Some of my favorite things…

Floto Casiana Mini // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsFavorite Fun Read: Cranky Actress Blog
If you ever were an actor, or thought about acting, or want to act, then you gotta read Cranky’s Blog! She may be telling the complete truth or she may be making it all up – but either way, she makes me laugh! Honestly, my usual impulse is to steer clear of cranky people. Who has time for all that complaining? But I’ll make an exception for Cranky Actress, because she’s so much fun!

Favorite Bag: Floto Imports
I love these bags! I have the Casiana Tote and the Casiana Mini, both in black and they’re so cool they make me want to travel more – as if I needed any impetus in that direction! Beautiful leather, Italian style, and enough room to carry everything easily. I’m just in love… And I’ve had them for two years already, and use them often, and they still look great. I fully expect to still be in love years from now! Maybe someday I’ll add another Mini in orange to my collection? That might cause a love overdose!

Favorite Twitter-related Service: BackTweets
Twitter shortens long URLs, which is great, but if you want to do a search for all the times your website was mentioned on Twitter, those shortened URLs made it impossible – before now. BackTweets changes that! I only found a handful of mentions of my site by using it, but they were all really fun finds – so it’s my new favorite toy!

Favorite Site Design: DreamerLines
I just love the way this site works! There are no pages, you hit tabs and fly to your destination. Deceptively simple and incredibly cool…

My Absolute Favorite Thing This Week: The Water Necklace
It’s brand new and beautiful, and shimmery silver – what’s not to love? It’s from the MXC Silver Elements Collection, and while I didn’t shoot the campaign for this season, I love this piece! And it looks really good on me!

Silver Elements Water Necklace // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Free Promotional Offer for Web Site Owners DirectoryIf you own a web site, I have an offer you might be interested in!

For this week only I’m offering a free listing in the Directory. Usually $25, the free promotion runs this week only, and ends at midnight on Friday, August 7th. If you’re at all interested in SEO then you know the value of links to your site – and now you can get one for free, if you act quickly.

Why am I doing this? Well the directory itself needs a little promotion! And it’s mid-summer, and it’s hot, and having a give-away sounds like fun! So go for it, and spread the word…

Click here to add your site to the Directory!

ETA: I got five new listings within a few minutes of posting this. Thanks guys!

Falling in Love at First Listen

I have an admission to make. As much as I love music – and I really really love it – I don’t pay much attention to the lyrics, and I almost never fall in love with a song on first listen. A musician once told me that he’d been the same way, once upon a time, but he grew out of it. I never have, so I guess that makes me a bit unsophisticated, and I guess I can live with that!

It doesn’t mean I don’t listen to the singer – I do! In fact, it’s the voice that draws me in – I never quite connect to pure instrumentals – I want a singer! It’s just that while I may be able to sing along to every word, if you ask me the name of the song, or what the song is about, or to repeat even one line of lyrics, I won’t be able to. I can love the voice, but the words won’t always register with me.

As for almost never falling in love with a song on first listen, I think that’s more common. And when I do fall in love the first time I hear a song, I know I’ll love it forever and it’s bound to become one of my all-time favorites.

I’m telling you all that to set up this – I fell in love this week on first listen – to three songs! And I actually know some of the lyrics…

Lovehammers' Guns on iTunesLovehammers released their latest CD yesterday, Heavy Crown, and yes I was really looking forward to it – and I knew I’d love it. How could I not? Especially since it has several songs on it that I already knew and loved – Driving Blind and That’s Life are fairly new, but Eyes Can’t See and Velvet are acoustic versions of songs that appeared on previous Lovehammers’ CDs and Guns was released a couple of weeks ago – so I already knew five out of the thirteen songs. Plus, this is a band that I fell in love with before Rock Star: INXS even started. I was doing research on the singers on the show, for ROCKBAND.COM, and found clips of all their songs – and I fell hard.

But even with that kind of love built up for years, you never know? And even though I’d been hearing through the grapevine that it was their best work yet, still, you never know. New music, new direction, maybe I’ll love it, but not REALLY love it?

Then I heard it! And the first time through Neverfall, Oh My Baby, and Honest I’ll Wait just nestled into my heart and head, blissfully…

Honest I’ll Wait soars, beautifully. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard from this band. It’s a new direction for sure, but it feels so right, it feels meant to be.

Oh My Baby is hot! The lyrics are a total turn on! Yes, the lyrics! Plus it’s fun to sing along with. My favorite line, “Oh my baby’s so extreme. She’s exactly…. just like me.” Love that moment! And the guitars on the chorus are beautiful – so beautiful.

But my big initial love was and is Neverfall. It makes me want to put down the top on my car, blow a kiss and slam a door, and take off. I haven’t quite figured out the lyrics yet – and I may never – it’s one of those songs that makes me feel. It’s an anthem, for sure and I have a feeling the song will always remind me of summer, of right now. At least I hope so!

And one last song I have to mention – Black Angel didn’t hit me initially, but it’s hitting me now, big time. It has a really retro feel to it. Makes me want to go to a concert and see it done live. And the bridge? Hypnotic, for sure!

And the best part? Falling in love at first listen is only stage one. I have so much more to discover in these songs. Good music is like that…

In my opinion, you all have excellent taste!

Photos by Cheryl SpeltsOne interesting thing about my new site design is that I can now tell which are the most popular images, because each is on it’s own page, so it’s easy to see how many clicks each image gets. Interesting!

The favorites from yesterday were these three, in this order…

The two of Marty Casey don’t surprise me a bit – of course he gets the most click action! But the other image was a really pleasant surprise – it’s of my nephew Nathan, taken just last month, and it may end up being one of my all-time favorite portraits of all time. It’s just magical…

In fact, all three of the above are among my favorites of all time. Guess my visitors have excellent taste!

Slick and Glossy and Modern

I just debuted my new site design! Yay!

About six weeks ago I decided to redesign a couple of pages on my main photography site – just a little minor housekeeping! Then I got swept up in it, and before I knew it I had a plan for a full-blown redesign of the entire site. Where my old design was an homage to fine art, I wanted the redesign to be slick and glossy and modern. I still wanted spareness in the design – I like the images to stand out, not the design. And I still wanted bright white and lots of negative space. Some things don’t change!

 // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

My old design was html with some Flash galleries – I used to do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionally, so for me an all-Flash site was never something I ever seriously considered – at least some html was the way to go! And for SEO purposes the old design worked just fine. It also worked just fine on the vast majority of computers – almost everyone has Flash installed. But then I got an iPhone in 2007, and not being able to see parts of my site on it was a little bit of an irritation. And as more and more people get smart phones with web access, I wanted to consider alternatives to my Flash galleries. So the new site has javascript galleries – which the search engines can and do read, and which works just fine on an iPhone, and hopefully other smart phones.

 // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

It’s not a perfect experience to look at my new site on an iPhone – the navigation, particularly the arrows are too small to be really useful – but that’s okay, because bottom line, you can see my work! You can get to the galleries, you can see my images, and they look beautiful! So while it may not be perfect, it’s a huge improvement over my previous site where you could navigate the site just fine on a smart phone, but you never saw any images – not good for a photographer!

 // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Something else new is a Live Concerts Portfolio – all the images in it were previously published elsewhere, but never on my own site – so that has now been remedied!

I have a lot more content to add in the coming weeks – there are only 150 images on the site right now – I plan to add more and more and more. I want lush full portfolios, where the viewer can get lost looking. Most photographers believe in only showing their most current work, but I have a portfolio of images dating back over 14 years – work I’m proud of and want to showcase. If you think about Annie Leibovitz or Georgia O’Keeffe or Frank Lloyd Wright would you expect to only see work from one period of their lives, or would you expect to find a full body of work? In my opinion, a full body of work shows off an artist in a way that a selection of images never will – and I want to show work from every phase of my artistic life. It may take a while to get it done, but that’s the goal!

