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Santa’s Coming Soon

Friday afternoon, I spontaneously decided to drive to Lauritzen Gardens to capture the annual poinsettia display and maybe avoid the crowds. While the massive tree created from red poinsettias was still in the center of the room, there are always variations on how the staff displays the smaller Christmas trees, other varieties of poinsettias and the model trains running throughout. It was a great way to spend a few hours on a Friday afternoon.

It’s easy for me to capture the decorated trees and poinsettias. They don’t move. The little trains are another matter. I keep practicing. Notice the nice blur on the side of the caboose and behind the train. The focus is on Santa and the sign on the back of the caboose.

Camera settings: 55mm, 1/250 sec at f/4.0, ISO 1600.

While I don’t like the photo’s composition, I selected this photo for my layout because of the train’s angle and the amount of track showing on the right of the photo.

First, I placed solid paper 5 from ArtPlay Palette Mistletoe on a new 12×12 document. Next, I sized and placed my photo before extracting the caboose with Santa and the track across the bottom of the layout.

Second, I placed the psd layers of file 3 from Evergreen Fotoblendz No. 2 and clipped linked copies of the same train photo to the layers.

Note: I deleted two of the mistletoe layers.

Next, I added silver paint 1 from ArtPlay Palette Mistletoe below the extraction along the top of the train. Above the extraction layer, I added a copy of the solid paper with an inverted layer mask. I brought back in just the silver edge on the left with a hard round brush. Above and below the paper, I placed two copies of silver paint 2. The top copy is on normal at 50% and the bottom copy 100% on normal with a color overlay.

To finish my page, I placed the psd file of branch 3 from MultiMedia Branches No. 12 along the top of the train. I added a title.

Note: I darkened the berries a little with a Hue and Saturation layer and masked out one white splatter.

I’d like to return to the gardens to practice capturing Santa clearly in focus with his caboose on the left. It’s not enough for a photographer to get the focal point clear, the composition also has to be good. That’s my goal!!

Tulip Garden

The tulips weren’t blooming at Lauritzen Gardens in April, but they were simply stunning at my photography class Wednesday evening. With optimal light on these tulips for about forty-five minutes, I worked the angles with my little camera. My instructor suggested that I capture more of the stems with the tulip flowers. I’m so glad I did because those shots work perfectly with Anna’s new postage stamp frames. Below, I share the steps for working with one photo for the background combined with some detail shots.

Place photo and resize to fit the boundaries of a 12×12 document. Add inverted layer masks and bring back in the photo with AnnaBlendz Artsy brushes. The bottom layer is on color burn blend mode at 100%, the second layer on normal at 75% and the extraction at the top is on normal at 100%. Create a custom shadow for the tulip extraction by putting it on a separate layer, then warping and erasing as desired.

Note: I processed all the photos on this page in Lightroom before adding them to my page. I also added a levels adjustment layer on soft light at 100% just above the masked copy on normal blend mode. I used solid paper 1 from ArtPlay Palette Amaranthine as a foundation for this page.

Below the masked photo and extraction, place transfers 4, 6 and 8 as well as the lace from ArtPlay Palette Amaranthine. Change the blend mode of transfer 4 to linear burn at 75%.

Add transfer 5; mask as needed and change blend mode to liner burn at 75%. At the top of the transfer group, place transfer 3 on normal blend mode at 100%.

Place psd frames 2 and 8 from Postage Frames No. 1. Clip photos to masks. Tilt frames to angle on the page.

Add thread 6 from UrbanStitchez No 12 as an edge for the extraction. Add stitch 11 to tack down the frames. Add button from ArtPlay Palette Hello Autumn and button thread 2 from ButtonThreadz No. 2. Finally, add a title and journaling.

Note: I adjusted the color of the button with two levels adjustment layers, one on overlay at 100% and the other on screen at 50%.

After all the browns, grays and whites of winter, I’m more than ready for some color.

Waiting on Spring

I fully intended to capture the tulips while I was at my evening photography class at Lauritzen Gardens a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately the weather was so cold during April that they had hardly sprouted the day I was there. Frost killed my bowl of pansies in April, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that the large pots along the brick wall in the Victorial Garden were empty. There were a some daffodils and few struggling panies in the beds, but the tulips were just emerging from the ground. What a shame, I love a good tulip display. I’m going to my class again next week and hope to see a few left.

Even without any flowers, I decided that the photos that I made of the ornaments, urn and door with all the brick deserved a page.

For this page, place two copies of overlay 3 from ArtPlay Palette Ariose (free with a $20 purchase of Anna products during the NSD sale at Oscaps. Both layers are on normal blend mode.

Note: This might be an odd place to begin, but I love this overlay.

Place the layers of template 3 from WaterColor Template Album No. 6 on the page. Add two copies of the gold paint and change the blend mode to color burn at 50%.

Note: The overlay layers are just below the fotoblendz mask from the template. Initially, I turned off all the template layers except the fotoblendz mask. I also applied a painted treatment to the photo with Topaz Studio.

Recolor some stains and/or clip copies of the photo to others.

Turn on three of the small frames. Clip photos to two of the small frames. To the third, clip artsy paper 1 from ArtPlay Palette Ariose and adjust the position within the framed mask.

Place overlay 4 and art stroke 1 from ArtPlay Palette Ariose just below the small frames, both on normal blend mode. Complete journaling.

Turn on the template’s urban thread layer. For additional interest, add the flower, bird and thread from ArtPlay Palette Ariose. Add title.

Note: As I finished up, I decided that solid paper 2 with a levels adjustment layer on screen provided a better background than white.

Now I can’t wait to see what’s in the Victorian Garden next week.

One Thing Led to Another

I went off by myself to Lauritzen Gardens on Friday. The staff creates a beautiful display each December with miniature trains, Christmas trees and Poinsettias. This year native little bluestem, goldenrod and Western meadowlark adorned the trees. The bird ornaments were cleverly made from paper plates. You would think that after nearly a five hundred shots, I would have captured everything. Unfortunately, it’s often not until I get home that I realize I should have tried a different perspective on a photo. There is always something new to learn in photography.

I would also like to be able to say that I purposefully created this page based on a preconceived design for the final product. I can’t. It was more a series of experiments that followed an initial idea to simply clip a photo to a mask and then extract the paper meadowlark for dimension.

Unfortunately, the page just wasn’t working in my mind. Rather than waste the extraction, I reduced the meadowlarks’ size and gave it a custom shadow. I placed some berries from MultiMedia Christmas Trees No. 2 just above his beak.

That first extraction led me back to Lightroom to find the tree decorated with paper meadowlarks in order to provide a context for the extraction. I clipped the tree to mask 5 in MultiLayered FotoBlendz No. 6. I made some adjustments directly on the mask with blending brushes and attached a layer mask to eliminate a part of the mask.

Next, I extracted three more paper birds, gave them each a shadow and hung them on the tree.

To build the background, I stamped brushes 2 and 3 from WaterColor Trees No. 2. I clipped copies of the first photo I placed on this page and moved it around for variety in the trees’ color.

Below the trees, I placed transfer 3 from ArtPlay Palette Joyeux on normal blend mode and hid parts using a brush on a layer mask.

Above the stamped trees, I placed the layers of psd file 3 from MultiMedia Holiday No. 4.

I could have left the page asymmetrical in design but chose to recreate the horizontal design of artsy paper 3, I placed the layers of transfer 4 from Artsy Transfers Joyeux as well as pieces from transfers 1 and 3 on the left and below the focal tree.

Finally, I placed the title from Holiday WordART Mix No. 7 in the space on the upper left to balance the journaling. This page is busier than I normally like, but when I turned off parts, it didn’t look right to me.

I usually find it helpful to try turning off and on parts in the layers panel if a page isn’t working or looks cluttered. I did that several times during the process of creating this page. Rather than labor on this any more, I’m going to let it go and move on to working with some of the other photos that I captured on Friday at Lauritzen Gardens.

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Choosing Background Paper

I arrived at Lauritzen Gardens about 5pm for an evening photography class that began at 7pm. I used the time before class to capture mums in the Victorian Garden and garden art in the Japanese Garden during the magic light just before sunset. What I couldn’t figure out was what I could capture after dark in an unlit outdoor garden without a flash, let alone the tripod that I forgot. Think about it, photography is all about light. Without it there are no photographs. Yet in the dark of night, I found a bit of light in the conservatory.

Inside the conservatory the white flowers under a light above stood out against the the darkness of the room and the black night outside the windows. If you look carefully at the small photo on the left, you can see the grid of the windows. With camera settings, 1/80 sec at f/2.4, ISO 6400, I was able to hand hold my camera securely enough to capture these white flowers. My instructor recommended I use auto white balance. This is one of the angles I tried as I walked around the large potted plant. If it hadn’t been for the light above I would not have been able to capture a photo.

Initially I tried masking the photo on the darkest black paper I could find, solid paper 2 from ArtPlay Palette City Limits, before I decided that I would finish this page quicker to use Artsy Layered Template No. 257. I clipped copies of one photo to several of the template layers. I masked additional copies that I had placed above other layers.

Once I knew that the template layers would work with my photos, I placed the black paper and made additional adjustments with levels adjustment layers. I recolored a few of the stains a lighter color to blend with the flowers. I deleted a couple of the template layers. I also added transfer 3, art stroke 2 and splatters from ArtPlay Palette Evanescent. I adjusted opacity and blended into the edges.

Next, I clipped my photos to the small frames. extending one photo into the frame below it. I lightened the white in the flowers with a levels adjustment layer on screen blend mode and used a brush on the adjustment layer mask to keep that part dark.

To finish off my layout, I added a button from ArtPlay Palette Evanescent, two threads from ButtonThreadz No. 2 and ButtonThreadz No. 3.

I generally use light backgrounds for my layouts, but occasionally a black background provides a better contrast for some photos. Using black paper with photos having a black background also made it easier to blend these night photos. In fact, blending is generally easier with paper that blends with the background color of photos.

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Perspective

What I see as I look through my camera lens isn’t always what my artist side puts on a layout. Often, I don’t even know what a piece of art will look like until I begin experimenting. However, that’s the joy I find in creating, finding a different perspective than what I initially saw in my camera.

For this page, I began with a photo that I captured last week and file 4 of MultiLayered FotoBlendz No. 7. After working with my photo, I clipped copies to the different layers.

Next, I extracted the gates to the Victorian Garden from another photo and placed that over the first photo. While I liked the look, I didn’t think it looked as artsy as I wanted.

So I created a composite by pressing the keys command + option + shift + 6.

I turned off my composite temporarily and placed brush 1 from Cameras No. 4 on my page and changed the blend mode to linear burn.

I used the Elliptical Marquee tool to cut a copy of the center of the lens on the brush. I placed the copy just above the original and filled it in more with brushes.

I reduced the size of a copy of my composite and clipped it to the copy of the brush lens that I had created.

Next I clipped a larger copy of my composite to the original camera brush.

I placed brush 7 from Camera No. 4 below and clipped another linked copy of the photo to it. I placed one more copy of brush 1 on normal at 40% normal blend mode.

To emphasize the lens of the camera brush, I placed two threads from UrbanThreadz No. 14 and one from UrbanThreadz No. 3. I stamped some splatters from Splatters No. 1 on new blank layers and positioned them on a diagonal.

To finish my layout, I added a title and journaling explaining why I created this piece of art. I think it important for my family to know why I create from a different perspective at times.

An Afternoon in a Garden

I walked in a peony garden with my camera and iPhone this afternoon. The light was a bit harsh, the wind was blowing and it was a tad hot, but I enjoyed every moment at Lauritzen Gardens. I discovered that what I couldn’t capture with my camera and a 60mm macro lens, I could capture with my phone and it’s wider lens angle.

My own peonies aren’t blooming yet and those at Lauritzen Gardens today were just beginning to bloom. So I will be returning in the next week to see what else is blooming.

I practiced filling my camera frame with a peony. This is a tip that I learned from a class, Creating Painterly Photographs. These photos are straight out of the camera.

There is a lovely pond area surrounded by benches. Its a beautiful site for just sitting. As I looked around for something different to photograph, I noticed the water bubbling. I think it’s going to make a wonderful texture to apply to another photo.

There is a small prairie in the middle of the botanical garden. Only one lonely plant was blooming. I am not sure yet whether I prefer the one with the path in the distance or the one surrounded only by the prairie grass.

Yes, I had a lovely afternoon with my camera!

On a Windy Day

Every photographer knows that wind makes it extremely difficult to capture flowers in focus. I spent a windy afternoon at Lauritzen Gardens today. I was able to capture a few daffodils with the focus sharp, i.e. this shot at 1/5000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 400 with my 60mm macro lens. Even with that fast shutter speed, my photo appears a little soft.

So I decided to play with the double exposure feature that is available on my camera. Artistically, I think these shots play up the action of the wind this afternoon. I like the effect.

Double exposure worked with some pansies too.

Aside from flowers, I experimented with double exposure and garden decorations. I especially liked the way the ball looked in this photograph.

I think this old door took on interesting dimension when photographed via double exposure.

I’ll try this camera feature again, definitely when I’m out on a windy afternoon, but first, I plan to return one day this next week to capture the tulips that were just about ready to bloom. I’m hoping for a windless morning.

List of Brush Strategies

If you’re taking Anna’s Advanced Brushes class, then you know that the assignment this week is to try one or more of the techniques that Anna demonstrated in a layout. Next week, we’re going to be looking at more brush techniques in a new DigitalART project. Incorporating some of the techniques that Anna shared has been quite a challenge for me. I tried to choose those strategies that I am more likely to use on a regular basis as part of my process.

First, I loaded WallTextures No. 2 into Photoshop and selected brush 2 to stamp on a new blank layer. I changed the blend mode to linear burn and masked out part of the brush with a layer mask. For this page, I used only .abr brush files rather than png brushes.

I clipped a copy of a photo to the brush.

Next, I selected a few brushes from the AnnaBlendz Artsy brush series to begin compiling an .abr file of my favorite brushes. I also added some stains I’d incorporated into another .abr file to my brush panel. I used those brushes to reveal parts of two copies of the photo of the cyclamen lining the path by stamping on inverted masks. The first copy is on normal blend mode at 100% and the one above on overlay at 100%.

Before beginning this page, I experimented making my own brush from the cyclamen petals in a photo. I distressed my new brush. I used my new brush by rotating the brush tip as I stamped on an inverted mask as well as two AnnaBlendz Artsy brushes that I changed in the shape dynamics part of the brush panel.

I dragged those layers to my new layout and placed them below the wall texture brush in order to fill in the flower bed. Two lower layers are on normal blend mode, another layer is on overlay and the top layer is on soft light. I duplicated one more copy of the photo that I had clipped to the wall texture brush and used brushes to contain my blending. That’s a concept that Anna explained last month in aAYear of ArtPlay.

To create a background, I created another brush from a photo of a door and brick wall using the strategies Anna demonstrated in class. I chose a color from the color picker and stamped my new brush on a new blank layer. Then I erased parts using a brush with the eraser tool. I’m divided on whether I prefer a layer mask or simply using the eraser tool to delete parts of brush layers. A layer mask makes it easy to make changes. However, the eraser tool is quick, especially for distressing. I can see benefits to using both strategies. Above my door and new brush, I stamped brush 4 from WallTextures No. 2. I used the eraser tool to modify the brush layers.

Below my door, I stamped brush 7 from WallTextures No. 1. I erased parts with the eraser tool. I added gold paint 2 from ArtPlay Palette For the Record to the edge of the door. Between my door layers, I added glow 2 from ButterflyGlows No. 1. I changed the blend mode to color burn at 45%. I think using the glows for adding color is easiest for me at the moment.

To finish my page, I placed a butterfly from ArtPlay Palette Studious and adjusted the levels of the butterfly to increase the contrast. Then I clipped two copies of a photo and adjusted it’s position. I tacked the butterfly down with a thread from UrbanThreadz No. 4. Next, I added a title to my page and splatters from Artsy Transfers For the Record to create a visual triangle of black.

Finally, I added solid paper 4 from ArtPlay Palette Sugar and lightened it with a levels layer on screen blend mode at 45%.

What strategies did I use on this page?

  • used .abr files rather than png brush files
  • clipped a photo to a brush
  • stamped brushes on inverted masks
  • made adjustments to brush tips in the brush panel, i.e. shape dynamics, scattering
  • blended photos with brushes on layer masks, i.e. contain image to improve the blending
  • created my own brush presets from photos
  • distressed a brush layer with the eraser tool

These are all techniques with which I want to develop more expertise. I’ll watch the upcoming lesson next week and decide what else I want to add to my list of strategies.

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Photo Art

These are some of the other orchids that I captured with my 60mm f/2.4 macro and 35mm f/2.0 lenses. Both create a nice bokeh background when shot at f/2.8. One idea that I’ve been considering is making a book with the photographs of flowers that I create. If I did, this is a page design that I would use, a full page photo on one side and smaller detail shots on the other.

Anna’s FotoInspired DoubleTemplates are great for emphasizing the details of a photo series, in this case some orchids. For this page, I used FotoInspired DoubleTemplate No. 69. I reduced the size of the template to create a little more white space as a separation from the full page photo side.

To add a bit more color, I placed two transfers from ArtPlay Palette Radiant below the frames and masks. I also blended one transfer with the middle photo. I placed the psd layers from FotoInspired EdgeTemplates No. 2. I recolored the stains or clipped another paper and changed the blend mode to linear burn.

With a few threads, some branches and a title, I finished my page.

To make it easy, I simply created a composite of the template side and dropped it on top of the full page photo on a 24×12 inch file.

This is the kind of page that I would create for a book on Flowers, a future book project idea I’m considering.

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