Thursday, April 24, 2014

Behind the Curtain

Most of the photos I post on my blog have very little manipulation done to them in Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. while others get more of the full "treatment."  I have no qualms about talking an image and playing with it until I get the image on screen that lives in my head.

My last post, which featured pics of dandelions, had almost no tweaking done to each image.  I think I made a small adjustment to the contrast on a few, while most were just cropped so that the image showed more detail of my subject.

Yesterday, while sitting in my bedroom, I noticed the bluebirds happily landing on the big iron plant hook next to our fence and so I grabbed my camera in hopes of capturing one so that I could create a composited image with some cherry blossoms I shot more than a week ago...see photo above.

I can count on less than one hand the number of non HDR, true composited images (two or more images merged together to create one) I have created since I began taking pictures, but every now and then I have to urge to create one.

It's not that I think combining images is bad, or less than other artistic forms of photography...though some snooty, photography types might beg to differ...the truth is that combining images, when done well, is time consuming and hard!  At least for me it is, so until I dramatically improve my skill set, I will stick with single images for the most part.

So, a happy bluebird obliged and I was off to the races to create a bluebird and cherry blossom extravaganza! :)

In order to combine have to first start off with really good quality pics.  Even if you plan to add layers, use actions, etc. to create the finished image, I believe that there is no real substitute for good original images.

In the picture above I have cut and copied the bluebird from the original picture, rotated and cropped the original cherry blossom picture, and combined the two...all using Photoshop.

As you can looks like a photoshopped image...the bird has way too much sunlight on it compared to the blossoms...and the whole image looks very cut and pasted.

The next thing to do is to soften the edges of the bird to make it blend more seamlessly into the other image, and to mess with the exposure levels, temperature, saturation levels, and contrast levels to make the two images appear more as one...but it's not there needs layer masks and other tricks to help the two images marry one another.

Time for a few texture layers to be added, all the while, adding and removing the texture from various parts of the image to make them recede or pop out more from the image.  Here, the bird is still too bright and his left claw is way too in focus compared to the out of focus branch he's standing still more work to be done.

More actions and many more layers later...I probably have 30 to 40 separate layers on here by now, and a multitude of actions...but I'm getting closer to what I want.  It looks less photorealistic...check. The brightness of the bird is now gelling better with the paleness of the cherry blossoms...check.  And I've added some decorative swirls and distressing to make it look more vintage...check.

When I say actions...I don't often use the pre-packaged actions sold by various companies, though I have used them in the past, I find they don't allow me to fine tune things as much as I sometimes want.  I prefer to make my adjustments by hand, using various software, to achieve the results I want...but if you find that you love pre-set actions, then go for it!  The beauty of photography, or any art form, is that there is no right or wrong!

In this final image I am pretty close to the image I had in mind before I even snapped the bluebird shot, and I'm pretty satisfied with the finished product...though I often go back in sometimes weeks or months later and play a little more...just for fun.

The only difference between the last shot and the one before it is the addition of a french script overlay from one of the documents I brought back from the fleamarket in Paris.  I laid it on top of the image and then erased 100% of it off of the blossoms and the birds so that it appears to float in the background.  

I spent a few hours on this...and had I been going for perfection I could have spent days on one image...something the real pros of photo compositing easily do.

I hope that if you are nervous about trying your hand at any type of art, especially photography, that you will explore all forms of it and throw back that curtain to see what you can learn from behind it taking on what might seem like an impossibly hard thing to master!

This post is dedicated to my dear, dear friend Jim "Papa Jim" Williams who lost his long battle with cancer on Tuesday night.  He will be remembered as an amazing...husband, father, grandfather, friend, police officer, gamer, gentle giant, and above all else, gentlemen!  You will be missed my friend, more than you know! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's a Jungle Out There

They say the pollen this year is going to be worse than it has been in years.

I have been hacking and coughing since I mowed our front yard last Monday...a week ago.

I don't normally have issues with allergies, though I seem to recall saying that same thing last year as I was sneezing and wheezing?!  And silly me thought I didn't need to wear a mask while mowing, but I was later proven wrong when I woke up on Tuesday morning, barely able to swallow and with itchy, runny eyes!

Needless to say I have learned my lesson...and with my new found wisdom, I have also banned myself or Mr. Tide from mowing the backyard until we get enough rain to knock down whatever pollen is causing our current discomfort.

As I gazed out for Earth Day today, on our own little piece of this earth, I realized that our yard is mostly weeds, and if we don't mow it soon, we'll likely lose the dogs in it if we're not careful.  The bunnies don't seem to mind though...lots of good dandelion greens to munch on out there!

I know they are weeds, but for now, I will have to learn to embrace them and pretend their seeds are tiny parasols for a Downton Abbey style bug lawn party!

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


You know that feeling you get when spring finally arrives?

I'm not talking about those teaser days where you think spring has come, I mean that moment you really and truly know that it's here and you can break out your sandals and short sleeved shirts.

I felt that moment yesterday...and it was pure bliss!!!

I wanted to smile all day long, throw open my windows, and clean nooks an crannies in my house that haven't seen the light of day since many months ago.

Spring has the power to do that to us, it provides a heady mix of beauty and promise that can make even the sanest of people a bit giddy.  No wonder it has been the subject of so many sonnets and songs.

I feel like I want to savor every moment of this fleeting season, really stop and smell the roses, and anything else in bloom.

Ahhh...Spring has Sprung!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Prairie Style

The weather here is finally starting to hint that spring is on its way, daffodils are blooming, trees are budding out, and I feel excited for warmer weather and spring cleaning!

Along with a change in temperature, there are some other exciting things going on in other parts of  the world, that being the world of friend Fifi O'Neill is at it again with the upcoming publication of Prairie Style Magazine!

If there is one thing Fifi knows (actually she knows lots of things), it's about beautifully decorated homes, simple living, and casual elegant decor, and she is bringing all of that knowledge to you through the pages of her latest venture.

She recently sent me a preview of this beautiful new publication and asked me to share some snippets of it with all of you.  Below is just a sampling of what you can expect when it hits newsstands in May!

Because we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, sighs and drools, I will let the pictures do the talking.  Just be sure to scroll to the end of the post to find out how you can get your very own copy.

Are you sighing yet?!!!

Or do you prefer to drool?! ;)

But this magazine is about more than just pretty pictures and beautifully appointed homes found throughout North America.  It's a resource for creating the life you long to live, one where simple pleasures supersede high tech craziness, and one where living a life less ordinary is any but boring!

And if you're not quite ready to get back to the simple life, at least you can live vicariously through it's beautiful, high quality printed pages (over 144 pages my friends)!  Or find a few wonderful artisans along the way for those one of a kind gifts you want to share with others, or better yet, yourself!

At a time when we are all lamenting the loss of so many wonderful shelter magazines, why not support this great publication which is back by popular demand!

But don't wait, there are limited quantities and as you can see, it will sell out quickly.  You can pre-order by using the link below, and for bulk orders with a reduced rate, you can also click the link below.

Congratulations Fifi, and I wish you much success with this wonderful venture! :)

To Pre-Order a single copy for $9.99 CLICK HERE

For Bulk Orders of 10 or more at a reduced rate of $4.99 each, CLICK HERE and then click on the BULK ORDERS TAB.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Everything and Nothing

The weather here and up and down much of the eastern seaboard has not been cooperating lately.  High winds, freezing temps, snow, and now heavy rain is on its way.  I haven't been able to find anything news worthy to post, and until today, I hadn't used my camera in weeks!

I decided that instead of waiting for spring to arrive so that I could take some new pictures, I would go back into my files from our trip to Hilton Head and work on some of those images.  This little blue heron was kind enough to let me snap a few pics before flying off to parts unknown.  It was so interesting to see these much smaller versions of the great blue herons we have locally.  They look almost identical, except for the little blue's demure stature, you would swear these were just young great blues.  Come to think of it, I've never seen a young great blue heron...they must grow quickly because the ones on our creek are huge.

Aside from their "mini me" status, they also seemed a little less skittish than their larger relatives.  Not sure if it was because they were in an area that has way more people traffic, or if they are just a calmer species of shore bird.  Either way, I was happy this little guy or girl chose to pose for a few minutes.

It's cloudy but warmer today, and it's been spitting rain off an on since lunchtime.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a gully washer, so I plan to curl up with a warm cup of tea, watch movies on Netflix, and likely stay in my jammies for most of the day.

I made a grocery store run and visited an elderly friend today knowing that tomorrow wouldn't be a great day to be out.  Mr. Tide is half a world away, so the pups and I are all set for a quiet day of nothingness.

I picked these little violas up about a week ago to help convince myself that spring really will appear at some point.  As I was going through some of my images from this time last year, I realized that my yard was full of daffodils, my iris were blooming, and even the cherry blossoms were such luck this year.  

In time, this crazy weather will sort itself out and things will be in bloom once again.  I guess it's like the old saying can't have everything.  So I will choose to be content, thankful for so many things with all that is going on in the world right now, and happy that little violas can make the day a whole lot more cheerful!

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fresh Start

I can't believe I'm typing a post on St. Patrick's Day while it is snowing outside!  Dear Spring, whatever we have done to upset you, please accept our sincerest apologies and come back, we miss you!

These pictures are almost 2 weeks old, from when we had our last snowstorm.  This snow is even heavier, and as of now we have about 5 inches on the ground and it's still spitting snow.  It is lovely though, I have to admit that much.

The last of the Tundra Swans said goodbye to us late last week, and though I will miss them and the lovely calls they make to one another, it does mean that spring must be just around the corner.

I know this not only because of the swans' departure, but because this guy paid us a visit last Saturday when the weather was nice and balmy. Sorry for the brown lines in the foreground on this image, those are the grasses that line our shore, and I was too lazy to photoshop them out.

We've seen a number of nesting pairs of Osprey high up in their abandoned perches from last summer, a sure sign that warmer temps are on their way.  I'm betting the early arrivals are wondering if perhaps they should have stayed down south just a few days longer since they are now likely huddled up trying to keep warm.

Last week I was huddled up myself, and wondering if a visit to the hospital might not be in order.  I managed to make it through Sunday, and on Monday, first thing, I was at the doctor's office where he diagnosed me with 2 flu bugs and a sinus infection!  Mr. Tide reminded me that my overachiever personality could leave illnesses out of my repertoire...and after feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, or 2, I wholeheartedly agree!

I laid in bed for days and watched almost every movie Netflix has to offer I think.  Some of them were good, others were just a way to kill the time since I wasn't even feeling up to using my laptop.

After a week of being bored to tears, but being smart enough to take it easy, we ventured out to buy groceries and birdseed yesterday.  I really didn't believe we would get much snow, but mother nature proved me wrong and wanted me to take it easy an extra few days I think.  

I think it was her way of giving us one last blast of winter to remind us of how wonderful springtime will be this year...a fresh start of sorts for things to come.

I hope all is well in your world and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Lion and The Lamb

It seems that March is being ushered in under the guise of a lamb, but the weather forecast speaks to the fact that a lion will soon be taking the place of our lamb like temperatures by bringing us snow, and worse still, ice!

It's hard to believe that this time last week I was enjoying short sleeved weather while visiting Hilton Head, South Carolina.  I did my best to envision bringing that weather back with me, but alas it was not to be.

It's ok though, at least I was able to suspend my reality for a few days and remind myself that warm weather is just around the corner.  And I took plenty of pictures to keep me busy if we do get snowed in for a long time.

It had been nearly 30 years since I last visited Hilton Head, though I've been to other parts of SC since that time, and the last time I was there I spent most of my time on the beach or playing in tennis tournaments, so this visit was vastly different.

This time, far removed from my youth, I paid attention to things like architecture instead of cute guys on the beach.  I was already with my own cute guy after all, so I could focus on other matters this time around.

I love how architecture speaks to an area and its heritage, and I feel a close kinship to my southern roots through the beautiful architecture of the south.

Throw in a bit of spanish moss for good measure, and I'm in hog heaven.

I also love the way most people slow down when they are at the beach.  They seem to reconnect with a part of themselves they often put on the back burner in their everyday lives, and find solace in the simple pleasures like surf fishing...

Or watching the waves come and go, wondering if the sea foam will reveal tales of mermaids and sea creatures.

Old Oaks, draped in moss, could tell tales of storms and other hardships they and others have endured over the years.  Or maybe they would entertain us with fanciful yarns about young love and first kisses stolen under their arching branches.

That is the joy of venturing outside our own four walls, it opens us up to beautiful places, new people, and things we might not otherwise experience.  As in weather, life is full of lions and lambs, each meant to broaden our horizons and make us appreciate all that we have.

I hope you each have a lamb of a week or that the lion won't roar too loudly!