Saturday, 27 December 2014

Photography Is An Art!

As an artist, I often had to convince myself of this. After all, I created sketches and paintings and also took snapshots of days out and family occasions but did not consider the latter as art. Now my son is taking photography seriously and often surprises me by his choice of subject or his mode of capturing it.

He spent Christmas at our house this year and as we laid the table for Christmas dinner, and at various times during the meal he took some simple shots. He was using a short focal length - I think - and some of his results were ... well surprising. Here are a few examples:-

In this star, if you look carefully you can see a little snowman at each point of light. The photo was taken through a pair of glasses which my wife picked up at a shop somewhere. Just using the lenses for this shot would never have occurred to me.

The effect of the short focal length is illustrated in this this shot, and the next ...

You can see more of his photographs on Flickr, where he goes by the name of Kaibakorg, if you want to see more creative photography. He is winning many awards on various photography sites and has had several of his photos published in photography magazines.

See more of my poor efforts, on this blog.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Pet Portrait, Dante The Lurcher

My son (the photographer) has been winning prizes with his portraits of his pet Lurcher. (A similar breed to a greyhound) so I thought I would post a couple of my own photographs of this lovable pooch. In fact, my son's photos of all sorts of subjects are earning him many accolades from the press, the internet and from happy "customers".

Dante The Lurcher loves soft toys, some that squeak when he bites them, and some that just plain are cute and work equally as well as pillows as well as toys. These shots all include one particular toy which maybe not surprisingly he knows as Pinky. He is actually a very clever hound and knows many of his toys by name.

It is amazing how he will stand for so much, many of the family are always taking photos with their phones (I've still got a phone which I can talk on and very little else!) and of course my son is always, as I mentioned (or did I?), taking "proper" photographs. I love the look in his eyes here, "Not again", he seems to be saying.

Of course he does sometimes get very bored and just goes to sleep on his "pillow". Can you see the scars on his snout? He was being nosey and pushed his snout under a fence, only to be walloped by the neighbourhood meanie, a massive akita hound. I am afraid he is scarred for life.

Apparently our house is too hot for him, and this is the way he cools off from time-to-time. Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of Dante and Pinky, I am sure there may be more to come. My wife has been inundating us with doggie photos whilst Dante is living with us at the moment. If you can't wait, you can see more photos of  Dante TheLurcher on his Face Book page, yes he does have his own page.

Monday, 24 November 2014

An Inviting Window On Another World

Do you like Thai food?

It is one of my favourite foods, second only to a decently prepared Italian meal. But on a recent trip to Banbury, this restaurant was just opposite the hotel. Simply had to pay it a visit. Expensive but visible from out hotel window and beckoning. Could not resist! But why do Thai restaurants always seem to be more expensive than surrounding establishments?

First, a shot of the outside at night with the lights giving a sense of wonder:-

And yes those are elephants welcoming visitors. BTW, this was taken from the hotel room through the window glass. And then a more usual shot:-

Doesn't have the same welcoming aura, does it?

And the hotel? It was The Cromwell. A very characterful hotel and I would visit again but like many such establishments, they could learn a thing or two about service times in the restaurant from places like The Thai Orchid.

Our room was top left, here. The one with the open window. A superior room (?) mostly because of its character, it is full of beams - did you see the roof?

At six foot three inches, this was a real problem for me. However, I only banged my head once or twice - narrowly failing to finally concuss myself going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, LOL.

More travel photos soon ...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Abstract Photographs Using Oil & Water Mix

I am not sure if I have posted about these images previously, but a search has not given any positive results so I am posting about them again. And why not?

By using a shallow dish and coloured paper on top of a sheet of glass; positioning this so that it can be lit from the bottom we have a basic (very basic) way of creating some great abstract shots. With this set-up in place pour a thin layer of water into the dish, and then dribble a little oil - vegetable oil is fine into the water. Stir to create bubbles of oil. Simples!

All you need to do then is to switch on the bottom light for illumination, and take a photograph or two. I apologise but cannot remember where my son found this technique described.

Here are two of the shots from a series which I took using this technique.

I think they have possibilities, but even more variation can of course be aquired by using post-processing in Photoshop. Here is one edited shot which increased the range of colours.

