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.
.

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.

Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 3

The final picture after processing.
The final picture after processing.  Taken at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Habor, Maine.

Last week, I started a technical series of how to post process photos of stained glass windows.  In Part 1, I went over taking and selecting which photo to use, making adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, and moving the picture to Adobe Photoshop for more complex work.

Part 2 showed how to correct for distortion (i.e., keystone effect) and adding in a hue / saturation layer.

Now that a hue / saturation layer is in place, it’s time to create a mask.  The mask blocks out what part of the picture I don’t want adjusted with the next step.  In this case, I will block out the background, then invert the mask (i.e., turn it inside out) so that any changes I make will adjust the background only and leave the stained glass alone.

Add in a hue saturation layer in order to darken the background.
Add in a hue saturation layer in order to darken the background.

On the hue / saturation layer, click the white box (see where the down arrow is pointing).  Another box will open up to the left, which I’ve put a big circle around.

To the far left are two boxes that should be black and white.  When I hover the mouse over them, they are called the foreground and background color.  Make sure the black is on top as shown here.  If it isn’t, click the tiny double arrow (shown with the tiny circle around it) to reverse the boxes.  If the black box isn’t on top, this won’t work right.  If my boxes have different colors in them, I click the itty bitty boxes next to the tiny double arrow.  That will restore the default colors of black and white.  I will have to click the double arrow to put the black box back on top.

Yes, itty bitty is a technical term, although I don’t think Adobe has it copyrighted :)

Click the mask and make sure the right colors get used when brushing the mask in.
Click the mask and make sure the right colors get used when brushing the mask in.

Now it’s time to brush in a mask and cover up the background.

Continue reading “Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 3”

Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 2

St. Saviour's Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine
Image after all post processing is done.  Taken at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine

In my last post, I began a technical series of how I processed some photos that I took of stained glass.  Click here for Part 1, which explains how I selected the photo and began processing in Adobe Lightroom.  Click here to see the original post with all the photos.

At the end of the last post, I finished my initial edits in Lightroom and loaded the picture into Adobe Photoshop for further editing.  This begins with what I did next in Photoshop to improve the picture.

The first thing I do is create a duplicate layer.  This way, if something goes wrong, the layer can be deleted, a new one created, and I can start all over again.  In other words, I haven’t altered the original photo.  If I make a mistake and forget to add the layer, I save it right away with a new name so that I don’t accidentally overlay my original photo.  If something goes wrong, I have to delete the entire photo, but it’s better than having ruined the original photo.

To duplicate the layer, right click on the layer, which is shown in the down arrow and mostly hidden under the pop-up box.  On the pop-up box, click duplicate layer.  When the next box comes up, you can name the new layer or not.  You can always change the name later by double clicking on the name of the layer and then editing it.

Create a duplicate layer before doing anything.  This way if something goes wrong, you can delete the layer and start again.
Create a duplicate layer before doing anything. This way if something goes wrong, you can delete the layer and start again.

Continue reading “Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 2”

Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 1

Image after all post processing is complete
Image after all post processing is complete.  Taken at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine.

A few weeks ago, I posted stained glass photos that I took at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.  Everyone ooh’d and aah’d appropriately, then one of you stuck your hand up and said, “How did you do that?”  It turns out she has a number of stained glass pictures taken during a trip to Europe and hadn’t figured out how to process them up.

So this is going to get a bit technical and take several posts to explain, but here’s how I did it!

Select A Photo With Detail

The first thing is to select a photo that has sufficient detail in it.  I shot these with a high ISO because of how dim the church was and I was hand holding my camera.  Had I been tripod mounted, I could have used a lower ISO and had less noise (i.e., graininess).  But I didn’t have my tripod with me and I don’t know that the church would have let me set it up anyhow.

I routinely bracket my shots.  Bracketing is where my camera takes a picture at the normal settings, then another one that’s darker and another that’s lighter.  So I take 3 pictures of every shot that I want.  This helps improve the odds of getting a keeper.

Here’s the difference when I reviewed my pictures later:

The picture on the left is with normal settings.  Although it seems to be a better brightness, the details are lacking in the robe, flowers and even the hair.  The one on the right is technically too dark, but you can see a great deal more of the detail in the robe, flowers, and hair.

Continue reading “Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 1”

My One Thing – Storytelling My Life

Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Pick a direction, start marching down that path and
see how you like it.  Time brings clarity and if you find
you don’t like it, you can always change your mind.
It’s your life.
– Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The One Thing

The Short Version

After reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (see my notes on it here), I realized that my ONE Thing is storytelling my life.  Being a writer is too narrow for my life and being a photographer is also too limited.  I desire both and need both to achieve what I want, which is to record and curate my life.

