Conceptual Self Portrait – Wasteland

Driving about the city last week, I chanced upon these dead trees in a swamp not far from where I live.  The swamp is slowly reclaiming areas around the wetlands that had been set aside as native bird habitat as a result of the earthquakes.  The starkness of the bare trees against the sky seemed a likely site for a conceptual self portrait shoot.

Luckily the weather lately has been overcast and grey, perfect light for this kind of shoot.  Unfortunately it has also been cold as well but I donned my Big Girl Panties and went out anyway!

First I put the dress on over my clothes with loose track pants that can easily be got on and off in the field.  This scene was right next to a busy roundabout intersection, so plenty of potential bystanders.

Had a good wander around when I got there, looking for the best composition.  There are grassy semi solid islands out in the swamp but didn’t look particularly safe to be wandering on to by myself.  Instead, found an angle that allowed me to get in amongst the big grass tussocks on the edge of the swamp – yes my feet are filthy with mud and soaking wet at this point🙂

Set up my tripod nice and level and got all the base shots.  Having locked focus I then took the camera of and did a series of layers of shots up into the sky.

The actual process of shooting doesn’t take too long – its all in the preparation and finding the best spot. Soon I was home with a change of clothes and warm dry feet, slaving over the computer.

Lightroom does auto combining of multiple images into panorama scenes, so I took a chance and blended all the base images as a pano and it worked really well.  Took that base into PS and then blended in the single frame with me in it.  A bit of warping to line it up, and masking out a lot got the basis of the image sorted.

Feeling hopeful, I went into LR again and this time selected ALL the image for the top section and it did a pretty good job of blending them together.  Output that file and then bought it into PS.  A lot of warping and tweaking and masking then happened to blend the two layers, and the tree/sky layer needed a lot of brightness and contrast adjustment to tone it in.

Then desat the whole image and then add back colour in bits, the white of the dress, change the hair colour, and colour tone the whole image with many many subtle adjustment layers.

Finally add a vignette and some textures to finish it off.

This is my LARGEST file to date – blended from about 12 full sized files from my camera and over 11000 pixels on the longest side.

Click on the image for a larger version

I wanted to give it a desolate and solitary feel, with the starkness of the dead trees against the sky.  Did I achieve that?  What story does it tell you?

Posted in Camera Adventures, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Dandelion Delights

This week I started a 21 Days of Creative Abundance Course – aimed to help a person set their life and environment up in a way to encourage and give space in their life for creativity.

One of the exercises is to take 15 minutes to create something once a day.

A couple of days ago we had a heavy dew on the very large crop of dandelions I have growing in a patch of my garden.  When I got home, I picked one and set it up in my studio (aka spare bedroom) after spraying some water on it.

This very high key soft dreamy look is a very different style for me, it has been deliberately softened to enhance that softer effect but I really like it.

So for today’s exercise I wanted to explore more options with the dandelions, so picked a bunch and setup a small still life setup and experimented.

It was very difficult to get good focus on the tiny seedheads – they moved in the slightest air movement, even moving my arm around the camera was enough, so I had to be very still and center myself.

Turns out if the dandelion heads are still fresh and whole, they can be stacked up on top each other if you are gentle🙂

Finally a shot of the loose seed heads.  Lots of different shots trying to get the best focus point – these were all taken with my 100mm Macro lens which is a 2.8 L grade lens.  The 2nd and 3rd image on the page were taken at F4 to give enough depth of field to capture all of the seed head feathers.

Because of the fine details, theses images have not been softened further, so as to retain the detail – the very small DOF provides plenty of blur and softening for the background.

All images processed solely in LR6, with Kim Klassen Presets – click on any image for a larger version.

I am enjoying challenging myself to create something small once a day, and using elements nearby is proving to be an exciting exercise.

What will I come up with tomorrow?

Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Under A Full Moon

Last Saturday as I was driving home from my Graduation celebration dinner (graduated on the previous Friday) I saw an odd thing at the far end of the straight road I was driving along.

Eventually I realised it was a large golden full moon just rising above the horizon in the distance.  It was possible it would be lining up with a local pile of rocks called Shag Rock (or now Shag Pile as it got broken in the earthquakes) and could make for a nice image.

Grabbed my camera gear and tripod, checked the angles on TPE and the tide times, before bundling myself into a jacket and zooming the short distance from my house to the beach.

Rather surprised to find myself the only photographer on the beach (it was a chilly evening), made my way down to the beach and got setup for some test images.

By now it was very dark, and except for some streetlights and the occasional car headlight as it turned the sharp corner behind me, it was so dark I couldn’t see the controls on my camera.  At this point, my headlamp would have been handy but it was missing from my camera backpack – note to self – put everything back where you got it after each outing!

Took some test shots, and a long exposure seemed to be the best bet.  Both of these images were just over 1 minute exposures which made the moon glow like bright daylight instead.

Framed up both images to capture the moon trail on the water and add depth and interest to the image.

A black and white conversion added the textural interest and drama and further dept and interest.

I have never taken long exposure images of a full moon before.  My suspicion is a blended exposure would capture the moon looking more moonlike, and allow the long exposure on the ground part to happen.  Something else I haven’t tried to do either!

Any tips, tricks or feedback welcome!

Click on either image for a larger view.

Posted in Camera Adventures, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Conceptual Self Portrait – Celebrating Spring

This image was the culmination of many firsts today.  It was the first time I went outside to shoot my self portrait persona.  Teddy makes his debut as my companion.  Many new and interesting mistakes were made for the first time shooting in a different environment.

Spring is happening all over the city, and trees are coming into blossom.  I found this pink magnolia in the new Green Zone – a large area of the city that had all the houses demolished and returned to grass after the earthquakes.  The nice thing is, they left all the mature trees so there is a large grassed area with many trees, perfect for taking the camera out into.

It was very windy and as a result I had trouble blending the top of the tree in.  I also didn’t shoot enough filler images, so this is smaller than originally intended.  Today was also freezing cold and windy but with lots of dull overcast light that made it perfect for shooting.

Just after I got setup and was starting my posing I was interrupted by a couple of women – turns out they were on a Father’s Day Scavenger hunt and needed an image for Spring, and they wanted a shot of me in a pose LOL!  So I obliged and they went away and I carried on.


pink magnolia me-3057

Processing Steps:

1.  Edit images in LR

2.  Bring images into PS and layer section of tree in and blend with masking

3.  Crop to final size (after MUCH mucking about)

4.  Change hair colour

5.  Darken bear colour

6.  Change colour of images using lots of different curves layers

7.  Add a vignette

8.  Add a layer from Topaz Impression and blend in slightly

9.  Tweak curves and colours a bit more

10.  Add a texture layer

I added more yellow to this image to give it a vintage feel, the overall pink tone to reflect the pink of the flowers.  A very different style of processing for me.

Like it?  Don’t like it?  Got any ideas or tips to share?  All feedback welcome🙂

Just for DesleyJane – some other edit variations using some PS Actions – you can see them all here along with the original for comparison

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Overhead Image – Crumpled

Something I have never tried before – setting up my camera to take an overhead shot.  Fortunately my lens was wide enough to get everything in the frame (mostly) but I did have to tie the tripod to a doorhandle to stop it tipping over with the very heavy camera suspended way out to the limit of the center pole.  Plus we had a couple of small earthquakes while I was doing it!