The technique is so easy and really great fun - if you are into abstract images.


Here is a shot taken on a visit to Whitenge Gardens, a faux stoneage folly I guess you could call it. A modern way to add a little interest into a large park or garden. I show it here because one of our favourite destinations are the many wonderful neolothic (stoneage) sites from around the country a number of which are featured in prvious posts on this blog.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Photographic Montage or Collage?

I have never really understood which term is the correct one to use for a photograph edited from several others.

Recently we visited Whitenge Garden Centre, a large adjacent garden is open to the public (for a small fee) and is used as an examplar for the garden design business operated by the owners. Lots of unusual features and water features, follies, etc. An enjoyable visit. However of course, I had my camera with me and took lots of photos. Now I am in the middle of writing a novel - yes I know, boring ... but in order to bring characters to life, I am using images which I have edited to visualise various scenes in the novel.

It is a fantasy novel and features a wizard. So I made use of two of the garden sculptures and a photo of one of the follies. Bringing them together to stand in for one of the scenes in the book. now my question is, is this a montage or a collage? Does anybody have a definitive answer?

If you study the knight and the wizard, you will see that they have been hurriedly extracted from shots of other parts of the garden. Then pasted into the shot of the folly with "ruined brickwork" and resized to match the perspective of the two figures. The little imp looking over the wall was in the folly to start with.

OK, a lovely feature for the larger garden, but id does help me with visualising my story. I have done this a number of times now and am finding it so helpful. Want to read more about my novel, pop over to my blog, "A Novel Appears". You can also use the navigation bar under the heading at the top of the page.

Oh by the way, I have used two overlapping images of the wizard and blended them with the soft light mode to increase the contrast and bring him forward in the image. Also, just a little touch ... I added the grass at the magicians feet to place him within the scene.

The original photograph of the folly and the statues:-

See you next time.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Still playing with blend modes in Photoshop

I seem to have started something for myself with the book I mentioned in a post back in March. When I take a digital photo now, the first thing I do before I use it, is to just see if a better image can be "developed" by using blend modes rather than simply individual tools like brightness and contrast and opacity levels.

The book I found in a charity shop, inspired me to start playing around with the blend modes but it is rather like a cookery book. The author himself actually calls the examples recipes, and gives settings to explain the results on the photos which he shows. Great for showing what you can do - not so great for explaining what you do to achieve a required effect. I started looking around on the internet using Google and lo and behold, as you might expect, there are lots of great tutorials. Some are just a little too technical with lots of maths, but bookmarking one or two is well worth while for reference. I would recommend

Photoshop blend modes explained to understand how  they work  

Photoshop’s Five Essential Blend Modes For Photo Editing, a brilliant article explaining how to use the blend modes to achieve a desired effect

Photoshop, using blend modes  - a little more complicated usage but well explained.

I am sure that a quick search will bring up many more, of which, you may find your own favourites. There is a mixture of ( fairly complicated maths), what they are, what they do and how to use them in all of the articles and your own requirements will colour your choice. But for now, take a look at how I improved this simple macro-photograph of an amaryllis flower.

Quite a decent shot but I prefer a little more contast in my images, a personal choice. So I looked at the blend modes which serve to increase the contast. After switching through those half dozen modes, I decided to go with "OVERLAY" which gave me the results as follows:

I thought this bought out the scarlet of the petals whilst darkening the centre of the trumpet. If I was looking for a botanical image then the first is going to be best because more detail is seen in the shaded centre of the bloom. But this was to be purely for effect, so I went for it.

I also edited the shot to reduce the information in the background here. I selected the flower using the magic wand tool, setting a high tolerance and adding small areas by shift +clicking until the whole area was selected. I then inverted the selection and used image/adjustments/hue&saturation to give the effect which I was after.

But the flower then seemed to be floating rather then existing in the scene, a last touch was to copy the stem and paste into this image.

A small touch but it worked for me.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

More Blend mode experiments in Photoshop

I have a lot more images of flowers to show you but don't panic!

I have been playing around with blend modes again and will simply show you a photo and note which blend mmode was used. Just for fun really, I am not even going to show the originals but encourage you to try these experiments for yourself, if you have a photo-editor which allows it.

