How do you stay inspired? Five tips – I like #4 the most

Photography: How do you stay inspired? Five tips – I like #4 the most

Taking pictures changes your point of view

inspiration photographyThere has been a period in my life I didn’t take any pictures at all, making me regret that later, because I don’t have pictures of my son age 6 to 9. The reason was that I wasn’t inspired anymore and didn’t feel up to the effort.

Nowadays I have found several ways to get inspired and to develop my creativity. Which I will share with you in this article and I hope you will add tips of your own at the end of this article.

Don’t settle for a result too soon

inspiration composition

Tip #1 – How about composition, color and disarray

When I take a picture I judge it on several elements

  • How is the composition?
    I can choose a symmetrical or a dynamic composition;
    When there are more objects in the photo, I can either let them overlap each other or make sure they are next one another
  • How is the color?
    Sometimes the colors are bright. I have an opinion about what colors harmonize best with each other and can choose for either that harmony or disharmony;
    Black and white pictures let me focus solely on the contrast and composition
  • Is there no distraction from the subject?
    Often I don’t see that lamppost that was just behind a person or how the different subjects mingle, until I took the picture and watch at the scene in a two-dimensional way.

A lot of pictures I take over and over again until I am satisfied and then I throw away the rest.

pictures for your blogRead more:

Pictures for an article

Images for your blog

inspiration umbrella

Tip #2 – Be a member of Instagram

Participating in the challenges on Instagram

Instagram is one of the social media, focusing solely on photography. It’s a great community populated by both amateur photographers and professionals.
People are very much willing to show a newby around or making suggestions, if you are looking for that. Or if you just want to show your pictures and nothing more, that’s also fine.


What I like are the challenges. At the moment I am participating in two monthly challenges to upload a photo within a daily theme.
For example one assignment for #theidearoom was ‘eyes’ and I made this pictures of fisch in a Spanish marketplace.

You don’t take a photograph,
you make it.
— Ansel Adams

Tip #3 – Using apps on the smartphone

I am an addict to Hipstamatic, Cameramatic and Snapseed

umbrella hipstamatic

For years I have polished my skills on my DSLR-camera. At the moment I own a Canon Mark II and the pictures I make with it are technically perfect.
And yet I love an app like Hipstamatic, where I don’t know what kind of picture will come out of the developing process. The app pretends to be an old camera with all the old flaws old cameras had.
So there can be a huge light leak in the photo or a massive vignette.
Have a look at the article I wrote about it the other day.

hipstamaticRead more:

Photography, my Passion. Looking through the square hole.


There is nothing worse than a sharp image
of a fuzzy concept.
— Ansel Adams

Tip #4 – Take one subject and make a series of it

Have a look at my umbrella series

inspired by an umbrella

  • A friend forgot her umbrella in my car, so I had a great time taking it in the house and making several pictures of it during the days it was in my possession.
    That’s making a series in a short period of time of one object.
  • On this website I have one picture every day that will be in the same monthly theme.
    That’s making a series by browsing the pictures I have with a specific theme I have in my head.
  • During my holidays I pick one theme to make all my pictures in. So then it’s not about an object to make a series with, but using a concept.
    Themes I have used were for instance: vertical, round, big-small, S-curve, monochrome, symmetrical.

Tip #5 – Edit your pictures

Or make a nice frame for them


I edit mostly in Camera Raw, a plugin for Adobe Photoshop. If you work solely on your smartphone there are several apps that can help you with the editing. Snapseed is my favorite, but browse or try a lot and you will find out soon enough what your own favorite will be.

Frames are another great way to enhance your photos or to work on just for fun. As with the editing there are numerous apps to use, but if you want to make a unique one, try out my tutorial

inspiration photography

Tip #6 – Please add yours

How do you keep yourself inspired while photographing? We all benefit from the tips of others, so I’ll be most grateful if you add yours in the commentbox below.

Hipstamatic and Abstract Art – a Perfect Couple

Photography: Hipstamatic and Abstract Art - a Perfect Couple

Two loves combined, photography and abstract art

abstract hipstamaticA couple of years ago I discovered the app Hipstamatic for my smartphone. It was love at first sight. I even have to admit I wanted the iPhone4 at some point to have bigger photo dimensions.