I first read about curating my life on Gretchen Rubin’s blog (here), particularly her comment from a book that said, “self-curate or disappear”.  She expands on this with these questions, all of which I answered “yes” to:

How about you? Do you “self-curate”?
What steps do you take to preserve memories,
to catalog memorabilia, to leave a record of your life,
thoughts, experiences, and to review it?
Do you do it for yourself, or with an eye to an audience?

Wikipedia says curation is, “archiving, historical record keeping”, and that “in general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist. This means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization”.

This is what I do with my journals and photographs.  I keep a historical record of my life that is mostly unpublished and mostly unique, for which no identical copies exist.

No Longer A Writer

I realized earlier this year that being a writer no longer fit me, way before I started contemplating my one thing.  In my journal, I wrote:

What about not being a writer?

I’m okay with that.

I don’t want to be in front of the computer for long periods of time, just staring at it.

I really really hate the thought of writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting all those drafts.  I’d rather watch grass grow – at least I’d be outside!

My imagination / observation is not up to that of authors.  I read all the details they put in to bring a story to life and it just blows past me.  I skip over a fair of that, which is NOT helping develop my skills as a writer either.  But if I find it interferes with the enjoyment of the story, I’d find it tedious to no end to actually write.

My life experience is actually pretty limited to be a writing what goes on in my Walter Mitty imagination.  My real life is narrow and boring with few opportunities to experience what I daydream about.  In other words, I would write without authority or knowledge.  I suppose I could obtain such knowledge through research but my time is limited, my energy is low, and my desire to do so is non-existent.

And the photography? It’s easier for me, goes faster, I have my favorite boy toy as a resource,  and people would rather look at picture than read something thoughtful anyhow.

So I guess I want to keep my journals, but for now, nothing more beyond that.

After I wrote that, I stared at it for a couple of days, then grieved.  I wasn’t ready to give up being a writer, something I thought all my life I would do.  So I decided to not give it up.

And a few days later realized that yes, this door was closed for now.  It really was good to decide that I’m not a writer.

Not Only a Photographer Either

As the summer went on, I realized that I didn’t want to be just a photographer either.  It would have been easy enough to convert my blog to mostly photographs.  I’m capable of some really good work and have enough inventory that I could post a daily picture for a fairly lengthy period before I’d run out of ideas.

But that didn’t suit me either.  Just as being a writer was too limiting, being only a photographer didn’t contribute enough.

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Being a Storyteller

That’s when I realized that I wanted to tell stories from my life, with both writing and photography.  They complement each other and together give a fuller, more rounded story, the story of me.  Something to remember my life by and hopefully pass to generations after me.

Per Wikipedia, “storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences”, which is what I want to do.

Margaret Heffernan wrote an article in Inc. about a narrative template for storytelling, called ABT, that said:

So if you start with your information (And)
but only pile on information, you lose momentum
and a sense of destination. So you have to
move on to your challenges (But) and then
imagine a resolution (Therefore).

I haven’t overly focused on technique, but it matches what I try to do.  I make a point, share from my life how I executed (or failed) and why it was important to me.  As with anything, it doesn’t work everytime, but I get (and appreciate) the comments that you all are relating to many things that I post in my blog.

As I’m writing this, I did some research on Google about storytelling techniques.  Needless to say, there are all kinds of hints and tips out there.  Storyteller.net had a useful list of tips for those telling verbal stories that also applies to what I’m doing.  Two particularly good reminders were to tell stories that I like and to not hesitate to remove slow moving parts.  Amanda Lewan’s blog post is directed to the fiction writer, but she has a good reminder to show, don’t tell.

I’ve been working on this approach for a while and need to continue honing my skill at storytelling my life.  For now though, for my creative side, this is my ONE Thing.  Identifying it and writing it out nurtures my creativity by giving me focus and helping me prioritize my time and efforts.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Observations On Autumn

 

Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting
Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting; this is Witch Hole Pond,  Acadia National Park in Maine

Use what you have, use what the world gives you.
Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness;
harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire.
Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled
with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce,
roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself.
The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die
are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see
is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before
the black and white silence of winter.
― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

I love that phrase above – that the turning of the leaves is the world’s oldest performance art.

The color change hasn’t quite come to central Virginia yet.  The trees have a yellow tinge – some do at least – others remain stubbornly green, and some are slowly going from green straight to brown.  A few, very few, have started to show red on their tips.

The shadows are lengthening as the sun stays lower in the horizon.  Even at noon there is a long shadow on the ground and the light remains golden all day long.

The seagulls have come back to the James River.  They head somewhere, presumably north, in the spring.  Their return is a sure sign of fall.

It was the opposite when I lived in the Midwest.  The redwing blackbirds would return in the spring.  I’d drive by a field and see them clinging to a cattail, swaying in the wind.  Then one day in August – I never could pinpoint the exact day it happened – but one day, they’d be gone.  Just like that!  And I knew fall was coming soon.

Of course, the food changes in the fall too.  The apples at the farmer’s market?  Wonderful.  They are so much better than store bought apples with their crisp texture and equally crisp, sweet taste.  The peaches and corn are long gone, the tomatoes nearly so.  But the apples and pumpkins are everywhere.  With the cooler nights, I can roast turkeys in the oven again, driving myself and the dogs wild with those wonderful smells.

Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows
Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows in the photograph of Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine

Today I nurtured my creativity during my lunch walk by making it a point to simply observe what was around me.  The study of biological phenomena has a name – phenology – which I discussed several years  in my posts here and here.  I have, with practice, improved my observations of nature and what it means.  It’s much more relaxing to walk and notice what’s around me in that moment than to dwell on the latest problem sitting on my desk or plan what needs to be said in a phone conference later on.

Happiness, not in another place but this place…
not for another hour, but this hour.
― Walt Whitman

 I also nurtured my creativity by processing this picture, then using some plug-ins to enhance it more.  The photograph one (directly above) turned out superb, but I rather like the painting one better (at the top).  Although I started with a preset in Topaz to create the painting effect, I adjusted it so that the colors were still distinguishable and it wasn’t just a big splash of bright colors.

Just so you can see what I did, here’s the original photograph before any processing.  Remember that I shoot in raw, so anything will need some further processing before it’s usable.  Were I to shoot in jpg, the camera makes those decisions for me.  It doesn’t start out in a bad place, but it needs some help.

Unadjusted original
Unadjusted original photograph of Witch Hole Pond, Acadia National Park in Maine

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Stained Glass in Maine

During my recent weekend in Maine, my daughter and I went into St. Saviour’s Episcopoal Church in Bar Harbor.  She waited patiently as I oohed and aahed over the stained glass, then proceeded to take a bunch of pictures.  According to its website, the church is the “oldest, largest and tallest public building on Mt. Desert Island”.

I offer a selection of those photos as my interpretation of this week’s photo challenge on refraction, which Wiktionary defines as, “the turning or bending of any wave, such as a light or sound wave, when it passes from one medium into another of different optical density”.  These windows were so very detailed that the light coming through was a jumble of bright colors.

I’d like to blithely expound on how this nurtured my creativity.  Well, it didn’t.  I found it frustrating and time consuming, although the end result was quite good.  I think once I get over being frustrated, I’ll be happy for the time I spent on it, but I’m not quite there yet.

Processing these took most of today.  The top 1/3 of several of them were overly dark, I think due to eaves on the outside.  Once I got them looking good, the backgrounds lightened up and the wood paneled walls showed up as maroon noise.  Ack!  My favorite boy toy made several trips upstairs to answer questions and teach me how to use layers and masks in Photoshop.  I got it figured it out too!  So that’s good.  I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so much long.  As is typical with the learning curve, it took me as long to do the first one as it did to do the rest of them together.  Of course, I was doing laundry too, so there were interruptions to hang up and put away clothes.

The pictures were a challenge to take, which is why they needed so much processing.  Thankfully my photography has improved enough that I could switch to manual mode and use spot metering to determine the optimal settings.  However, anything that was lightly colored was blown out (i.e., it showed no detail).  I had to keep slowing down my speed to darken the photos.  Worse yet, I had no tripod and wasn’t sure the church would like me setting on up anyhow.  So I hand held as best as I could, increased my ISO, and hoped for the best.

Below is how it looked before I processed it.  Everything is crooked (something I do too frequently).  The panel of three also has keystoning.  The left and right windows leaned in and while it didn’t look bad, I used transform in Photoshop to straighten them out.  And oops, I also included what my daughter was doing as I took pictures.  She was so intent on her phone, she didn’t notice me taking her picture with my cell phone.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

 #write31days

Working A Day Job – Part 1

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine.  Taken at 7:30 am.
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. Taken at 7:30 am.

“I find that having a day job is one of the best things
that in the world that could happen to me,” he once said.
“It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life,
I am just as free as I want to be and of course
I have nothing to worry about the money.”
Wallace Stevens, American Poet, as quoted in
Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry

It’s not a surprise that working a day job interferes with nurturing my creativity.  I need it – predictably – to pay the bills, provide benefits for my family, and to foster a valuable career.  I’m thankful to have a good job, although it hasn’t happened by accident.  God has blessed me richly with my employment, in addition to a lot of work and hard effort.

But how do I reconcile the two – my creativity and my employment, especially when I’m working a lot of overtime?

