Looking Through the Window

I love looking in windows when I’m taking pictures. Part of it is wondering how others live, but I think a bigger part is just curiosity as to what’s there. I liked this storefront window – not only was it decorated colorfully, but you could see all the way through to the building behind it, which is not common.

This triptych finished the window in three different styles. I originally started working on it as a creativity exercise on minimalism then moved onto another exercise in black & white.

One of the things I like about doing creativity exercises is that it expands my skills and gets me out of my comfort zone. I don’t have to like the end result, I need to be open to trying and failing. It’s frustrating sometimes though, having to sit and think what do I do next? And how do I do it? Thankfully Google offers up a lot of answers, as do the forums for my various photography software.

The middle photo was my usual fine art photography style, using Topaz Studio 1.

The left one was from Topaz Studio 2, AI Remix. My intention was to try something really different and I did! It turned out pretty good but is definitely not my usual style.

The right style was black and white with a high key. I don’t usually like black and white, but this also turned out good. I used ON1 for the rendering.

These pictures were taken at a store front in Dayton, Virginia.

Neighbors as Muse

Beauty of a Front Porch
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I take pictures nearly every day and have done so since 2011. I’m a member of Capture Your 365, although as time goes on, I don’t follow the prompts very well anymore.

In this case, I was captivated by the loveliness of my neighbor’s front porch – the comfy looking chairs, the bright flowers and the green tree / shrubs are made for bright colors. It’s a porch that anyone would sit on to view the neighborhood and visit with friends. Of course, her and I tend to stand in the street as we visit since we often have a dog on a leash!

My neighbors are often my muse. I’ve taken pictures of their trees, flowers, side yards and back yards. They’ve nicely moved cars and locked up dogs when I asked. I’ve gotten some very nice pictures right around where I live, such as this snow scene taken from my driveway.

Lacy Ice Covered Trees
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I’m not alone in finding my neighbors to be my muse. The American father and son painters, N.C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth, both painted frequently from the environment around them. They painted the landscapes and farmers, men and women. I was fascinated at the Brandywine Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania at how many of their paintings were of their neighbors and farms. Clearly, where they lived had a strong influence on what appealed to them for their paintings.

The front porch photo was finished using Topaz Cartoon, textures from 2 Lil’ Owls (Chalky Bits, Soft Grunge and Black Magic), and a torn paper border from ON1.

The ice covered trees was from my cell phone and finished using Snapseed.

Endless Summer Sky

“Sounds of the wind and sounds of the sea make me happy just to be”.

– June Polis

Endless Summer Sky
Taken near Pea Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
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I took this picture near Pea Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I love the immensity of the sky and water here and the feeling it gives me of time stretching out forever.

This was mostly post processed with ON1 using Landscape Pop Sunshine, Rice Paper Dark, a vignette and emulsion frame.

I did look up June Polis. She was the mother of Susan Polis Schutz, the founder of Blue Mountain Arts greeting cards. June worked for her daughter for 20 years as a sales manager.

Bee Butt Cuteness

Bumblebee at work on a thistle
Taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Richmond, Virginia
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“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should,

for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”

Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
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The sight of this bumblebee buried deep in the flower made me laugh. As I looked for a quote to use, I realized that I didn’t have a bee butt in the picture. Instead, I photographed an upside down bee that was so laden with pollen, it looked like it was wearing pantaloons.

I was surprised to find there’s a Pinterest board for bee butts, as well as articles, tweets and all kinds of social media.

And those little round fuzzy rumps are cute as long as they aren’t sitting on me.

The original picture had a leg sticking up, looking like a turkey drumstick. I cloned that out. It was funny, but not picturesque.

The picture was post processed mostly in Topaz Studio by using AI Gigapixel to upsize it, AI Clear to remove noise and BuzSim 2 for the abstract look. Black Dust and Black Magic 3 textures in the background were from 2 Lil Owls. The picture was finished in onOne with a center spot vignette and torn paper frame.

Perfect Peony

Tree Peony at
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Richmond, Virginia
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Sometimes I don’t realize that I’ve taken a perfect picture until I get home and start reviewing my work. That was the case with this tree peony.

The color, the symmetry, the unfolding of the petals – all made for a rich and luxurious flower, waiting for me to release it to the world.

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The background was replaced with Daily Texture’s Sweet Tooth. Finishing was done in ON1 with radiance sunshine, center spot vignette, and the Martha border.

This was taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

Memorial Day Observance

Memorial Park Cemetery
Sioux City, Iowa
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Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy

forget in time that men have died to win them.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
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I’ve loved this photo for years. It wasn’t very good, but the emotions when I saw those flags was so strong that day and it has stayed with me ever since. Let me put it this way – it only took me a couple of minutes to dig this out of all the film photos I have stored!

This year finally, my skill set was good enough to do something with it.

I created this using the following:

From Topaz Studio:

  • Finger Painting
  • Crisp Morning Run

From on1:

  • Radiance Sunshine
  • Black Soft Glow
  • Red Door Texture
  • Subtle Vignette
  • Dano Border

What I Learned – March 2019

A Waterfall of Spring Flowers
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond Virginia
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It was interesting to reach over my daily reflections in March and list what I learned (or was reminded of):

  • Be more protective of my creative time. If I pay bills, cook, take a walk, go shopping, or visit with friends during my peak times, I won’t feel like writing or working on my photography later.
  • To appreciate good health – my husband had two retinal surgeries in March and we’re still waiting to see if he’s had permanent damage or not to his right eye. We expected to have surgery on his left eye, but the surgery on his right eye was an unplanned surprise.
  • Be careful in choosing a daily practice for my One Little Word, which is explore. I chose to do a scripture study, which I very much enjoyed. However, I was writing too much in my journal and didn’t do it consistently enough. I plan to continue with this study method, but probably not daily. Next year, I’d rather do something fun and light.
  • I want to have a larger life. I want to have more fun, be more lighthearted, and not so serious all the time. I have no idea how I’ll do that, but it’s on my goal list for this year. I’ve worked on this over the years (one year was so bad, I had trouble putting together 25 accomplishments for the year!) but would like it to be more natural and not having to remind myself of it all the time.
  • If you feed a beagle enough green beans, he will lose weight. He’s lost four pounds since last fall and is looking much better. I guess I need to start eating more green beans. . .

This picture was post processed using:

  • Topaz Studios BuzSim and Winter Fairytale
  • Daily Textures by Jai Johnson from the February 2019 collection
  • OnOne’s Big Softy vignette and Courtney border

Life’s Daily Harvest


Happy Valentine’s Day!

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. . .

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Every time I see these plants in my photo inventory, they make me smile. They’re nothing special – easy to grow, prolific, and common. But they’re pretty. They wave in the breeze, follow the sun with their big faces, and brighten up the garden.

Even if common, we all need some beauty and color. Life is hard in so many ways. We’re all busy, tired and stressed. Having something that is pretty for the sake of pretty is refreshing.

This photo of caladium plants was taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Here’s the original photo:

Caladium plant, straight from the camera

After my usual adjustments in Lightroom (cropping, color adjustment, etc), I post processed this in Topaz Studios, using BuzSim and Chalk Smudge Light CS. I added three textures to it from 2 Lil Owls. The textures helped bring up the colors and darken the edges. I then finished off in onOne for a vignette and border.

My post processing steps are below. Remember that Photoshop layers start from the bottom and work up. As a result, my watermark at the top is the last step in the process.

What small thing has made you smile lately? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Roses and Textures

From the rose garden at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

One thing I particularly enjoy about post processing my photos is learning new things.

Joining a monthly club for textures encouraged me to stretch my skills in a new direction. Each month, Denise Love of 2 Lil Owls releases new textures to club members, along with instruction videos. There are also extra goodies, from retired texture collections to presets for Lightroom and /or Adobe Photoshop.

Having to log in each month to retrieve my goodies also encourages me to use the textures and goodies, as they disappear shortly after the next month gets released. The Facebook group for 2 Lil Owls gives me ideas and inspiration as well. There are many talented photographers showing their work and providing tips.

It’s been fun! And as I get more comfortable using this as a tool, I’ve found new ways to use it in my regular post processing. I’ve used the textures to warm up photos, enhance skies, and bring out colors.

The picture above used textures from the January collection, Cabaret. These textures are bold with significant texture and an opaque color. As a result, they needed a bold picture to stand up to them. I also used a Black Dust texture (another goody from January). Interestingly, black textures provide patterns without leaving color.

This is the original picture. It’s not bad straight from the camera!

Original picture, straight from the camera

Below is how I transformed it. Photoshop layers start from the bottom and work up. As a result, my watermark at the top is the last step in the process.

I think this went from a good picture to an awesome one. Of course, textures won’t cover up a bad picture, but even good pictures can be made better.

What have you done lately to stretch your creativity? Leave me a note and let me know!