My Canon camera is my companion on some occasions, but my phone is always with me. And Hipstamatic adds a lot of fun on using the phone for photography. The camera of the phone doesn’t quite live up to my standards for a decent picture, but since the Hipstamatic app that is faking to be an old-fashioned plastic camera, that argument is off the table.

I think it’s really funny that with nowadays technique, there is this app that adds dust or extreme vignette to my pictures. It was a no go in the old days and now it’s allowed! What do you say!

Picture: Colored lights hanging on the ceiling made fantastic shadows.

What is Hipstamatic?

app hipstamatic
This is how the screen of my phone looks

This app puts filters over the pictures. You only have a partial control on the result by choosing from different lenses, films and flashes. For example, if you choose the lens Lucifer VI and the film DC, you know there will be a huge vignette and a lot of red haze in the picture. But you don’t know the exact position or the strength of it. For a perfectionist as I am, it’s very surprising that I can appreciate this randomness.

It always makes me laugh that at times I have my heavy and expensive photo gear on my back and busy myself with this couple of dollar costing app. And what I really think is hilarious: after taking the picture I have to wait for “one print developing” endlessly.

(I am not sure this app is also available for Android users. If you know, I would appreciate it if you put it in the comments below.)

The real thing in 1968

old picture 1968
Me, taken with my old ClickII

Different framing

The film also determines the cadre that is used

abstract hipstamatic
Bag with hinges

Abstract because of the alienation.

Reflections can distort

One of my favorite themes, reflections

Detail of a work of art by Anish Kapoor

Abstract because of the deformation.

What is an abstract image?

You can not see what it depicts

filtered light
Light filtering through textured glass
Abstract because of the point of view.

In my opinion it is not a coincidence that abstract art is about as old as photography.
Artists had been occupied for centuries trying to capture reality by mastering the rules of perspective, capturing the different materials, painting the right colors. And then came photography and it was suddenly possible to gain that result in one second. Very frustrating.

Abstract is the opposite of figurative. In an abstract work you can either hardly see what is depicted or there isn’t anything at all that derived from reality. A painter like Mondrian abstracted trees to the compositions in red, blue and yellow we know. While someone like Rothko studied the influence colors had on each other by painting fuzzy rectangles.

Photography has always something of the reality to begin with. The abstract results from a specific point of view or from blurring because of movement and from filtering the way Hipstamatic does.

Searching the right combination

Often I try several lenses and films before I am satisfied

Snow on the board walk

Abstract because of the proximity.

Some of my favorites

looking upabstract picturewooden furniturehipstamatic abstract

Not by definition

Hipstamatic is not synonymous with abstract

macro hipstamatic
A moth. I do have to admit,  it was dead when I took this picture of it

Do you use your smartphone as a plain camera or do you always edit the pictures with an app?

Hipstamatic and the joy of coincidence

Photography: Hipstamatic and the joy of coincidence

My camera is a Canon Mark II, which is a pretty expensive, full-frame camera. The pictures I can make with it are perfect, most of the time. And if they are not, I can make them perfect, because I shoot in RAW.

example of lightleak
Example of lightleak

But perfection sometimes gets boring. Which is the reason musicians are enthusiastic about the creaking noises on old records. And why photographers are totally excited about the old-fashioned flaws of double images, light leaks and vignettes.

So I don’t just bring my Canon on a shoot, but have my iPhone at hand as well, to make Hipstamatic pictures.

example of vignette

Example of vignette


I think it’s extremely funny to have my pricey gear idly around my neck and then take pictures with a couple of dollars costing app. And to enjoy the results of camera and app equally.
It has totally changed my perspective on pictures. It’s so refreshing to enlarge all the mistakes that were forbidden in the past.

I wrote an article about abstract Hipstamatic, which you can read here.

Do you ever make pictures with a smartphone app? And what do you think of it? Please write it in the commentbox below.

example of a double exposure

Example of a double image

The Hipstamatic website

Point of view

Photography: point of view

A point of view. A standpoint. An outlook. All expressions you can use in either literally sense or as a matter of speech. Here I mean of course your standpoint with a camera at hand.

Keeping your head up

Let’s suppose you are in a glass elevator and you can’t move your head up or down, just left and right. So, you keep on looking right ahead and the horizon is high at the moment you are in the basement. And you make picture_1.
Going up, the horizon will go down, you still won’t move your head and you take picture_2. Let’s call it the ground floor.
On the top floor you see a lot of sky, the horizon is very low and you take picture_3.

That’s one way of ‘dealing’ with the horizon.

point of view
point of view

Moving your head means moving your camera

I don’t think you would keep your head as fixed as I describe above, would you? It’s more likely you will lift your head when you’re below and look down when you reach the top floor.

moving your head
worm's-eye view
The most extreme ‘lifting up’ your head is lying on your back and for instance looking at the trees. (a) It’s called the worm’s-eye view.

low horizon
In English a low standpoint is called the groundfloor perspective or worm’s eye view. In my country it is called the frog-perspective. The point of view is looking up and seeing a lot of sky. (b)

horizon in the middle
Standing in an upright position the horizon is on eye level. (c)

high standpoint
High on a hill or a mountain, flying in the sky, looking down like a bird does. That’s why it is called the bird’s eye view or the bird’s eye perspective. (d)

looking down, point of view
And finally looking straight down, to the ground, into a cellar, fill in the blanks. (e)


When you make pictures of people that are smaller than you, or of pets, it is best to get down to their level. Bend your knees a little bit or crouch on your knees.

pricklyyellow tulips

I took the left picture from above – a bird’s perspective, the right one I made from the bottom up – a worm’s eye perspective. The pictures are for sale in my Zazzlestore in any option you want. Have a look.

Use your camera and play

Photography: Use your camera and play

If you own a Single-lens reflex camera (SLR) – whether it’s a digital or a film camera – it’s a pity not to use the different possibilities. Of course I set my camera on full-automatic too at times, but the only advantage then is the speed of taking a picture. If you want to have special effects like depth-of-field for example, you have to put the camera on half-automatic or manual.

use camera



There are 3 elements on your camera that have a relationship with dark and light:
• diaphragm
• time


The range of the diaphragm depends on your lens and can be for example f/5.6 – f/22. Or it can be f/1.4 – f/32. The lower the first number the better the lens is!
A low diaphragmnumber means a big lens opening and little depth-of-field. Compare it to your eyes: in the dusk your pupils are big and you don’t see very well.

big pupilskeyboard

A high diaphragmnumber means a small lens opening and a lot of depth-of-field. Compare it to your eyes: in the sun you will squeeze your eyes. Squeezing your eyes also means that you see more.


If you put your camera on half-automatic and preset the diaphragm, the camera will take care of the time. The rule of thumb is:
• high diaphragmnumber <-> long time
• low diaphragmnumber <-> short time

Tip: use a tripod if you want to have a lot of depth-of-field.


blurring because of movement

Another preset is time. If you deliberately want a blurred picture use a long time. And for a frozen movement the time must be as short as possible.
In half-automatic the camera will combine the preset time with the right diaphragm.

frozen movement


Playing with these presets gives you a good feel for your camera. The main advantage in digital cameras is of course, that you can take loads of pictures and throw away afterwards what is not right.

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Want to take it a step further? Put the camera on half-automatic with the diaphragm preset on f/11. On the display you can see what time goes with that preset. Let’s presume it is 1/200. Than turn the button on Manual, set the diaphragm on f/11 and the time on 1/200. Take a picture. Change the time to 1/100 and take a picture. Change the time to 1/400 and take a picture. If the sun hasn’t disappeared behind a huge cloud in the meantime you get a good feel of the impact of changing the time.
You can handle a similar process by changing the diaphragm and leaving the time on 1/200.


Sometimes playing with time and diaphragm isn’t enough. If the light is very poor you can put the ISO (filmspeed) to a higher value.
The poorer the light the higher the ISO-value.
Most cameras can’t handle a high ISO very well and there will be some distortion, especially in big areas that have little details. So if you can avoid it, that’s better. Try to photograph as much as you can with a low ISO-value, for instance 100 or 200.


Not too hard on yourself

It took me a pretty long time before I mastered the relationship between diaphragm, time and ISO. The most difficult for me was the fact that a low diaphragm-number means a big opening and little depth-of-field. For some reason I thought it wasn’t logical. It helped me to make it some kind of mantra and repeating it to myself a lot:
• low diaphragm-number – big opening – little depth-of-field
• low diaphragm-number – big opening – little depth-of-field
• low diaphragm-number – big opening – little depth-of-field

If you were used to put your camera on full-automatic and because of this article you have been playing with half-automatic and manual, please let me know what you think of it in the commentbox below. I am really curious.

