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Tag: Craig Mitchell Smith

Do You Love Blurred Backgrounds?

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I would say that about ninety percent of the time, I photograph using aperture priority. Aperture refers to how wide the camera lens opening is set. It really is easier for me to capture kids in changing light with a camera set on aperture priority. I have an exposure dial on top of my camera that makes adjustments faster than adjusting the dials for manual mode. In addition, the eye instinctively focuses on what is sharpest in a photograph. When I use a wider aperture I can manipulate focus so that I get a sharp subject on a softly blurred background. To say that I love the look of a softly blurred background with a tack sharp subject would be an understatement. I have been fascinated with aperture since my first DSLR late in 2010. That’s also why I have used prime lenses almost exclusively up until recently; they have wider apertures. Prime lenses are the ones with the fixed focal length. Oh, I bought an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom with my Fuji X-T1 two years ago. I have used it, but I never thought it was as good as my older macro lens for blurring backgrounds.

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However, last fall, following a discussion with Michael, a professional photographer teaching a class I am taking, I learned that there is something else that contributes to blurred backgrounds. It’s called compression. Basically it means that even if I am further from my subject with a longer focal length lens, the distance from my subject to the background doesn’t change. It flattens so that the background objects appear larger and closer to the subject. That creates some blur in the background.

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For the last four months, I’ve been trying to understand how this concept of compression works with an 18-135mm zoom lens, equivalent to a 27-206mm on a full frame camera, that I purchased on sale at my camera store. I have used it far more than any of my other lenses in the last four month, more than ninety percent of the time. However, for yesterday’s class, I decided to bring along my 60mm macro for comparison purposes. While my macro lens doesn’t focus as quickly, I didn’t think it would matter since the flowers I wanted to photograph weren’t going anywhere quickly. My macro lens does produce a beautiful bokeh with a wide aperture.

What’s my take away from experimenting in class? The zoom created some lovely blur when I zoomed out, especially when close to my subject. For the butterfly hanging from the ceiling above me, I used my zoom lens, 1/500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 135mm. Did you notice the spider web on the antennae? Yet the background is softly blurred and the subject sharp at f/5.6. For the second photograph, I used my 60mm macro, 1/320 sec at f/8, ISO 1250. I wanted to see how much blur I would get up close with a narrower aperture. On the third photograph, I again zoomed out to 135mm, 1/320 sec at f/8, ISO 4000. Looking at the flower petals, I think I may have moved just a bit as I snapped the shutter button. (I’ll bring a monopod next time.)

For the images below, I used both my 60mm macro and 18-135mm zoom lenses. Can you tell which lens I used based on the backgrounds of these photographs?

The photograph of the orange orchids was taken with the zoom, 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 2500, 88mm. The other four were taken with my macro. I still have a lot to learn, but I like the idea that I can blur my backgrounds by changing the aperture of a lens and by using the compression of longer lenses when zoomed out and/or close to a subject. I am going to tell Michael that I liked the Velvia film simulation mode too. The colors are more vivid than standard, but perfect for flowers I think. Yes, I still have lots to learn!!

Influence of Design Principles

I don’t often know how I want a page to look until I begin to play in Photoshop. I know it’s far more efficient to draw a sketch of a page before beginning to create. I don’t. That’s probably because I generally think about the photograph first, it’s orientation and perspective, when I begin to create a scrapbook page. However, just as often, the inspiration for choosing a photo comes from an ArtPlay Palette or .abr brush. That is the case for this page, Perfect Now.

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When I opened up Anna’s new ArtPlay Palette Portiére late yesterday, I knew I wanted to use the transfer with brick and green paint as well as a brush from ArchiTextures No.5. Sometimes, it’s like that, I see a design element and it triggers an idea. That’s when I remembered a photograph of a brick wall surrounding some yellow glass pansies at a Craig M. Smith exhibit in a conservatory at Lauritzen Gardens.

Since my photo had a vertical orientation, I decided that would guide my page design. However, first, I tested out that transfer I wanted to use by placing it in the top left corner and then turned off it’s visibility. Next, I placed the photo on the left and reduced the size to better fit my 12×12 page. With a layer mask, I blended the photo into a solid paper from the ArtPlay Palette before stamping the iron gate brush on a new layer above the photo layers. I think of this brush as a second door suggesting an unknown and/or unconventional meaning to finding art behind doors.

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I turned back on the visibility of the transfer and brought more light into my scene by adding FotoGlow Mix No. 2.

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As I’m working, I think about design principles. In this case I needed to balance the weight of the transfer in the upper left corner. To do that, I added the frames from Artsy Layered Template No. 224 to my layout and adjusted their position to fit my vertical design. I clipped photos to the masks. The textbox is also a part of the template.

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Another design principle I consider when scrapbooking is repetition. By adding a splash of yellow with an artsy stain stamped just above the transfer in the upper left corner, I repeated the color and created a diagonal line of yellow leading the eye across my page. By adding more yellow with a photo below the slide viewer as well as stamping a green stain on a new layer and placing an overlay in the lower right corner, I strengthened that diagonal line of yellow and balanced the weight of the transfer even more.

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Over the foundation that I created for the framed photo with an overlay, brush, texture and slide viewer in the lower right corner, I added a cluster of small elements. Finally, I placed the word art and a beaded thread to finish off my page. I switched out the beaded letters in order to spell “now”.

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So maybe it’s okay that I don’t draw a sketch of my page before beginning to create. While I may not have begun with a clear vision of my final page, what I know about design principles influenced my thinking as I worked on this scrapbook page.

 

Floral Fusion

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Once a month, I walk with a photography group at Lauritzen Gardens. I enjoy this time to learn from Michael, a professional photographer who leads the group, and to practice with my camera. This month there is a beautiful display of glass sculptures by Craig Mitchell Smith inside the conservatory. One of the sculptures is titled Flock of Cardinals. Some of the birds are hanging from a tree. Others are suspended from the metal structure supporting the glass ceiling, giving the appearance that they are in flight. When I uploaded my photos from my camera card into Lightroom and began to go through them, I noticed that the artist had actually etched his signature on a cardinal. Before this exhibit closes, I’m going to return and look more carefully just to see if the artist signed all of his glass sculptures in the exhibit.

Not only do I enjoy learning to use my camera, but I also enjoy using the photos that I make to create artsy scrapbook pages. I actually used four different photos to create this page, the background shot above, the close up of one cardinal and two other shots of cardinals hanging from the ceiling.

After importing the close up photo 2016-02-26_ExtractionCompositeof the cardinal from Lightroom into Photoshop and placing it on a new 12×12 inch document, I resized the photo to fit the dimensions of my page. I began extracting the cardinal with the magic wand tool, added a layer mask to the photo and then used brushes to finish. I pressed option and clicked on the mask to open the refine edges panel to fine tune my extraction.

Next, to give2016-02-26_ExtractionMaskBackground the cardinal a place to hang, I placed the photo with the view of the entire scene. I applied a painting filter from Topaz Impression to the photo to give it the look of a Monet painting. I clipped the copy to mask 2 from FramedMasks No. 2. Below that is another copy of the photo blended with a layer mask and brushes.

 

I also clipped copies of the background 2016-02-26_AllExtractionsandPaintedBackgroundpainting to some of the stains in the template I used, Artsy Layered Template No. 223. By the time I added the stains with copies of the background painting and some additional cardinals, my layout looked like this. I used the same extraction process I describe above on the other cardinals on my page. I gave each a custom shadow.

To finish my page, I added additional transfers and elements from ArtPlay Palette Sojourn and word art from Sojourn WordArt No. 1. I love creating art with my photographs!

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