This amazingly shaped tulip just had to be photographed, the problem was that it was white and in strong sunlight. Little detail of the flower was seen in my original photo. I used the MULTIPLY blend mode to bring out detail in the centre of the flower.

More tulips, the centre of these blooms was a beatiful profusion of colours. To enhance these I used the LINEAR LIGHT blend mode.

The VIVID LIGHT blend mode was used to bring these yellow tulips forward and suppress the background earth.

And finally a little fun. The bright red peatals on this little group of blooms was given this strange appearance using the EXCLUSIVE blend mode.

Why not try experimenting yourself? Some of the effects are startling and beautiful.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

More Spring Flowers - Shrubbery

About 4 or 5 weeks ago at the beginning of March, I posted a few photos of some early flowers in my garden. I do it every year, its always the same flowers but I still take more photos - maybe one year I will get a definitive shot and be satisfied.

Now it is the turn of the flowering shrubs, the daffodils have come and gone and the tulips are looking sorry for themselved and the bluebells and their cousins the whitebells are coming to the end of their flowering season. But the forsythia, japanese quince and magnolia stellata have come into their own.

 Beautiful red blooms on the japanese quince

 the startling yellow flowers of the forsythia
(last years trimmed shoots look sorry though)

A corner near the bottom of my garden, the two shrubs
I have shown above, with the magnolia between them.

The magnolia is just coming into flower in this shot, and guess who forgot to go back and take a close-up of that bush. A little too late now as it is past its best. But the Eonymous (variegated leaves and later on white flowers), right at the bottom is coming along strongly. You can just see a remnant of my vegetable garden in this shot as well. I still have one rhubarb crown which feeds us without taking over the freezer these days.

I have started the work which needs to be done in the garden, yesterday I was painting the sheds. Last week I mowed the lawns and now they will need it everyweek. And I have been vainly trying to stop a bamboo from colonising my stream-bed - a never ending task. Ah well, We enjoy it, don't we?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Have You Discovered The Usefulness of Blend Modes On Photoshop?

I guess most old hands on Photoshop will know all about Blend Modes. But I have used it for a couple of years and never really touched these useful  tools. I would not class myself as an expert but I thought I could do most things I needed with other tools.

Today however I finally found a book which explains what they do and how to use them. I have been playing with these for a while since returning home and thought I would post a few of the results. I have yet to really get to know them but at least I have an idea of what they will do - or at least some of them. I will be working on getting a better understanding and maybe pass some of my learning on in this blog.

So lets take a simple photograph of Kennilworth Castle, it leaves a lot to be desired; quite flat and little contrast / colour even though the day was reasonably sunny.

Now after copying the background to provide a second layer (drag background to the new layer icon) select the blend mode for the new layer and choose overlay.

The result is a much more lively image.

Now this could be have been achieved by using the IMAGE/ADJUST/ ... menu and going through the brightness/contrast and maybe compensating for colour; but it will take much longer.

Now without giving any details, here are a few effects (I will give the blend mode of the copied layer. All were done in a similar manner. Again, there are many ways of achieving the same thing in PS; use whichever works for you but I know I have found these to be very useful.

Here I used vivid light mode, the shadows are rather deep but good for effect.

Exlusion mode was used here, although other edits were made to the image as well.

This was a combination of effects, so I am not going to name just one of them.

I have enjoyed playing with these effects, and as I said may post some other results of my plaaying around with them. Definitely adds another string to the photographers bow.

Oh, for the record, the book I am referring to is PHOTOSHOP Blending Modes Cookery Book by John Beardsworth published by ILEX Digital Studio. I have no affiliate connections with the author or publisher.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Visit To Whitlenge Gardens near Droitwich

Another promising day - another garden visit, this time to Whitlenge Gardens. This garden is a show garden for a garden design company. We were a little disappointed with the weather as it's promise was not upheld; and after we had had some lunch in a wonderful tea-room the rain started coming down in buckets.

Not to be outdone however, we fetched our brollies from the car and paid for a look around, as it is still early in the year we knew there would not be too many plants and we could enjoy the architechtural features and water features. A few things had been added for the youngsters since our last visit.

There are many water features around the gardens, this Green Man feature shows just waht can be achieved in a small area.

This log bridge separates two areas of the garden. From water features, fountains and bubblers you arrive at Hobbiton, with a hobbit burrow in this bank - I do believe it was not real grass growing there however.

Another bubbling water feature which reflects one of the three labrynths near the back of the garden. One of these is a simple path with the path laid out with pebbles at the edges. Very simple and easy to do. In the centre of this labrynth were three standing stones as in the water feature. each stone was 3-4 feeet high. From the labrynths there was a splenin view across the adjacent countryside.

I want to include one other shot in this post, I edited a photo of a stone built folly and a statue from the hobbit area which I think was supposed to be Gandalf. I have used this as part of a collection which I am building for inspiration to write my first novel, a fantasy.

There were lots more photos, but maybe next time ...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Arrow Valley Country Park

This is a country park near Redditch, UK. A place which is so interesting when they wanted to create a calendar, they used photos of the roundabouts in the town. (no affiliation)

But it does have some interesting places of interest if you look hard. The Arrow Valley country park is one of these. Last week, making use of the sun to enjoy a walk around the main lake, I took a few photos as we walked around. It is a pleasant walk mostly on tarmaced surfaces so it is easy and flat so that all ages can enjoy some pleasant exercise.

Here are one or two images from this collection:-

It was a lovely sunny day, seeing a few whispy clouds made me want to take this shot. No I don't know what the clouds are called, but tell me if you do.

The sailing club was inactive, waiting for the summer and better weather I expect.

There were lots of water fowl around but although I took lots of shots of the birds, I thought this one of the noticeboard was my favourite. There are spots for fishing all around the lake but this one spot has a deck built for the kiddies (of all ages) to get close up to the birds in safety.

Turning your back on the lake presents a number of shots of undergrowth and "country" subjects. I loved the small bridges over the streams running through the park.

See you again with some shots with "fantasy" subjects next time.

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Vist To Hanbury Hall

Taking an opportunity whilst the weather has suddenly turned to spring, I took my camera along on a trip to the National Trust property, Hanbury Hall.

There are plenty of shots of the grounds and property on the NT site (above) so I have chosen some more unlikely subjects.

OK, an apple orchard is pretty normal. But this was spring and there were lots of apples lying under many of the trees. As I walked through the orchard the smell of fermenting apples was just like being in a cider brewery - which I have also visited in the past. In fact it was Westons Cider Mill in Herefordshire.

Unfortnately, it looked as though the grounds at Hanbury Hall had suffered the loss of a large number of mature trees in the extreme weather that we have seen this year. This one had seen the chain saws and was waiting for disposal. not a pretty site but I found it interesting enough to take this shot.

At the side of the remains of the trunk, there was a pile of pieces which have been cut up and probably waiting to be used as firewood, The shadow is of course myself.

Hoping that the weather men are right about this great weather lasting for several weeks.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Springtime And The Garden Blooms ...

Well almost, but with the excellent spring weather we are finally seeing there is some movement on the flowering front in my garden. Daffodils and primula are in evidence but many others especially the early flowering shrubs are in bud and willl be flowering very soon. A couple of early risers in my garden are The hellebore, commonly known as the christmas rose because it flowers so early...

I love this colour, and the pieris ...

such a delicate flower. Of course after these white flowers we shall see the wonderful red new leaf bracts forming which give the plant its nickname of the flamebush.

I am always in the garden with my camera and each year I follow the different plants through their flowering cycles, in fact I have written two Squidoo articles about this topic. You can find them:-

1.  A virtual tour of my garden

2. Ten favourite red flowers for your garden

But Spring is a wonderful time for the gardener and photographer, although so I guess are the other seasons each has its own charm. Enjoy your garden.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Snow Wars - SLR digital photograph published

Published, my son has just had one of his photographs published in the April copy of Digital SLR Magazine.

My son is really the photographer in the family, My interest is a passing one, related to my art/painting really but he is quite serious about it. This represents quite an accolade and is important for him. He did also get one of his photographs published in Our local newspaper The Solihull Times, This was a landscape taken at a local beauty spot.

The photograph in question was of a group of toy (Lego) Star Wars figures in a snow storm. The snow was actually flour, ordinary plain flour. Neat idea really!

This photo also got over 1000 views on Flickr, something I would give my back teeth for