Photography, my passion

Photography: My passion

Looking through the square hole


Taking pictures is narrowing your view. In a good sense. Looking through the square hole makes you focus on composition, color and details of what you see. It’s all about making choices.

When I was 12 years old I got a camera from my granddad. It was an Agfa, that I know for sure. But I am not sure anymore whether it was a Click or a Clack. All these years I was convinced it was a ClackII, but googling pictures of it made me wonder. The image in my memory resembles more the ClickII.
Well, whatever.
It was a little plastic camera, with 3 choices (sun, half-clouded, clouded) and I could make great pictures with it.

Taking pictures inspires me

masks in venice
Masks in Venice

I am not a photographer by profession. Although I do take pictures to sell them. What I like most about pictures is the infinite source of inspiration they are to me.

  1. The actual pressing the button at the right moment;
  2. Sorting, choosing, throwing away and keeping others after a shoot;
  3. The editing and playing in Adobe Photoshop;
  4. Organizing them in themes by tagging;
  5. Making plans for the next day of shooting.

And of course looking at exhibitions and in books at other photographers and their work.
Favorites are Karl Blossfeldt, a teacher that made pictures of plants to teach about forms and shapes, Ansel Adams, a marvelous landscape photographer, Hans Aarsman, a Dutch photojournalist who writes real funny observations, Eva Besnyo, a social photographer and Ed van der Elsken, also a social photographer.

LOL, come to think of it, looking at their names it seems I didn’t get past the E in the alphabet, but that really is a coincidence! It’s not a coincidence though that 2 out of 5 are social photographers.

The reasons why I take pictures

  1. Pictures are great to remember events
  2. Making pictures makes me more aware of what I see
  3. I love editing pictures as a form of art
  4. I use pictures for educational reasons
  5. Pictures are my inspiration when I make my art
  6. I hang my pictures on the wall or put them on the cupboard
  7. I love to capture emotions or beautiful moments in time that may just never happen as randomly perfect again
  8. It’s a moment in Time
  9. I use my photographs in my books
  10. Photo Diary

Decorative pictures

A canvas hanging on the wall or framed on the cupboard

exhibition in a garden

It’s great to choose some photos for a special place on your wall. Don’t go for the cheapest supplier. Have a good eye on the following aspects:

  1. How is the quality of the canvas;
  2. What kind of wood is used for the frame;
  3. Are the colors UV-resistant;
  4. Is the finishing touch a good varnish.

Sometimes I use my canvases as an art project. One project in particular was really fun to do. I was going to have an exhibition in a big garden in June. The theme was ‘Time‘. In January and March I took a lot of pictures and chose 5 for a print on canvas. On iron pins, stuck in the ground, I could hang the canvases on the spot where I took the picture, thus showing what it looked like a couple of months before. Because of the pins they were a little bit off the ground, so when it rained they wouldn’t get dirty from spattering mud.
Glad you asked, yes, they survived the wet Dutch weather perfectly!

Do you want a canvas of your own?

beach photograph

This picture and others are for sale in my Zazzle store JosjeM

The camera is my best friend
As long as I am behind it

olympus tripolympus muhipstamatic appcanon markII

I was trying to recall how many cameras I have possessed. The amount is amazing. I regret that I sold or gave away most of them. It would be a nice Memory Lane if I had them all on a shelf.

Because of the picture I wanted to make for this lens, I rumbled through my drawers. The funniest thing is, that I discovered an analog camera with a film in it. No idea for how long. The display says ’19’, so I have 18 pictures, or maybe they are slides, of which I have no idea what’s on them. It will be nice to fill all 36 and then try to find some place to develop it, don’t you think?

[Update: I am glad I didn’t finish all 36, but let it develop right away. The Fuji film – having a blue shade in itself – turned out to be too old. All the pictures are very blue and because of that they look real faded. Oh well, now I at least know what was one it. Not for keeping :-)]

Nowadays I walk around with my Canon Mark II for the large ‘official’ photos. And my iPhone for the fun photos. Do you know the app Hipstamatic? I adore it! It’s an app pretending the iPhone is a plastic camera, like my ClickII. You can take pictures that had a light leak. Or doubled by accident. Or have stains on them.

I love taking pictures on my iPhone with the Hipstamatic-app

There are always new things to explore

tutorial photography

Not all old knowledge became obsolete when digital cameras were commonplace. The rules concerning composition, use of color, depth-of-field or contrast still apply.
But any new technique or any new camera takes a lot of learning.

I love it when things change and there is something new I can put my teeth in to try to master it. And I also love to teach about it. For instance in this article about composition on my blog.

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The rule of thirds is very important in photography, but there are more ways that lead to Rome, in this case in leading to a good composition.

Mastering digital photography

In my photography library the most books are written by Scott Kelby. Basically every page is a picture with a talk. In a clear way and very instructive.

100 Photos that are all the same

Or how I rediscovered my pleasure in shooting

This gallery’s theme is Fiesta

There was a period I hardly took any pictures, except from my family and special occasions. When we were on a holiday I bought postcards from the highlights. What was going on? I got frustrated that the postcards always looked better than my pictures. They were taken in better conditions, from a better position, with a technical camera. And I didn’t see much point in adding a picture of the facade of the cathedral to what all my bystanders were shooting at the same moment.

I regained my pleasure when I decided to have one main objective, one theme to work from. For example, my theme could be round or monochrome. One year all my pictures had to be taken in portrait mode. The theme could be five or contrast. As you can see the list is endlessly. I can really recommend it. It is such fun to try to find images that fit your theme. And what’s more: you will look at your environment in a different way than you did before.

7 Ways to use color in photography

7 Ways to use color in photography

The people that know me personally or read my other blogs have heard before that I am a huge fan of Johannes Itten, a teacher at Bauhaus in the twenties of last century. I use his colorwheel all the time. In my profession as a graphic designer. When I am making my ceramics. And certainly when I take pictures.

colorwheel itten

1. Primary and secundary colors

The most intense (= satured) colors are the primary and secondary colors in their purest form. Occasionally I can make a picture that has only the three primary colors red, yellow and blue or the three secundary colors purple, orange and green in them, although seldom with a saturation of 100%.

color in photography

secundary colors in photography

2. Complementary colors

The colors that reinforce each other the most are the complementary colors. In the colorwheel they are opposite each other. They don’t necessarily need to be satured colors, so these are not the only pairs. But it is obvious they are the clearest example. Yellow versus violet. Blue versus orange. Red versus green.

complementary colors

3. Monochrome

A color can be mixed with white to make it lighter and with black to make it darker. It can be pretty difficult to make a picture that has only the tones and shades of one color.

monochrome in photography

4. Colorsplash

In iPhoneography there are several apps to make a colorsplash. The picture is made black&white and where you put your finger on the screen the color will reappear. You can also think of ‘colorsplash’ as one little part of exuberant color in an overall grayish photograph, giving you a lot of fun taking pictures.

color splash

5. Warm and cold colors

Have a look at the colorwheel and draw an imaginary line over yellow and purple. On one site are the warm colors, with reddish orange as warmest and on the other side are the cold colors with greenish blue as the coldest one. Warm colors tend to be closer by and cold colors give the impression to be further away. Especially in a landscape you can use this quality to realise more depth in your picture.

warm and cold colors

6. Emotion in color

If you want a particular kind of atmosphere in a picture, color can be a big attribute. It’s obvious in the first landscape, but I suppose you can agree with me it’s even more visible in the picture below. A sunrise is so romantic!

emotional colorsunrise

7. The symbolic value of colors

In the Middle ages blue was the color of Maria. Symbolizing pureness. A symbolic meaning is a matter of agreement. And can be different in another culture or another country. In the USA Democratic voting states are called the blue states, while in Holland blue is the color of the liberal party. In some countries the color of mourning is black, while in other countries it’s white or purple.

symbolic coloring

When you are going to make pictures you could try to focus on one of these 7 ways of using colors. It’s so rewarding to discover the value of different approaches of color once you practice it.

What do you focus on when taking pictures? Tell me in the commentbox below.

PS Read here how this theory is applicable to graphic designing.

Composing your subject in a photograph

Composing your subject in a photograph

During my education at two art academies in Holland I was trained to look at the composition of paintings and sculptures. That was a big advantage for me when I started making taking pictures.
In photography the usual rule of thumb is the rule of thirds. It’s a great rule to start with, but in this blogpost I will explain some other possibilities for composing a photograph.

1. Rule of thirds

rule of thirds

Divide the image in three equal parts both horizontally and vertically. Important areas are the four intersections on which you can place the most important part of the image. In the picture seen above one of the eyes is on such a crossing point.

And there are four lines that can be useful in positioning the elements of your composition. Have a look at the pictures below, you can use either one of the vertical or horizontal lines.

rule of thirds

rule of thirds in landscape

2. Symmetry

The easiest way to make a composition is symmetry. I call it the Catholic way, because the mass consists of symmetrical gestures and objects placed on either side on the altar. Pictures composed this way are peaceful and will have a quiet mood.


A clear example are these tiles. Less obvious is the image of the trees as a sample, but I guess you can still discover the symmetry in that picture.

3. Dynamic composition

Although I take a lot of symmetrical pictures, I think it is very interesting to look for a dynamic contrast. Possible contrasts are:

• full of details / empty space
• lots of color / monochrome
• dark / light

dynamic composition

In this picture of a boat you can see I have looked for a symmetrical composition, while using a dynamic contrast between the left and the right side.

4. Diagonal

diagonal composition

Usually a diagonal will make a composition dynamic, depending on the subject of course. If that subject is a frozen puddle, the image will be very peaceful.

5. Vanishing  point

A vanishing point will suck the viewer into the image and creates an enormous suggestion of depth. The purest way is to position the vanishing point exactly in the middle, but as you can imagine, this point can also be on the thirds-line.

vanishing point

vanishing point

6. No grid at all

Not every picture needs to follow one of the former composition rules. A lot of my pictures are textures of all kinds. They don’t have grids. Unless you desperately want to see a grid, in that case you may notice the diagonal From top-left to bottom-right in the yellow picture with the light playing on the fruits. 🙂

composing a photograph

7. Knowing the rules means you can break them

I am a strong supporter of knowing the rules, but that does not mean that you should follow the rules no matter what. Once you know them and mastered them, break them. (Uhm… concerning the composition, I mean).
The funny thing is, that I deliberatly broke the rule of thirds in this landscape and put the horizon extremely low, but when I drew the lines in order to show you, I discovered that the rule of thirds was in place after all!

composing a photograph

Good luck!


A lot of cameras have a display at the back or a viewfinder with the grid shown. It helps you to follow the rules or to disregard them. One way or the other, I am sure that if you take your pictures with these rules in mind, they will come out better than before. Good luck and please let me know if you have any questions. Put them in the commentbox below and I will gladly answer them.

Red, White and Blue in Pictures

Photography: Red, White and Blue in Pictures

Photography inspired by the Dutch flag

red white blueA lot of countries have flags in the colors red, white and blue. The USA, the Netherlands, France, the UK, Russia – to name a few. Flags are an offspring of heraldry. Every color had a specific meaning in ancient heraldry.
Drawing: the Dutch flag

In medieval times colors and flags were a necessity to distinguish one armored knight from the other. Only seven colors were allowed and they all had a black and white ‘translation’. For instance blue was also indicated by a pattern of horizontal lines and red by vertical lines. This variation was used in wax seals.

If you have read this other article of mine about photography – looking through the square hole – you have seen that I love thematic photography. In this article I combine those themes with the colors red, white and blue.

A modern variation of the heraldic colors are the red and the blue states in USA election time.

In these series I selected 3 pictures in the colors red, white and blue for each subject. Some are bright colors, others are more saturated. I call them “powdery”.


red glasswhite glass
blue glass
Still lives and windows

Do you know the still lives of Morandi? If you don’t you really should try to have a look at them. Either in reality or in reproductions. I have admired his work for a long, long time and still am not tired of looking at it.


red door
red white blue in pictures
blue door
Doors and windows. Every holiday I come home with at least one of those on a picture


red chairs
white chairs
blue chairs
Have a seat. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Flowers from the Dutch bulb fields

red flowers white flowers blue flowers
The bulb fields are a feast for the eyes in April and May

Rock solid

red rock white rock
blue rock
Is every picture of a rock?


red white blue boatred white boat red white blue boat
Red, white and blue combined within a picture

And one for my American friends

4th of july
Have a great 4th of July celebration!