ABFriday: Street Art

Welcome to another month of After-Before Friday, where participants take a photo and each renders their own interpretation of it. The other photos are hosted at Visual Venturing by Stacy Fischer. This month, Ben Rowe, of Aperture64, volunteered a photo of the Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, England. I encourage you to visit both blogs – Stacy’s to see what other people did (and it’s always a wide variety) and Ben, because he does such a superb job of explaining how he edited his version.

So here’s the original photo. The red marks are some things I cloned out to slightly declutter the picture. This included two benches, a sign, a small amount of roof, and a blip in the sky. I also did some pipes up the side of the building (just to the left of the center), but missed one in the middle of the tower, where the arrow is.

Original Photo Before Lightroom Adjustments; Red Shows What I Cloned Out
Original Photo Before Lightroom Adjustments; Red Shows What I Cloned Out

I lightly edited the photo in Lightroom and cropped it down to reduce the sky and grass. I felt the castle was better seen when it filled the frame and the Lightroom adjustments brought out the colors and perked up the picture.

Continue reading “ABFriday: Street Art”

AB Friday: March 2015

Final Photo
Final Photo
It’s time again for the ABFriday One Photo Focus Challenge, in which a photograph is provided for readers to interpret with post-photo processing.  This month’s photo came from Loré Dombaj at Snow’s Fissures and Fractures.  To see how other photographers interpreted this picture (and they will be wildly different), click here.
The original started out like this:
Original Photo
Original Photo
As is my usual, I spent some time with Loré’s picture to evaluate what I saw and wanted to emphasize in it (thanks to a fellow blogger, Emilio Pasquale, for pointing out that’s how I do my pictures).  The face of the cherub caught my attention and I decided that’s what my focus would be.  I did some adjustments in Lightroom, then used the radial filters to lighten up the plant on top of the cherub’s head and the cherub’s face.  I used another radial filter to darken the left bicep so it wasn’t so washed out.
I then cloned out the sign that was partially hidden behind the tree and cropped the picture to a 1×1 to remove the extraneous tables and chairs on both sides.  By the way – I cloned out the sign the SECOND time I processed the picture, since I didn’t notice it the first time until I was done with all my adjustments, including those in Photoshop.  It was easier to go back and redo it than try to clone it out so late in the game.
Below is how the radial filters, cloning and cropping were done.  #1 lightened up the entire plant, while #2 lightened up just the darkest part of the plant.  #3 lightened up the face, while #4 darkened the shoulder and upper arm.  #5 cloned out the sign, while #6 cropped the picture into a square.
Detail of the radial filters and cloning done in Lightroom.
Here’s how it looked before going into Photoshop.  I’ve also shown the adjustments panel in Lightroom to show what got changed:
In Photoshop, I applied several different filters to it – Topaz Clarity (Low Contrast and Color Pop 1), Topaz Adjust (Low Contrast and Black Rose), and a border from OnOne (Russell).  The Black Rose was an overall tint that adjusted the entire picture.  I normally don’t do that to my pictures, but in this case I liked how the colors popped out on the statue and tables, while de-emphasizing the plants.
I adjusted brightness and exposure to lighten up the picture slightly, then put on a text layer for a watermark acknowledging the original photographer.  I tried a watermark in both the lower left and upper right corners, before settling on the upper right corner.  That’s why there are two text layers, one of which is turned off (the little eyeball is missing).
March 1PF PS Adjustments Blog
After saving this as a *.psd, I went back to Lightroom and exported it for posting on my blog.  This limits the size and resolution so my pictures take up less space and load faster when my blog posts are opened.  Normally I sharpen my pictures when exporting them, but in this case it over-emphasized the detail, which I felt distracted from the picture itself.


I enjoyed trying out different things, experimenting with several different looks, and creating a beautiful picture.  And for your laughter and amusement, here are some bloopers:

Interested in how I post processed other photos?  Click here to see more.


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”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

My favorite!
My favorite!

One of the things I enjoy is working with difficult photos to process them and turn into something pretty.  I also try different things and thought I’d let you see my process.

Here’s the original photo, straight from the camera, of a bay window at night in Charleston, South Carolina:

Straight out of the camera.  Not much to it. . . yet.
Straight out of the camera. Not much to it. . . yet.

The lamp is overly bright (i.e., blown out), so I went with one of the darker photos in the bracketed series (bracketing is where I set my camera to take multiple shots, one at the right setting, one darker, and one lighter).  The lamp is still blown out here, but maybe I can do something with it.

I straightened the picture vertically, using the corner of the window that’s in the middle.  Unfortunately, my pictures usually need to be straightened out.  Because of that, I try to leave enough space around them so when I straighten them in Lightroom, they still look good.  Lightroom has some awesome tools to help with straightening out photos, so it’s not just me that takes them crooked!

After that, I put the picture into Photoshop to remove the excess noise and correct the skew on the left side of the photo.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite enough room on the left, so the top corner is slightly clipped.

The noise (or grain from using a high ISO) is still there, but far less.  I could have removed more of it, but I didn’t like how the photo looked.  I went with just taming it down.

Then I started playing!  I tried to fix the blown out light with Topaz Star Effects, but couldn’t make up my mind which one I liked the best.  I thought the sun flare (on the left) covered it up the best, but the jewel star effect was interesting too.

I then played with Topaz Adjustments on the sun flared lamp and Topaz Black and White with the lamp that had the jewel star effect.  The results are below:

Some specific notes to myself.  I would likely redo this photo if I wanted to use it for something.  I’d try to find a photo that was a little further back, so that when I fixed the skew on the left, the top corner stayed in the picture.  I’d also like more space around the entire picture.  This is cropped closer than I like, but I didn’t figure that out until after I’d done all these adjustments.

When I DeNoised the photo, I wasn’t paying close enough attention (hey, it was late!).  I chose the DeNoise for jpg, but this picture was taken in camera raw.  Oops.  It still looks much improved, so that mistake might not have mattered that much.

Although I intended this week’s challenge to be a selection of photos that I’ve taken after dark, it didn’t work out that way.  But I had fun working on this photo and seeing what I could do to improve it.  The more I experiment, the faster I get at doing this.  Plus it’s really fun to just try out different things with my photography!

To see what others did with this challenge, click here.

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


Creativity vs. Craft

20130721-184 Blog-2
Stylized rose using textures and presets

The artist is nothing without the gift,
but the gift is nothing without the work.

~ Oscar Wilde

One thing that makes nurturing my creativity hard is the difficulty in accepting that failure is necessary in the process of learning the craft, that the learning curve is messy and long, and the frustrations are endless.  It might be expensive also, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to learn something new without money getting wasted at some point.

Meshack Vallesillas wrote an excellent article here about how often when someone thinks they are not creative, they are confusing craft and creativity.  He states:

. . . anything you might consider ‘art’ is actually made up of two parts; creativity and craft. The craft is the artistic skill used to make art, and creativity is the spark of life or the ingenuity behind it.

It’s easy to look at others and their accomplishments and assume it’s because of their creative gifts that they are so good.  But in fact, creativity requires a perfecting of craft, of practicing, failing, and learning.

Rose as originally shot
Rose as originally shot

I love watching the Food Network.  There are so many examples of practice, creativity and failure.  When I watch Bobby Flay get ready for a throw down challenge, he experiments over and over with the ingredients.  He’s highly creative, but he also practices his craft and hones it.  And his failures seems pretty frequent too!  But if he didn’t try, he wouldn’t know what he knows.

I’ve learned from watching my favorite boy toy that photographers take thousands of pictures, analyze them, throw out most, and go out to take more, trying new techniques to improve their skills.  There is a huge difference in what my favorite boy toy took 40+ years ago when we were in high school together versus what he does today.  But just as importantly, there is a noticeable difference in what he did even several years ago versus what he does today.  I’m not the only one with that opinion either.  The manager of the gallery where he exhibits is amazed at how prolific he is and how each year’s new work is better than the year before.  If you’d like to see his talent, click here.

At work, the younger staff is amazed at the things I know.  I remind them that I’ve had many years to learn this and it’s not something that they will know overnight.  I tell them that learning to do state income taxes is an apprenticeship – not Donald Trump’s apprenticeship, but Mickey Mouse’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  And that it takes practice to get the brooms to bring the water without the water running everywhere!  They laugh, but it gets the point across that their success at work is a matter of practice as much as it is head knowledge.

My new header photo
My new header photo and an excellent example of patience in capturing the subject matter and practicing technique  with Lightroom to fix a small blemish on the bee and properly adjust a photo taken in camera raw (which needs more processing than a jpg)

So when I talked about nurturing my creativity the other day, I forgot the reminder that to be creative means to be learning and executing technique as well as having failures.  I have to remember that practicing something – anything – is part of being creative.  The ideas alone are not sufficient if I can’t make them into reality.  I need to try things to see if I like them and to expand the tools I can use.  Creativity will remain unfulfilled without practice and hard work.

Here are some other links that you might enjoy:

Changing This One Thought Could Lead You To a Better Life (the article I discussed at the beginning of this post)

Why People (Incorrectly) Think They Are Not Creative (best quote – Craft is something you acquire by learning a skill.  If you want to develop your craft, put in your time.)

Creativity, Craft and the Quants (the story about John Lennon and how he could just throw a song together is particularly good – that the song didn’t just happen, it happened to someone with years of experience in listening to and crafting songs)

The Art vs. Craft Gap – A Writer’s Paradox  (another good quote – Art is the essence of that originality and the power of the end result.  Craft is execution using the tools of the trade.)

Crush the “I’m Not Creative” Barrier

Doing a Daily Photo Challenge (my story of how doing a daily photo challenge helped me be a better photographer)


Nurturing My Creativity. . . Not


Lilies Worked with a Dark Mood Preset in Adobe Lightroom
Lilies Worked with a Dark Mood Preset in Adobe Lightroom

So I’ve been rather missing around here and it’s weird to sit and try to write the first blog post in a long while.

It’s not like my life was wildly interesting during my break.  Mostly I decluttered the house (in a big, big way), cooked, and read.

I lost 40 pounds.  Woohoo!!!  Which is a big reason why I spend so much time cooking.  I’d gotten away from it the last few years.  My favorite boy toy went onto his own diet last fall and lost weight, and I did so as well.

As for the reading, I have been missing that the last few years.  My writing and photography, while fun, took time away from a lot of other things.  As I looked over my goal ideas for 2014, I wanted to read a great more again.  Everything is a trade-off and I knew that when I started to blog.  But I enjoyed the blogging, the new friends that I made, and having a show case for my writing and photography.  But this year, I wanted time for other things as well.

I started a class with Kim Klassen called “Be Still – Fifty Two“.  It’s a year long creativity / photography class.  Kim does some lovely and creative work (you can see it at http://www.kimklassencafe.com/).  I was intrigued by what she would share over the course of a year.  From what I’d seen of a similar course she did in 2012, it appeared to be moderately paced so that I could keep up with it.

Week 6 was working with a preset called “Dark Mood” that she provided.  I was pleased with how the lilies above turned out.  Below is how they originally looked, which is also very nice.  They just aren’t as moody.  I don’t know that I’d alter too many of my photographs with this preset, but it was fun to play with.

The question for Week 6 was what do we do to nurture our creativity?  My initial reaction was, not much.  But as I wrote this, I realized that I am:

  • Writing daily in my journal.  It’s short paragraph using a Moleskine 12 month-weekly notebook, but it is usually daily.
  • At least once and sometimes more in a week, I write a much lengthier entry in my regular notebook journal.  It might be about something I read and want to explore more or an event I want to record in more detail.  But at least once a week, I write more than just a daily paragraph.
  • I’ve started taking Lynda.com courses again (click here for a review on Lynda.com).  This is because I recently upgraded both Lightroom and Photoshop to the latest versions and have no idea what the changes are.  I also don’t remember how to do much in Photoshop anymore as I’m not using it enough.

Does my reading nurture my creativity?  I would say it does.  It inspires me, relaxes me, and often gives me things to think about and write about.  It’s a welcome break in my day and far better than watching television, even if I do read trashy romances or too many murder mysteries.  Of course, after doing corporate taxes all day, my brain is too fried to read anything much more complicated than that!  But I read more than fiction.  I recently finished Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Phillippe Petit (he walked the high wire between the Twin Towers of World Trade Center in 1974) and very much enjoyed it.

Is that enough nurturing of my creativity?  I have to think about that more.  On a daily basis, I’m not doing much.  Often, I’m too tired after work to get much done, so my creativity happens in starts and fits on the weekend, after chores and errands are done, assuming I still have anything left over for extra endeavors.  If it sounds like I’m whining, I am.  Which is not right.  My life is good.  But as always, I have more I’d like to do than I have time to do it.

Gratitude, gratitude.  I need to keep practicing that.


Lilies As Originally Shot
Lilies As Originally Shot


Sharing A Passion For Photography

Day 2, 4:00 pm
Day 2, 4:00 pm

My favorite boy toy has been in love with the camera for years and I have the pictures to prove it too!  (Click here for pictures of a younger boy toy with his camera.)

He’s encouraged me over the years to do it with him, with varying levels of success.  Not that I’m stubborn or anything (cough, cough).  Not that he wasn’t insistent that I do it exactly the same way he did it (more coughing).  Over the last few years though, we got it figured out.

Day 5, 7:30 am
Day 5, 7:30 am

So our vacations don’t quite fit the norm of everyone else, as these pictures show from our recent trip to Maine.  Our days might start at 5:30 am to catch the sunrise.  It might not end until after midnight if we’re out doing some night photography.  We catch up on our sleep in the middle of the day, when the light is flat.

He enjoys using a tripod and composing each scene to the nth degree, a holdover from his days of film when film and processing were expensive and took way too much money from our household budget.  Me, I hand hold my camera and in a short period can shoot several hundred pictures.  After that, I get bored waiting for him.  Eventually I find someplace to sit and read while I wait for him to (yet again) get done.

Sometimes I amuse myself by taking pictures of him.  It’s best to catch him from behind or when the camera is in his face so he’s not scowling at me.  It did occur to him though that he might want to use some of these on his website and he got much friendlier about it!

Day 5, 3:10 pm
Day 5, 3:10 pm

There are other big differences in how we approach our photography.  He’s blowing his up into 18″ x 27″ canvases to sell for hanging on the wall.  Mine are going into a blog or photo album.  His have to be perfect – people don’t want to pay for “it’s good enough”.  Mine are “good enough”.  I have limited patience and time for editing and processing them and because they’re so small on the screen, they don’t have to be perfect.  My audience loves them as they are; his criticizes everything he does.  Not everyone, but every year there’s a few customers who get nasty about it.  I don’t know why they don’t just keep walking and feel they have to tell him what they think is wrong with his work and how they can do the same thing with their little point and shoot camera.

Day 5, 3:40 pm
Day 5, 3:40 pm

It’s taken us a long time to get to this point.  He was critical that I didn’t do it the way he did.  I responded by not bothering to take pictures.  If I took pictures, I came home with all kinds of good things.  He’d come home with a few, then complain that he didn’t get any good pictures.  He’d give me advice, I’d ignore it, then find out the hard way why it was good advice – like when I tried taking pictures of the lightning several years ago.  He insisted that I upgrade my digital camera several years ago and he was right about how the quality improved.  But when I turned up my nose at learning Adobe Photoshop, he backed off and suggested I try Adobe Lightroom instead, which I love using.

Then one day he looked at my pictures and realized that I’d gotten very, very good at the photography.  When I demurred, he told me to look around at the art fairs and art galleries that he liked checking out.  He was right – my pictures were nearly as good as his and in some cases, even better.  I definitely had an eye for composition.  Funnier yet, I was asking him questions about Lightroom that he couldn’t answer.  He’s still the king of Photoshop, but I’m not bad with Lightroom!  He’s been more supportive of the way I do my photography and as a result, I’ve been much more receptive to his advice.

Day 3, 10:00 am
Day 3, 10:00 am

According to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, sharing an interest good for a relationship as it prevents boredom and complacency, and encourages the brain chemicals related to pleasure and bonding.  In the article, it talks how learning a new hobby from scratch is one way to go, but another way to consider is when one partner has a passion already.  For the other partner, they have a build-in teacher and get bonus points for efforts.  Of course, that has its pitfalls, as my husband and I found for ourselves.  For the newbie, check the attitude, take direction, and don’t kill the joy for the partner with the passion.  For the proficient partner – reward the newbie, be patient, and stay focused on the long-term goal of introducing your passion so the other partner will want to learn it.

Day 2, 7:00 am
Day 2, 7:00 am

At the end of the article, one of the partners commented on learning beekeeping with his wife saying,

“If you create fun, enriching experiences together, you reinvent yourself and your marriage. . .
you look at your partner in awe.”

[If you’re interested in improving your photography or other skills, check out this review of Lynda.com for inexpensive on-line training.  I highly recommend it!]