Skywalker join the other Clone and hope that Master Obi-Wan Kenobi will not be too mad when he shows up.

So what is the secret of taking such pictures?  First one has to ignore the fact that one might look foolish playing with toys in public.  Not everyone will approve.  Ignore them.  This is about creating a scene that will invoke some kind of emotion for those that will view these pictures.  It’s just like a fine art project except no one will be impressed with your tortured soul.  They will think you are a nerd, geek, loser, and whatever other judgmental adjective that may cross their minds.  Once again ignore them.

The next consideration is that you might need to get into strange positions that may be less than dignified.  I am sure many professional photographers already know about this.  For these beach pictures I needed to lay flat on my stomach with my face towards the water front.  I find that laying down low at the figure’s eye level makes the pictures more interesting so that we are viewing the world from their perspective.  This will draw the viewer into the action figure’s world.

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And this is where the three Republic guys are happy that the goose is not a Separatist Goose.

And this is where the three Republic guys are happy that the goose is not a Separatist Goose.

The next bit of advice is take more than one shot.  This is digital photography and you can throw away those messed up unwanted shots without feeling bad about wasting film.  Also when composing your photo think about what is being seen.  Is something important being blocked?  Are the characters at good angles?  Do you need to adjust them?  When I prepared for this scene I tried to make sure that no unwanted items appeared in the shots except one does not always have control over the wild life as you can see with the goose.  The goose kinda reminded me of some kind of organic AT-AT on the prowl across the beach.  Perhaps a bit more like the AT-STs – you know the two legged armored walkers seen in Return of the Jedi.

And practice is really the best advice I can offer.  Keep trying and evaluate what you do like  and don’t like about the pictures you take.  This goes for any subject matter that you may wish to photo.

Oh, and I guess one more thing…. May the Force be with you. :)

G. Winkler ©2015

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Posted in Digital Photography, Star Wars, Travel
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