And I have one other surprise, that I can’t reveal yet – but it’s going to be great fun!

Mount Rubidoux

It was too hot to go all the way to the top of Mount Rubidoux yesterday. I got a little more than halfway up, and then stopped caring about actually reaching the top. It was over 90° by midmorning, and there were lots of things I could think of to do, way more compelling than a walk in the sun, uphill!

So I got up earlier today, and it was cooler, and I went the rest of the way up – and I was rewarded with a beautiful bright blue sky, and some pretty clouds – it was well worth it!

World Peace Bridge on Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsMount Rubidoux Bridge // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I love the plaque on the tower/bridge – even if there was no date on it, you would know it was circa 1925, just by the art deco stylized lettering. It’s an absolutely perfect example of high art deco, and reads, “Peace with Justice for All Men. Anno Domini 1925. This bridge was built by neighbors and friends of Frank Agustus Miller, in recognition of this constant labor in the promotion of civic beauty, community righteousness, and world peace.”

Frank Miller was the second owner of Mount Rubidoux, along with Henry Huntington. The first owner, in the mid-1800s was Louis Robidoux – note Robidoux, not Rubidoux, as it’s spelled today. Miller, of the Mission Inn, and Huntington, a railroad magnate, bought the hill in the early 1900’s, in order to develop the land around it – as a housing development. There’s a spot dedicated to Huntington as well, but it’s not as interesting as Miller’s dedication.

Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsRunning on The Mount // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I was fascinated by the number of people pushing strollers up and down the hill, with one or two children in them, while running. It’s a three mile loop, if you do the whole thing, and at least half of that is uphill, so pushing a stroller would really make it a workout – and lots of people do it. The other popular thing to do is to bring a dog or two, on a leash, while carrying a couple of the blue plastic “doggie” bags that are provided at the start of the trail.

Cross on Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The cross at the very tip-top of the mountain. The first cross was erected on the spot soon after Miller and Huntington bought the property, and one has stood there ever since. It’s dedicated to Father Junipero Serra, one of the founders of several of the California missions.

The first Easter sunrise service was held here in 1909 – and they still happen today – and in fact, the Mount Rubidoux Easter Service is generally considered the longest-running outdoor Easter service in the United States. I blogged about it in May of 2008.

The tiny dark dot at the base of the cross is actually a guy sitting with his back to the cross. Up on top of the world, it’s a good place to think.

Looking west, toward Jurupa and Rubidoux, and the Santa Ana River // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The view, looking west, toward Jurupa and Rubidoux, and the Santa Ana River. The top of the mount is exactly 500 feet above the banks of the Santa Ana River below.

View of Downtown Riverside // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

And the view to the east – Downtown Riverside, including the historical cemetery on the bottom left.

Blue Flowers / Photo: Cheryl Spelta

And finally I’ll end with something floral – I just can’t resist the lure of blue flowers, first thing in the morning!

A Lazy Summer Day

White Bougenvia // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is how today feels… bright, sunny, summery, beautiful, and hot.

Shot on the path up Mount Rubidoux, in Riverside, California.

Josh and Nathan

My brother and his family moved out of state last week – so before they left California, I shot a few quick portraits of my nephews. Their new home is far away from Southern California, and who knows when I’ll see them again, so it was a good time!

My first goal was to get a beautiful headshot of each of them – something that Grandma could hang on the wall. I definitely feel we achieved that goal!

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Josh in Fallbrook // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsJosh // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Josh // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsNathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsJosh // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The second goal was to do a portrait that they got to set up themselves – Josh wanted a shot with his guitar, rock star-style, and Nathan wanted a shot in his bedroom, comfy and relaxed, with bare feet. Very different choices, but I love both images we ended up with!

Josh with his Guitar // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsNathan with his Bass // Photo: Cheryl Spelts