There are several ways I frame this up for myself, to keep myself encouraged when it seems my photography and writing are far from me in my daily life:

  • My commute to work is short.
  • I’ve learned discipline.
  • I am exposed to all kinds of technology.
  • I have a highly developed business knowledge.
  • I have the money to do my photography and writing.

My Commute Time

I have my daughter to thank for this one, when one day during year end close, I was complaining about all the overtime.  She pointed out how short my commute was by today’s standards.  Most days it’s 30 minutes one way, more or less.  If I lived closer to her in Atlanta, my commute could easily stretch to 1 to 1.5 hours one way.  If I lived in the Chicago suburbs and worked downtown, it would be the same between the train ride and walking from the train station to and from work.

So while I work a lot of overtime at various times during the year, I’m not sitting in the car in traffic.  My field requires large amounts of overtime, which would be worse if I worked in consulting.  My overtime is fairly limited by comparison and a short commute makes it easier on my personal life.

I’ve Learned Discipline

Do I feel like being at work every day?  No, of course not.  But I show up, regardless of how I feel about it.  People depend on me and it’s part of the job.

Nurturing my creativity is the same.  I don’t feel like going out to take pictures some days.  It can be a fair amount of work and effort to show up when the light is right, especially if that happens to be 5:30 am or 9:30 pm (sunrise versus night photography).  That picture above?  I took it at 7:30 am.  By then, my daughter and I had been up for over an hour, having dressed for a cold morning, driven to Acadia National Park, left the car and walked the path to that part of Witch Hole Pond.  The path was uphill most of the way to the pond too (but very worth it).

It’s easy to be undisciplined with my hobbies – to keep reading, watching television, or even cooking another meal instead of going out to use my camera or sitting at my computer to write or process pictures.  It’s even easier to decide I’m too tired to learn something new or try another technique and keeping doing the same old things.  I wrote more extensively about this on the post, Creativity versus Craft.

But if want satisfaction, I have to be as disciplined as I am at work.  Well, okay, maybe not quite as disciplined.  It’s supposed to be fun after all and not another drain on my emotions!

But I have to show up, learn, push myself to do new things, and most of all, just be there.  Just like today – I’m up early before work to write this, having worked late again last night and then gone to bed early.

So I think I’ll stop here and write about the rest of my points in my next post, as well as share a little more about Wallace Stevens who is quoted above.

Have a good day!

Click here for Part 2 of Working A Day Job.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Setting Expectations for Enjoyment

My daughter is cooking up a storm and has company for it too.
My daughter is cooking up a storm ten years ago and has company for it too.

One thing that helps nurture my creativity while traveling is to decide ahead of time what my expectations are.  I recheck them nearly every day while I’m on  my trip.  Did I do what I wanted?  If not, do I still want to do that?  If so, what do I need to do to enjoy or try whatever it is on my list?

Sometimes, of course, other things came up that were either a better choice, more fun, or unavoidable.  When my favorite boy toy and I went to Maine last year, it rained nearly every day.  It didn’t stop us from taking pictures, but we had to work a lot harder at it to get good pictures.  The rain was unavoidable.

Two years ago, while we were in Charleston, South Carolina, we realized there were tremendous opportunities to do night photography.  There were a number of cool things and we didn’t have trouble with being watched or stalked.  That was an opportunity that we didn’t expect.  Because we were out so late each night, we skipped the morning photography even though we wanted sunrises over the ocean.  Actually, we tried one and it was a fizzle due to fog.  But once we started staying up late at night, it didn’t matter if we got up early or not.

A baby Vizsla!  This was his first weekend with us.  He's 12-weeks-old.
A baby Vizsla! This was his first weekend with us. He’s 12-weeks-old.

So what are my expectations for my trip with my daughter?

  • Spend quality time with her
  • Take lots of pictures
  • Shoot more extensive videos of the ocean and surf than I did last time (to see what I shot last year, click here)
  • Show her around
  • Enjoy some fancy meals with her

When I went to Asheville earlier this summer, I set this for my expectations:

  • Relax
  • Write
  • Take pictures
  • Explore
  • Enjoy nice meals

Hmm. . . the food, photography and exploration seem to be a common theme here!

For my trip to Asheville, I met those expectations nearly every day and I had a blast doing it.  For my trip right now, since I didn’t plan to write, I took no laptop.  I also took minimal camera gear since my goal is to spend time with my daughter.

I find it comforting to identify ahead of time what I’m expecting from vacation, then adjusting it as each day unfolds.  This way I can make changes if I’m not getting what I want and adapt if the circumstances warrant it.  It helps me have a better vacation and enjoy my travels more.

So that’s today’s message for nurturing my creativity!  For those in the northern hemisphere, I hope you’re enjoying this fall weather and maybe even some color change.  The leaves are still green here, but you can see the yellow is starting to come through.  A few more weeks and the leaves will be a variety of brilliant colors.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days