Two new things were tried in this image, the overhead angle and I also had my first go at blending in extra fabric which was quite challenging.  It wasn’t til the image was finished that I noticed how the swirly element had been duplicated rather obviously😦

Oh well, these images are ALL ABOUT THE LEARNING, there are many mistakes here but each time I learn so much more🙂

This time I was much happier with the colour tonings, I understood a lot better what I was trying to achieve and am much happier with the finished product.  Need to have some variation away from the blues and purples tho!

vertical-2792 This is the original starting image so you can see the huge difference, here are the processing steps:

  1.  Make canvas bigger
  2.  Copy blank carpet shot and fill in expanded canvas
  3.  Put in main subject image (above)
  4.   Bring in extra fabric options on separate layers, warp into place and touch up with masking
  5.   Select fabric elements as one whole selection and recolour and mask out colour bleed
  6.   Desaturate whole image
  7.  Select hair and brighten and contrast
  8.   Add some darker vignettes
  9.   Add some shadow under the edge of the fabric
  10.   Do THE MOVE – CTL SHIFT ALT E to compress all layers into one blended one but retains all layers underneath
  11.   Tweak over all colour channels via curves
  12.  Brighten up the left side a bit
  13.   Denoise heavily
  14.   Add a texture and mask off skin

As always feedback is welcome, I am still learning this process so any tips and tricks etc welcome.

What does this image say to you, what is its story?




Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Dark Illusions

Inspired by an image seen on Pinterest, my project for this weekend was to recreate this image.  (Click on any image to see a larger version)

Turned out to be more challenging than expected, initially planned to use my 100mm macro lens but for that to really work I needed a MUCH longer wall space, to get all the parts of the image in view.

So switched over to my trusty 17-55, carefully leaned my tripod hard up against the wall (two short legs and one long one being the prop), set the manual focus point where the hand would be and prepared the set.

A reasonable amount of editing in PS – three grunge layers added to give that really gritty feel I wanted this image to have.  My particular favourite bit is the two droplets of blood falling off my hand and I liked the pose the most in this one.

Blurred the background a lot to give that feeling of a narrower DOF as well, I liked that feel a lot better.

This is a different variation that feels….. more ominous… to me.  Whose is the hand? What have they done?  Where are they going next?

Which one of the two images speak to you more?  Why? Whats the story you see here?

All comments and feedback welcome🙂


Posted in Camera Adventures, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The White Wall Challenge

Those of you following me for a while will have heard me comment how inspired I am by Brooke Shaden, to the extent that I bought two of her training courses on Creative Live recently.

I also joined her 30 Days of Creativity Challenge in March and the FB group for that is still fairly active.  Brooke has recently started the White Wall Wednesday Challenge – where you use a white wall as your backdrop and create from there.

My spare room has a large white wall, however it is quite narrow so a full body shot is difficult.  The point of the challenge is to work with what you have and embrace the limitations.

Therefore I could do a torso image and expand the frame around to get sufficient canvas and scale.  This is one shot of the main subject and the cracks are an image shot with my cellphone yesterday of broken glass, bought in and fiddled with to get different seeming crack patterns.

Post Processing Steps:

  1.  Edited main image in LR and bought into PS, expanded canvas and painted in from background colours
  2.   Bought in crack images, layered and masked, duplicated and warped in sections to make look like different breakage patterns
  3. Change colour of fabric and hair
  4. Edit colour tonings of image (many little tweaks)
  5. Add  a couple of texture layers to finish

Here is the original base image for comparison:

angry base image-2523 cropped

Note there are about 20 layers in here – I made a few mistakes – still struggle with selecting things cleanly and did a lot of masking around edges where it was not tidy.

Stoked that I managed a much better colour change on the fabric, and toned hair to be similar.

Really struggle on the overall toning of the image, what seems like it should be the easiest bit is the hardest, and I am not sure why – any advice welcome.

Overall, much happier with this image, its not too dark.  I like the colour tones even if it isn’t quite what I envisaged for this image.   The right hand looks like its floating above the surface, and I can’t quite figure out how to fix it, got a bit lost within the layers in that section.

Pounding fists on a wall so hard it breaks – I love to hear how my images make you feel, what springs to mind when you see them?


Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop, Photo Challenges | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments