Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Today’s creative time was spent playing with more filters and effects from Topaz Labs in addition to the ones I did yesterday.  I did it to experiment, try new things, and because I like this picture so much, I wanted to see what I could do with it.  I also played with my new Wacom tablet to brush color back into several of them.  The Wacom is easier for masking and making adjustments than trying to use a mouse, which is how I’ve done it up until now.

That wasn’t the only sign I’ve been playing with lately.  For my 31 Days Challenge, I needed a small badge for the link-up.  There were all kinds of creative badges for the 2013 Days, but I wanted to make my own using my own photos and Photoshop skills.  I had trouble making up my mind though.  The first one is the one I eventually went with, but here’s everything I made:

If you scroll your mouse over the photos, captions will show up to explain what each photo is.  To see them larger, double click and a slide show will start.

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

To see what others did with this week’s photo challenge for signs, click here.


It’s About Having Fun

What can I say except it was just fun to see!

I enjoyed visiting some of the 2013 participants in 31 Days and as the 2014 participants are linking up, I’ve started visiting them as well.  To my pleasant surprise, one of the 2014 participants I visited happened to be one that I browsed nearly all of her 2013 entries for 31 Days!

As I left a note for her, I nearly said:

I hope you are even more successful with 2014 than you were with 2013!

Sheesh.  What a mistake.  Thankfully, I did NOT write that.  Instead, I wrote:

I’d like to say I hope 2014 is as awesome, but that’s not fair. You don’t want the trap of trying to top each year, you want to relax and enjoy wherever the ride takes you.

And she loved it!  But it wasn’t just for her sake that I wrote this, it was for mine also.

It’s about having fun, not about being perfect.  It’s about enjoying what I’m doing to be creative, not trying to be as good or better than all the wonderful things I see out there and that I think I could do just as well, if only I tried harder.

I need my own style, my own eye, and mostly, I need to smile and laugh more.

Interestingly, my word for 2014 is “remember” as in “remember to smile”.  My notebook has a Post-It on the front that says:



Be Joyful

I’ve been taking a class from Ali Edwards called “One Little Word“.  At the beginning of each month, I get a short handout and video, with a challenge to make sure I’m benefiting from my word.  In September, the challenge was a) what is the story I’m telling myself about my word; b) is the story accurate; and c) what is the real story.

I started the year with good intentions and did remember to smile, laugh and be more joyful.  But as the year has gone on, I’m not.  It’s been a bunch of things, from the layoffs at work to being tired (a common theme for me) to just not being mindful that I can be happier if I want.

So the story to myself to nurture my creativity is not let everything get me down so badly.  Have fun!!  Enjoy floundering around as I try out new things, whether photography related or not.  Be curious, be adventurous, stay flexible, and just relax into my wonderful and blessed life.

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
― William W. Purkey

Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.
― Mark Twain


To look at the 2013 posts for 31 Days, go here.  Two blogs I particularly enjoyed were 31 Days Creative Habit and 31 Days Without Armor (about living an authentic life).

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


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.


31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity

White crab spider on a lantana at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
White crab spider on a lantana at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
Nothing feeds the center of being so much as creative work.
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The things you do every day take on a certain beauty, and provide a kind of invisible architecture to daily life. – Gretchen Rubin

Welcome to my landing page for 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity.  If you want to see my posts for the month, jump to the bottom!  There are also links to posts I’ve done previously about creativity.

Why I Am Doing This

Several months ago, I questioned whether I was doing enough to nurture my creativity.  By the time I finished writing my post, I decided that I was doing better than I thought, but not as good as I wanted to be doing.

In September, I participated in the 30 Days of Lists.  I posted a few of them to share, then realized that I’d rather spend that time working on my photography.  I did my lists everyday in my paper journal and thoroughly enjoyed it.  All that changed was I chose to not share it so frequently.  Instead, I worked on my pictures every night.

My Vision (Because Everyone Needs a Quest)

I intend to continue this nurturing of my creativity for the next 31 days.  Some of my posts might be simply the photographs I worked on that evening (with before and after examples), others will be longer as I record what is inspiring me or influencing my creativity.

It helps me to set out expectations when I start something.  I can always adjust them along the way, but it helps me frame up a project and what I need to do to accomplish it.

My expectations are:

  • It will focus me on my photography and writing
  • My creativity will be nurtured and strengthened
  • To continue with the routine of working every night doing something for my creativity (for more on how a routine makes it easier to get something done, check out Gretchen Rubin’s post – Why I Try To Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception)
Why am I sharing how I nurture my creativity?

  • To encourage my readers to nurture their own creativity, whatever it is
  • To give my readers things to consider for their own application to their creative processes
  • To practice nurturing myself with evidence of it
  • To give me a body of work for my own future reference and encouragement
Details Behind 31 Days
I’m participating in a challenge called 31 Days:  A Writing Challenge, Every October, Every Day.  It’s an interesting idea – I choose my topic, put in a one-time link, and post every day.  The challenge is to go deeper into one topic for the  month.  As I considered whether to do this, I read over some of the bloggers who participated in 2013 and there is some incredibly good stuff out there.  The topics are all over, from cooking to faith to crafts of all kinds, and changes in home or behavior.  They all shared a desire to do something for 31 days and write about it.
Prequel Posts
To help get you started, here are some past posts on nurturing creativity:

 Creativity vs. Craft

 Nurturing My Creativity. . . Not

 What Inspires Me

 Special Photo Challenge:  Inspiration

 Inspired for Creativity

Sharing a Passion For Photography

Working Back From Discouragement – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4

Index of Posts

Day 2 – Weekly Photo Challenge:  Nighttime (Processing A Night Photo)
Day 4 – Weekly Photo Challenge:  Signs (Trying out Topaz Labs filters)
Day 12 – Foodie Tour! (in which I try blogging from my cell phone)
Day 14 – Weekly Photo Challenge – Dreamy (thoughts on being a more creative photographer)
Day 17 – Got Rust? (trying something different with my photos)
Day 21 – Baby Bump
Day 30 – Time For Tea
Day 31 – 31 Days Wrap-Up