21 Days of Creative Abundance

Sebastian Michaels, who runs the Photoshop Artistry and AWAKE courses I do, started another course a few months ago:

21 Days to Creative Abundance

With the intention of giving you the tools and structure to change your habits and push you into a more product and creative artistic lifestyle.

Having a lot on my plate finishing up my studies, I waited to start this course, and will confess, was a bit dubious about the value it might add.  But Sebastian has not let me down or led me astray with any of the other classes I have done from him, so decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Each day there is a video to watch, or exercises or an assignment to do, to make changes or try new things.  My start date was 18th Sept and my finish date was 23rd Oct so I took 36 days to complete this.



Around Day 4 or 5 one of the exercises is to just CREATE.

Allocate a small achievable chunk of time – 15 minutes – and just create something.  Every day.

I have slowly been working my way through another Still Life course with Kim Klassen, so decided to kill two birds with one stone, and use the 15 min time chunks to come home from work, and shoot some stuff in my studio (spare bedroom).

During this time I bought flowers to use as subjects, bought some props, but every day for about 2-3 weeks after work, made some time to just shoot and create some art.

All of the images on this page are a result of that commitment – one that continues.

During the period of the 21 Days course I have also achieved or undertaken or committed to the following:

  •  Sebastian featured the first image on the page as the header image on one of his blog articles
  • Created some commercially suitable artworks to feature on my Art Boja site
  • Auditioned to write as a regular contributor to a big photography website
  • Got asked to speak in November at my camera clubs monthly meeting
  • Got my first paying customer – assisting them with setting up Lightroom properly and showing them how to use it
  • Entered two international photography shows and got accepted in both
  • Started work on a large fine art project to expand and diversify my portfolio
  • Installed Freedom on my iPad and computer to limit my distractions
  • Given some real thought about what I want to do and who I want to be as an artist
  • Bought some new props and learned to be really creative and cost effective about sourcing solutions – thinking outside the box
  • Made my own textures with spackle, and strong tea, oil pastels and old printed works.
  • Went out on a shoot with a local photog to test out vintage lenses for creative potential
  • Am in early stages of discussion with an exhibition space about a potential local show

So if anyone is in any doubt at all of the value that this course can offer, and you find yourself frustrated that you don’t get things started, or you start things and never finish them, that you fluff around and find excuses or are just straight out afraid, for whatever reason, then I strongly recommend you consider this course.

If you *really* want to create art and artistic works and just need a push or a reminder of the important stuff this might be what you need.

Thankyou Sebastian – I will never be a morning person, so forgive me for only taking the bits of this course I knew that *were* achievable for me, but those bits have made a real difference!

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Lovely Lavender

I have three different lavender shrubs in my garden, all in full flower, so I decided to do some more still life shots with them.

This time using my nifty fifty 50mm F1.8 lens, to try and get a slightly different perspective than provided by the macro, to get a bit more of the surface and background elements.  Trying to achieve a feeling of depth and a sense of place.

The paper with writing on it is my fabulous wallpaper sample, that has letters and post cards with great handwriting on it, perfect for laying down a nice base that is neutral but has some interest to it.

Then the flowers, this is picked from two of my purple shrubs, one is a lighter purple than the other.

In the background my grey crate with the cute old fashioned snips leaning against it.

Of course once I had an image I liked, it had to be edited in different ways, so there are three here with different presets, one fairly true to life (at the top), one hazy and matte (not my preferred style but its quite ‘in’) and one faded and muted colours – my personal favourite.

The images have also had some texture layers added in PS for some extra depth and interest.

Next I experimented with fabric, I have this lovely heavy rich white linen which has a nicely frayed edge, so the bunch was wrapped in the fabrick and laid down on it for a nice textured but neutral background.  The above image has a hazy matte preset applied.

Same image with a brighter  crisper preste added, to bring out the purples and the detail in the lavender heads.

I am learning a lot about patience and composition while doing these still life shoots.  Staging an image like this is much harder to do well than I realised.

Also interesting is the different feel or mood able to be achieved with images via the different presets. 

  There are several different styles of image here – which do you like and why? Which don’t work for you?

Posted in Camera Adventures, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

KAIZEN – Skate Park Project

A couple of months ago I joined KAIZEN, which is step up from the AWAKE Advanced Photoshop training course I have been doing for the past year.  KAIZEN has a different structure and we are given monthly projects which challenge us to create in different ways and for different outcomes.

This first challenge was for a Skate and Bike shop in the US who are developing a program to help kids stay away from the temptations of drugs, by getting them into a community or like minded interest group – in this instance: Skateboarding and BMX.

We were given access to a selection of images of local bikers and skaters to work with, and our challenge was to create memorable, eyecatching images to be used on posters or a website for advertising.

I knew on seeing these images what I wanted to do – add real energy and power and movement, take them into an entirely new place.  My theme for these images was Clarity and Breaking Through – finding a way out of the drug scene and into better choices.

My secret weapon for these images are the fabulous PS Actions from sevenstyles, an incredibly talented PS artist who makes these fantastic actions that do the work of hours in a few minutes.

However each of these images has had a good couple of hours of work put in AFTER the action is run, to tidy it up, polish it, personalise it and add my preferred finishing touches and colour schemes.

A confession here, I have been *dying* to try out some of his really cool actions but had absolutely no reason up til now :)  Very pleased how these turned out and have since done a couple of other images for friends in the same style with great response.

We had to keep these project images under wraps until it was all cleared with the client at the other end – some really fabulous creative work was generated out of this project, and pushed many artists totally outside their comfort zone, myself included.

All of these images can be viewed here

The two actions featured here are Storm and Fragment, with some smaller shattering added as well.

Explored different colour schemes and tried to add energy, power and movement to the subject as well as transport them into a new place.

This is a very different style for me, so love to hear feedback – does it work for you?  Maybe not your thing? 

Anyone else using sevenstyles actions?

Posted in For Beginners, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

5 Day Deal Photography Bundle


Given I have bought it a couple of times already and still hardly made a dent in catching up with all the training, I was resisting getting this one as well.

But there is SO MUCH useful stuff in this  – tons of actions and presets – and it turns out our exchange rate is much kinder than last time.

So I clicked the Buy button this morning.

As I type this you have 1 day and 18 hours left to do the same!

Posted in Waffle and Burbling | 4 Comments

My Second Article for DPS – Lightroom Radial Filter Tool

radialfilterpaneltigervignettebeginning-7Still auditioning to write for DPS, they wanted my second article to be a Tutorial, to see how well I can explain complex concepts.  I chose the Radial Filter Tool in Lightroom as it is one of the most useful features, but one not as widely known as it should be.

Lightroom’s Secret Weapon – The Radial Filter Tool

Click the link to view the article

For anyone who wants to give their image that extra level of polish and finish beyond the standard global adjustments.  Especially useful for anyone who doesn’t have or want to use Photoshop to achieve similar results – get a much better result out of Lightroom with the help of this tool.

Did you already know about the Radial Filter tool?  Do you use it?


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

Trialling a Helios Manual Focus Lens

Today I had a treat – a wander in the gardens with a local photographer who taught me about his vintage manual lenses.

All these shots were taken on a Helios 44-2 with a Canon adaptor to fit my 7D MK II.

This lens is a manual focus lens with a particular swirl effect noticeable in the bokeh (can see it quite clearly in the image above) which was apparently due to a fault in the manufacturing process.  Photographers being the contrary creatures they are, have decided this is a desirable feature and you can buy these lenses for quite cheap pricing.

The working distance was around 25-30 cm and I found it very difficult to accurately focus on a small subject through the viewfinder.  Unfortunately my Live View wouldn’t work with this lens, so did the best I could, and had to wait patiently for the wind to stop, to maximise sharp shots.

Using these lenses was a good experience.  I don’t usually shoot in Manual mode so this was different from my usual process.  It highlights the necessity of knowing your exposure triangle, and having to adjust the shutter speed to get the right exposure for different light conditions.

I like how it really makes you slow down, and think about your process – the composition, the light, the aperture, the shutter speed.  Forces you to *be* in the moment, rather than click and move on.

This shot of a tiny new fern has the swirly effect visible here.  The fern is about 10cm at its tallest point.  I liked how it was so bright green and isolated from the background.

The first 4 images were shot at F 2.8.  This last one is shot around F5 approx – this lens has a manual aperture ring as well as the focus ring, so I just dialed it around til I got the necessary depth of field I wanted in this image.  These ferns were quite big and at the back of the clump, so I couldn’t get the tripod any closer.

Most of these are not 100% sharp but I am OK with that.  The swirly bokeh is an interesting effect.  Given these lenses are extremely cheap, it is not an unaffordable option to add for a different and creative approach.

Do you shoot with these old vintage lenses?  If so, what do you like about them?

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Before and After Edit

This is a Paeony shot around Xmas time, this time its been edited with some new Kim Klassen presets and had a couple of textures added as well.

I wanted to show the vast difference these presets make.  Some people will like them and some won’t but with a click of a button, you can make an image completely different and I really enjoy experimenting with the different effects.

It is much quicker to have an interesting place to start from and tweak from there.

This second image is the completely untouched raw file from the above image, not cropped, and no processing has been applied – yes the flower really was this bright crimson colour and its a pretty good exposure, all things being equal.

For me the edit brings a different feel to the image, adds drama, highlights the structure of the petals, changes the mood and the focus of the image, makes the flower look almost sculptural.

The texture gives subtle interest, something for the eye to rest on as it travels around the image.

Does the edited image work for you? What story does it tell you?

Posted in Camera Adventures, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments