White on White

Simply cannot help myself – such a simple small thing like a dandelion is providing so many creative opportunities.

For those new to my blog (hello and welcome!) I have been doing a 21 Days of Creative Abundance course, and one exercise is to set aside 15 min per day to do “something” creative – anything!

Right now the crop of dandelions in my garden is embarrasingly large, but who cares when I can pick one, bring it inside, setup a shoot and get images like this!

Edited in LR with a Kim Klassen preset – bought into PS and cranked the brightness up even further.

Please click to embiggen, it looks even better larger view!

I adore all the white in this image, and how the dandelion fades imperceptibly into the background at the edges but there is sharp detail visible with the darker part to throw it into relief.

Like it?  Don’t Like it?  Tell me why!

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Gerbera Still Life Scenes

Seeing as I still had the Gerbera flowers, tonight’s exercise was to experiment more with a structured still life scene, rather than just a flower portrait.

Personally this is really challenging, not just having the right props but building an aesthetically pleasing scene is much more difficult than expected.  Examples I have seen on line tend to go really close and keep it very simple, have some form of base texture (here its the music book) and depending on the angle, a background that doesnt intrude but still adds value (more of the book here – I tilted it up to achieve that).  The focal point (gerbera) and some other element to tie them together (the haematite necklace – I wanted pearls but I don’t own any!)

Compare the first image to this one, and it is nice, but feels like it is missing something.  That is the bit I get stuck on  – what exactly is it missing?

Also experimented with angles and depth of field – having to manually focus on the beads at the front  – this image above has some blue satin which now that I see it, might have been better without it?

This is actually where I started, with a large piece of dark blue satin, and another necklace, but when I see the images, it doesn’t work for me.

My favourite ended up being the top image, I think it has all the elements needed to work as a cohesive image.

Do you agree?  If not why?  Which other image would be your choice?

Any tips or suggestions also welcome!

EDIT:

I updated Topaz Texture Effects and decided to have a play and I made this variation – I like how the colour toning is now much more consistent and the touch of grunge adds some interest and age.

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Soft Pink Gerbera

A work colleague helped me organise an event a while ago and I promised her some photos as a thankyou.  Her favorite flower is gerbera and favourite colour is pink.

So spotting a bunch of quite pink gerberas in the supermarket meant I finally got the chance to shoot those images.

Started with my 100mm F2.8 IS L Canon Macro lens, switched over to the Nifty Fifty Canon 1.8 50mm lens and back to the Macro.

Gerbera are a large flat flower so difficult to capture all of it with the macro lens.  So I decided to do a variety of different images to get all different aspects of the flower.

Setup a still life set with a drape of white fabric as the background, using window light filtered through a net curtain as the light source.  It was dull and overcast outside so these are shot at around ISO 400, using a tripod as the shutter speed was too slow for handheld.

This was a good learning exercise for me.  Still Life in general I have found to be an excellent way to make myself slow down, to think and breathe, be in the moment.  To stop and see and think, to compose the image with thought and impact.

Dressing the set I have found to be quite challenging, it is easier now I have props like swathes of white fabric, old books, vases and other useful and decorative things.

Still Life has taught me even more about learning to see and use light better and also not to be afraid to shoot in poor light, because it has also taught me much about post processing too.

pinkgerbera-unedited-3314This is a completely unedited RAW file of the second image – the difference is all the other images were edited in Lightroom using some of Kim Klassen’s Studio presets (I love them for this kind of work)

for-the-blog

EDIT:  As requested – this is the Develop Basic panel in Lightroom – showing the settings for the second image on the page AFTER the preset had been applied – I edited the image to a normal exposure and then applied the preset.   I did bump the exposure up even more than the original to get the really washed out dreamy look.

Such a difference!  Who would have thought you could get a soft dreamy delicate floral portrait from the above image?  I started doing two of Kim’s still life online courses and this is one of the things she has taught me.

All the edited images were originally processed in LR6 – some have had a very soft texture added on top in Photoshop.

This is a very new style for me and I am liking it quite a lot.  Setting the scene is a challenge for me, I strive to keep it clean and simple yet still tell a story.

I cannot decide on my favourite of these images – each one has appeal.

Which one do you like? Why?

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

ORIGINAL BASE IMAGE

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

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