Category Archives: Personal

My Mom

Sharon Rose // cherylspelts.comMy mother is leaving at the end of this week to go spend some time in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure when she’ll be back, and yesterday was my last chance to spend some time with her before she leaves, so we shot a couple portraits in her nearly empty living room. And of course we had to get a shot with Samantha!

Then we headed out to Highland Springs Resort to have dinner at the Grand Oak Steakhouse. But before dinner, we had to explore just a little bit… And of course that meant we ended up in the lavender fields shooting more images!

And the Grand Oak Restaurant? It’s my new favorite place! All the food is locally grown, in season, and organic – so every single thing they served us tasted amazing. We had mango margaritas that must have been made with the most perfectly ripe mango ever – they were fabulous! Then I had a watermelon and heirloom tomato salad with freshly made mozzarella. Heirloom tomatoes just taste like a tomato should taste… And paired with watermelon? So good! And then we both had their steakhouse burger – which was probably the best tasting burger I’ve ever had. They cut and grind locally-raised fresh beef there, on the premises, so how could it not be good?

I’ll miss my Mom! But I’m glad we got to have one last afternoon and evening together, in such a beautiful spot, enjoying the Old-California atmosphere, with fabulous food and a fabulous drink, and some good conversation!

Sharon Rose

Sharon RoseSharon Rose

Sharon Rose

Sharon Rose

Cheryl Spelts

And me on the original dirt driveway into the resort, under a canopy of hundred-years-old olive trees.

Baby Kittens! 13 Days Old!

baby kitten yawning

King of the kitten pile? Or just a yawn?

baby kitten sleeping

At this age all they do is sleep and eat, and then sleep and eat some more.

baby kittens

Such a pretty little face…

13-day-old kittens

I’ve gotten a few questions about how these were shot… Was it a “normal” camera? And the answer is yes! Just a normal camera and a 50mm lens at f/1.2. If you’ve studied photography even just a little, you probably know that an aperture of f/1.2 will give you an extremely shallow depth of field – but then when you combine it with shooing this close, it makes the field of focus even more narrow. On some of these only the tiny little whiskers on their noses were in focus. I did crop all of them slightly – but no more that a quarter of the image was trimmed off. But did I do anything to them in PhotoShop? Not really. I color balanced and then sharpened them, but there was no selective blurring, or anything else tricky. These really are the way it looks when you shoot wide open, and really close up.

So why did I choose to shoot this way? There are several reasons. One, I think it’s pretty. Two, I really wanted to focus on the kitten’s tiny little toes and their noses and whiskers. The narrow focus serves to isolate those features from the background, and really showcase how sweet they are. And three, I like to push occasionally, and get something a little different. Shooting the same subject the same way, more than once, gets a little boring. Gotta shake it up!

How open do I want to be?

I’ve been putting off this post for awhile. I just wasn’t sure how to write it…

In this strange new world we’re living in, how personal do I want to get? How open do I want to be? A little over a year ago I made a post about my first surgery – but since then a year has passed, and I’ve had the second (and last) major surgery – and while I’m still recovering, most of the worst is in the rear view mirror! So I felt like I should update my blog. I should write about it. But I wasn’t sure how? The words just didn’t seem to come, so I put it off…

Then a couple of days ago as I posted a less-than-attractive photo of myself on Facebook, I felt like I should explain why I would post a picture like that – and suddenly the words came! They just sort of tumbled out, and I didn’t edit, or rethink – I just hit Post!

My thinking at the time was that three or four people might read it, and it would make my Mom cry, and that would be the end of that! And within seconds of posting it, my Mom happened to be online and commented that it made her cry. How well do I know my Mom? But then other people started to Like it and comment – and three days later 107 people have Liked it, and 54 people have left a comment. If you’ve ever felt vulnerable and wondered if you were being a little too open, to get an outpouring of love like that? It was overwhelming and very very very cool!

So I’m reposting that Facebook photo and post here – it may not be a perfect post, but it does the job!

How open do I want to be?

I don’t normally post unattractive photos of myself on Facebook – and thankfully I have kind friends, who refrain as well! But I’m making an exception just this once…My Mom and I were at Zuma Beach – pre-wedding celebration thing, that we just barely missed, but hey we tried! And so she shot a few frames of me and then I shot a few frames of her – and none of them turned out – except for this one throwaway shot, that she accidentally clicked, while trying to figure out how to use my iPhone camera.

So why am I posting it? Because I’ve lost at least 75% of my hair since I got sick, and I’m still recovering from surgery, and I have never felt less attractive in my life. But this photo? My hair is flying like mad, and who cares if there’s less of it. And I have my face turned up to the sun that I love so much. And the sky is a bright blue – and I’m alive!

I am alive. This thing did not kill me. It didn’t even permanently impact my life. I am getting stronger all the time, and I’ll be back hotter than ever soon. I know that. I get to appreciate the sun and the wind and the stars and the sand and everything beautiful in the world – and in life.

I am just about as grateful, as it’s possible to be – and I think you can see that in this photo. THAT’s why I’m posting it!

Sometimes looking pretty isn’t nearly as important as looking alive and healthy and passionate. — at Zuma Beach.

So how open do I want to be? Turns out, pretty darn open!

Science and Health, and Art…

Pink Blossoms / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsTime for a little truth…

I got sick, which was completely unexpected for someone as healthy and strong as I’ve always been. Plus I’m a non-practicing Christian Scientist. I wasn’t supposed to get sick.

After months and months of languishing, I finally went in for surgery. It was a Tuesday, and they finished surgery on a Thursday, and I didn’t wake up until Friday. And then I couldn’t walk. And no one knew why. For 18 days.

Completely and totally unexpected.

But this isn’t a post about almost dying, or the fright I gave my poor family, or the fright I gave my doctors, and it’s not about pain and suffering. This is a post about gratitude. It’s a post about the light, after the dark. About love, and the absence of fear, and the voice of God when I needed to hear it most.

I am lucky. I am blessed. I am grateful!

I’m NOT grateful for the illness, I’m grateful that I lived through it, and grateful for the recovery! I’m grateful to be almost healthy again, only four months later. I’m grateful that my doctors thought I was worth saving – they could have stapled me back up and sent me back home to slowly die – but instead they dove in and took the risks and did the almost impossible. They saved me. I may have been the most complex “case” they had ever seen, but they didn’t let that stop them. I am so grateful that I was at the right hospital, with the right doctors!

And I’m grateful that God spoke to me, the night before the surgery, and let me know it would be worst case scenario, but that it would end up okay. Going into surgery I was the only one in the room who knew what we were facing – the doctors had no idea – my family had no idea – but I knew. And I was okay with it, because I had a promise from God that it would be okay. I wasn’t afraid. I had no reason to be.

And once I woke up? I woke up grateful, and I’ve stayed grateful. I feel extraordinarily blessed and lucky! How can I not?

Life changing events happen to people every day. People win the lottery, lose a loved one, fall in love, fall out of love, get in accidents, and get sick. It’s not at all uncommon. But do those events really change the people involved? I think sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes the answer is no – but in my case, I do feel changed, in a very real and meaningful way.

I am still the same basic person – I’m still enthusiastic and passionate, and I still love beauty and art – but I have a new sense of urgency. And what I want – urgently and now – is financial security and to own a home. In the past I was perfectly content to drift along financially, as long as I was artistically challenged. But now I want financial security as well as artistic fulfillment – and I believe the best way to accomplish that is to go back to the way I used to live, when I was first starting out as an artist – back to the days when I had a day job, and I did art on the side.

That may sound odd, coming from an artist – don’t all artists want to eventually give up the day job? I sure did! But now I’m looking forward to going back to working a real job. I remember the days where I created art, without any thought to making money from it, and I sort of miss those days. And while I’ve enjoyed the last decade more than I can ever express, I’m looking forward to a new challenge.

Black Tulip / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsBlack Tulip / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Back when I was in high school there were only two jobs that interested me – actor and lawyer – and I chose actor. Then somewhere along the way I discovered photography, and my career path shifted. And now? Maybe it’s time for my career path to shift again? And in a direction that I was attracted to, back in high school. I have always been attracted to the law, and while I’m not interested at this stage in my life, in going to law school, I think I’ve found a related path that will fit me just fine! I’ve been accepted to UCLA – into their graduate level certificate program to become a paralegal. The program will take a year, and I start in a couple of weeks, and I’m really excited. I was on campus this week, signing papers, and seeing where my classes will meet – and I am so ready for this!

I want financial security. I want to own a house. I want to create art in my spare time.

So today I am giving thanks for my new career path.

I’m giving thanks that warm weather and longer days and more sun are on the way!

And I’m giving thanks that I get to celebrate another birthday today! My Father says that this is the second half of my life – the first half ended on the day I went into surgery – and the brand new second half began that same day. I kind of like that idea. And I’m ready to make the second half of my life really count!

Happy birthday to me!

And the flowers? They are in my front yard right now – it’s definitely Spring in Southern California!

Spring Flowers, April Showers

One of the best parts about moving into a new house is seeing what happens in the yard over the course of the first year. Sometimes the tree you sort of, kind of don’t really like all that much, breaks out in blossoms, and you’re in love. Sometimes a neglected corner starts to fill in with new growth, and then explodes in riotous blooms. I’ve heard it said that you should live in a house for a year, before tearing out any plants, because you never know what those existing plants may do – and if you tear them out too soon, you may miss some great potential.

I moved last summer, so this is my first spring in this house, and evidently the previous owners were big on flowers – because the yard is full of blooming plants. It’s very cool!

We’ve been told that some of the trees are black walnut, and when I Google them, the leaves do look right – but I didn’t find any images of the blooms that were as magnificent as the ones here. We have pink blooms on one tree, and white blooms on two other trees. They look just like wisteria blossoms – and the leaves look similar to wisteria as well, but the rest of the tree, and the nuts that form later are definitely not wisteria!

ETA: Ooops! I’ve been told that the trees are actually Black Locust, and Googling proves that to be true!

Black LocustBlack Locust

Black Locust - Pink BlossomsBlack Locust - Pink

Black Locust

Black Locust - White Flowers

There are lot of different kinds of bulbs and some primroses…



There are probably too many iris in the yard – if that’s possible.

Purple Iris


During the Victorian Era, they were big lovers of fruit and flowers together – and it’s one of my favorite looks. There’s only one fruit tree in the yard – a lemon tree – but hopefully someday there will also be oranges and tangerines and apricots – all things that grow well in Hemet!

lemon treeblack tulip

And I’ll end with a black tulip. Have you ever seen a flower that elegant? It’s definitely a statement blossom!

On a technical note, all of these were shot between 4:09 and 4:30PM this afternoon – so a few hours before sunset – and the wind was blowing hard for most of those twenty minutes. I used a 70-200mm lens, at f/4.0, ISO 320, and as high of a shutter setting as was possible. Part of the challenge was in shooting flowers that were blowing and moving – and still trying to get a perfect image, that looks like the world was perfectly still when it was taken. The 70-200mm is my least favorite and least used lens, but sometimes it’s fun to shake things up and force yourself to do things in a slightly different way than you may be used to.

Shaking up your art – especially when you’re doing something as trite as shooting flowers? It’s a good thing! So grab an unfamiliar lens, shoot in a windstorm, whatever! Just shake it up and see what magic happens…

And as I sign off, raindrops are starting to hit the roof again… Hopefully the very last storm this season!

Some of my favorite things in 2010

Last year I wrapped up 2009 with a couple of lists of my favorite things – and it was fun! So I’m doing it again for 2010.

My 5 favorite songs of 2010
Based on how I feel today, it could change tomorrow… The first two were actually released in 2010, the other three are older, and one is very old! And the last one is from a local San Diego band!

My favorite blog posts by other people in 2010
A very long list – just like last year!

And finally, my 5 favorite photos of 2010
My choices for this year are all really simple – deceptively simple. I shot more complex stuff, more artistic, more ambitious work – but for some reason these five images speak to me in a way nothing else did this year. I love these five!

Purple Wildflowers in MenifeeYellow Wildflowers in Menifee
Wildflowers in Menifee, 3/28/2010

Nathan / Photo: Cheryl Spelts
My nephew Nathan, 8/11/2010

Miss American Coed
Miss American Coed Pegeant Queen, 9/18/2010

Malibu, California
Malibu, California, 10/8/2010

Happy New Year!

