Beginning to End

Blog, Pennsylvania Center for Photography, Photography

I’ve been promising for weeks. So here it is ~ how I create one of my compositions.

Oh Bear…  65 layers +/- in the making! One of my more involved works because all of the elements were taken by me, no stock images, and the birds don’t count because they are actually a brush.  Warning… this also made for a really lengthy post.  Ready, here it goes…

The Inspiration:  The movie Goodbye Christopher Robbin, a biographical about the author A.A. Milne and how Winnie-the-Pooh came to be, mixed with the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton, and some deeply connected mementos from my past.

The Main Characters:

The blank canvas… If I just walk a few feet more up the hill, a sea of rooftops would appear.

An old camera case about 12″x13″

All about the hair.

All about the bear.



The rough stages ~ The girl, the bear, and the suitcase.

There were many, many edits in between layers… tweaking the masking, to correcting colors, to warping objects, to cloning in this and out that.  So let’s move on…

Setting the Scene:

Not surprising that I got some funny looks as I staged this scene.



The teapot, teacups and saucers were shot on a black background making them relatively easy to mask.



Adding the chair, the teapot, and lots of cups!  It’s getting there.

Believability:   It’s all in the details.  Light – Keeping in mind when I took the first background scene where the sun was and direction of light on my indoor shots was an important first step so when placing things into the scene, the light matched.  Shadows – Notice I kept the girl’s shadow from the original, but the bear and the suitcase don’t have one, adding them is a must.  Or notice how the back of the chair is partially in shadow, indicating the sun was in a slightly different direction than on the girl; thus, the shadow on the back of the chair needed to be removed while keeping the shadow behind the chair.  The really really small details – Adding blades of grass in front of some teacups to make them appear in the grass and not on it, cloning grass from the chair image to match the grass of the background image and vice versa, and one of the biggest challenges make the bear walk, not float.

Mood:  And now the real fun.

The textures – This is the element that I find really helps set the mood by using just one texture or many, enhancing just a portion or the entire image to tie it all together, as well as using the color(s) or desaturating them leaving only texture behind, as well as changing the opacity, the blending mode, or all the above to achieve a dark and moody or bright and cheery image.  The possibilities are endless!  The sky – What better way to enhance a mood or completely change the story than by adding just the right sky or clouds… Sunrise, sunset, rain, snow, or a even a rainbow… each one tells a very different story.  Real or fantasy? I like it to be somewhere in between.   A little distortion can go a long way.  Distorting a building, a horizon, or even a bear can add a bit of whimsy and is a nice balance between real and fantasy.  Oh, and a few birds, of course can’t hurt.

Once again, between each new layer there were many many edits with many different tools.  Tool tip:  A relatively new technique to me, but now my go-to for adjusting a single area, big or small, even as small as a single teacup, is the curves adjustment.  I use the Lasso tool to select, then feather the selection quite a bit, hit Control (on a PC) + M to bring up the curves window, pulling the curve to lighten or darken, whether to bring out a little more detail, deepen shadow, or change the color.  Quick and easy!

The result:  The final image as it went to the printer and on display at the Transformations Exhibition

Oh Bear. . .




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Which is Which

Blog, Photography
But a dream is not reality.  But,  who is to say which is which.

~ Alice Through the Looking Glass

I heard that and thought how perfectly it sums up the direction my photography has taken…   Because the reality draws me in, but it’s the dreams that become the end result.  Or is it the other way around?

Remember this photo from my last post.  I was drawn to that little opening in the trees from the left… see it?  It’s even framed so it’s on the 1/3 line.  I knew there was a story there… something, somewhere… but a few edits later and it still wasn’t coming to me, so I filed it away.

A year or more later and couple more elements,   it all just came together.  It’s the-winter-housestill there, that little opening, but now it is part of another story… The Winter House. Sometimes it takes time for those dreams to become reality (or vice versa) and sometimes it’s almost instantaneous.

The colors during a sunrise one morning last week were amazing.  If you got to see it, in full view, I’m so jealous.  Unfortunately sunrises from my house (sunsets too for that matter), are a bit obstructed.  But!  Just as I was about to get on with my day, I noticed the frost on the window…oooh, let’s go for a macro shot.  And then, just like that, with the slightest adjustment in viewing angle, everything changed.  Now those gorgeous sunrise shades of pink and orange were mixing with the frosty blue on the glass… and the doors to my imagination opened up.  I saw a beautiful sunrise coming up over rolling hills with wind blown snow floating over the tops…  frosted-window

And the imagination did not stop there.  Because when I looked at the picture I took, those rolling hills and blowing snow continued to transform…

18 layers later (including but not limited to Topaz Impressions, Nik Color Efex, tilt & shift – the real game changer, gradient fill & liquify tool, a texture or two, and of course a couple penguins, whew…just to name a few), what I dreamed up became the perfect winter oasis for these two love birds who I thought looked like they could use a little more privacy.

Disclaimer:  No idea if this type of penguin actually likes the snow, especially since they call the Lehigh Valley Zoo home.  It’s just what I think of when I think of penguins… 

Until next time,

AFTER I WROTE THIS, I read this article by from Light Stalking in my Facebook feed.  Check it out HERE  But be sure to come back and share your thoughts.  This is interesting, since, as I have obviously demonstrated, two of the images I’m showing you today are composites… but are they still photographs?    Before I tell you what I think (and I think I’ll save that thought for next week’s blog post) I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you think a composite should/could still be called a photograph?

The One Thing

Blog, Photography

Happy New Year!

So here we are 2017!  Wishing everyone everywhere Peace & Happiness.

So a few weeks ago, I pooh-poohed the idea of a list of resolutions for 2017 and thought I would try concentrating on just one thing.  Turns out, coming up with that one thing has been much harder than I thought it would be…

An even bigger white house from a detour I took on the way home one day.

I found an even bigger white house from a detour I took on the way home one day.

As I did my own year in review for 2016 and even 2015, 2014, etc, looking for that one thing to work on or change in 2017…  turns out 2016 was a pretty good year.  Okay, so maybe there will be some aftermath from certain events in 2016, but let’s not go there …

The "super moon" from my front yard

The last “super moon” from my front yard

Photographically speaking, there have been some really good things over the year(s). New tools and techniques were learned, interesting and talented people were met, challenges were faced.  So it isn’t surprising, when I look at it that way, that coming up with a resolution(s) is a little lackluster… and, well, I’ve simply decided to just stay the course.  Oh, I might delve a little deeper in those things I just mentioned, refine some of those techniques, really see what the new


A familiar site on the daily dog walk, a nearby pond flanked by townhomes.

camera can do, get to know those interesting and talented people a little better, and expand on those challenges and just let 2017 evolve.  At this time in my life, I’m not looking for thrills, like getting a shot while jumping from a plane (I really don’t know why I thought of that), or climbing a mountain for the perfect sunset/sunrise (although I might drive to where there’s a lookout), or sailing around the world to capture some exotic paradise (the motion sickness has actually gotten worse as I’ve gotten older).    I can honestly say I’m pretty happy being me, right here & now, capturing the world around me ~ from right here ~ and letting my imagination do the rest.


The Winter House

To start the year, how about a Tip & Tidbit…  Here’s one you may want to try in 2017. Want to turn day into night?  Check out this You Tube video… I did. TURNING DAY INTO NIGHT: Photoshop Tutorial #63 by Glyn Dewis.

Wishing you the very best in 2017!
Until next time,





Here’s to a Spooktacular October

Blog, Photography

It’s been a busy month and my camera has gotten one heck of a workout… from the events for A Woman’s Place and 5k’s benefiting our four-legged friends, to this year’s amazing autumn landscape and color, to getting creative with things just lying around the house and at the “Haunted Ghost House” in Lambertville…  {whew}

To commemorate such an awesome month….  I’ve put a little something together to sum it all up.


Want to see some more of my images from the “Haunted Ghost House?” I’ll be posting throughout the day on Instagram. So much  effort and creativity goes into Dolores Dragan’s Halloween art display for all to enjoy, so be sure to check them out HERE.  Not on Instagram or Facebook, not to worry, I’ll do an “after party” post tomorrow… stay tuned.

Hope you have a Spooktacular Halloween!

Until next time,

Shout out to Jai Art and Captured by Carrie for helping me add just the right mood to my image.

What’s wrong with this picture?


watermark mishap 1

Hey, hey now, play nice…   and disregard the only model I had available at the time… me 🙂

So, what’s wrong with the photo I’m holding?  Edges – no, there supposed to be blurred and mirror the edges.  This is a big print on canvas and they provide the wrap.  Composition? lighting?  No and no, at least not as far as I’m concerned.  This happens to be a favorite of mine… It’s back-lit, it has lots of red,  it’s my favorite flower …poppy, and it has all the textured imperfections I love.  Try again.

How about now?  Anything…  Now? watermark mishap Look real close… across the yellow center.  Yup, that’s right… I forgot to remove the watermark before sending this big, ink consuming photo to the printer.  A complete “DUH” moment if ever there was one.

On the bright side, I did not send this out to be printed… How horrifying would that have been to open the box and see it.  Or even worse, never notice it and sell it like that… I can’t even imagine.

The .psd file I used was originally saved to be used for a note card and also had a couple layers of text, a saying, which I unchecked to print this.    What can I say, I didn’t check all the layers, because there was one, which because as you can see the opacity is turned way down on that watermark,  looked completely blank… and even when I resized this to print big, I still missed the faint watermark.

Okay, I know some of you are asking… why did I put the watermark there in the first place, especially since it is barely visible?  If you’ve been following this blog, than you probably know this is not my first post on the subject.  I do think of a watermark as a “stop sign” of sorts.  Sure, some will blow right through it like it’s not even there, and there will be no police waiting to stop them, but for many, who follow the rules, they will stop, take a look, and keep on going {lol, not a bad analogy if I say so myself 😉 }   I recently shared a post on Facebook on the topic of watermarking your photos and the debate why or why not photographers use them with some useful links.  So, back to why I use a watermark.  If I am posting a photo to social media (Flickr, Facebook, etc)  that has “print potential,” I like to use a watermark.  I make it faint so as to not detract from the image as much as possible, and put it somewhere not so obvious and where it may be a little more difficult to Photoshop out.  It’s just a little peace of mind.

The photo/file, renamed and saved and all layers not necessary to the final print version deletedwas reprinted, turned out perfect, and my initial excitement to seeing this photo printed BIG promptly returned.     But!  I will still double check…triple check… each layer before I send this photo or any photo to the printer again.  Lesson learned!