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.

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.

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!

ABFriday: Derelict Boat

Happy New Year! And what better way to start the year off than with After Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fischer at Visual Venturing. To see how other photographers interpreted this month’s photograph, click here.

This month’s selection came from Laura Macky, whose past participation encouraged many of us to up our game after seeing her imagination let loose. Laura is a fantastic photographer; I follow her on Facebook and also on her blog, Laura Macky Photography.

Laura’s picture looked pretty good to me without any adjustments:

Original Photo
Original Photo
Continue reading “ABFriday: Derelict Boat”

Topaz Labs Free Trial

If you’re considering buying or using Topaz Labs products, I suggest you download a free trial now. Topaz often runs a sale of some sort on Black Friday (i.e., the day after Thanksgiving when the Christmas shopping bargains happen). I don’t know if they are this year, but they have in the past. This way – with less than three weeks left until Black Friday – you’ll know for sure if you want to buy it in the event there is a sale.

At this time, when their software is upgraded, owners receive a free update (note that is always subject to change).

To find out more about downloading Topaz Labs, click here. You’ll receive a $20 coupon and supposedly I get one too. I’m not a Topaz representative nor do they offer me anything for doing this. I’m merely sending around a reminder since so many of you have commented on thinking about trying it out.

More about my post processing can be found here.

Here are some examples of things I’ve done using Topaz Labs. Most of the frames around the pictures are from a different software, onOne Effects. They also offer a free trial (click here), but I don’t know if they offer any sales on Black Friday.

ABFriday – November 2015

Another month has gone by and it’s time again for the ABFriday One Photo Focus, sponsored by Stacy Fisher over at Visual Venturing. A number of us take the same picture and post process it with our own interpretation. It’s always fun to see what everyone does! This month’s entries can be found here and was provided by Helen Chen.

The original photo is on the left. I applied a few standard adjustments to improve clarity, contrast and exposure. I did some minor cloning of the inside doorway to get rid of the red object and some of the speckles in the upper half of the doorway. After some debate, I also cropped it down. The wall on the left was interesting, but I found it hard to figure out where I wanted to look! After that, the brick wall to the left was burned out and I used a masking brush to darken it down more. I also darkened the inside of the doorway. Since it was a bit junky, I felt a darker look made it more mysterious.

Continue reading “ABFriday – November 2015”