I have a palm tree!

my palm treeI haven’t written much about my new home here – I’m still in the middle of painting and building shelves and removing wallpaper – which is NOT fun. Well painting is fun, but removing wallpaper is definitely not! But today I wanted to share one of my favorite things about my new home. I have a palm tree!

I would probably never plant a palm tree – I don’t really care for the short ones, I like the super-tall Hollywood palm trees that line main streets all over Southern California. The kind of palm trees that are disappearing in some areas. The kind of palm tree that’s expensive, and takes many years to reach it’s full height. The kind that doesn’t add much value to the landscaping of an individual home, since they’re so tall, you don’t even see them unless you look up.

But this house came with exactly the kind of palm tree that I like best.

It’s as tall as they come, just as tall as the palm trees in Hollywood. It’s in a corner of the yard and it’s so tall, you don’t even see it – unless of course you look up… Which is exactly what I did today!

An added bonus? I can see where my house is from at least a mile away – I just have to look for that sky-high palm.

Green Tea

Green TeaI’ve never liked coffee or tea. I was a waitress for years, working mostly breakfasts – since it’s the most profitable time period, but don’t tell anyone! It’s one of the best kept secrets in the restaurant world… So I served more coffee in a few years than most people have seen in a lifetime. And smelled it. And cleaned up the grounds. But I never got hooked on drinking it. And tea held no appeal at all to me. I was always a Diet Coke drinker! Even for breakfast! I loved that big dose of caffeine and the taste – definitely a Diet Coke girl!

But times change, and two years ago I gave up Diet Coke. I still drink it occasionally, socially, but it’s not my daily drink anymore – more like my monthly splurge drink!

And I love water, so I haven’t really missed having a “drink” anymore – just give me some water and I’m happy.

But I keep reading about the health benefits of Green Tea…

And it would be kind of nice to have a drink again…

So, I decided this morning that I’m going to learn to like Green Tea.

But is taste something you can just decide? I mean, seriously, is taste a static thing? Can we decide to change what we like? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try.

I decided to start with one cup of regular strength tea, and then add enough water and ice to make 32 ounces. In other words, I decided to start with an extremely diluted version of tea – more like tea-flavored water. And it’s not bad! It’s not good either, but I don’t mind drinking it. And does it really matter if I drink one cup of full strength tea and my regular amount of water separately, or if I combine the two?

I also did a little Googling and found some tips on how to make Green Tea – from what I’ve read the key is to not get the water too hot – 180°F is perfect – and to only steep it for two-and-a-half minutes. If you use too hot of water or steep for too long, it supposedly gets bitter.

I knew that Green Tea is a powerful antioxidant, and that supposedly people who drink it have lower occurrences of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. And during my Googling I ran into lots of references to Green Tea being good for weight loss – though I’m not sure that’s been proven conclusively yet – but hey, if it is true, that would be great!

I don’t know yet if it’s possible to change my taste, and learn to like Green Tea, but hey, it’s worth a try… Wish me luck!

Going Away…

My Mom is moving to Seattle and I’m sad! Seriously, I hope she hates it and moves back soon! But I sort of doubt that will happen… She’s on her way to start her dream job – preschool teacher to a class of four-year-olds. And perhaps even more importantly, my seriously cute nephews just happen to already live in Seattle, and I’m way too old to compete with their cuteness. Just click here to see what I mean. Seriously cute!

So to celebrate her going away, we threw her a little party tonight. It was especially small since the aforementioned nephews are already in Seattle and my other brother and his family are way down in San Diego, and my other nephew is far far away on a big adventure in Kentucky – so it was just Mom and Grandma and me! But that’s okay, we had dinner and cheesecake and we laughed a lot. It was a good night!

Mom and Grandma

Cheryl Spelts

Me, as shot by my Mom – she’s getting pretty good!

Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate Cheesecake makes any party better…

Mom and Grandma and Me

And this one was taken by the hostess. And yes I really am that much taller than my Mom and Grandma – they’re both under 5’3″ and I’m a little over 5’9″ – I have a tall Dad!

I’ll miss you Mom!